Best Vegan Nutrition Guide
Vegetarian diets continue to increase in popularity. Reasons for following a vegetarian diet are varied but include
- Health benefits, such as reducing your risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers
- Stop cruelty to animals
- Save the rainforests, jungles, and natural habitats
- End world hunger
- Save water for people to drink
- Reduce the creation of greenhouse gases
- Reduce our carbon footprints, and
- Environmental reasons
Yet, some may not eat enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains and calcium-rich foods, thus missing out on the nutrients they provide.
However, with a little bit of planning, a vegetarian diet can meet the needs of people of all ages, including children, teenagers, seniors, and pregnant or breastfeeding women. The key is to be aware of your nutritional needs to plan a diet that meets them.
What Is A Vegan Diet?
While meat-eating and animal agriculture has been around for hundreds of years, going vegan is an entirely new diet to some. The reason being the meat and dairy industries are based on unhealthy feeding practices that result in a high level of greenhouse gas emissions and massive water consumption.
Animal agriculture is also the leading cause of water contamination worldwide. While veganism is a personal choice, most people will not reap the benefits of animal agriculture if they choose to continue eating the products. Many of the vegan substitutes for meat products are very similar to real meat. Meat substitutes like soy, mushrooms, and tofu might be high in calories and salt.
Vegan diets exclude all animal products, such as meat, eggs, and dairy products. A vegan diet requires that you only eat foods made from plants or foods that are animal-like but that have been substituted or replaced with plant-based foods. Foods include grains, seeds, vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and seed oils, such as sunflower and safflower oil, to name a few.
A vegan diet provides only 19% of the daily recommended value of calories, but it also contains the majority of the essential nutrients. In addition, a vegan diet is considered to be a healthful eating pattern as it is low in fat and high in fibre, and it also provides sufficient amounts of iron, zinc, copper, vitamin B12, magnesium, folate, vitamin D, vitamin C, and vitamin E. It also has the lowest amount of sodium of any diet style.
Why Choose A Vegan Diet?
Food animals raised on factory farms undergo terrible abuse. Repeated assaults from hormones and antibiotics have weakened their bodies, and food processing chemicals and other medications have damaged their digestive systems. Drugs and other poisons often contaminate the meat and dairy products from these animals.
Pathogens often contaminate their flesh, eggs, and milk. They have been fed the wrong food, given excessive amounts of saturated animal fat and cholesterol, and fed grains and processed sugars instead of healthy plants. All these factors contribute to serious health problems.
Vegan diets are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Instead, they include a wide variety of healthy vegetables, grains, legumes, and fruits. Vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients are also abundant due to a diet free of meat and dairy products. Some people choose to substitute dairy or meat products for alternative products like soy or dairy alternatives.
Some of the most impressive health benefits of a vegan diet are reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some cancers, and high blood pressure. Other health benefits include the prevention of certain diseases such as osteoporosis and certain forms of cancer.
There are also nutritional benefits. The vegan diet tends to be higher in fibre and lower in fat than many traditional meat-based diets. In addition, because the diet is high in monounsaturated fat, you are at a lower risk of heart disease and high cholesterol. It is also high in antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and trace elements and provides a wide range of nutrients that can help you stay healthy and active.
What Are The Common Nutritional Deficiencies In Vegans?
Eating a vegan diet is difficult at first, so if you’re transitioning to a vegan diet, make sure you eat plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. A vegan diet requires different nutrients, so an intake of 300 percent of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of some nutrients is required.
Vitamin B12 and zinc are the most common deficiencies for vegans. However, this may not occur in many people as vegans may have lower blood levels of these nutrients. For many, concerns about vegan nutrition can be easily addressed by eating balanced vegan meals that include nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits. A lack of animal fats can cause many vegans to worry about weight loss.
Plant foods don’t contain the number of fats and calories that are needed by a body. Thus, a vegan diet is low in fats and low in micronutrients (vitamin A, calcium, magnesium and iron). In addition, vegetarian and vegan people who consume too little vitamin B12 may experience a deficiency in iron, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6.
In addition to low iron and vitamin B12 levels, vegans may also suffer from a lack of vitamin D, calcium, potassium and vitamin B6, especially if they follow a mostly vegetarian diet, which means eating a large variety of plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, tofu, soy products, chickpeas, and broccoli.
Note: I have been on a (mainly raw) vegan diet for many years. The only supplements I am taking are Vitamin B12 which you cannot get in a strict vegan diet (no animal-based products). I am also taking vitamin D3 because we live in Canada and have long winters with not enough sun for our bodies to create our own vitamin D.
What Are The Nutrients Needed By Vegans?
The primary nutrient that is most commonly lacking in a vegetarian diet is calcium. A new Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report from the USDA found that pregnant women, young children and adults of all ages are not getting enough calcium.
Calcium is required for the normal growth and development of all of your body’s cells. Women who don’t eat enough calcium during pregnancy may not meet the nutrients they need for their growing babies.
Note: Our bodies cannot absorb calcium from animal milk, such as cow milk. On the contrary, our bodies have to take calcium out of our bones to digest cow calcium. So this is really counter-productive in my opinion. There are plenty of plant-based calcium sources available:
- Soy products
- Beans, peas and lentils
- Nuts (almonds are especially high in calcium)
- Seeds: Chia and flax seeds are especially high in calcium
- Seaweed – I love seaweed. We use dulse (sea bacon) and spirulina on a daily basis
- Vegetables: Spinach, Bok Choy, broccoli, okra, kale, and brussels sprouts (my favourite vegetable)
- Fruit: Oranges, black currents, blackberries, and raspberries
Vegans need to choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods that meet their nutritional needs. The majority of this advice is for older adults. While children and adolescents may need a little help to meet their nutritional needs, the following are the important nutrients.
Some people might say that vegetarians, including vegans, don’t get enough fat in their diet. Fat is essential for providing energy and tissue support for your body and providing essential fatty acids that can be converted to energy. Vibrant, good-looking skin, hair and nails are often associated with the amount of fat in your diet.
Note: I personally live on a fat-free diet. I don't use any oils and fats. However, I eat nuts and avocado on a regular basis.
Would you mind reading this book about “The 80/10/10 Diet by Dr. Douglas Graham? He explains in great detail how much fat and protein we really need.
Is A Vegan Diet Effective In Nutrition?
This sounds like a good deal if you are a vegan, but not all plant-based diets are created equal. A vegan diet will be high in fibre, making it filling because it reduces the number of calories needed to maintain a healthy weight. Some people might think that the downside is that it won't provide the calories you need to live a healthy life. In addition, there is not enough fibre in plant-based foods to meet your calcium needs. In my opinion, we can get lots of calories by adding avocado, nuts and seeds to our vegan diets.
Your body uses calcium for growth and repair and to promote healthy blood and bone formation. While a vegan diet may be difficult to follow, it may not be beneficial to most as a result of nutritional deficits. When considering how to transition to a vegan diet, it is important to know which foods are lacking.
A vegan diet is difficult to follow for many people. Most vegans don't eat any animal flesh, dairy and eggs at all. They also omit the consumption of fish and shellfish. For these reasons, vegetarians generally eat fewer calories. But when it comes to overall nutrition, vegan diets can provide adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables, protein, omega-3 fats, vitamins, minerals and calcium.
Fasting on a vegan diet can help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure. Many vegans also say they feel better overall. Fasting is not always beneficial, though. You might want to check with your health care professional before starting a fasting regimen.
How Can A Vegan Diet Be Healthy And Balanced?
Several ways. In the United States, 11 basic nutrients make up our daily nutritional needs. These are the usual foods that a vegetarian or vegan should eat daily. Nutrition sources that are healthy for vegans include:
- Vitamin D is significant for bones, helps lower cholesterol, protects the heart, and is needed to maintain healthy skin, bones and teeth.
- Calcium is important for strong, healthy bones and teeth.
- Folic acid helps prevent congenital disabilities in pregnant women.
- Iron is important for healthy skin and red blood cells.
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2) is necessary for healthy red blood cells. Dietary healthy sources for vegans include spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, soy, and tofu.
Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Most vegans will be eating fewer than 40% of the food groups recommended for an average American diet. For example, according to USDA dietary guidelines for Americans, people should eat 4 ½ cups of vegetables and two and a half cups of fruit a day.
However, a standard serving of vegetables is three cups, while a serving of fruit is usually one cup. Plus, a cup of cooked beans is often only four ounces. Vegetarian diets do not allow for the consumption of meat, poultry, or seafood, which means the vegan dietary pattern requires extra attention to calcium, protein, vitamins, minerals and fibres. And, the only place for a vegan to get these essential nutrients is from the sources naturally found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains. A quick note about vegetables: they should always be washed thoroughly, even if you buy them washed.
What Is The Difference Between Vegan And Non-Vegan On Nutrition?
The word “vegan” is usually used to describe individuals who do not consume any animal products. Plant-based diet: This is also known as a vegan diet. A vegan diet excludes all meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. A non-vegan diet involves consuming animal products such as dairy products, eggs, honey, and sometimes refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white pasta, and white rice. They are usually high in protein, vitamins, and minerals. Pregnant women, children, teens, adolescents, and young adults are usually encouraged to follow a diet low in animal products.
The human diet includes many types of food. Fish, eggs and dairy products are high in certain nutrients, which can vary according to diet. Non-vegan diets typically contain eggs, milk, and cheese. Although the nutritional profile of these food products is not as strongly defined as meat products, non-vegan diets are generally lower in important nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D and vitamin E.
Foods That Vegans Should Avoid To Have Proper Nutrition
- Avoid gluten-containing grains like rice, wheat, and other starches made from the same type of protein. They have the potential to cause inflammatory disorders and may have a negative effect on the thyroid.
- Animal-derived fats, such as beef tallow and dairy products.
- Other foods that are banned include eggs, dairy, honey, gelatin, and milk and cream.
- Gluten-free foods are not necessarily healthier and should be carefully selected.
Vegans should avoid eating meat, eggs, dairy, fish, seafood, honey and gelatin. Some foods may not be considered vegetarian if they have been processed in a way to resemble or be indistinguishable from animal products, including ice cream, yogurt, tofu, vegan cheeses, and imitation crab. It is also important to avoid foods that contain MSG, artificial sweeteners, partially hydrogenated oils, nitrates and monosodium glutamate (MSG), hydrogenated oils, soy, wheat, corn, and refined flours.
What Should Vegans Eat To Have Proper Nutrition?
Whole grain cereals like cereal grains, bran, whole wheat, oats, and buckwheat are the foundation of a good diet. Soy foods, such as tofu, soy milk, soybeans, soy products, soy meats, soy flour, are one source of soy foods. Please be careful if you are a celiac. Most of these products contain gluten.
A heart-healthy diet should also include lots of fibre-rich whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Getting enough fibre is especially important for people with diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and those who are planning on pregnancy.
The two major food groups for vegetarians are protein and carbohydrates. Following these guidelines can help you enjoy a satisfying and healthy vegetarian diet. Protein helps your body maintain a strong immune system and aids in healing the body when injured. Foods that are rich in protein are beans, nuts, seeds and tofu.
These foods contain essential amino acids that the body uses to manufacture hormones and other proteins. You can also find proteins in many fruit and vegetables.
The second one is Carbohydrates. The human body uses carbohydrates to produce energy to support normal bodily functions.
Although it can be daunting to determine how much food you should consume daily, eating well on a vegan diet is absolutely possible. Eating a varied diet filled with vegetables, fruits and whole grains, as well as beans and legumes, is a surefire way to improve your health.
I trust you enjoyed reading the article about the Best Vegan Nutrition Guide. Would you please stay tuned? There are more blog posts to come very shortly.
Your Opinion Is Important To Me
Ideas? Thoughts? Questions? I would love to hear from you. Would you mind leaving me your questions, experience and remarks about the Best Vegan Nutrition Guide in the comments section below? You can also reach me by email at Jeannette@LivingTheVeganLifestyle.org.