The key with any diet or lifestyle is to make sure that all of your nutritional bases are covered. This includes protein, carbohydrate and fat, as well as vitamins, minerals and fibre.
The Importance of Protein
Vegan diets tend to be lower in protein so it’s important to use ingredients that boost the
protein content of meals. A vegan protein supplement such as pea protein isolate can be a good idea for people who regularly lift weights and exercise intensely.
Vegan sources of protein include:
• Beans – Edamame, black, kidney, cannellini etc
• Nutritional yeast
Vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts and seeds also contain protein in smaller amounts but can contribute to your daily protein intake.
If you are looking to increase your protein intake to fit with a training regime, supplements are a convenient way to increase your protein intake. The benefits of consuming this extra protein from a supplement are that it’s quick and convenient.
There are a range of vegan protein powders available. Pea, rice, and hemp are the most common
Why do we need protein?
We need protein for:
• Growth and repair
• Enzyme production
• Neurotransmitter production
• Immune system function
Without an adequate supply of protein our bodies cannot function optimally. Protein also helps keep us feeling full and helps us regulate our appetite. Our bodies are unable to store protein in the same way that they can store carbohydrate and fat. Therefore, we need to consume protein at regular intervals throughout the day.
It’s important that vegan diets include a good source of vitamin B12.
B12 is a key nutrient for a healthy immune system, metabolism, and the formation of red blood cells. Because plants don’t produce vitamin B12, it must be obtained from supplements, fortified products and / or nutritional yeasts. Dairy free milk alternatives are often fortified with vitamin B12, such as oat and soya milk.
Essential Fatty Acids (Omega 3+6)
Good sources of Omega fatty acids include flaxseed, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, avocado, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds. It’s important to include Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats in your diet because they contribute to cardiovascular and brain health. You can also consume Omega 3 + 6 fats from supplements. Micro algae supplements are one of the best sources of Omega 3 fats.
Calcium is important for the health of teeth, bones, nervous system, blood clotting and muscular contractions. Calcium-containing vegan foods include kale, pak choi, spring greens, chia seeds and almonds.
Most dairy free milk alternatives are fortified with calcium and just a couple of glasses will get you well on your way to meeting the recommended intake.
Iron deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies in the world. Iron is essential for red blood cell production. Healthy red blood cells are important for the transportation of oxygen around the body. There are many vegan foods which contain iron including lentils, beans, tofu, cashew nuts, chia seeds, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, and kale. It is beneficial to consume iron with vitamin C because vitamin C helps the absorption of iron. Good sources of vitamin C include peppers, kiwis, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, and cabbage.
Zinc is used in over 300 reactions in the body and is important for immune system health. Vegan sources of zinc include lentils, beans, tofu, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, cashews, and quinoa.
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