Guide to Being Vegan
Being vegan is not for everyone, and it does require a bit of creativity. Being vegan also makes you more aware of your nutritional intake. You need to make sure you are getting your essential vitamins either through the food you eat or through supplementation. I wanted to create this "vegan guide" to help those of you who are considering going vegan to understand the basics regarding the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs and help link those to plant-based options.
Vitamin B12 aka folic acid protects the nervous system from fatigue, blindness, deafness, and dementia. It can be found in fortified coconut milk, cashew milk, soy milk, hemp milk, as well as in Nutritional Yeast, and in vegan spreads such as marmite and vegan mayonnaise.
Protein is probably the biggest reason why many people are reluctant to go vegan. Some healthy, protein-packed plant-based foods include quinoa, buckwheat, soy, rice, black/pinto/garbanzo/kidney beans, Ezekiel bread, Seitan (wheat gluten), hempseed, chia, almonds, walnuts, cashews, and Spirulina (algae). There are also some great vegan proteins out there, I especially love the ones made by Garden of Life and Warrior Blend.
Omega fats are essential to our immune system, brain, nerves, and eye functions. Hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, vegetable oil, and tahini are great sources of Omegas.
Calcium helps keep your bones and teeth strong and helps keep your nervous system and muscles functioning properly. Kale, bok choi, okra, almonds, chia seeds, figs, and spring greens are recommended to ensure that you get enough calcium.
Vitamin D keeps our muscles and bones healthy. Our bones regenerate every 10 years so it is essential that we are getting the right amounts of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D! Chantarelle mushrooms, Portabello mushrooms, Maitake mushrooms, and fortified almond milk and soy milk all contain Vitamin D. Some vegans also use the sun or broad spectrum / blue light therapy as their sources of Vitamin D.
Iodine is used to make thyroid hormones, which ultimately control how fast your cells work. The amount of iodine depends on how much iodine is in the soil that the plant is growing in (fun fact: food grown near the ocean tends to be higher in iodine). The best sources of iodine are iodized salt, kelp, and seaweed products.
Selenium, like Iodine, is great for the thyroid. It is an antioxidant and supports the immune system. Brazil nuts, Shiitake mushrooms, pinto beans, chia seeds, brown rice, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, sunflower, sesame, and flax seeds are all great sources of Selenium.
Iron is an important component of hemoglobin which helps the growth and development of the human body. Lentils, kale, dried apricots and figs, raisins, chickpeas, beans, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, tofu, cashew nuts, chia seeds, ground linseed, and quinoa all contain iron.
Zinc helps our body fight infection and grow. Sources of zinc include chickpeas, beans, lentils, walnuts, chia seeds, tofu, ground linseed, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, wholegrain bread and quinoa.
Vitamin K is essential for bone health and blood clotting. Greens like broccoli, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, collards, and Romaine lettuce are all sources of Vitamin K.
Meal-prepping is key when eating a plant-based diet. I eat all of the foods above to ensure that I am getting the nutrients I need. As an extra precaution, I also take Garden of Life Whole Food vitamins for women (there is also one for men, click here) to ensure that I get all of my nutrients and I have been absolutely loving the results!