Are you considering a vegan nutrition plan? Are you worried your body won’t get the adequate amounts of essential proteins, vitamins and minerals? In most cases, a plant-based whole foods diet can fulfill your body’s nutrient requirements without additional supplements. But, this takes some awareness and planning.
It’s important to focus on whole foods and balance in your plan. Examples of whole foods include nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Just because something is labeled “vegetarian” or “vegan” does not mean it’s healthy. Avoid processed foods, meat substitutes and refined carbohydrates.
Supplements are just what they are called: Supplements. Whenever possible aim to get your nourishment from real food. However, there are certain situations in which supplements may be helpful in preventing deficiencies. As always, we recommend speaking to your primary physician before starting any new exercise routine, nutrition plan or supplement regime.
Vegan diet plan: Nutrients to focus on
Be critical when choosing supplements. Currently, there aren’t many regulations for supplements which means that harmful ingredients are missing from some ingredient labels (e.g. metals and pesticides). Again, consult a doctor before you start taking any supplements.
Below, find our list of nutrients that are important to consider when following a vegan diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for cardiovascular health. Omega-3s also help with eye and brain development. Food sources of omega-3 fatty acids:
- Chia seeds
Iron is a mineral that is part of hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen from our lungs to our bodies. Iron helps our muscles store and use oxygen. Food sources of iron include:
Zinc is essential for a vital and healthy immune system, synthesizing DNA, growth and wound healing. Food sources of zinc:
Calcium improves the health of bones, the heart, muscles and nerve function. Food sources of calcium include:
- Bok choy
- Fortified cereals.
Vitamin D is another vitamin that supports bones, immune system, nervous system and brain. If you’re vegan or live in a cold, dark place, a vitamin D supplement might be beneficial. Sources of vitamin D include:
- Vitamin D fortified foods (orange juice, soy milk, and cereals)
Vitamin B12 helps make DNA and red blood cells. It also contributes to higher energy levels and better heart, skin, hair and digestion. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal foods, so must be obtained from fortified foods or supplements when you’re following a vegan diet. Sources of B12 include:
- Fortified foods such as soy products
- Rice, almond and coconut milk
- Breakfast cereals
- Nutritional yeast