Getting Enough Vegan Nutrition
One of my best friends recently told me she's worried she's not getting enough nutrients from her vegan diet. She's vegan more for the more unselfish reason that she thinks it's unethical to eat animals. While I'll take any reason for people to eat more plant-based diets, I admire people who don't worry as much about how much healthier the vegan diet is than the regular, meat-filled diet.
So, in dedication to her, here's a quick reminder about what we should be eating...
According to the vegan food pyramid, we need:
- 6-11 servings of whole grains (1 serving= 1/2 cup oatmeal, 1 oz dry cereal, 1 slice bread)
- 3-5* servings vegetables (1 serving= 1 cup raw, 1/2 cup cooked, 1/2 cup juice)
- 2-4* servings fruits (1 serving= 1 cup raw, 1/2 cup juice)
- 2-3 servings fortified dairy substitutes (1 serving= 8 oz milk, 1/2 cup yogurt)
- 2-3 servings beans and seeds (1 serving= 1/2 cup cooked beans, 4 oz tofu/tempeh, 1 oz seeds)
- Use vegetable oils, sweets, salt, and nuts sparingly
*Some sources vary on amount of vegetables and fruits. You can't go wrong eating a diet based on plant products, so you can certainly eat more than this suggestion
Rather than forcing yourself to measure and count, I like to keep this general tip in mind:
- When designing lunch and dinner, imagine the plate is split in half. Half should be filled vegetables, preferably a variety of them. A quarter should be beans and a quarter should be whole grains. Dessert should be fruit-based.
Don't skip breakfast! You've heard that a million times, but it's so important. You should eat within 1.5 hours of waking to stimulate your metabolism, and whole grains and fruit are great for breakfast.
And remember to listen to your body. It knows better than anyone else what and how much of it you need to be eating. We aren't use to listening for cravings, but we can learn to become most trusting. Your body won't beg you for a cheeseburger. Your mind might, but it's influenced by outside sources.
The only supplement you need to worry about when you eat a healthy vegan diet is vitamin B-12 which doesn't naturally come from plant-based products. Vitamin B12 deficiencies are rare but harmful, so you do want to take precautions against them. Many vegan foods are fortified with B12, but you should also consider taking a weekly vitamin to make sure you're covered.
I also highly recommend eating flax seeds
to make sure you are getting plenty of omega-3 fatty acids. Imbalance in fatty acids are common and throw off the hormones in your body, but can go way off balance with some vegetarian diets. I add in a few tablespoons of ground flax daily and I find it improves my skin, hair, and menstral symptoms.
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