Wait, What About The Nutrients?
If you are wondering whether a plant-based diet can provide you with the essential nutrients, give this a read! A whole-foods, natural, balanced plant-based diet meets all your nutritional needs and is a powerful way to achieve good health.
The most common prejudice against plant-based lifestyles is that they do not provide sufficient protein, but this is not true. Plants are Power is here to show you how a balanced plant-based diet is perfectly suitable to meet your protein requirements.
Among vegetables, pulses (lentils, peas, and beans – and, above all, soya beans) and cereals (rice, oats, wheat, spelt, rye) are particularly important protein sources. Soy products such as tofu are also regarded as foods that are high in protein content. Nuts, almonds, and seeds also contain especially high amounts of protein.
Both animal and vegetable proteins contain all essential amino acids. They differ, however, in terms of the amounts they contain. The more the composition of amino acids corresponds to the body’s needs, the higher the biological value of a food protein. If the biological value of a protein is higher, less of it needs to be consumed in order to meet protein requirements as it is better suited to be converted into the body’s own protein. On average, proteins from animal products have a higher biological value than vegetable products, with exceptions including, soybeans, potatoes, rice, and rye. However, the biological value is increased considerably by combining different foods, as their respective amino acids complement each other. What is important is not the profile of amino acids in a single meal, but rather the distribution of amino acid supply across the whole day. If in a day, a person consumes enough protein from a wide variety of vegan protein sources – such as pulses and wholemeal cereals, or pulses and nuts or seeds – as well as enough calories, protein requirements can easily be met with plant foods.
Iron deficiency is globally recognized as the most common nutrient deficiency. Mild cases of iron deficiency can be remedied by eating iron-rich food. Although animal products are considered rich in iron, plant-based foods are also valuable sources of the same. Quinoa, and wholemeal flour, for example, lead the list of foods containing iron. In the nuts and seeds category, sesame seeds are the frontrunners, followed by sunflower seeds, pine nuts, and almonds. Pulses such as kidney beans, lentils, and chickpeas are also rich in iron.
There are two different types of iron in our food groups: haem iron, which is found only in animal products, and non-haem iron, which can be found in both plant and animal products. Haem iron contained in animal products undergoes a reaction with hydrogen peroxide in the body, which produces damaging oxygen radicals. This can lead to changes in DNA, thus promoting the development of cancer. Consuming 100 g of red meat a day increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer by 17%. As little as 50g of processed meat per day increases the probability of colorectal cancer by 18%.
People who completely or partially eliminate animal foods from their diet consume less cholesterol and smaller amounts of unhealthy saturated fatty acids. A plant-based diet substantially reduces the risk of cancer caused by haem iron . On top of that, a plant-based lifestyle often goes hand in hand with lower BMI (body mass index) and reduced blood pressure levels. Overall, a plant-based diet is very beneficial to health.
A vegan diet can provide an adequate supply of vitamin B12. There are many vegan foods fortified with B12. They include non-dairy milk, meat substitutes, breakfast cereals, seaweed, mushrooms, and types of nutritional yeast. When following a vegan diet, a sufficient supply of vitamin B12 should be ensured through fortified foods and dietary supplements in the form of, for example, tablets, drops, or vitamin B12 toothpaste. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should pay particular attention to consuming an adequate quantity of vitamin B12 to ensure that their children receive a sufficient supply.
While dairy products are often considered to be the main source of calcium, sufficient quantities of calcium are also found in many plant-based sources. There are numerous reasons for favouring calcium from plants: dairy products are not just a source of calcium but are also one of the top sources of saturated fat, as well as a source of dietary cholesterol, sodium, and trans fats. Additionally, there is little evidence that dairy consumption can protect our bones. A Swedish study has shown that milk consumption may actually increase the risk of hip fracture by 9%. Hence, dairy products are far from being a healthy source of calcium. In contrast, plant sources of calcium do not come with any health risks if consumed in moderate quantities. Kale, broccoli, collards, mustard greens, calcium-set tofu, beans, white beans, almonds, tahini, dried figs, and fortified products such as plant-based milk are all significant sources of calcium.
A well-balanced diet, free from animal products and rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, can provide sufficient calcium to the human body without the health risks associated with the consumption of dairy products. Additionally, the bioavailability of plant-based calcium is often higher than that of dairy products. However, it is important to ensure that the body gets a sufficient amount of vitamin D to optimize calcium absorption. Supplements should be taken into consideration as they offer a more controlled and more substantial quantity of vitamin D than fortified foods. To ensure healthy levels of calcium and vitamin D, and to find the right dosage for supplementation, blood tests and medical advice should be sought.
Now that you know a plant-based diet can fulfil all your nutritional needs without compromising taste, why don’t you give it a try by participating in our #21daychallenge? We promise you it is going to be an exciting journey and we will guide you every step of the way.
Interested in knowing more? To access the full article, please visit Proveg International: Vegan-Nutrients