I choose to eat a vegan, plant-based diet and I recommend that you do too. I am an advocate for all things nutrition and it’s not that I believe other ways of eating are bad for the body, it’s simply that I believe that the evidence suggests that plant-based living is the most ideal diet for our bodies.
A Plant-based diet is a way of eating that revolves around consuming an abundance of fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds.
It’s unheard of that eating too many plant foods is unhealthy for you but It’s well known that plant foods are nutritious and do incredible things for your body. Plant foods are full of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fibre which the body needs for different functions. Animal-based foods lack fibre and contain no phytochemicals as they’re only found in plant foods. It’s not that you can’t be healthy eating animal products, it’s simply that your body has to work harder to maintain health whilst eating that way and that eating plant-based is healthier and easier for your body.
This is the first question people ask me when I say that I’m Vegan or only eat plant foods. The idea that you will be protein deficient being vegan is a myth that I will debunk right here. I am lucky enough to have grown up here in Australia in a family who earned an average income. The money my family earned allowed us to always have three meals a day, snacks in between and sometimes dessert and special treats. This meant that food was not scarce in my life and food security wasn’t something I ever had to worry about. I’m going to guess that most of you reading this had a similar situation growing up. Protein is a macro-nutrient and is found in all foods, some more than others. It’s impossible to be deficient in protein, if you are consuming enough energy (Kj, Calories) each day. I have never met someone deficient in protein, nor have I ever heard of it being diagnosed in people who eat enough. Those who are protein deficient have issues with food security, eating disorders or other illnesses.
We all get enough protein if we eat enough energy however some of us such as athletes require more protein than the average person. For instances like this, plant foods that are nutritionally dense in protein are required to be added in larger quantities to the diet.
Plant foods high in protein:
- Green, Leafy Vegetables.
- Hemp Seeds
- Non-Dairy Milks (Soy, Almond, etc)
- Nut Butters
Calcium is such an important nutrient as it’s important for the maintenance of the skeleton and the proper functioning of neuromuscular and cardiac function. Naturally, everyone associates calcium sources with dairy milk and although dairy milk is a source of calcium, it isn’t the best nor is it the only source of calcium. Calcium is a mineral – just like iron, magnesium and copper. Calcium is found in the soil where it is then absorbed in to the plants via their roots. Animal foods get calcium by the animals consuming plant foods. Calcium is another one of those nutrients (like protein) that we really shouldn’t be very concerned about as it is abundant in plants.
As mentioned above about protein and calcium, we don’t need to target specific plant foods to get our source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are involved in an array of important bodily functions such as the stabilisation of the cell membrane, immune system and nervous system function and blood clotting. When talking about omega-3 fatty acids we need to discuss omega-6 fatty acids as they need to be consumed in a healthy ratio to each other. If too much omega-6 is consumed, the absorption of omega-3 is compromised. By eating plant foods and getting your sources of omega-3 and omega-6 from plants only, that healthy balance naturally occurs, allowing optimal absorption of both types of fats. Adult men and women need to eat between 1/4 tsp and 1/3 tsp of omega-3 per day which can be achieved by ensuring you’re meeting your energy needs from plants daily. By ensuring you’re consuming enough energy, you will easily consume enough essential fatty acids.
The following foods have high concentrations of essential fatty acids:
- Flax Seeds
- Chia Seeds
** although these foods have a high concentration of essential fatty acids, there’s no evidence to suggest you need to eat these foods daily to get the proper amount of fat daily.
Vitamin B12 is found in animal products and cannot be found in plant foods and therefore must be supplemented. I suggest watching this video for more information.
The B12 supplement I use is this.