Understanding your basic nutritional needs when vegan

Whether you’re already a practising vegan or you’re just getting started with the idea of it, your nutritional needs should be one of the main things you incorporate into your diet. Below are some basic insights into nutrition when you’re on a plant-based diet, and some tips for joining a vegan diet when disabled, which can be hard to grasp and incorporate.

Protein

When we’re young, we’re told that a balanced and healthy diet will need to have protein. Although meat does contain protein, almost all foods have a portion of protein in them. The next time you’re looking to fill your plate with protein-rich foods, consider whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds and firm tofu. It’s not hard to meet your protein intake for the day when on a vegan diet, however, it’s important to know where your protein is coming from.

Check out this blog post for a huge list of vegan friendly foods that contain protein:
Can I get protein and build muscle on a plant-based diet?

Calcium

Sold to us from a young age, many still believe that calcium can only be found in dairy products (cheese, milk etc). However, getting enough calcium on the vegan diet couldn’t be easier. Soy milk, cereals, kale and oranges all have high amounts of calcium in them and can be incorporated easily into your vegan diet.

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Iron

The thing to note with iron is that there are many factors that can affect how our bodies absorb it from food. When eating beans, you can gain the most iron from them when you soak them before cooking. Choosing to eat roasted nuts over raw will also help you to include iron into your diet more easily.   Consuming vitamin C at the same time as iron will help your body to absorb more iron, but avoid calcium rich foods at the same time as this can inhibit absorption.

Vitamins and minerals

Vitamins and minerals are abundant in a range of plant-based foods. For some of the essential vitamins and minerals that should be in your diet, see the list below.

Vegan foods that contain vitamin B12:

  • Fortified nutritional yeast
  • Fortified non-dairy milk and margarine
  • Organic chlorella (organically produced)

It’s important to note that it’s recommended for those following a vegan diet to take vitamin B12 supplements or to eat fortified foods on a daily basis to avoid anaemia or nervous system damage.

Read what every vegan should know about vitamin B12 for more information.

Vegan sources of vitamin D:

  • Fortified vegan friendly foods, such as cereal or margarine
  • Mushrooms
  • Sunlight
  • Plant derived supplements

Vegan foods that contain Magnesium:

  • Nuts
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils)
  • Seeds
  • Bananas
  • Mango
  • Whole grains
  • Oats

How to make your own plant-based oat milk at home (it’s really easy)

Fats

Healthy fats are vital for brain function, eye health and nerves. Not all fats are bad for you, as you may have been taught to believe. Some fats, such as Omega 3s, can have anti-inflammatory properties. You can find some of the best fats for your body in foods such as flaxseeds, dark green leafy vegetables, avocados and olive oil.

Fibre

Fibre is one of the only things that keep your bowels in motion. It also slows the rate at which sugar and fat are absorbed into the body. Fibre is found in whole grains, nuts, beans and seeds.

Disability and the vegan diet

When you’re a disabled wheelchair user, becoming vegan can be hard, especially when meal prep can be tiring. Here are some tips on how to make nutritious food on the vegan diet:

  • Buy in bulk (beans, lentils etc) these will come in handy for fast meal prep
  • Buy food online – this is great if you find it hard to get to the shops
  • Buy frozen vegetables. These are usually pre-diced, saving you the time and effort

Here are some more blog posts with great suggestions and tips for easy recipes:

Vegan recipes and go-to brands for a healthy chocolate fix
3 healthy vegan snacks to satisfy a sweet tooth
Is it hard being a vegan?
How to use freeze-dried fruit in vegan recipes
21 easy vegan sandwich filling ideas for lunchboxes
How to make your own plant-based oat milk at home
Why being healthy doesn’t have to be expensive

Guest post by Gina Kay Daniel

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