With the rising interest in this kind of eating pattern among athletes as well as people who are not active or sports-related, there are probably questions you might be asking yourself about how to make sure your nutritional needs are met properly. There are also common myths surrounding the plant-based diet that need to be dispelled along with highlighting ways to ensure proper intake of nutrients. The following is a list of 6 important things to know about a plant-based diet.
Make Sure You Get Enough Protein
If you decide to go on a plant-based diet, it is very important that you eat enough protein from various sources including legumes, nuts and seeds, quinoa, whole grains and many others. Just because the majority of your diet will be made up of plants does not mean you will get enough protein if it’s coming only from one source.
For example, green peas have 9g of protein in 100g but brown rice has 5g per 100g so combining them would give you 14g/100g which meets 20% protein RDA while combining peas and rice together will make 45g of protein/100g. Also, pairing different proteins like legumes and nuts or seeds is a good idea. For example, peanuts contain 49g of protein in 100g but peas only 9g so by mixing both you will get 38g/100g which meets 52% RDA for protein.
You Can Get Calcium Without Dairy Products
Calcium is an essential mineral that is needed for many functions in the body including building stronger bones, helping with muscle contraction and playing a role in blood clotting among others. There is no need to eat any dairy products on a plant-based diet as you can get calcium from dark leafy vegetables like kale or broccoli, dried fruits like figs or prunes, nuts like almonds or seeds like sesame.
Also, calcium from plant-based foods is absorbed more efficiently than one from dairy products. If you do not like any of these options, you can use a supplement that provides an adequate intake of calcium.
Exercise Is Important For Health No Matter What Your Diet Is Like
Many people tend to think that a plant-based diet will automatically improve health and protect you from disease if you are physically active but this is not true because being active is just as important regardless of your diet. Any change in dietary habits whether it’s going vegan, vegetarian or even becoming an omnivore requires time for the body to adjust so having healthy foods on hand like nuts, seeds, dried fruits and vegetables, whole grains etc is the key. There are many differences between different kinds of diets but one thing they all have in common is that exercise plays an integral role towards general health and more activities you do leads to better lifestyle choices.
For plant-based diets, the general recommendation is to have 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of high-intensity activity weekly. Perusing helpful vegan fitness guides is a great way to know the right exercises to do. For example, an exercise to try can be going for a hike. Or if you’re just beginning, go on a walk around the neighbourhood. Also, try bike riding or jogging.
Iron Is Also Available From Non-Animal Sources
Iron is a mineral that plays a critical role in transporting oxygen throughout the body and is also used for making red blood cells among many other functions. Like with protein and calcium, iron from animal sources is easier to absorb compared to plant-based ones but this does not mean you won’t be able to get enough if it’s coming from whole grains, nuts seeds or legumes as well as vegetables such as spinach or broccoli.
Pairing different iron sources will also improve absorption so having beans with tomato sauce on whole grain bread is a good idea. Also, having some vitamin C along with iron-rich food will improve absorption and using a cast-iron skillet for cooking can be beneficial too.
You Can Meet Calorie Needs From Plants Only If You Eat A Lot
Even though most of your calorie needs on a plant-based diet will come from whole, unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains you still need to eat large amounts to meet your calorie needs.
Depending on your daily physical activity level you might need up to 3,000 calories per day so putting together meals that contain all macronutrients: carbohydrates: 50-60% calories, protein: 10-15% and fat ~25% is the key towards being satisfied and not hungry even if you eat large amounts. Some recipe tips include using broth or tomato sauce instead of oil for dry cooking, adding beans to salads and pasta dishes, using avocado on sandwiches in place of mayo and so on.
B12 Is A Nutrient That Cannot Be Obtained From Plant Sources In Significant Amounts
In order to get all the nutrients you need from plants, it is necessary to eat a variety of foods every day and also combine different food groups so eating legumes along with grains or seeds will have a better outcome than just eating one type of food alone. One nutrient that comes up again and again when talking about plant-based diets is vitamin B12 because this nutrient cannot be obtained in significant amounts from any plant sources, unlike other vitamins such as C, D and E which can be found in vegetables and fruits respectively.
Vitamin B12 can lead to neurological damage if not ingested in required amounts and deficiency symptoms could be fatigue, depression and low concentration. Vitamin B12 can be found in fortified plant milk but intake of such milk does not provide the recommended amount even though it is usually higher than vitamin D or calcium present in dairy products. That’s why if you decide to go vegan make sure to get enough vitamin B12 from supplements and if your food contains fortified cereals then that will work too.
A plant-based diet provides many health benefits due to its high content of fruits, vegetables and whole grains; however, this way of eating needs some extra considerations compared to other types of diets because what we eat matters just as much as how often we eat. Combining nutrient-dense foods together at mealtime is key to ensure you are getting all the nutrients your body needs. Vitamin B12 along with other vitamins has to be supplemented through fortified food or supplements if not obtained from natural sources due to their mostly unavailability in plants. Being active every day and staying physically fit is just as important for good health whether you eat a meat-based or plant-based diet so keep this in mind before trying out any kind of eating regimen.