SPECIAL FOCUS AREAS- PROTEIN, IRON & CALCIUM
The concern for whether people can meet their protein, calcium, iron on a vegan diet is valid nonetheless but before we get into that let’s understand why turning to plant- based lifestyle is great for health in addition to being sustainable for the planet and standing up for unethical treatment of animals.
Along with fat and carbohydrates, protein is a “macronutrient,” meaning that the body needs relatively large amounts of it. Fats and carbohydrates we are able to derive very easily. But unlike fat and carbohydrates, the body does not store protein, and therefore has no reservoir to draw on when it needs a new supply. Protein needs to be well planned for.
Our body uses protein to build and repair tissues. We also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Zinc is a nutrient that people need to stay healthy. Our protein requirement per day is approximately 0.8 grams for per kg of body weight. It varies as per gender, age, activity level.
Lentils (Moong, Masur, Matki, chawli), beans (Rajma, Chole), tofu, peas, peanuts, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice, spinach, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, pistachios.
Vitamin B-12 is a crucial B vitamin. It is needed for nerve tissue health, brain function, neurological function and the production of red blood cells. B12 sources – The best source of B12 are fortified foods or supplements. B12 sources through food are Nutritional yeast, yeast spreads, certain mushrooms, some algae and fermented foods contain some amount of vitamin B12. The recommended daily intake (RDI) for vitamin B12 for people over 14 is 2.4 mcg. Note that the percent of vitamin B12 your body can absorb from supplements is not very high – it’s estimated that your body only absorbs 10 mcg of a 500-mcg B12 supplement.
Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. We need average daily intake of 400-4000 IU depending on current levels and whether it is a maintenance dose or a dose to overcome a deficiency.
D3 sources – Best source of D3 is the sunlight. Try and spend 20 minutes in the sun every day. The other sources are fortified foods and mushrooms. It is advisable to take a D3 supplement on a regular basis to prevent deficiency and to maintain levels.
For Vitamin B12 and D3 it is important to have an annual blood test to make sure levels are maintained at an optimal level and it is preferred to be on a low maintenance dose on a regular basis for better absorption rather than take high doses on a weekly or fortnightly basis unless advised for your doctor.
Both calcium and vitamin D are essential in building bone
Calcium carries messages from your brain to other parts of your body and plays a major part of tooth and bone health. We need calcium in order to circulate blood, move muscles, and release hormones. We need around 1000 mg a day of calcium.
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, radish leaves, fenugreek leaves, mustard greens, fresh & dried figs, fortified soy milk.
Iron is an important component of hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from our lungs to transport it throughout your body. Hemoglobin represents about two-thirds of the body’s iron.Women need 8-18 mg. Men need 8-11mg as their daily iron requirements.
Iron sources: Dark leafy greens such as spinach, dry fruits (dates, raisins, dried figs), kidney beans, chickpeas, green peas, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, water / garden cress seeds, tofu, whole grains, oats, quinoa, mushrooms, almonds.
Iodine is an essential mineral which is needed by the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones. Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Iodine id 150 mcg.
Iodine sources – Seaweed, Wakame, Nori, iodised salt
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that are important in preventing and managing heart disease as well for brain health. The daily recommended intake of ALA for adults over age 19 is 1,100 mg for women and 1,600 mg for men. Of the three main types of omega-3 fatty acids, plant foods typically only contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Omega 3 sources – walnuts, flax nuts, chia nuts, basil seeds (sabja), seaweed, algae.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in many foods. Vitamin A is important for normal vision, the immune system, and reproduction. Vitamin A also helps the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs work properly.
The daily recommended intake of Vitamin A ranges from 700-900 mcg.
Vitamin A sources- Muskmelon, Spinach, Pumpkin, Carrots, Sweet potato
Zinc is a nutrient that people need to stay healthy and is found in cells throughout the body. It helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses. The body also needs zinc to make proteins and DNA, the genetic material in all cells.
Legumes- beans, chickpeas, lentils, tofu
Nuts- walnuts, cashew nuts, peanuts, almonds.
Seeds- melon, flax, hemp, pumpkin, sunflower
Oatmeal, Whole grains, Whole wheat bread
The recommended daily amount of zinc is 8 milligrams (mg) for women and 11 mg for adult men.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble nutrient found in some foods. In the body, it acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals.
Vitamin C sources –
orange, limes, sweet lime, amla, papaya, guava, berries, kiwi, cantaloupe, bell peppers
The daily requirements for all of the above for infants, children, teenagers, pregnant and lactating women and seniors would differ so should be looked at carefully.
Webmd.com, Healthline.com and ods.od.nih.gov