Vegan diets are gradually gaining popularity with more and more individuals turning towards veganism due to ethical, environmental, or health issues.
A wholesome plant based diet has been associated with several benefits such as weight loss, better blood sugar control, decreased heart disease risk among many others. However, following a vegetarian diet requires careful planning. It is challenging to obtain all essential nutrients due to the absence of animal products.
This article uncovers tips on how to start a well-planned vegan diet.
1. Keep An Eye On Your Iron Levels
Iron plays an important role in the production of red blood cells. Meat products contain heme iron, which can be easily absorbed by the body. Whereas plant-based foods contain non-heme iron which is not as readily digested in the body as heme iron. Due to this reason, vegetarians are more prone to iron deficiency anemia, a condition where there are not enough red blood cells in the body.
Pro-Tip: Include more iron-rich foods such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, iron-fortified cereals and green leafy vegetables in your diet. Pair these with Vitamin C rich foods such as lemon, gooseberry, and citrus fruits to increase absorption of iron.
2. Add Adequate Protein
Excluding animal products from the diet does lead to a deficiency of protein which can further result in hair loss, swelling, skin degeneration. It is essential to include good quality plant-based proteins such as lentils, quinoa, tofu, soybeans, tempeh, nuts such as almonds, walnuts and seeds such as pumpkin, flax, chia, and sunflower. Try to incorporate at least one of these sources in every meal to make sure that your protein intake is adequate.
Pro-Tip: Pair foods to get complete proteins from your diet (all essential amino acids) such as beans and rice, whole grain bread and hummus, chickpea salad with sunflower seeds.
3. Choose Whole Grains
Whole grains are considered as one of the most healthy food choices due to the abundant vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, photochemical present in them. Rich in fiber, whole grains help feel full and hence aid in weight loss. Whole grains also contain Vitamin B-12, which is found to be deficient in vegetarians due to the absence of meat products. Make sure to include whole grains such as barley, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat and millets in your daily diet.
Pro-Tip: Increase the absorption of B-12 by consuming folate-rich foods such as chickpeas, lentils and green leafy vegetables.
4. The Essential Omega-3
Omega-3 fats such as EPA and DHA are found in fatty fish (salmon and trout) and are essential for healthy heart, eye, and brain function. Another type of omega-3 fatty acid: ALA is found in plant-based foods. This fatty acid is not synthesized by the body and hence needs to be obtained from the diet. Also, our body naturally converts ALA into DHA and EPA. Vegetarian foods rich in ALA include flaxseeds, chia, Brussel sprouts, hemp, soybean and edamame.
Pro-Tip: A great source of omega-3 is algal oil, which is derived from certain marine algae. These are available in soft gel form and provide a combination of EPA and DHA.
5. Pump Up Your Calcium
Worried about meeting your calcium intake before switching to a vegan lifestyle? Well, it’s not that hard to keep up with your calcium needs if the right diet is followed. Include foods such as black sesame seeds, chia seeds, almond milk, tofu and dark green leafy vegetables, and fortified juices in your diet. Consume these foods for maintaining your bone health, improving blood circulation, and releasing hormones.
Pro-Tip: Include Vit-D-rich foods in your diet, such as fortified juices, milk, mushrooms, and tempeh to increase calcium absorption in your body.
Author: Akansha Laddha (Nutritionist)