Plant-based eating provides a number of health benefits. However, it can be challenging to get the recommended amounts of all nutrients, especially those that are easily found in non-plant foods. But this challenge can be overcome with a bit of planning. Here are some tips from James Collier, head of nutrition at Huel, to help you make sure that you get the protein and vitamins you need while on a plant-based diet.
Variety Is the Spice of Life
Eat a variety of foods, especially different colored foods as these contain different levels of nutrients. For example, the phytonutrient lycopene, which is an antioxidant that protects against cell damage and gives tomatoes its red color. Other carotenoids also act as antioxidants and give fruit and vegetables their orange and yellow colors; for example, carrots.
Be Aware of Your B12 Intake
Vitamin B12 plays a vital role in helping the body produce red blood cells and is perceived as tricky to get enough of with a plant-based diet. The good news is it need not be. As a start, try incorporating plant-based milks that are that are fortified with B12, as well as calcium and vitamin D. Cereals, meat alternatives, and some soy products are often fortified with B12, as well. Taking a B12 supplement also relieves any concerns.
Ensure Adequate Omega-3 Consumption
If oily fish is not part of your eating plan, then foods such as walnuts, soy products, and flaxseed are ways to obtain a good intake of omega-3s. Flaxseed is rich in the omega-3 essential fatty acid Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA). Omega-3 fats are generally low in a Western diet and adequate omega-3 consumption is crucial to support cardiovascular health.
Ironing Your Plant-Based Diet
Keep your intake of iron up. Iron is not just found in meat food sources. Dark leafy greens, such as spinach, nuts, and dried fruits are great sources of iron. Iron is crucial for oxygen transport, cognitive function, and the immune system. Iron from plant sources can be harder to absorb, but again, there’s no need to worry: Iron absorption can also be increased by the presence of vitamin C which is found in lots of fruits and vegetables such as oranges and peppers. It’s where the idea of having orange juice with breakfast comes from — to increase the absorption of iron that is in breakfast cereals.
Proper Nutrition on a Plant-Based Diet Is Possible
There are many protein-rich foods available to someone on a plant-based diet, for example, beans, lentils, soy products, hummus, nuts, and seeds. There are misconceptions about plant-based proteins in that people claim that they are inferior to meat, eggs and dairy proteins, which isn’t the case. Although the amino acid profile of a single plant-based protein source may be inferior to an animal protein, this is easy to get around simply by combining more than one source of plant protein in a meal. For example, beans and rice both contain good amounts of protein.