1 Month Vegan Challenge – Day 8

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Nutrients I Need Vs Nutrients I’m Getting in a Vegan Diet…

So I’ve been reading a loooot about the vegan diet in the last week.  There seems to be a consistent internet war about which is the healthier diet and that vegans can’t possibly be healthy.  I’m pretty open minded and would like to see if I really am getting (or can get) all the nutrients I need with a vegan diet.  I don’t really care which is ‘better’ than the other, I just care that I am being healthy with the choices I make.  Another documentary I watched last night was ‘Food Matters’ which talks more about the topic of food being used as medicine than it does about vegan/vegetarian diets.  Another show I would highly recommend.

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I do not claim to have much knowledge in this area, but from the research I have done I believe the following to be true (happy to be corrected)…we need to eat the following macronutrients: fats, protein & carbohydrates.  So that’s pretty simple…

  • Fats – I eat a box of mixed nuts daily and also have an avocado in my morning shake. Omega 3 I get from my flax seeds & chia seeds.
  • Protein – nuts again, broccoli, beetroot, avocado, spinach, quinoa, mushrooms, cauliflower, tomatoes.
  • Carbohydrates – really not feeling any problem here, fruits & veg, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, nuts.

Vitamins and Minerals…

  • So we should start with B12, this is the only vitamin I can find that does not exist in the vegan diet – the soya milk I drink is fortified with this and I have been putting a B12 supplement in my morning shake every day too…so I feel I have this one covered. For those interested and don’t already know, B12 can be found in meat, fish, cheese and milk.
  • Calcium – Dark leafy greens (but not spinach!), broccoli, nuts, tofu, pulses
  • Fibre – Fruit, veg, nuts, legumes, whole grains
  • Magnesium – nuts, leafy veg, potatoes, bread, wholegrains
  • Potassium – Potatoes, soybeans, bananas
  • Vitamin A – green leafy veg, orange veg (carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato), broccoli, tomatoes, mango
  • Vitamin C – broccoli, peppers, oranges, bananas
  • Vitamin E – almonds, oils, peanut butter
  • Vitamin D – Sunlight!! Mushrooms, sometimes fortified in soya milks
  • Vitamin K – leafy greens, broccoli, vegetable oils
  • Biotin – nuts, cereals, dried fruit (when I kept egg-eating snakes I had to add a supplement of Biotin to their water to ensure they were getting enough as often they ate unfertilised eggs and fertilised eggs are a source of biotin – random/useless bit of info there!)
  • Zinc – Cashews & other nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, beans, whole grains
  • Pantothenic Acid – peanuts, leafy greens, broccoli (large amounts can be lost during cooking)
  • Iron – lentils, beans, leafy veg, tofu, chickpeas, but is also fortified into a lot of foods such as bread
  • Phosphorus – seeds, nuts, tofu, beans & lentils
  • Sodium – mostly consumed through salt
  • B-Vitamins
    • Thiamin – brown rice, wholemeal bread, pulses, nuts, potatoes
    • Riboflavin – cereals, wholemeal bread, mushrooms, tea, beer (yay), broccoli, spinach
    • Niacin – wholegrain, coffee beans, beer & lager (double yay)
    • Pyridoxine – potatoes, bananas, soya beans, nuts, beer & lager (triple yay)
    • Cobalamin (B12) – as mentioned above, unless it is fortified into food then it can’t be found naturally in the vegan diet. But it is fortified into foods like Marmite and soya milk.

Whilst the above is a very high-level view and does not look at how much of each I have been eating, considering all the information I’ve read, I feel pretty satisfied I’m ticking all the boxes I need to – I wonder how many non-vegans are actually sustaining a healthy and balanced diet?  I know I have had looong periods of my life as an omnivore where I definitely did not have anywhere near a healthy diet (and I know many people who definitely don’t!).

All I’ve learnt from the above, is that in terms of being healthy you CAN be healthy as a vegan, you can also be unhealthy it is down to the choices you make…and that is agnostic of diet-branding…you can be healthy or unhealthy as an omnivore, vegetarian, pescatarian, etc..

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Food I’ve eaten today:-

  • Breakfast – soya milk fruit shake
  • Dinner – Falafel, hummus, beetroot and spinach wholemeal pitta bread
  • Tea – Cauliflower soup with half a wholemeal pitta bread
  • Snacks – nuts, banana, apple

Inspired by a book I’ve read recently ‘Science of Skinny’ and the ‘Food Matters’ documentary I watched last night I bought some cocoa nibs as they are a good source of many vitamins/minerals but especially iron and magnesium.

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