When it comes to vegan diets, the most nutrition problems surface as deficiencies in essential nutrients. Here we address the most common nutrition mistakes for vegans and how to correct them.
Overestimating Protein Intake
Despite almonds being in rich in protein (6 grams per ounce), almond milk is surprisingly not (1 gram per cup). Instead of using almond milk, try adding a tablespoon of almond butter or soaked whole almonds to your smoothie. Using plant-based protein powder can also help.
Quinoa is another misunderstood vegan food. While it appears to be extremely healthful in comparison to other plant-based foods (contains all of the essential amino acids), its protein content isn’t as great (4 grams per half cup). While it does provide slow-digesting carbs and filling fiber, you may want to add beans, nuts, or seeds to increase your protein intake.
Not Enough Iron
Because animal-based sources of iron are better absorbed by the body than plant-based sources, vegans often need double the amount of iron. And unfortunately, severely low levels of iron lead to anemia which leaves you feeling weak and tired.
Fake, Processed “Meats”
If you are transitioning to a vegan diet, easing your way in with vegan versions of meats may not be the best idea. While they may help you stick to a vegan diet when you’re experiencing a craving for meat, they are not a healthy option as they are often loaded with sodium and low in protein content.
Jackfruit is a newly popular meat alternative that will trick you into thinking you’re eating meat. Luckily, jackfruit is extremely versatile so try your hand with one of the many jackfruit recipes out there.
Snacking On Refined Carbs
What do pretzels, licorice, corn, and rice cereal have in common? Aside from being vegan-friendly snacks, they are also rather unhealthy. Refined carbohydrates may give you a quick energy boost, but they also provide a quick crash and leave you craving more.
Instead, trade them for whole-grain, fiber-rich snacks with protein, like fresh fruit with nut butter or whole-grain crackers with seed butter.
Not Enough Vitamin B12
Because vitamin B12 is only naturally found in foods that come from animals, vegans must find other ways to maintain adequate B12 levels. A short-term vitamin B12 deficiency makes you feel tired and weak, whereas a long-term deficiency can cause more severe side effects, including nerve damage and decreasing brain health and memory function.
Taking a supplement is likely the best option, along with vegan foods that are fortified with B12. While there are claims that spirulina, seaweed, and fermented soy contain it, your body is unable to process and absorb the B12 found in them.
Vegan ≠ Healthy
Vegan snacks often boast the “health halo,” however, don’t fall for it (vegan cookies are still cookies). And while vegan diets have their benefits, it can be difficult to achieve sufficient amounts of nutrients within your diet.
Be sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need by ensuring that every meal includes whole grains (steel-cut oats, brown rice, millet, amaranth) or starchy vegetables packed with beta-carotene and fiber (pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes, corn). Also include vegan protein sources such as legumes (beans, lentils), nuts or seeds, and a multicolored variety of vegetables.
Not Enough Calcium
The amount of calcium in leafy greens can be impressive, but the calcium in some greens is absorbed better than others. Spinach, Swiss chard, beet greens, and rhubarb are high in calcium, however, are also high in oxalates, which are compounds that prevent your body from absorbing calcium. Instead, opt for kale, collard greens, and mustard greens, all of which contain calcium that is absorbed more easily.
Missing Out On Vitamin D
For those who don’t spend a lot of time outside, or live in areas where sunny weather is few and far between, you could be lacking vitamin D. In this case, getting vitamin D from food or supplements are your only options.
Oily fish and egg yolks are two of the main sources of vitamin D, which limits vegan’s options. Instead, vegans should look to fortified almond or soy milk or vegan margarine, or consult with a doctor about possibly adding a supplement.
Most people look to oily fish for their omega-3 fatty acids fix. These omega-3s found in fish are referred to as EPA and DHA (long-chain fatty acids that have more research behind their health benefits). Plant-based omega-3s more commonly come from ALA, which are short-chain fatty acids.
For vegans, the best sources of omega-3s are ground flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts. To get even more omega-3s in your diet, try using flaxseed oil, walnut oil, and canola oil in your salad dressings.
Not Consulting With A Registered Dietician
If you are just starting your vegan lifestyle, or if you want to ensure you are getting enough of your essential nutrients, it is advised to meet with a registered dietician. He or she can help to make sure you are meeting all of your health goals. If you’re becoming more active or planning on starting a family, your body will need more of certain nutrients.
Have you adopted a vegan diet? Share your vegan tips, tricks, and healthy recipes with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest.
We can make vegan-friendly sandwiches, inquire about them today! Visit us weekdays from 7:00am-4:00pm and Saturdays 8:00am-4:30pm, we’re located on the corner of Garey Avenue and Arrow Highway (next to Johnny’s). We look forward to seeing you all soon!