I eat a mainly vegetarian diet and sometimes I hear..how do you get all your nutritional needs? Here is an how plant based diets can stack up to a typical diet with respect to the nutrients we all really need to stay healthy.
Protein provides the amino acids you need for growth and repair of tissue. An average woman needs 60g and a man needs 70g. One cup of cooked beans has 15g of protein, barley 11g, cottage cheese 15g. The key is variety so that you get a good balance of amino acids.
Iron assists with delivery of oxygen to the cells. A deficiency can cause fatigue, poor immune system response, and mental fog. Women need 18 mg, (pregnant women need 27mg)and men need 8 mg. Iron rich options for vegetarians include: kelp,black strap molasses, wheat bran,pumpkin seeds, almonds,beans, dark leafy greens, and lentils. There are two forms of iron. The type that is taken from animal sources is easily absorbed but not the case with plant based sources. It is good to pair these options with good sources of Vitamin C to aid in absorption. Examples are tomatoes, peppers and citrus fruits. You can take this as a supplement but there can be side effects with elimination from the supplement. Note that high intakes of Calcium, Magnesium and Zinc can also interfere with iron absortion.
B-12 is vital for maintenance of nerve and red blood cells. It is also used to make DNA. We all need 2.4 micrograms daily. This is abundant is fish, meat, poultry and eggs it is more difficult to find in plant based foods. My best source of it is nutritional yeast. You can sprinkle this on veggies into oatmeal or into your meal. You need about 2 tsp full. Algae is also a good source. I like live blue-grean algae from Kathlamath Falls-E3Live. Some milks also supplement with B-12.
Calcium is needed for bone health and for proper enzyme activity. The contraction of muscles depends on calcium. I do not cosume much dairy so I get my calcium from my hemp, soy or rice milk mainly. Actually kale is a better source of calcium than milk! Other sources are tofu, spinach, chickpeas and broccoli. Most of us need 1000mg daily. Sometimes supplements are good for this one as long as they are paired with Magnesium but beware of the amounts they provide. Most do not provide the RDA. I prefer calcium citrate over carbonate due to its absorption. Caffeine, alcohol, protein and sugar increase calcium excretion. Calcium deficiency can result in muscle cramps, osteoporosis, high blood pressure and colon cancer.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are important for cardiovascular, eye, and brain health. If you do not consume fish, you may be low in EPA and DHA fatty acids. The general recommendation is 0.3 to 0.5 g for men and women. Another important fatty acid is ALA which is abundant in flaxseed, walnuts, soy, and canola oil. Aim for 1-2 g per day. The body can make EPA and DHA from ALA sources but you will need to consume more. Algae supplements provide some DHA and so do some eggs. Some symptoms of fatty acid deficiency are fatigue, dry skin, hair and cracked nails, maldigestion, immune weakness, forgetfullness, and aching joints.
More to come...