Let’s be real for a second. Choosing a vegan diet was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Not only for the animals and the planet but for our bodies as well.
Most of us can probably agree that, as vegans, we have a generally healthier lifestyle than most. The facts don’t lie, by eliminating animal products we have less risk of diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, and heart disease. Also our fiber, magnesium, folic acid, vitamins C and E levels are mega bragworthy. (Feel free to whip these babies out the next time you come across any haters.)
Often you’ll hear the phrase you are what you eat, but actually, that’s not the case. The phrase really should be, you are what you absorb. A staggering 92% of the US population is struggling with at least one mineral or vitamin deficiency based on the Dietary Reference Intakes, proving that it isn’t as easy as it seems to get in all your nutrients.
As a vegan, we especially have to monitor our diet closely since we’re eliminating such large food groups from our diet. (But it’s okay, we’re better off without them!) It’s critical we eat a wide range of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains to ensure we’re getting all our nutrients.
In this Vegan Diet Nutrition Series, we touch on everything you need to know about the vegan diet as well as provide you with further resources on each topic in case you want to do a deeper dive.
Are you ready?! Let’s get to it.
Getting the Basics
There are three main building blocks of any diet: carbs, fat, and protein. Now as a vegan, our food pyramid is structured a little differently than an omnivore’s, but each section falls within those three basic blocks. Let’s break down each part.
Carbohydrates (or carbs) are essential to our diet. In the digestion process, carbs are broken down into glucose, which is our brain and body’s primary fuel source. It can be used as energy immediately or stored for later, as fat.
There are three categories of carbohydrates: sugar, starch, and fiber. Carbs often get a bad rap in the nutrition industry, but like anything, there's a spectrum.
You can have healthy, complex carbs such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. These foods are high in fiber and take longer for your body to digest which helps keep you full for longer. The other side of the spectrum lies refined carbs like sugar-sweetened beverages, pastries, white bread, and white pasta. These foods are higher in sugar and don’t do as well at keeping you full since your body processes them quicker.
A healthy vegan diet consists of mainly whole foods. When opting for carbs choose complex grains such as brown rice, oats, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, millet, whole-grain pasta or bread and vegetables like sweet potatoes, beets, winter squash. Don’t forget about your beans, peas, and lentils, as legumes are also a great source of carbs.
Fats are the main source of energy storage for our body. When the glucose in carbs isn’t used for energy, our body turns it into fat for storage. Just like carbs, there are good fats (unsaturated) and bad fats (saturated and trans).
Fats are important to our bodies for many reasons. They deliver essential fatty acids (think Omega 3s), help us absorb fat-soluble vitamins, and keep our skin and hair healthy. As a vegan, opt for healthy unsaturated fats like avocados, olives, nuts, nut butter, seeds, and healthy oils like olive oil, avocado oil, and flaxseed oil.
Consuming protein on any diet is essential for good health. Protein is critical for building muscle and tissue, as well as a fuel source. Protein is made up of various tiny building blocks called amino acids.
Some amino acids our bodies can create on its own, but there are nine of them that we cannot. Therefore it is critical that we consume “complete” proteins: sources that contain all of the nine essential amino acids. This includes all animal proteins and various plant proteins.
The myth that vegans don’t get enough protein is completely busted. Thankfully for us, a lot of (very delicious) plants are great protein sources, soy specifically. This magical little bean can transform into so many things from edamame and soy milk to tofu and tempeh.
Need some proteinspiration? We’ve got you covered. Check out these 11 Vegan Protein Sources That Are Creative and Delicious.
We can’t cover the basics of a vegan diet without mentioning the single most crucial element which makes up roughly 60% of our body: water.
We all know that drinking water is important, but how many of us know why? Out of all the nutrients, it's the most important.
Water regulates our body temperature through sweating and respiration as well as aiding in flushing waste out of our body through urination. It’s the main building block of every cell, the major component of saliva, and a critical lubricant for joints and tissues like our spinal cord. Perhaps one of the most important properties of water is its ability to dissolve nutrients and transport them through the bloodstream.
Many common symptoms stem from not having enough water like constipation and headaches. We are constantly losing water through urine and sweat so it’s imperative we stay adequately hydrated to fuel our bodies.
How much water each person needs varies depending on their weight, activity levels, and lifestyle. Thankfully our thirst mechanism kicks in when our body starts to fall below the required level.
A good rule of thumb is to try and drink between half an ounce and an ounce of water for each pound you weigh, every day. Alternatively, if you are breastfeeding, working out, or suffering from vomiting and diarrhea, you should increase your water intake.
Getting Your Vitamins and Omegas
At Future Kind, we are a big proponent of eating your vitamins and supplementing when you can’t. Let’s face it; life can get busy and sometimes it's hard to get in all your vitamins, even if you are eating a wide variety of whole foods.
We’ve focused our lives on making it super easy for you to get your dose of three specific nutrients that all vegans should be taking: B12, Vitamin D3, and Omega 3 Fatty acid.
B Vitamins (B12 Specifically)
If you’re a vegan, you can only get vitamin B12 through supplementation whether that's through fortified foods (the vitamin has been added) like nutritional yeast, various cereals, fortified plant milk, or a nutritional supplement pill. To ensure you’re meeting your daily requirements, a nutritional supplement is your best option.
Experts from Examine.com recommend that people adhering to a vegan diet or people above 50 take 100 - 400 mcg of B12 per day.
Want the whole story on Vitamin B12? Check out this incredible Vitamin B12 source.
Vitamin D (D3 Specifically)
The sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D, is one of the 24 micronutrients vital for human survival. Vitamin D comes in five different forms, but Vitamin D2 and D3 are the most important.
You can get Vitamin D2 from mushrooms that are grown in UV light (which can be hard to find since most aren’t) and various fortified foods (where the supplement is already added) like orange juice, cereal, and plant-based milk.
Vitamin D3 is a little more tricky to acquire since it can only be produced within your body when your skin is exposed to the sun. This can be difficult if you live in a northern region, have a darker skin complexion, or don’t get regular midday sun exposure.
Although both forms can raise your D levels, Vitamin D3 is much more efficient at doing the job plus it has the added benefit of extending your lifespan. If you’re opting for a supplement, it’s best to go with a Vitamin D3 supplement.
There are two main D3 supplements: lanolin (sheep's wool) and lichen extract (a proprietary blend from lichen called Vitashine) so, as a vegan, be sure to choose the latter.
Experts suggest vegans take a supplement of 2000 IU of Vitamin D3 per day to ensure your body is running as properly as possible. Check out this resource on everything you need to know about Vitamin D.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Fatty acids such as Omega 3, 6, and 9 are the basic building blocks of fats. They naturally occur in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and anchovies or in plant-based foods such as walnuts, chia seeds, and brussels sprouts.
Omega 3s are essential to your health for a multitude of reasons like reducing inflammation, decreasing the fat in your liver, preventing certain types of cancer, and even increasing your quality of sleep.
When it comes to Omega 3 fatty acids, they can be categorized in three major forms: the short-chain fatty acid: ALA (alpha-linoleic acid) and the long-chain fatty acids: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
ALA is the only essential form of Omega 3s, meaning our bodies cannot produce it. EPA and DHA can be synthesized from ALA, but the process is complex and utilizes a lot of other vitamins and nutrients. EPA and DHA are the only biologically active forms of the fatty acid, therefore, making it the most important ones to consume.
Because our bodies vary, we can’t be sure how much ALA our body is converting to EPA and DHA. The only vegan source of EPA and DHA come from a species of algae. Thankfully you can get in supplement form.
There are various nutritious (and delicious) vegan ALA sources like hemp seeds, soya spread, pumpkin seeds, brussels sprouts, sunflower seeds, walnuts, chia seeds, perilla oil, as well as flax seeds.
Hungry for More Vegan Nutrition Information?
You’ve come to the right place. Check out Future Kind’s vegan health and lifestyle blog for everything from vegan health info to healthy and fun recipes.
If you’ve been searching for the perfect vegan multivitamin, then search no further. We want to introduce you to the Future Kind Multivitamin. It’s blend of all the essential vitamins and nutrients a vegan needs that we can’t get easily from a plant-based diet: Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3, and Omega 3 fatty acids.
Pair this vitamin with a well-balanced diet, and you’ll be on track to crush any goal at hand. It’s everything your vegan body needs, and nothing it doesn’t.
We are very careful about what we put into our bodies; our supplements are no different. Check out our incredible ingredients here.
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