Vegan Nutrition Is Easier Than You Think
Vegan nutrition is one of those topics of discussion filled with misconceptions. At the Thanksgiving table, well-meaning relatives are likely to have all sorts of opinions about how you can’t possibly be healthy without consuming any animal products. It’s easy, however, to prove them incorrect.
There are at 4 typical topics of controversy when it comes to vegan nutrition. They are: vitamin B12, protein, iron, and calcium.
Vitamin B12 is admittedly challenging to obtain from a vegan diet. And it’s certainly true that it’s a very important nutrient. A vitamin B12 deficiency can be very serious, so it is important to obtain enough. Nutritional yeast is one vegan food that contains vitamin B12. Many vegans enjoy its cheesy flavor and sprinkle it on popcorn popped with coconut oil.
Vitamin B12 supplements are often suggested for vegans, and you can get all the vitamin B12 you need in a day if you take a good, high-quality supplement.
Protein is not as much of a concern if one is eating a well-rounded vegan diet. While we don’t think of them as protein sources, vegetables do contain protein. Nuts and seeds also offer a lot of protein. Chia seeds have 3 grams of protein in just 2 tablespoons. Hemp seeds contain a complete protein, meaning they contain all the amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Brown rice is also high in protein.
In addition to all these vegan sources of protein, most vegans do not believe that humans need the amount of protein we are led to believe is necessary. Between the lessened need for protein and the bounty of plant protein sources, most vegans with a well-rounded diet get all the protein they need.
Iron is not just found in meat. One surprisingly rich source of iron is raw cacao powder. Happily, just 2.5 tablespoons have 8% of the RDA for iron! Chia seeds are another good source of iron, with 2 tablespoons containing 8% of the RDA. Blackstrap molasses are high in iron, with 1 tablespoon offering 19% of the RDA. 23% of the RDA is found in just one ounce of pumpkin seeds, which are delicious roasted and eaten out-of-hand. Baked potatoes and spinach are also high in iron. And there are also excellent vegan iron supplements available at any health food store if iron is a particular concern for you. The best and most easily digested tend to be the liquid supplements.
Got kale? Many vegetables contain calcium and kale is one of the most concentrated and easily digestible sources of calcium. Sea vegetables, nori or dulse, for example, also contain high amounts of calcium, as do chia seeds. And just one tablespoon of blackstrap molasses contains 17% of the RDA. It’s generally accepted in the nutrition community that vegetable and other plant sources of calcium are easily digested, therefore your body reaps the benefits more readily than from animal sources like cow’s milk. Speaking of milk, coconut and almond milks contain 45% of the RDA for calcium in just 1 cup!