Veganuary – Maintaining Healthy Nutrition

Veganuary is a pledge people take where they attempt to go vegan for the month of January and the rest of the year (you can read more about it here).

I’m not going to get into the pros and cons of going vegan in this post, but I did want to highlight some nutrients your body might begin lacking as a result of removing meat from your diet, and provide you with some replacement sources!

 

Vitamin B12

B12 is naturally present in animal products and holds some serious responsibilities such as, proper red blood cell formation, neurological function and DNA synthesis [1]. As a vegan, the most efficient way to get your daily value of B12 is through supplements or fortified cereals (just look to make sure they have your daily value of B12).

 

Iron

Iron deficiency is nothing to be taken lightly, as it is responsible for the distribution of oxygen throughout your body!

The best vegan sources of iron according to The Vegan Society, include: lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, cashew nuts, chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, kale, dried apricots, dried figs, raisins, quinoa and fortified cereals.

Keep in mind, there are foods that hinder your body’s ability to absorb iron such as, coffee and tea, so try to avoid these when you’re eating your sources of iron. Instead you should pair these high-iron foods with foods that are high in Vitamin C (pepper, broccoli, oranges, strawberries, and so on), as these improve your body’s ability to absorb the iron [2].

 

Vitamin C

Oh, yeah… You might be deficient in Vitamin C, too! This one is pretty simple though: get those fruits and veggies in you! Cantaloupe, citrus fruits, berries, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, potatoes and tomatoes are all great sources.

Vitamin C does more than just aid your body absorb iron, it also plays a big role in tissue growth and repair, as well as, maintaining cartilage, bones and teeth [3]. Vitamin C is also one of many antioxidants – the superhero foods that help prevent damage from free radicals!

 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps promote calcium absorption and is therefore responsible for you maintaining strong bones [4]. The best (and most fun) way to get your Vitamin D is to simply catch some rays! The UV-B rays from the sun hit your skin and catalyze a reaction that generates Vitamin D. However, the unfortunate thing about winter is, if you live north of Atlanta the sun never gets high enough in the sky to allow these rays to penetrate our atmosphere [5]. So for us Canadians, it’s looking like a vitamin supplement or some more fortified cereal this winter.

 

Protein

There are a plethora of non-meat protein sources, such as: lentils, tofu, black beans, quinoa, green peas, hemp seeds, oatmeal, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, almonds, and peanut butter – just to name a few.

You might be quick to assume you’re getting enough protein just by how many different sources you can get it through, but is important to make sure you’re getting adequate amounts. So, click here to calculate how much protein you need per day and make sure you hit that number – especially if you’re working out!

 

Omega-3 fatty acids

There are some fats your body can produce from raw materials, but these are essential fatty acids, which means you need to get these from your diet because your body cannot produce them. The most evidence supporting the health effects of these fats, according to The Harvard School of Public Health, relates to heart disease, as they have been shown to help maintain a consistent heartbeat, reduce blood pressure and improve blood vessel function.  

The best means to acquire these essential fats, as a vegan, is through vegetable oils and nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds and flaxseed oil, leafy vegetables, or through supplements [6].

About 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil per 100 lbs of bodyweight will get your to your daily value of these essential fats [7].

 

Conclusion

Removing meat from your diet is not something you can just do. These are only some of the nutrients you may become deficient in. If you do want to go vegan or vegetarian you need to do the appropriate research to know how to maintain your health as you make this change. As I mentioned in the last blog post: “abrupt lifestyle changes are hardly every sustainable,” so think about reducing your meat intake slowly, instead of quitting cold-turkey.

 

Happy Veganuary!

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About the author

Ethan is the Founder of LifePoints and Brock University student in the final year of his (Hon) BSc. Neuropsychology, Co-op program. From his science background, he has always looked at weight lifting and nutrition through from an evidence-based perspective and from here it is clear that there are significant benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle. Although, he is quick to admit he has his vices, Ethan strives to use LifePoints, not only as an app, but as a movement towards a goal of making healthier life decisions - the LifePoints Movement.