Vitamins & Minerals A Plant-Based Eater Needs On Their Radar
I want to break down all of the nutritional components of eating plant-based, and where you’ll be getting all of your vital vitamins and minerals from. Use these handouts as a guide when grocery shopping. And eating plant-based or not, these are helpful when it comes to simply eating healthier.
It’s important that we get adequate amounts of specific vitamins and minerals each day so that we can maintain a healthy weight and all over wellness. But it’s also fun to know all about the “superficial” benefits we can get from these specific vitamins / minerals as well - so let's break down what we need, why we need it, and what plant-based sources we can get them from!!
Ladies - you ever feel super tired before or during your period? That's because during this time we are low in iron. Now it’s very easy for those who eat meat to get iron from red meat. Soo if you’re a red meat eater (but still keeping it to lower levels). Iron is important because it supports healthy oxygen flow in our blood.
Iron is a crucial mineral because it helps carry oxygen to our blood which is why if we don’t have enough iron in our system we can feel fatigued and groggy.
Now the ISSUE that vegans come across when it comes to getting enough iron in the system, is that the type of iron found in plant-based foods is not as easily absorbed into our system as the iron that is found in animal proteins.
Additional factors to keep in mind is that tannins from coffee and calcium are also known to reduce how well we can absorb iron. Many professionals recommend taking a calcium supplement in the evening, and to not have a breakfast that is packed with iron after your morning cup of coffee.
Not only is zinc a beauty mineral, but it is very important to keep our immune system strong and for optimal growth (hence why it’s great for our hair skin n nails). You can get good amounts of zinc from grains nuts and legumes. If you’re a cereal eater - you may also find zinc in specific fortified cereal brands.
Some sources believe that those who follow a strictly vegan diet should be increasing their intake of zinc by up to 50% more than those who eat meat. This is believed by some professionals because when those who stick to a vegan diet consume foods high in phytates, such as unrefined grains such as pasta and rice, have a hard time absorbing zinc (because phytates can block zinc absorption).
So how can we ensure that we are absorbing as much zinc as possible? Let’s break it down:
Protein helps increase zinc absorption - when you eat legumes and nuts you’ll be good to go since they have both protein and zinc. Tempeh and miso are also good options to eat alone since they are fermented soy, which also helps with zinc absorption.
Additional cooking methods that will help zinc absorption: soaking your beans and grains before cooking them. Sprouting your beans and seeds. Also choosing bread over crackers (if you’re going to be consuming these types of carbs) is also said to reduce phytate levels.
Calcium is another important mineral that we need in order to protect our bones as we age.
An interesting thing to note about calcium is that we can lose levels of this mineral via our urine if we eat a diet too high in protein (more specifically, animal protein). Some studies show signs that having a diet focused around plant-based foods can help our bone health since this type of eating lifestyle does not focus on animal proteins.
Having enough calcium in our body also helps with important functions like blood clotting, muscle and nerve function.
Just like with iron - plant based sources of calcium are not as great as those from dairy products and are a bit more difficult for us to absorb. Again - cereal brands that are fortified will have calcium in them.
Now this is a crucial vitamin especially if you live in the Midwest and you hibernate during the winter months. We get natural sources of vitamin D from the sun, but it’s a bit tricky to get from food sources. So when eating primarily plant-based, it's important to ensure that you are getting Vitamin D either in supplement form or in fortified foods. Many protein powders contain Vitamin D as well.
Also, fun fact: Vitamin D helps you better absorb calcium.
I'm crazy about B-complex vitamins. Vitamin B12 specifically helps promote healthy cell division and flood formation. Its vital for proper brain and nervous system function. The problem with vitamin B12 and plant-based diets is that it is not found in plants, but produced by bacteria. For those of you that are strictly vegan - you may* be prone to a vitamin B12 deficiency - so it’s imperative that you get vitamin B12 from either supplements or foods that are fortified with it.
If you are a vegetarian or a flexitarian = you can still get vitamin B12 from eggs.
A plant-based source of vitamin B12 is nutritional yeast and fortified cereals. And fortified nut milks.