A complete guide: how to consider 8 nutrients when going plant-based
Plant-based diets are the craze these days. Everywhere you look, companies are creating new plant-based products, and sales for these products are increasing by leaps and bounds. Many people are adding plants to their daily diets and realizing their benefits. But, even though this trend is becoming more and more popular, is the plant-based diet healthy, and what nutrients are important to consider with going plant-based? Let’s explore!
What is a Plant-Based Diet?
Plant-based diets consist of foods made from plants and plant sources. People who eat plant-based limit animal-based foods like meat, dairy, and eggs and eat fruit, vegetables, beans, pulses, nuts, seeds, and grains. To partake in a plant-based diet means eliminating as many animal products as possible.
Why the Plant-Based Diet? Is it Healthy?
Eating plants is indeed a healthy choice. Plants contain loads of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, micronutrients, phytonutrients which help reduce cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and help with weight loss. They increase libido, elevate your mood, and help you to detox naturally. In addition, plants contribute to better brain health and produce a healthy gut. Some nutrients, like fiber and phytochemicals, are only found in plants. All of these benefits of a plant-based diet contribute to excellent health.
Plant-based diets have been shown to heal or reverse heart disease, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers. Some studies even demonstrate that a plant-based diet increases happiness.
There is nothing like a plant-based diet to improve your health. But, there are some nutrients you might not receive adequately for several reasons. Our soil is depleted in many areas, so nutrients can be deficient. Or, you might live in a very cold place where the sun does not appear much, so you could be deficient in vitamin D. Sometimes, certain combinations of food prohibit adequate nutrient absorption. Let’s explore the nutrients you should consider when eating plant-based.
8 Nutrients to Consider with a Plant-Based Diet for Your Best Health
Calcium is good for the bones and teeth, you have heard. This is true, of course, but did you know plant-based foods are rich in calcium? So why the fuss? Sometimes, the right food combinations are not eaten, and you can become deficient in the calcium your body needs. As you know, this mineral is found in dairy products, but these products the healthiest calcium sources are plant-based.
Eat kale, boy choy, mustard greens, turnip greens, watercress, broccoli, and chickpeas for your calcium intake. Some plant-based milk is also fortified with calcium, and so are some tofu brands.
Many people are iron-deficient, whether they eat animal-based or plant-based. Iron is found in plants, but it is sometimes not easily absorbed, and many factors can affect the amount of iron your body absorbs from your diet. The best way to make sure your body is getting the right amount of iron is to add a source of vitamin C to your meals such as tomatoes, peppers, oranges, or strawberries, broccoli, or cabbage.
Eating iron-rich plant-based foods will ensure you are getting your daily iron intake. Other foods to include in your diet are chickpeas, kale, tofu, beans, lentils, chia seeds, hemp seeds, raisins, quinoa, and figs.
Iodine is a critical micronutrient the body needs for thyroid hormone production. The iodine content of plant foods depends on the iodine levels in soil and groundwater used in irrigation and crop fertilizers. Iodine can be found in animal-based foods, but luckily, consuming traces of fortified table salt will do the trick for a plant-based diet.
Other sources of iodine for the plant-based diet are seaweed such as nori, kelp, komnu, and wakame. Learn more about iodine.
Zinc is needed to create proteins and DNA. However, phytic acid, antioxidants found in plants, sometimes reduce zinc absorption, so making sure you are eating food sources with zinc is a great idea. Good sources of zinc to include in your diet are lentils, chickpeas, chia seeds, hemp seeds, ground linseed, pumpkin seeds, tofu, walnuts, cashews, and quinoa. You can also eat fortified breakfast cereals.
Soaking, heating, sprouting or fermenting, or leavening your food can help with the absorption of zinc as well. Try Veestro’s Quinoa Bake to add zinc to your diet!
Protecting your cells from damage from free radicals is important, and selenium does just that. Selenium is also required for thyroid metabolism and DNA synthesis. If you are pregnant, you must make sure you are getting selenium for the proper growth of your baby. Some studies show selenium might help fight cancer.
Most people who eat plants get traces of selenium in their diets since it is found in soil. But, it is always good to make sure you are getting enough by eating Brazil nuts, which are the richest source of the mineral. Legumes and whole grains also contain selenium. Brazil nuts can be shredded and added to salads, roasted vegetables, whole-grain pasta, or used for a plant-based pesto.
Vitamin D contributes to excellent bone health and helps the body’s immune system stay in top shape. If you live in a sunny place and spend daily time outside in the sun, your vitamin D intake will most likely be adequate. But, not all of us are lucky enough to live in the tropics or experience sunny days all the time, and most people, whether meat-based or plant-based, tend to be vitamin D deficient.
Vitamin D can be found in fortified orange juice, shiitake mushrooms, or leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collard greens. Some plant-based milk and cereals are fortified with the vitamin. You can also add okra, soybeans, and white beans to your diet for vitamin D. Give Veestro’s White Bean Skillet a try!
B12 helps your nerve and blood cells healthy, helps make DNA, and helps prevent anemia. It lives in soil and is created by fungi and bacteria. In the past, when our soil was richer and not laden with heavy pesticides and over-fertilization, B12 was easily produced. Today, very little is generated. The little that is made can be stored only in animal tissue. Since B12 is not found in plant-based food, people can easily be deficient in the vitamin. So, supplementing your plant-based diet with B12 is vital.
It is also important to note that too much vitamin B12 can be just as detrimental to your health as not getting enough B12. High levels of this vitamin have been found to increase mortality risk and there might be a potential link between too much B12 and kidney and liver damage.
Some plant-based milk and cereals are fortified with B12, but it is best to take a B12 supplement. Nutritional yeast also contains traces of B12.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are needed for proper brain and eye function, they have anti-inflammatory compounds and help lower cholesterol. Studies also have found they decrease blood triglycerides and even reduce the risk of dementia. It is well known that fish oil and fish like tuna, trout, or salmon contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, but how do you get your intake of these fatty acids if you are plant-based and do not eat fish?
Good food sources with omega-3s are chia seeds, hemp seeds, soybeans, walnuts, algae, Brussels sprouts, and flaxseed. You can also consider a supplemental Omega-3.
All of the above minerals and vitamins are available with a whole-food, plant-based diet, except B12, which you must supplement. Eat the variety of food mentioned above and you will be on your way to a much healthier body!
However, even with all the information online these days about plant-based diets and their many benefits, there are some myths and misconceptions you might wonder about. Let’s explore these.
6 Myths and Misconceptions about the Plant-Based Diet
Plant-Based Diets Are Too Restrictive
Long gone are the days where if you were plant-based, you would be restricted to eating beans, rice, carrots, tofu, and soy milk. Plant-based is very popular and is already a multi-billion dollar industry with no indications of it slowing down. There are now many varieties of plant-based milk and creamers; plant-based cheese, sour crème, and dips; plant-based hot dogs, hamburgers, and sausages; plant-based chicken, fish, pork, and ground beef; plant-based eggs and bacon, and the list goes on.
Plant-based food options are abundant and taste as good as their animal-based equivalents. These products are more sustainable, use less water in production, and reduce animal suffering. Of course, it is healthier to eat whole foods like beans, legumes, rice, leafy greens, wheat, and fruit than it is to eat processed food, but you do have the option to add a processed meal these days periodically.
Healthier forms of meat alternatives are also an option. You can substitute mushrooms, jackfruit, pulses, and legumes for meat. Adding lentils and beans to stews is an excellent option, as well as creating bean-based burgers. These meat alternatives are high in protein and fiber, low in fat, and a healthy source of vitamins.
Restaurants are offering plant-based options more and more these days. It is also easy to ask for a plant-based version of a meal and they will accommodate you if they can. The consensus is that plant-based is not restrictive. If anything, it is the opposite!
Plant-Based Diets Are Too Processed or Unhealthy
As mentioned at the beginning of this guide, plant-based diets are very healthy, but not all diets are the same. If you only eat plant-based processed foods (like mentioned above), your health will suffer.
A whole-food, plant-based diet gives you an abundance of nutrients, provides needed fiber, lowers cholesterol, helps fight autoimmune diseases, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. It gives you energy, cleans your blood, cleanses your organs, improves your gut microbiome, creates beautiful skin, and more. In contrast, eating plant-based processed foods only will not provide you with the nutrients the body needs. Processed vegan foods should be eaten sparingly while most of your diet should come from plant-based whole foods.
Plant-Based Diets Are Too Expensive
Plant-based is not expensive. It’s quite affordable!
Fruit, vegetables, legumes, pulses, nuts, seeds, and grains, the core of the plant-based diet, are less expensive than buying meat, dairy, and eggs in most locations. The cost of these items and the many processed plant-made meat alternatives available are decreasing due to the growing plant-based food industry. Plant-based is here to stay; with so many new products available, the prices of all plant-based items will continue to decline.
Want an affordable way to add plant-based options into your diet? Let Veestro do the work for you with affordable, highly nutritious, done-for-you meals that you can make in a pinch while getting the nutrients needed to live a healthier life. Check out our menu of fully-prepared meals.
Plant-Based Diets Are Too Bland
Did you know that most animal-based food is bland? If you think about it, we add all kinds of seasonings to our meats, eggs, and other animal-based products, and that is what makes them tasty. Not many people enjoy unseasoned chicken or meat. On the contrary, plants are naturally tasty. When was the last time you bit into a delicious watermelon or pineapple and needed to add spices to make it taste better? Have you ever tried eating a salad without dressing? It is good by itself! Plants offer an abundance of taste, naturally.
With all the plant-based food options these days that replace meat options, you have an abundance of foods to choose from, and many of these taste just like their meat products! Add these to your diet instead of beef, chicken, or fish, and see for yourself. Even though these many options available to you are tasty, once again, it’s important to eat these sparingly. Whole foods are best for your health. Eat cooked or raw vegetables in their original state, and add a few spices or herbs. Give it a try! Or, try Veestro’s many prepared meals and make it easy!
Plant-Based Diets Do Not Provide Enough Protein
Protein is needed to help the body repair cells and create new ones, but there is no need to worry about getting your daily protein if you eat plants. It is abundant in a plant-based diet.
All fruits and vegetables contain protein. Even broccoli has high protein levels! Grains, legumes, beans, nuts, and seeds are excellent sources of protein. Pulses are especially healthier than meat-based protein because they lack cholesterol and contain fiber, which is vital for a healthy gut and body. Dark leafy greens like kale and chard contain high amounts of protein. One cup of kale gives you three grams of protein. Pretty amazing how plants nourish us!
Getting enough protein from plants is easy if you eat a healthy, whole-food plant-based diet. Eat pulses like beans, or tofu with grains like quinoa. Add leafy greens or vegetables to your meals, and you will get enough protein.
Veestro makes it easy for you with their fully prepared, plant-based meals. Try South Indian Coconut Stew or our new Creamed Spinach Bombay.
Plant-Based Diets Are Too Hard to Maintain
Believing the plant-based diet is hard to maintain is another misconception and myth. Remaining on a plant-based diet can be easy these days! It can be as easy as replacing your meat-based protein with a plant-based one. Substituting beans or legumes for a chicken stew or replacing pork with tofu in a soup or rice dish will create a healthier meal. The more plants you eat, the faster your body will naturally detox, and the healthier your body will become.
As you can see, going plant-based is simple. But, we understand it is not always easy. Where to start might feel daunting and you might be wondering how to change your eating habits. Rest assured, it can be done!
Here are some tips to get you started on your plant-based journey.
Doable Tips on Going Plant-Based
- Start with one vegetarian meal a week. Make Mondays or Sundays, or whichever day you prefer, a meat-free day. Create meals with beans, vegetables, and whole grains. Do this, and you will soon be adding more meat-free days.
- Change the way you think about meat. Eat meat in smaller portions. Eat half of a steak and add more vegetables to your plate.
- Eat lots of vegetables. Add plenty of different colored vegetables to your lunch or dinner plate. Eat a variety and snack on vegetables with hummus, guacamole, or any plant-based dips.
- Go for the greens. Include a variety of dark leafy greens like kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, or spinach in a meal. Steam, grill, braise, or stir-fry to retain nutrients.
- Substitute dairy with your choice of plant-based milk. Buy soy, oat, almond, or any type of plant-based milk and add that to your cereal or recipes.
- Choose healthier fats. Plant-based fats from olives, nuts, seeds, and avocados are best to eat. Nut butter is also okay.
- Eat a big salad for a meal. Make a large salad with a variety of lettuce, spinach, romaine, or arugula. Include a plant-based protein like beans or tofu. Add herbs to make it tastier.
- Eat whole grains for breakfast. Start your morning with whole grains like quinoa, buckwheat, barley, or oatmeal. Make sure to add nuts, seeds, fresh strawberries, or bananas.
- Eat fruit for snacks or dessert. Grab a banana, apple, or mango for a snack instead of a candy bar. For dessert, eat apple sauce with cinnamon.
- Relax and enjoy the process! Going plant-based is a process, and it’s not the same for everyone. Be kind to yourself and have patience. Step by step, you will get there!
Including these tips on your plant-based journey will help your body lose the cravings for meat, meat-based foods, and dairy, and you will begin craving plant-based foods more and more.
Need more help? Below is a sample plant-based menu for a week with Veestro’s prepared, plant-based foods to make it easy for you to get started!
Sample Plant-Based Menu
Breakfast: Three Layer Scramble, a protein-packed breakfast favorite with quinoa, tofu, black beans, and veggies to leave you energized all day. Add coffee with your choice of plant-based milk.
Lunch: Quinoa salad with steamed carrots, zucchini, broccoli, and a plant-based dressing of your choice.
Dinner: White Bean Skillet, delicious and full of protein.
Breakfast: Spanish Torta, a meal layered with roasted veggies and topped with a protein-rich black bean sauce.
Lunch: Steamed kale with a hummus and tomato sandwich.
Dinner: Lentil and Spinach Tagine, a lentil and potato stew served over deliciously spiced spinach. Serve with a side salad.
Breakfast: Pineapple, kale, and oats smoothie made with plant milk and a whole wheat muffin.
Lunch: Tucson Calzone with slices of cucumbers.
Dinner: A large salad with peas, corn, red lettuce, spinach, onions, carrots, black beans, and the plant-based dressing of your choice.
Breakfast: A Breakfast Burrito, a delicious blend of beans, tofu, veggies, and potatoes wrapped up in a warm tortilla, served with a side of tasty breakfast potatoes.
Lunch: Tofu with steamed vegetables.
Dinner: Chick’n Milanese with a side salad.
Breakfast: Three Layer Scramble, a protein-packed breakfast favorite with quinoa, tofu, black beans, and veggies to leave you energized all day.
Lunch: A spinach salad with tomato, cucumber, and edamame with your choice of plant-based dressing.
Dinner: Lentil Meatloaf with a side of steamed cauliflower.
Breakfast: Oatmeal Breakfast Pie, made with sweet potatoes, apples, and just a touch of brown sugar, this gluten-free oatmeal bake is a delicious way to start your day!
Lunch: Soba Noodles in Peanut Sauce, an Asian-inspired meal with broccoli, carrots, and tofu in a silky peanut sauce.
Dinner: BBQ Chick’n Pizza.
Breakfast: A Sunrise Wrap, a variety of delicious ingredients and protein. Add a small banana and plant-based milkshake.
Lunch: Kale and Quinoa Salad.
Dinner: White Bean Skillet, a meal with lots of protein.
Are you ready to go plant-based? Plant-based is the wave of the future. More and more people are realizing the health benefits and healing properties of plants, their benefits to the planet, and their role in reducing animal suffering. Eating a whole-food, plant-based diet is indeed healthy and easy. Knowing what nutrients to consider when going plant-based is important to sustain a healthy body and mind. Veestro is here to help you get started and create better health with plants. Check out our award-winning plant-based, prepared meals.