All the Essential Nutrients of a Plant-based Diet

Shivani K ·
All the Essential Nutrients of a Plant-based Diet

Meeting your Nutrient Goals on a Plant-based Diet

One of the most common concerns on a plant-based diet is meeting the requirements for essential nutrients. There are a few nutrients that you especially need to take care of while going vegan. For instance, iron, zinc, calcium, healthy fats, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.

However, an appropriately planned vegan diet that includes every food group right from the whole grains, legumes and pulses, nuts and oilseeds, to fruits and vegetables is always enough to provide you with adequate nutrition.


Plant-based Diet and its Health Benefits

1. Improved Heart Health:

People on a plant-based diet have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. Vegan food sources are rich in dietary fibers that might help our body lower the bad cholesterol levels preventing heart disorders  (1).


2. Weight Loss and Management:

Vegan foods contain lower calories and higher dietary fibers as compared to non-vegetarian sources. This might contribute to the weight loss process (2).


3. Cancer Prevention:

Plant-based foods are packed with multiple antioxidants, dietary fibers, and phytochemicals (plant compounds) that make vegans less prone to develop conditions like cancer than non-vegetarians (3).


4. Diabetes Management:

The dietary fibers in plant-based food sources help to reduce blood sugar levels. Further, they also aid in reducing the HbA1c levels of pre-diabetic as well as diabetic people (4).


Including Enough Protein in a Plant-based Diet

Protein is always in the limelight when it comes to a vegan diet. It plays a major role in the formation of skin, muscles, and hair. Consuming adequate protein is vital for an optimally functioning body. Let’s learn about how to include enough protein in your vegan diet. Check out the complete guide to 'The Best Protein Sources for a Plant-based Diet.' 

1. Legumes and Pulses:

A cup or two of boiled, roasted, or sprouted legumes and pulses like black beans, chickpeas, lentils, split pulses (dals), etc. every day can add up to 15-20g of protein to your diet.


2. Vegan Dairy Products:

Plant-based dairy products like soy milk, nut milk (made from peanuts, almonds, and cashews), tofu, tempeh, etc. are rich in protein. For instance, ½ cup of diced tofu can add almost 8g of protein to your diet.


3. Nuts And Oilseeds:

Consuming nuts like almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, etc., and seeds like pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, etc. can also increase your protein intake.


4. Vegetables:

When it comes to protein, we often overlook vegetables. However, broccoli, green peas, spinach, etc. are considerably high in protein.


5. Mock Meats:

If you are fond of meat, choosing plant-based meat and egg alternatives is also a way to add protein to your diet. Mock meat is also a low-calorie protein source with lesser fat content. Research shows that replacing animal-based meat with plant-based fake meat can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases (5).


Sourcing Calcium from Plant

Calcium is an important component that forms our bones and teeth. A healthy adult requires around 1000mg of calcium every day (6). How can you meet this requirement, even if you are on a plant-based diet?

1. Soy-Based Products:

A cup of cooked soybeans can help you meet 18.5% of the calcium requirement. Thus, soy-based products like Tofu, Tempeh, natto, and soy milk are also rich in calcium.


2. Beans And Lentils:

Beans and lentils can help you meet around 7-23% of your daily calcium requirements. Consume them in boiled, roasted, or sprouted form for better nutrient absorption.


3. Whole Grains:

Whole grains, especially amaranth and teff are rich sources of calcium. They can easily go into your porridge or bread.


4. Fortified Foods:

Calcium-fortified drinks such as vegan milk or orange juice can also add significant amounts of calcium to your daily diet.


Getting Other Nutrients from Fortified Food Items

Fortified vegan food products like milk, cereals, juices, etc. are available to fulfill additional nutritional requirements in a vegan diet.

Nutrient

Role

RDA

Natural sources

Additional sources

Zinc

Zinc is an essential component required for our growth and development. It also works to strengthen our immune system.

14mg

Whole grains, nuts, and seeds, Dark chocolate

Fortified breakfast cereals, and zinc supplements

 

Iron

Iron plays a role in oxygen transport throughout our bodies. It also contributes to our metabolism.

11mg

Green leafy vegetables, whole grains, prunes, pumpkin seeds, etc.

Fortified cereals, Fortified flours, enriched pasta

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is essential for red blood cell formation and healthy nerve cells.

2 ug

Tempeh, Mushrooms, Algae, and seaweeds

Fortified plant milk, Fortified breakfast cereals

Vitamin D

Vitamin D has a major role in regulating our bone health. Optimum vitamin D intake is required for better calcium absorption in our body.

400IU

Sunlight, Mushrooms

Fortified cereals, fortified soy milk, fortified orange juice, fortified rice milk

Omega-3-fatty acids

Omega-3-fatty acids enhance our immune system. They also lower the bad cholesterol levels in the body.

1600mg

Flax seeds, walnuts, chia seeds, algae

Flax seed oil tablets, omega-3-vegan supplements


A Well-planned Plant-based Diet

Thus, a well-planned vegan diet with supplements, fortified plant-based/vegan products, mock meats, and balanced meals can never deprive you of any nutrients!


About The Author

Disha Doshi is an expert nutritionist with a post-graduation degree specializing in nutrigenomics along with nutrition and dietetics. She has worked with multiple organizations in her career and has a diverse background in life sciences and healthcare. With an additional flair for writing, Ms Disha comprises a perfect mix for an ideal healthcare marketing professional. While having worked on weight loss, endocrine disorders, cardiac disorders, and other lifestyle issues, she also has steady experience in biochemistry and molecular biology disciplines.

Apart from that, she has also worked on balancing the human gut microbiome with diet, nutrigenomic dietary practices, and corporate nutrition. With a keen interest in Ayurveda, she is also engaged in linking the age-old Ayurvedic practices with modern dietary practices.


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