There are some things we have to eat that are essential for life and health which the body can not naturally make!

In addition to water, the list is quite long.  Don’t be put off by this list, however use each category to slowly but surely re-educate yourself on what to eat, how much to eat and how to eat!

For those eating a healthy balanced diet, most of the essentials are delivered by the range of foods we choose to consume.

As an increasing number of us switch to a more plant-based diet, the essentials can become more difficult to be sure of especially if eating plant-based is new to us however here is some information that can guide you along this journey.

Calcium

Over 1% of an adults body weight is calcium.  It is vital for building bones and teeth and helps muscle movement.
How much does an adult need?  700mg a day.
Most green vegetables (although not spinach) and fortified foods are key sources.  A handful of almonds (around 30g) has 88mg.  A similar amount of apricots and figs both have 18mg, raisins 17mg, prunes 14mg.

Protein

Every cell in our bodies is dependent on protein for growth and repair.  Proteins are made from combinations of 20 amino acids, 9 of which are essential therefore eating a range of sources is vital!
How much does an adult need?  Males need 55g a day and females need 45g based on 0.75g for every kilo of body weight.
These can be found in peanuts (25%), pumpkin seeds (24%), lentils (24%), almonds (21%), chickpeas (20%), sunflower seeds (19%), cashews (17%) quinoa (13%), oats (16%) and buckwheat (13%). Linseed, pistachios and hemp seeds are also recommended.

Zinc

The creation of new cells in the body and the processing of the carbohydrate, fat and protein we eat all rely on zinc.  It is also important in healing wounds!
How much does an adult need? Men need 9.5mg and women 7mg.
In addition to tofu which is highly used on a plant-based diet, other sources of zinc can be found in nuts, seeds and pulses.  Based on 30g servings (around a handful), hemp seeds have 3mg, pumpkin seeds 2mg, cashews 1.8mg, chia seeds, 1.4mg, linseed 1.3mg, quinoa 1mg, walnuts 0.8mg.

Selenium

Selenium plays a key role in the immune system and is necessary to keep the thyroid gland functioning properly.
How much does an adult need?  Men require 75micrograms and females 60micrograms.
Brazil nuts are the outstanding source of selenium and you will need just 2 medium sized nuts a day.  A tablespoon of sunflower seeds has 9micrograms, sesame seeds 6micrograms and linseeds 1.5micrograms.

Omega 3 Fats

These are vital for the functioning of the brain and the control of heart disease and stroke.  Their importance to heart health on a plant-based diet is to consume linseeds and walnuts as these are great sources of Omega 3’s. Chia seeds and hemp seeds are also recommended.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is needed in smaller amounts than any other vitamin but it is not produced by plants.  It helps make red blood cells, maintain the nervous system and release energy from food.
How much does an adult need? 1.5micrograms per day.
Those who do not eat meat or dairy need to look to supplements or fortified foods (fortified foods commonly include plant milks, soy products, breakfast cereals, yeast extract and nutritional yeast).

Iron

Iron is vital for making red blood cells.  It also helps create energy from food.  An iron deficiency can cause a lack of energy and an increased susceptibility to infection.
How much does an adult need? Older women and men need 8.7mg per day and women under 50 require 14.8mg a day.
Dark green leafy vegetables are good sources as well as beans, nuts, seeds, dried fruit (especially dates) and wholegrains.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is important for the operation of the immune system, protecting against infection, for skin health and vision.
How much does an adult need? Men need 0.7mg a day and women 0.6mg.
Getting vitamin A from plants involves targeting those which contain beta-carotene which is then converted into the vitamin in the body.  Fruit and vegetables with bright coloured skin like carrots, tomatoes and mangos all have it. A daily consumption of 3 dried apricots a day also help.

Iodine

Iodine helps make the thyroid hormones which control cells and chemical reactions in the body.
How much does an adult need? Adults need 140micrograms a day.
Food from the sea including seaweed and sea salt are acknowledged sources of iodine.  Cereals and grains also have it. A 1/4 cup of oats (around 35g) has 6micrograms and the same amount of peanuts has 7micrograms.  For vegan a supplement may be the most reliable way of meeting the iodine requirement.

So to summarise, when on a vegan plant-based diet, it is good to include good sources of protein in most meals, such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, soya alternatives to milk and yoghurt, or peanuts. Eat nuts and seeds daily, especially those rich in omega-3 fat. Eat calcium-rich foods daily, such as calcium-fortified products and calcium-set tofu.  It is good to remember to choose good quality products, where possible, such as those which are Organic as well as eating in season which maximises the flavour of fresh produce.

For some *free recipes* that will help you along your journey please go to:  https://virtuosofoods.com/vegan_recipes/

 

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