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Vegan 101

A whole food plant based diet contains only plants, such as vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts and seeds; and foods made from plants.

A whole food plant based diet excludes foods that contain animal protein, i.e. dairy products, meat, fish and eggs.

It also excludes overly processed foods like white sugar, white rice, white bread, white pasta, white flour, table salt etc. and may minimize or exclude foods that contain gluten.

Healthy eating

A healthy whole food plant based diet should contain:

  1. plenty of fruit and vegetables – raw is best (raw, steamed or cooked) Note: try to get at least 65-75% of your daily carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables
  2. starchy foods (in their whole state, i.e. brown rice not white rice, organic potatoes, quinoa etc.
  3. non-dairy sources of protein: beans, pulses, nuts & seeds, quinoa  (usually soaked before eating or sprouted)
  4. dairy alternatives: such as coconut, rice and nut milk
  5. fermented foods: packed with probiotics, such as, sauerkraut, nut cheese, kefir, miso etc.
  6. sea vegetables: also high in protein like nori, sea palm, algae
  7. fatty and sugary foods (in small quantities; this is crucial to maintaining a healthy state)   i.e. natural Healthy sugars, like coconut nectar, raw honey, yacon etc.
Nuts like almonds, cashews and pine nuts are a good source of essential fatty acids (note: peanuts and/or peanut butter – if not raw, can contain the mold, ‘aflatoxin’, which has been linked to liver cancer. In addition, a lot of people are allergic or peanut sensitive and display symptoms such as, indigestion, headaches, skin allergies, aching and stiff joints etc.

Getting the nutrients you need

People in general need to be careful to get enough calcium, iron, vitamin D & B12. Eating a VARIETY of plant foods and eating enough calories to support your fitness enables you to get plenty of protein.

Getting enough calcium and vitamin D

Calcium is important for strong, healthy bones and teeth.

Good sources of calcium for people on a whole food plant based diet include:

  1. Green vegetables like: Kale, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, celery, cucumber, bok choy, mustard greens etc.
  2. Gluten free whole grains: such as, brown rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth and buckwheat
  3. Nuts & Seeds: sesame seeds sunflower seeds and tahini
  4. Pulses: green peas, black eye beans, garbanzo beans, adzubi beans etc.
  5. Sulfite Free* dried fruits: such as raisins, prunes, figs and dried apricots

Getting enough calcium and vitamin D

The body requires vitamin D to absorb calcium. Vegan sources of vitamin D are:

  1. Summer sunshine exposure (in moderation – at least 15mins per day) *Note, too much sunbathing can cause premature aging.
  2. Vitamin D supplements (this may be neccessary if you live in a colder climate.

Read the label to ensure the vitamin D used in a product is not of animal origin.

Getting enough Protein

We need protein to build healthy new cells, to replace enzymes, rebuild blood cells, grow hair, produce anti-bodies and for other specific tasks in our bodies.

A very common question about a plant based diet is “where do you get your protein and calcium from?” This shows the widespread misconception that still exists in our society today, namely, that people need to drink milk to get calcium and eat lots of meat to get enough protein. Yet, some of the strongest & largest animals on our plant, like elephants, the silverback gorilla and horses are a great example of the fact that we can get all the protein and calcium we need from plant based foods.

As a percentage of total calories, here’s how much protein each kind of plant base food provides

1) Vegetables: 18%

2) Fruits: 6%

3) Nuts and seeds: 11%

4) Grains: 12%

5) Legumes: 30%

All the protein you need is available from plant based nutrition.

Getting enough iron

Iron is essential for the production of red blood cells. A whole food plant based diet can be high in iron.

Good sources of iron are:

  1. Dark-green leafy vegetables such as watercress, broccoli, spring greens, spinach, kale, celery, cabbage etc. It’s best to eat them raw because nutrients are not lost when cooking. Some of the best ways to make them more palatable is to add them into your smoothies, juices and salads.

It’s best to juice or steam vegetables if you have trouble digesting them. Common weeds which grow in most people’s gardens are also high in Iron, for example, nettles and dandelions – the best way to eat them is by adding them to your green smoothie, juice and salads. You can also make delicious nettle tea.

  1. pulses (beans)
  2. Gluten free grains i.e. quinoa and millet.
  3. nuts
  4. dried fruits such as apricots, prunes and figs

Getting enough Vitamin B12

The body needs vitamin B12 to maintain healthy nerve cells and heart health. There is an ongoing debate about whether it is necessary to take B12 supplements if you are on a plant based diet. From personal experience, I try to consume plenty of organic dark leafy greens as they are known to contain B12.

Other sources of vitamin B12 for people on a whole food plant based diet:

  1. fortified foods like vegetarian support formula nutritional yeast
  2. certain green superfoods like chlorella and spirulina (you can get these in a health food store in powder form, be sure to get organic)

Vegan sources of omega-3 fatty acids

People must get two essential fatty acids from their diet to maintain optimal health ‘omega 3 & 6’. Fatty acids are essential for absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) and hormone regulation. The body cannot produce fatty acids on its own; hence, consuming omega 3 & 6 fatty acids is vital.

Sources of omega-3 fatty acids suitable for people on a whole food diet are:

  1. leafy greens, fruits and vegetables
  2. flaxseeds, hempseeds, chia seeds
  3. walnuts

Sources of omega-6 fatty acids suitable for people on a whole food diet are:

  1. Most nuts and seeds (i.e. sunflower, sesame, safflower)
  2. soy bean oil

Note: Omega 3 fats reduce inflammation and omega 6 fats promote inflammation. If you think of the mid-point of a ruler, you want the line to be exactly balanced or to be more towards the omega 3 side. This means to eat more omega 3 than 6 fatty acids. This is crucial for healthy functioning hormones, cell membranes and nervous systems.

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