Straight to the Source: A Vegan’s Guide to Getting What You Need from Food

How do I get protein?

Why are sweet potatoes good for me?

Where do I get calcium?

All good questions.

Before I became vegan, I did a lot of thinking and a lot of research. If I was going to make such a significant change, I knew I had to do it the right way. A vegan plant-based diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds is associated with lower bad cholesterol and hypertension, less chance of developing diabetes, and offers protection from diseases such as cancer and others. However, to get all the wonderful health benefits of a vegan diet, a little education is in order. People will argue that a vegan diet inherently lacks this or that, but these concerns are largely unjustified.

You can be a healthy or unhealthy vegan; it all depends on what you eat! If you’re eating soy hotdogs and french fries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you will certainly lack essential components.

When I set out to figure out what foods to pick to get all the vitamins and minerals, I had a hard time finding an easy to follow guide. But because I want you to thrive on this amazing and nourishing lifestyle, I want to make it easy for you.  I created an easy to follow guide which lists good sources of protein, and a few important vitamins and minerals. Whether you are considering switching to a plant-based diet, or just want to include more plant-based food in your diet to get vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, this guide will help you go straight to the source.

*Disclaimer: I’m not an RD or a nutritionist, but I have done my fair share of research, both before becoming a vegan and as I continue on my journey. Information shared here is not intended to be an exhaustive guide about how to be a healthy vegetarian or vegan; there are other important vitamins, minerals and topics, such as the infamous discussion about Omega 3s. Much of the information below is taken from one of my favorite books, Vegan for Life. The recommended servings below are simply suggestions based on my research and are not intended to serve as medical professional advice. You can find specific recommendations and more information, here

Ok, now the fun part.

PROTEIN: the body’s essential building block; responsible for repairing, regulating, and protecting the body. Not all protein is created equal – include beans, peas, lentils amaranth or soy products, such as tofu or soy milk in your diet. These all contain the essential amino acid, “lysine”.

VITAMIN B12:  responsible for cell division and formation of healthy red blood cells. Vitamin B12 is created by a bacteria living in the intestine of animals and humans. We absorb the vitamin in our small intestine but the bacteria that produces it lives in our large intestine. It is the only vitamin that may not be supplied from a plant-based diet, so fortified food and/or supplements are needed.

CALCIUM: needed for muscle relaxation, nerve cell transmission, and bone health.

VITAMIN D: just as important as calcium for bone health. The only significant source of Vitamin D in food is fatty fish and eggs from chickens that are fed vitamin D. In addition to watching calcium and Vitamin D intake, include fruits and vegetables in your diet to keep your blood alkaline, and avoid excess sodium.
IRON: carries oxygen to the cells. We need a constant supply in our diet because we lose it daily. For specific Vitamin D recommendations, check here

ZINC: Serves many functions including, protein synthesis, cell growth, blood formation, and immune support.

VITAMIN A: maintains the immune system, helping to prevent bacteria from entering the body. Body makes Vitamin A from plants, most commonly from beta-carotene.
POTASSIUM: critical mineral responsible for the proper function of all cells, tissues, and organs in the body.
Let’s nourish our bodies with the good stuff!
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    My name is Maria and I live in California. I love teaching high-energy Pilates classes, going on long runs, and making connections with all of you! Hope you find a few useful articles, fitness tips, and recipes while you're here.

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