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Vegans restrict their diet to plant foods. For example, cereal grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes. Vegans have numerous choices for complementing proteins source. They may have to take supplements to meet recommended dietary allowanced of certain nutrients such as B 12.
A well-balanced vegan diet can provide all the nutrients a person requires. But there are some nutrients which need special attention because on a vegan diet these nutrients recommended daily allowances are a little difficult to meet.
A vegan has to be careful and ensure that there are enough calcium providing products in the diet to get sufficient calcium. The absorption of calcium is much better from milk and milk products compared to plant sources. Calcium-fortified foods such as soy products, juices are also a good source of calcium compared to plant sources (1).
Heme and non-heme iron are the two types of iron found in foods. Heme is found in animal products and non-heme in plant products. Heme iron is better absorbed compared to non-heme iron. The reason for the lower absorption of non-heme is because of the fiber and phytate content of plant products.
Only foods that are derived from animal sources contain vitamin B12. Plant sources do not contain this vitamin. Even animals do not synthesize vitamin B12, the intestinal bacteria in these animals synthesize vitamin B12.
When we consume these animal foods, we get sufficient vitamin B12. Therefore, strict vegans are at a higher risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency and supplements may become necessary.
A vegan diet can meet protein requirement without too much effort. But as all the essential amino acids are not present in one plant food with a few exceptions all a vegan need’s to do is to get proteins from a variety of sources. That way a vegetarian will get all the essential amino acids needed by combining different complementary proteins.
Beans are eaten in a substantial amount as they are the primary source of protein for vegans and they can be considered as a good source of iron and other micronutrients too.
Cereals such as rice, wheat, oats are known to be good sources of energy. They also have a reasonable amount of protein and since they are consumed in substantial amounts cereals supply a good amount of protein.
And they are complementary protein to the proteins in legumes. The amino acids missing in legumes are present in cereals. Cereals and legumes together make a complete protein.
Not only are soybeans one of the best sources of complete protein for vegans and vegetarians they also provide good amount of iron. Soybeans are one of the best sources of iron at least for vegans and vegetarians.
There are several products made out of soybeans such as soymilk, texturized vegetable protein and tofu. Because of the range of products available it becomes easy to incorporate soy into a vegan diet.
These are rich sources of protein, good quality fat and micronutrients. They can be eaten as such for a snack and also can be included in a variety of recipes. Almonds, peanuts, walnuts and so on.
Quinoa is a pseudocereal which is one of the few sources of complete protein for vegans and it is gluten-free. It also is a good source of iron.
Vegan diets also are deficient in calcium. 100 grams of olives provide 88 mg of calcium. Olives can be used in a variety of recipes as a source of calcium.
Fruits and vegetables provide a vegan with vitamins and minerals. They provide essential micronutrients such as vitamin C, beta carotene (vitamin A), calcium and iron. They also provide a good amount of dietary fiber.
Mushrooms are good sources of vitamin D. Mushrooms can be a blessing for vegans as far as vitamin D is concerned.
Foods containing omega 3 fatty acids contribute to several health benefits.
Flax seeds, chia seeds, soybean oil etc are good sources of omega 3 fatty acids. Seeds containing a lot of fiber such as chia seeds should be soaked for 10 minutes before eating so that there is no issue of choking.
Keeping vegans and vegetarian population in mind there are several foods which are fortified with vitamin D such as orange juice and some bread and cereals.
Vegans can meet all the nutrients required from food if they take a little time and plan properly. Vegans also should eat a variety of foods to get all the essential nutrients. But for a nutrient like a vitamin B12, it may become necessary to take supplements. Talk to your health provider and take suitable supplements.
Rozenberg, S., Body, J. J., Bruyère, O., Bergmann, P., Brandi, M. L., Cooper, C. and Reginster, J. Y. (2016). Effects of Dairy Products Consumption on Health: Benefits and Beliefs–A Commentary from the Belgian Bone Club and the European Society for Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases. Calcified tissue international, 98(1).
Delicious Masoor Dal Khichdi Recipe