Recently, I got a hold of nutritionist, Elisa Rodriguez to answer some of your most common vegan questions. Hope this debunks some of the mysteries for you all and stay tuned for a giveaway (who doesn’t love those??) at the bottom! Have a Happy, Healthy Friday, loves!
I know that protein is very important to stay on-top of when partaking in a vegan diet. What kinds of proteins should I be eating and how much should I be eating per day? What kinds of foods can this be found in?
Most Americans are not at risk of protein deficiency whether eating the standard American diet or a vegan diet. The average person can meet their protein needs with 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram. For a 125-pound female (56.8 kg) this equals 45 grams of protein per day. However, most Americans consume roughly 110 grams of protein daily. This increases stress on organs, such as the kidneys, and ages us prematurely. Whole nutrient-rich foods such as leafy greens, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds are health-promoting sources of plant proteins.
Can I have a little guidance on complete proteins? Examples of foods these can be found in?
A complete or whole protein is one that contains all 9 essential amino acids, which must be obtained from food (verses being made by the body) to meet nutritional needs. Animal proteins such as meat, dairy, eggs, poultry and seafood are complete sources of protein. Complete sources of plant proteins include soy, hemp, amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa. Current research shows that combining plant foods to form complete proteins at each meal is unnecessary due to our bodies’ amazing internal intelligence, and its ability to use the necessary nutrients from total daily consumption – rather than one meal at a time. This means that by eating a variety of foods throughout the day, you can meet your protein and amino acid needs.
What exactly does Vitamin B12 do? How much should I be taking a day? Where can I find B12 in my diet? Should vegans be taking a supplement?
B12 is an important nutrient that supports red blood cell production and anemia prevention, aids nerve cell development, and assists cell metabolization of protein, carbohydrate and fat. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for a female 14 years and older is 2.4 mcg per day. B12 is found in animal products, so vegans should supplement this vital nutrient.
Is hard to watch iron when partaking in a vegan diet? What are your tips for staying on-top of this?
Unless someone has anemia, iron is not a supplement that should be taken prematurely. Rather consume a diet rich in beans, lentils, minimally processed tofu, and greens like spinach and Swiss chard. When consuming high iron foods such as those listed, include a source of Vitamin C (i.e.: citrus, tomato, strawberries) to aid in the iron absorption.
How can I get my daily calcium in-take?
Consume a variety of nuts, seeds, beans and greens. Many non-dairy milks are fortified with calcium. For instance Silk’s Pure Almond, unsweetened original variety meets 45% of the average person’s daily calcium needs.
A lot of my readers have asked me about what a vegan diet should include on a daily? We’re talking about vitamins, fiber, iodine, Omega 3′s, etc. What would you recommend?
A variety of plant-foods is key, but it’s also important to add a few supplements to avoid nutrient deficiencies. For the average healthy person I’d recommend a high quality multivitamin that includes B12, iodine, zinc, magnesium, a moderate amount of calcium and D2 (vegan version). I’d also recommend a high quality DHA/EPA supplement for healthy omega-3′s from algae. Other good sources of omega-3′s include leafy greens, hemp, chia and flax seeds. Consume a varied diet with whole plant foods (i.e.: fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, greens) and you’ll get plenty of fiber. Monitor these labs every 6-12 months and adjust your intake accordingly.
Does the vitamin/nutrient intake we use, have anything to do with how active our lifestyles are?
Macronutrients consists of protein, carbohydrate and fat. Micronutrients consist of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants. The needs of all nutrients vary based on factors such as gender, age, body weight and daily activity. For instance, a high endurance athlete’s needs would look very different from a 90 year-old female.
How should a typical meal look like, nutrient-wise?
There’s no one formula for everyone and I don’t emphasize counting calories, carbs, protein or fat. The key is to fill your plate with mostly produce and a variety of colors. Each diet should be tailored to the individual based on their unique needs and preferences. If you’re not sure what this should look like for you, then you might consider working with a registered dietitian (like myself) for additional guidance.
Is it safe for people who need a lot of calcium? Such as people with bone issues, like osteoporosis? What would your recommendations be for them?
The key with any diet is to eat a variety of whole, nourishing foods and to supplement accordingly based on food intake, daily activity, past medical history and lab markers. If this is done properly with the appropriate support, then there’s no need for concern.
What kind of “hidden” animal ingredients should I look out for?
These days processed foods contain many mystery ingredients most of which are either highly processed, man-made or animal-based. For this reason, you’ll here me encourage whole foods often. Here’s a few examples of animal-based ingredients:
1) Look for vegetable magnesium stearate in place of magnesium stearate.
2) Casein = milk protein
3) Gelatin = horse, cow or sheep hoof remnants
4) Honey, Bee Pollon, Royal Jelly, Propolis or Beeswax = bee related
5) Lac Resin/Shellac = bug juice (think M&M’s coating)
6) Cholecalciferol (D3) – animal version (more absorbable) of vitamin D
7) Vitamin A – often from fish or animal livers
8) Omega 3′s – often from fish
Soy is in so many vegan foods, but research shows that too much can be harmful to women and lead to diseases such as breast cancer and other problems. What do you recommend as a good substitute?
Research shows that 1-2 servings of whole soy foods (i.e.: edamame (soybeans), minimally processed tofu) is safe. However, many packaged, convenience products on the market contain genetically modified sources of soy such as soy lecithin. These are highly processed ingredients and should be avoided. Once again the more whole (or closest to it’s original form), the better.
Any tips you have for going vegan?
The biggest mistake I see most people make when transferring to a vegan diet is that 1) they don’t supplement responsibly and end up with nutrient deficiencies and 2) they replace animal products with processed vegan convenience items. These products are nothing short of vegan junk food. Rather, fill your plate with a colorful variety of produce, experiment with new recipes and ingredients, and have fun broadening your palate and increasing your micronutrient intake!
For more guidance on transitioning to a whole food plant-based diet, sign up for my 8-week online training course: The Complete Nourishing Wisdom Shopping Strategy. For just one hour a week, you’ll learn how to make wise choices that will last a lifetime.
Answers to questions that I forgot to include? Things to remember when transferring to a vegan diet? Any thoughts/commentary you have would be more than appreciated!
For many it works well to transition slowly. For instance first removing dairy, then meat, then seafood, followed by hidden ingredients – rather than everything all at once.
Useful books:Vegan for Life by Jack Norris
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition by Julieanna Hever
Eat For Health by Dr. Joel Fuhrman
Crazy Sexy Juices & Succulent Smoothies by Kris Carr
Wasn’t that an awesome interview?? I am so glad that she was able to answer all of your questions and had the time to talk with me– she’s truly amazing. So amazing, that she’s offering one lucky reader access to her Complete Nourishing WISDOM Shopping Strategy Program. This program is a completely web-based 8-week training tool that will help you get on track to becoming a healthier you. Something that we can all jump on board with!
Welcome toKayli Wanders! My name is Kayli and I’m a college student who loves tea, pink sunsets, and hiking in my state of Arizona. I want to encourage people to live out their dreams and always wander where their curiosity leads them.