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Plant Based Nutrition

The plant based diet is rapidly becoming more and more popular for different reasons, one being the impact on the planet and animal welfare which of course is really positive. So if you choose this lifestyle it's really important to make sure you are getting all of the nutrients your body needs even if you are eating plenty of veggies and fruit. Plant based can mean different things to different people. It can mean completely free of any animal product, or it can be predominately plants with the addition of the occasional egg, dairy, fish or meat. But for the purpose of this post I'm going to focus on the fully plant based individual.

One of the main deficiencies within the plant based diet is a lack of vitamin B12

B12 is from the gastrointestinal bacteria of a ruminent animal like cows,hens and sheep so when we have dairy or eat eggs or meat we consume vitamin B12

Some forms of edible algae have been found to have vit B12 and some mushrooms have very small amounts along with fortified foods like cereals,marmite,saurkraut and plant based milks but these are in small doses so it's best to supplement to ensure you are getting the reccomended dosage derived from plants.

B12 deficiency can cause a type of anaemia called megaloblastic anaemia with symptoms being fatigue, weakness, weight loss, and a sore tongue

It can also cause a neurological disorder called subacute combined degeneration with symptoms being numbness and tingling of hands and feet, memory changes, poor balance and depression. So its really important to make sure you are getting enough of this essential vitamin.

Iron is another mineral to keep in check as being deficient will cause anaemia (a low red blood cell count) again causing fatigue and also affects the way signals are carried up and down the spine. Good sources of iron rich food are lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds and of course spinach but this needs to be cooked for bio-availabilty (our bodies capabilty of absorbing nutrients) and convert from non haem iron to haem iron (the type our body absorbs) Top Tip! It's really popular to put a handful of spinach in a smoothie but cook it quickly first to release the nutrients.

The next one to think about is calcium. This shows to be lower in a plant based diet and is important for cellular signaling, nails and hair and helps with the absorption of other minerals

Fortified plant milk doesn't contain enough calcium to reach the reccomended daily amount so making sure you get enough in with your food is a must. Foods rich in calcium are tofu, sesame seeds and tahini, pulses and green leafy vegetables (again cooked for optimal absorption)

The last of the minerals is zinc. Low zinc levels can cause impaired immunity and low sex hormones. Foods rich in zinc are beans, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, walnuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and ground linseed.

Omega-3- This has been shown to promote brain health, improve eye health and improve risk factors for heart disease as well as metabolic syndrome. prominent in oily fish it can also be derived from algae so a vegan supplement of omega 3 is a great addition to your diet.

Now for protein. Protein absorption is lower in plant based foods compared to animal protein at 90% absorption, plant based foods are 70-80% at best with broccoli only being 30% absorption and usually do not contain all of the nine essential amino acid profile which means that if the ratio of amino acids is wrong the liver will takea lot of it instead of being dispersed out into the body for day to day bodily functions, growth and repair. However this can be combated with food combining this has been around sice records begans and a culturally worldwide way of eating.

Rice and beans contains the complete AA profile as does wheat and beans (think beans on toast)

We also have an amino acids pool floating around our blood which has been collected from previous food consumption so if a meal does happen to be incomplete it can link up with the needed AA if available.

For hypertrophy reasons a good vegan protein with the complete AA profile (including leucine) is advised to signal mTORC and muscle protein synthesis. It can also be a handy supplement food for anyone on a plant based diet. I personally love protein oats and pancakes.

A plant based diet can be a really healthy way of eating at every stage of life if planned properly. Just make sure it contains an appropriate amount of B12, iron, zinc, omega-3 and protein.

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