Plant-based diets can be beneficial for your health. Vegan and vegetarian eating is becoming a way of life for many. No matter your age or reason to stop eating animal products, it is important to make sure that you’re getting enough protein, iron, and B vitamins and sustaining a nutrient dense diet.
Take note of these 6 nutritional factors to make the most out of your vegetarian or vegan diet:
Absorption of iron from plant sources is less than from animal products. Tea and coffee also inhibit the absorption of plant iron. The recommended iron intake for vegans is about twice that of non-vegans. Consuming iron-rich foods like dried fruit, beans, seeds, vegetables and whole grains with a source of Vitamin C (like peppers or citrus) will enhance iron absorption. Get regular blood checks. Iron intake is particularly important for teenage girls to keep on top of.
2. Essential Fats (Omega 3 & 6)
Ideally we should have a balance of Omega-6 to Omega-3 of a close to 1:1 ratio. However, the average Western diet has a ratio of over 20:1! A high Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio is linked with many inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, depression, heart disease and cancer. For a vegan to achieve the ideal ratio the solution is to first cut back Omega-6 food sources by reducing the intake of processed foods and refined vegetable oils. Boost your intake of Omega-3 rich plant based sources by including flaxseeds, hemp, chia seeds and walnuts into your diet. Vegan omega 3 supplements are now widely available and I would recommend including one.
3. B12: you must supplement!
Vitamin B12 is only available from animal sources. If you are vegan or vegetarian you will need to source B12 elsewhere. B12 keeps the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA. A lack of B12 can result in low energy, feeling weak, constipation, appetite loss, weight loss and depression.
A supplement is advised. Take 1000mcg or 1000ug, or 1mg daily (depending on the brand) in liquid, spray, tablet or sub-lingual forms.
4. Vitamin D
Even though we can get plenty of sun here in Mallorca, many people are deficient in Vitamin D, especially youngsters that are indoors too much! Vitamin D is vital for bone health, mood and immune function. Get tested! If your levels are low, supplementation will be necessary.
5. Fat – don’t be fat phobic!!
Many people turn to a vegetarian, plant-based diet to loose weight. Be sensible and include healthy fat to support skin, hair, nervous system, cell signalling, energy, metabolism and immune system. Include plenty of avocados, virgin coconut and olive oil, raw nuts and seeds.
When you say you’re vegan, the first question asked is “where do you get your protein?!” Protein is found throughout the body in muscle, bone, skin and hair. It makes up the enzymes that power many of the body’s chemical reactions as well as the haemoglobin that carries oxygen in your blood.
Most adults need at least 55 grams of protein a day.
Three of any of the servings below should be consumed daily, and especially after a workout!
|Amount Required (20g Serving)||Quality of Protein|
|Nuts and Seeds|
|Grains and Pulses|
|Quinoa||100g dry weight||Excellent|
|Organic Soy Beans||60g||Reasonable|
|Cottage Cheese||120g/1 small pot||Excellent|
|Natural yoghurt||3 small pots||Excellent|
We have great stockists of food and supplements here in Mallorca as well as a wide selection of restaurants serving delicious balanced vegan foods. Check out Nourish’s EAT and SHOP section to browse some of these wonderful places in Mallorca.
About the author
Suzanne is a Nutritional Therapist trained in London at College of Naturopathic medicine. She has 25 years experience as a chef and recently trained in raw foods, at a gourmet level with Matthew Kenney.
Suzanne’s business is Vital Nutrition which she founded in 2008. She offers private consultancies focusing on diet and lifestyle improvements supporting patients on their journey to optimum health. Her regular cookery workshops are delicious, fun and educational and her cooking skills are available to private clients, on retreats and for chef training.