Health Nut Q&A: Vegan Nutrition

Our Health Nut and Registered Dietitian, Molly Morgan, answers our customers’ most pressing health and nutrition questions!

If you’d like Molly to answer one of your questions in a future blog post, please email your question to health@nuts.com. If we feature your question in The Nutty Scoop, we will also send you a pound of your favorite Nuts.com product.

 

I’ve chosen to follow a whole food plant-based diet.  I’m sure you are aware of the need to find vital nutrients outside of the realm of animal fats.  I know that nuts can be a great source of nutrients and “healthy fats.”  Would you share your insights about how to avoid being over-fed and undernourished on a plant-based diet, and suggest how some Nuts.com products might help to keep that healthy balance in our diets?  Thanks! – Tom

Plant-based diets that are well planned can be nutritionally adequate and provide many health benefits. Plus, research has found that these diets can play a role in preventing and treating certain diseases. For example, vegetarians tend to have lower blood pressure, lower rates of type 2 diabetes, and lower bad (LDL) cholesterol levels compared to non-vegetarians. While there are many variations of vegetarian or vegan eating, generally the tips below are geared to your question specifically to vegan nutrition.

Some of the key nutrients on which you need to focus with a vegan lifestyle include adequate protein, omega-3 fats, and vitamin B12.

Protein

When it comes to protein, an eating routine that includes an assortment of plant foods consumed  throughout the day can provide all essential amino acids in healthy adults.  Unlike previously thought, complementary protein sources (e.g. rice and beans) do not all need to be consumed at the same meal.

A few plant-based complete protein sources to consider adding to your diet include:

  • Quinoa: Technically, quinoa is a seed, but it tastes and feels more like a grain.  Try using it in place of brown rice in stir-fries.
  • Spirulina: A protein packed blue-green algae.  Try adding a teaspoon to guacamole.
  • Sacha Inchi: These nuts are also known as Inca Peanuts.  Try adding these to trail mix or to salads

Omega-3

Adequate intake of all healthy fats is essential for vegans and omega-3 fats are especially important.  Omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fat that plays an important role in heart health, and eye and brain development. Plant sources provide omega-3 in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is then converted to the essential fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).  Including plant sources of omega-3 in your daily routine will help to maintain blood level.

Flax seed, soy flour, chia seeds, and hemp seeds will add omega-3 to your diet.

  • Flax seed: Keep ground flax seed on hand and sprinkle it on cooked cereals.
  • Soy flour: Use soy flour as a substitute for wheat flour.  Try baking with 1 part soy flour to 3 parts all-purpose flour.
  • Chia seeds: Keep a batch of chia seed pudding on hand.
  • Hemp seeds: Snack on them throughout the day or add as a topping to salads.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential for the proper formation of red blood cells and neurological function.  In food, vitamin B12 is bound to protein.  As a supplement, B12 is already in its free form.  Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal foods, which can be a challenge for vegans, although there are many products, such as breakfast cereal, that are fortified with vitamin B12.  Nutritional yeast is a vegan staple for getting B12.  Nutritional yeast is a versatile product that can be added as a cheese substitute to dishes, sprinkled on vegetables or popcorn, or used in cooking.

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