First, I want to address a few questions that frequently come up when looking into eating more of a plant based diet. As a vegan, they are the questions I get the most!
1. How do you get enough protein?
a. Firstly, you don’t need as much protein as you think you do. In fact, most people in the US eat way more than they need. Secondly, you can get all the protein you need from vegetables, beans, and grains! Our bodies make 16 of the 23 amino acids we need to function; we have to eat the other 7 to meet our protein quota. A “complete protein” food is a food that has all 7 of the proteins our bodies don’t produce. Soy and quinoa are just a couple complete proteins. If a food isn’t “complete,” that just means it doesn’t have all 7 amino acids. Grains lack in one amino acid that beans have a ton of and vice versa, so you just have to make sure you’re eating a lot of different things to get the complete protein you need.
2. What about getting enough calcium?
a. A varied diet will get you all the calcium you need. Most orange juice, non-dairy milk, and tofu are fortified with calcium, so you just have to read the labels. There are tons of vegetables full of calcium, too, including bok choy, broccoli, and kale. You also have to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D because you need it to efficiently absorb calcium in your body.
3. Will I get enough iron without meat?
a. Yes! Firstly, you need to be taking in enough Vitamin C to absorb iron properly. Meat and veggies contain different types of iron. Meat contains heme iron, which your body absorbs whether you need it or not. I guess you could say it forces its way into your system. Excess iron leads to accelerated aging! Vegetables, grains, and beans contain nonheme iron, which your body only absorbs if it needs it, eliminating the accelerated aging problem. Beans and dark leafy greens are where you will find most of the iron you need in the plant world.
4. Can you find B12 in the plant world?
a. This may be a question you didn’t know you had, but is one I have read about a lot lately. A vitamin B12 deficiency doesn’t show up for years, so you want to make sure you’re prepared now. It is needed for cell division and blood formation. Vitamin B12 is not in meat or veggies; it is created by bacteria. Meat contains B12 when the animal eats something contaminated with B12, then it becomes a source of B12. If you cut meat from your diet completely, you need to make sure you are eating foods that are fortified with B12 such as nutritional yeast, some cereal, non-dairy milk, and vitamin supplements.