The New Zealand Ministry of Health says, “You can get all the essential nutrients from food without eating animal products. It helps to know about the nutrients in different foods so you can get the most benefit from the food you eat.” So, nourish your body with lots of variety.
Some people lose weight when they cut out animal products because generally they are eating more fibre (feeling full sooner) and consuming less cholesterol and saturated fat.
A Kiwi study found that an all-you-can-eat, whole food, plant-based diet can help you trim down (plus lower your cholesterol and fight type-2 diabetes). Participants lost an average of 11.5kg in one year, which is huge considering they had no calorie restrictions and did not have to exercise.
It can be tempting to overload on starchy foods (such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes), but they don’t have many nutrients per calorie. Complex carbohydrates (such as wholegrain breads, oats, muesli and brown rice) are not only healthier, but also release energy more slowly keeping you satisfied for longer.
If you’re concerned about meeting your nutritional needs, talk to your doctor or a nutritionist with experience in plant-based diets.
The healthiest source of calcium is green leafy vegetables and legumes. Soy milk (fortified), sesame seeds, white/brown bread, fortified fruit juice, dried figs, broccoli, molasses and tofu are also great sources of calcium.
Keeping your bones strong and avoiding osteoporosis depends on more than calcium intake – you also need to keep calcium in your bones. Exercise and vitamin D are the best way to protect bone density.
For more information on calcium, check out this guide.
Folate is abundant in leafy green vegetables, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, legumes (especially black-eyed peas), orange juice, walnuts and asparagus. You’ll find vitamin B6 in whole grains, soy foods, peanuts, walnuts, bananas and avocadoes.
For more information on folate and Vitamin B6, check out this guide.
Iron is abundant in plant-based diets. Breakfast cereals (fortified), wholemeal bread, dried fruit, green leafy vegetables, beans and pulses, nuts and seeds (almonds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds) and tofu all contain plenty of iron.
Want to learn about getting more iron? Check out this guide.
It’s important for everyone to eat foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids each day. Luckily, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes can help you achieve the right amount of essential fatty acids. Some of the best sources include flax seeds (linseeds), canola, soy beans, walnuts and wheat germ.
Want to learn more about getting enough essential fatty acids? Check out this guide.
Contrary to popular belief, just about every food contains some protein. In fact, the average New Zealander on a Western diet typically consumes too much! The recommended daily intake is 0.8g of protein per kilogram of body weight. As long as you eat a mixture of plants regularly, you will meet your body’s protein needs. The best sources are soy products (like tofu), plant-based ‘meats’, legumes (like beans, lentils), nuts, seeds, and whole grains (like quinoa and wheat).
For more information on protein, check out this guide.
It can be hard to get enough B12, whatever your diet. Even the animals killed for meat have their diets supplemented with B12. The key is to eat a variety of foods, non-dairy milks, cereals, nutritional yeast and spreads (like Marmite) are fortified with B12.
For more information on vitamin B12, check out this guide.
The best source of vitamin D is sunlight. Five to 15 minutes of exposure per day is all you need to be able to get what you need. You can also get some dietary vitamin D from fortified cereals, grains, bread, orange juice, and soy or rice milk.
For more information on vitamin D, check out this guide.
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