A vegan diet is a good way to stay lean, and improve your overall health. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition notes that vegans tend to be thinner, and have lower serum cholesterol and blood pressure levels than their meat-eating counterparts. With all of these benefits, the organization admits that eliminating all animal products from your diet can put you at risk for nutritional deficiencies. If you want to reap the rewards of a vegan diet without cheating yourself nutritionally, proper planning is key.
Leafy Greens for Iron
Iron deficiency can lead to fatigue, anemia, weakened immunity and a host of other health issues. If your goal is to get iron from plant-based sources, be diligent about filling your diet with such veggies as spinach, broccoli, green beans and turnip greens. Iron from plant-based sources is not as easily absorbed by the body as iron from animal products. You can remedy this issue by pairing your iron-rich veggies with foods that are rich in vitamin C to aid in absorption.
Nuts, Beans, Soy and Legumes for Protein
Protein contains nine essential amino acids that act as the building blocks for the body. Protein is responsible for the health of the organs, hair, skin, muscle and other essential parts of the human form. Deficiency in this nutrient can lead to muscle atrophy, dry hair, baldness, lethargy, unexplained rashes, and in severe cases, death. Eating plenty of beans, nuts, legumes and soy products (preferably fermented, tempeh) can help you get the protein you need in your vegan diet. You can get creative and make homemade nut butters, or add nuts, beans and legumes to your favorite soup or salad dishes.
Fortified Foods and Select Veggies for Calcium
Being deficient in calcium can compromise the health of your skeletal frame. Calcium is found in an array of vegan foods, so getting this mineral is easier than you think. Such foods as broccoli, bok choy, kale, collard greens, tofu, oranges, mustard greens, and okra can help you satisfy your calcium needs. In addition, you can get calcium from fortified cereals and juices.
A properly planned vegan diet can help you maintain a healthy weight, and lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. If you choose to eat meatless, be mindful that a poorly planned plant-based diet can put you at risk for nutritional deficiencies and jeopardize your health. Eating a variety of vegetables, fruits and fortified foods can ensure you get the nutrients you need for a sound vegan diet.