How to Get Essential Micros as a Vegan.
Micronutrients For Vegans:
Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals required by the body. Whether you eat meat or follow a vegan diet, we all need micros. Macros get a lot of attention and unfortunately that means micros often get forgotten. By not getting enough micros, you are increasing your chances of developing health issues. Micros serve a variety of purposes. Some examples are hormone production, cellular function, and mental wellbeing.
A lot of people worry that a vegan diet lacks the necessary micronutrients needed to thrive. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Luckily, plant based foods are naturally high in vitamins and minerals. However, this doesn’t mean you will automatically get enough vitamins and minerals just by switching to a plant based diet. Just like any healthy and well balanced diet, you need to educate yourself and take specific measures to make sure you are getting the necessary micronutrients.
What foods contain micronutrients?
I have listed some examples below:
- Iron: Beans, lentils, oats, quinoa, tofu, cream of rice and spinach
- Potassium: Spinach, raisins, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, oranges, bananas, avocado and yogurt
- Calcium: Kale, spinach, collard greens, figs, almonds, almond milk, beans
- Vitamin A: Sweet potatoes, carrots, mango, red peppers, squash and spinach
- Vitamin D: Orange juice, soy milk, mushrooms, tofu
- Vitamin E: Sunflower seeds, avocados, nuts, broccoli, squash
- Vitamin K: Parsley, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, some cereals
- Vitamin C: Green pepper, strawberry, kiwi, red pepper, tomatoes, potatoes, winter squash, oranges
- Vitamin B12: Organic unwashed veggies, nutritional yeast
- Magnesium: Beans, dark chocolate, avocado, raisins
- Selenium: Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, lentils, brown rice, mushrooms
- Zinc: Pumpkin seeds, oats, lentils, beans, nuts
- Iodine: Sea vegetables, dulse, seaweed
Easy ways to eat more micros:
- Have a side salad instead of forcing yourself to commit to a big dinner size salad. Start smaller and work your way up. A side salad is the perfect addition to your grilled veggie sausages and mashed potatoes.
- Have a daily smoothie: Smoothies are great for people who are extra busy and don’t have time to eat a tower of greens. Have one for breakfast, a snack or even for lunch! Toss in your favorite protein powder, spinach, kale, berries, kiwi, and flax seed.
- Craving something sweet? Have some fruit! The options are endless! Frozen grapes. Berries with stevia sprinkled on top. Rice cakes covered in nut butter and bananas. Your favorite plant based yogurt, topped with kiwi and granola. An apple with nut butter or strawberries dipped in dark chocolate.
- Take baby steps! Have a vegetable with one of your meals, each day, for an entire week. Then have vegetables with two of your meals the next week. Forcing yourself to eat a vegetable with every meal right off the bat, when you never ate any before, is going to feel like a punishment. Start slow and gradually increase your intake. Start with veggies that have less flavor, like carrots or cucumber and gradually work towards veggies that have a lot of flavor, like kale and brussels sprouts.
- Add spinach or other greens into everything! Okay maybe not everything, but almost! I think most of you will agree, spinach can be added to most things and you won’t even taste it. I love adding it into protein smoothies, tacos, pasta sauce, tofu scrambles, wraps, sandwiches, and burrito bowls.
- Use a vegetable as your base! For example, make zucchini noodles or stuffed bell peppers. Top your noodles with your favorite pasta sauce or fill your bell peppers with a homemade tofu crumble and vegan cheese.
- Variety is the key! Eating a variety of foods is key for getting all the necessary micronutrients. Instead of eating the same meals every single day week after week, switch it up. This doesn’t mean that your meals need to be different every day. Make it more realistic by just switching out one veggie for another or one grain for another type of grain! Have fun, experiment, cook a new dish. When you go grocery shopping, go for a different option than you did last week. For example, buy apples instead of strawberries this week, buy bell peppers instead of carrots, buy oats instead of toast, buy navy beans instead of black beans. Try to make your basket as colorful as possible and step out of your comfort zone!
- Make some simple swaps! One of the easiest ways to get more micros into your diet is through whole foods. However, this doesn’t mean you should throw away everything in your fridge or your cupboard that is processed or refined. Why overwhelm yourself? Instead make simple swaps as you go and add in whole foods when you can. For example, instead of having a plant based ice cream from the store, make homemade ice cream out of bananas and nut butter.
Vegans are often asked if they supplement with X, Y and Z. I do understand the concerns that are out there, especially if you are not very familiar with a vegan diet. However, I think it’s important to understand, that ANY type of diet can lack certain vitamins and minerals, especially if the diet is not well balanced. In my opinion, proper supplementation can be beneficial, if done the right way. Does that mean I think supplements are the cure all? Heck no! Do I think there are a couple of supplements that vegans could benefit from taking? Of course! Do I think there are a couple of supplements that someone who eats meat could benefit from taking? Of course! We should all aim to get the of our nutrients from our diet, however just like anything in life, no person’s diet is 100% perfect. I encourage you to speak with your doctor to see what supplements could be beneficial for you!