Plant-based diets have been an on-going food trend for years. One of the most prominent types of plant-based diet is veganism. Vegans avoid eating animal products, including milk, cheese, seafood, eggs, poultry, and meat. This can be a big change from the typical American diet, raising multiple questions and concerns. Ask any vegan you know and odds are they’ve been questioned about protein at least once. There also seems to be concern for certain vitamins and minerals. But is a meatless diet as worrying as it seems? Let’s dive in and find out.
Concerns for a vegan lifestyle focus on nutrients found in meat or dairy products. This includes protein and nutrients like vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and zinc. Research shows there is no significant difference in protein between diets. Additionally, the nutrients found in animal products may not be a needed concern. The vegans consumed more vitamin B12, iron, and zinc than non-vegans. Both diets lacked healthy amounts of vitamin D and calcium, so they may be concern for vegans and non-vegans alike.
Beyond food, the study also looked at cardiovascular health. Vegans had lower levels of LDL-C, blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides than non-vegans. These measures are often used to assess risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Showing that a vegan diet may help prevent CVD.
Nutrition concerns for vegans aren’t what we expected. Along with vitamin D and calcium, the vegan group also lacked two types of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA). Regardless, veganism doesn't appear to be less healthy than the typical diet. It may even have specific health benefits that a standard lifestyle does not.
But how do you get plant-based calcium, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids? Well here’s our favorite options:
1. Fortified Dairy-free Milks
They’re good sources of vitamin D and calcium. Some are also sources of plant-based EP
A and DHA. A great example is Ripple’s plant-based milk. This provides more calcium than
2% milk, plenty of vitamin D, and 32 mg of DHA.
2. Flax Seeds and Oil
They don’t contain DHA or EPA, but flax seeds are a good source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). This is another type of omega-3 fatty acid that your body can convert to DHA or EPA.
3. Fortified Cereals
With plenty of variety, finding a healthy cereal can be easy. Many are fortified with vitamin D and calcium. Just be careful of added sugars when choosing your favorite!