The Basics of Plant-Based Nutrition
There are a million delicious and nutritious ways to get your vitamins and minerals from a plant-based diet. This is what most vegetarians and vegans know. But some folks do not yet understand this, because we have been mislead by the meat and dairy industries to think that the only place to get quality nutrition is from animal foods. How wrong they are! Let’s delve into the basics of plant-based nutrition, shall we?
Just so you have all this information at the tips of your fingers, these lists can help everyone answer the question: “But where do you get your ________?” Perhaps the most important questions for this fill-in-the-blank is calcium, iron, protein, and flavor (yes, people have really asked me this!). Regardless of how you fill in the blank, the answer is the same: from a diet rich in vegetables, grains, and legumes!
Eating a balanced plant-based diet, with less protein than the Standard American Diet (SAD), is actually better for us. We have been mislead to think that we need high amounts of animal protein, and yet this is actually detrimental to our overall health. Most vegetables are about 10% protein, and so eating a variety of these, especially in conjunction with beans and grains, will almost always provide adequate protein!
Plant-based sources of Calcium, from here:
Bonus: Find our why greens are actually BETTER sources of dietary calcium that dairy foods.
Plant-based sources of Iron, from here:
Beans: all of them, including kidney, lima, navy, black, pinto, soy beans, and lentils
Greens! Collards, Kale, Mustard greens, spinach and turnip greens
Veggies: broccoli, chard, asparagus, parsley, watercress, Brussels sprouts
Dried fruits: raisins, prunes, dates and apricots
Also, it is important to have vitamin C to assist with Iron absorption. Greens and vegetables have a perfect balance of these two nutrients to assist with bioavailability! Neat, how nature works like that, right?!
Plant-based sources of Protein:
Beans, beans, beans! (including tofu + tempeh)
Whole grains: cooked brown rice has about 5 grams protein per cup, and wheat berries have about 6 grams/cup, and quinoa has 9 grams/cup! Oats are a good source of protein too, with 6 grams of protein per/cup.
Seeds (hempseeds, sunflower, pumpkin, flax and chia)
Sprouts from seeds, grains, or beans
Plant based sources of Flavor:
- Most important, learn to love the flavor of fresh vegetables and fruits; find delicious combinations for stir-fries and sandwiches that work for your tastes.
- Fermented foods: miso, vinegars, non-dairy yogurts, and fermented veggies all add tons of good flavor and healthy probiotics for optimal digestion.
- Healthy, unrefined plant oils: coconut, olive, flax, pumpkin, and nut oils offer a world of flavor and give us the good fats our body needs.
- Find your favorite pantry staples: nutritional yeast, nut butters, mustards, nuts and seeds, vinegars, quality spices and herbs, healthy sweeteners, and fresh juices can go a long way to making a simple meal really, truly delicious. Make easy homemade dressings, sauces, and marinades to make every dish personal, healthy, and delicious!
Some other sources for good Information:
- Gena at Choosing Raw has a great primer if you want to learn some more about plant proteins and nutrients. Her website is all about healthy plant-based eating, and I encourage everyone to check it out!
- I was checking out Rhythm Superfoods (’cause I am addicted to their kale chippies) and they also have some great information about raw, plant nutrition on their FAQ page.
- Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has a great information page about vegetarian diets too.