Minding Your P’s and Q’s on a Vegetarian or Vegan diet
Eating healthy for a vegetarian or vegan diet is just like eating healthy for any diet. It can be incredibly unhealthy or superstar fabulous for your body. Food choices go south when they are primarily based on factory made foods full of preservatives, additives, refined sugars and flours. These foods tend to have zero amounts of antioxidants, phytochemicals, natural vitamins, minerals and fiber. This information is ubiquitous on the net and in lay literature however are we really considering it when we are caving into the demands of a hungry reptilian brain? The winning concepts here are: food is information; antioxidants, phytochemicals and natural food synergy protect our cells and organs; and your body is not only a temple but a beautiful energetic machine that needs TLC to last a long lifetime.
Try to have a source of the nutrients listed below at least once daily. Also try your best to have a healthy (2-3 cups) serving of dark, green leafy vegetables every day as these can be a good source of iron and calcium.
If you are vegan or vegetarian – great! Let’s create the best plan for you!
Bases to hit for everyone – including vegans and vegetarians….
Vitamin B12 – choose methylcobalamin or a combination of adenosylcobalamin and methylcobalamin. The methylated forms offer protection in case of methylation issues (which can affect up to 40-50% of the population). Take the recommended dose on the supplement daily.
Zinc – Zinc deficiency is actually common around the world. Unfriendly pathogens in our systems can quickly use up our reserves. A liquid ionic zinc is the most effectively and happily assimilated by our bodies however a professional brand capsule providing 15-25 mg per day of a zinc chelate is fine too.
Iodine – Iodine has rapidly become scarce in our general population as many are choosing sea salts that are not fortified with iodine and bread products are no longer made with an iodine-based dough conditioner. Seaweeds such as kelp, dulse and nori are rich in iodine. You can use a pinch of kelp powder or dulse flakes in a smoothie, soup or stew; choose to wrap your foods in nori or purchase sushi if you are in the mood. Talk with your health care provider about supplementing iodine in your diet if you feel that is your best option.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids – can be obtained from the conversion of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) to an active omega 3 (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid). Food sources of ALA are flax seeds, hemp seeds (and their respective oils), walnuts, dark green leafy vegetables, butter leaf lettuce and chia seeds. It is important to watch the amount of vegetable oils you also have as also consuming these (usually in processed and/or fried foods) can reduce the amount of omega-3 fatty acids you make from ALA (http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/84/1/44.full). Omega -3 fatty acids have been shown in clinical research studies to be beneficial in reducing inflammation, improving cardiovascular risk factors and lowering blood pressure.
Also, for everyone – get your vitamin D levels checked and supplement as discussed with your health care practitioner. If you are going for a vegan vitamin D2 supplement, you will need to nearly double the dose- as vitamin D2 is 40% as bioavailable to your system vs. vitamin D3 (which is usually animal based). Optimal serum Vitamin D levels are in the 40-64 ng/ml range.
Great Ways to Create Healthy Veg-Food Awesomeness in Your Kitchen
Happy Hemp-y Smoothie
2 bananas (can be frozen for added creaminess)
1 cup of raw baby spinach
1 cup of raw cilantro
1 cup of blueberries
2 TB of hemp seeds
1 cup of frozen mango chunks
1.5 cups of water
Place all ingredients in a high-powered blender and blend for 1-2 minutes or until fully homogenized/blended
Spiralized Stir- Fry Sweet Potato Goodness
3 large sweet potatoes
2 TB Tahini
1 TB Sesame oil
1 TB Coconut aminos or gluten free tamari
2 heads of garlic crushed or minced
½ tsp Red pepper flakes
1 head of broccoli – cut into florets
½ Napa or green cabbage chopped or run through a food processor
¼ Red onion
1 tsp Dulse flakes or one pinch of kelp
2 TB Honey
¼ tsp Salt
2 TB Lime juice
Add the honey, lime juice, aminos, garlic, dulse, salt, red pepper flakes, tahini and ½ tablespoon of sesame oil into a bowl (or blender) and mix with a whip or puree. Cut the ends off of the sweet potatoes and spiralize into noodles. Put the broccoli and red onion into a skillet with the other ½ tablespoon of sesame oil and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the sweet potato noodles and sauté with the veggies for another 5 minutes. Add the sauce and cook over medium heat until all the ingredients are well combined for another 3-5 minutes.