If you’ve ever eliminated meat from your diet, you know the most common concern is where to get your protein. For those of us that live by a plant based diet, we know that all sorts of nutrients are available through a variety of rainbow colored plant life. For years, the meat and dairy industries have convinced us that things such as protein, calcium, omegas and vitamin B12 are all only available from animal products. The truth is, vegetables and plant based products offer a variety of healthy nutrients without harming sentient beings. For those few nutrients that we can’t fully access through plants—well, we are lucky to live in the 21st century where supplements are readily available.
B12 is an essential nutrient that unfortunately is only found in animal products or fortified foods. This is the one nutrient that people eating a plant powered diet need to make sure to be conscious of replacing either through fortified foods or supplements. A deficiency in this vitamin can cause digestive issues, nerve damage, depression and fatigue. If you choose not to eat meat, but still eat eggs and milk, you’ll be happy to know that both are great sources of B12. The recommended minimum dose of B12 is 2.4 mcg per day, which isn’t very much, but it is important to note that your body can only absorb a small percentage of supplemental B12.
Can humans thrive on a plant-based diet?
Just one tablespoon of nutritional yeast offers 4 mcg of B12. So put that nooch on everything! I like to sprinkle it on popcorn, lasagna, salad dressings or anything that could use some great cheesy flavor! Just whip up some soaked cashews and boiled cauliflower in the blender with nutritional yeast, garlic powder and salt and you’ve got yourself the easiest vegan mac n cheese sauce in town. As far as supplements go, B12 is offered in a variety of forms, from drops and melting under-the-tongue tablets, to chewables and traditional pills.
Did your mama ever make you take cod liver oil as a kid? We all know omegas can easily be found in fish. But if we don’t eat sea creatures or take fish oil how can we get those healthy omegas? Without them, we can suffer from dry, flaky skin, depression, brittle hair and nails, and trouble sleeping. The recommended amount per day is 1100 mg for women and 1600 mg for men.
Many nuts, seeds and cruciferous vegetables offer hefty amounts of natural, plant based omegas. An ounce of chia seeds delivers 4915 mg of omega 3, while hemp seeds deliver 6,000mg. Cooked brussels sprouts offer 135 mg per half cup and an ounce of walnuts provides 6542 mg. Try adding shredded brussels sprouts to a salad, and top that salad with walnut crumbles for extra omegas.
I make sure to eat chia, flax or hemp seeds every day by adding them to smoothies, on top of salads or sprinkled on avocado toast.
I also love creating quick, nutrient dense puddings by using ¼ cup of chia seeds with a cup of plant milk. Whisk them together and leave in the fridge overnight for a delicious and quick breakfast the next morning. You can add maple syrup, honey, fruits or vanilla to create a customizable treat.
Where do we get protein and vitamins?
Okay but, where do you get enough protein? Easy! Eat legumes. Beans, peanuts and lentils are all a part of the Fabaceae family, commonly known as legumes. Legumes are protein dense, versatile and delicious. Maybe that’s why they can be found in cuisines all over the world, from Mexican to Indian to Mediterranean. One cup of kidney or black beans offers 15 grams of protein while a cup of tempeh (fermented soybeans and grains) has 31 grams.
Pair your beans with a rice dish to create a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids! Peanut butter and almond butter both offer about 7 grams of protein, with almond butter having about ½ the saturated fat and even more calcium! Two tablespoons of hemp hearts will give you the same protein boost as an egg. Both an ounce of pumpkin seeds and ½ cup of lentils offer 9 grams of protein. If you’re a smoothie person, toss in a tablespoon of spirulina powder for 4 grams of protein, plus calcium and essential B vitamins. And again with the nooch! They weren’t kidding when they called this stuff nutritional yeast—3 Tbsp. gives 9 grams of complete protein!
Got milk? Yup, plant milk, fortified with up to 450 mg of calcium! Calcium is an essential nutrient, especially important for babies and the elderly. For an average adult, we need about 1000 mg of calcium per day. Luckily, we don’t need to be drinking a glass of cow milk a day like the TV always tells us. Tempeh offers about 184 mg of calcium per cup while kale offers about 177 mg and almond butter can give us up to 111 mg of calcium for every two tablespoons. Instead of reaching for your favorite paleo puffs, try homemade kale chips seasoned with nutritional yeast, or opt for almond butter over peanut butter. I like adding both kale and almond butter to my smoothies for a plant powered boost!
It is the 21st century, and animal products are no longer necessary for survival. With products like tofu, nutritional yeast, hemp seeds and an array of supplements and vitamins on the market, we are blessed to be able to not only survive—but thrive!—off of a well rounded, plant based diet. So remember, eat the rainbow and sprinkle that nooch on everything!