Nutrition

All information in this section was written by Miranda Bone.  Miranda is a Nutritionist, with a Bachelor of Human Nutrition from the University of Canberra and now lives in Melbourne.  She is especially interested in Veg*n nutrition, preventative health care and whole foods.
You can contact Miranda directly via email miranda.bone@gmail.com if you wish to ask her nutrition questions.

food pyramid

The ‘Basics’ Being a well and healthy vegan needn’t be difficult; and for most of us, it isn’t. But sometimes, especially when transitioning from an omnivorous diet, there can be problems. Often, a knowledge of the vegan basics will help. The American Dietetic Association has stated that a well planned vegan diet is nutritionally appropriate for all stages of the life-cycle. So what are the keys to planning a vegetarian diet well? Variety and Balance.

The mainstay of a vegan diet breaks down into 3 groups: Fruit and Veg, Grains, Proteins. How much of each of these groups we should eat varies with the individual; choosing a variety of food from withing each group helps ensure we get all the nutrients we need.

Proteins Generally, we eat enough protein to keep them healthy if we eat enough calories. Vegan foods with plenty of protein include beans, tofu, and bread, with around 10-15 g protein per 100 g food, and nuts & seeds (including tahini, peanut/almond/cashew butter) which have around 20-25 g protein per 100 g food.  So called ‘meat analogues’ or vegan meats can also be used to add variety in the diet; their protein content is very variable, depending on the type and brand. The National Health and Medical Research Council suggests adults need 50-65g of protein daily – that’s 1-2 cups of these protein rich foods – easy!.

Grains (and potatoes) Grains are a rich source of carbohydrate; they bulk out a meal, and add energy. It is best to choose whole grains and whole grain products, the less processed the better, as these provide fibre, vitamins and minerals along with the energy from the carbohydrates. Grains are also a source of protein complementary to nuts, seeds and beans. They provide amino acids which the body needs, but which the other, more protein rich foods, lack. Eat grains in proportion to your energy needs.

Fruit and Veg Eat lots of these!! The more fruit and veg you eat, the better (as long as you get enough calories). Fruit and veg are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals as well as fibre. Current recommendations are to eat about two serves (or two handfuls) of fruit, and five serves of veg (one serve is 1/2 cup vegies, or 1 cup salad leaves) every day. Eating more than that is fine; some research has suggested eating 8-10 serves of vegies for optimal health. There are lots of ways to eat your fruit and vegies: in salads, dried, chopped or whole (as a snack), blended in smoothies, cooked as sauces, soups or side dishes. Try to eat a variety – a good rule of thumb is to eat as many colours as you can, and not to cook the colour out of them. Green vegies (spinach & other leafies, brocoli, brussel sprounts) are especially important for vegetarians, as they are a source of iron, and vitamin C, which increases its absorption.

Include also, some healthy fats and oils (instead of saturated or trans fats). Cook with olive oil; use canola oil in baking; eat nuts and seeds. Try flaxseed oil (but don’t heat it). These help to keep your heart (and brain) healthy.

You’ll probably want to eat some ‘junk’ food – and there’s plenty of empty vegan calories available (chips, chocolate, two minute noodles). This is ok, if you don’t overdo it, but the ideal would be to find more nutritious ways to indulge yourself…. good quality dark chocolate and fresh fruits, or hummus and veggies, for example.

When you make changes in your diet or exercise, keep an eye on your weight. If you start consistently losing weight, and you don’t want to, increase how much you are eating from the Grains and Proteins groups. If you are gaining weight (and shouldn’t) add more fruit and veg, and cut out ‘junk’ food. You may also find it useful to buy vegan cookbooks which feature healthy recipes, or to browse online recipe forums. This can help to give you a healthy pattern of eating that’s right for you, so you don’t have to think about eating healthy – you just do it.

Bon Appétit!

Also in this section:


Where do you get your protein? by local accredited dietician/nutritionist, Linda Smillie (BSc, Grad Dip Nut Diet)

Rowena’s IYATO Salad (Click image for recipe)

A well planned vegan diet can easily supply your daily protein needs. Legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, plant-based milks and vegetables are all good sources of protein. However a vegan diet can also fall short in protein if it relies too heavily on fruit (like in some raw vegan diets) or incorporates too many vegan processed foods (confectionary, crisps, biscuits, refined foods).

Protein needs are very individual and are related to factors such as body mass, activity and age. Protein needs are greater if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. There are also some medical conditions that increase your protein needs. Speak to a health professional if you need help working out your protein requirements.

An average weight male will need a minimum of 60g protein per day. Let’s take a closer look at the protein content of some common vegan foods and see how easy it is to achieve this goal.

Food Protein (g)
Tofu (firm) ½ cup = 100g 13
Tempeh ½ cup = 100g 19
Lentils ½ cup cooked 7.8
Chickpeas ½ cup cooked 6.3
Edamame ½ cup 10
Kidney beans ½ cup cooked 7
Soy beans ½ cup 15
Sanitarium Vegie D’light Vegie Roast (120g serve) 20g
Falafels – 3 (50g) 7
Almonds 30g (25 nuts) 6
Cashews 30g (25 nuts) 6
Peanut Butter 1 tbsp 4.5
Hemp seeds ¼ cup 13
Chia seeds 1 tbsp 2.5
Tahini 1 tbsp 3.6
Pumpkin seeds ¼ cup 10
Flaxseeds ¼ cup 7
Soy milk 1 cup 9
Rice Milk 1 cup 1.5
Protein enriched Rice milk 1 cup 3.7
Almond Milk 1cup 1.5
Soy yoghurt 200g tub 3.6
Coconut yoghurt 170g tub 1.4
Amaranth 1 cup cooked 9.4
Oats 1 cup cooked 6
Quinoa 1 cup cooked 8
Brown rice 1 cup cooked 4
Kamut 1 cup cooked 12
Millet 1 cup cooked 6
Vegetables and fruit per ½ cup 0.5-2

Note that there is a large variation in the protein content of plant-based milks. Soy milk contains the most protein at 9g per cup however most other plant based milks are poor sources of protein. Some plant milk are enriched with protein . (Look out for future updates on both soy and plant based milks)

So in order to achieve his minimum 60g of protein per day, our average male could aim for:

BreakfastChia breakfast pudding 2tbsp chia seeds + 1 cup protein enriched rice milk + 2 tbsp flaxseeds/flaxmeal + cinnamon + 1 serve fruit

Lunch:  Quinoa Salad 1 cup cooked Quinoa + ½ cup edamame beans + 1 cups salad vegetables + drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice

Dinner:  Dhal 1 cup cooked lentils + 1 cup cooked brown rice + 1.5 cups cooked vegetables

Snacks:  30g almonds + 1 serve fruit + 1 slice sourdough bread with ¼ avocado

Total protein = 70g/2000 calories

Protein Powders

It is better to get your protein from whole foods as they contain other key nutrients such as iron, zinc and calcium. If you rely on protein powders to reach your protein target it can be harder to meet your requirements for these other vital nutrients. However, there may be times where a protein powder may be useful. Vegan athletes, growing teenagers or elderly vegans may find a protein powder can help meet their higher protein needs. Vegan protein powders are based on plant proteins such as pea, soy and rice. Such supplements provide between 15 and 25g protein per serve.

 

Written by Linda Smillie – Accredited Practising Dietitian, Accredited Nutritionist.  BSc, Grad Dip Nut Diet

I am a Canberra based dietitian who specialises in plant based diets and gastroenterology. If you are new to plant based eating or a long term vegan I can help make sure you are getting all the essential nutrients you need to optimise your health. I practise at Waramanga and Garran. Email me at smillielinda@gmail.com for more details.

Protein and Vegan Diets – by local accredited dietician/nutritionist, Linda Smillie (BSc, Grad Dip Nut Diet)

Photo and dish by Darren Cutrupi (Plant Health Man)

A well planned vegan diet can provide all the nutrients you need for good health. “But where will you get your protein from?”, we hear them say!

Protein is a vital nutrient which has many important roles in our body such as growth and repair of body cells, formation of enzymes and hormones, normal functioning of muscles, transmission of nerve impulses and immune protection.

Protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids. There are roughly 20 amino acids found in plant and animal proteins. Nine of these are “essential” and must be supplied by diet as they cannot be made by the body.

It’s surprisingly easy to get adequate protein on a well planned vegan diet. Remember that plants provide 65% of the world supply of edible protein! Eating a variety of different plant foods ensures that you will be getting enough of all the essential amino acids. Great vegan sources of protein include legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, soy products, textured vegetable protein and vegetables. Be sure to make these foods a feature of your diet.

It was once thought that certain combinations of plant foods had to be eaten at the same meal to ensure adequate essential amino acids. We now know that the body stores essential amino acids for the short term so protein combining is not strictly necessary at each meal but can occur over the day. Soy protein from tofu and tempeh and some grains (amaranth and quinoa) are considered ‘complete’ proteins so are great additions to your vegan diet.

Individual protein needs are quite specific and are related to our body mass. The average omnivore diet often contains way in excess of these needs. For most, protein needs range from 0.75g per kilogram of body weight to 1.2g per kilogram of body weight. This amounts to as little as 40g for a petite adult female to 60g for an average male. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need more protein as do aging adults and athletes. Seek the advice of a health professional if you need help working out your protein requirements.

Here is an example of a daily intake that provided 60g protein…

Breakfast:  Smoothie made with soy milk, ground flaxseeds and fruit

Lunch: Vegetable and legume soup with a slice of wholegrain toast

Dinner: Tofu stir fry with vegetables, cashews and brown rice

Snacks: Rice cakes with tahini, piece of fruit and handful of nuts/seeds

Written by Linda Smillie – Accredited Practising Dietitian, Accredited Nutritionist.  BSc, Grad Dip Nut Diet

I am a Canberra based dietitian who specialises in plant based diets and gastroenterology. If you are new to plant based eating or a long term vegan I can help make sure you are getting all the essential nutrients you need to optimise your health. I practise at Waramanga and Garran. Email me at smillielinda@gmail.com for more details.

Omega 3 DHA-EPA for Vegans

By Andrew Wilson

Although vegans get enough Omega 6’s from plant based sources, the high ratio of Omega 6 to 3 means that the Omega 3 is inhibited from optimal absorption into the system. Moreover, DHA and EPA can’t be obtained sufficiently from plant based sources. DHA & EPA are both crucial for the health of our heart, brain and overall well-being and is just as important as B12. The best way to get sufficient amount of these vitamins is through the use of supplements. Return 2 Health stocks the supplement at a great price from the link below (with both capsules and lemon syrup options):

Deva Vegan DHA EPA

Further information regarding Omega 3, DHA and EPA can be found at this link http://veganhealth.org/articles/omega3

Vitamin B12

Anyone who is vegan or getting close should be taking a vitamin B12 supplement or suitably fortified foods. Do some reading about nutrition, for example www.veganhealth.org and Becoming Vegan by Melina & Davis.
For information on the important topic of vitamin B12 see:

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