Where do I get my…?

Whether you’re planning on reducing your meat consumption, cutting out meat entirely or switching to a plant-based diet, you’ve probably been asking yourself “Where do I get my…?”. Well, don’t worry! Plant-based foods offer all the necessary vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are important to our health.

Iron

I always have a glass of orange juice with my oatmeal. Vitamin C helps the body to absorb iron and it’s a great start for a new day!

The best iron sources are legumes. Dark chocolate and whole-grain products also offer plenty of iron.

The following foods are good sources of iron:

  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Beans of all kinds
  • Pumpkin and sesame seeds
  • Dark leafy greens like cooked spinach
  • Fortified whole-grain products, such as whole wheat bread, cereals, grains, brown rice or whole wheat pasta

In order to increase the absorption of iron, iron-rich foods should be consumed along with foods containing vitamin C.

Great sources of vitamin C are:

  • Strawberries
  • Pineapple
  • Oranges
  • Kiwi
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Sprouts
  • Peppers
  • Mangoes

Avoid drinking coffee or tea during meals as they reduce iron absorption. Men hardly ever have any iron deficiencies regardless of their nutrition. Women, however, often lack enough iron because of menstruation and that is why iron should be supplemented, regardless of whether or not you are vegan or vegetarian.

Protein

Covering your daily protein requirements is easier than you might think. Almost all foods, apart from fruits (very low in protein) and oils, contain some protein. We all should eat protein-rich food every day. Legumes are the unrivalled superstars among all plant-based sources, such as lentils, beans, peanuts and peas.

The following foods are great protein sources:

  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Fortified whole-wheat pasta
  • Quinoa
  • Nuts
  • Lentils
  • Tofu and tempeh
  • Soya milk (soya milk has more protein than other plant milks)
  • Peanut butter
  • Hemp, pumpkin and chia seeds

Calcium

For vegans, the easiest available sources of calcium are dairy alternatives fortified with calcium such as fortified soya or almond milk or fortified soya or coconut yoghurt. Some calcium rich mineral waters (from 500 mg per litre) may also be great sources of calcium, in addition to tap water depending on the location.

Great sources of calcium include:

  • Calcium fortified plant milks
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Tofu
  • Oranges
  • Calcium fortified orange juice
  • Calcium rich mineral waters (from 500 ml per litre), as well as tap water depending on location
  • Dried dates
  • Sweet potatoes

Vitamin D

The human body produces vitamin D itself – provided that sun exposure is sufficient. An adequate supply of vitamin D is ensured when at least 15 minutes of midday sun (without sun protection) per day shines on your face or arms. This applies to days where sunburn is possible. People with darker skin and older people need longer sun exposure – around 20 to 30 minutes – to be provided with the same amount of vitamin D.

In the UK, during autumn and winter, the solar radiation is too low to enable your body to produce sufficient vitamin D. Therefore, regardless of one’s diet, everybody should take nutritional supplements containing vitamin D appropriate to their age (from 10 to 20 micrograms per day). These are available in chemists, supermarkets and health food shops.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) originating from the omega-3 family is essential. This means it is vitally important, but cannot be produced by the human body itself and therefore has to be taken in by food.

The most important ALA sources are:

  • Rapeseed oil
  • Linseed oil
  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Hemp seeds

It is believed that these omega-3 fatty acids reduce the risk of heart disease.

Vitamin B12

By following a vegetarian or vegan diet, vitamin B12 must be taken as a nutritional supplement. Chewable tablets containing vitamin B12 are available in chemists, health food shops and in some supermarkets.

If you have any doubts, ask your doctor to check on your vitamin B12 levels.