My Plantcentric Journey

Posts tagged ‘iron’

Sources of Iron and Omega 3 Fatty Acids for Vegans Are Plentiful

LORI

One of our Twitter friends recently asked the following question:

To @thisdishisveg if you could also include some great ideas for iron and omega 3? I eat fish because when i was full veg. i’d get dizzy a lot.

Great question!

Consuming adequate amounts of iron and omega 3 fatty acids are both very important factors in maintaining optimum health. Luckily, they are both abundant in many plant foods.

Iron is a nutrient that should be paid some attention when transitioning to a plant diet based diet. It is an essential nutrient, as it assists our blood in carrying oxygen via hemoglobin. This is why a lack of iron can certainly make you feel tired or dizzy! There are 2 kinds of iron: heme and non-heme. Heme iron is better absorbed by the body, but it is found only in animal products, and makes up about 40% of their iron content. Non-heme, though absorbed less readily, is abundant in all plant food sources. This absorption issue is why the iron requirement is higher for vegans than for meat eaters. The good news is that a well balanced vegan diet will provide you ample intake, and absorption, of iron.

Leafy greens are one of the best sources of iron. Prime sources are kale, parsley, collard greens, mustard greens, and turnip greens. Other vegetables high in iron are asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, watercress, and brussel sprouts. Although they are high in iron content, spinach and chard are NOT good sources of iron because they contain oxalic acid. Oxalic acid is a substance that binds with iron and inhibits its absorption. However, it’s okay to eat these greens in moderation, as long as you are not relying on them as your iron source.

Some iron rich fruits are mulberries, cherries, apricots, figs, raisins, and dates. Seeds can also be a very high source of iron, the most iron rich being pumpkin seeds. Other seeds to include in your diet are sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Grains to look for are quinoa and millet. Legumes such as black-eyed peas, lentils, kidney beans, lima beans, and chickpeas are also effective sources. And don’t forget about almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pine nuts and pistachios. Tofu and soy are also good sources, and many dairy free milks are often fortified with iron. Blackstrap molasses is a very rich source as well.

When considering iron, it’s important to understand that vitamin C helps your body absorb iron from food. This is especially noteworthy when eating foods that contain non-heme iron. Fortunately, many vegetables that are high in iron are also high in vitamin C, such as broccoli and bok choy. Another way to increase your iron absorption is through conscious food choices and food combining. Eating beans with tomatoes, for example, will increase your iron uptake due to the high Vitamin C in tomatoes. Hummus is an excellent choice because it combines iron rich chickpeas with the high vitamin C content of lemons! Other foods high in vitamin C are potatoes, kale, brussels sprouts, peppers and many fruits.

You should take caution to avoid consuming tea, coffee and/or calcium supplements during an iron rich meal. Both calcium and tannins (tannins are found in tea and coffee) reduce iron absorption. They should be ingested at least a few hours before or after an iron rich meal. With all the foods mentioned, it is best to eat them in their RAW form, or as close to raw as possible, in order to achieve maximum benefit.

Omega 3 fatty acids are very important for inflammation control. Our bodies need a balance of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids. Unfortunately, many of us consume foods that are high in omega 6, and not enough omega 3, leading to inflammation. As for omega 3 plant food sources, I have a personal favorite… chi-chi-CHIA! Who remembers those old commercials where you sprinkle the seeds on your Chia Pet and it grows into a fun little plant?! Those silly little seeds are actually nutritional powerhouses! In addition to being a potent source of omega 3s, chia seeds are high in calcium, protein, fiber, and act as blood sugar stabilizers by slowing down the conversion of carbohydrates into sugars. Chia seeds are hydrophilic (water loving) and will quickly absorb liquid if they are immersed in it. An easy way to to incorporate these little seeds into your diet is to simply add them to your smoothies, or stir them into your oatmeal. For a creative way to eat them, try making a ‘pudding’ by letting about a tablespoon of chia seeds sit in a cup coconut milk. Chill this mixture for about 15 minutes, and you will have a tapioca-like pudding that is delicious!

Other excellent sources of omega 3s are flax oil, walnuts, hemp seeds, and soybeans. I like to add hemp seeds to my smoothies, as they give it a sweet flavor. Hemp seeds also taste great sprinkled on steamed broccoli, and flax oil can be drizzled over any veggies, warm or cold, for an omega 3 boost. Just be sure not to heat your flax oil as this will denature it.

Trying to break down the nutritional contents of foods can be exhausting, but it is important to have a good understanding if you are new to (or experimenting with) a plant based diet, so that you can be certain you are obtaining adequate nutrition. I encourage anyone making changes in their diet to do so carefully, and under the supervision of a professional if further education is needed. However, once you learn the ropes you will see that the key to a healthy, nutrient rich diet is simply eating a wide variety of whole foods! It’s not complicated… in fact, it’s as easy as pie (vegan pie, that is)!

Lori Zito | @LoriZito
Lori is an animal-loving, life-loving vegan who is passionate about spreading the message of better health through a vegan diet. She works as a certified holistic health and nutrition coach, a yoga instructor, and a physical therapist. Learn more at her website Live In The Balance and follow her on Facebook.

Photo Credit: cc: flickr.com/photos/83096974@N00

http://www.thisdishisvegetarian.com/2010/08/sources-of-iron-and-omega-3-fatty-acids.html

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Wondering About a Vegan Diet? Infographic

Chia Seeds I Love Them!

Spinach This Antioxidant-Loaded Green Will Keep You Lean

I have ditched the lettuce in my salads and now just use a base of fresh spinach leaves, then top with kale, shredded cabbage and whatever other greens I have on hand before putting on the tomatoes, nutritional yeast, ground flax seeds, chia seeds, etc.

Thanks for sharing Young and Raw.

Conversations with a Meat Eater


Conversations with a meat eater generally go like this:

“You are vegan?”

“Yes.”

“Do you eat chicken?  What about fish?”

“No.  No.”

“How do you get your protein?”

It is at this point that we, vegans, have a choice about how to have a conversation that is informative and perhaps even inspirational.  The protein question gets everyone going because for some protein is a synonym for meat.  Suggesting that it is not necessary (or healthy) to eat meat goes right to the heart of the issue, which is that we have been taught to believe something and, because it is a way of life, most people don’t question it.

“We eat beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, spinach, peas, walnuts, cashews, almonds, quinoa, millet, etc.”

“Aren’t you hungry?  Don’t you need to eat meat to get iron?”

“Not hungry, I eat all day long!  And I especially love to indulge in homemade cookies.  No, you don’t need to eat meat to get iron.  I get it from broccoli, walnuts, lentils, spinach, oats…”

“But…”

Sometimes meat eaters stop here, nod and wish me luck mumbling something about making sure I eat enough.  Others want to debate the protein issue.  I am fully armed with answers based on my own experience and my Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell.

The bottom line is this: there are no nutrients in animal based foods that are not better obtained from plant-based foods.  Plants have protein too!

It is interesting that a vegan never questions a meat eater’s ability to take in all of the nutrients necessary for a balanced and healthy diet.  We don’t question their food choices.  Instead, we are the ones who need to defend ourselves. But at the end of the day, the key is to not get defensive.  The key is to offer some information that will hopefully cause the person to, at a minimum question their own dietary habits, and at a maximum will convert them on the spot!

We could talk about the benefits of a vegan diet for our health.  We could talk about The China Study and explain how some cancers, diabetes and heart diseases are hitting levels of epidemic proportions due to the intake of animal based foods.  We could talk about the outrageous sums of money being spent on health care instead of preventative medicine.  We could talk about how it is much more extreme to have major heart surgery and live on medication forever versus making dietary changes.  We could offer President Clinton’s story about his decision to go vegan and why.

We could talk about the animals.  We could reveal the secrets of the factory farm and the inhumane treatment of, not just the animals, but those that work at the slaughterhouses.  We could explain how a steady diet of hormones and antibiotics given to the animals create more disease and illness.  We could talk about how dirty the food supply really is.

We could talk about the environment.  We could quote the report from the United Nations that says that methane emissions from all of factory farmed animals are contributing more to global warming than all of the cars, trucks and buses in the world. We could talk about the oceans are being depleted and how the world is going to suffer because of it.

Any or all of these tacks make for good conversation.  In my experience however, most meat eaters can’t listen to this stuff.  Truth be told, it is tough to talk about and tough to hear.  I have my elevator speech, my condensed explanation that encompasses points about our health, the health and welfare of the animals and the planet.

I believe that the best way to have a productive conversation with a meat eater is not to have conversation at all.  Invite them out to a delicious vegan restaurant or even better invite them over and cook for them.  Change the conversation.

Lisa Dawn Angerame | Blog | Website | Facebook
Long Island, NY Lisa Dawn is an advanced certified Jivamukti yoga teacher, vegan food blogger, wife and mom. She is working hard to spread the vegan love through her cooking, teaching and blog. Lisa Dawn studies and teaches the yoga sutras. She divides her time between NYC and Northport, Long Island. Lisa Dawn is the co founder of NAVA NYC, a meditation and yoga company designed to bring yoga and meditation to corporate clients.

Photo credit: TDIV

From:  http://www.thisdishisvegetarian.com/2012/07/conversations-with-meat-eater.html

How to Meet Your Protein Needs without Meat

How to Meet Your Protein Needs without Meat

A Guide to Vegetarian Protein Sources

— By Sarah Haan, Registered Dietitian and Nicole Nichols, Health Educator
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Eating a vegetarian diet can be very healthful and rewarding. However, most vegetarians—including soon-to-be vegetarians and their meat-eating loved ones—are concerned about getting adequate protein. Most people are accustomed to getting protein from meat, but what else contains protein? Aren’t plant-based proteins “incomplete” or lower quality?Fortunately, with a bit of extra attention, you won’t have any trouble meeting your protein needs just because you give up meat. There are so many protein-packed vegetarian options! Did you know that most foods, including vegetables, have some of the essential muscle-building nutrient? Without looking closely, it is easy to miss some great sources. (Who knew a cup of broccoli had 3 grams!)Nuts, seeds, soy products, cereal, eggs and dairy are all good meatless protein choices. These groups of food each contain different amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) and different levels of protein quality. There is no need to consume certain foods in special combinations as nutritionists once thought! When your diet includes a variety of each of these types of foods, you can rest assured that you’re consuming all the amino acids you need for muscle growth and cell repair.

Nuts
Nuts provide a good dose of protein along with some heart-healthy fatty acids and antioxidants (vitamins A and E). They are also packed full of fiber. Take your pick! Many nuts have a significant source of protein ready to work for your body. Peanuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, and pine nuts are among the highest in protein, while chestnuts and hazelnuts, although they do still have some protein, are the lowest. Think out of the box when you’re adding nuts to your diet. They can be grated, toasted, ground or eaten raw and are great when combined with salads, wraps, soups and stews and baked goods. But pay special attention to portion size! Nuts are a great source of many nutrients, but do come with a hefty dose of calories, thanks to the healthy fats they contain. A single serving is just 1 oz! Many nuts are best when stored in a refrigerator, which helps keep their fats from going rancid (for up to 6 months).

Nuts, 1/4 cup Protein Calories Fat
Peanuts, raw 9 g 207 18 g
Almonds, dry roasted 8 g 206 18 g
Pistachios 6 g 171 14 g
Hazelnuts 5 g 212 21 g
Pine nuts 5 g 229 23 g
Cashews, raw 5 g 197 16 g
Walnuts 4 g 164 16 g

Seeds
Seeds are another great way to grab a few grams of protein and many other nutrients. Healthful unsaturated fats, as well as phytochemicals, make seeds a powerhouse for heart disease and cancer prevention. Just a quarter cup of pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas) has 8.5 grams of protein. Add this amount to a salad or eat them plain for a quick snack. Sunflower seeds are easy to add to pasta or salads, or sandwich wraps, while sesame seeds are easily ground and sprinkled onto steamed veggies for a protein dusting.

Seeds (1/4 cup) Protein Calories Fat
Hemp seeds 15 g 232 18 g
Pumpkin seeds, roasted 9 g 187 16 g
Flaxseed 8 g 191 13 g
Sunflower seeds, roasted 8 g 205 18 g
Sesame seeds, roasted 6 g 206 18 g

Legumes
Dried peas, beans and lentils belong to a group of food known as “pulses” or “legumes.” Aside from soybeans, these plants have a very similar nutrient content, which includes a good dose of protein. On average, they have about 15 grams of protein per cup, and tagging along with the essentials protein are fiber and iron. Adding beans, lentils and dried peas to your meals is a great way to replace meat (a beef burrito can easily become a black bean burrito, for example) while still getting your much needed protein. Add pulses to soups, salads, omelets, burritos, casseroles, pasta dishes, and more! Make bean dips (such as hummus, which is made from garbanzo beans, or black bean dip) to spread on sandwiches and use as protein-packed dips for veggies or snack foods.

Legumes, 1 cup cooked Protein Calories Fiber
Soybeans 29 g 298 10 g
Lentils 18 g 230 16 g
Split peas 16 g 231 16 g
Navy beans 16 g 258 12 g
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) 15 g 269 12 g
Black beans 15 g 227 15 g
Kidney beans 15 g 225 11 g
Lima beans 15 g 216 13 g
Pinto beans 14 g 234 15 g

Soy
Soybeans are a complete protein that is comparable in quality with animal proteins. Eating soybeans (and foods made from soybeans) has been growing trend in America for only five decades, but this protein-rich bean has been a staple in Asia for nearly 4,000 years! This plant powerhouse is used to create a variety of soy-based foods that are rich in protein: tofu, tempeh, textured vegetable protein (TVP, a convincing replacement for ground meat in recipes), soymilk and “meat analogs,” such as vegetarian “chicken” or faux “ribs” are all becoming more popular as more Americans practice vegetarianism. To learn more about using tofu, read Tofu 101. To learn how soy may impact your health, click here.

Soy Foods Protein Calories Fat
Soybeans, 1 cup cooked 29 g 298 10 g
Tempeh, 4 oz cooked 21 g 223 13 g
Edamame, 1 cup shelled 20 g 240 10 g
TVP, 1/4 cup dry 12 g 80 0 g
Soy nuts, 1/4 cup roasted 11 g 200 1 g
Tofu, 4 oz raw 9 g 86 5 g
Soy nut butter, 2 tablespoons 7 g 170 11 g
Soymilk, 1 cup sweetened 7 g 100 0.5 g
Soymilk, 1 cup unsweetened 7 g 80 0.5 g

Grains
In a culture that focuses largely on wheat, it’s easy to overlook the many types of other grains available to us. Some of these grains are very high in protein and can be included in your diet for both whole-grain carbohydrates and muscle-building protein. Quinoa is unusually close to animal products in protein quality, making it an excellent grain to replace white rice or couscous. It can also be cooked and mixed with honey, berries and almonds in the morning for a protein-packed breakfast. Other grains high in protein include spelt, amaranth, oats and buckwheat. Choose whole-grain varieties of cereals, pastas, breads and rice for a more nutritious meal.

Grains Protein Calories Fiber
Amaranth, 1 cup cooked 9 g 238 9 g
Quinoa, 1 cup cooked 9 g 254 4 g
Whole wheat pasta, 1 cup cooked 8 g 174 6 g
Barley, 1 cup cooked 7 g 270 14 g
Spelt, 4 oz cooked 6 g 144 4 g
Oats, 1 cup cooked 6 g 147 4 g
Bulgur, 1 cup cooked 6 g 151 8 g
Buckwheat, 1 cup cooked 6 g 155 5 g
Brown rice, 1 cup cooked 5 g 216 4 g
Whole wheat bread, 1 slice 4 g 128 3 g
Sprouted grain bread, 1 slice 4 g 80 3 g

Dairy
If you consume milk products, dairy is a great way to add some extra grams of protein to your day. Low-fat milk, cheese and yogurt are easily accessible, quick to pack and fun to incorporate into many meals and snacks. Whether you’re drinking a cup of skim milk with your dinner or grabbing some string cheese before you run errands, you can pack about 8 grams of protein into most servings of dairy. You’re also getting some bone-building calcium while you’re at it! Keep in mind that low-fat varieties of milk products are lower in calories and fat, but equal in calcium to the full-fat versions; low-fat varieties may also be higher in protein.

Dairy Protein Calories Fat
Fat-free cottage cheese, 1 cup 31 g 160 1 g
2% cottage cheese, 1 cup 30 g 203 4 g
1% cottage cheese, 1 cup 28 g 163 2 g
Fat-free plain yogurt, 1 cup 14 g 137 0 g
Low-fat plain yogurt, 1 cup 13 g 155 4 g
Parmesan cheese, 1 oz grated 12 g 129 9 g
Whole milk yogurt, 1 cup 9 g 150 8 g
Goat’s milk, 1 cup 9 g 168 10 g
1% milk, 1 cup 8 g 102 2 g
Swiss cheese, 1 oz 8 g 106 8 g
2% milk, 1 cup 8 g 121 7 g
3.25% (whole) milk, 1 cup 8 g 146 8 g
Low-fat cheddar/Colby cheese, 1 oz 7 g 49 2 g
Part-skim mozzarella cheese, 1 oz 7 g 72 5 g
Provolone cheese, 1 oz 7 g 100 8 g
Cheddar cheese, 1 oz 7 g 114 9 g
Blue cheese, 1 oz 6 g 100 8 g
American cheese, 1 oz 6 g 106 9 g
Goat cheese, 1 oz 5 g 76 6 g
Feta cheese, 1 oz 4 g 75 6 g
Part-skim ricotta cheese, 1 oz 3 g 39 2 g

Eggs
Eggs contain the highest biologic value protein available. What this means is that an egg has a near perfect combination of amino acids within its shell; when assessing protein quality of all other foods (including meat), nutrition experts compare them to the egg. This doesn’t mean that all other sources of protein are less healthful or less important but does mean that an egg is an awesome way to get a few grams of protein. At 6 grams for one large egg, there are endless ways to add it to your diet. Salads, sandwiches, breakfasts or snack—an egg can fit in anytime!

Eggs Protein Calories Fat
Egg, 1 boiled 6 g 68 5 g
Egg white, 1 cooked 5 g 17 0 g
Liquid egg substitute, 1.5 fl oz 5 g 23 0 g

As you can see, protein is EVERYWHERE in our diet, and even without meat you can get enough every day; you just have to look in the right places! For more ideas for using these various plant-based proteins, check out our dailySpark series, Meat-Free Fridays for recipe and cooking ideas!

Selected Sources
Information Sheet: Protein from The Vegetarian Society (VegSoc.org)

Various nutrient profiles from The World’s Healthiest Foods (WHFoods.com)


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About The Author

Sarah HaanSarah Haan
Sarah is a registered dietitian with a bachelor’s degree in dietetics. She helps individuals adopt healthy lifestyles and manage their weight. An avid exerciser and cook, Sarah likes to run, lift weights and eat good food. See all of Sarah’s articles.

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