Cooking vegan food is not that much different from cooking a meat-based diet. Many meat eaters believe that by “going veg”, you’re taking out food choice. However, it is usually the opposite – normally vegans find that they are more exposed to new, different and tasty foods which they would never have experienced had they stuck to a meat-based diet.
There are many simple and easy to use vegan recipes to be found in books and on the web. You can even modify meat dishes so that they are vegan-friendly! There are also many dairy and egg replacements available which assist with cooking and baking.
However, in order to avoid any unnecessary dangers of veganism, and just as with all diets, it is important that you receive all the necessary vitamins and minerals required for a healthy lifestyle. Vegan vitamins can also be taken to supplement your diet if you feel you are lacking.
Below we list some of the vitamins and minerals which new vegans may otherwise find difficult to source and replace.
Important for cellular growth and maintenance.
Some good sources of protein for vegans:
- Pulses, e.g. peas, lentils, beans;
- Soy products, e.g. soya flour, soya milk;
- Seeds, e.g. sunflower seeds;
- Nuts, e.g. hazelnuts, cashews, Brazilian nuts and almonds;
- Vegetables such as seaweed, broccoli, soinchach, kale and others;
- Whole grains, e.g. whole-wheat flour and bread, brown rice.
An average person requires approx. 1 gram of protein per kilogram of weight per day. So for example, if you weigh 70 kg then you require 70 grams of protein per day.
“Combining sources such as hemp, rice and peas provide a powerful amino acid profile for enhanced biomechanical efficiency”. Robert Cheeke, vegan body builder.
Required for the production of blood cells and nerve maintenance.
Some good sources of vitamin B-12 for a vegan diet:
- Fortified yeast extracts, e.g. nutritional yeast;
- Soya milks;
- Non-dairy margarine;
- Veggie burgers;
- Hemp based meals/ bars;
- Some bottled drinks;
- Vitamin supplements.
Recommended vitamin B12 intake is 2.4 micrograms per day. Deficiencies in vitamin B12 can result in numerous medical conditions and problems such as anemia, dementia, depression, nerve damage and more.
“B12 is found MOSTLY in animal products. Why? Because vitamin B12 comes from our soil. When a cow, for instance, chomps on grass he eats this vitamin B12-enriched soil… Our food today is usually very clean by the time it makes it to our stores, and then we further clean it in our own kitchen. Goodbye Vitamin B12”. Sassy, VeganCoach
Carries oxygen in the blood, creating energy required for the body to survive and stay healthy.
Some good sources of iron for vegans:
- Dried fruit;
- Sea plants / green leafy vegetables;
Recommended iron intake is 8 milligrams (mg) per day.
Required for healthy bones in adults and bone growth in children.
Some good sources of calcium for vegans:
- Pulses, e.g. soya beans, tofu, haricot beans, miso-fermented soy bean curd;
- Dried figs;
- Sea plants;
- Grains, e.g. oatmeal;
- Fortified soy milk.
Recommended calcium intake is 1,000 mg per day.
Required for a healthy immune system and resistance to infection. Zinc is important for a healthy skin and helps with the healing of wounds. It is also a vital part of many enzymic reactions.
Some good sources of zinc for vegans:
- Pumpkin seeds;
- holegrain cereals.
Recommended zinc intake is 40 mg per day.
Essential Fatty Acids
Required for the body to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K. Regulates body cholesterol metabolism and maintains cell membranes.
Omega 6 and Omega 3 are the only 2 polyunsaturated fatty acids that your own body cannot synthesize.
Omega 6 (linoleic acid)
- Oils made from safflower, sunflower, corn, soya, evening primrose, pumpkin, wheatgerm, hemp seed.
Recommended omega 6 intake is 12 (women) – 17 (men) grams per day.
Omega 3 (alpha-linolenic acid)
- Green leafy vegetables;
- Flaxseeds (linseed);
- Mustard seeds;
- Pumpkin seeds;
- Soya bean;
- Walnut oil;
- Oils made from linseed (flaxseed), rape seed (canola), soya beans, hemp seeds.
Recommended omega 3 intake is 1.1 (women) – 1.6 (men) grams per day.
Important note: It is always advisable to consult a dietitian to ensure your body receives all that it needs and also to overcome any fears of danger you may have with your new choice of lifestyle and vegan diet.