One of the most common questions I get asked in regards to my plant-based lifestyle is “How do you get protein in your diet?”. This is a concern for people that are looking to reduce their intake of animal products or follow a more vegan or vegetarian style diet. In choosing the right diet for your body’s needs, there are several factors on important nutrients to consider. I am going to breakdown the top plant-based proteins and vitamin sources that have become a critical part of my plant-based lifestyle. This has all led to the use of Kashaya, a plant-based probiotic in advancing my health and going completely meatless. Ultimately, I want to empower you as my reader, to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet and to maybe set some new health goals for 2020!
Eat Your Vegetables
We all know from a young age, the importance of eating our fruits and vegetables. But statistically, it has been proven that only 1 in 10 adults meet the federal fruit and vegetable recommendations. Vegetables should be a necessary part of our dietary needs in receiving nutrients and minerals that otherwise, our body can not produce. A recent study from the Imperial College of London tested over 2 million people worldwide, assessing thousands of cases of heart attack, stroke, and death. The results showed that although eating 3-4 cups of vegetables per day is great; 10 portions of vegetables every day is even better. The scientist found that with an increase in vegetable servings, the risk of heart disease is reduced by 24%, stroke is reduced by 33% and premature death by 31%. In living a longer life, what is not to love about eating more plants!
Protein is made up of amino acids and amino acids are required for pretty much every function of our bodies! Plant-based proteins are not “complete” so you’ll need to eat more of a variety of foods to get all of the required amino acids. This just means you will need to get a little more creative with your meals. In contrast, too much animal protein can overwork the liver, cause brain and nervous system dysfunction, and increase cholesterol levels. Following is a list of top meatless foods that have high amounts of essential amino acids:
- Black Beans
- Pumpkin Seeds
Other Pack Filled Protein Sources: hemp seeds/powder, chia seeds, oats, almond or almond butter, leafy greens, broccoli, green beans, green peas, lentils, most beans, chickpeas, (beans, lentils, or chickpeas with rice is a perfect protein combo!) raw plant-based protein powder fermented tempeh, and Ezekiel bread.
Aside from the big protein question, there are other important vitamins and nutrients that many meatless (and meat) eaters may be lacking… causing fatigue, dry skin and hair, anxiety or stress, muscle loss, low circulation, and insufficient digestion. These vitamins are:
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin D
- necessary to the health of red blood cells
- energy (avoid fatigue)
- preserving muscle mass
- cognitive function
Heme iron comes from animal products and non-heme iron comes from plant products that are better absorbed in the body with accompanying vitamin C rich foods. Vitamin C is abundant in plenty of fruits and vegetables and leafy greens so on a plant-based diet it shouldn’t be hard to get enough vitamin C. Iron Sources: hemp seeds/ protein, raisins, cashews, kale, pumpkin seeds, spirulina, beans, prunes, legumes, oats, quinoa, amaranth, teff, chia seeds, blackstrap molasses, cacao, tempeh, sunflower seeds Vitamin C sources: oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, cherry, cauliflower, bell pepper, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, squash
- keeps wound healing and immune systems running well
- aids in proper growth and development and DNA synthesis
- the component in skin and hair health
Zinc Sources: pumpkin seeds, sesame seed (or tahini), cashews, hemp, pintos, lentils, almonds, oats, quinoa, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, cacao, tofu, chickpeas, kidney beans, and green peas. I take a zinc supplement every morning separate from other vitamins and food. This is because Calcium and Iron can inhibit the absorption of Zinc.
- helps blood clot
- healthy bones and teeth
- important in muscle contraction
- helps to regulate enzymes
If you are giving up dairy as well, people often worry about getting enough calcium. The problem is, dairy is actually acidic to the body, and so to level out the acidity, calcium is released from our bones (largest store of calcium.) We don’t actually get calcium from dairy; dairy forces our bones to expel calcium and that’s why calcium levels “rise” in lab-tested urine following dairy consumption. Calcium Sources: almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, asparagus, artichoke, kale, collards, bok choy, spinach, swiss chard, okra, butternut squash, oranges, figs, chia seeds, teff, navy beans, most beans, dairy-free milk.
B12 and Other B Vitamins:
- provides energy
- enhance mental function
- heart, skin, and hair health
- help relieve stress, depression, and anxiety
- healthy red blood cell function
- aid in digestion
B12 Sources: Our soil quality has greatly decreased so we can’t rely on getting enough B12 from plants. The best option would be to supplement B12 vitamin (preferably sublingual for greater absorption). Personally, I use SBR Nutrition B12 Sublingual Drops. B6 & B9 Sources: Bell peppers, okra, shiitake, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, blueberries, and zucchini, walnuts, Nutritional Yeast!
- aids in dissolving plaque in the bloodstream
- Improves phosphate and calcium absorption
- has been shown to reduce the rates of colon and breast cancer
- Improves the immune system and mood
Vitamin D Sources: D3 absorbs best with 15 to 20 minutes of sunlight daily, or take a vitamin D3 supplement (no more than 10,000 IU a day.)
Probiotics are found in several different foods:
The commonality between these foods is that they all go through fermentation. Kashaya is another example of a probiotic food that is fermented for 24-hours. The bio-availability of Kashaya allows for nutrients to be absorbed and utilized for normal body function upon consuming. This rapid absorption rate allows the living cultures of probiotics to re-populate good bacteria in the gut microbiome. In balance with the right variety of 13-strains, your microflora forms a protective layer in your gut, support immunity, and challenge an imbalanced microbiome. Kashaya is unique in that it is made 100% plant-based and dairy-free. The organic coconut milk used, has naturally occurring vitamins and minerals to improve stomach acids and increase the chance of strain survival through the intestines.
Ultimately, if you consume a variety of nutritious foods, and supplement with vitamins and probiotic foods, depending on your lifestyle and choice, you will have an adequate amount of amino acids to fuel your body to perform all the tasks and duties of the day. Pick one day a week to prepare a meatless meal for your friends and family. Involve those that you are close with to hold you accountable. Then gradually start implementing other vitamins, minerals, and living-probiotics into your daily routine. This will be sure to make a healthy start to a new year!