Many people seek a plant-based diet for health reasons, but some health and wellness experts are opposed to people consuming only plant-based foods. I have come to understand that there are 3 main reasons why some health professionals are opposed to their patients consuming a strict, plant-based diet. A plant-based diet needs to be balanced in macronutrients, often requires supplementation, and should be rich in whole, real foods. This can be challenging, but it is doable!
I’ve been fully vegan for 18 years and have been practicing naturopathic healthcare for 8 years. Here are my biggest tips to thrive as a vegan or plant-based person.
Be aware of your macronutrient intake. This means finding the optimal intake of protein, fat, and carbohydrates for your individual needs. These needs must be individualized because they are based on gender, weight, movement and other special circumstances like pregnancy and breastfeeding. An 18-year-old male football player is going to have different macronutrient needs than a 32-year-old breastfeeding female. Both individuals can be fully plant-based and healthy, but it does require them to be mindful of their nutrient intake.
I highly advise my vegan and plant-based patients to incorporate plant-based proteins like nuts, seeds, and legumes into every single meal. It’s also important to note that amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are available in a well-rounded plant-based diet and support the production of protein as well. I also advise that they rotate within their diet several types of proteins and don’t overdo any single protein.
I personally am a fan of quality vegan protein powders to help supplement the diet and keep optimal balance of macronutrients. One of my top favorite powders is NuMedica’s Total Vegan Protein. Both the vanilla and chocolate flavors are delicious mixed in unflavored almond milk as well as in smoothies.
Supplement with high quality nutrients. The vegan diet is naturally lower in nutrients like vitamin B12, vitamin D3, iron, and omega-3s. This isn’t to say they are not in the diet at all, but my vegan patients who get annual blood work and are supplementing these nutrients tend to have more optimal levels.
Since getting enough B12 in the plant-based diet is difficult I recommend a good B12 supplement like the B12 Blend 25000 mcg by Global Healing Center. This B12 is in liquid form and easy to dose for the whole plant-based family. My absolute favorite iron for those who know they are deficient and need to supplement is NuMedica’s Hemeplex FE. It is gentle on the stomach and highly absorbable with other nutrients that support its absorption like vitamin C. Most patients I test, vegans and non-vegans alike, are low in D3. One of my favorite D3 supplements is liquid drops or capsules of D3 by Pure Encapsulations. I prefer my patients test their level first to determine what dose they should take to get their level up to an optimal range. The next product I typically have my patients on is Omega-3s from algae. I really like Nordic Naturals Algae Omega and depending on my patient’s need, I will dose this supplement higher to address inflammation.
Eat whole foods. Many people in the health and wellness field believe that plant-based eaters are over-consuming faux meats that have a lot of artificial and lab-made ingredients. Personally, as a long -time vegan, I appreciate the many options that we have now but also believe a diet primarily based on whole foods is best. I believe it best to strive for balance in all types of diets because when people are overly dogmatic about their food selection this can lead to a slippery slope of disordered eating.
Aim for most of the foods you eat to be fresh foods as free of processing and preservatives as possible. Ever heard the phrase “eat the rainbow”? Your plate should be colorful with fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Whole foods are more vital and anti-inflammatory. Aim to eat 3-5 servings of fresh fruit and 5-7 servings of fresh vegetables each day. I know that it’s not easy to cook everything you eat so opt for convenient yet healthy options.
I love the piña colada smoothie from our Peoples Deli and the new Middle Eastern wrap is delicious! If you are a big fan of juices, I highly recommend trying each organic juice we have to offer! I helped create Joyful Greens—it’s my absolute favorite— and it’s perfect for those wanting to incorporate the benefits of greens into their diet.
As with all ways of eating, make sure your plant-based diet is well-rounded and you are listening to your body’s needs. Seeking the care of a nutritionist or naturopathic doctor supportive of a vegan diet is important and will help you thrive.
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Looking to dig in a little deeper and work with a practitioner that can help you improve your health in 2022?
Naturopathic Doctor Lauren Sanchez is accepting new patients at Infinity Wellness Center.