A balanced diet: It’s all about the nutrients

What's new

Vegan and vegetarian diets are gaining popularity by the day, so it makes sense people want to find out more about these diets. The main question we see is about the nutrients in a plant-based diet. Does this type of diet give you all the nutrients you need or is there something you need to be aware of? Find out the basics of a balanced vegetarian or vegan diet in this article.  

Sorting out your protein

Proteins are a big deal. (Read up on the power of protein here). When you’re on a vegan or vegetarian diet, you’re missing out on proteins of animal origin, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get all the nutrients you need. On the contrary: there’s loads of protein to get from plant-based products; you just need a bit of extra focus on balancing what you eat.

Combining legume protein sources with cereals is a good way to include all the necessary amino acids (that form a protein) in our diet. It’s all about making combinations. For example, vegetables are poor in methionine, but cereals are full of it. Cereals, in turn, lack lysine, an amino acid that legumes on their turn do contain. So you see, the key is in variation and combination.

How much protein do you need?

The international recommendations for an adult are an average of 0.8 g/kg body weight/day of protein. This means that if a person weighs 65 kg, they should consume at least 52 grams of protein throughout the day. That might seem like a lot, but with a balanced diet, reaching this amount won’t take a lot of planning. An average breakfast with oatmeal and soy milk will contain about 13 grams of protein and 2 whole wheat peanut butter sandwiches will get you about 15 grams of protein. Having a handful of almonds as an afternoon snack will get you another 4 grams of protein. For dinner, a simple dish with tofu (12 grams protein in 150 grams of tofu), brown rice and broccoli (9 grams of protein) will get you very close to your recommended intake and we haven’t even looked at fruits and other veggies you might eat throughout the day. So you see, with a varied plant-based diet, you’re very likely to get in all the protein you need.

Essential nutrients for a balanced diet

Even though proteins are important, they’re not the only thing that you should focus on for a balanced diet. There’s also Omega 3 fatty acids, iron, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12 that are essential for your body when you’re on a meat-free diet.

To give you a head start for that balanced diet, here’s a list that shows you why these nutrients are so important and some of the products that contain these nutrients.

 

Omega-3 fatty acids

What’s it good for (among others): your heart, blood vessels, eyes & brain. They’re important in the creation of hormones and the function of your nerve and immune system[1]

Plant-based foods rich in Omega 3: Flax seeds, walnuts, chia seed, canola, microalgae.[2]

 

Iron

What’s it good for (among others): Iron promotes the transport of oxygen through the blood.

Plant-based foods rich in iron: Soya, legumes, spinach, nuts and whole grains. [3]

 

Calcium

What’s it good for (among others): Calcium is necessary for the maintenance of bones & teeth.

Plant-based foods rich in calcium: spinach, almonds, hazelnuts, figs, tofu. [4]

 

Vitamin D

What’s it good for (among others): It helps your body absorb calcium and maintain its level of magnesium and plays a crucial role in brain development, heart function, your immune system and mental health.[5]

Plant-based foods with Vitamin D: some mushrooms, tofu and egg yolk[6]. The main source of vitamin D comes from sun exposure.

Vitamin B12

What’s it good for (among others): This water-soluble vitamin is necessary for the formation of red blood cells, among other functions.

Plant-based foods rich in Vitamin B12: Nutritional yeast, fortified plant-based milk, Tempeh, mushrooms[7]

Although there are plant-based products fortified with this vitamin, It can be a good idea to  look into vitamin B-12 supplements. if you are unsure about your intake of these vitamins, you can always consult a dietician.


[1] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/17-health-benefits-of-omega-3#TOC_TITLE_HDR_9

[2] https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-eating/choosing-healthy-fats.htm

[3] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/iron-rich-plant-foods

[4] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/15-calcium-rich-foods

[5] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-d-foods-for-vegetarians

[6] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-d-foods-for-vegetarians

[7] https://www.freshnlean.com/blog/vegan-b12-sources/