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January 11, 2021
Monthly Bites #6 - January 2021
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Ready to say “See ya!” to your Steak Knife?
Ahh, the New Year. A time to start fresh with new ideas, goals, aspirations and plans to make the next 365 days thebest days yet! This post was inspired by a friend of mine who recently shared that she wanted to work on improvingher diet in the New Year by consuming less meat/animal products and incorporating a more plant-base eatingpattern. As a nutrition professional, my reaction was two-fold:
Mazel Tov! (That’s Hebrew for congratulations 🙂 ). I give kudos to anyone and everyone who has the drive toimprove their health, particularly when it comes to what they put in their bodies.
Caution. Incorporating a plant-based diet, while it reaps major health benefits, promotes desired weight loss andhas been shown to prevent/manage chronic illnesses, can also result in both macro (carbs/protein/fat) and micro(vitamin and mineral) nutrient deficiencies if done without the proper planning.
So what is one to do who is driven to set that steak knife aside and trade their beef and pork for some beans and brusselsprouts? According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, there are eight nutrition considerations forvegetarians/vegans when making their meal and snack choices. Let’s review these one-by-one:
PROTEINThat magical macronutrient that repairs muscle tissue, helps maintain the body’s fluid balance, aides ininsulin/blood glucose regulation- really, what does protein NOT do for us?! Being that protein is so essential andthe body cannot make it on its own, consuming a vegetarian/vegan diet rich in a variety of whole grains (cereals,whole-grain breads and pasta), legumes and soy products will assist the vegetarian/vegan with eating a diet thatcontains all essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDSLove it or hate it, fat is an essential nutrient just as much as protein and carbohydrate. It’s used to provideenergy, insulate against temperature extremes and build cell structures among other jobs. Without the animalsources of fish and eggs, it can be difficult for a vegetarian or vegan to consume the appropriate amount of fatnecessary for these jobs. Sources such as soy milk, fortified breakfast bars (fortified with the omega-3 acid DHA),flaxseed, avocado, cashews and walnuts can promote adequate dietary fat consumption.
IRONHelping to accept, carry and release oxygen in red blood cells and muscle cells, iron’s vitality is strong. Becauseof its role with oxygen transport and its inability to be made in the body, plant-based eaters should consume avariety of beans, iron-fortified breads and cereals, potatoes w/ skin, tomatoes, spinach and broccoli. While thebioavailability of iron from plant foods is less than that of animal-based foods, absorption of iron from plantbasedfoods can be enhanced by eating/drinking vitamin C-rich sources (think: fruits) and limiting coffee, herbaltea and cocoa.
ZINCWere you able to avoid those annual sniffles or feel like your mind is thinking a little bit clearer lately? Then youmight have the trace mineral Zinc to thank for that! Assisting in immune function, behavior and learningperformance, Zinc partners with proteins to work on a variety of metabolic processes. Sources include soyproducts, legumes, grains, cheese and nuts. Like iron, consuming vitamin C-rich foods may also enhanceabsorption.
IODINEAdequate amounts of iodine in the diet are essential to help regulate body temperature, metabolic rate, growthand nerve and muscle function. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), the best mostmajor source of iodine is the ocean. That being said, iodized salt and sea vegetables such as kelp and spirulina(may be found in supplement form) are the best sources of iodine for folks who are avoiding animal products.
CALCIUMAn integral part of bone structure, serving as an attachment point for muscles and helping to protect againsthypertension, calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and must be replaced with adequate intake allthroughout the lifecycle. Luckily there are multiple options for vegetarians and vegans alike. For lacto-ovovegetarians, good sources to include would be cow’s milk, cheese, sardines w/ bones and yogurt. Forvegans/vegetarians, greens including kale, collards and broccoli, calcium-fortified juices and tofu, calciumfortifiedbreads and cereals, almonds, sesame seeds and soy milk would be appropriate choices.
VITAMIN DKnown as the “sunlight vitamin,” Vitamin D has active roles in multiple areas of the body including the brain andnervous system, bones, pancreas, skin, muscles and many cancer cells. For vegans, vegetarians as well as meatlovers alike, sun exposure along with intake of vitamin-D fortified foods such as soy milk, rice milk, fortified juicesand breakfast cereals are recommended.
VITAMIN B12Helping to maintain nerve cells and break down proteins and fats for energy, Vitamin B12 is most significantlyfound in animal sources including meat, fish, poultry, shellfish, milk, cheese and eggs. Therefore, the lacto-ovovegetarian is in a better position to meet their needs for B12 than someone who follows a vegan diet. That beingsaid, there is hope! Vitamin B12 fortified foods such as soy and rice beverages, some breakfast cereals, meatanalogs and nutritional yeast may be used to get the appropriate amounts of Vitamin B12, which for adults is 2.4micrograms/day.
Hopefully you have had time throughout your holiday festivities to come up with a list of a few specific, measurable,achievable, realistic and time-sensitive (i.e. SMART) goals to focus on we progress through 2021. Whether your goal is toincorporate a more plant-based diet, or to simply not eat ALL the meat (moderation, right? :)), I truly hope this informationserves you well on your journey toward the happiest and healthiest version of the already-magnificent YOU!To your ongoing health and wellness,Dana Kennedy, RDN LDNSources: Whitney, Eleanor Noss and Rolfes, Sharon Rudy. Understanding Nutrition, 9th Edition. Peter Marshall. 2002.Not a member yet and don’t know where to start?Try our No-Sweat Intro!This FREE 20 minute consultation includes a tour of our amazing facility, a body composition scan, and a goal setting session to help you become the best you can be!Click the link below to schedule an appointment NOW!