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Essential Vitamins for a Plant Based Diet

Lots of people ask about getting appropriate nutrients while cleansing or when eating a plan-based diet, the good news is a whole foods, plant-based diet is cocked full of nutrients! In this post I’ll cover Calcium. Vitamins D and B12.

Calcium

Calcium is one of those things you hear about when you tell someone you are not eating dairy.

broccoli_smallMarketing has led us to believe that without dairy our bones will become brittle and break and we will surely suffer from osteoporosis. It always amazes me that in North America we consume the most dairy in the world yet we have the most osteoporosis as well. The movie Forks over Knives does a good job covering this.

When we take a close look at where calcium comes from it starts to make some sense that dairy is not the answer. Calcium is a mineral that is found in the ground. Plants are great at absorbing this mineral from the soil. Calcium is not produced by cows it is consumed by cows when they eat plants. When we eat the plants directly not only do we get all the calcium we need easily, we avoid the saturated fat, cholesterol, hormones, and contamination that comes along with taking
milk from cows. As a bonus plants give us other minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients and fiber that we can not get from dairy.

So which greens are your best source of calcium? The award goes to: Collards, turnip greens, bok choy, mustard greens, kale, broccoli.

Vitamin D

Vegan food sources of Vitamin D include fortified foods like nondairy milks, fortified cereals, and even some brands of orange juice. The only natural vegan food that contains vitamin D is mushrooms but the levels vary so mushrooms are not considered a reliable source. The best and easiest way to get vitamin D is through exposure to the sun. In the summer 15 minutes of exposure on the hands and face 2-3 times per week will produce an adequate amount of vitamin D.

In the early spring and late fall we need more time outside to get our vitamin D and in our climate over the winter the sun in not as strong and we don’t make vitamin D nearly as well. During the winter consuming fortified foods are the best thing to do. If those fortified foods listed are not part of your diet then a vitamin D supplement is the next best option. Vitamin D3 is derived from animal sources and vitamin D2 is vegan. Taking 600 IU (15 mcg)/day during the winter if not eating fortified food is all you need.

Vitamin B12

If you are eating a balanced whole plant-based diet with lot of green leafy vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes there will generally be no need to add supplements to your diet. There is one exception to the rule however, and that is B12. B12 comes from bacteria that is living in the soil. When animals eat vegetation they consume this bacteria and it lives in their digestive system.

When we eat animal-based foods the bacteria finds its way to us. So if we are not eating animal products we can choose to eat B12 fortified foods like cereals, nutritional yeast and plant milks and as a precautionary measure it is a good idea to take a B12 supplement. The good news is you only need to take one per week as long as it is a higher dose like 2000 micrograms.

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