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Sharp Health News

How to eat healthy when eating vegan

Oct. 29, 2019

How to eat healthy when eating vegan
Although a vegan lifestyle is promoted as environmentally sustainable and may help reduce the risk of several medical conditions, if not done correctly, it can come with other health concerns, including vitamin B12 deficiency.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, risks of B12 deficiency can include:

  • Anemia
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Dementia
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty maintaining balance
  • Soreness of the mouth and tongue
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
“In order to maintain a vegan diet, vegans must regularly consume reliable sources of B12, protein and calcium,” explains Patti Ennis, registered dietitian and manager of the clinical nutrition department at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center.

Reliable B12 sources
B12 supplements are usually recommended and easy to consume. From nutritional yeast to fermented foods, B12 can also be found in fortified cereals such as corn or bran flakes and rice squares.

Protein alternatives
“Protein is always the biggest concern when adopting a meatless eating plan because most people think of animal meat as the only source of protein,” says Ennis. “A diet rich in grains, nuts and vegetables will provide all the essential amino acids needed.”

Meatless protein options include:

  • Tofu and tempeh
  • Whole-grain bread
  • Green peas
  • Oats and oatmeal
  • Wild rice
  • Lentils
  • Vegan meat alternatives
Calcium alternatives
Although vegans don’t consume dairy, they are able to meet daily calcium recommendations through the foods they eat. “Many vegetables contain calcium,” explains Ennis. “But it’s recommended to consume vegetables with low oxalate content as well, such as kale, turnip greens and bok choy.” Oxalate is a naturally occurring chemical that binds to calcium and can increase the risk of kidney stones.

Calcium can also be obtained from fortified plant milks such as:

  • Almond milk
  • Oat milk
  • Soy milk
  • Rice milk
  • Coconut milk
Eliminating meat and dairy from your diet is completely achievable, but just like any other diet, Ennis cautions that people should continue to consume the necessary nutrients and vitamins for optimal health.

Find vegan recipes on Sharp Health News.

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