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October 12 2020

The Top 10 Questions People Ask About Vegan Diets

All vegans know the main questions that come from family members, friends and sometimes strangers when we say that we eat a vegan diet. They are valid questions and we thought they needed straight answers. It's important to find a right balance, get all of the right nutrients in, manage to meet our daily needs. 
Although following a plant based diet seems much harder than it is, it still requires a bit more attention. The reason is, eating meat and dairy makes it easy to get different a massive variety of nutrients in one place, whereas getting energy from plant based sources means it is necessary to include a lot more of variety into your diet.

If you're in Switzerland and you want to shop vegan foods and supplements, head to our food section

Even we tend to get lazy from time to time, not always being extra careful with our diet. But we usually bounce back, especially now that we're all staying home, we get to cook more and eat balanced meals. With that, we want to share the basics on how to succeed on a vegan diet as it comes with so many benefits for our health, the planet and all its ecosystems. As always, it’s not about doing everything right, but about having the right information to go at your own pace and feel empowered by your eating, even if it is just cutting down on meat a day a week or adding more veggies on your plate. Of course, these are just our personal habits and they should never replace professional medical advice. 

'Food is not just calories, it is information It talks to your DNA and tells it what to do. The most powerful tool to change your health, environment and entire world is your fork.'

Dr. Mark Hyman


As overwhelming as it may seem to construct a balanced plate every day, it doesn’t have to be. Bear in mind that it is not because you are going vegan that you will have to keep track of every portion of every meal, instead try to think of eating as much variety as you can throughout the week.
We use this simple method to visualise what we need and what we (ideally) aim at having on our plate : 1/2 vegetables and/or fruits, 1/4 grains and 1/4 plant based protein. Added to that, adding some healthy fats sources to provide omega 3s, B12 and Vitamin D supplements to keep our levels up and meet our nutritional target. It's also important to note that vegan meals should be bigger than the usual non vegan plate. Vegan foods are naturally less nutrient and calorie dense so if you're eating a lot in the beginning, you're on the right path. 

1. Where do you get your protein?

We can’t even count how many times we heard the phrase ‘But where do you get your proteins from?‘. Protein is very important on a structural point, to build our muscles, our bones and organs, but also chemically for our hormones and neurotransmitters. When it comes to it, there are two things we need to be cautious of.

Protein Intake

The daily intake recommendation is of 0.8 grams per 1 kg body weight. This means you should to multiply your weight times 0.8 and aim for this amount. This is just an average and depends on your physical conditions, activity, if you’re pregnant, etc. Truth is, protein is easier to overload on than to really lack of since it is present in most foods, (even in lettuce). We do make sure we're getting all amino acids but we don't focus that much on counting protein. Intuitive eating is our motto, we eat more legumes, nuts and tofu when we feel we need more. 

Protein Type 

Proteins are built themselves from amino acids. From these 20 amino acids, around 9 have to come from our diet as the other 11 can be made by the body. Again, meat and fish are considered to be ‘complete sources’ because they contain all of them. However, if you eat a plant based diet, you have to get them from different aliments -one may contain 4 or 5, but not all of them in one. There is no need to get all 9 in every meal, but we should still aim at including them through the day / week as much as possible. For these reasons, the important is to get as much variety as possible, even in the type of beans or legumes we are eating. Our favourite sources are quinoa, nuts and seeds, beans, leafy greens, lentils. If your worry is not getting enough proteins in, you can always easily supplement with a protein powder like hemp or pea protein. If it’s the case, make sure you choose a brand and a product as clean as possible in terms of ingredients. 
vegan diet

2. Do you eat enough fats?

A lot of people are afraid of fat because they’re higher in calories, but good fats are important for our brain to work properly, our mood, our hormone imbalance, reducing inflammation, good hair and skin, immune system, cardiovascular and joint healthOf course, there are different types and not all of them are equally healthful. The good ones are some saturated fats (such as coconut oil), poly unsaturated fat (omegas 3 and 6), mono unsaturated fats (olive oil, avocados…) and we want all of them in our diet. Omega-6 are really abundant in a vegan diet, it's very important to balance it with omega-3 and choose oils that have a good ratio, like rapeseed and olive oil. The last group are trans fat, the bad kind we want to avoid. They tend to be more processed fats, oils heated to high temperature, margarine, deep fried food, etc.  We try keeping our fats intake from whole foods sources and use oil moderately. Some good plant based sources are: avocados, ground flax, chia, walnuts, hemp, pecans, olives, coconut, all nut butters & seeds…

3. What if I'm already low in iron?

Iron is much needed for our energy, a well functioning thyroid, mood and good immune system amongst others. It also carries oestrogens around in the body. If your levels are low, you can quickly notice it due to a deep fatigue, feeling heavy, faint and/or repetitive headaches. We usually need around 14 mg per day, but it varies depending on your gender (women need more than men because of their periods), and, of course, if you’re pregnant. There are two types of iron:
  • Heme, found in animal product, more easily absorbed by the body
  • Non-heme, which is found in plant based sources, less easily absorbed
This means the recommended daily intake for vegetarians and vegans is almost 2 times higher than for meat eaters. Also, eating vitamin C rich foods will help the body absorb it better. We tend to avoid supplementing with iron because some deficiencies could be linked to pathogens eating away at the body's iron. In that case, iron supplements would feed the bad bacteria and perpetuate the problem. Instead we would focus on cleansing out bad bacteria with a gentle gut cleanser or some good old celery juice and our favorite probioticsSome good plant based sources are: soy derived products, lentils, beans, peas, nuts and seeds, leafy vegetables, seaweed…

healthy fats

4. How do you get calcium without dairy?

The myth is that you need to drink a lot of milk and eat a lot of dairy to get your calcium levels up and have strong bones. In reality, studies show that it actually has the opposite effect. This is because dairy products are acidic and in order to alkalize our pH, our body uses its calcium stores, lowering their levels. To get a good calcium intake, vegans should include a wide variety of leafy greens and crucifers into their diet. We try to stay away from fortified calcium aliments, because they're quite controversial, and stick to foods instead. Some of the best plant based sources include collards, mustard and turnip greens, kale, bok choy, tempeh, tahini, dried figs…

5. Are you B12 deficient?

B12 is the most important to supplement with, as it helps us make our DNA and maintain nerve cellsliver functionhormone balance and cardiovascular support. If lacking this vitamin, you can start feeling depressed, numb, lose balance or have a confuse mind. Even meat eaters can have deficiencies, it depends on how your body absorbs it.
Our ancestors used to get B12 from the earth (literally dirt), but in our highly sanitized food system, they're now only available in specific foods like algae or mushrooms. It's still very difficult if not impossible for plant based eaters to get enough B12 through food. For our health we usually supplement with B12 year round. Liquid forms of B12 work best. Since our bodies store this vitamin, so the longer you have been following a plant based diet, the more chance you have of lacking it. Before supplementing, it is important to get your level tested as everyone is different and it is common that our body do not absorb B12 correctly. 

6. Do you get enough Vitamin D ? (nobody really asks this) 

Vitamin D acts as a hormone and is needed for a better calcium absorption, for the immune systembone health, muscle function and higher mood. You can get it through your diet, by eating aliments that bathed in the sun, by exposing your skin to sunlight or through supplements. The best is to get at least 20 minutes of direct exposure, bearing in mind that wearing sunscreen will keep our body from making vitamin D.
To get it through our diet, the best is to eat foods fortified with the vitamin. Otherwise, you can get it through tofu or mushrooms, but usually the best if you don’t live in a very sunny place is to supplement. 

We love to discuss health and wellness from our experience. Leave a comment if you have any questions. 

Tagged: Food, Health, Lifestyle


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