I am always surprised when I tell someone I don’t eat dairy or meat that they still ask: “Where do you get your calcium and protein from?” or “Do you eat a lot of beans and rice?” My answers nowadays: “I get those nutrients from almost every single piece of food I put in my mouth. Virtually all foods in nature have calcium and protein as part of their make up” and “I love beans and rice and eat many varieties of both fairly regularly, but maybe not anymore often than you do.”
I can’t bring myself to make this a post about HOW vegans can easily get both of those nutrients in abundance, and WHY many meat eaters may be getting way too much or not enough just as easily. There is so much great information out there these days explaining all of that.
More important questions you should be asking vegans:
Where do you get your iron and B12 from? If their answer includes that they get some from plants, a healthy gut, and from supplements, then you have an educated vegan on your hands. These two nutrients are much more complicated and more difficult for a vegan to get from foods. Supplementation in one form or another may be needed on a regular or semi-regular basis.
There are different forms of iron, and certain forms are only found in animal flesh and blood, others in plant foods, and a few varieties in supplements. (Again I will leave it up to you to read the hundreds of posts that already exist explaining heme and non-heme iron if you want more details)
Small quantities of B12 can be produced in your gut by friendly bacteria. If you eat produce right out of an organic garden with out scrubbing it clean you may get a little more.
Because iron and B12 are such important nutrients for vitality, to ensure you are getting enough of these regularly, remember to ask to get those levels measured whenever you get a blood test.
I am a vegan and my last blood test showed I was high in B12 and a little low on iron. I am a huge fan of B vitamins that are co-enzymated and I take that form consistently. I had run out of my iron supplement and was lazy about replenishing it. My favorite new iron supplement is made made from curry leaves!
Education and awareness
There are so many amazing supplements and super foods we know about now that can easily provide vegans and carnivores with the nourishment they need. We have mentioned in past posts that it is important to realize our individual needs are unique and ever-changing.
Keep in mind there are very unhealthy, or health challenged vegans, and there are as many or more that are meat eaters.
The conversation shouldn’t be about meat or no meat and preaching what feels natural to you. It should be about eating healthy, organic, whole, real food, without chemicals, poisons, or hormones. If you do that and eat a variety of it, you will be golden.
Another nutrient everyone should pay attention to is Vitamin D. No matter where you live or what you eat, deficiency is common. My last blood test showed my levels were right on, but I do supplement with D3 on a semi regular basis.
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