Mum of a Vegan – A Question of Protein

Last week, I talked about good oils. The other big one for vegans and (to a lesser extent) vegetarians is protein. We all need protein for repair and replacement of all cells in our body, for building muscle, for making hormones  such as insulin, thyroxin and the sex hormones and for brain chemicals that control mood including serotonin and dopamine. If your vegan child is still growing, a good amount of protein is especially important. Ideally aim for around 50g protein per day or maybe a little more. You can easily get enough protein from a plant-based diet, but it is important to think about it more than if you eat animal protein.  This is because no one plant protein contains all the essential amino acids.  As such variety is key, as that way you will get different amino acids from your different foods.  For example, combining brown rice and a lentil dahl gives complete protein. Vegetable proteins tend to provide lower absolute levels than meat. For example, a chicken breast contains about 27g protein, an egg has 6g, ½ cup of quinoa has 12g, 100g lentils has 9g,  100g peas has 5g and 12 almonds have 3g.  Do help your vegan child to include protein at each meal or snack. The good news is that many vegetable proteins are cheap, easily available and simple to add to a range of dishes.  Tinned beans are simpler to use than dried beans, they are just as good for you and in fact for some people may be easier to digest. Some of my son’s staples include: Breakfasts Nut based muesli...

Mum of a Vegan Part 2 – by Ann

Following on from last week, I would like to use the next few weeks to look at some of the practical solutions we have come to for my vegan son to ensure he minimises the risk of deficiencies.  If you are a vegan the nutrients that you might be low in  include beneficial oils, protein, iron,  Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, iodine and calcium.   As a nutritional therapist I have learned about the importance of omega 3  for many aspects of health and the fact that the most biologically available omega 3 comes from fish and seafood.   Benefits of a good omega 3 status include good mood, hormone health and brain development in terms of cognition, memory and focus.  It is also protective of the heart and reduces inflammation.  There is even a suggestion that one of the contributors to the evolution of human intelligence is because our ancestors ate a lot of fish.  Dolphins (considered the second most intelligent species) also have a diet dominated by saltwater animal seafood, fish and shellfish.  These food groups have a very specific range of micronutrients, specifically DHA and EPA omega 3 fatty acids and iodine. Without access to that exact combination in their food over hundreds of generations, a mammal species seemingly can’t evolve a large brain. E.g. sea cows haven’t evolved large brains, because they are aquatic herbivores and not carnivores. Because of this, I had spent all my children’s formative years feeding them fish and giving them fish oil supplements when fish was less palatable to them.  So a lack of omega 3 was my biggest single concern when my...

Mum of a Vegan by Ann

My son became a vegan overnight in January 2018, whilst in his final year of a psychology degree in Bath.  Even though he lived away from home half the year and I am a nutritional therapist, I still found it a challenge to manage.  As a very considerate boy and the oldest of 4 children he had always been the peace maker in the family, the one who would take one for the team and would compromise so that his more vocal younger siblings got their way. However, prior to becoming a vegan he had a lot of research and had concluded that this was an entirely necessary step to save the planet and became quite evangelical about it. This caused some issues in the family as the others were not initially convinced by his views, felt a little judged by him and were surprised by the change in him.  In addition to my children, I had a young lodger staying and had to give a lot more thought towards what we would all eat to make sure everyone was eating a balanced diet and I wasn’t tearing my hair out.  As my son is so well informed and so passionate, other family members began to consider his arguments. There was also a lot in the media about the need for a plant-based diet and some of their friends were also making changes.  After this, different members of the family started to give up different foods. My husband and youngest daughter gave up all red meat mainly due to its impact on the environment.  It is due to the...