Mum of a Vegan – Zinc

Zinc is another extremely important mineral that can be low in some vegans. Zinc is used for many functions in the body including protein digestion, healing and repair, production of hormones, production of enzymes and as part of our antioxidant and immune systems. It is also helpful in getting rid of cadmium in the body. High cadmium levels are possibly associated with risk for heart disease and very high levels can impact bone health and both liver and kidney function. Zinc enhances production of a protein that binds to cadmium and prevents its damaging effects.The recommended daily intakes of zinc are 7 mg for women and 9.5 mg for men. This is because zinc is used up in the production of semen. As we have seen with iron, there are many plant based sources of zinc but there is evidence that they are less biologically available for the body to use, so again a vegan needs to think more about including zinc rich foods in their diet, than someone who also eats meat and fish. The best sources of zinc in vegan diets are legumes (beans, soy foods and peanuts), nuts and seeds. The table below shows some good sources and the amount of zinc they provide. These foods are also good sources of both beneficial oils and protein too and some of them also contain iron. Amount of food Amount of zinc mg 30g hulled hemp seeds 3.0 30g pumpkin seeds 2.0 30g cashew nuts 1.8 100g tofu 1.6 150g cooked quinoa 1.6 30g chia seeds 1.4 30g ground flaxseeds 1.3 2 slices medium wholemeal bread 1.2 30g...

Mum of a Vegan – Vitamin B12

This week I am continuing to look at micronutrients. The next one is Vitamin B12 which is crucial for health but particularly difficult for vegans to consume in their diet as it is found in animal products.This nutrient is needed to help speed up reactions in your body. Deficiency can cause anaemia and nervous system damage. Sub optimum levels are also linked to potential risk of heart disease or pregnancy complications. Vitamin B12 is made by micro-organisms and isn’t produced by plants. Fortified foods and supplements are the only proven reliable sources for vegans:If aiming to get from food, the vegan society recommends that you should have 3 mcg per day from fortified foods:Vitamin B12 is added to some alternatives to milk products, soy products, vegan spreads, nutritional yeast flakes, yeast extracts and breakfast cereals. You can check the amount per serving on the back of the pack. Aim for a daily intake of at least 3 mcg (micrograms), spread over several sittings. For example if a serving of fortified plant milk contains 1 microgram of B12 per serving then consuming three servings a day will provide adequate vitamin B12. Some of the fortified foods that my son has regularly are Marigold Savoury Engevita yeast flakes, which can be added to soups and casseroles to improve their flavour. A teaspoon contains 2.2 mcg B12. It also contains other B vitamins plus some iron and zinc. 100ml Oatly Oat milk has 0.4 mcg B12, a serving or Cheerios has 2.9 mcg and a teaspoon of Marmite has 0.5mcg. Some vegans may prefer to supplement. The advice is to take either...

Mum of a Vegan – Iron Levels

The last couple of weeks I have talked about the issues concerning macronutrients particularly ensuring that your child has they right fats and protein when on a vegan diet.   For the next few weeks I am going to look at some of the vitamins and minerals that your vegan son or daughter may be lacking in. One of the big ones is iron.  Iron is an essential mineral and is a component of haemoglobin, that carries oxygen round the body to give you energy. The recommended daily intake of iron varies by age and gender. This is because too much iron is not good for you. Dose recommendations are: 8mg in children aged 9-13 years11mg in teenagers aged 14-18 years18 mg in women  age 19-50 years8 mg in men 19-50 years, and 8 mg in all adults over 50 years.   The difference between young women and men is to do with blood losses from menstruation.  Iron deficiency anaemia is associated with fatigue, weakness, light-headedness and shortness of breath. Many plants do contain reasonable levels of iron.   Good sources include: dark green leafy veg, such as collard, kale and spinachbeans, such as haricot, butter, pinto, black and soylentilsseeds including  pumpkin, sesame and sunflower dried apricotsherbs such as thyme and parsley Indeed, several studies have indicated that vegetarians and vegans may often consume more iron than meat eaters. However, as was the case for good oils the form the iron comes in varies between plant and animal sources, which can have a big effect on how available it is for the body to use.  There are 2 types of iron:...

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...