2.55 WFPB – Nutrition on a Whole Food Plant Based Diet
In this HeartStrong.com video/article, we will explore meeting nutritional needs on a whole food plant based diet. Many people may be worried about meeting all your nutritional needs on a whole foods plant based diet. There is no need to worry at all. You can quite easily get all the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins/minerals) on a plant based diet. In fact, you will get way more than you need and actually significantly more than on a traditional standard American diet while avoiding harmful things such as cholesterol and saturated fats.
Many people do not realize how much protein is in plant foods which we already discussed in the HeartStrong.com program here. There is almost double the amount of protein in broccoli compared to beef calorie for calorie. Beans and nuts are very high in protein as are whole grain oats/wheat. You get all the essential amino acids that you need. Protein is the least of your concerns on a plant based diet. It is impossible to become protein deficient on a varied whole foods plant based diet as long as you are not calorie deficient.
Worried about losing muscle in this diet due to lack of protein? There are many plant based athletes such as the worlds strongest man Patrik Baboumian and ultra endurance athlete Rich Roll (who did 5 ironman triathlons in 5 days on 5 different islands of Hawaii). They sure have muscle and get all their protein from plants. Also, think about the some large muscular animals such as elephants and gorillas who are completely plant eaters. Getting protein and building muscle on a plant based diet is not a concern.
When considering vitamins and minerals, there are more concerns on a traditional American diet than on a plant based diet. It is easy to get what you need through plant based nutrition. You will find that most vitamins you will get way more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA). A website, CronoMeter.com, is a great resource to track you macronutrients and micronutrients to be sure there is nothing that you are missing. It is interesting to see how many people on the standard American diet do not come anywhere close to meeting their nutritional needs and how much of a dramatic increase they see as they transition to a more plant based diet.
Having said that, one micronutrient to mention is vitamin B12 which is made by bacteria in the soil. Animal based foods with have a lot of bacteria and thus vitamin B12, however in modern times we wash our produce very well removing bacteria, so on a plant based diet vitamin B12 is lacking. Your liver has 3-5 years of vitamin B12 stored in it, so there is no need to rush out and get a B12 supplement the first week of a plant based diet, however long-term it will be necessary unless you use a lot of vitamin B12 fortified foods in your diet plan. Also, consider the recommendation that ALL adults take a B12 supplement when over the age of 50 due to the decreased absorption over time, regardless of their dietary pattern.
Vitamin D is not really a vitamin, but actually a hormone. Your body makes vitamin D when exposed to the sun. Americans typically do not get enough sun and if not consumed in the diet are at risk for vitamin D insufficiency or deficiency. To prevent this, many foods are fortified with vitamin D, especially dairy. As you know, getting your vitamin D from dairy is a bad idea due to the negative health consequences of this food group. If you do not get enough sun, do not take a multivitamin or do not eat other foods with vitamin D (fortified plant milks), consider taking a vitamin D supplement IF your blood levels have been shown to be low on a test.
Lastly, the omega-3 fatty acids were previously discussed. Add ground flax, chia seeds, hemp seeds or other omega-3 rich foods (which are plentiful) or consider taking an algae based omega-3 supplement if you are concerned or advanced in age.