Balanced means a little bit of everything - in the picture above, I tried to include an extract of all the ingredients your diet needs in order to fuel your muscles, your brain and your soul so you can face any challenge coming your way.
The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (A.N.D.), formerly American Dietetic Association (ADA) approves the health benefits (at any life stage) in their position paper of 2009 .
Many people tend to think, protein is something rare in our food. Protein is something, everybody who dealt with nutrition at any point of his or her life has thought about. There are companies and health coaches, fitness trainers or magazines that want you to believe it is hard to yield enough of this macro nutrient through "normal" nutrition. Unless your "normal" is doing without whole grains, potatos, pulses, soy products, nuts or seeds you should have sufficient protein for your daily needs. No supplement needed.
What does your body need protein for? Protein is, other than the two other major nutrients (carbohydrates and fats), foremost a building substance for your body and not mainly a source of energy. This might be one reason, many people think protein is THE nutrient to nourish on, which will never make you gain weight. It will make you magically grow muscles. Unfortunately most human bodies don't function by magic and only grow muscle substance when they exercise. Yes, your body will need protein to build up muscle tissue, but around 1 gramme per kilogramme body weight should be enough for this. If you intend to build up extensive amounts of muscle or are an athlete seeking information, personalized advice from health professionals who deal with sports nutrition is highly recommended. Otherwise, you don't have to worry about your muscles fading away just because of a plant based diet - if your work them regularly and nourish on a mix of pulses, soy products, seeds, nuts, whole grains and potatos during every meal, your body will thank you!
Who has already done a bit of research on the plant based / vegan diet, will for sure have read about this micro nutrient (micros are the health-essential little nutrients like vitamins, minerals and phyto chemicals).
This is why: The vegan diet would (without fortified products like plant drinks, cereal or specific supplements from the pharmacy) lack in Vitamin B12 (aka [Methyl-]Cobalamin). Many health professionals or "coaches" propagate, that only animal products provide us humans with this precious, essential substance but have they ever wondered why?
Where do animals, who mainly eat plants, get this vitamin from, then?!
Easy answer: Farming means that farmers are feeding the animals with the substances they choose or get from their supplier. To ensure their growing to be as fast and trouble-free as possible, there are fortified products, which provide the animals with their daily dose of vitamin B 12 and other essential substances.
Our ancestors probably used to take up Vitamin B12 by eating from the soil without washing everything accurately since Vitamin B12 is produced by micro-organisms. Methylcobalamin is necessary for several functions in our body, as an essential co-factor, involved in cell development. Without it, severe damage is forseeable. Lack in Vitamin B12 results in nerve damage, anaemia, problems within the circulation and nervous system. Pregnant women have to ensure their supply of this nutrient to provide their little passenger with Vitamin B12 as well, so it can develop well [1,2]. Although the absorption of Vitamin B12 takes place in the first part of the small intestine (the intrinsic factor of the stomach cells is needed to absorb it), there is the option to support the uptake with a special, fortified toothpaste. This is possible, because B 12 is bound by proteins in the saliva, so the firt step of digestion, as so often, already happens in the mouth .
Other nutrients of concern might be iron, selenium, zinc and iodine. Essential unsaturated fatty acids, for which fish is the most popular but rather the least environmentally friendly source, can be found in nuts, especially walnuts, in seeds, especially linseeds, and their oils and in olives and extra virgin olive oil .
"Dead" hair, hair loss, dry and brittle nails, dry and sensitive skin, slow healing of wounds, stains on the nails and different nervous symptoms like headaches, fatigue, tingling sensations are signs, that your body is missing something.
This can either be either some dietary requirements which you can get right with a variety or different grains like amaranth, millet, oats, barley, rice etc. in their whole grain version, colourful veg'n'fruit plus pulses like lentils, chick peas, peas and all kinds of beans in your diet.
On the other hand, stress and unpleasant life circumstances are another reason, why your body can show you these indicators.
If you don't feel balanced and find some of these or other symptoms, take them to your health care professional and they will ideally advise you on dietary/psychological means and supplements to treat them.
During pregnancy, the requirements of most nutrients rise a certain amount, since women have to care for more than one person during these 40 weeks, regular attention from a medical specialist is best to ensure the best possible development.
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3 Taschenatlas der Ernährung (6th edition) HK Biesalski, P Grimm. S Nowitzki-Grimm. 2015. Thieme, Stuttgart (D)
10 Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2009 July. Position of the ADA: Vegetarian Diets. W Craig, AR Mangels; (109(7):1266-82.) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19562864