Three micronutrients to focus on when transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle
March is nutrition month - a month to celebrate all things related to food: from eating food to farming food, cooking, creating, and sharing food.
This year’s Dietitians of Canada Nutrition Month theme is “Ingredients for a Healthier Tomorrow.” With that, we at Komo recognize our privilege of having access to safe and healthy food - and highlight the importance of understanding, learning, and advocating for the right to access healthy, culturally appropriate, and safe food for all.
It is important to note that the definition of safe and healthy food varies for each individual; for someone with dietary intolerances, safe and healthy food may be defined as food that will provide the necessary nutrients to fuel their body, without concerns about having an allergic reaction. For others, healthy food may mean eating food that allows them to feel their best, perform their best, and provide variety to keep things fun. Others may see healthy and safe food as inclusive and culturally appropriate; whatever safe and healthy food means to you, it is highly individual, and it certainly does not follow a one-size-fits-all template.
When it comes to a plant based diet, healthy food once again may mean something different to each person. Still, some things are universal across the plant based diet: there are certain micronutrients of concern that plant based eaters should be extra mindful of in order to maintain a healthy and balanced plant based diet - from a nutrition stand-point.
Individuals choosing to eliminate or limit animal product intake can reap a wide variety of health benefits; studies show that going plant based results in lower rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity (1) - so it’s no surprise that many go plant based for their health.
However, it is essential to remember that some plant based micronutrients can be less bioavailable than their animal counterpart. You may need to eat more of certain foods or be more strategic if you’re eating plant based to ensure you’re meeting your nutrient needs. Luckily, Komo’s plant-based dinner options keep your health in mind - from the Shepherd’s Pie, to the taco filling, and of course, the lasagna; rest assured we know your vegan needs and do our best to make your transition that much easier. Read on to find out which micronutrients should be on your radar and where to find them to help make plant based living a breeze!
A vitamin that is commonly labelled as a micronutrient of concern in the plant based diet is Vitamin B12. Typically found in animal-based products, this unique vitamin is actually obtained from animal-based products via bacteria; that means animals do not themselves produce this vitamin, but rather absorb it via their feed where it is fortified or from the ground on which they graze where the bacteria produce B12.
Why is this micronutrient important? It plays a critical role in keeping our blood cells and DNA happy and healthy. Though it may sound complex, it is rather simple to obtain plant based versions of vitamin B12; a scoop of nutritional yeast - which contains B12, is an excellent place to start - sprinkle some on your popcorn or include it in your meal prep for a cheezy, umami note that will have you craving more plant based goodness.
Another micronutrient of concern that we hear of so often is iron; plant based iron, or non-heme iron, is less readily absorbed than animal-based iron. Due to this, the plant based eater just needs to be a little more strategic in planning meals and ensuring proper iron stores; sufficient iron in your diet will keep your blood cells healthy and allow for more energy, better concentration, and overall a better sense of wellbeing.
Tofu, tempeh, lentils and leafy greens are all good sources to get more iron into your diet - be sure to pair them with a vitamin C-rich food, like tomatoes or berries, to allow for better absorption.
A good way to increase your iron intake through a plant-based dinner option is via our walnut mushroom bolognese, full of hearty tomatoes (think vitamin C), mushrooms, and pea crumbles. This hearty weeknight meal helper will make your dinners a plant based breeze.
Omega 3s are often what we think of when we think of fatty fish: salmon mackerel, and among others - we know that fish and seafood are a great option for obtaining cardio-protective healthy fats. That is if you eat fish. But what about those plant based eaters, and how can they get enough healthy fats to ensure optimal health? It’s easier than you think! Omega 3 fatty acids can be found in a variety of nuts and seeds and plant oils, to list just a few. In fact, a plant based diet can be a great source of omega 3s, and new and novel ingredients are making it easier than ever to meet your daily requirements. In addition, algal oils are great alternatives to help you bump up your intake if you’re thinking of taking supplements, and they are also readily available.
Honing in on these three micronutrients of concern in your plant based diet will help you achieve better health and reach your plant based eating goals more closely. Though there are other notable micronutrients of concern, slow and steady is the way to go as you transition to leading a more plant based lifestyle.
Komo is here to help with those busy weeknight dinners - easy, wholesome, and shareable. We know the needs of our consumers and use real ingredients to make vegan eating that much more accessible and way more delicious. So dig in and don’t forget to share!
By Sina Woerthle (R&D Product Lead at Komo Comfort Foods. Sina has a MSc in Nutrition and background in developing plant-based products).
- Craig, W. J. (2009). Health effects of vegan diets. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 89(5), 1627S-1633S.
- Marino, S. (2022, January 21). Iron and vitamin C: The perfect pair? MSU Extension. Retrieved March 3, 2022, from https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/iron_and_vitamin_c_the_perfect_pair
- Tuso, P. J., Ismail, M. H., Ha, B. P., & Bartolotto, C. (2013). Nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets. The Permanente journal, 17(2), 61–66. https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/12-085
- Unlock the Potential of Food: Ingredients for a Healthier Tomorrow . Dietitians of Canada . (n.d.). Retrieved March 2, 2022, from https://www.dietitians.ca/DietitiansOfCanada/media/Documents/Resources/NM2022-ActivityGuide-EN-FINAL.pdf?ext=.pdf&utm_source=website&utm_medium=banner&utm_campaign=nm_2022