In our blog of Vegan & Fitness, we had mentioned these two words: nutrition and bio-availability.
So what really is Nutrition? Often understood as nutrient density, it is simply the concentration of nutrients in a given meal or a snack. The nutrients are categorised in 2 types:
1. Macronutrients: - Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat. Our body needs Macros in larger amounts.
Fat - They help by improving brain development, overall cell functioning, protecting the body’s organs and even helping you absorb vitamins found in foods.
Some examples of healthy fats: Almonds, walnuts, seeds (pumpkin, chia), olives, avocados.
Protein - Protein is essential for repairing and regenerating body tissues and cells, a healthy functioning immune system and production of hormones.
Good sources of protein: Beans, pulses and legumes, seeds (hemp, chia, flax), nuts (unsalted), quinoa, avocado, beets, raw greens (kale, spinach).
Carbohydrates - Carbohydrates are comprised of small chains of sugar which the digestive body breaks down into glucose to use as the body’s primarily energy source.
Carbohydrates to choose: Apples, bananas, cauliflower, carrots, oats, brown rice, millet, quinoa, chickpeas, kidney beans, Atta bread.
2. Micronutrients: Vitamins & Minerals and other compounds required in small amounts for normal metabolic function and cellular function, like fiber, water, etc Now since the body can not produce these micro nutrients usually, it becomes important to add these, either through food or through supplements. Often vegans need to include Omega 3 & B-12 to their supplementation as these are totally missing in any vegan diet, however pretty much everything else can be consumed through food. But for the sake of easing the topic at this point of time; for a successful meal plan, we must focus only on consuming B12 & Omega3 through supplements and adding the given items - Mushrooms, Avocados, Red & Yellow bell pepper, Icebergs & Lettuce, Sprouts, Sunflower seeds, chia seeds, Cashew, Almonds, Walnuts in the daily meals.
Unfortunately, nutrient deficiency is widespread in people eating a modern diet which is often energy dense, has lots of calories but not nutrient dense – most of the calories are empty, for example any Sugary sofa drink, any sports drinks. There fore an ideal meal must be a whole combination of all these macros & micros. But what makes it even more important, is the bio-availability of these nutrients.
But what is Bio-Availability?
Not as technical as it sounds, but literally the nutrition available for absorption in that particular meal or food.
There are three primary factors that affect the bioavailability of a food.
1. The first is the form that the minerals and other nutrients take.
2. Second is: the absorption of most nutrients is dependent on the presence of other nutrients, called nutrient enhancers. Like for example, we tend to absorb more of the nutrients in vegetables when oil is present.(Not a lot, but a brushing)
3. Third, nutrient slow-downs and anti-nutrients can decrease nutrient bioavailability.
If we were to rank bio-availability, it would be in the following order:
Herbs and spices, then nuts and seeds, Cocoa powder, raw vegetables, legumes, cooked vegetables, fruits, plant fats and oils, cooked grains and cereals.
So focusing on the nutrient density of each food alone it's not enough. We need to maximise the intake of foods that are highly bioavailable. This article will be useful in giving you a layout when you are planning your vegan meal plan. You may refer this to understand how to plan your overall meal plan for now. We shall be going in depth of each nutrient to throw more clarity on individual element such as carbs or say vitamin post which we can plan our meal plan like an expert! Remember a good meal plan ups your chances of living longer, healthier.
But meanwhile as a shortcut, you may just check out how my transition started and copy paste some meals from there. Cheers Fok'ers!