How To Get Enough Protein, Calcium and Iron On A Plant Based Diet

How To Get Enough Protein Calcium and Iron on a Plant-Based Diet

Thank you to everyone who left me comments. I love hearing from you! I’m so excited to be able to show you how eating like this is brilliant for you and how it can literally change your life.

In this post I’m going to talk about the rich sources of protein, calcium and iron that you should eat when you’re on a whole food, plant based diet. So if you’ve ever thought: ‘I’ll never get all my protein, calcium and iron eating like this.’ Oh yes you will, and I’ll show you how.

But first a little recap.

If you’ve read my two previous posts you’ll know developing eczema as a teenager led me to explore different ways of eating that started me on this path, and changed the way I ate forever, so that my eczema completely cleared, to the point where I am today where I never have it.

You’ll also know the easy way to start following a whole food plant based diet – just follow the Power Plate! And you’ll also know the easy way to flavour your foods and why eating fibre is great for you.

Eating legumes, vegetables, fruits and grains will reduce your cholesterol, lower your fat intake, increase your fibre intake, and supply you with all the nutrients that an average adult needs ever single day. Pretty straightforward. But I know that some of you are asking:

‘How do I know that I’m getting enough protein, calcium and iron?’ Plus, ‘I thought eating carbs wasn’t good for me, and you’re saying it’s OK. What’s the truth?’

Let’s take a look at protein first…

I could go on all day about protein, but you only need 8-10% of your daily calorie food intake as protein. (Check out The China Study for more info.) You definitely don’t want too much as it can be bad for you, especially animal protein. You can get exactly what your body needs by replacing animal products with grains, vegetables, legumes (peas, beans, and lentils), and fruits.

As long as you’re eating a variety of plant foods in sufficient quantity to maintain a healthy weight, you’ll get plenty of protein. As someone once replied when asked “Where do you get your protein?’ ‘The same place gorillas, elephants, water buffalo, and horses get theirs!’

I’ve heard that you need to combine certain foods together during the same meal to prevent protein deficiency. Is this true?

It’s a theory that began in the 1970s and has fortunately been debunked. Our bodies are very clever at taking from the food we eat what it needs, intentional food combining is no longer necessary to obtain all the essential amino acids we need. As states: ‘Instead, simply consume a variety of nutrient–dense plant foods to meet your energy requirements and you’ll also meet your protein needs.’

‘What about calcium?’

It might surprise you to learn that green leafy vegetables and beans are a great source of calcium – ‘greens and beans’ for short. ‘Gram for gram, watercress contains more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach and more folate than bananas.’ Source: Watercress

Plant based milks are also a very concentrated calcium source as they’re often fortified with calcium.

‘OK, what about iron? Can you only get it from meat?’

Iron is abundant in plant-based diets. Beans, dark green vegetables, dried fruits, blackstrap molasses, nuts and seeds, and whole grain or fortified breads and cereals will easily provide you with adequate iron. Just remember to have some vitamin C at the same time as your iron rich food as this enhances iron absorption, for instance, eat tomatoes with your spinach salad.

‘What about carbs?’

Stick to complex carbs and you’ll be OK such as green vegetables, starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn and pumpkin. Then there are also beans, lentils and peas. Try sticking to whole-grains such as brown bread, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, oats, corn, millet, barley, bulgur, buckwheat groats, and tortillas. All these grains are packed with fiber, as well as protein, B vitamins, and zinc.

Stay clear of the white stuff – white rice, white pasta, etc – as all the goodness has been stripped from them.

You should also think about what you put on your carbs. Think about a baked potato, we pile it full of cheese, sour cream, chilli con carne and butter. These additions are full of calories and aren’t great choices. The actual baked potato is brilliant for you. Try it with vegetable chilli or a vegetable dhansak curry instead of the cheese, butter and chilli con carne. Houmous and spicy bean pate are also great in baked potatoes.

‘I’ll never get all my vitamins eating like this.’

Don’t you believe it! Eating like this is brilliant for you. Vegetables are packed full of nutrients like vitamin C, beta- carotene, riboflavin, iron, calcium, fiber, and loads of other nutrients.

Look to cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, collards, kale, mustard and turnip greens, endive, or bok choy, as a group of vegetables, very few other single food groups can compare to the nutrient punch that cruciferous vegetables pack. They’re bursting with vitamin A carotenoids, vitamin C, folic acid, fibre, phosphorous and potassium and they also contain many B complex vitamins – B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6 as well as vitamins E and K. Vitamin K helps to regulate our inflammatory response, including chronic, excessive inflammatory responses.

Don’t forget your dark yellow and orange vegetables such as carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin. They’re bursting with beta-carotene an antioxidant that helps to fight free radical damage in your body.

Beans, peas and lentils, aka legumes are also full of fiber, protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and B vitamins. This group also includes chickpeas, baked and refried beans, soymilk, tempeh, and tofu.

As Dr Barnard says: ‘When people set aside meat, dairy products, eggs and greasy foods, their nutrition improves dramatically.’

One Last Note On Vitamin B12

You’ll need to make sure you take a B12 supplement, but this just isn’t for people who follow a whole food, plant based diet. Everyone, especially those over 50, should be taking a B12 supplement. You don’t need much, just 2.4 micrograms per day for an adult.

Let’s daydream for a moment…

Can you imagine what it’ll feel like not having to think about what to have for lunch and dinner for a whole week? Can you imagine how you’ll begin to feel after eating a whole food, plant based diet for 7 days? You could start to lose weight, have more energy, begin to feel, well, just better. Can you imagine eating whatever you want without every putting weight on?

Following a whole food plant based diet can make all of this happen for you.

OK, all of this theory is fine, but you’re probably asking, ‘How on earth do I take all of this information and put it into practice? How do I make easy, tasty, fast family meals on a budget?’

Well, in my next blog post I’m going to offer you a simple solution to these questions. If you’re wondering what you’re going to cook for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and what you can snack on over the next week I’ll be able to help you out.

After years of eating like this, in and out of the home, cooking up recipes and adapting ‘traditional’ recipes, I want to help you navigate through the maze so you can start following a whole food, plant based diet.

I know you’re probably thinking, yes, it’s OK for you eating a plant based diet because you’ve been eating food like that for years. Yes, but it’s pretty easy, just follow the Power Plate that I talked you through in my last blog post.

If however you’re looking for a simple, ready made plan that you can follow day by day, then that’s what I’ve created just for you.

I’ve developed a 7-day whole food, plant based meal plan based on what you’ve been asking for:

  • Simple recipes
  • Tasty meals
  • Filling
  • Quick
  • Regular ingredients
  • Easy on the purse/wallet
  • No transitional foods
  • Tips on how to roll food forward and
  • Reduce food waste

I’ve rolled it all together into a 7-day meal plan that also includes:

  • A 7 day shopping list
  • 7 days of filling breakfasts to keep you going until lunchtime
  • 7 days of hearty packed lunches that keep you feeling full without the 4pm dip
  • 7 days of easy, quick dinners to make when you come in from work that will fill you up
  • 7 days of snacks so you know what to eat when you fancy something to eat between meals

I’ve given you delicious recipes to make the most of your grains, vegetables, fruit and legumes.

I aim to give you a head start in your whole food, plant based lifestyle. Or, if you’re already following a whole food, plant based diet and you’re looking for new ideas, then this is for you too!

I’m also including as a couple of bonuses, a Thanksgiving Day menu and a Christmas Day menu. Each menu has three courses that are delicious and easy to make for both special days

Look out of my next blog post in a couple of days time when I’ll be telling you more about what’s in the plan and when it’ll be available to buy.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you, please leave me a message below and tell me if you’ve found this information useful and if you’d like me to cover anything else.

Wishing you lots of good health and happiness,​

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P.S. Remember, I’d love to hear from you…. Please leave a comment below. Let me know:

  • If you’ve found this information useful and if you’d like me to cover anything else

I’ll be reading every single comment and responding.

P.P.S. You’re never too old to change, and you’re definitely never too old to feel better, look better and have more energy to do the things you thought you’d never be able to do again. Look out for my next blog post!

Let me be your guide to this new and diverse, stimulating and ultimately amazing way of eating and creating delicious plant based meals.