A big concern I hear from those that are interested in going plant-based but are scared to take the leap is the worry that they will not be getting all of their nutrition needs met. I was in the same boat years ago when I first made the transition to a vegan lifestyle, but now after years of practice under my belt, creating balanced meals full of the nutrients I need is no longer a concern. It can seem overwhelming to think that you need to be mindful of every vitamin, mineral, and fatty acid under the sun, but that isn’t necessarily the case.
In fact, when it comes to minerals, which as luck would have it happens to be the topic of today’s blog post, there are only a handful you need to be mindful of when creating those delicious meals. Below are the four minerals that need a bit more consideration than the others, and the foods that are rich in them:
Iron is an essential component of our hemoglobin, which transports oxygen throughout our blood. This mineral is also necessary for the functioning of our cells, growth, development, and for the synthesis of a variety of hormones. If you are feeling low on energy, tired, or sluggish it might be time to have your iron levels checked.
Food sources: Enriched grains, dried apricots, swiss chard, tahini, spinach, peas, beans, lentils, mushrooms, nuts, seeds, soybeans, and other soy products
Keep in mind: Black tea, green tea, coffee and cow’s milk can inhibit the absorption of iron from our food. While sprouting, soaking, and sprouting nuts and seeds can increase absorption. Also adding a splash of vitamin C to an iron-rich meal, like from tomato, red pepper, or oranges can increase absorption as well.
Zinc plays a role in the creation of proteins, wound healing, DNA synthesis, immune health, and even cell division. Zinc is also required for maintaining a healthy sense of smell and taste. If you notice that you are feeling more under the weather lately, you might need a boost of zinc to your diet.
Food sources: Enriched breads, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, cashews, hummus, tofu, lentils, black beans, oatmeal, and quinoa
Keep in mind: Soaking nuts and seeds, fermenting vegetables, and yeasting grains are great ways to increase the amount of zinc available in plant foods.
Iodine is required for a healthy functioning thyroid. This mineral is needed for the production of the thyroid hormones. The thyroid regulates several processes including metabolism, digestion, mood, temperature, and immunity. If you are noticing that you are more fatigued than usual and/or not able to tolerate cold temperatures, it could be low iodine and time to talk to your healthcare practitioner.
Food sources: Iodized salt, kelp, nori, arame, dulse, and kelp seasonings
Keep in mind: Foods known as goitrogens have the ability to interfere with our ability to produce thyroid hormone if we are lacking in iodine. These foods include broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, and ground flaxseeds.
Calcium works to provide rigid structure and hardness to our bones and teeth. This mineral also plays other roles, such as in muscle relaxation, nerve transmission, and even coagulation. And calcium is an important mineral to support heart health.
Food sources: Kale, bok choy, broccoli, napa cabbage, soy milk, tofu, almonds, sesame seeds, and beans
Keep in mind: Keeping your salt and caffeine intake in check helps your body to maintain healthy calcium levels. Also sprouting and soaking your nuts and seeds will increase the amount of calcium available for our bodies to absorb.
What are some of your favorite sources of these four minerals? Share with us in the comments below!