Dietitian Gone Vegan – Nutrient Analysis

When I began this experiment I knew I wanted to track my diet to get an idea of how eating vegan impacted my nutrient intake.  As mentioned in my first post veganism has a few potential dietary concerns including low protein and calcium intakes.  To analyze my diet I used the My Fitness Pal app.  Whenever possible I scanned the barcodes of foods to get the most accurate information possible.

Here’s what I found:

Protein

Over the week I averaged 65 grams of protein per day or roughly 10% of my total daily calories.  This might sound low, and while it’s probably less than the typical meat-eater, this actually exceeds my daily requirements.  Protein requirements for healthy adults are 0.8 g/kg body weight.  At the moment I am about 65 kg, so that means the minimum amount of protein I should be getting is 52 grams, which I easily reached.

I will say that I while I didn’t plan my menu with a specific protein intake in mind, I did make an effort to include several higher protein foods (nuts, seeds, chick peas, lentils, tofu, etc..) into my diet each day.  For those who are considering going vegan themselves, I would strongly recommend the doing the same.  If you’re having a difficult time incorporating enough of them, a soy-based protein powder could also help and be added to smoothies, soups, etc.

Calcium

Most people’s biggest source of dietary calcium is dairy, but since these foods are obviously not allowed many vegans have a difficult time getting enough.  Calcium requirements for adults are 1000 mg/day.  This is a little less than that for teens (1300mg) or women 50 yrs+ (1200mg).  Some vegan-friendly foods that are a decent source of calcium are leafy green vegetables like kale and broccoli, almonds and tofu.

I was a little surprised to see that I nearly met my requirements.  According to my analysis I got 97% of my daily calcium needs during the week.  A big contributor to this was the glass of calcium-fortified orange juice that I drank with breakfast most mornings.  If I didn’t drink this I would’ve only been at 50%, which is significant.  I will admit that I consumed very few leafy green vegetables this week, so that probably didn’t help.  My advice for others would be to also drink calcium-fortified beverages regularly (non-dairy milks or juices) to make sure you’re getting enough calcium in your diet.  If you’re unable to do this a multivitamin may be warranted.

Other

  • I averaged 2270 calories/day.  This is right around my daily requirements for my age, gender and activity level.
  • In terms of macronutrients, I got 62% of my calories from carbohydrates, 28% from fat and 10% from protein. This is a perfectly reasonable macronutrient distribution for a healthy diet.  Many people will often argue for one specific macronutrient percentages over another, however as long as you are meeting the minimum requirements overall diet quality is probably much more important than a particular macronutrient distribution.
  • My sodium intake was 1930 mg/day, which is almost certainly lower than it is most days when I’m not eating vegan.  For reference, we should all be aiming for a maximum daily sodium intake of 2300 mg/day.
  • Iron intake was one of the few micronutrients that my dietary analysis software measured.  Despite meat being a major source of iron in most people’s diets, I was still able to consume 129% of my daily requirements, which is good.

As mentioned in my last post, I don’t think I’ll be going vegan anytime soon.  But frankly, that has a more to do with the fact that I enjoy eating meats, dairy, etc., than any nutrition concerns that I have with veganism. My diet analysis clearly demonstrated that I was able to meet all of my requirements, which I obviously knew was possible, but was unsure if I would given the fact that I didn’t spend a lot of time planning in advance.

I hope this little experiment has been enlightening and that now you have a better idea of what it’s like to go vegan, even if it’s just through my eyes.  Happy eating!

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