Vegan diet or focus on increasing plant based foods in one’s diet has been gaining popularity each year. The primary reasons for adopting vegan diets are health, eliminating animal cruelty, sustainability (vegan diets have a significantly lower carbon footprint), and in case of athletes – maximizing performance and recovery.
Vegan diets do have a lot of pros provided they are well balanced (there is no point on loading up on fries daily). A well balanced vegan diet
- Helps one maintain healthy weight as one ends up eating a high volume of food with lower calories
- Has a higher intake of dietary fibre, assists in maintaining a healthy gut
- Is naturally high in carbohydrates that helps in training for athletes
- Has a higher intake of vitamins and minerals if fruits and vegetable are a substantial portion in the diet
- Is linked to a host of health benefits and protection of diseases
Vegan diets do not necessarily have cons, but one needs to take special care to avoid missing out on a few key micro and macro ingredients that are vital for our functioning and are relatively easier to find in animal based foods.
- Vegan diets can be low in protein and one needs to ensure that you get all your essential amino acids. Including complete protein sources is a better, simple choice as compared to trying to achieve the complete amino acid profile through mixing various types of protein sources.
- Athletes require extra protein to meet their daily requirement and need to ensure healthy plant based protein supplements
- Plant based proteins are also not as easily digestible or as bioavailable when compared to animal based proteins thereby increasing the need to have more protein based foods
- Vegan diets can be low in essential fatty acids – especially Omega-3s. ALA, EPA and DHA are omega-3 fatty acids that are vital for our functioning. ALA is found mostly in plants and EPA and DHA is only found in algal oil and fatty fish. However, our body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA albeit in small fractions, which some studies have suggested that it is sufficient. Thus for vegans or vegetarians, it becomes critical to consume foods rich in ALAs
- Vegan diets may also fall short of Vitamin B12, Vitamin D (which can only be obtained through supplements), calcium, iron, zinc, iodine
Hemp Seeds to the rescue!
Incorporation of hemp seeds in vegan diets solves, or at least makes easy to deal with most of the potential shortcomings mentioned above! Hemp Seeds
- Are a complete source of plant protein containing all 9 essential amino acids
- Contain around 33% of protein by weight and are also easily digestible by the gut
- Are only 2nd to flax seeds in terms of Omega -3 fatty acids (ALAs) and have the most desirable ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids
- Are rich in calcium, iron and zinc among other minerals
Hemp seeds can thus become an invaluable part of vegan diets either consumed directly, or if used as an ingredient in savory dishes, dips, or used as an ingredient in protein supplements!