Meatless Means More Veggies!

February 1st, 2010

vitamin deficiency patient cartoonThe dreary cold of winter causes many of us to forego our normal diet and exercise routines in favor of high-fat comfort foods and evenings curled up in front of the television. We’re already aware of some of the implications of these lax behaviors – grogginess and some added winter weight are often just considered symptoms of the seasonbut poor diet and hibernative habits can also lead to vitamin deficiencies. Before you reach for a highly processed food with added supplements, take a look at these common vitamin deficiencies and how you can combat them this week using plant-based whole foods!

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, yet many of us are deficient in this essential, bone-building nutrient. A deficiency in calcium can cause osteoporosis; a weakening of the bones. Many aspects of the western diet lead to calcium loss, including excess consumption of sugar, caffeine and meat. Calcium is used in the digestion of animal protein, and excess consumption can lead to the depletion of calcium from our bones. You can get extra calcium into your diet from unexpected sources. Try kale, broccoli, turnips, tofu, whole grain bread or spinach to get an added boost.

Spinach also contains plenty of iron, another essential mineral that aids in digestion and cell function. Iron deficiency is also known as anemia, and can cause fatigue, impact mental function, and cause complications during pregnancy. You can get iron from a multitude of plant-based sources besides spinach, including tomato puree, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, and kidney beans.

Beans are also a valuable source of fiber, which greatly benefits digestion and has been shown to reduce cholesterol. Fiber is not found in meat or dairy products, so it is essential to consume a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains if you are deficient. Make your Meatless Monday a Veggie Monday to add a little boost to your diet each week! This Monday, focus on bringing more produce into each meal; not only will you be providing your body with essential nutrients, you’ll also give yourself an energy boost that will help drive away the winter blues.