In 'How to meet your nutritional requirements on a vegan diet? Pt 1', i spoke about the three macronutrients, their equal importance and how to include the healthiest sources on a plant-based diet. Now that we have a good understanding of macronutrients and the role that they play in our bodies I think its time to discuss fibre and micronutrients!
Fibre is the true hero of our gastrointestinal system, and it really does not get enough recognition for the vital importance it plays in our overall health and well-being! Fibre is a component of most whole food carbohydrates that is resistant to being broken down by stomach enzymes “ roughage ”. I’m going to throw out a little warning here, we are about to talk about bowel habits, it's totally fine though because I’m going to refer to them in the utmost medical terminology. However, just in case you have a weak stomach, and you're digging into a delicious coconut bowl I thought I would pre-warn you! You see, fibre is responsible for a multitude of functions within the body, largely it is important to keep you going to the toilet regularly (waste excretion), we certainly don’t want waste sitting in our bodies for an extended period of time. Fibre assists this process in two ways, by bulking up your stool to keep it moving quickly through your intestines, as well as assisting your stool to soak up water to soften it and make it an easy and timeless process to pass.
Fibre is a large a contributor to healthy gut bacteria as well as a great tool to lose or regulate body weight and maintain cholesterol levels. Fibre can actually assist in lowering your bad cholesterol levels by interfering with the absorption process and encouraging bad cholesterol to be reduced in the bloodstream! I saved the best for last! You know how people are always scared of carbohydrates because they are quickly digested and can cause spikes in your blood sugar? Well, this is where sneaky fibre comes to the rescue very modestly again. When you eat WHOLEFOOD carbohydrates they typically contain fibre. Some processed carbohydrates do as well, it just depends on the processing and product. Additionally, plenty of processed food will also add fibre content in, so check your labels. Fibre slows down the digestion process of carbohydrates due to its inability to be broken down by our stomach enzymes. Therefore, this results in a steady release of glucose from the carbohydrates meaning no blood sugar spikes and sustained energy. So as you can now see, fibre is super important! Healthy men should aim for the consumption of above 30 grams of fibre daily and healthy women above 25 grams per day.
Next, let's touch on micronutrients which are vitamins and minerals required in trace amounts in the diet for the normal growth and physiological function of our bodies. For the sake of keeping this blog to a timely word limit, I’m going to keep this pretty brief, however, rest assured because in a few blogs time we will cover common micronutrient deficiencies such as iron, calcium and zinc and how to overcome them. Most of you would have heard of the term “eating the rainbow”, well there is a method behind this madness. Most different coloured fruits and vegetables contain an array of different vitamins and minerals. Consuming variety is key and this usually results in an adequate amount of micronutrients, allowing your body to meet requirements. The most important Vitamin for me to mention until we cover more is Vitamin B12, this is a vitamin on a plant-based diet that needs to be supplemented by EVERYONE. We will talk more about this but for the meantime, if you haven’t already, be sure to supplement it, I recommend Methylcobalamin spray.
Now that we have a pretty good understanding of how and where to get our macronutrients, micronutrients and fibre from let's talk about meals and coconut bowling up the perfect balance.
Breakfast: Include good carbohydrate sources such as fruits, whole grains and vegetables. Fats such as avocado, seeds, nuts or nut butter - my personal favourite at the moment is to have granola full of whole grains and seeds and top with a dollop of nut butter!! Great protein sources to include are seeds like buckwheat and hemp seeds or tempeh, tofu, legumes and beans.
Lunch and dinner: Include good carbohydrate sources such as free vegetables and starchy and whole grains such as rice and quinoa. Fats such as avocado, and seeds, I make a lot of sauces with avocado or tahini, a delicious way to incorporate fats! Great protein sources to include are again tempeh, tofu, legumes and beans.
If you haven’t already, download the free 5-day meal guide (find it in a pop up window on our homepage), it has perfect examples of healthy macronutrient and micronutrient balanced meals! Stay tuned for the next blog post because I will be answering some of the most frequently asked nutritional questions asked by you! Keep an eye out on the @coconutbowls story where I will be asking you to send in your questions!!
Jacinta Sultana is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian that specialises in Vegan Nutrition. She contributed a comprehensive plant-based nutrition guide to our hardcover cookbook Vegan Bowls for Vegan Souls and developed a 5-day Vegan Meal Guide for our coco community. Follow her inspiring and educational Instagram page @jacinta_sultana.