5 Vegan fitness foods

Vegan athletes and exercise enthusiasts can reap the same fitness benefits as non-vegans, but vegans do need to ensure their diet has adequate iron, zinc, and vitamin B12 (nutrients found predominantly in animal-based foods). In addition to eating antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables at every meal, bolster your vegan diet with these five vegan fitness foods.
Vegan athletes and exercise enthusiasts can reap the same fitness benefits as non-vegans, but vegans do need to ensure their diet has adequate iron, zinc, and vitamin B12 (nutrients found predominantly in animal-based foods). In addition to eating antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables at every meal, bolster your vegan diet with these five vegan fitness foods.

Top 5 Vegan fitness foods

1. Soymilk fortified with vitamin B-12 and calcium

In addition to protein, fortified soymilk can give you a tasty dose of vitamin B-12 and calcium. Vitamin B-12 is involved in metabolism (energy production) but also key in normal functioning of the brain and nervous system as well as the formation of blood.Symptoms of deficiency include fatigue, depression and other mental impairments. Other foods that contain vitamin B-12 are fortified cereals, nutrition bars, and nutritional yeast. Aim for a daily intake of 2.4 micrograms. Take supplements, if necessary.

More ways to bone up on dairy-free calcium

2. Fortified breakfast cereals

Iron is crucial for building healthy muscles, maintaining healthy blood, and keeping you on top of your fitness game, particularly if you’re competing. Iron is naturally occuring in whole foods but an easy way to keep your iron intake up is starting your day with a bowl of cold cereal fortified with iron (some cereals have 100 percent of the Daily Value for iron) and soymilk. Read labels to make sure you’re getting the highest amount of iron and that the cereal is vegan. Aim for a daily iron intake of 18 milligrams for adult women and 8 milligrams for men.

3. Pumpkin seeds

Another source of iron, pumpkin seeds also boast a crunchy dose of zinc, protein, fiber, and healthy fats. One ounce of pumpkin seeds has just over 4 grams of iron and 8 grams of protein. Pumpkin seeds, like other nuts and seeds, are a great source for heart-healthy fats. The mineral zinc, which exhibits antioxidant properties, is essential for metabolism, immune system function, and maintaining muscle. Aim for a daily zinc intake of 8 milligrams for adult women and 11 milligrams for men.

4. Wheat germ

Available in jars in the cereal aisle, wheat germ is rich in zinc, iron, protein, fiber, and calcium. Toasted wheat germ can be added to cereal, sprinkled on salads, and used as a substitute for flour in baked goods (substitute only about 1/4 to 1/2 cup wheat germ for an equal amount of flour to keep baked goods from being too dense).

5. White beans

Loaded with protein and fiber, white beans are also high in iron (about 8 milligrams per 1 cup) and potassium, an electrolyte that can get depeleted with heavy exercise. Beans are a delicious muscle-building food that can be eaten plain, in salads or stews, or pureed into a vegan hummus. You can even puree white beans and use as a vegan substitute for butter in baked goods.

Be sure to talk with a sports nutritionist or your doctor to design a well-rounded vegan diet that will meet your fitness needs.

More vegan lifestyle tips!

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