Do you care about the environment? Do you recycle, carry a reusable grocery bag, ride your bike to work, or choose eco-friendly cleaning products? If you do, a green lifestyle isn’t a new concept for you. Caring about sustainability and being mindful is essential for our planet. But what about your food choices?
Believe it or not, your food decisions have a huge impact on the environment. Many people don’t even think about how their food ends up on their plate. However, small changes and simple shifts can have a big impact on the food system and on our planet Earth.
Having a green diet isn’t just about adding broccoli and kale to your meals. It is a lifestyle and a big commitment. This diet is mainly plant-based but the trick is to eat foods that are both healthy for you and for the environment. This means that your goal is to buy organic food, buy it from the local farms, reduce food waste, and look for unpackaged or minimally packaged foods to reduce plastic. Eating green doesn’t mean you can’t eat meat ever again, but eating low on the food chain most of the time is highly recommended.
If you are interested in a green diet and want to give it a go – good for you! Still, make sure you don’t remove all the foods you love at once. Start by adding more veggies and fruits and you will feel better and more energized in no time. This feeling will lead you to want to opt for even healthier foods and soon you will find yourself looking for local and organic options.
However, since your diet will be plant-based most of the time, you should consider taking some health supplements. Experts claim that some of the important nutrients can only be found in animal products, such as meat, dairy, and eggs and they encourage vegans, vegetarians, and green eaters to plan a balanced diet that provides all the essential micronutrients for their body. If you are fully committed to veganism, you may have doubts about supplementation, but please don’t. Nowadays you can find a variety of vegan supplements. The most important thing for you is to educate yourself and plan your diet. Let’s explore some of the key nutrients you may need to add to your green diet.
Most people don’t know what omega-3 fatty acids are and how important it is to make them a part of your diet. Omega-3s play many important roles in your body and provide numerous health benefits. However, your body can’t produce them on its own.
The omega-3 fatty acid is usually found in fish oils, fatty fish, walnuts, flax seeds, flaxseed oil, and chia seeds. Since many people, especially the ones on a green or vegan diet, don’t consume much of these foods, Vegan Omega 3 supplements are highly recommended. They are essential for your brain development and your eye health. Studies have shown that adequate levels of this fatty acid can reduce the risk of depression, inflammation, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and even breast cancer.
Since foods that are rich in vitamin B12 (e.g. nutritional yeast, spirulina, nori, chlorella, and certain mushrooms) are suitable for vegans and a plant-based diet, many people believe that they don’t have to worry about vitamin B12 deficiency. Still, numerous studies show us the opposite. Anyone can have a vitamin B12 deficiency but vegans are at much higher risk, especially the ones who aren’t taking any supplements.
Vitamin B12 plays a crucial role in many processes in your body, such as the formation of red blood cells and protein metabolism. It’s also very important for your nervous system. A deficiency can lead to bone problems, heart disease, or infertility.
If you are looking for ways to add vitamin B12 to your green diet and want to avoid supplements, concentrate on foods such as soy products, plant-based milk, nutritional yeast, and breakfast cereal.
The important fact is that the body best absorbs B12 in small doses. This means you should ingest it more frequently. Don’t forget that your body’s ability to absorb it will decrease in age. Experts recommend that everyone (vegan or not) over the age of 50 should take a vitamin B12 supplement.
Iron is crucial for energy metabolism, carrying oxygen in the blood, and making new red blood cells. An iron deficiency can cause anemia, decreased immune system, and fatigue.
There are two forms of iron:
- Heme – only available in animal products
- Non-heme – it’s available in plants
Heme iron is much easier to absorb from the food than non-heme iron. This is the reason why people who eat mainly a plant-based diet must be careful about their iron intake. If you eat a green diet or if you are a vegan, it’s important to include iron-rich foods. Here is a list that can help you:
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Dried fruit
- Plant-based milk
- Dark chocolate
It’s important to avoid drinking coffee and tea with your meals since they can reduce iron absorption. On the other hand, foods that are rich in vitamin C may help boost your iron absorption.
Make sure you check your hemoglobin and ferritin levels in order to determine whether you need supplements or not. Sometimes unnecessary intake of iron supplements can block the absorption of other minerals and cause damage to your cells.
You can be on a green diet and not be vegan. If so, consider iron from ethically raised meat, chicken, eggs, and fish. For example, shellfish are a great source of iron (especially oysters, mussels, and clams). Organ meats, such as liver, brain, kidneys, or heart are very nutritious and extremely high in iron. A 100 g serving of red meat contains 2.7 mg of iron and it’s also rich in zinc, B vitamin, selenium, and protein.
Adopting a green eating lifestyle is great for your health and for the environment. It’s very noble to commit to sustainable living and do everything in your power to save our planet. Still, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy your food. Being mindful when choosing, cooking, and eating essentially means that you care for your food and nature and celebrate what they give to us.