Proper Nutrition for Vegan/Vegetarian Triathlete
With more and more discussion and evidence around the benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets, both for the health of us, and for the planet, one question I am getting asked regularly is: ‘Is being vegan/vegetarian ok if you’re a triathlete?’
One of the main parts of this question revolves around protein, and if it is possible to get enough as a triathlete. I answered this part of the question in a recent post, which you can find here.
What about other nutrients though? Are any of these more difficult to obtain as a vegan, or vegetarian?
Plays a role in building strong bones, as well as being important for neurological messages being sent through the body. Dairy products such as milk and yoghurt are particularly good sources of calcium, and appropriate for vegetarians.
Good plant-based sources of calcium include fortified plant milks, such as soy or almond milk, many nuts (such as almonds, brazil nuts, sesame seeds), unhulled tahini, amaranth, dried apricots, figs, soybeans, and most leafy greens.
Also, avoiding high consumption of salt, caffeine, and phytic acid is important, as these can limit absorption and use of calcium.
There are two types of iron, haem and non-haem iron. Non-haem iron is that found in plant foods, and is unfortunately not absorbed quite as well as haem iron, which is found in animal products.
Interestingly, much of our daily iron intake still comes from plant foods anyway, even when meat is chosen. This is because of the wide range of foods which are rich in iron. Plus, when consumed with vitamin C rich foods, absorption is improved.
Appropriate sources of plant-based iron include legumes, tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, iron fortified foods (such as some breads and cereals), many whole grains and some dried fruits.