The ultimate vegan nutrition guide, including all the essentials you need to stay healthy in the outdoors and what foods to find them in
Good nutrition is vital to keep your body doing what it’s supposed to. With an outdoorsy lifestyle, it’s even more important.
When you’re immersed in the elements, relying on your own human power to carry you through the landscape, you need to treat yourself well.
Our bodies need a variety of nutrients to keep them in good nick and feeling strong. That means it’s important to make sure you’re getting all the elements you need in your plant-based diet.
Knowing exactly what the body needs and what vegan foods offer these key nutrients can be a bit of a conundrum (especially if you’ve just got the next adventure on your mind, or are on the road!).
So we’ve put together this handy guide to cover all the vegan nutrients you need and share exactly where to find them. All the elements that are vital to a happy, healthy vegan lifestyle.
In this article you will find:
First things first: is it hard to be healthy as a vegan?
Just wanted to get this clear before we continue: you can totally be vegan and get all the nutrients and vitamins you need.
This myth that vegans are somehow malnourished and feeble couldn’t be further from the truth. Just look at all the vegan adventurers out there like Fiona Oakes, Kuntal Joisher, Damian Hall… even myself and J who has never eaten meat in his life! All these people thrive on a vegan lifestyle and smash that silly misconception right out of the ballpark.
Sure, in some parts of the world it can be a little harder to source niche ingredients and you may have to be a little creative. But, having hiked up mountains and pedalled across borders all around the world, we can vouch that is possible to get all the nutrients your body needs as an adventure-loving herbivore.
In this guide, we’ll take on ALL the key nutrients a vegan needs, explain why they’re so important and list the BEST ways you can incorporate them into your diet.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body with 99% of it being stored in your bones and teeth.
Why is calcium important?
Calcium is crucial for the growth and maintenance of bones. It also helps to regulate muscle contractions which is just what you need when you’re on the move in the outdoors.
It’s recommended the average adult should have 700mg of calcium per day.
Sources of calcium for vegans
Think that calcium just comes from cows milk? There are actually tons of vegan calcium sources. Most of which have even more calcium than cows milk.
Calcium-rich foods and the amount of calcium they have per 100g
- Brocoli 46mg
- Cabbage 33mg
- Orange 40mg
- Okra 82mg
- Kale 250mg
- Turnip greens 190mg
- Watercress 120mg
- Sesame seeds 975mg
- Tahini (sesame seed paste) 426mg
- Pulses: lentils, chickpeas, pinto bean, black eyed beans, cannelline beans, harricot beans, fava beans, mung beans, kidney beans, black beans, adzuki beans 105-113mg
- Dried fruit: raisins, dried apricots, figs, prunes 55-162mg
- Fortified plant-based milks 25-113mg
- Tofu 350mg
- Fortified breakfast cereals 100-200mg
Ah, that elusive one that we vegans struggle to get our hands on… Wrong! Protein is abundant in plant-based foods so it’s easy to cram your diet full of it.
Why is protein important?
Protein is the important stuff that helps to build and repair muscle tissue, make enzymes, hormones and other crucial bodily chemicals.
It’s made up of amino acids which help the growth and recovery process in your muscles, bones, cartilage, skin and blood.
After a day of exerting yourself, it’s protein that helps you repair and build muscle – exactly what you need to get over tomorrow’s mountain.
It’s recommended the average adult should have 50g of protein per day.
Vegan protein sources
A lot of plant-based foods contain protein in some form but these foods are particularly high and easily sourced, along with the amount of protein they have per 100grams:
- Tofu 8g
- Tempeh 19g
- Edamame or soy beans 12.35h
- Soy chunks 52g
- Lentils 9g
- Chickpeas 19g
- Peas 5g
- Beans: pinto bean, black eyed beans, cannelline beans, harricot beans, fava beans, mung beans, kidney beans, black beans, adzuki beans, the list goes on. 21-24g
- Wid rice 15g
- Oats 16.9g
- Seeds: flaxseeds/linseeds, chiaseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds. poppyseeds, hemp seeds 18-21g
- Bulger wheat 6g
- Buckwheat 13.3g
- Nuts: peanuts, cashews, brazil nuts, walnuts, hazlenuts, almonds, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, again the list goes on and you’ll find different nuts across the globe. 9-26g
- Freekeh 5g – a type of grain made from wheat
- Farro 13.3g – hulled spelt wheat
- Barley 12g
- Quinoa 4.4g
- Amaranth 14g – a gluten-free grain also a good source of fibre
- Vegan protein powder
- Vegan protein bars
- Fortified plant milks
Want to know a little more on the importance of protein for adventurous vegans and where to find it? We cover it all in our articles on vegan protein sources and how to get more protein on a vegan diet
3. Vegan vitamin C
Vitamin C is an important antioxidant for our bodies, however, take too much and it can have adverse effects
Why is vitamin C important?
Vitamin C does a lot to keep your body ticking over. It helps to keep your cells, skin, blood vessels bones and cartilage healthy.
It also protects your cells against the molecules produced when breaking down food and when exposed to radiation from the sun or other sources. This is especially important if you spend a lot of time outside. Protecting your cells is really crucial to help ward off heart disease and cancer in the future.
But as I said, too much may lead to digestive distress and kidney damage if your body has too much. Getting your vitamin C from naturally occurring sources will help to make sure you’re getting the right amount your body needs.
The average adult needs around 65-90mg of vitamin C a day. Unlike some other nutrients, it can’t be stored in your body so it’s good to try and incorporate it into your diet daily.
Plant based sources of vitamin C
Where you can find plant-based vitamin C and how much there is per 100g:
- Peppers especially red peppers 143.7mg
- Strawberries 58.8mg
- Blackcurrants 170mg
- Brocoli 89mg
- Brussle sprouts 85mg – love them or hate them, they’re full of goodness
- Potatoes 19.7mg
- Citrus fruits: lemon, oranges and orange juice 53mg
- Chili 143.7mg
- Guava 228.3mg
- Mustard spinach 130mg
- Kale 120mg
- Kiwi 92.7mg
- Lychees 71.5mg
- Papaya 62mg
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4. Omega-3 fats
When you’re on multi-day trips and lead an adventurous lifestyle, fats of any kind are great sources of energy, however, omega-3 fats are particularly important. They’re the unsaturated fats that support our brains and bodies.
Why is omega-3 important?
Omega-3 fats do a lot for our bodies. They’re the key structure of cells and keep your heart, lungs, blood vessels and immune system working as they should. Plus, they’re good sources of energy which you need a lot of with an adventurous lifestyle.
A diet full of omega-3’s is proven to lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, it’s a key player in anti-inflammatory drugs and it can even help depression.
It’s recommended the average adult should have 200-500mg of omega-3 per day.
Vegan omega-3 sources
Ever wondered where fish get all their omega-3 fats from? Plants of course! And there are tons of other plant-based sources of omega-3 fats, along with how many grams they have per 100g:
- Seaweed and algea 18g
- Flax/linseed oil 58g
- Waknut oil
- Pumpkin oil
- Algea oil
- Walnuts 10g
- Chia seeds 17.5g
- Flaxseeds/linseeds 25g
- Pumpkin seeds 6.8g
- Hempseeds 6g
5. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is created by our bodies when they come into contact with the sun. In the cooler months of the year, when sunshine ain’t so prolific, our bodies struggle to get all the Vitamin D they need. Even if you’re spending your days outside, you can give it a helping hand with the food you consume.
Why is vitamin D important?
Vitamin D is important to help regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These are essential to keep your bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets and osteomalacia.
It’s recommended the average adult should have 10mg of vitamin D per day.
Vegan vitamin D sources
Vitamin D is a little harder to find compared to other nutrients on this list, but there still are some:
- Mushrooms 450 IUD
- Fortified plant milks 2.4mcg
- Fortified ornage juice 2.5mcg
- Fortifies cerals 0.2-2.5mcg
- Supplements – in the UK and across the Northern Hemisphere, it’s recomended we take vitamin D supplements from October – March, as our bodies can’t generate enough vitamin D naturally due to the lack of sunlight in these months
Along with protein, as soon as you become vegan, people suddenly become worried about your B12 intake. But there’s no need to fret, as it’s easy to get enough of this essential vitamin with a vegan lifestyle.
Why is B12 important?
B12 supports the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen around your body and give you the energy needed for the adventure ahead.
It helps your body to absorb all the nutrients you ingest from food and supports the functioning of your nervous system.
It’s recommended the average adult should have 1.5mg of b12 per day.
Vegan B12 sources
Our bodies don’t naturally produce B12 so we have to get it from external sources. You can find it in the following sources and I’ve listed how much there is per 100g serving:
- Fortified cerals 8.2-24mg – Kellogs all-bran and Kellogs low fat granola
- Fortified milks 133.8mg
- Marmite and other yeast spreads 24mcg (but really why would you bother when there’s marmite)
- Enriched vegan cheese 0.6mcg
- Nutritional yeast 44mcg
- Tofu 2.42mcg
- Tempeh 0.97
- Plant based meat alternatives – Moving Mountains burgers
- B12 supplements
If you wnat to do a deep dive into vegan b12 sources, this post has got you covered
Iron deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies in the world, which is crazy when you know how important it is.
Your body is really clever and absorbs more iron as it needs it and less when your iron levels are high.
There are also some foods that hinder the amount of iron your body can absorb. Foods high in vitamin C help you to absorb more, so make a note of those foods listed above.
Why is iron important?
Iron is used in the body to make haemoglobin which is a protein in red blood cells. Haemoglobin then carries oxygen from the lungs to your whole body. It also produces myoglobin, a protein that provides oxygen for muscles.
Getting the right amount of oxygen to your lungs and muscles means they won’t let you down when you’re pushing for that new 10-mile PB or on a multi-day trip.
It’s recommended the average adult woman should have 14.8mg and the average adult man should have 8.7mg per day.
Vegan iron sources
Popeye may have just opted for spinach to get his daily dose, but there are tons of other plant-based iron sources to choose from and how many grams they have per 100gram serving:
- Lentils 7.54mg
- Chickpeas 2mg
- Beans 2mg
- Tofu 1.06mg
- Cashew nuts 4mg
- Quinoa 1.49mg
- Kale 1.5mg
- Dried apricots 7.5mg
- Dried figs 3.9mg
- Raisins 2.50mg
- Chia seeds 7.72mg
- Flaxseeds/linseeds 5.73mg
- Hemp seeds 1.59mg
- Pumpkin seeds 9.76
- Fortified breakfast cereals 20mg
8. Vitamin A
Compared to its cousin vitamin D and C, vitamin A is lesser-known but still just as important for keeping you feeling strong.
Why is vitamin A important?
Our bodies turn carotenoids from food into vitamin A, helping to support healthy growth and development, whilst maintaining the healthy functioning of your immune system. Important for wading off nasty bugs you’re constantly exposed to in new habitats!
It helps to keep your vision clear in low light, especially useful when camping, plus it helps promote healthy skin. A good one to get lots of if you suffer from acne, something I know about too well, unfortunately.
It’s recommended the average adult should have between 700-900mg per day.
Vegan vitamin A sources
Vegan foods with vitamin A and how much per 100grams:
- Butternut squash 1,182mg
- Spinach 469mg
- Orange sweet potato 147mg
- Kale 172mg
- Dried apricot 3,604mg
- Cantaloupe melon 169mg
- Spring greens 108mg
It might seem like a lot to digest (excuse the pun), but we’re hoping this guide has helped you with all the nutrients you need in a vegan lifestyle and all the plant-based foods you can find them in.
Now you’ve got all those nutritious foods you can get creative with tasty dishes that’ll keep you feeling ace. Why not experiment with some vegan camping foods or hiking snacks, trying to incorporate more nutrients that you might be lacking?
And let’s not forget, whether your days are crammed with adventure or not, a treat every now and again is well-deserved. It’s called a balanced diet for a reason!