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5 Tips for Avoiding Fatigue on a Plant-Based Diet

With an increasing number of us changing our diets to be purely plant-based, it's important to know that due to the absence of red meat it's common to be deficient in some key nutrients. This often results in many people feeling regularly fatigued.

But there is a common misconception floating around that if you're on a plant-based diet you can't get the proper nutrients need to have a healthy diet. And while turning to this diet will mean you need to adjust and become more aware of your intake of specific nutrients, this way of living has a plethora of benefits, from environmental to reduced saturated fat intake. 

Below, we explore some key ways to help you avoid having a lack of energy on a plant-based diet with expert advice from dietitian Michelle Theodosi of The Lifestyle Dietitian. “Going vegan or more plant-based in general doesn’t have to mean you miss out on key nutrients," says Michelle. "Our best tip is to include soy-based foods, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds regularly in your diet.” 

How to Avoid Fatigue on a Plant-Based Diet

1. Make sure you are eating plenty of protein

Plenty of protein can be found in plant-based foods. These chains of amino acids are often described as the building blocks of life because every cell in the human body contains and relies on them - You need protein in your diet to help your body repair cells and make new ones. 

"Protein is also key for keeping our immune system strong, carrying nutrients around our body and making hormones and enzymes which many bodily functions, such as digestion, rely on," says Michelle. She recommends protein-rich plant-based foods such as; tofu, beans and legumes (think chickpeas, lentils, kidney or black beans), tempeh, soy milk, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

2. Check on your iron levels 

Our bodies don’t absorb non-haem iron (found in plants) as efficiently as haem iron (found in animal meat). Because of this, opting for an iron supplement that also has vitamin C in it is a really good idea on a plant-based diet. Vitamin C has been shown to improve the absorption of iron - think oranges, kiwi fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, capsicum and lightly cooked broccoli.

"It is important to keep in mind that Calcium rich foods and supplements along with tannins in tea or coffee can block absorption of plant-based iron," says Michelle. "Aim to consume these nutrients at different times leaving at least one hour between."

Some iron-rich foods that Michelle recommends incorporating into your diet include; tofu, legumes, fortified cereals, cashews, dried apricots.

3. Make sure you're getting enough zinc 

Zinc helps your immune system and metabolism function. It is readily found in many plant foods including tofu, tempeh, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds, especially pumpkin seeds.

"To ensure we maximise our absorption of zinc, try including sprouted or soaked grains and legumes, toasted nuts and seeds or wholegrain breads made from yeast or sourdough," says Michelle. "These sources of zinc are slightly lower in naturally occurring phytates that can impact zinc absorption."

4. Don't forget B12

Vitamin B12 helps keep your body's blood and nerve cells healthy and helps make DNA. A lack of B12 in your system can lead to anaemia, and in turn, feelings of fatigue because your body doesn't have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body. 

Unfortunately, this nutrient is only found naturally in animal products. The good news however, is that many foods such as soy milks and vegetarian burgers and sausages are fortified with it. 

5. Get good quality sleep

A more obvious reason you may be feeling fatigued is simply from not getting  quality shut-eye during the week. The majority of adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep per night to allow the body and mind to recharge, but there is a percentage who may need less or more sleep depending on their overall health and daily activities. 

Always seek the guidance of your doctor, dietitian or other qualified health professional prior to starting a new eating plan. 

For more from Michelle follow her at @thelifestyledietitian_au

Liked this? Here are The Pros and Cons of a Vegan Diet and 5 Supplements to Ask Your Doctor About if You’re on a Plant-Based Diet

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