Word Count: 1780
Time to Read: 9 minutes
Plant-based vegan diets are rich in vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, nuts, and legumes. These foods are the building blocks of a healthy diet. Vegan cuisine has led to delicious innovations, especially when it comes to vegan sweets.
But how do you ensure that those yummy treats are loaded with nutrients? Read on for a breakdown of the top 11 nutrients that vegans need and how to introduce them to your vegan treats.
Why All the Fuss about Nutrients?
You’ve probably heard about nutrients and why you need to eat more of them. But do you know what nutrients actually are? Or, why they’re so essential to the human body?
Nutrients are substances that provide the human body with crucial nourishment. Without this nourishment, your body can’t grow or maintain life functions. Any diet can fall short of nutrients if you’re not aware of what you’re eating and why.
Thousands of nutrients exist, but there are only a handful that you need to pay attention to when it comes to vegan eating. Nutrients are broken into subcategories that include essential and nonessential. Micronutrients also fall under this heading, and they include amino acids and fatty acids.
Depending on the type of diet you’re following, the nutrients that you need to pay close attention to can differ. On one hand, vegan diets tend to be high in healthy carbohydrates and vitamin C. But those following a strict high protein diet may be literally starving their bodies for these key nutrients.
On the other hand, vegans have to work a little harder to get some of the nutrients listed below. Luckily, we’ve got your back and have developed creative ways to introduce these nutrients into vegan sweets. Does it get any better than that?
Proteins are composed of amino acids, and 20 different types of protein have been identified. Some are made by your body, but nine essential ones aren’t. So, it’s important to make sure that you get a variety of them in your diet.
Why? Without protein, your body can’t create new muscle. Proteins are crucial to the creation of certain hormones and enzymes, too.
In fact, the U.S. National Library of Medicine refers to proteins as, “the building blocks of life.” So, how do you make sure that you’re getting enough protein in vegan sweets?
Opt for recipes that pack a “hidden” protein punch. For example, beans and chickpeas can be added to cake pops or brownies to create decadent treats and nobody will be the wiser.
Nuts and nut butter can be added to treats, too. Chocolate and peanut butter goodness, anyone?
And, unlike beans and chickpeas, nuts and nut butter can be celebrated rather than secreted in. Other great protein sources include quinoa, lentils, amaranth, soy products, and hemp and chia seeds.
These ingredients may seem like unlikely dessert additions on the surface, but delicious recipes abound, like our black bean brownies. So, put on your chef’s hat and start trying recipes. You’ll be amazed by how much you enjoy healthy proteins!
2. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 used to be a hard nutrient for vegans to get in ready supply. After all, it only naturally occurs in animal products. And it’s crucial in keeping blood cells and nerves healthy. So, what’s a vegan to do?
Fortified foods make it relatively easy to get enough vitamin B12, even in dessert foods. Look for choices like:
Soy products (like tofu) Non-dairy milk made from rice, hemp, coconut, almond, cashew, and soy Cereals Vegan snack bars
These products are very easy to incorporate into vegan sweets, so have at it! For example, soft fortified tofu can be blended with a sweetener and cocoa powder to create a creamy chocolate pudding. Getting your vitamin B12 has never been yummier!
Of course, the operative word here is “fortified.” So, start reading labels to make sure you’re getting a healthy dose of vitamin B12. And when in doubt, consider taking a high-quality supplement.
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D comes with countless benefits. It aids the body in absorbing calcium.
It helps build stronger bones. And it plays a crucial role in the proper function of muscles and the immune system.
Luckily, the readiest source of vitamin D is the sun! So, you can supplement any dessert merely by basking in the sun while you eat. Food-based sources of vitamin D are plentiful, too.
Like vitamin B12, fortified foods like tofu and non-dairy milk contain vitamin D. These fortified foods are easily incorporated into a variety of vegan sweets. Just read your labels carefully to ensure what you’re getting is fortified with the right nutrients.
4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids fall into the micronutrient subheading, and they’re all the buzz lately. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids reduces your risk of heart disease. It can improve cholesterol levels, too.
But getting enough omega-3 fatty acids can be a challenge for those on a vegan diet. After all, one of the main sources is fish.
Luckily, omega-3 fatty acids are found in a variety of other foods that you may not know about:
Canola oil Seeds such as flax Walnuts Beans Winter squash
Vegan chefs have taken the guesswork out of getting your omega-3 fatty acids with innovative recipes using the ingredients above. So, dive into a nutrient-conscious vegan cookbook. You’ll be amazed by all of the lip-smacking options!
Calcium and vitamin D represent two essential building blocks of healthy, strong bones. Calcium is found abundantly in many vegan fortified foods and non-dairy milk. Heck, it’s even found in fortified orange juice!
You’ll also get lots of calcium from eating beans, sesame tahini, almonds, and even dried figs. (And we’ve already gone over some sneaky ways to incorporate beans into desserts.) So, get creative.
Or, if you’re a nut freak, top your vegan ice cream, puddings, and other treats with almonds. You’ll be good to go!
Iodine remains crucial to normal thyroid function. The thyroid represents a powerhouse of the human body. It drives metabolism, hormones, energy level, hair and skin growth, sleep patterns, and much more.
Found primarily in seafood, many vegans don’t get enough iodine. But an iodine deficiency is surprisingly easy to overcome. Even in vegan sweets.
Just take a look at some of your best raw vegan sources: prunes, bananas, corn, cranberries, and even strawberries. Besides these, iodine is also found in fortified salt. Hello, salted caramel everything!
The immune system requires zinc to function properly. It’s also crucial to cell division and growth. A nutrient found mainly in beef, lamb, and pork, getting enough on a vegan diet takes a little extra attention.
The bioavailability of zinc in plant-based foods is lower than in animal foods. But it’s readily found in:
Sesame seeds Chickpeas Pumpkin seeds Cashews Quinoa Tofu Peanuts Soy products Fortified foods
So, make an effort to include more of these foods in your vegan sweets. Check out our recipe for vegan hot chocolate. Made with fortified non-dairy milk, you’ve got a tempting, zinc-rich treat!
Few foods have suffered from such a bad wrap as fat over the past few decades. This is a shame because fats are absolutely crucial to your body’s absorption of vitamins. Healthy fats also safeguard organs from harm.
So, how did fats earn such a bad reputation in the first place? Because of their evil twin, trans fats. Trans fats are found in baked goods and have been proven to increase your chances of getting heart disease.
So, don’t be fooled. Avoid trans fats like the plague.
But, if you haven’t already done so, it’s time to introduce healthy fats into your diet. Healthy fats, or unsaturated fats, actually protect your heart and prevent heart disease. So, you need to include a few servings every day.
What are some good sources?
Nuts Avocados Olive oil Flaxseed Nut butter
These items are all easily incorporated into desserts. Check out our delectable avocado-based chocolate cream recipe, and give it a try. These are all over the vegan and raw food spheres and with good reason.
They’re delish! Yes, it sounds a bit strange. But the avocado provides a smooth, rich consistency while the cocoa powder does all of the talking.
Like fat, sodium has received serious shade over the past decades. But if you don’t have enough, your body’s in trouble.
Sodium regulates your blood volume and balances fluid. It assists your body in keeping nerves and muscles working optimally, too. So, add the salt shaker back into your life in moderation.
Besides table salt, sodium is naturally found in:
Seeds Nuts Vegetables Grains
Make a grain-based vegan pudding or sprinkle nuts in your vegan chocolate chip cookies. And, if all else fails, splurge occasionally on vegan salted caramel. Ah, the sacrifice!
Potassium regulates your body’s natural PH levels. It’s also important in maintaining a proper fluid balance.
It helps your body stabilize blood pressure, and it’s necessary for controlling muscle contractions. Potassium also keeps your heart healthy and strong.
Some great sweet sources of potassium include:
Bananas Avocado Sweet potatoes
That means, one of your go-to, nutrient-rich vegan sweets could be a chocolate-covered banana-slice. Just in time for summer!
Water is a nutrient that we take completely for granted – and we shouldn’t. Why?
People in survival situations have gone up to three weeks without food. But how long have they lasted without water? No more than three days.
Put another way, water is the mother of all essential nutrients. Besides, dehydration comes with nasty symptoms:
Dry skin Wrinkles Fatigue Dizziness Rapid heartbeat Constipation Muscle aches Headaches
Left untreated, dehydration can kill you. Stay vigilant about getting your full intake of eight, eight-ounce glasses of water per day. Also, be sure to eat lots of fruits and veggies, which have a high concentration of water. It’s as simple as including orange slices, kiwi, or berries with your favorite vegan sweets.
Nutrient-Rich Vegan Sweets
When it comes to finding nutrient-rich vegan sweets, half the battle is awareness. With the information above, you’ll be armed to make better choices as dessert-time rolls around. Heck, you can even make nutrient-dense vegan wedding cakes!
Living your best vegan life has never been easier. Check out our blog for more ideas and information about leading a healthy, abundant vegan lifestyle.