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Last but definitely not least, I have the final blog on the answers to your plant based nutritional questions! In this post i'll be covering weight loss, immunity, soy and pregnancy...

What are your recommendations for losing weight while following a plant
based diet?
The great news is incorporating more plant-based meals into your diet is the scientifically backed at achieving and maintain sustainable healthy weight loss! There are some specific strategies that I believe will set you well on your way to sustainable healthy weight loss that I will share below, however, stay tuned on @coconutbowls and @veganbowls stories as I will be doing a story take over on this topic!

Here are two tips/tricks for weight loss on a vegan diet:

Portion control – be mindful of your portions of “energy dense foods” such as starchy vegetables/grains like potatoes, pasta and bread as well as nuts and seeds. Just to confirm I AM NOT advising to eliminate these foods just to be mindful of your portion sizes, e.g a serve of nuts and seeds is a small handful (30g) and a serve of starches is 1 medium potato, ½ sweet potato, ¾ cup of pasta.


Increase consumption of free vegetables/ fiber – by increasing your free vegetable consumption you will be increasing your fibre intake. Fibre takes a while for our bodies to break down/digest so you are sure to feel fuller for longer and less likely to binge/overeat! Along with this “free vegetables” aren’t particularly energy dense so they won't greatly affect your caloric intake. I can promise they will boost your fibre intake and nutrient intake, Perfect combo!

How do you increase immunity on a plant-based diet?
By consuming a relatively whole food and plant based diet your immune system is already on the right track as this diet is very nutrient abundant which promotes good immunity! Also, particular vitamins and factors most definitely promote a healthy immune system. Vitamin C is a great one to ensure you are getting adequate amounts of, certain cellular reactions which affect our immune system require adequate amounts of Vitamin C to perform their jobs. Vitamin D is also super important to be getting in adequate amounts as it plays an important role in the bodies first line of “defense” against exposure to pathogens which can be the causation behind getting sick!

It also plays a role in our adaptive immune system, the adaptive immune systems basically recognises certain pathogens we have been previously exposed to (antigens) and deactivates what would be their harmful effects within the body. Zinc is also very important for a healthy immune system, this is because zinc is crucial for the creation of cells responsible for immunity.

In addition to these key nutrients, good gut health is also imperative for an optimal running immune system. Our good gut bacteria is like the gatekeeper for our immune system, it alerts our immune system if there are any pathogens trying to enter our system. This is so that our immune system can then do its job and stop the pathogens doing there intended “damage”. Now you know my top tips for a thriving immune system. Here are some food sources:

Vitamin D sources: Sunlight exposure, sun-exposed mushrooms, vegan supplements.
Vitamin C sources: kiwi fruit, citrus fruits, strawberries, papaya, broccoli, kale, pineapple, capsicum, Brussel sprouts, peas, and mango.
Zinc: beans, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds and mushrooms.
Gut health: Probiotics supplements. Fermented foods; tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles and kombucha. Prebiotic foods (non digestible carbohydrates); Psyllium husk, oats, whole grain barley and wheat. Garlic, leek, onion, asparagus, seaweed, banana, apples and berries. Walnuts and almonds and some legumes also contain prebiotic fibre too.

Vitamin C Sources

Is soy milk good or bad for you?
Such a controversial topic, especially among the plant-based community. The main concern with soy is with it Isoflavones/phytoestrogen content (many people assume this to be oestrogen, but it is most definitely NOT the same thing). There is ALOT of study and information regarding soy consumption and its effects on health (unfortunately not a great deal of study within humans). Regardless, most of studies completed do not have realistic nor consistent methodology. In addition, a common trend in studies methodology is not a realistic reflection of the consumption of soy in a real-life setting e.g excessive amounts of soy products being consumed daily or more commonly, just soy Isoflavones consumed which is obviously a heavily processed product. There are many studies that conclude the many benefits of including soy within the diet including, reducing cancer risk, promoting cardiovascular health and reducing high cholesterol levels.

My recommendations for soy consumption are to aim to only include non GMO/organic sources, the pesticides and herbicides that GMO soy is exposed to are potentially a threat to our health with regular consumption. Balance is also super important, no one food in excessive amounts is good for our health – we need a variety of nutrients for optimal health, therefore, we need a variety of foods! When including soy products, aim to include less processed versions like tempeh and Edamame beans. Evidence suggests not to consume more than three servings daily (1 serve = 1 cup of soy milk, ½ cup of tofu/tempeh Edamame beans).

What are key nutrients that I need to ensure I have when I am pregnant?
A very important question for a lot of mothers and potentially a reason for not
opting for a more plant-based lifestyle due to the lack of information currently
accessible! Below I will give a brief guide for what nutrients are most important
during the gestational period. Stay tuned and follow my Instagram account
(@jacinta_sultana) as I will be covering more in-depth information on important
nutrients for vegan children and how to transition them safely!!

Sufficient caloric intake is important; a rough guide would be an additional 300 calories in the first two trimesters! Protein requirements are also increased. Click here to see protein-rich food sources.

Vitamin B12 is used for tissue synthesis and requirements are increased during pregnancy. I advise a sublingual spray in the form of Methylcobalamin.

Iron is needed for increased maternal blood volume and to form your baby's blood! All pregnant women need to increase consumption of foods rich in iron, such as green leafy vegetables, dried beans and legumes, and dried fruits. Eating iron rich foods with Vitamin C rich foods will help to increase iron absorption.

Calcium and vitamin D work together for bone and teeth health and development during pregnancy. Calcium absorption increases in pregnancy and to compensate for increased needs from the mother. Pregnant women should eat 4 or more servings of calcium-rich foods daily, including some green leafy vegetables, tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds and legumes. Calcium and Vitamin D fortified foods/supplements may be useful on days your appetite is poor/morning sickness.

Zinc is necessary for growth and development and the recommended intake for zinc increases during pregnancy to 11mg/day. Good sources of zinc are beans, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, and mushrooms.

Folate is important even before you know you are pregnant, so all women of childbearing age (especially those who are trying to conceive) should be getting at least 400µg (micrograms)/day. The need for folate increases in pregnancy, to 600µg/ day. Dark leafy greens, whole grains, and orange juice are rich sources of folate. Luckily, Vegan diets are often high in folate already!

I have had an absolute blast answering your vegan/plant-based nutritional
questions! I hope you have enjoyed as much as I have! Stay tuned for my next blog post on traveling on a vegan diet and some insight on traveling with allergies and intolerances too!

Jacinta Sultana is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian that specialises in Vegan Nutrition. She contributed a comprehensive plant-based nutrition guide to our hardcover cookbook Vegan Bowls for Vegan Souls and developed a 5-day Vegan Meal Guide for our coco community. Follow her inspiring and educational Instagram page @jacinta_sultana.

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