The Plant-Powered Blog

Welcome to Sharon’s multi-award winning The Plant-Powered Blog, where Sharon posts daily on living a rich, fulfilling plant-powered life. On these pages, you will learn about cooking tips, nutrition information, recipes, photo diaries, traveling, product reviews, interviews, the latest in science, and much, much more.

Ask Sharon: Can I be deficient in vitamin A?

Ask Sharon: Can I be deficient in vitamin A?

As part of my new program “Ask Sharon”, I am answering the top question of the month submitted through my blogFacebookTwitter or Instagram to answer here. You can even win a prize! Don’t forget to submit your burning nutrition question this month via my blog, or other social media. Here is my favorite question this month. 

Question:

I am a local California resident and have been on a vegan diet for almost 2 years now. I am almost certain at this point that I am deficient in Vitamin A. I am feeling very unlike myself and want to stay vegan if possible. If you have any advice it would be much appreciated. —Cassandra

Answer:

Thank you for sending in your questions, Cassandra. Vitamin A is a rather unusual micronutrient for a vegan to be deficient in. It is found in yellow-orange and deep green plant foods, and most vegans get high amounts of it in their diets, according to research. The highest sources of vitamin A include sweet potato, carrots, spinach, kale, mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, beet greens, swiss chard, and winter squash.

There are two forms of vitamin A: retinoids (found in animal foods) and carotenoids (found in plant foods). You’re body can convert carotenoids, such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene (the best form), and beta-cryptoxanthin into vitamin A. There are a few conditions which may limit one’s ability to convert, such as certain medications, and liver and digestive concerns.

Vitamin A is important for vision, immune support, and normal cell growth, among many other things. The symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include night blindness, dry scaling skin, and impaired immune fiction. It’s important to note that toxicity can occur with very large doses of vitamin A supplements.

It may be that your diet is not balanced in other nutrients that are causing symptoms. Please check out my article on nutrients of concern for vegan diets for more information about balancing your diet with all of the most important nutrients. Indeed, it is important to make sure you get a daily source of vitamin A-rich foods in your diet every day to ensure you meet your needs. Fat also helps the absorption of vitamin A, so including a small amount of healthy fat, such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, or avocados, can help absorption. I also recommend that vegans discuss their individual diets with a healthcare practitioner, such as a registered dietitian, familiar with vegan diets. And you may enjoy this wonderful article on vitamin A in vegetarian diets from The Vegetarian Resource Group here.  —Sharon Palmer, RDN

Image: Vitamin-A rich produce for sale at the farmers market in Pasadena, Sharon Palmer, RDN

Seafood AND Plant-Based Omega-3s Good for Heart

Seafood AND Plant-Based Omega-3s Good for Heart

Eating omega-3 fatty acids from both seafood and plant-based sources could reduce the risk of death from heart attack, research shows. According to the meta-analysis that includes 19 studies in 16 countries and 45,637 participants, people with the highest blood levels of omega-3s had about a 25 percent lower risk of dying from heart attack compared to those with the lowest levels. The plant omega-3 (ALA) blood marker was linked with a 9 percent lower risk of fatal heart attack, and the seafood omega-3 markers (EPA and DHA) were associated with a 10 percent lower risk. Plant sources of omega-3s include flaxseed, chia seed, walnuts, tofu, and soybean oil; seafood sources include sardines and salmon.

JAMA Internal Medicine, June 2016 Read the full study here.

Image: Walnuts for sale at a market in Stockholm, Sweden, Sharon Palmer, RDN

Plant-Powered Week in Photos

Plant-Powered Week in Photos

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Get Out and Move in So Cal!

The fall weather can be so gorgeous in So Cal! Here’s my neighborhood shot from a morning run early this week. Get out there and enjoy the weather every day with some activity.

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My Beloved Toby

My son captured this soulful shot of Toby. Isn’t he the sweetest? Toby is getting on up there—he’s 13 and has a bad knee but he’s still a happy fellow.

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Metro Gold Line LA

I am just in love with the Metro Gold Line in LA, we now have a stop right by my house—I went all the way to Orange County over the weekend, eliminating traffic, GHGEs, and stress. But I really loved this sign from BalanceLA.org, especially since it’s right above where you can park your bike.

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Figs, Pasadena Farmers Market

I can’t get enough of these gorgeous figs in the local farmers market right now.

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The Hollywood Bowl

I had such a fun night at the Hollywood Bowl recently. My friends invited me to join them in a box right up at the front to see ELO. I was totally spoiled, as now Lucques caters the box area if you don’t have time to pack a picnic.

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Lucques, Hollywood Bowl

This was my luscious, plant-powered meal from Lucques at the Hollywood Bowl. It was a hearty farro dish with grilled vegetables and greens. So yummy!

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71 Above, LA

We checked out the new 71 Above in Downtown LA, which is located on the 71st floor of the US Bank Tower in Downtown. The space is gorgeous, with tables lining the perimeter of the tower. We kicked off our meal with a glass of California sparkling wine amid the views.

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71 Above, LA

At 71 Above, they have a 3-course menu with a few choices for each course. There was a plant-based option for each course, which was nice. This was my second course—it was a lovely swirl of summer squash with flower petals and greens. They made something special for me for the third course: a delicious farro sunflower seed risotto with vegetables. This was upon request, and I begged the manager to add this to the menu it was that good.

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Good Girl Dinette, Highland Park

I know, I’m obsessed with this little spot in Highland Park, the latest hipster haven in LA. I especially love it because it’s located right on the Metro Gold Line stop—steps away from the train stop. And the creative Vietnamese fusion plant-based cuisine is so good. I love this chalkboard featuring local produce from nearby farms.

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Vegetable Curry, Good Girl Dinette

This time I tried their vegetable curry—which changes daily. It was a yellow curry with tomatoes, carrots, and potatoes, served with brown rice and sautéed collard greens this time. Yum!

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Pierside Kitchen, San Clemente, CA

Last weekend we visited friends in Orange County, and stopped by the San Clemente Pier. We wandered into this little eatery and they had a great veggie-burger! Served with caramelized onions, pickles and avocado slices, with a fresh green salad in lemon vinaigrette on the side. Just love to try new veggie-burgers wherever I go!

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Papadum, New Dehli Palace, Pasadena

We have been going to New Delhi in Pasadena for years now. It’s our favorite Indian restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley. The same owners, chefs, and staff and the same flavorful, reliably good food. Isn’t this papadum beautiful? The laciness, bubbles, and golden patches are just art. And they are delicious and nutritious, too.

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Cucumber Salad, New Dehli Palace, Pasadena

I skip the fried appetizers in lieu of a crunchy cucumber salad whenever I dine at an Indian restaurant.

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Chana Masala, New Dehli Palace, Pasadena

This is my go-to plant-powered meal at an Indian restaurant: chana masala. Oh, that spicy, red sauce and those meaty chickpeas!

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Theo Chocolate Clusters

I got to try these new products this week from Theo—I love their chocolates! These are packed with cocoa flavanols, which are linked with health benefits. And I like that they are portioned in small clusters and come with cool flavors, such as lemon hemp, coconut turmeric, and quinoa pink salt.

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Skinny Pasta

Here’s a new product I tried: Skinny Pasta made from konjac noodles. They only have 9 calories per serving and are made from the konjac plant, which is an Asian vegetable rich in fiber. This product is precooked and comes in a shelf-stable easy pouch, so you just reheat it in your favorite recipe. It comes in many types of pasta. Stay tuned for recipes on the blog using this product.

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The Ranch at Live Oak/Malibu

I got to review a day’s worth of meals from The Ranch, which is a really fabulous, plant-based, gourmet, meal delivery program. I enjoyed a delicious chia pudding for breakfast, this healthy fabulous hummus veggie snack mid-day, a mason jar salad with beans and veggies for lunch, a veggie stir-fry for dinner, and these energy bites for an evening snack. The meals come delivered in a tidy little insulated bag.

Note: I do not profit from these products or food companies on my regular Week in Photos post. Sometimes I may receive a free sample of a product to review (which I note); other times I purchase these foods myself to review. On this regular post, I’m just providing my own unsolicited opinion about popular products, services, and organizations in the food world today!

Meet Sharon

As a registered dietitian with 16 years of health care experience, Sharon channels her nutrition experience into writing features covering health, wellness, nutrition, and cuisine.

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© Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian, 2008 - 2016.

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