Have you been thinking about going vegan for some time or are you already eating that way? Then you should be stocking up on these nutrients.
Being a responsible vegan is not an easy task. Not just because of the fact that you have to give up meat, milk, eggs and other animal products. You also have to watch out for sufficient intake of vitamins and minerals.
People go vegan for many various reasons. It is usually a combination of ethical, environmental and – for some – health related reasons. I do not want to discuss whether this type of diet is healthier than others today. I want to focus on a phase that comes “after” – what to watch out for AFTER making the decision to go vegan, to make sure your body isn’t lacking anything.
The only vitamin you will actually have to supplement. You can find some information claiming that it is present in plants – mainly chlorella, spirulina or seaweed. However, studies show that not every chlorella/spirulina/seaweed really contains it, even though the manufacturer claims it does. And even if it is there, it is not known, whether the human body can effectively absorb it. You can find products enhanced with Vitamin B12, usually plant based milk, but it is not good to rely on it (because of the reasons mentioned above). Pill supplement is the surest way – I totally understand, if you are not a fan of pills, I feel the same – but we are talking about health here.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to nerve problems, anemia, infertility, and bone and heart issues. If you have been a vegan for 6 months and you don’t see any problems, even without taking B12 supplements, it could be caused by your body having enough of it from previous consumption of animal products. But this period will be over eventually. If you follow vegan diet, you really, I mean really should start taking vitamin B12 supplements.
Among the main functions of vitamin D are calcium and phosphorus absorption, hence it plays an important role in bone and teeth health. The deficiency syndromes are fatigue, hormonal imbalance, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, depression etc. It is not difficult to get enough in summer, because it forms in the skin as a result of sun exposure. But other seasons could pose a problem. The reason why vegans can suffer from the deficiency is because it is mainly found in sea fish and egg yolk. It can also be found in some mushrooms.
It has been proven that vegans have up to 50% less iodine in blood than vegetarians (even more, people that consume animal products). The insufficiency can lead to slow metabolism and thyroid problems. It is actually quite easy to include iodide in one’s diet: get yourself an iodized salt or seaweed.
Animal sourced iron is much easier for the body to absorb than the plant based iron. Therefore vegans are recommended to increase their daily iron intake. Iron deficiency can lead to hair and nail breakage, dry skin, fatigue and weakness, irregular heartbeat, headache and tingling sensation in arms and legs. Iron can be found in nuts, legumes and grains.
Ever since we were small children, we have been told that calcium is found mainly in milk and we were given the milk already in school cafeterias. What is not widely known is that the efficiency of absorbing the calcium from cow milk is very problematic for majority of the population. Same content of calcium (in 100g) as in milk can be found in broccoli or kale. Calcium can also be found in almonds and hazelnuts.
Omega-3 fatty acids
The best form for the body to absorb can be found in fish. However, sufficient intake can be covered even when following vegetarian and vegan diet. I recommend nuts, hemp seed, flax seed and chia seed as the best sources. Also, don’t forget to eat your greens but I am sure you already do.