Adopting veganism as a way of life is absolutely inspiring but challenging nonetheless. As vegans, when we avoid animal products in any form and shape, there is quite a lot we miss out on. Many believe that veganism is the ultimate in healthy eating, but that’s not always true.
Studies have proven that vitamins available in animal sources are crucial for the overall health and well-being of the human body. When one chooses to be a vegan, one must also ensure that the following 7 vitamins and minerals are not missed out on.
1. Vitamin B12
Many vegans are under the impression that if they eat unwashed organic produce, nori, spirulina, chlorella and nutritional yeast, then their B12 demands are met. Unfortunately, many studies claim that vegetarians and vegans are at a higher risk of B12 deficiency.1
Extremely important in maintaining protein metabolism, oxygenation of blood cells and health of the nervous system, vitamin B12 is indispensable. Its deficiency can lead to anemia, infertility and even diseases of the cardiovascular and skeletal systems.2
Plant-derived vitamin B12, is not as active as an animal -derived one. Hence vegans have to meet their vitamin B12 requirements from fortified foods like cereals, grains, milk or by taking a B12 supplement.3
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is also known as the ‘sunlight vitamin’ and it helps to enhance the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from your gut. It is essential for maintaining muscle and skeletal strength as well as immunity and mental health.4
Unfortunately, vitamin D is produced by the body on exposure to the sun. However, not many of us can always go out in the sun and boost our vitamin D levels for fear of skin damage.
The best way to get your daily requirement of vitamin D is by taking fortified foods or vitamin D2 or D3 supplement daily.5
3. Long-Chain Omega-3s
The human body needs the omega-3 fatty acids, the most essential of them being Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). The rest of the omega-3s which are long-chain (EPA and DHA) can be synthesized from ALA within the body itself. Omega-3 fatty acids are needed for brain development and preventing depression, breast cancer and even ADHD.
Flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds and soybeans are rich in ALA. EPA and DHA are derived from oily fishes and cod liver oil.
Researchers have found that vegetarians and vegans have about half the blood levels of EPA and DHA than omnivores.6
Increase your daily intake of ALA-rich foods to meet your recommended dietary intake of fatty acids.7
Iodine levels, if not enough leads to hypothyroidism, in pregnant women, it can even affect the physical and mental health of the newborn. Iodine is usuallyGetting enough iodine is crucial for healthy thyroid function, which controls your metabolism.
Iodine in available in seaweed, berries, seafood and iodized salt. Studies have found that vegetarians have no iodine deficiency as such but vegans were more to iodine deficiency.8
Vegans can include iodized salt or take iodine supplements to prevent iodine deficiency.
From the synthesis of RBCs to boosting immunity, iron is a quintessential nutrient. Iron-deficiency anemia is pretty common and is marked by generalized fatigue and decreased immunity.9
Iron is available in two forms: heme and non-heme. Heme iron is an animal product whereas non-heme iron is found in plants. Unlike heme iron, non-heme iron is not readily absorbed by the body.
Therefore, vegans are advised to take more iron-rich foods like green leafy vegetables, dry fruits and nuts and seeds.10
Using cast-iron cookware, combining iron-rich foods with citrus fruits can all help boost iron absorption too. Iron supplements can be taken after consulting a doctor, as excessive iron can lead to a lot of adverse effects on health.
A very significant mineral for proper development of bones and teeth, calcium also plays an important role in cardiovascular and neurological health.11
Kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, watercress, broccoli, chickpeas, calcium-set tofu and fortified plant milk or juices are excellent sources of calcium for vegans.
Researchers have found that reduced intake of calcium amongst vegetarians made them more prone to bone fractures.12
Calcium supplements can also be included in your diet especially for post-menopausal women who are vegans.
Zinc is an important mineral needed for normal metabolism, cell repair and regeneration as well as immunity. Zinc deficiency leads to hair loss, diarrhea and developmental delays as well as poor wound healing.13
Vegetarian can derive zinc from plant sources like whole grains, wheat germ, tofu, sprouted breads, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Studies have found that zinc deficiency is not a major concern amongst vegans. To be on the safer side, all you’ve to do is increase the intake of foods rich in zinc. Zinc supplements can also help in improving low blood zinc levels.14
Before adopting a vegan lifestyle, do a thorough research on how to manage the dietary deficits, you would’ve to face. Before taking a supplement, consult a doctor for an expert opinion.
|↑1||Pawlak, Roman, S. E. Lester, and T. Babatunde. “The prevalence of cobalamin deficiency among vegetarians assessed by serum vitamin B12: a review of literature.” European journal of clinical nutrition 68, no. 5 (2014): 541.|
|↑2||Vitamin B12. Medline Plus|
|↑3||Institute of Medicine (US) Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes. Dietary reference intakes for thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, biotin, and choline. National Academies Press (US), 1998.|
|↑4||Vitamin D. Medline Plus|
|↑5||Tripkovic, Laura, Helen Lambert, Kathryn Hart, Colin P. Smith, Giselda Bucca, Simon Penson, Gemma Chope et al. “Comparison of vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 supplementation in raising serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D status: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 95, no. 6 (2012): 1357-1364.|
|↑6||Saunders, Angela V., Brenda C. Davis, and Manohar L. Garg. “Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and vegetarian diets.” Medical Journal of Australia 9 (2012): 22.|
|↑7||Wood, K. E., A. Lau, E. Mantzioris, R. A. Gibson, C. E. Ramsden, and B. S. Muhlhausler. “A low omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid (n-6 PUFA) diet increases omega-3 (n-3) long chain PUFA status in plasma phospholipids in humans.” Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids (PLEFA) 90, no. 4 (2014): 133-138.|
|↑8||The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 96, no. 8 (2011): E1303-E1307.|
|↑9||Abbaspour, Nazanin, Richard Hurrell, and Roya Kelishadi. “Review on iron and its importance for human health.” Journal of Research in Medical Sciences 19, no. 2 (2014).|
|↑10||Saunders, Angela V., Winston J. Craig, Surinder K. Baines, and Jennifer S. Posen. “Iron and vegetarian diets.” Medical Journal of Australia 9, no. 11 (2012).|
|↑11||Calcium. Medline Plus|
|↑12||Appleby, P., A. Roddam, N. Allen, and T. Key. “Comparative fracture risk in vegetarians and nonvegetarians in EPIC-Oxford.” European journal of clinical nutrition 61, no. 12 (2007): 1400.|
|↑13||Zinc. Medline Plus|
|↑14||Foster, Meika, Anna Chu, Peter Petocz, and Samir Samman. “Effect of vegetarian diets on zinc status: a systematic review and meta‐analysis of studies in humans.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 93, no. 10 (2013): 2362-2371.|