This particular vitamin is created by bacteria and is found mainly in animal products such as dairy products, meat, insects and eggs. In addition to the ecological benefits of abandoning dairy products, meat and fish (around 41,200 tons of CO₂, just as 450,000 flights from London to Berlin could be saved with those 350,000 animal products that are traveling this month alone), there are also countless health benefits. To make sure you don't get into trouble, here are 10 nutrients that vegans are often deficient in, and how to make sure you're getting enough. There are no surprises: After all, dairy is one of the main sources of calcium on your plate.
And why do you care? Well, aside from the obvious (calcium is important for healthy and strong bones), this nutrient is also responsible for regulating muscle contraction, which means it helps control the heartbeat. Iron is essential for healthy red blood cell production, but the results of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey have shown that 27% of women do not eat enough, putting them at risk of suffering from anemia (whose symptoms include chronic tiredness and fatigue). If you're low on this vitamin, you probably know. You may only need 2.4 mcg of the substance per day, but if you don't, expect to experience everything from depression to tiredness and weakness.
Although we tend to think of dairy products when we think of calcium, vegetables and legumes are also sources of this important mineral. Be sure to include broccoli, soy, spinach, and other leafy greens in your repertoire. While our skin can produce vitamin D from sunlight regardless of your dietary choices, this has some limitations, such as age, skin color, geographical location, and lifestyle habits (a lot indoors?). Unfortunately, however, it can be difficult for both vegans and non-vegans to obtain vitamin D from food alone.
Supplementation is often necessary to maintain optimal levels for bone health and immune function. Most vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) supplements are derived from lanolin (sheep's wool), but if you're looking for a vegan option, there are algae-derived vitamin D3 supplements available. Zinc is important for immune system function, protein synthesis and more. Although a variety of grains and plant foods contain zinc, the bioavailability of these sources is lower than that of zinc from animal sources, such as beef and seafood.
This is because phytates, which are present in whole-grain breads, cereals, legumes and other foods, bind to zinc and inhibit its absorption. According to the NIH, people who follow plant-based diets sometimes require up to 50% more of the recommended daily dose of zinc than people who are not plant-based. Soaking beans and choosing yeasty grains (bread instead of crackers) can help inhibit phytates and increase zinc absorption. When it comes to this thyroid-supporting mineral, the good news for vegans is that marine vegetables, such as seaweed, are among the best sources of iodine.
The not-so-good news is that seaweed is one of the only food options that serve as a good source and are suitable for vegan diets. Some plant foods, such as beans and potatoes, contain iodine, but they are not reliable sources, as the amount will vary depending on regional cultivation practices. Using iodized salt is also an option for vegans to get more iodine. Because of the lack of plant-based options, vegans are at risk of a deficiency and should consider taking iodine supplements, especially if they are pregnant or breastfeeding.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 fatty acid that is important for brain and heart health. It is mainly obtained from fatty fish such as salmon and sardines. It can be difficult for both vegans and non-vegans to get enough DHA. If you're vegan, consider supplementing with algae-derived DHA instead of fish oil as an omega-3 supplement to ensure you're getting enough.
Nuts (walnuts) and seeds (chia, flax) are vegan sources of an omega-3 called alpha linolenic acid (alpha-linolenic acid; ALA), but it's a common misconception that ALA will cover your bases. We can convert ALA to EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA to a certain extent, but the conversion efficiency is very low. Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, plays an important role in energy production, cellular function, metabolism, and more. Lean meat, eggs, dairy products, almonds, quinoa, spinach, cereals, and fortified cereals contain riboflavin.
Because riboflavin is soluble in water, some of the riboflavin content is lost in cooking water when food is boiled. Interestingly, gut bacteria can produce some riboflavin. Despite this, vegetarian and vegan athletes are considered to be at risk of suffering from a deficiency of the vitamin riboflavin. Exercise puts stress on the metabolic pathways that use riboflavin, so athletes may have a greater need for this nutrient.
To get sufficient amounts of vitamin B12, people who follow a vegan diet should take supplements or eat foods fortified with this nutrient. At the other end of the spectrum are vegans, who not only don't eat meat, but they completely exclude animal foods. According to Hobson, the richest sources of zinc are found in seafood, meat and dairy products, which are off the menu of vegans. On the contrary, the most strictly regulated form of vegetarianism (veganism) is characterized by total abstinence from the consumption of meat and animal foods, such as dairy products, eggs and honey, with a diet that consists only of plant foods such as cereals, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds and fats and vegetable oils.
The vegan diet does not include products made with animals; therefore, most nutritional income is based on the lower levels of the food pyramid. While being plant-based has many health benefits, there are some nutrients that are abundant in animal foods that vegans may lack. However, says Dr. Carrie Ruxton, who advises the Health Information and Food Supplements Service, becoming vegan has its own health warnings.
While whole foods are the best source, supplements can ensure an adequate intake of 2.4 micrograms a day, especially if you're vegan. Most Americans don't eat enough vegetables, so you might think that vegetarians and vegans (vegetarians who don't eat food that comes from animals) would be the healthiest people alive. It is found mainly in eggs, oily fish and yogurt, all foods prohibited for those who follow a vegan eating plan. The objective of this study was to provide an update of existing knowledge about the nutritional status of vegan diets and the influence of their dietary components on the human intestinal microbiota and health.