Follow a vegan diet without mistakes
There are various motives behind individuals opting for a vegan diet, ranging from pursuing better health, reducing their ecological impact, to prioritizing animal welfare. Irrespective of the reason, many find it challenging to meet the recommended intake of certain vitamins and minerals while following a vegan lifestyle, such as vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and iodine.
Although fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of vital nutrients, a plant-based diet may still lack essential vitamins and minerals that are primarily found in meat and dairy products. Consequently, it is crucial to identify alternative sources of these nutrients to maintain good health. Despite concerns regarding obtaining sufficient plant-based protein, there are abundant vegetable protein sources, including lentils, nuts, seeds, soy products, beans, and whole grains.
Here are some common nutritional deficiencies associated with a vegan or vegetarian diet.
This special vitamin is produced by bacteria and is mainly found in animal products such as dairy products, meat and eggs. However, many plant-based foods are also enriched with B12. Some of these are, for example, yeast and some plant-based milk products, and supplementing with a B12 vitamin is a sensible option. Vitamin B12 is especially important for the formation of red blood cells, fatty acids and some neurotransmitters that we need for brain activity. We store this substance in the liver, so the deficiency in adults is unlikely to occur in the short term.
The symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency are tiredness, sleepiness, low tolerance for physical exertion, dizziness, palpitations, bruising and bleeding, weight loss, impotence, changes in the intestinal flora and bleeding gums. Other symptoms related to the nervous system include numbness in the arms or legs, problems with movement, changes in the brain such as memory loss, mood swings, dementia, visual disturbances, or impaired bowel drainage and weak bladder. Your doctor may request a blood test to check the status of vitamin B12 and whether the indicators are in a healthy range.
As mentioned above, vitamin B12 is found in the highest levels in animal feed - meat, milk and milk products. For vegans, vegetable sources of vitamin B12 are some algae and plants exposed to a bacterial effect of the soil or insects. Analogs of the vitamin are also found in some mushrooms or fermented soybeans. However, more reliable sources are soy, nut milk or meat substitutes.
We need calcium, which is usually contained in dairy products, so that our body builds strong bones and teeth. It also supports heart health, nerve function and muscle contraction. Calcium can also help protect against cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes. Low calcium intake is associated with osteoporosis and and a higher risk of broken bones. For the measurement of bone density, a scan of the bones is made and if it is low, this would be the diagnosis of osteoporosis. Small amounts of vitamin D also increase the risk of osteoporosis, but we'll get back to that in the next paragraph.
Many non-vegans struggle to reach the recommended daily dose of 1.2 g calcium. For this reason, it is not surprising that vegans may have calcium deficiency. To get more of it, you can include these foods in your daily menu: leafy cabbage, kale, mustard cabbage, calcium-enriched tofu or soy milk, broccoli, or orange juice.
Although the richest sources of calcium are milk and dairy products, vegans can also get them from nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains. The need for calcium is higher for vegans and vegetarians due to the relatively high levels of oxalic acid in foods such as spinach, rhubarb, beans and a high level of phytic acid in seeds, nuts, grains, some raw beans and soy. These specific acids can reduce the calcium intake of these foods by 10-50%.
Vitamin D and calcium go hand in hand, since the former is necessary for calcium absorption. It is also important for muscle movement, healthy nerves and a strong immune system. However, one of the best sources of vitamin D is sunlight. Many people avoid the sun or block it with sunscreens to reduce the risk of skin cancer. This can cause vegans and non-vegans to get a lack of it. Vitamin D deficiency can cause many symptoms and can be associated with joint pain.
Vitamin D is not naturally found in many foods. Vegans may have difficulty consuming the recommended daily allowance for adults between the ages of 19 and 70 only through food. Try adding more vitamin D-enriched juices, soy milk, almond milk, hemp milk, and cereals to your diet. According to scientific evidence, mushrooms contain some vitamin D, and some varieties are exposed to ultraviolet light to increase vitamin D levels. If you're not regularly exposed to sunlight, consider a daily vegan vitamin D supplement.
Iodine is necessary for the production of thyroxine, a thyroid hormone that is necessary for normal growth. This regulates the body's metabolic rate and the development of the central nervous system. Iodine is concentrated in the thyroid gland, and iodine deficiency can lead to enlargement of the organ, goiter or other thyroid disorders. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, muscle weakness, feeling cold, difficulty concentrating, poor memory, weight gain, depression, swelling of the face, hair loss, dry skin, constipation and irregular heartbeat. In women, iodine deficiency can also increase the risk of miscarriage and congenital abnormalities.
A number of tests allow doctors to determine the amount of iodine in the body. The iodine content in food depends on the iodine content of the plants, which in turn depends on the iodine content of the soil. If the soil content is low, it may need to be added. The main sources of iodine are seafood, dairy and eggs. It is advisable for vegans to consume more iodized salt, bread with iodized salt, fortified soy or nut milk and algae.
Vegan diet and iron
Iron is a mineral and an important compound in hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to the body tissues. There are two types of iron: heme and non-heme. Heme iron absorbs better than non-heme. Since meat, seafood, and poultry are the main sources of heme iron, it is logical that vegans are deficient, but this may not necessarily be the case. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found no significant difference in iron content between vegetarians and non-vegetarians. This may be due to the high number of iron-rich plant foods that vegetarians consume. Other plant foods also support iron absorption.
The daily dose for adults aged 18 to 50 years is 8 mg for men and 18 mg for women. Low iron people, including vegans, are at risk of anemia, which has numerous symptoms. Even if vegetable iron is not so easily absorbed, a varied diet that is rich in whole vegetable foods should provide enough iron.
You can find the element in green leafy vegetables, whole grains, lentils, peas, and dried fruits. The addition of foods rich in vitamin C also helps with iron absorption. For a vegan diet, it doesn't matter how much iron you eat or how you eat it to increase absorption. Scientists and researchers offer the following guidelines:
- Eat non-heme iron foods with others that are high in vitamin C.
- Avoid iron-blocking tannins in coffee, tea, walnuts, berries, and apples when ingesting iron.
- Cook your meals in a cast iron pan. The iron in the pan is drained into your food.Do not take calcium at the same time as consuming iron.
Zinc and vegan diet
Zinc is important for cell metabolism and immunity. According to many studies, the body does not store zinc, so it is important to reach the recommended daily dose of 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women from the age of nineteen. Non-vegans get most of their zinc from oysters, shellfish, meat and poultry. Zinc deficiency can be difficult to diagnose. Symptoms can be vague or blamed on another condition.
The risk of zinc deficiency is especially high if you do not eat meat and a lot of legumes and whole grains. Legumes and unleavened whole grains contain phytates that prevent zinc absorption. Soaking beans, grains, and seeds until sprouts form before eating can help increase the amount of zinc absorbed. Other sources of zinc include tofu, almonds, oatmeal, chia seeds, cashew nuts, walnuts, pecans and peanuts.
Omega-3 fatty acid
There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). According to scientists, the main sources of ALA in the diet are vegetable oils. EPA and DHA are also mainly found in oily fish such as salmon and tuna. Products containing omega-3 are marketed to promote heart health. Consuming omega-3 fatty acids from seafood can reduce the risk of heart disease and relieve symptoms of arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids also have numerous other health benefits. It is therefore important to increase the recommended daily dose up to 1 g.
These essential fatty acids are therefore very important for maintaining general health. While fish and eggs are generally considered to be rich sources, omega-3 is also found in chia seeds, linseed, walnuts and hemp seeds. Vegan omega-3 sources also include rapeseed oil, algae oil, white beans, cauliflower and broccoli. However, keep in mind that not all vegan foods contain all three types of omega-3 fatty acids. It is therefore good to eat a wide range. You can try supplements, but it's unclear whether they offer the same benefits as omega-3 fatty acids derived from whole foods.
Balanced vegan diet and nutrition tips
Fresh vegetables are one of the most nutritious foods in the world. The key to achieving health and longevity for the whole body is a balanced diet, regardless of its type. You should make every effort to include a variety of different foods in your vegan diet. You may also want to add certain supplements to ensure that you get the right amount of essential nutrients. Look for a vegan or vegetarian multivitamin that contains vitamin B12, iodine, and zinc. However, do not take iron supplements unless your doctor recommends it. You can also try vegan and vegetarian protein powders to supplement your protein intake if you're worried about it.
Just get the nutrients you need. It doesn't matter whether the reason for being vegan is overall health, animal welfare, or both. It's like any diet plan where you need to find balance. To avoid malnutrition, you need to work a little harder to include certain nutrients in your diet. Examine your body to see if you lack nutrients and find out where you can improve. If you need help determining what and how much to eat, you can speak to a nutritionist. Self-diagnosis of vitamin deficiency is not recommended as the symptoms often mimic other conditions. If you think you have a deficiency, contact your doctor.