Going vegan? Make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need
Switching to a vegan diet plan? Here’s what you need to know before making the change.
Going vegan sounds great, but how can you ensure you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals you need? Sure, you could pop a pill, but it’s always a good idea to get as many nutrients as you can from your food. So if you are going vegan, or thinking about it, make sure you get enough of the following vitamins and minerals.
B12 is an essential vitamin; it keeps the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy. A deficiency can lead to tiredness, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, nerve problems, and even depression. A B12 deficiency is quite common in vegans. Studies suggesting up to 92% of vegans are deficient in this critical nutrient. How come? Vitamin B12 occurs naturally in animal foods. But no need to panic. You can stock up on a variety of B12 supplements. Vitamin B12 can also occur in plant products, for example in dried seaweed and algae. But a large part of this is a variant that is not active and does not absorb the body properly.
Omega-3 provides numerous health benefits, such as fighting inflammation and heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids are mostly found in fatty fish (like mackerel, sardines and salmon). ALA is a plant-based source of omega-3, but because our body can only convert 10% to 30% of ALA into DHA, vegetarians and vegans run the risk of deficiency. Vegan foods rich in omega-3 include chia seeds, hemp, flax seeds, walnuts, and soybeans. Seaweed and algae oil supplements are vegan sources of EPA and DHA.
Iron comes in two forms: heme and non-heme. Heme, which makes up about 40% of the iron in animal foods, is easily absorbed by the body. Vegan diets contain only non-heme, which is less readily absorbed. That means you may need to ingest more iron if you want to get the same benefit. Good vegan iron sources include legumes, sunflower seeds, nuts, whole-grain products, dried raisins, and dark, leafy greens.
Make sure you also consume enough Vitamine C. Without vitamin C, very little iron is absorbed and any benefits won’t be obtained. Get your daily dose of Vitamin C by eating berries, oranges and bell peppers.
Zinc is commonly found in beef, poultry and fish. Zinc deficiencies can result in: loss of hair, more susceptibility to colds and the flu and hormone imbalances. It also assists in healthy eyesight, wound healing, and a well-functioning immune system. Enough reason to consume zinc we thought. Where can you find it? Whole grains, soy, legumes, beans, nuts and seeds are all good vegan sources of zinc.
As long as you keep an eye on this minerals and vitamins, you can enjoy your vegan diet forever!