Many people believe that the vegan diet is healthy because it is mostly made up of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. However, not consuming meat or dairy products poses a risk of nutritional deficiencies. And to be able to avoid these inconveniences, it is crucial first to determine them, of course.
To take the necessary measures and prevent the development of certain diseases, FitRobin presents an informative article on the nutrients that vegans lack. Before you start listing them, remember that doctors recommend that their patients regularly check their levels of vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and iodine.
The vegan diet is closely linked to dietary deficiencies
There are many reasons why people decide to succumb to a vegan diet. No matter if it is a desire to be healthier, to lead an ecological lifestyle or just to remain sensitive to the welfare of animals, this type of nutrition can have an adverse influence on the animal’s health. optimal intake of certain vitamins and minerals.
We speak in particular of vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and iodine. Because fruits and vegetables contain important nutrients for health, it seems a little weird that a plant-based diet can cause nutritional deficiencies.
However, meat and dairy products contain high amounts of essential vitamins and minerals, which are almost non-existent in plant foods. To stay healthy, look to alternatives to the vegan diet to compensate for any deficit that has arisen.
Ultimately, a vegan or vegetarian diet can be beneficial for your health. However, if you are to forgo animal products altogether, it will be necessary to educate yourself on how to obtain the deficient nutrients.
Fortunately, there are many sources of plant protein such as lentils, beans, chickpeas, nuts, seeds, soy products, and whole grains. Read on and learn about the most common dietary deficiencies caused by veganism.
Dietary deficiencies and veganism: what to know about vitamin B12
Foods of animal origin such as meat, eggs and dairy products, food supplements as well as fortified foods are the only source of vitamin B12 for humans. This important vitamin is crucial for red blood cells, fatty acids, and certain neurotransmitters necessary for brain activity.
Our body stores this substance in the liver, heart, pancreas, and brain. For information, in vegans and vegetarians, dietary deficiencies in vitamin B12 appear after several years of deficiency.
Regarding the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, the following conditions can be distinguished:
- Low tolerance to physical activity
- Bruising and bleeding
- Changes in intestinal flora
- Bleeding gums
Symptoms associated with the nervous system:
- Numbness in the arms or legs
- Problems with movement
- Changes in brain functions: memory loss, mood swings, dementia, blurred vision.
As mentioned above, foods of animal origin have the highest content of vitamin B12. But vegans can opt for plant sources like seaweed, for example. Certain mushrooms or fermented soybeans are also an alternative to foods rich in vitamin B12.
Dietary calcium deficiencies
Small or large, everyone knows that dairy products are the main source of calcium. This strengthens bones and teeth while supporting heart health, nervous system function, and muscle contractions. Also, it protects against cancer, hypertension, and diabetes. Dietary calcium deficiencies are associated with osteoporosis and a high risk of bone fractures.
Many non-vegans struggles to meet the recommended daily allowance of 1.2g of calcium. For this reason, it’s not at all surprising that vegans suffer from calcium deficiency. To get the right amount, experts recommend incorporating the following foods into the daily menu: cabbage, kale, tofu fortified with calcium or soy milk, broccoli, or orange juice.
Vitamin D and the vegan diet
Vitamin D is important for muscle movement, healthy nerves and helps strengthen the immune system. So, dietary deficiencies of this type can cause many symptoms associated with joint pain. Besides, one of the best sources of this vitamin is sunlight. To ensure your recommended intake, consume juices fortified with vitamin D, mushrooms, cereals, soy milk, almond, and hemp.
The function of iodine is to make the thyroid hormones (thyroxine) necessary for metabolism and growth. Iodine deficiency can cause miscarriage, birth defects, and can lead to thyroid-related diseases. This therefore weakly produces hormones that cause hypothyroidism. Its symptoms are as follows:
- Muscular weakness
- Feeling cold
- Difficulty concentrating
- Bad memory
- Dry skin
- Weight gain
- Swelling of the face
- Hair loss
The main sources of iodine are seafood, dairy products, and eggs. To avoid dietary iodine deficiencies, vegans can consume more iodized salt, seaweed, fortified soy milk, or nut milk.
Veganism and iron deficiency
Iron is a mineral compound super important for hemoglobin whose function is to transport oxygen from the lungs to body tissue. There are two types of iron: heme and non-heme. Since meat, seafood, and poultry are the main sources of heme iron, it makes sense that vegans are deficient in it.
However, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that there is no significant difference in the iron content of vegetarians and non-vegetarians. This is explained by a large amount of plant foods rich in iron consumed by vegans.
The daily dose for adults aged 18 to 50 is 8 mg for men and 18 mg for women. People with low iron levels, including vegans, are at risk of anemia characterized by many symptoms. In this case, a varied diet based on green leafy vegetables, whole grains, lentils, peas, and dried fruits, is recommended. Here are some more tips to consider:
- Choose foods made with non-heme iron and those that contain a lot of vitamin C.
- Do not take calcium supplements while providing iron.
- Avoid tannins when taking iron.
Dietary zinc deficiencies
Zinc is essential for cell metabolism and immunity, but according to many scientific studies, the human body does not store this crucial element. It is therefore important to reach the recommended daily allowance of 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women over 19.
Non-vegans make sure of oysters, shellfish, meat, and poultry. However, dietary zinc deficiencies can be difficult to diagnose because symptoms may be vague or attributed to another condition.
The risk of zinc deficiency is especially high if you don’t eat meat, legumes, and whole grains. To increase the amount of zinc absorbed, soak beans, grains, and seeds until sprouts have formed before consuming them. Other sources of zinc are tofu, almonds, oatmeal, chia seeds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, and peanuts.
Dietary deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids
There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). According to scientists, vegetable oils are the most important source of ALA while EPA and DHA are mainly found in fatty fish like salmon and tuna. Consuming omega-3 fatty acids from seafood can reduce the risk of heart disease and relieve symptoms of arthritis.
Omega-3s are found not only in fish and eggs but also in chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts. In terms of plant sources, we can distinguish rapeseed oil, seaweed oil, white beans, cauliflower, and broccoli.
Dietary deficiencies in vegans: tips for a balanced vegan diet
Contributing to the general health and longevity of your body lies in a balanced diet. And to avoid any type of dietary deficiency, consider incorporating essential nutrients into your diet. Opt for vitamin B12, iodine, and zinc supplements. Do not take iron unless it is not recommended by your doctor. To better determine which foods to favor, please consult a nutritionist.