Written by Ben Bunting: BA(Hons), PGCert. Sport & Exercise Nutrition. L2 Strength & Conditioning Coach.
Are you a Vegan or vegetarian? Are you looking to keep yourself healthy and avoid a vegan diet vitamin deficiency?
This article looks at the key micronutrients that you need to consider when choosing your food to ensure you are not suffering from a deficiency when cutting out animal derived food sources.
We shall cover the following:
- Problems with plants?
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B12
- Take home
Vegans avoid eating animal products for a variety of reasons. They could be ethical or health-related. Vegan diets focus on a number of fruits, veggies, legumes and whole grains for their food intake.
Vegan diets are rich in certain types of nutrients, and they can help you lose weight. It could also protect against certain types of cancers and lower your risk of heart disease according to a review of studies that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
On the other hand, common vegan vitamin deficiencies could increase your risk of stroke or neurological problems it can also potentially increase bone fracture risks as well.
You can avoid these complications, however, if you carefully plan your meals to include vitamins you may be missing, it just takes a bit more careful consideration, but once in the swing of it, it will all be second nature to you.
We've alrady written a piece about how to build muscle on a vegan diet, here.
However, here we cover some of the most common micronutrient deficiencies Vegans face, as well as our favorite ways to supplement your diet so you can stay healthy.
Vitamin D is present in a number of animal-based foods. These include red meat, egg yolks, and dairy products.
Vitamin D is critical for keeping your bones, teeth, and muscles healthy. It helps to fight diseases, boost weight loss, and even ward off depression. The National Health Service of the UK advises that vitamin D supplementation is necessary throughout the winter months.
Signs of a Vitamin D deficiency include fatigue, muscle weakness, and depression. A long-term deficiency can lead to a lack of bone density and fractures.
If you're a vegan who wants to avoid problems with a Vitamin D deficiency, consider adding fortified soy milk, fortified cereals, or fortified orange juice to your diet.
If that's not giving you enough Vitamin D, consider adding a vitamin supplement with Vitamin D to your diet, just make sure it is vegan friendly. The most popular option is D2 which are sourced from mushrooms.
Iron is a critical mineral that your body needs for growth and development. It helps transport oxygen throughout the body. There's even an association of low iron levels with reduced testosterone levels.
Vegans probably won't be eating foods high in iron such as red meat or turkey. Signs of an iron deficiency include weakness, pale skin, and cold hands and feet.
Vegans can, however, supplement an iron deficiency with plant-based options like cashew nuts, tofu, and beans. You can also look at fortified foods such as breakfast cereals.
If you aren't getting enough food containing iron in your diet, the right vitamin supplement can help.
Our bodies require Vitamin A for eye health, immune health, and reproductive wellness. The Vegan diet may be lacking in dairy products, which are essential for providing Vitamin A.
Signs of a Vitamin A deficiency include dry skin, night blindness, and frequent throat and chest infections.
Vegans need to make a special effort to keep Vitamin A in their diets. Therefore vitamin A rich foods like sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and carrots are all great natural sources of the vitamin. Supplements with Vitamin A can also help.
Zinc is commonly found in red meat and poultry, so many Vegans are likely deficient in the zinc mineral. Few plants contain high amounts of zinc, so it's important for Vegans to be diligent about getting some into their diets.
Zinc makes proteins and DNA, which is important to cell growth and reproduction. Signs of a zinc deficiency include hair loss, diarrhea, and eye and skin lesions.
You can get zinc by picking up a multivitamin that contains the mineral. You can also find it in foods like walnuts, cashews, and chia seeds. If you like whole grains, check out wholemeal grains or quinoa.
Vegans are often at risk for a Vitamin B-12 deficiency because most dietary sources of Vitamin B-12 are animal-based. These include meat, fish, milk, and eggs.
Signs of a Vitamin B-12 deficiency include tingling in hands and feet, balance problems, and cognitive difficulties. Our bodies need Vitamin B-12 for nerve and blood cells, as well as to help make DNA. Long term, a Vitamin B-12 deficiency could lead to weakness, constipation, and loss of appetite.
Vegans can usually get Vitamin B12 from fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals, plant milk, and some soy products. Be sure to check labels and make sure you're getting at least some source of Vitamin B-12 into your diet regularly.
Vegans often have a lower intake of calcium, thus leading to lower bone mineral density. This could lead to a higher risk of fractures.
Non-vegans consume most of their calcium in dairy foods, such as milk, cheeses, and yogurt.
Vegans, however, can get their daily recommended amount from green leafy vegetables. These include broccoli, cabbage, and okra. They can also get calcium from grains like fortified rice and oat drinks.
Our bodies need calcium to maintain strong bones and teeth. It's also required for muscle movement and helping nerves to carry messages between the brain and other parts of the body.
Not getting enough calcium could lead to a loss of bone mass, which causes bones to become weak and porous. This could put you at risk for osteoporosis, especially later in life.
Signs of calcium deficiency include muscle cramps, fatigue, and dental problems. It could also lead to depression and confusion.
Vegans should take care to get enough calcium in order to avoid health problems later in life. If you're noticing signs of a calcium deficiency, it may be time to get serious about finding calcium-rich foods to introduce into your diet.
We are recommended to consume 250mg of omega-3 daily as per the guidance from the World Health Organization.
Research suggests that those on a plant-based diet should optimse their omega-3 intake as a number of studies have highlighted that they have lower plasma concentraions of omega-3 fatty acids.
This is key because omega-3 can help alleviate symptoms of arthritis, and may reduce the liklihood of heart disease.
Key non-meat sources include:
- Kidney beans
Common Vegan Diet Vitamin Deficiency Problems
Fatigue, anemia, and cognitive problems are all signs that you could have a vegan diet vitamin deficiency. However, with the right diet changes and a good supplement, you could be on your way to a healthy lifestyle in no time.
Don't stop getting smart about your health now. For more great Vegan-friendly vitamin supplements, visit our shop today.