Veganism has had its share of controversies, but one fact remains true –it’s gaining tremendous popularity each year. People choose to go vegan for different reasons. Concern for the environment and empathy towards other creatures are two primary reasons. Many people shift to this lifestyle for better health. Indeed, switching to less or no meat and increasing the intake of plant-based foods can get you and your heart in better shape, but like all diets, there are some points you need to keep in mind before you make the decision.
Being a vegan would require you to give up all animal products, including dairy. While overall, this is fantastic news, there are certain nutrient deficiencies associated with a vegan diet. While many nutrients can easily be found in plant-based foods, others are generally obtained through a diet including meat and dairy. These key nutrients that vegans may be missing perform important roles in the human body. If you are a vegan or are planning to switch to veganism, be careful about these nutrient deficiencies.
The body requires vitamin B12 for the maintenance of nerve cells and producing DNA. We usually find this vitamin in animal products, which is why a deficiency is so closely associated with vegans. Many health problems can arise for vegans who do not take sufficient B-12, including nerve damage and anemia. Since the vegan lifestyle does not accept animal products, taking daily supplements of B-12 can help protect you from a deficiency. A deficiency of vitamin B-12 can lead to severe issues like brain impairment, fatigue, increased chances of heart disease, psychiatric disorders, neurological disorders, and eating fortified foods becomes vital for vegans.
The kind of iron that gets absorbed well is called heme iron, and it can be found in fish, poultry, and meat. On the other hand, the iron that isn’t as well absorbed is non-heme iron, and we find it in foods like vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Naturally, since vegans get their nutrients from a plant-based diet, they do not get the well-absorbed iron. An iron deficiency can put a severe setback to your health, and vegans must eat a sufficient iron-rich diet. Eating more Vitamin-C loaded foods, and using techniques like sprouting, fermenting, and soaking for iron-rich foods can help vegans avoid iron deficiency.
This sulfur compound contributes to muscle function and antioxidant defenses. It also plays a role in bile salt formation and is present in your kidneys, brain, and heart. Both vegetarians and vegans are likely to have a taurine deficiency since it comes from animal-sourced foods. Meat, dairy products, and seafood are significant sources of taurine. Vegans have low levels of taurine, and they can take supplements for it. According to studies, this amino acid helps in enhancing athletic performance. It’s also significant when it comes to contributing to the metabolic processes necessary for your body.
Vegans and vegetarians may have a deficiency of this vital antioxidant since it can only be obtained through animal-sourced foods. We find it in the brain and muscles, and it’s associated with better performance, less muscle fatigue, and optimum muscle function. Non-vegetarian foods like fish, poultry, and meat are predominant sources of carnosine. Taking beta-alanine supplements can help vegans if they have a deficiency of this vital antioxidant. While this nutrient is not considered essential, actively avoiding a lack of it will help you with muscle fatigue, and your muscle mass and endurance will improve.
The brain requires sufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids for important functions. They are also crucial for our nervous system, cell membranes, and brain development. It’s highly important during pregnancy. Vegans tend to miss out on omega-3 fatty acids since they’re not dominantly found in vegetarian foods. For meeting the sufficient requirements of these acids, vegans should include walnuts, soybeans, hemp seeds, and leafy greens in their diet. When such a diet rich in this nutrient is not possible for you, it’s recommended to take supplements. Microalgae, a rich source of omega-3 acids, is also a recommended addition.
Where you live greatly impacts how much vitamin D you are getting since our primary source of this nutrient isn’t in our diet. Commonly referred to as the sunshine vitamin, we get this vitamin by getting enough sunshine. An individual develops a deficiency in this nutrient depending on various factors, like the skin tone and season. We don’t need vitamin D in huge quantities, but the sunlight may not be accessible to everyone. Vegans can obtain necessary amounts of this nutrient by eating more foods like mushrooms, tofu, fortified vegan milk, and fortified cereals. With a deficiency of this nutrient, an individual may be at higher risk of depression, cancer, heart disease, reduced strength, and osteoporosis.
For meeting calcium requirements, people generally rely on dairy products. Since vegans do not consume dairy foods, they need to include more calcium-rich foods like leafy greens, soybeans, almonds, broccoli, chickpeas, dried figs, and fortified foods to avoid a calcium deficiency, known as hypocalcemia. This deficiency can lead to your dental health issues, increased risk for osteoporosis, and disrupt the metabolic rate. Soy and almond milk are effective alternatives for vegans to obtain calcium. If you’re eating tofu for calcium, take a minute to ensure that you’ve chosen ‘calcium-set’ tofu.
Luckily, there are many different ways to achieve the necessary vitamins and nutrients your body needs, even if they’re mainly found in animal products. It is important if you switch to a vegan diet or are on one currently that you make sure your body is getting the proper nutrients. It is crucial for your overall health.