Nutritional Deficiencies and Essential Considerations for Every Vegan

The vegan lifestyle is becoming more and more popular each day. Vegan diets are not only associated with better overall health, but also reduce cruelty to animals as well as greenhouse gas emissions. The vegan diet has been popularized by celebrities like Ellen Degeneres and Liam Hemsworth, making it much more mainstream than it was a decade ago. While going vegan can have many benefits, before changing your diet there are some important considerations to think about.

Protein

One of the primary concerns many people have about becoming vegan is getting enough protein. Protein is an important macromolecule that can help you feel full and energized. Meat, poultry, and fish are the main sources of protein in the typical diet. However, many people assume incorrectly that eating vegan means that it is impossible to get enough protein. There are many plant based sources of protein. Some of the more common sources are tofu and tempeh. However, you can also get a significant amount of protein from beans, lentils, nuts, and certain vegetables like kale. While it is best to get your protein from natural, fresh sources, you can also turn to protein powder if you are worried about including it in your diet. Some sources say that plant-based proteins are incomplete, lacking in other important nutrients. Therefore, it is still important to also take other nutrients into consideration when changing your diet.

Calcium

Calcium is a mineral that is extremely important for bone health. Milk, cheese, and other dairy products are some of the most common places to get calcium. However, as a vegan these products are no longer an option for getting the right amount of calcium. Instead, vegans must turn to other sources like collard greens, kale, and spinach. Vegans can also find calcium in fortified foods like soy yogurts and soy milk. Vegans may choose to supplement their diet with vitamins for easy assurance that they are getting the nutrients they need.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D and calcium typically go hand in hand since vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium into the body, and therefore bone health. While you can get a decent amount of vitamin D simply from exposure to the sun, your needs for vitamin D must also be balanced with reducing your risk of sun cancer. Vegans can find vitamin D in fortified foods as well as in mushrooms. Again, vegans may also choose to find vitamin D in supplement form for simple ease and reassurance. Vitamin D deficiency may lead to increased sickness and exhaustion, so it is important to keep this nutrient in mind when switching to a vegan diet.

Calories

While many diets are concerned with reducing your calorie intake, the vegan diet can sometimes have the opposite problem. Without animal based products, new vegans may not get enough calories on a day to day basis. Eating enough calories is important if you want to stay energized and feel motivated to go about your day. Eating the right amount of calories is also important for boosting your metabolism and regulating your weight. Vegans should initially try to track how many calories they eat each day to determine whether they are getting enough based on their weight. If you discover that you aren’t eating quite enough, try to eat every two or three hours when you are hungry and include high calorie foods like nuts in your diet.

Iron

Iron is a nutrient that carries oxygen around the body ensuring that your body has enough oxygen to function well. Meat is a very common source of iron. However, vegans can turn to other sources for this nutrient. Chia seeds, nuts, and kale are just a few plant-based sources of iron. Iron can be found in a wide variety of plant-based foods, allowing vegans to lead a healthy lifestyle without suffering from iron deficiency.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient that helps neurological functioning and protects the nervous system. It is found in essentially all animal foods. However, it can be difficult to get enough B12 from plant products alone. The only sources of B12 in a vegan diet are fortified foods. While many vegans try to get all of their nutrients naturally, it is extremely important to get enough B12 in your diet. B12 deficiency may cause you to feel weak and exhaustedand will eventually lead to more serious problems. Eating B12-fortified foods or taking a B12 vitamin daily is important to maintain a health vegan diet.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 Fatty Acids, which are typically found in fish, are important for a number of health factors. A diet high in omega 3 fatty acids can reduce depression, lower inflammation, and even help with ADHD. These fatty acids are also important for optimal brain function and development. Seeds like flaxseed and chia seeds are excellent vegan sources of omega 3 fatty acids, along with beans and seaweed. Like many of these other nutrients, omega 3 fatty acids can also be found in supplement form. Lack of omega 3 fatty acids in the diet can lead to dry skin, emotional problems, and trouble sleeping, so it is important that vegans make sure they are including this nutrient in their diet.

Eating a vegan diet has numerous potential benefits from reducing your carbon footprint to improving overall health. However, a diet without meat has the potential to result in nutritional deficiencies if you are not careful. When making the choice to become vegan, make sure your diet includes enough protein, calcium, vitamin d, calories, iron, vitamin B12, and oemga 3 fatty acids. While each of these nutrients are relatively easy to find in plant-based foods or in supplement form, new vegans may not realize how important it is to actively include them in their diet. Once you learn where to find these nutrients, you will be on the right track to a healthy vegan lifestyle.

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