Vegans do not consume any animal products like dairy, eggs, seafood, meat, poultry, etc. They depend entirely on plant-based foods to acquire energy and nutrients. However, avoiding animal products make vegans prone to certain nutrient deficiencies. As people following vegan diets do not eat animal-sourced products, they cannot acquire certain nutrients that are abundantly found in them. In this situation, they should take great care to find alternative sources to get these nutrients.
Nonetheless, a lot of vegans are not aware of the nutrients they might be lacking. They do not follow a balanced diet, which can greatly increase the risk of nutrient deficiencies. So if you are following a vegan diet, you should be aware of the nutrients that you might be missing. This can be beneficial for you to increase the amounts of various plant-based foods that you should add to your vegan meal to acquire such nutrients.
The following are some of the important nutrient deficiencies that you should watch out for when following a vegan diet:
This is a nutrient that is naturally occurring in animal foods. However, they are not produced in plants. Hence, it can be difficult for vegans to acquire enough amounts of this nutrient. Vitamin B12 is important for carrying a lot of body functions like the proper working of the brain and maintaining normal blood flow. Vegans tend to have a great possibility for developing vitamin B12.
The deficiency of vitamin B12 might lead to megaloblastic anemia that is characterized by a low count of red blood cells, with these cells being larger than normal. Symptoms that can result from this condition include weakness, fatigue, constipation, weight loss, reluctance to eat, etc. Vitamin B12 deficiency may lead to a lot of other problems including tingling in hands and feet, confusion, depression, balance issues, and memory problems.
Even though vitamin B12 does not naturally occur in plants, certain plant-based foods come enriched with this nutrient. Some of these foods are breakfast cereals, soy milk, nutritional yeast, etc. If you cannot acquire enough amounts of this nutrient from your diet, then it is better to take vitamin B12 supplements that can offer adequate levels of this particular vitamin.
This mineral is important for regulating your immune system and fighting off diseases. Though it can be difficult for you to get this nutrient if you are following a plant-based diet, as only limited plant foods have it. Additionally, the absorption of zinc from plant-based foods by the human body can be limited. This can increase the chance of zinc deficiency in vegans and vegetarians.
The deficiency of this mineral can affect your immune system and it may not be able to function properly. This can lead to a large number of problems like slow wound healing, diarrhea, hair loss, and loss of appetite. Fortunately, there are fortified breakfast cereals that come with this mineral, which can be beneficial for vegans. Additionally, cashews, chickpeas, and pumpkin seeds are also a good source of zinc. Although some people might need supplements to get the daily recommended intake of this nutrient. However, when taking supplements, make sure not to overdo it on zinc, as it can lead to vomiting and nausea.
This is another important nutrient that vegans should take great care to acquire. Vegans are more prone to developing this condition than meat-eaters. The form of iron present in animal foods, which is known as heme iron, can be easily absorbed by the body. On the other hand, non-heme iron, which is found in plant-based foods, is difficult for the body to absorb. Iron deficiency can lead to a wide range of health problems like dizziness, fatigue, headache, weakness, pale skin, etc. Therefore, you should take good care in getting enough iron required for the body to prevent its deficiency.
Pairing foods that contain vitamin C along with your iron sources can help to increase the absorption of this mineral. Also, try to include various plant foods that are high in iron in your diet like lentils, beans, spinach, tofu, fortified cereals, cashews, etc. If you are planning to take an iron supplement, it is better to consult a doctor.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fatty fish like tuna, salmon, trout, etc. are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Nevertheless, they are not suitable for vegans, hence, they should get this important nutrient through other foods. Certain plant-based sources can provide omega-3 fatty acids, which can be useful for people who are following a vegan diet. Some of them are chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, etc.
Omega-3 can be significant for promoting the health of your brain and eyes, controlling inflammation, and regulating cholesterol levels. So make sure to get enough of this healthy fat from your foods.
If you are following a vegan diet, make sure to acquire enough amounts of the nutrients listed above. Otherwise, it can lead to a large number of health problems.