How To Avoid Common Nutritional Deficiencies On A Vegan Diet

Fruits and vegetables

The vegan diet is gaining popularity in leaps and bounds amongst celebrities and health professionals alike. Some examples of celebrities that endorse a vegan diet include Christie Brinkley and Carrie Underwood. Today we are going to be looking at how to properly supplement your vegan diet to avoid common nutritional deficiencies.

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Any diet requires a lot of research and planning in order for lifestyle changes to be properly implemented, especially the vegan diet. Many people hear the hyped endorsements from celebrities and jump on the vegan bandwagon without doing proper research. This is one of the pitfalls you want to avoid if you are thinking of going vegan because consistency is the key to results.

A vegan diet takes away all animal protein sources including meat and dairy. To cushion the shock, your body needs you to replace these food groups with other sources of vitamins and minerals in order to avoid nutritional deficiencies.

Common nutritional deficiencies that can occur on a vegan diet include the following:

Vitamin B12 - A deficiency in vitamin B12 results in several serious health problems including anemia. Out of the top 10 foods highest in vitamin B12, the only vegan option is nutritional yeast because the rest are animal products. To get the daily recommended value for adults of vitamin B12 (6 micrograms per day), you would have to consume at least 3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast daily. (1 Tablespoon equals 2.4 MCG). Nutritional yeast is considered a complete protein because it contains 9 of the 18 amino acids. Another supplementation option is to take sublingual vitamin B12. If you take methylcobalamin (vitamin B12), your body will be able to absorb it more quickly because it is more bioavailable.

Zinc - Zinc deficiency is ranked as the fifth leading risk factor in disease worldwide. Zinc deficiency can be indicated by poor immunity, inhibited neurological function, and thinning hair to name a few. Out of the top ten foods highest in zinc, there are seven vegan options that consist of: wheat germ, spinach, pumpkin seeds, cashews, cocoa powder, chickpeas, and mushrooms.

Iron - One of the classic signs of an iron deficiency is anemia. It is estimated that 80% of the world’s population is iron deficient. Fortunately, 6 out of the top 10 highest dietary sources of iron are vegan approved: spirulina, lentils, spinach, black beans, pistachios, and raisins.

Iodine - A deficiency in iodine can result in a variety of health problems including: constipation, brain fog, and depression just to name a few. Some excellent dietary sources of vegan iodine include: dried kelp, lima beans, organic corn, prunes, green peas, bananas, cranberries, baked potato, and navy beans.

Omega 3 - Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential dietary nutrient commonly found in fish, but there are some vegan-friendly sources including: chia seeds, brussel sprouts, algal oil, hemp seeds, walnuts, flax seeds, and perilla oil.

Vitamin D - Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include a weak immune system, fatigue, and muscle pain. Sublingual vitamin D drops are a convenient, bioavailable source of supplementation to correct a deficiency in vitamin D.

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Calcium - According to this article by the Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG), vegan foods that are high in calcium include: blackstrap molasses, collard greens, kale, broccoli, and almonds. A calcium deficiency results in weakened bones and other health problems.

Good Sources of Plant-Based Protein

Plant-based protein powder is a good source of quick protein on the go for vegans when blended into shakes. Common ingredients in plant-based, vegan protein powder are: pea, rice, hemp, soy, and carob, but there are even more vegan-friendly options to choose from MrVitamins discussing vegan protein powder in details.

Tom Brady endorses a plant-based diet. The variation here that makes all the difference is that plant-based translates to eating more vegetables than meat whereas going vegan means no animal products whatsoever. Regardless of which path you choose to take, if veggies dominate your plate you are going to reap the health benefits.

Harvard Study

A recent study found that a plant-based diet can actually prevent death according to Walter Willett, professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard. Willett and his team have been researching the number of deaths that can be prevented by diet alone. Their calculations reveal a shocking estimate of 1 in 3 and that is a conservative figure. According to Newsweek, Willett stated:

“How much could we reduce mortality shifting toward a healthy, more plant-based diet, not necessarily totally vegan, and our estimate is about a third of deaths could be prevented by a healthy diet.”

Willett continued to explain how a dietary shift towards plant-based proteins can significantly lower the risk of heart disease while offering other health benefits. Heart disease is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States for people under the age of 80 according to the CDC.

Conclusion

I have purposefully taken neither a for or against stance on the subject of the vegan diet because a vegan diet may not be the best for everyone. Talk to your doctor before implementing any drastic dietary changes including a strictly vegan diet. You are an individual. Your body is a biological fingerprint with unique genes. Find what is the best fit for your body and then stick with it. Science certainly supports the health benefits of eating more vegetables, but whether or not you want to subsist solely on plant-based proteins is something only you can decide.

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