Top 9 Things Nobody Tells You About Being Vegan
Written by: Lilla Bessenyei
There is a constant debate about veganism. There always has been. If you want to get enough nutrients, you have to pay attention to make sure you are eating a well-balanced vegan diet. Nowadays, while the quality of soil is getting worse and worse, it is a better option to choose organic products, which equate to food that holds more nutritional value.
Though being vegan offers many benefits, there are some vitamins and minerals you may end up lacking when choosing this type of diet. But you don’t have to be afraid – there’s no perfect diet for everyone and anyone can suffer from deficiencies, no matter their diet.
A big reason for that is due to gut health, but that’s a whole different article. You can learn more about that here.
1. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is an essential co-factor with folate in DNA and red blood cell synthesis. In addition, it is crucial for forming the myelin sheath, which covers the nerves and is also important for the conduction of nerve impulses.
The consequences of B12 deficiency can manifest in:
Firstly, I have to clarify that B12 deficiency in not only a vegan and vegetarian issue. A study has found that about 40% of healthy meat eaters are lacking it as well.
The good news is that this vitamin can be reserved in the liver for 5-20 years.
Getting your B12 from dietary sources as a vegan is a very controversial topic and hasn’t been investigated completely. Some studies claim that B12 can be found in nutritional yeast, chlorella, kimchi, purple nori and certain mushrooms, while other studies say that these sources have only B12 analogs, which mimic this vitamin and can hinder real B12 absorption.
In my opinion, I don’t like to experiment with these untrustful sources. I’d recommend you to take a B12 supplement, as I do. It’s cheap and won’t do any harm if you go above the defined minimum (3 mcg).
Something to keep in mind if you supplement and still experience symptoms of deficiency in MTHFR, which is a genetic mutation (667 and 1298) which can inhibit absorption. A simple test can determine if this is an issue for you, in order to supplement properly and counteract the negative effects of deficiency.
Many vegans like to live a very healthy lifestyle. Most of them don’t use iodized salt. The truth is that the majority of society – no matter if they’re a vegan or not – are lacking this element.
Iodine is crucial for a healthy metabolism, losing weight, proper brain function and healthy bones. Also, if you don’t take enough iodine, the other halogen elements (fluoride, bromide) can replace it, which isn’t good for your body.
If you want to know more about this nutrient, you can watch a video here.
I personally take a kelp supplement almost every day.
By not consuming dairy and other animal products, you may end up lacking this mineral. Similar to the nutrients mentioned before, calcium deficiency in not only a vegan problem – 75% of Americans are deficient in it.
The daily calcium requirement for most people is 1000-1200 mg.
Including sufficient amounts of green leafy vegetables, such as kale, broccoli, turnip and collard greens to your diet with juicing or eating more salads can do the trick. Sesame seeds and almost all nuts and seeds are high in calcium. You can choose calcium fortified products or a supplement, as well.
4. Vitamin K2
Vitamin K2 is essential to have healthy and strong bones. This substance helps calcium get absorbed by the bones.
Natto is the highest vegan and non-vegan source of vitamin K2.
5. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is important for calcium absorption, the immune system and overall health. Also, chronically low levels of this vitamin are linked with diabetes, depression, cancer, osteoporosis and some other diseases.
Experts say that you can get enough vitamin D by sun exposure. Sunscreen can block vitamin D production, so use coconut oil instead. If you can’t get enough sun, go for a supplement.
Not getting sufficient amounts of iron can lead to anemia.
Lentils, whole-grain products, dried beans, dark leafy green vegetables are great sources – vitamin C helps with iron absorption.
This mineral plays an important role in many metabolic pathways. Unfortunately, it is more difficult to absorb from plant sources.
Whole-grains, legumes and nuts contain good amounts zinc.
8. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acid is vital for a healthy cardiovascular system.
Walnuts, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp seeds and leafy greens are good sources of omega-3s.
Also, pay attention in order to keep a properly balanced ratio between omega-6 and omega-3, which is 4:1-6:1.
I think everyone who has ever tried the vegan diet has heard the infamous question: “Where do you get your protein?” It turns out that plant sources of protein are as good as – or even better – than animal sources.
If you’re worried about your protein intake, quinoa, hemp seeds, chia seeds, buckwheat, beans and legumes are great, plant-based protein sources.
Lilla Bessenyei is a pharmacist and writer. It has been through her own experience that she realized that health and happiness start with what you put in your body and mind - including your thoughts. She is an avid researchers and has learned a lot about health and medicine. In her studies, she found that cultivating healthy emotions were just as important (if not more so) as a healthy diet. She is a fitness junkie, enjoys the numerous benefits of a vegan diet and enjoys helping people discover true health and happiness.
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