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Vegan Vitamin Deficiency: What Vitamins Vegans Need
One of the primary benefits of veganism is that it promotes compassion for animals and harmony with the earth in general. Equally important is the fact that it can contribute to a healthy lifestyle. A vegan diet is lower in saturated fats and other unnecessary substances that may be found in animal by-products. For example, those who follow a vegan diet may be less susceptible to high cholesterol and high blood pressure since they're less likely to over-consume unhealthy fats.
Nevertheless, since veganism leaves out foods that humans have been eating for thousands of years, it can also be difficult for practitioners to obtain all the nutrients they need. As a result, vitamin deficiency can be a common problem for vegans. Fortunately, it’s not an insurmountable one.
What is Vitamin Deficiency?
Your body requires a certain number of various specific vitamins to function at its fullest capacity. Insufficient consumption of any vitamin have a number of different consequences, depending on the vitamin in question, but some common problems include the following:
Many of these issues are linked to each other. For example, fatigue may provoke you to indulge in excess carbohydrates, a prominent factor in weight gain. It also causes headaches and migraines.
Despite being great for animals and the environment, veganism can make its practitioners vulnerable to problems that come with vitamin deficiency. However, with knowledge and preparation, they’re perfectly avoidable.
Which Vitamins Do Vegans Tend to Miss?
The vitamins that people need to avoid struggling with the consequences of deficiency are found in many common foods, including animal by-products. In fact, some vitamins are rarely present elsewhere. That means that vegans are especially prone to lacking a few vitamins in particular, each with its own adverse effects. Luckily, there’s a vegan-friendly solution for each.
Essential for transporting oxygen through your blood while creating more red blood cells and DNA, insufficient iron is a prominent factor in anemia and fatigue. Women are more likely than men to be deficient.
They’re easily found in red and white meat, including some types of mollusks. Although some plants have them as well, human bodies may have trouble absorbing it from plant sources. Simply make a point of eating high volumes of foods like leafy greens, peas, lentils, dried beans, dried fruit, and cereals fortified with it to help. A diet extra rich in vitamin C will help with absorption as well.
With zinc, the body can effectively build up its immune system, repair itself, and maintain a healthy level of metabolism. Those who don't consume enough of it may find themselves with symptoms such as hair loss, diarrhea, and a slower healing process.
Many people get their zinc from dairy products, but vegans can find plenty of it in lentils, peas, mushrooms, and wheat germs.
For healthy bones, teeth, muscles, hearts, and nervous systems, calcium is simply indispensable. A deficiency may go unnoticed at first, but a long-term deficiency could negatively affect your bone health and lead to osteoporosis.
Like zinc, calcium is widely available in dairy products. However, vegans can find it in nuts, lentils, beans, tofu, and leafy greens.
Healthy thyroids are dependent upon adequate amounts of iodine. To lack iodine is to experience a slow, troubled metabolism. For pregnant women the recommended daily amount is increased because a deficiency may affect fetal development.
The foods richest in iodine include dairy and meat products. Fortunately, vegans can consume it through lima beans, prunes, various types of seaweed, and iodized salt instead.
Long-Chain Omega 3s
Brains and eyes develop best with plenty of long-chain omega-3s. Everyone needs them, but they’re particularly important for children and pregnant women. A deficiency can cause rough or scaly skin. Some studies have shown that an increase in omega-3's can also help with cardiovascular health.
Fish and fish oils are known for containing high amounts of omega-3s, but luckily for vegans, they’re also present in flaxseeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
Serving several crucial purposes, vitamin D helps the body build strong bones, a sturdy immune system, and robust mental health. Without it, there’s a greater risk of developing depression, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
Although there’s ample vitamin D in sunlight, which is a great reason to spend as much time outside as possible, vegans can also get it from mushrooms, fortified cereals, orange juice, and soy milk. The only other prominent sources are dairy products and various types of fish.
Because it helps the body absorb proteins, vitamin B12 is essential for nerve, muscle, and blood health, so it cannot be neglected. A lack of it often leads to anemia, constipation, diarrhea, lightheadedness, fatigue, loss of appetite, and tingling and numbing sensations.
Dairy products and meat are rich in vitamin B12. Vegans, however, can obtain it from nutritional yeast, plant-based milk, seaweed, and shiitake mushrooms, as well as veggie burgers and other meat substitutes. However, most plant sources of B12 actually contain Inactive B12, while Active B12 is the form your body can digest, absorb and utilize right away.
How Else Can Vegans Consume Enough of These Vitamins?
Even diligently maintaining a diet rich in items that contain the vitamins vegans are most likely to lack, it’s difficult to consume all the necessary vitamins through food alone. To help ensure that their nutritional needs are met, vegans can turn to dietary supplements. A supplement such as Sun Chlorella is a great source of active B12, vitamin D, iron, and much more. It can enhance a vegan diet and help you uphold a healthy and compassionate lifestyle.
What’s the Takeaway?
No vegan diet is complete without ensuring that all these vitamins and other nutrients are available in sufficient quantities. In striving to live in a sustainable and environmentally friendly and compassionate way, vegans must always take care of themselves as well. Every successful vegan will be aware of the vitamin deficiencies to which they’re prone and take steps to compensate for them. That way, they’ll live in better harmony not only with the earth, but with themselves.
Author: Aiko Jin
Further reading for vegan health and nutrition: