Vegan Lifestyle and Nutrient Deficiencies – Myth or Reality?

More and more people are adapting to a fully vegan lifestyle nowadays. In the United States, there are 6.5 million people who identify themselves as proud vegans. This increasing number of people turning vegan distinctly depicts that veganism has been successful in waking up the ethical and pure side of humans.

More people have started believing in an organic lifestyle that would not cause blood to shed, which would not be the reason for murder.

Apart from the conscience of human’s veganism deals with, it also directly points out the unhealthy aspects of carnivorous diets. The meat, fish, poultry people love to eat are fetching them into the dungeon of severe health problems, some of which are life-threatening. On the other hand, nature has only good to offer us.

But there is another less-discussed aspect of veganism. There are high chances of lacking some of the essential nutrients in a vegan diet.

Heather Fields, M.D of Community and Internal Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, says, “We found that some of these nutrients, which can have implications in neurologic disorders, anemia, bone strength and other health concerns, can be deficient in poorly planned vegan diets.” This is the say of many people out there.

But there lies a simple thing which we often tend to ignore. Nutritional deficiencies associated with a vegan diet occurs when someone has not researched enough about what veganism has to offer. That’s why people who want to embark on this way of vegan life need to know about what vitamins a vegan diet lacks and other common vegan deficiencies.

As veganism is a lifestyle, one cannot jumpstart into it. The person needs to go through a lot of reading and talking to other vegans to be fully prepared and knowledgeable about it.

Today’s article is going to address all the matters related to Vegan dietary deficiencies, or in simple words, nutrients vegans lack. It will concentrate on bringing the effect of various nutrients on our bodies, their common sources, as well as vegan foods containing the nutrients and vegan supplements. Let’s begin the journey of knowledge then!

Noted Benefits of the Plant-based Diet

Benefits of the Plant-based Diet

A vegan lifestyle showers one with a great many health benefits. Most people get to know that veganism is linked with weight loss, but there are other science-based health benefits of the plant-based diet, which some people often tend to ignore.

1. Weight Loss

Weight loss can be a driving force behind a lot more Americans choosing a vegan diet. Vegans tend to have lower BMIs, Body Mass Indexes than non-vegetarians or vegetarians. This is due to the low-fat content and excellent amino acid profile of vegan foods, which provide sufficient energy without contributing to fat build up in your body.

2. Lowers Blood Sugar Level and chances of Heart Diseases

Several observational studies show that vegans have higher insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels than people who follow the omnivorous diet. This is linked with reducing the chances of various heart diseases as it decreases blood pressure.

3. Improves Kidney Functions and Digestion

Many doctors tend to prescribe their patients to follow a vegan diet who are especially suffering from diabetes. A proper vegan diet improves Kidney functions. And because of the high fiber content, it enhances your digestion and perfects any irregular bowel movement.

4. Prevents Type 2 Diabetes and many types of cancers

Type 2 Diabetes is an emerging issue among Americans. Veganism helps prevent this. Vegans eat more vegetables, legumes, and fruits. Consuming legumes on a daily basis reduces the risk of colorectal cancer. Avoiding meat and dairy products also lower the risk of prostate cancer.

According to various studies, vegans eat more fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, magnesium, potassium, and folate compared to non-vegans. This wholesome nutrient profile of a proper vegan diet helps one reduce the risks of several life-threatening diseases such as cancer and type 2 diabetes. Cutting off processed meat and dairy products from your diet and including more and more plant-based goodness is certainly a way of living a healthier, disease-free, and longer life.

Common Vegan Dietary Deficiencies

Common Vegan Dietary Deficiencies

Despite the huge amounts of essential nutrients veganism offers, a poorly planned vegan diet routine can also push you towards many health issues. Vegan dietary deficiencies mainly happen because of a lack of knowledge and loads of misconceptions. There are some nutrients vegans lack, such as vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, iron, zinc, creatine, and long-chain omega 3s.

These common vegan deficiencies took place mostly because people only know about the non-vegan sources of the nutrients. And let’s be honest, your diet should be specially planned for you because every individual’s body has different needs.

So, if you’re wondering that from today onwards, you’re going to turn into a vegan and live a healthy life, it’s close to impossible. To adapt to a vegan lifestyle, you need to pay as much attention to the nutritional deficiencies associated with a vegan diet as to the nutrients and health benefits a vegan gets. So, let’s now address all the major vegan dietary deficiencies and the correct ways to get rid of the lack.

1. Vitamin B12

Vegan sources of Vitamin B12

Role of Vitamin B12 in our body

Vitamin B12 helps in the making of DNA. It is an important element to keep up the synthesis of red blood cells for appropriate brain function. In simple words, vitamin B12 plays a major part in keeping blood cells and nerves healthy and properly functioning.

Most common food sources

  • The well-known sources of vitamin B12 are mostly meat and dairy-based.
  • Fish, eggs, meat, poultry, milk, and some other dairy products contain sufficient amounts of Vitamin B12.
  • The liver and clams of beef are known to be the best sources.
  • Some of the breakfast cereals and nutritional yeasts (check vegan status) do contain vitamin B12.

Effects of its deficiency

  • If you do not take enough vitamin B12, you will feel a lot weaker and tired.
  • Loss of appetite and constipation are also visible symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • Symptoms can also include weight loss and megaloblastic anemia.
  • Certain nerve-related problems, like tingling sensations or numbness in hands and feet, are also visible.
  • Other symptoms of the lack of vitamin B12 include issues maintaining proper balance, dementia, depression, soreness of tongue and mouth, and poor memory.
  • In infants, delays in development, movement problems, failure to thrive can occur.

Vegan sources of Vitamin B12

  • Vitamin B12 mainly falls under one of the nutrients only found in meat, but some vegan sources contain this important nutrient.
  • B12 deficiency being quite common among vegans, it would also make sense if you separately consider adding a vegan vitamin B12 supplement to your diet.
  • Some plant milk, vegan breakfast cereals, and soy products tend to have a sufficient amount of vitamin B12.
  • With a proper vegan diet with an adequate amount of vitamin B12 sources and other effective vegan multivitamins supplements, both vegans and vegetarians are able to fill up the lack of this nutrient in their bodies. 

2. Creatine

Vegan Lifestyle and Nutrient Deficiencies - Myth or Reality?

Role of creatine in our bodies

Creatine is responsible for improving lean muscle mass, strength, and muscle recovery. It makes our muscles produce more energy. It is a very popular nutrient among athletes and bodybuilders.

Most common Sources

The common creatine sources are nonvegan. Creatine is found mainly in the red meats. Fish also happens to be a good creatine source; irrelevant for vegans nonetheless.

Effects of Creatine Deficiency

Creatine deficiency causes creatine deficiency syndrome (CDS). It will affect your body in multiple ways, like developmental delay, intellectual disability, movement disorders, myopathy, and a lot more.

Vegan sources of Creatine

 There’s not a lot of options for vegans to include creatine sources in their diets. Some of the foods are

  • Seeds like sesame, pumpkin.
  • Legumes like peas and beans.
  • Nuts, almonds.
  • Quinoa, tofu, and seaweed.

People who are into an active lifestyle or bodybuilding can benefit more from creatine supplements. It’s best for vegan lifters to supplement with a vegan creatine, given its lack in plant-derived foods.  

 3. Vitamin D

Vegan Lifestyle and Nutrient Deficiencies - Myth or Reality?

Role of vitamin D in your body

Vitamin D keeps your bones and teeth strong. It absorbs calcium, with which it builds bones. Vitamin d also contributes to the functioning of the parathyroid glands.

Most Common food sources

  • Apart from sun exposure, few foods contain vitamin d. Fatty fish, like trout, salmon, mackerel, and tuna, are proved to be excellent sources of vitamin d.
  • The best sources of vitamin d are considered to be fish liver oils.
  • Eggs, cheese, beef liver contain small amounts of this nutrient.

Effects of deficiency

Vitamin d is a much-needed nutrient in our body that takes part in multiple essential body functions. If there’s a deficiency of vitamin d in your body, you’re most likely to notice these symptoms, which can lead to severe illness.

Vitamin d keeps the immune system of our body strong. So, if you’re not having enough of it, you will be more prone to sickness and will end up getting often infected. If colds and flu are happening more often, apart from what seasonal change brings, you are most likely to have vitamin d deficiency in your body.

Many factors contribute to feeling tired, and the deficiency of vitamin d can be one of the reasons.

  • Back and bone pain are very noticeable symptoms.
  • Slow healing of wounds can be another sign that your body is not having much vitamin d.
  • Hair and bone loss are also very usual signs.
  • And lastly, deficiency of vitamin d causes severe muscle pain.

Vegan Sources of vitamin D

Consuming enough vitamin d in a vegan diet can be a little challenging. Most of the sources of vitamin d are non-vegan. But here are some of the best ways you can include vitamin d in your vegan meals.

  • Mushrooms contain a sufficient amount of vitamin d.
  • Fortified soy milk provides approximately 2.9 mcg of vitamin d.
  • Fortified orange juice is also an amazing source of vitamin d with 2.5 mcg of it.
  • Daily intake of fortified milk like almond and rice also can prevent the lack of vitamin d in your body.
  • Some vegan fortified breakfast cereals (check what cereals are vegan) also have a medium amount of vitamin d.
  • Vitamin D deficiency being quite common among vegans, it would also make sense if you separately consider adding a vegan vitamin D supplement to your diet.

4. Iron

Vegan Sources of Iron

Role of Iron in your body

Iron is important to produce blood. Most of the iron in your body is found in the red blood cells. Iron is also responsible for energy metabolism, respiration, and correct immune function. Iron does contribute to healthy hair, skin, nails, and bones. For best results, ensure adequate iron intake with consistent collagen supplementation

Most common food sources

  • Beef or chicken liver are excellent sources of iron.
  • Mussels and oysters also contain iron.
  • Cooked beef, canned sardines have a good amount of iron.
  • Salmon, ham, turkey also provide sufficient amounts of iron.

Effects of Deficiency

  • Unusual paleness and tiredness can indicate an iron deficiency in your body.
  • As iron helps in respiration, the lack of it causes shortness of breath.
  • Dizziness and headaches are very common symptoms of iron deficiency.
  • Damaged skin and hair can occur because of iron deficiency.
  • Cold feet and hands, strange cravings, and frequent infections are also signs of lack of iron.

Note: If you are severely deficient in iron you might benefit from vegan iron supplements, while if your deficiency is moderate, super green or spirulina supplements that have lower concentration of iron might suffice for you.

Vegan Sources of Iron

  • Tofu, lentils, and beans are among the best plant-based sources of iron.
  • Add more baked potatoes in your meals to prevent the lack of iron in your vegan diet.
  • Green leafy vegetables like spinach are also amazing to consume if you want to get rid of iron deficiency.
  • Wholegrain, cashews, and enriched bread are also excellent plant sources of iron.

5. Calcium

Vegan Food Sources of calcium

Role of calcium in your body

To maintain strong bones, our bodies need calcium. Our body structure is very much dependent on this single nutrient. Another essential job of calcium is to convey messages between the brain and body. Calcium is also responsible for muscle movements.

Most common food sources

  • Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt contain high amounts of calcium.
  • Chinese cabbage, kale, and broccoli are excellent sources of calcium.
  • Other animal sources of calcium are fish with soft bones, such as salmon.
  • Bread, pasta, and most grains contain calcium.

Effects of Calcium Deficiency

  • Long term health hazards of calcium Deficiency include low bone mass. This will increase the risks of bone fractures and osteoporosis.
  • Convulsions and numbness of fingers also are the most common symptoms of Calcium Deficiency.
  • Colon and prostate cancer happens because of a lack of calcium.

Vegan Food Sources of calcium

  • Okra, cabbage, broccoli are great vegan sources of calcium.
  • Fortified unsweetened soya, oat drinks, and rice provide much calcium.
  • Brown and white bread, calcium-set tofu, pulses, tahini, and sesame seeds are noted calcium sources.

6. Zinc

Vegan sources of zinc

Role of Zinc in our bodies

Zinc is an essential nutrient in our body that helps to build up defensive immunity. It is responsible for cell growth, breakdown of carbohydrates, and wound healing process.

Most common food sources

Usually, zinc is found in these foods –

Effects of deficiency

If you’re going through zinc deficiency in your body, then chances are you’re noticing these symptoms listed below, which lead to multiple ailments –

  • Loss of appetite, bad immune system.
  • Taste abnormalities delayed wound healing.
  • Diarrhoea, skin and eye lesions, along with weight loss and hair loss and delayed sexual maturation and impotence also can be visible.

Vegan sources of zinc

  • Plant-based sources of zinc include
  • Legumes, Vegetables, and tofu.
  • Whole grain, nuts, seeds.
  • Fortified vegan breakfast cereals.

7. Long-chain Omega 3s

Vegan sources of Omega 3s

Role of long-chain omega 3s in our body

Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for multiple biochemical functions. Our bodies cannot produce these fatty acids, so we need to consume them from other sources. The blood clotting process and controlling inflammatory responses take place because of these fatty acids.

Common Sources of Omega 3s

Omega 3s are most commonly found in

  • Seafood and fishes, like salmon, tuna, sardines, and herring.
  • Nuts and seeds like walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseed.
  • Eggs, milk, soy beverages, juices.
  • Soybean oil, canola oil, flaxseed oil.

Effects of deficiency

If your body is lacking omega 3s, these high risks of fatal diseases will threaten your life soon.

  • Deficiency of fatty acids welcomes cardiovascular disease. Many heart problems start to occur.
  • If you’re breastfeeding your child, you need to take more care while choosing fatty acids in your diet. If the mother lacks it, the baby would suffer from ill-growth and delayed development.
  • Because of fatty acids Deficiency, there are high chances of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and age-related macular degeneration.
  • Fatty acids prevent colorectal and breast cancer. So, if you are not taking this nutrient enough, you’re more prone to developing these server issues.

Vegan sources of Omega 3s

Vegan foods that offer a high amount of fatty acids are –

  • Walnuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flaxseed.
  • Seaweed, algae, edamame.
  • Beans and green leafy vegetables. 

Conclusion

Vegan Dietary Deficiencies are a major cause to restrain people from entering into a vegan lifestyle. Yes, there are many nutrients that commonly have the meat of fish sources associated with them.

That’s why people tend to think that veganism cannot provide them with sufficient amounts of nutrients like vitamin D, B12, zinc, calcium, or iron. But that’s not utterly true. Because of the deficiency of knowledge, one must not think otherwise.

Yes, we agree that there is still minimum knowledge available when it comes to veganism, but many people are coming forward to help educate others. That’s why most of the leading vegan websites are run by vegan people who have discovered ways in which they became close to veganism, close to nature.

That’s how we would grow as a community, by filling up the missing knowledge blocks and waking up your conscience with only truth.

My life literally revolves around optimum health and sustainable living by being a devotional vegan. My mission is to create a community of like minded vegans to go forth in creating a better and brighter world for humans, animals and the planet. Just like Gandhi once said: “The greatness of a nation and it’s moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Gandhi

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