Veganism means living consciously abandoning use and consumption of all animal products.
No meat, fish, dairy products, leather goods etc.
For most people, this looks like complete deficiency and could lead to malnutrition.
However, vegan or not, a diet must be well-thought and planned to be balanced and healthy.
On the other hand, a balanced vegan diet is even recommended because the low intake of animal fat and cholesterol is beneficial for the prevention of diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure and hypercholesterolemia.
Since vegans don’t rely on any animal products, to avoid deficiencies they must compensate by taking supplements.
For instance, since one can take vitamin D through supplements, it can also be taken from meat or mushrooms but this will only cover 20% of the need, so supplementation is recommended regardless of diet.
Furthermore, particularly with vegans, vitamin B12 supplements is necessary because this vitamin is only available from animal products.
So, to say that veganism leads to malnutrition is false. Any diet can have nutritional deficiencies if there is not enough of the essential nutrients.
Necessary Nutrients for Vegans and Non-Vegans
Proteins in animal products have a higher biological value than proteins from plant foods.
This means that more of the body’s own protein can be produced from animal protein than from plant protein.
However, there are enough plant foods that are rich in protein:
- Legumes (peanuts)
- Soy products (Tofu, if possible unprocessed and without additional and unhealthy substances)
- Lentils, peas, lupine, beans
- Nuts (almonds, cashews)
- Seeds (poppy, sunflower and pumpkin)
Calcium is not only found in milk but also in many other plant sources. The bio availability of plant foods is often even higher than milk from animals.
Additionally, animal protein sources contain many sulfur-containing amino acids, which can lead to calcium loss through the kidneys.
Also, the recommended 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day is difficult to achieve without milk and dairy products.
But, to avoid calcium deficiencies that can lead to muscle cramps, blood coagulation and bone breakdown disorders, vegans should eat plenty of calcium-containing plant foods.
- Sesame seeds and poppy seeds
- Hazelnuts and almonds
Vitamin B12 is necessary for DNA synthesis and cell division, blood formation, and function of the nervous system.
But this vitamin is mostly found in animal products. It is best in a vegan diet to use appropriate dietary supplements, fortified foods or toothpaste with vitamin B12.
Additionally, the algae Chlorella contains vitamin B12.
Also, fermented foods like sauerkraut has high vitamin B12 which can easily be integrated into the diet.
The main source of iron is meat. However, iron deficiency, anemia is no more common in vegans than non-vegans.
Plant-based foods such as cereals, legumes, leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds contain iron, although significantly less than animal foods.
For vegetarians and vegans, it’s important to consume a lot of these foods.
Iron is found in the following foods:
- Nuts and seeds
- Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, broccoli)
It is best to combine these foods with vitamin C sources for better absorption.
In the absence of fish, iodine supplements are necessary.
It can be taken from iodized table salt, in the form of algae or nori, or fungi.
The lack of vitamin D3 doesn’t only occur in vegans but also in people who don’t experience too much sun exposure.
Especially during the winter, an additional intake of vitamin D3 in the form of drops or tablets is recommended.
However, it should be noted that not all products are vegan.
This substance is important for metabolic processes and is contained in the following foods:
- Whole grains
- Pumpkin seeds
A better intake is achieved by soaking, germination and by combining with vitamin C-containing foods.
8Omega-3 fatty acids
The relationship between the intake of omega-3 and omega-6 is crucial.
Most foods contain a high proportion of omega-6 fatty acids, which means you must ensure that you have enough omega-3.
The following foods contain a good ratio of omega-3 fatty acids:
- Linseed oil / linseed
- Walnut oil / walnuts
- Chia seeds
- Krill oil
Selenium is needed for iodine metabolism and is mainly present in Brazil nuts, lentils and mushrooms.
It is important that they come from areas that have a higher selenium concentration.
This is just small list of nutrients crucial in a vegan or non-vegan diet.
It’s important to understand that a vegan diet doesn’t mean you need to suffer from deficiency symptoms.
Even mixed dieters can have nutrient deficiencies. It all depends on what you eat.
Moreover, a purely vegan diet can be nutritionally favorable, but this is only possible if a healthy and well-balanced diet is maintained.
A mix of fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals, nuts, seeds and avoiding unprocessed products.
If you want to live vegan, seek advice from a medical professional and get regular checkups to avoid lack of critical nutrients.
Have fun on your journey to the vegan world!