Although there are many good quality substitutes available, most vegans acknowledge that there is a nutritional gap that appears when animal products are cut from the diet. By and large, a vegan lifestyle is very good for health, and tends to promote a scrutiny and attentiveness to food that raises the overall standard of what is consumed. Many studies have indicated that vegan and vegetarian diets promote health, well-being and longevity. However where these dietary gaps appear – in the form of vitamins and minerals – it is essential to fill them.
This can be done by a careful selection of natural foods or with a range of supplements now available in health shops and even supermarkets, either as oils and capsules or in additives to food. They range in priority depending on one’s lifestyle and diet, so think about how and what you eat, and where your biggest nutritional shortfalls are.
Vitamin B12 is essential for the functioning of the brain and nervous system, as well as forming new blood. Deficiencies can lead to major complications with these body functions, as well as exhaustion and depression. B12 is very rarely found in any plant products, as it is bound to the protein found in meats such as beef, poultry and fish as well as dairy and eggs. Fortunately there are sources designed to help vegans get their daily share, such as pills and liquids that can be added to foods. For a more natural approach, try fortified breakfast cereals. For all vegetarians and vegans, getting enough Vitamin B12 should be a priority and choosing fortified foods makes it easily achievable. More information here.
Vegans may find themselves lacking in Iodine unless they eat a lot of sea-vegetables such as seaweed. Iodine comes to the average omnivore in the form of dairy products and iodized salt. As veganism often goes hand in hand with an overall healthy diet, some may find they don’t use salt in their food all that often. Iodine is essential to thyroid functions, however, so a pinch of iodised natural salt in healthy measure is part of a balanced diet.
Although there is some weight given to the theory that low protein diets require less calcium, most people of any diet could usually stand to intake more. The most common means is dairy, so vegans need to look a little harder. A number of fortified products are on the market, such as orange juice, cereals and oats, that help boost your intake. Calcium is essential for strong bones, and helps prevent osteoporosis and related diseases that affect people as they age. Calcium can also come from natural sources such as celery, dill, poppy and fennel seeds, as well as tofu and soybeans.
Iron deficiencies affect young women more than any other group, and even omnivores often find themselves suffering from anemia or general fatigue. Fortunately, there are many natural vegetables that provide iron such as spinach, beans, silverbeet and brussel sprouts, that can be consumed regularly to provide a boost. In addition, vitamin C from oranges and kiwifruit will improve your body’s ability to absorb this iron, meaning the amount you do get makes a bigger impact. If you’re still tired, speak to your doctor about what dosage of supplement could be best for you.
The subject of dietetary supplements is a contentious one and there are a myriad of views. The topic is further muddied further by various industry groups propagating incorrect and erroneous data that protects their products. Though surely the meat or dairy industries wouldn’t lie to people to sell more burgers or milk? Ah, maybe. The best thing to do is to research the subject thoroughly and seek out people’s opinions you respect.
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