A vegan diet could raise your risk of four deficiencies
Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency
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A vegan diet is one which avoids any animal-based foods including meat, fish, cheese and milk. There are known benefits to this diet such as weight loss, and lowering your risk of heart disease and diabetes. However, it can lead to certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies depending on the foods you eat instead.
With this in mind experts from supplement company Purolabs spoke with Express.co.uk about how to stay healthy when following a vegan diet. They shared the most important four supplements to consider if you follow a plant-based lifestyle.
“Vitamin B12 creates DNA,” they said. “That means it is essential for keeping your blood cells, nerves, brain, skin, and nails healthy.
“Vitamin B12 also prevents anaemia, birth defects, vision problems, osteoporosis, and depressive symptoms.
“Unfortunately, it is a challenge for vegans to get enough of it in their diets since it is mainly found in animal products such as meat, eggs, and yoghurt.
“Insufficient levels of vitamin B12 can result in anaemia, fatigue, weakness, and constipation. Per the NHS, adults should be getting 1.5 micrograms of vitamin B12 each day.
“Or, you can incorporate more vitamin B12 dense foods into your diet such as legumes, leafy greens, nutritional yeast, and sunflower seeds.”
They explained: “Vitamin D3 works in conjunction with calcium to keep our bones, teeth, and muscles strong.
“While we get most of our vitamin D3 from soaking up the sun, spending time indoors and regularly wearing sunscreen has us relying on foods such as fish and egg yolks to help us meet our daily dose of this essential nutrient.
“Low levels of vitamin D3 can leave you susceptible to a painful bone condition called osteomalacia.”
It is recommended that people consume 10 micrograms of vitamin D3 each day, which is possible with a supplement or foods such as wild mushrooms and fortified soy milk, orange juice, cereals, or oatmeal.
“Iron is a crucial component of haemoglobin which assists red blood cells in carrying oxygen from our lungs to all parts of our bodies,” they said.
“In food, iron comes in two forms – heme iron and nonheme iron. Heme iron is found in animal flesh and non-heme iron is found in plant products.
“However, non-heme iron is much harder to absorb so we must consume more of it to obtain adequate levels of iron. An iron deficiency can lead to anaemia, which is a lack of healthy red blood cells distributing oxygen throughout your body.
“You may experience fatigue, weakness, dizziness, pale skin, or cold hands and feet.”
The NHS suggests men get 8.7 mg per day and women get a slightly higher 14.8 mg to account for blood loss during menstruation.
“Vegan sources of iron consist of cooked spinach, pumpkin seeds, tofu, beans, dried fruit, nuts, and fortified breakfast cereals,” they added.
They said: “Calcium, commonly found in dairy products, is essential for building and maintaining strong bones, proper muscle function, and hormone release. Without adequate calcium, our bones can weaken leaving us prone to osteoporosis and fractures.
“Since the most common sources of calcium are not compliant with a vegan diet, we have to find other ways to get the recommended 700 mg of calcium.
“Calcium is commonly found in multivitamins and taking one each day can help fill multiple nutritional gaps.
“Luckily, there is also an abundance of vegan, calcium-rich foods you can include in your meals such as soybeans, tofu, tempeh, beans, chickpeas, seaweed, oranges, and blackberries.”
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