🌱 With Veganuary seeming to gain more and more popularity every year, this is a short post on some of the nutrients that can need extra attention on a vegan diet.
👌🏻 When followed properly, a vegan diet can have a lot of health benefits, including a lower incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, healthier weight and improved blood sugar regulation.
✅ A vegan diet usually has higher levels of antioxidants due to all the extra fruit and vegetables you should be eating!!
‼️ However, everyone is different so whilst some people might thrive on a vegan diet, others might have malabsorption issues which could prevent vital nutrients from being used by the body (this can happen in vegetarians and omnivores too!).
🩸A prudent way to manage this is to ask your GP for periodic blood tests to monitor folate, B12, iron, vitamin D and zinc status.
🌱 So the nutrients which might need extra support are:
🟢 Vitamin B12 which is important for our nervous system, is usually sourced from meat, fish, eggs and dairy. Therefore fortified foods and / or a reliable supplement should be considered.
🟢 Essential fatty acids which are important for cell membranes (and therefore control of nutrients into the cells and waste out of the cells), as well as brain health and communication between cells amongst others.
➡️ Alpha-lionlenic acid (“ALA” found in chia seeds, ground flax seeds, hempseed and walnuts) needs to be converted to eicosapentaenoic acid (“EPA”) and decosahexaenoic acid (“DHA”), in order to be utilised by our cells.
➡️ The conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA can be low. Good quality EPA and DHA micro-algae supplements can help to support these levels.
🟢 Zinc is important for our cells, skin, immune system and carbohydrate metabolism. Sources include spinach, asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, sesame and pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, lentils, broccoli, chard and bok choy.
🟢 Iron is important for our red blood cells. Plant-sourced iron (spinach, chard, bok choy, asparagus, romaine lettuce, lentils, sesame seeds, chickpeas, beans and pumpkin seeds) is better absorbed by eating foods which are rich in vitamin C at the same time. Also note that tannins in tea and coffee can inhibit iron absorption.
➡️ Phytates in foods such as beans, lentils and nuts can bind to zinc and iron and prevent absorption. Vegans tend to consume these foods in higher proportions, however they seem to adapt by increasing absorption and retention of zinc and iron.
➡️ Soaking, sprouting and fermenting legumes, nuts and seeds before cooking and eating can help to break down the phytates and increase absorption of iron and zinc.
🟢 Vitamin D is important for regulation of calcium and supporting the immune system, gut health amongst others. Vitamin D2 is derived from plant source, whilst vitamin D3 (the more effective form) is derived from animal sources.
☀️ Try to spend time outdoors and if you supplement, D3 is a more effective choice.
‼️ Also – just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean it is healthy!! Processed fake meats are not healthy, getting your nutrients from whole foods is a much healthier choice.
🚫 The “accidentally vegan” cookies, crisps and other junk food which are laden with sugar and unhealthy processed fats are also not a healthy option!!