If you are eating a plant based diet you may be wondering if you are getting all the vitamins and nutrients you need. This post is in collaboration with one of my friends Nicole, who is also a registered dietitian. We break down 3 key nutrients that you may be missing on a vegan diet- including the food sources you can get them from! Keep reading to find out key nutrients you may be missing on a vegan diet.
Key Nutrients You May be Missing on a Vegan Diet
What is vitamin B12 and what does it do?
* Essential vitamin needed for synthesis of blood cells, the nervous system, DNA synthesis, lots of important processes in your body!
Why do vegetarians/vegans need to worry about B12?
* Higher rates of B12 deficiency in vegans because B12 is found predominantly in animal products.
Am I deficient? What are the symptoms?
* Symptoms include fatigue (being very tired), tingling or pins and needles in your fingers and toes, and changes in brain function that may show up as difficulty with speech or memory.
Can I get any B12 from the food I eat?
* Some cereals are fortified with Vitamin B12. Look at the ingredient list and the nutrition facts label to see if what you are buying is a source of B12. If the % daily value is >15% that product has a lot of B12.
* Some brands of nutritional yeast are fortified with B12. Again make sure you read the label. Don’t just assume you are getting B12 as not all products are fortified!
* Many types of soy products are also fortified with B12.
However, due to the higher risk of B12 deficiency among vegans, you may want to take a B12 supplement that provides 100% of the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA). For an adult woman you need 2.4 micrograms of B12 per day. These B12 vitamins are one of my favourites
Omega 3 fatty acids
What is omega 3 fatty acids and what does it do?
*There are 3 types of omega 3 fatty acids found in food. ALA, EPA and DHA. Plant sources of Omega 3 fats contain ALA. Although our bodies can convert ALA to EPA and DHA this happens in very small amounts. Also, eating a lot of food high in linoleic acid (a form of omega 6 fatty acids) may reduce your bodies conversion of ALA from food to EPA and DHA.
Can I get omega 3 fatty acids from the food I eat?
* You can optimize your conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA by eating pant based sources of omega 3’s like flax seeds, flax oil, walnuts and hemp seeds, limiting your intake of foods high in linoleic acid like corn oil, sunflower oil and safflower oil, avoiding foods high in saturated and trans fat and getting your plant based sources of omega 6 fats from whole foods like soy.
However, you may also want to consider taking an omega 3 supplement that contains EPA and DHA. Look for a supplement derived from marine microalgae (kelp and seaweed) instead of fish. Aim for 100-300 mg/d of DHA.
What is vitamin D and what does it do?
*Vitamin D is important for bone health (it helps bones with calcium absorption) and it plays a role in muscle strength, the immune system, and your skin.
Can I get vitamin D from the food I eat?
*You can increase your vitamin D stores in two ways – sun exposure and your diet. A lot of us aren’t getting a lot of sun exposure anymore due to increased use of sunscreen and increasing awareness of skin cancer risk. There are some veggie sources of Vitamin D (mainly mushrooms). You can get vitamin D from fortified plant based beverages like soy, almond, or cashew milk (read the label to make sure it is actually fortified) or fortified margarines.
If you don’t regularly consume vitamin D fortified foods you may want to take a supplemental form of D. Adults should aim for 600 IU of vitamin D per day (this is the Recommended Dietary Allowance needed).
This post is in collaboration with Nicole Gilbert Registered Dietitian. Check out our other health and wellness posts here.
Every 35 days your skin replaces itself. Your liver about a month. Your body makes these new cells from the food you eat. What you eat literally becomes you. You have a choice of what you’re made of. EAT WISELY