Some people choose a plant-based diet, which can range from a very strict vegan diet to being ovo-lacto vegetarians—vegetarians who include eggs and milk products, pescetarian—vegetarians who include fish and flexitarian, those who eat mostly vegetables, but include some meat and poultry. For clarity, this article addresses the strict vegans who include no animal products. There are vitamins vegans may be missing in their diet, which are easier to get when animal products are included. Products that include gelatin from meat byproducts, cochineal a red food coloring from insects, honey and rennet are excluded, too.
Lack of vitamin B12 is one problem faced.
Often you hear worries about vegans failing to get complete proteins, but by combining foods throughout the day, that can be solved. Animal products are often the sources for vitamin B12, which is necessary for nerve, heart and muscle health. It’s also important for metabolism. There are foods fortified with synthetic B12, such as breakfast cereals and bars. Nutritional yeast is another way to increase B12 in the diet.
It’s tough enough to get vitamin D normally, but even harder for vegans.
It’s not just vegans that may have a shortage of vitamin D, studies show half the population does. While safe sunning is the easiest way to get vitamin D, you can’t get enough sun in the winter if you live above the latitude of Atlanta. Add to that, the fact that people use sun screen and the darker your skin the harder it is to get enough sun, getting adequate vitamin D is almost impossible. You need vitamin D to activate calcium or strong bones and teeth, plus it helps boost your immune system. Mushrooms and fortified soy or nut milk are good sources for vegans.
Other nutrients that may be missing from vegan diets.
While vitamin D is necessary to activate calcium for use in the body, it won’t help if you don’t have calcium. Vegans diets may lack calcium due to the lack of dairy. While it’s found predominantly there, you can also find it in kale, broccoli and other greens. Iron is another mineral that may be lacking in a vegan diet, since foods rich in iron are beef, chicken and fish. Luckily, cereals are often fortified with iron.
- Your diet should have a balance of omega-6 and 0mega-3 fatty acids, but most people, including vegans, have a ratio that contains too much omega-6. Include more chia seeds, flaxseed and walnuts in your diet to increase the omega-3.
- There are a few sources of complete proteins for those on a vegan diet. Quinoa, buckwheat, hempseed and soy can provide complete proteins, but combining proteins, such as rice and beans, are another way to get all essential amino acids.
- One danger of going vegan is feeling hungry. Protein fills you up and if you don’t have enough in your diet, you’ll probably eat more between meals. Even though fries are vegan, they aren’t necessarily healthy or slimming.
- If you’re just starting on a vegan diet, realize you’ll be eating more fiber. More fiber can mean to more gas, particularly until your body adjusts. Start slowly and gradually add more fiber to your diet to avoid that.
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