A Vegan diet has its benefits including easier weight maintenance and weight loss, decreased inflammation and pain from arthritis, increased nutrient intake, decreased risk of disease related to heart health and blood sugar, improved kidney function and so much more. Nevertheless, many question whether they can get all of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals the body needs from a plant-based diet like this. The quick answer is ABSOLUTELY!
Despite misconception, eating a Vegan diet has not always been socially controversial, nor foreign to the body’s gut microbiome which is involved in immune function, nutrient digestion and absorption, metabolism, nutrition and physiology. In fact an article in TIME Magazine shares:
Veganism is an extreme form of vegetarianism, and though the term was coined in 1944, the concept of flesh-avoidance can be traced back to ancient Indian and eastern Mediterranean societies. Vegetarianism is first mentioned by the Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras of Samos around 500 BCE. In addition to his theorem about right triangles, Pythagoras promoted benevolence among all species, including humans. Followers of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism also advocated vegetarianism, believing that humans should not inflict pain on other animals.
So eating a plant-based diet is actually widely accepted in many cultures, religions and societies for various beliefs and reasons. Likely to contribute to its popularity among so many, plant-based diets like Veganism have been fairly well researched in the nutrition world. These studies help us better understand the impact a Vegan diet has on the human body and any necessary minerals, vitamins and other nutrients that may require supplementation or additional focus. Here are a few to get you started.
Vitamin B12 supports a healthy nervous system, improves metabolism of protein and decreases likelihood of anemia. Animal products like milk, eggs and meat are an excellent source of B12. On order to get adequate amounts of the vitamin, Vegans may need to take a supplement. However, educated speculation supports that Vegans may also get enough B12 from unwashed organic foods grown in B12 rich soils, nutritional yeast, spirulina, chlorella, seaweed and other organic foods.
Iron is a mineral used in the transport of oxygen to the cells, energy metabolism and formation of new blood cells as well as DNA. Iron rich foods like nuts, seeds, leafy greens, beans, peas and other Vegan-friendly iron enriched foods are the perfect sources of non-heme iron for this type of diet. Heme iron on the other hand is found in animal products. A supplement may be required to meet appropriate amounts of iron for non-meat eaters.
The macronutrient, protein supports muscle growth and repair,helps build collagen, skin and nails and can help regulate hormones and other chemicals in the body. Animal products are known for being protein-dense. The good news is so are plant based foods. Foods like chia seeds, hummus and pita, rice and beans are excellent sources of complete protein. Other sources of protein include, nuts, legumes, beans, seeds and vegetables like sprouts, spinach, kale and broccoli. Honestly, Vegans have a lot of options around protein!
Zinc is a mineral used in the body for cell repair, immune function and metabolism, can be found in grains, wheat germ, tofu, sprouted breads, legumes, nuts and seeds. Though not all Vegans have low zinc levels in the blood, in a review of 26 studies researchers found that Vegans have lower zinc intake and slightly lower blood zinc levels compared to their meat eater counterparts. A supplement may be needed to ensure adequate amounts of zinc for some Vegans.The best way to understand if a Vegan diet is affecting vitamin, mineral and nutrient levels is by speaking with your medical doctor who can assign any necessary blood work or tests o support your lifestyle. However, if you would like to gain more insight, please contact Wellview concierge to schedule a registered dietitian appointment today.
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– Casey Edmonds, CHWC, CPT, CMS