So many people are going vegan these days. It’s no wonder, as more and more research comes to light about the benefits of cutting out animal products. Vegan diets have been shown time and time again to improve heart health, reduce the risk of developing certain diseases like type 2 diabetes and even reverse hypertension (high blood pressure). However, cutting out animal products also presents its fair share of challenges. Veganism is a restrictive diet that eliminates all animal-based foods – that means no meat, fish, eggs, dairy or honey. Many people think that it’s impossible to get enough vitamins on a vegan diet because plants don’t provide them in the same way as meat does. But not all vegans follow the exact same principles; for some, it’s simply about cutting down on animal products as much as possible rather than eliminating them completely from one’s diet.
What does a vegan diet look like?
First things first, let’s clarify what a vegan diet is. Many people wrongly assume that if you’re cutting out animal products, you’re following a vegan diet. While many vegans also avoid eating animal products, there are some very important differences. A vegan diet is completely plant-based and animal-free, which means none of those products like eggs, milk, honey or even gelatine. Vegans will also avoid products that may have come into contact with animal products, like some types of cosmetics. When it comes to following a vegan diet, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough of the right vitamins.
Deficiencies to Watch Out For
It’s easy to get tricked into thinking that as a vegan you need to take a range of vitamins and supplements – but there are a few key nutrients that vegans need to be extra aware of. Vegans should be mindful of getting enough B vitamins. Vitamin B12, in particular, is essential for a healthy nervous system, brain function and red blood cell creation. However, B12 is primarily found in animal products, which makes it harder for a vegan to get their hands on this vitamin. B12 deficiency can lead to weak muscles, fatigue and a reduced ability to concentrate. Not ideal, so be sure to get your hands on B12-rich foods like fortified cereals, nutritional yeast or seaweed.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the most common issues that vegans face. This essential vitamin is mainly found in animal products like fish, meat, eggs and dairy and is responsible for a number of vital functions in the body. Vitamin B12 is needed for red blood cell creation, the nervous system, cell growth and the metabolism of amino acids – which we use to build proteins and muscles. A vegan diet can be very low in B12, so be sure to include a range of B12-rich foods in your diet. These include nutritional yeast, soy milk, fortified cereals and seaweed.
Another key vitamin to be aware of when following a vegan diet is vitamin D. This helps to keep our bones strong and healthy by regulating calcium, which is why it’s important for vegans to get enough. Vitamin D is mainly acquired through sunlight, so if you’re avoiding meat and fish, you’re more likely to fall short of this essential vitamin. Vegans can boost their levels of vitamin D by taking supplements and optimizing their sun exposure. You can also get vitamin D from fortified cereals, broccoli, eggs and cheese.
Read more in-depth on The Good Health Tree
Do Vegans Need to Take Supplements or Vitamins?
Calcium and Vitamin K2
Vegans may also fall short in calcium and vitamin K2 – two nutrients that are often found in dairy products. If you’re not eating dairy, then you’ll need to be mindful of getting enough calcium from plant-based sources. Calcium is essential for building strong bones and teeth, and it also plays a role in blood clotting, nerve function and heart health. Vitamin K2 is vital for bone health because it helps transform calcium from a soft to a solid state so it can be used by the body. Calcium-fortified foods like soy milk, bread and tofu are great vegan sources of calcium, and you can also get it from broccoli, kale and certain types of nuts.
It’s important to remember that not all vegans eat the same foods or follow the same diet. There are many different variations of a vegan diet, and some are more restrictive than others. You do not need to take any special dietary supplements if you are eating a balanced vegan diet as long as you consume a wide variety of foods throughout the day.
Vegans should also be aware that they need to get enough omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats are often considered “good” fats, but they actually have some very important benefits to a vegan diet. They help keep you healthy, reduce inflammation and may even help prevent heart disease. But not all of these benefits are available in plant-based diets so it’s best to get more from your diet if you don’t need them.
Vegans should also be aware of how eating a plant-based diet can affect their health. In particular, it is recommended that vegans follow a strict vegan diet for at least six months before attempting to start living a plant-based lifestyle. This will help ensure the body has an adequate amount of nutrients needed in order to make healthy choices during this time period – as well as make sure that any deficiencies are corrected after this time period has passed.