No matter what your take on veganism is, you have to give vegans credit. They gave up cheese for this. That means they can’t walk into the Cheesecake Factory and order a slice of White Chocolate Mousse. They can’t walk into a Pizza Hut and order the stuffed crust. They can’t munch on cheese doodles while watching the game, they can’t get a cheeseburger at MacDonald’s and they can’t eat those cheese doodles stuffed with more cheese. So good for them, you may say. Who needs to put all that junk in their bodies? Well, while it’s safe to say most of us could live safely, and probably for a much longer time, without ever eating the aforementioned for the rest of their lives, there is some proof that a vegan diet may be lacking in certain nutrients and not just cheese. Here’s what you need to know to make sure you get what you need while maintaining the lifestyle you choose.
Vitamin B 12
Known as the energy vitamin, your body needs B 12 for blood formation, energy production, reproductive health and DNA synthesis. Signs of Vitamin B12 deficiencies include fatigue, impaired function of the brain and megaloblastic anemia. It has also been associated with neurological and psychiatric disorders like an Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
If you are a hardcore vegan, Nori Seaweed and tempeh both contain small amounts of vitamin B12. If you do not eat these foods regularly, you should take a B-12 supplement to make sure you’re getting all the energy you need.
You may have heard of Vitamin D3 as the steroid hormone you get from sun exposure. However, what you may not know is that it’s also involved in the machinery of all the cells and tissues in your body and is crucial for disease prevention Although sun exposure is the best way of getting Vitamin D, researchers are now finding that some foods contain some pretty meaningful amounts of it. It is estimated that the average adult in the central United States gets about 1,500 – 2,000 IUs of Vitamin D from food; specifically meat, egg yolk and fatty fish. However, even if you do eat these foods, most of your vitamin D does come from sunlight and, if you are not a fan of the sun, without a Vitamin D supplement, deficiency is all but guaranteed. So if sun is not your thing,make sure to stock up on the D supplements.
Animal-Based Omega-3 DHA
Docosahexaenoic acid is an omega 3 fat found in animals like krill and fish necessary for heart health and brain function. In addition, pregnant women with DHA deficiencies put their children at risk for developmental problems. Although plant based omega-3 fats can be found, it takes a combination of them to get a sufficient amount of DHA. If you’re determined to get your DHA from plants, try combining hemp and flax with krill oil, an animal based omega-3 with an antioxidant 48 percent more potent than fish oil. It is also sustainable and eco- friendly.
Although iron is found in plant and animal foods, heme iron is found only in meat, usually red meat. The iron found in plants is not absorbed well by the body, which can increase the risk of anemia for vegetarians and vegans. If you need to supplement with heme iron, a safe form is carbonyl iron, as opposed to the often toxic ferrous sulfate.
Meat and fish are the only ways to get the amino acids you need to produce protein. Without animal protein, you increase your risk of sulfur deficiency. Sulfur is vital for the activity of enzymes and proteins. If you don’t have a sufficient amount, it can affect joints, bones, metabolic processes and connective tissue. A 2012 study showed that low intake of sulfur by vegans and vegetarians can result in increased risk of heart attack and cardiovascular diseases. If you are a staunch adversary of meat, seek your sulfur in coconut and olive oil. If you are looking to supplement, Methylsufonylmethane or MSM is the organic form of sulfur, naturally found in plants.
If veganism is part of your way of life, let us know about it. Do you miss cheese? We want to hear your struggle.