The latest trend hitting the health and fitness industry is veganism. Some are chasing to embark on this strict lifestyle choice for beliefs, others to shape their diet or as an excuse to start blogging their latest vegan recipes. Either way, we want you to be aware of some easy errors many vegans make, vital nutrients missed out of the new diet which can have serious long-term affects. Don’t worry though, there’s ways to include them in your new lifestyle, and we want to help you stay healthy and happy through your vegan-life.
EPA and DHA (Omega-3’s) are found in the following foods:
- Fish - EPA & DHA
- Eggs - DHA
- Walnuts - ALA (our body converts to EPA, but a lot of the nutrients are lost in digestion)
- Flaxseeds - ALA (our body converts to EPA, but a lot of the nutrients are lost in digestion)
- Algae - DHA
- Pasteurised Dairy Products - DHA
- Others Nuts, Seeds, breads, cereals, peanut butter - ALA (our body converts to EPA, but a lot of the nutrients are lost in digestion)
As you can see the majority of the best Omega-3 foods would not be part of the Vegan diet. What people don’t realise is some of the damage that be caused by lack of Omega-3 in our diet.
- Rough or dry ‘bumpy’ skin
- Dry, dull or ‘lifeless’ brittle hair and dandruff
- Soft, peeling or brittle nails
- Excessive thirst, frequent urination
- Sleep problems (especially difficulties in settling at night and waking in the morning)
- Attention problems (distractibility, poor concentration and difficulties in working memory)
- Emotional sensitivity (such as depression, excessive mood swings or undue anxiety)
In fact, infants who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk for developing vision and nerve problems. Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency can also include heart problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and poor circulation.
If you chose to go vegan, it is advised that you pack out your meals with omega-3 rich seeds, but to be getting the same intake of omega-3 as a non-vegan diet, it is a good idea to consider a supplement.
The highest sources of calcium and vitamin D3 in foods are:
- Fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel, and salmon.
- Foods fortified with vitamin D, like some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals.
- Beef liver.
- Egg yolks.
- Animal’s milk.
Once again, none of these high source foods are suitable for the vegan diet. Fortunately there are many vegan supplements that can prevent a deficiency. A calcium or vitamin D3 deficiency can be the cause of:
- Increased risk of developing disorders like: osteoporosis. osteopenia. calcium deficiency disease (hypocalcemia).
- Bone pain and muscle weakness.
- Vitamin D3 deficiency can also cause a weekend immune system and make us more susceptible to common illnesses.
The highest sources of vitamin B12 in foods are found in animal products, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products.
Vitamin B12 is generally not present in plant foods, but fortified breakfast cereals are another source of vitamin B12 with high bioavailability for vegetarians.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause:
- Loss of appetite, and weight loss.
- Once symptoms escalate, they can include neurological changes, such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. Some people may have difficulty maintaining balance.
Vitamin B12 can be taken as a supplement
The highest Iron source foods are:
- Meat, fish and tofu.
- Iron-fortified breakfast cereals or bread.
- Pulses and beans.
- Nuts and seeds.
- Dried fruit - such as dried apricots, prunes and raisins.
- Wholegrains - such as brown rice.
Iron is a more easily managed nutrient as there is still plenty of good iron-rich foods, its just ensuring they make it regularly into your diet if you are limiting yourself to only certain ones.
Iron deficiency is a more common ailment especially for women as women naturally lose a lot of blood in menstruation. So it is just as important to take note of this when planning your vegan diet. Iron deficiency can cause anaemia, which means you have too little hemoglobin. It can also cause the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Becoming pale
- Heavier periods for women
- Hair loss
- Head pains
As mentioned, your iron intake can be increased through food but also as a supplement.
You can’t be a fussy eater if you opt for a vegan lifestyle. The vegan diet does require discipline as with any diet, but not so easily adapted to suit most peoples eating habits. Before you embark on this lifestyle choice, please consider the four common deficiencies, along with many others. Certainly consider looking for a good multi-vitamin and flaxseed (omega-3) supplement.