The Best Vitamins and Minerals For Vegans
People turn to veganism for various important reasons, such as better health, weight loss, or just religious beliefs. No matter why we decide to embark on this journey, we should always revisit the benefits and side-effects of being a vegan. In point of fact, vitamins and minerals deficiency is the main negative aspect of plant-based diets.
Pros and Cons of being a vegan
Going on a vegan diet may definitely help us lose a few pounds. Except for weight loss, veganism has proved notably beneficial for our overall health condition, too. Still, is veganism actually healthy, and is it true that it does so many miracles for our bodies?
Optimistically, let’s start with the benefits of being a vegan. People embarking on plant-based lifestyles have shown the ability to lose weight faster. Raw veganism is also a popular dieting trend in which people consume only raw fruits, vegetables, and nuts while avoiding all chemically processed foods such as canned foods and even tofu.
When I was vegan a couple of years ago, I lost nearly 15 kg in a year. Still, allow me to reveal the secret of my success to you. Aside from being a vegan, I had to exercise and control my calorie intake while avoiding all meats, fish, and dairy products, and it all seemed to work after a lot of persistence and patience on my part.
In this case, veganism can undoubtedly help us adopt a healthier lifestyle. Veganism has become a healthy routine for many people who are trying to stop or prevent ailments because plant-based foods can control optimal blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and protect our internal organs from toxins.
Another trend in veganism is the belief that animals are an important part of natural cycles and, as such, should be treated better. Supporters of this wave are opposed to animal testing and the use of animal fur in fashion. So far, vegans have accomplished a lot in their efforts to protect animals.
Aside from being favorable, vegan lifestyles can become a burden for many people if not done correctly. It is true that plant-based foods are deficient in many important vitamins and minerals, which are the building blocks of our organisms and in charge of key bodily functions. Our bodies can’t even perform some basic functions without these vitamins and minerals.
According to controversy about veganism, vegans lose weight not because they only eat plant-based foods but rather due to reduced calorie intake in their diets. This means that if we consume all types of foods in moderation, the effects on our bodies will be similar. In the meantime, we will be able to maintain the recommended dietary intake (RDI) of all vital vitamins and minerals, keeping our bodily functions up to date.
Because the lack of vitamins and minerals in vegan lifestyles is widely criticized by experts, it is essential to note some of the most important vitamins and minerals that are absent in plant-based diets:
Vitamins and Minerals deficiency in vegan diets
Iron is an essential mineral for main bodily functions by virtue of its ability to increase hemoglobin in the human body. Hemoglobin is one of the most vital proteins, in charge of transporting oxygen in red blood cells. Additionally, other proteins transporting high electrons in the human body contain iron-sulfur clusters, which means that iron is essential for the function of Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule carrying energy to our cells.
Depending on the type of food we eat, there are two types of naturally occurring iron: heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is derived from animal protein, which can be found in foods such as red meat, poultry, and fish. Non-heme iron, on the other hand, is derived from vegan foods such as fruits, vegetables, and beans.
In contrast to heme iron, non-heme iron from vegan foods is less readily absorbed by the human body. As a result, many vegans are likely to develop iron deficiency, which may lead to headaches, paleness of skin, hair fall, unusual tiredness, brittle fingernails, and swelling and soreness of the tongue and mouth.
In order to stay up to date with the RDI, vegans may rely on vitamin C. This vitamin is a good catalyzer of non-hemp iron thus breaking it into parts that are more readily digested by the human body. Evidence also recommends that people consume tea and coffee separately from their vegan meals, for these drinks may slow down the digestion of non-heme iron even more.
If one or more of the above-mentioned symptoms are present, it is very likely that we are developing iron deficiency. One of the solutions to battle this deficiency will be pill supplements. There are many iron supplements extant on the market, and it is only up to vegans to choose the most suitable for their individual needs brand.
Vegans must adhere to the RDI when taking iron supplements, for iron overload is known to be the root cause of serious health problems. In fact, Vitamin C can aid in the digestion of iron, so a mix containing both Vitamin C and iron will be a great solution for many vegans.
RDI (recommended dietary intake) Iron: 18 mg/day women (19 to 50 yeast old) 8 mg/day men (over 18 years old) 8 mg/day women (over 50 years old) 27 mg/day pregnaant women
Calcium (Ca): Calcium, in combination with other minerals like magnesium, is the main supporter of stronger bones and teeth. Also, Calcium is one of the main minerals in dairy products thus something that we will lack in our vegan lifestyle. Regardless of what others think, plant-based milk cannot compensate for the lack of these minerals either.
It is critical that we purchase the appropriate supplements in order to obtain the much-needed calcium in a vegan diet. Calcium in combination with other minerals, or a combination of Vitamin D and Calcium, or Magnesium and Calcium, are common ingredients in these supplements (all of which are vital to basic body functions).
In general, you can choose between two main types of pure calcium supplements – calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Calcium carbonate is usually cheaper, containing more calcium (40% Ca + 60% carbonate) than Ca citrate (20% Ca + 80% citrate). When choosing the right calcium supplements for vegans, our tolerance to calcium and the quality of the supplement will matter the most.
RDI of Ca: 1,000 mg/day; 1,300 mg/day for over 60 years old
Vitamin D is another very essential for human bodily functions vitamins. People usually get Vitamin D from sunlight or some particular foods. Vitamin D from sunlight is best for humans as it is speedily and efficiently absorbed by our organisms.
Aside from Calcium, Vitamin D is also an important element for healthy bones and teeth. Evidence shows that Vitamin D can support our immune system and the prevention of numerous ailments. Also, it is a vital vitamin for heart functions, diabetes prevention, and healthy skin and hair.
According to research, supplying Vitamin D from outside sources can be difficult at times, especially in areas with little sunlight and harsh weather. Furthermore, plant-based foods are deficient in Vitamin D. When looking at what is required on a daily basis, many vegans will notice that Vitamin D from natural sources is insufficient for their overall health.
Vitamin D is present in many vegan foods, including cereals, almond milk, orange juice, and bread (among many other examples). However, some of these foods contain vitamin D that is not easily absorbed by the human body. As a result, vitamin D from sources such as sunlight is essential.
Even so, what can we do if there is no sun in our area, or if we are forced to stay indoors due to Covid, despite the fact that we are vegans? The best solution that comes to mind is to supply Vitamin D from supplement pills that meet the RDI requirements. Vitamin D capsules, for example, have proved to be far more effective and far less dangerous than iron supplements.
RDI Vitamin D: 15 mcg (600 IU)/day for adults (19–70 years old) 20 mcg (800 IU) for adults (over 70 years old)
Omega 3 fatty acids
There are three types of omega–3 fatty acids: ALA, EPA, and DHA, and each of these types are in charge of different bodily functions. This means that every type of fatty acid will be important for our body.
Fatty acids have proved to be essential for eye health (vision), metabolism, arthritis prevention, and mental health. Furthermore, fatty acids are used to treat and prevent inflammation, depression, anxiety, and a variety of other ailments. Without a doubt, all three types of fatty acids are essential for optimal health.
Meat and fish are the main sources of Omega 3 fatty acids, especially fish oil containing EPA and DHA amino acids. In contrast to poultry, most vegan foods contain only ALA, and most common ALA-rich vegan foods are flaxseed oil, soy, hemp seeds, walnut, and more. Although ALA itself is vital for the human body, it is also important that our body receives the other 2 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), which are bioavailable in poultry.
Seaweed and nori are the only vegan foods that contain EPA and DHA, but they are difficult to find in many places. As a result, Omega 3 vegan pills may prove to be extremely beneficial to a large number of vegans. In fact, there are numerous brands of supplements made of herbs and plant proteins that contain all three Omega 3 fatty acids.
RDI Omega 3: 1,100 mg women (18 to 70 years old) 1,600 mg for men (18 to 70 years old)
Zinc is the second most abundant mineral in the human body after iron. Zinc is vital for DNA synthesis, wound healing, immune functions, and even our growth and development (in infants). This mineral is found in every single cell of the human body, which means that it helps with almost every bodily process.
In regards to veganism, Zinc is a bioavailable element of many plant-based foods. For example, legumes (lentils, chickpeas), nuts, and oats contain Zinc. Even so, can vegans actually benefit from this mineral in the same ways as omnivores?
Phytates are found in most zinc-rich foods, including rice and oats. Phytates and phytic acid are anti-nutrients that are stored in plant-based foods as phosphorus. This means that phytic acids may alter and slow down the human body’s absorption of bioavailable zinc and other vitamins.
Recent research noted that the body of omnivores could absorb bioavailable Zinc faster, compared to the body of most vegans. One of the possible reasons for these results may be that the phytic acid from plant-based foods suppressed the absorption of natural zinc.
Having considered that plant-based foods containing zinc can’t always act as a source of this precious mineral, it’s wise to look for Zinc supplements, too. Zinc supplements are available in various forms and have proved to be very effective on the human body. They will support vegans’ immune system, boost metabolism, and care for human skin, hair, and nails.
RDI Zinc: 8 mg/day for women (18 to 70 years old) 11 mg/day for men (18 to 70 years old)
Choosing the right supplements for vegans
Being a vegan, it is essential that we choose the right type of supplements. In point of fact, many supplements are made of animal proteins, for example iron supplements, or Omega 3 supplements such as the infamous fish oil. Choosing the right brand and ingredients, in this case, will matter the most.
Another important part of choosing the right supplements is testing our tolerance to minerals such as iron or calcium. Evidentially, these minerals may store in our blood cells thus causing dangerous health issues. In many cases, the drawbacks of supplements, such as Iron or Calcium, will outrage the potential benefits.
Another way to ensure that we need the correct supplement is to test our deficiency and tolerance to some vitamins and minerals. Medical practitioners and nutritionists will be able to complete a professional check of our bodies, showing what exactly we need to take as a part of our vegan diet. Additionally, personalized vitamin packs have swiped the vegan world by storm, so checking this option may turn out to be our next best bet.
The bottom line
Veganism has proved to have more benefits than downsides for humans. Since I have tried this movement myself, I can definitely confirm that veganism is a good way of achieving our goals. However, it is also wise to be thoughtful about the lack of many important vitamins and minerals in vegan diets.
Vegan diets lack iron which is vital for blood production and being energetic. Bioavailable Zinc and Vitamin D from vegan foods can’t be readily absorbed by the human body. Plant-based food doesn’t contain a combination of all 3 types of essential amino acids.
Vegans must rely on pill supplements to get all of the vitamins our bodies require while avoiding potential side effects. These are available in a variety of forms and combinations, including carbonate and citrate forms, depending on how much pure mineral we require; vitamin and mineral blends; and amino acids.
No matter what supplement we choose, it is essential that we find a way to compensate for the lack of all the vitamins and minerals in vegan diets.
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