The vegan diet is now a major trend, especially among health-conscious people. This is mainly due to the lower amounts of saturated fats contained in plant-based food like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Due to this, they have lower calorie-density compared to animal-based food like meat. That said, people who strictly eat plant-based food have a higher risk of developing deficiency diseases because certain nutrients are not available or are not present in them. The purpose of this article is to give you tips on avoiding deficiencies when following a vegan diet.
Health Benefits Of Vegan Diet
People follow a vegan diet due to the main health benefits that are listed below:
- Lower LDL or bad cholesterol levels
- Reduced risk of developing heart diseases
- Reduced blood pressure
Due to these health benefits, you can live a healthier life with almost no lifestyle diseases. But keep in mind that this does not mean that you are going to live longer than the average lifespan of the population. However, you must plan your vegan diet to ensure that you are eating a balanced diet to reduce the risk of developing nutritional deficiencies.
Common Nutritional Deficiencies Due To Vegan Diet And Their Symptoms
The nutritional deficiencies due to a vegan diet appear silently in their initial stages. This is because the body uses nutrients that are stored in the liver, fat cells, and muscles. Once they are exhausted, the symptoms due to deficiencies appear.
Listed below are the common symptoms of nutrient deficiencies due to a vegan diet:
- Muscle pain
- Exhaustion and fatigue
- Increase or loss of appetite
- Reduced endurance
- Mood swings and a tendency for depression
- Brittle nails and hair
Keep in mind that the symptoms vary according to the deficient nutrient. Besides, pregnant and lactating women, elderly people, and children who follow the vegan diet are particularly affected by the symptoms. So, nutritionists recommend people belonging to this group to avoid following a purely vegan diet. Moreover, the best way to avoid this situation is to have blood tested.
Nutrients That Vegans Must Pay Special Attention To In Their Vegan Meal
Proteins are the basic building blocks of the human body, and because of this, they are essential for a multitude of bodily functions; they are made up of amino acids. There are a total of 20 amino acids, and only 9 are essential ones, i.e., the body cannot produce them. Because of this, you must get the essential amino acids through diet.
Animal proteins are complete proteins because they contain all the essential amino acids. But plant proteins are not complete proteins because most of them do not contain a couple of the essential amino acids.
Getting Protein On A Vegan Diet
Plant proteins are not complete proteins, and this increases the risk of deficiency diseases. This can be avoided by eating a wide variety of plant-based foods so that your body gets all the essential amino acids.
Listed below are protein sources that you must include in your vegan diet:
- Nuts like almonds and walnuts
- Seeds like hemp and pumpkin seeds
Calcium is essential for healthy bones, and it is required for neuronal functions. People who follow a vegan diet have an increased risk of developing its deficiency, and this may cause osteoporosis. This is mainly because the calcium contained in plant-based food is not easily absorbed by the body due to the presence of antinutrients like oxalates. Its absorption can be increased by cooking food. Besides, vegetables like kale, beans, broccoli, and spinach are good sources of calcium. Also, nutritionists recommend vegans to take calcium supplements to avoid its deficiency.
Vegans have a higher risk of developing iron deficiency because in plant-based food it is contained in the non-heme form, which is not easily absorbed by the body. The symptoms of this deficiency are brittle hair and nails as well as increased susceptibility to infections. However, the chances of vegans suffering from this condition are low because they consume higher amounts of vitamin C; this increases iron absorption.
Iodine is an essential nutrient required in trace amounts; it plays a key role in metabolism. Its deficiency causes thyroid disorders as this gland is involved in energy metabolism. Moreover, iodine deficiency can be avoided by using iodized salt as well as consuming seaweed.
Zinc is essential for metabolic processes, and because of this, its deficiency causes issues like stunted growth, increased susceptibility for infections, and reduced healing capacity. Vegans can avoid its deficiency by consuming pulses, nuts, cereals, and seeds.
Vegans have a higher risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency, and this condition causes anemia or long-term damage to the nervous system. You must know that this nutrient is absent in plant-based food. So, those following a vegan diet can avoid its deficiency by consuming vitamin B12 dietary supplements.
We hope that the tips shared above will help you with avoiding nutrient deficiencies when following a vegan diet.