A vegan diet is touted as a very healthy lifestyle, often associated with lower cholesterol levels, healthier blood pressure, and weight loss. As with anything, though, there are some drawbacks. Many nutrients that are crucial for our bodies are easier to obtain through animal products than they are on a plant-based diet, making it more challenging for vegans to maintain the nutrients they need.
However, with mindfulness and thoughtful choices in your diet, you can obtain the nutrients you need to support your overall health and wellness. iwi life is happy to help, providing an overview of the hardest nutrients for vegans to get and explaining where you can find them.
What Are Some Nutrients that Vegans Struggle To Get?
Although a vegan diet encourages many people to get more nutrients in their diet by adding more plants, some nutrients are harder to find in plants. By being aware of the less abundant nutrients in a vegan diet, you can be more proactive in making sure you include them as part of your daily nutrition. The following are some of the most common nutrients that vegans struggle to get.
Calcium is a mineral that serves several important functions in the body, which include supporting healthy bones and teeth, healthy muscle function, and proper heart and nerve function.
Calcium is found in various plant and animal sources, like dairy, fortified juices, leafy greens, and almonds. Although, depending on the source, calcium is not always very bioavailable, meaning that the body may not break down and absorb all the calcium you ingest. For example, dairy has a bioavailability of 30%, so your body only uses less than a third of the calcium you ingest.
It is important to take in an abundance of this nutrient, making it hard for vegans to maintain high calcium levels. Because plant-based sources of calcium are lower in the mineral than animal sources, vegans would have to eat a lot to get their recommended amounts. A supplement is a great way for vegans to receive enough calcium.
Vitamin B12 is a vital nutrient, providing energy for the body. It also plays a crucial role in forming red blood cells and DNA and has an important part in the development and function of brain and nerve cells. The recommended dietary allowance for men and women at least 14 years old is 2.4 micrograms daily.
Those on a vegan diet have a hard time obtaining this essential vitamin because it is found naturally occurring almost only in animal products, like eggs, meat, and dairy.
On a plant-based diet, B12 can be found in foods such as soy products, nutritional yeast, meat substitutes, and nori seaweed, a type of algae.
This vital nutrient is essential for producing hemoglobin and myoglobin, which are proteins inside red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. Iron also helps produce some essential hormones. The recommended amount of iron for adult men at least 19 years old is 8mg, while for women over the same age, it is 18mg.
Iron is found most abundantly in meat, poultry, and seafood. Plant-based sources of iron include beans, nuts, leafy greens, and fortified foods like cereals and bread.
Iron is found in two forms: heme iron and non-heme iron. Both forms are found in meat, seafood, and poultry products, while plant foods only contain non-heme iron. Non-heme iron is not absorbed as well by the body as heme iron.
Eating plant-based sources of iron along with vitamin C can improve absorption. Because of the low absorption rates, vegans can benefit greatly from an iron supplement.
Iodine is a trace mineral found in some foods and is used to make hormones that influence the body’s metabolism and development. Because iodine is important for brain and bone development, it is even more important for infants and pregnant women. Adults should obtain at least 150 micrograms of iodine, while pregnant women should obtain at least 220 micrograms.
Iodine is found naturally in various animal-based foods, including fish and other seafood and dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese. Seaweed is the only plant-based form of iodine, which makes it hard for vegans to get the mineral in a standard diet.
Fortunately, iodine is easy to obtain from iodized salt, so it is just a matter of being mindful about including this important nutrient in your diet.
Zinc is a mineral that is important in immune function, metabolism function, cell function, wound healing, and supporting the senses of taste and smell. The body only needs small amounts of the nutrient, but it is still important.
The trace mineral is found in shellfish, beef, poultry, and pork as well as in plant-based foods like legumes, nuts, whole grains, and fortified cereals. Vegans may not always obtain the necessary amount of zinc because some plant foods contain phytates, which can reduce zinc absorption. This decreased absorption makes supplementation a good idea for vegans.
Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids that make up a key part of the membranes of the cells in the body and provide a key energy source. These fatty acids have several benefits, supporting a healthy heart, maintaining healthy circulation, and promoting a positive mental outlook, among many others. The two most important fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
These essential nutrients are found most often in fatty, oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and trout. They are often easily accessible through supplements like fish oil and krill oil. There are very few plant-based DHA and EPA sources, making it challenging for vegans to receive enough of these crucial nutrients. However, making the right choice in supplements can help. For example, iwi life provides an omega-3 supplement made from algae, one of the richest forms of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids.
Obtain More of the Nutrients You Need
On a vegan diet, it can be hard to obtain all of the nutrients that you need to support your health. By being mindful of the nutrients you receive through your diet, or adding helpful supplements to your daily routine, you can avoid any nutritional deficiencies. At iwi life, we strive to do our part to support everyone in reaching their daily nutrient intake, regardless of lifestyle.
This goal is why our supplements provide one of the most bioavailable forms of omega-3 possible. With our omega-3 supplement, you can obtain both DHA and EPA to support your plant-based diet. We also offer a complete family of products formulated to help you obtain many of the nutrients you need to support daily bodily function. Try iwi life today and take strides toward receiving a large portion of your necessary nutrient intake.
Calcium | The Nutrition Source | Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.
Vitamin B12 | The Nutrition Source | Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.
Iron - Consumer | National Institute for Health
Iodine - Consumer | National Institute for Health
Zinc | The Nutrition Source | Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health