Sharing the love for my vegan friends.
I recently completed a therapeutic nutrition course and thought it would be helpful to put together a list of key nutrients that are commonly lacking in vegan diets.
As a Health Coach, I recommend you visit your doctor and get tested before starting supplements so you can establish a baseline and ensure they won’t interact with any medications you may be taking.
1. Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
What it does: Supports energy metabolism, immune and nerve function
Deficiency symptoms: Fatigue, anemia, numbness, tingling, depression, diarrhea. Ultimately can cause permanent nerve and brain damage
Note: The liver stores B12 for 3-5 years so initially you may not notice deficiency symptoms.
Best vegan food sources: Plant sources do not contain enough bioavailable B12- this means your body can’t readily use the nutrient so they are not considered reliable sources. Look for B12 fortified foods like plant milks and soy products.
Best supplement: Look for Methylcobalamin which is the active form of B12 and is best absorbed by your body.
2. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
What it does: Everything! Cardiovascular and cognitive functioning, immune system health and energy metabolism.
Deficiency symptoms: Depression and anxiety, vision problems, attention and brain developmental issues, cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammation particularly bone and joint issues, sleep issues, dry, cracked nails and many more!
Best vegan food sources: Seaweed and algae.
Note: Other popular sources such as Flaxseed oil and walnuts are actually sources of Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) which must be converted to DHA and EPA by the body in order to be utilized. Unfortunately, there is a very low conversion rate (under 10%) from these sources. Conversion is dependent on Zinc levels which can often be lower in vegan diets.
Best supplement: Algae based EPA/DHA supplement
What it does: Makes thyroid hormone and controls the effects of estrogen on breast tissue.
Deficiency symptoms: Goiter, intellectual disability, growth retardation, hypothyroidism and miscarriage. Iodine deficiency is the leading cause of mental retardation in the world.
Best vegan food sources: Seaweeds (especially kelp), iodized salt, sea salt.
Best supplement: Talk to your doctor about supplementing with iodine as absorption varies depending on the severity of the deficiency so levels can become toxic.
What it does: Component of red blood cells, energy production, DNA synthesis
Deficiency symptoms: Anemia, excessive menstrual loss, learning disabilities, impaired immune function, decreased energy levels.
Best vegan food sources: Kelp, brewer’s yeast, blackstrap molasses, pumpkin seeds.
Best supplement: Ferrous Gluconate or Ferric pyrophosphate
What it does: Builds healthy bones and teeth, protects against high blood pressure and colon cancer.
Deficiency symptoms: Muscle aches, cramps & spasms, fatigue, weak & brittle nails, oral health problems, vision problems, abnormal heart rhythm, reduced bone density and eventually osteoporosis.
Best vegan food sources: Kelp, collard leaves, kale and almonds.
Best supplement: Microcrystalline Hydroxyapatite Complex is the most absorbable
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