• Natalie Gibson

Supporting a Vegan Diet


I have many clients that consume a vegan diet and I love working with them!

Majority of them have phenomenal diets that are nutritious, healthy and jam packed with delicious meals.

However there are some people I see that require additional support in the form of diet advice or supplementation to meet their nutritional requirements.

Being vegan means that you have to be vigilant to ensure that your mix of ingredients includes the nutrients you need to support your own individual health needs.

I like to say that if you want to be a lazy eater, or do not have an interest in food, being vegan is probably not for you!

Eating a plant based diet has a wide range of health benefits if you commit and put the time and effort into consuming the correct foods.

Some of the most common nutritional deficiencies I see with my plant based clients include:

Vitamin B12

This vitamin is needed for synthesis of DNA, protein and blood cells. It is also needed for maintenance of body lipids, gut mucosa, epithelial cells and also bone marrow.

A deficiency can cause disturbed sugar metabolism, changes in your gut and digestive function or anaemia, lowered energy and exercise tolerance, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, sensory disturbances n your extremities or memory loss.

Ideally we want to see greater than 50 p mol/L of Active B12 in your blood test.

For vegans, the easiest way to obtain vitamin B 12 is through supplementation. It is present in some algae and plants contaminated by soil or insects. However majority of consumption of Vitamin B12 is through animal products which is why supplementation is recommended.

Protein

Protein is a common nutrient deficiency I see not only limited to plant based diets. There are a few plant based foods that contain a full amino acid profile, such as quinoa and buckwheat, or by combining a range of foods, you can get enough protein through the diet.

Protein is important for cell repair and growth and also for growth and development.

A deficiency in protein can be seen with a degradation of muscle or inability to grow muscle, weakening of nails, and hair.

As a rough estimate, your daily requirement of protein is your body weight in grams. For example, if you weigh 72kg, then you need to consume 72g of protein daily.

Plant based sources of protein include: soy bean products, hemp, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth or by combining other sources of protein together.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is not a deficiency limited to vegans however is a nutrient that I see deficiencies in commonly.

Deficiency of Vitamin D results in demineralisation of the skeleton, poor immune health and mood alterations such as anxiety and depression. It is also supportive to the skin so changes in skin can be experienced.

Vitamin D is mainly absorbed through sunlight but if you would like to know more, click here and see my post regarding vitamin D. You can get a small amount through food or by leaving your mushrooms in the sunlight for 30 minutes then consuming.

Essential Fatty Acids

Fats and fatty acids are a concentrated form of energy for the body, a little packs quite a punch however we need to ensure the correct fats are being consumed for your health.

The fats that we need to consume as we are unable to make in the body are polyunsaturated fats and in particular omega 3 fatty acids.

DHA is an abbreviation of docosahexaenoic acid and is an omega 3 fatty acid that is needed in the brain, cardiovascular system, nerve tissue and also for eye health.

EPA otherwise known as eicosapentaenoic acid is another omega 3 fatty acid that we need as it is the precursor to anti-inflammatory components of the immune system.

Deficiencies is omega 3 fatty acids can result in dry skin and hair, reduced growth, an increase in mental health problems and brain cognition.

For women, the daily requirement of omega 3 fatty acids is 90mg/day, for men it is 160mg/day.

Plant based sources include: flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds and nuts and seeds.

Choline

This is a nutrient you do not hear about often however it plays a big role in mental health, acts as a methyl donor providing energy, regulation of fats and cholesterol and memory enhancement and attention. It is also mostly found in animal products however it can be found in soybean products and split peas.

A deficiency in choline can be associated with fatty liver disease, fatigue, mental health conditions.

For adults, the daily dose needed for females is 425mg/day, for men 550mg/day.

Plant based sources include: legumes, tofu, nuts, seeds and green vegetables.

Iron

This is a nutrient that shouldn't come as a surprise as most plant-based individuals are aware of their iron levels.

Iron is in plant-based foods however poorly absorbed (approximately 10%), however cooking iron rich foods increases their absorption up to 30%.

Iron is needed for haemoglobin synthesis, synthesis of neurotransmitters, and DNA and immune resistance.

The recommended dietary intake for menstruating adult females is 18mg/day, for men 8mg/day.

Plant based sources include: legumes, grains, nuts and seeds and vegetables.

If you are considering having a plant based diet, please be mindful of the common deficiencies and ensure to address these through the diet.

If you are wanting support or considering a plant based diet, please book in to have a chat - it is easy to prevent a deficiency than restore nutritional status!

#vegan #vegandiet #nutritionaldeficiencies #plantbaseddiet #vegetarian

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