No diet is perfect. The vegan diet offers life-changing advantages to those who commit to it, but the lack of meat, dairy, and fish means that a few key nutrients are lacking. Fortunately, this is a simple obstacle that can be overcome with a balanced diet and the right selection of supplements.
I’m Vegan Now – What is Missing from My Diet?
You’ve made the bold decision to go vegan. With this decision comes rewards that will change your life, including increased longevity, a fit body, and the prevention of major diseases. The flip side is that there are nutrients in fish and meat that are lacking in the vegan diet. It may be convenient to ignore the meat-based nutrients, but the fact is, some of them are vital to optimal health. Learn about these five major nutrients that are scarce in the vegan lifestyle and find out how to replenish them.
One of the biggest fears of new or aspiring vegans is how they’re going to get enough protein for muscle growth. Buff vegans like UFC Fighter Nate Diaz and Boxing Legend Mike Tyson know that there is more than enough protein on the vegan diet to accomplish your goals, no matter how tough they may be. The only key to finding excellent vegan protein sources is knowing where to look. For example, did you know that a cup of peas contains 8g of protein?
To supplement the protein you consume naturally from grains, veggies, nuts, and seeds, consider using a protein powder or amino acid supplement. For high protein snacks, a top-quality vegan protein bar or vegan protein cookie can provide the boost you need.
This one is a little more complicated. While there are plenty of veggies that contain iron, the iron is in nonheme form, meaning its absorption is hindered by coffee, tea, and fiber. There are three significant ways to increase the iron in your blood on the vegan diet:
- Eat more iron-rich vegetables like spinach and kale
- Take an iron supplement or multivitamin
- Cut back on foods that prevent iron absorption like coffee and tea
Zinc is a vital nutrient required for proper immune system function and healing. It’s also one of the nutrients that’s hard to absorb for vegans, but there are easy ways to work around this zinc shortage. As far as natural vegan foods that will help, cashews, sunflower seeds, and soy beans are rich in zinc. Alternatively, zinc supplements and high-quality multivitamins can ensure that vegans get enough of this crucial micronutrient.
The issue with calcium isn’t that it’s lacking on the vegan diet, but that certain plant-based versions of it contain oxalates which prevent its absorption. Here are the differences:
Poor Sources of Vegan Calcium
Each of these foods is a source of plant-based calcium that contains high amounts of oxalates, meaning they ultimately don’t absorb easily into the blood stream.
- Beet greens
- Swiss chard
Excellent Sources of Plant-based Calcium
Fortunately, vegans also have a selection of potent calcium sources that are easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Since they have little to no oxalates, these foods should be the prime sources of calcium for vegans.
- Milk Substitutes – Rice Milk, Soy Milk, Almond Milk, etc.
5. Vitamin B-12
Vegans must make a special effort to get their vitamin B-12, but it’s easily found in many soy products and cereals. Natural sources of vitamin B-12 are only found in animal products. Luckily, an advantage of cereals and other manmade foods is that they’re often fortified with vitamins – such foods are a lifesaver for vegans, because they provide vitamins that may not be present in a plant-based diet.
Complete your Vegan Diet – Your Body Will Thank You
Vegans are not people who shy away from challenge, and the perks of the vegan lifestyle are too great to let a few lacking nutrients get in the way. By simply understanding that with the advantages of veganism, there are also hurdles, you can make great strides in truly immersing yourself in the vegan lifestyle. Complete your vegan diet however you choose and prepare for a life of fresh, natural food and fitness benefits you can be proud of.