Vegan? Here's How To Ensure You Score Those Essential Nutrients

by Sumdima Rai

A balanced diet forms the basis of healthy living. However, more often we don't pay attention to the food we eat and that can deprive us of nutrition. While being vegan is a personal choice, you must be mindful of the foods you eat so that you get all the nutrients that the body needs. Good nutrition is essential for growth, body functions and a healthy immune system.

Here’s a list of key nutrients that vegans tend to be deficient in and how you can obtain them from vegan foods.

1) Calcium
Getting sufficient calcium can be a concern for vegans, as they avoid consuming dairy or milk products (great sources of calcium). Calcium plays a vital role in building strong bones and teeth. So, make sure you include non-dairy calcium foods in your vegan diet.
Vegan Sources Of Calcium: Chickpeas, broccoli, calcium-set tofu, enriched whole wheat bread, soy cheese and orange juice.

2) Vitamin D
Also known as the 'sunshine vitamin' because it is also made in the body following sun exposure, vitamin D is essential for building strong bones. Milk products and eggs are good sources of vitamin D. In order to get your dose of vitamin D in your vegan diet, consume vitamin D enriched non-dairy milks, fortified cereals, and other packaged foods. However, if you don’t eat fortified foods and have limited exposure to the sun, then you can go for vitamin D supplements (derived from plants) by consulting with your doctor.
Vegan Sources Of Vitamin D: Maitake mushrooms, portobello mushrooms, almond milk and soy milk fortified with vitamin D and ready-to-eat cereal fortified with vitamin D.

3) Vitamin B12
It is necessary for the production of red blood cells and prevent anemia (deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin, resulting in tiredness and weakness). Vitamin B12 is exclusively found in animal products. So, make sure your vegan diet includes vitamin supplements, vitamin-enriched cereals, and fortified products.
Vegan Sources Of Vitamin B12: Take one B12 supplement daily providing at least 10 micrograms or eat vitamin B12 enriched cereals every day.

4) Protein
Protein forms the building blocks for healthy skin, bones, organs and muscles. Animal proteins are similar in structure to our body's proteins and hence are utilized more readily and rapidly than plant proteins. Vegans can improve the absorption of proteins in the body by eating a variety of proteins from different food sources such as legumes, whole grains and nuts.
Vegan Sources Of Protein: Soy products, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

5) Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These healthy fats acids reduce inflammation, decrease the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, lessen joint pains in arthritis, and protect against dementia. Sources include fish and eggs, which can be tricky for a vegan to acquire. So, incorporate a sufficient amount of plant-based foods high in omega-3 fatty acids called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) such as pumpkin seeds, tofu, and walnuts.
Vegan Sources Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Ground flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, soybeans, olive oil and hemp oil.

6) Iron
Readily found in meats, this is an essential part of hemoglobin that carries oxygen in your blood to various parts of the body.
Vegan Sources Of Iron: Dried beans, lentils, enriched cereals and dark green leafy vegetables.

7) Zinc
It is an essential component of many enzymes which help in metabolism, immunity and healing. Because zinc is not easily absorbed from plant-based sources (it is found in red meat and poultry), to maximize your intake of zinc, consume whole grains, wheat germ, tofu, legumes and nuts throughout the day.
Vegan Sources Of Zinc: Tofu, legumes, beans and nuts.

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