Dec 05, 2023
Do Vegans Need To Take Supplements?
While adopting a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is thought to be good for one's physical and mental health, it can have an impact on a person's nutritional requirements because some important nutrients are mostly found in foods that come from animals.
When planning a nutritious diet, consideration must be given to the difficulties that poorly constructed vegetarian and vegan diets create. There are a few nutrient groups that you might be deficient in macronutrients and micronutrients if you don't get enough of them or miss out on them altogether.
This article will go over the essential nutrients that are more difficult to get on a plant-based diet, where to get them, and when to think about supplements.
WHAT IS VEGETARIANISM?
The diverse dietary practices of vegetarianism, which primarily emphasize vegetables, fruits, grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, and honey, are characterized by the exclusion of meat and poultry.
A vegetarian diet may not include any animal flesh, but it does include dairy and eggs.
WHAT IS VEGANISM?
A vegan diet is a plant-based diet that forbids all animal products, including dairy, eggs, and honey, as well as meat. An entirely plant-based diet, including grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils, constitutes a vegan diet.
According to studies, omnivores consume more calcium than vegans and vegetarians. Vegans and vegetarians can obtain enough calcium from plant-based sources like pulses, broccoli, kale, spinach, sesame seeds, dates, leafy greens, and chia seeds.
Despite the fact that calcium is present in plant-based sources, this calcium is bound to oxalates, which can bind to calcium and prevent it from being bioavailable. If the diet is unbalanced, relying solely on plant sources of calcium may increase the risk of nutrient deficiencies.
Due to their lower calcium intakes, vegans and vegetarians have been found to have a higher risk of fracture. Low calcium intakes in children and teenagers lead to low bone mineral density, dental issues, muscle cramps, and poor bone formation.
According to studies, vegetarians and vegans tend to have high rates of vitamin B12 deficiency. The amount of vitamin B12 in foods derived from plants is relatively small compared to that of animal sources. Vegans and vegetarians must exercise extra caution to prevent vitamin B12 deficiency.
The only trustworthy sources for vegetarians and vegans to guarantee an adequate intake of the vitamin are fortified foods and supplements.
Fatigue, megaloblastic anaemia, digestive problems like diarrhoea, nerve damage, neurological symptoms like tingling and numbness, cognitive decline, sore tongue, and balance issues are all brought on by vitamin B12 deficiency.
While vegan and vegetarian sources of iron (legumes, beans, cereals, leafy greens, seeds, nuts, tofu, raisins, and dried fruits) can be effective for meeting iron needs. Vegans, however, have lower blood iron levels than non-vegans. The non-heme form of iron found in plant-based diets is not as easily absorbed as heme iron from animal sources, which could result in vegetarians and vegans consuming less iron and absorbing less of it.
Additionally, vegan diets frequently include dietary inhibitors like oxalates (found in spinach, leafy greens), phytates (found in legumes, whole grains), and polyphenol tannins (found in coffee, tea), which decrease the amount of iron absorbed from the diet.
Even though vegan and vegetarian sources of iron can still be useful for supplying iron requirements, it's crucial for people who follow these diets to pay attention to their iron intake and take into account factors that may promote or inhibit iron absorption.
Iron deficiency causes fatigue, weakness, pale skin, shortness of breath, cold hands, feet, hair loss, brittle nails, restless leg syndrome, pica (craving and eating non-food items like ice or dirt).
Although legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, and cereals contain a modest amount of zinc, the bioavailability of zinc in plant-based foods is typically lower due to inhibiting substances like dietary fibre and phytic acid content that inhibit zinc absorption. Zinc is primarily obtained from animal foods. An increased risk of zinc deficiency will result from a strict vegan or vegetarian diet that pays little attention to plant-based foods that are high in zinc.
The most practical and reliable way to meet recommended zinc intake and avoid deficiency symptoms is with zinc supplements.
Loss of appetite, constipation, weight loss, immune system problems, fatigue, macular degeneration, acne, hair loss, and mental sluggishness are all symptoms of zinc deficiency.
Vegans frequently experience iodine deficiency, which frequently results in hypothyroidism. Seaweed, sea vegetables, cranberries, and potatoes all contain varying amounts of iodine, depending on the soil's composition and the growing environment. Plant-based sources of iodine might not be trustworthy. It can be more difficult for people who strictly adhere to a vegan or vegetarian diet to get enough iodine from plants on their own.
Iodine deficiency symptoms include impaired thyroid function, fatigue, weight gain, and cognitive impairment.
OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS
Vegan DHA supplements made from microalgae might be a crucial factor for vegetarians and vegans to take into account in order to get enough of the crucial nutrient. A vegan and vegetarian diet consists solely of plant-based foods, including ALA, which is an omega-3 fatty acid found in plant sources. EPA and DHA are absent from plant-based foods. Although humans can convert some of the ALA found in plant foods into EPA and DHA in the liver, this process can be hampered by conditions like stress, ageing, illness, and diet. It is likely that you are regularly consuming ALA-rich foods if you follow a varied plant-based diet, but getting enough ALA may take more effort.
Deficiency symptoms include low mood, fatigue, elevated LDL cholesterol, and impaired thinking.
Dairy products, eggs, fortified dairy products like milk, and fortified plant-based milk substitutes are all sources of vitamin D for vegetarians. Additionally, some breakfast cereals with added vitamins and mushrooms have trace amounts of vitamin D.
Vegetarians may still struggle to consume enough vitamin D despite these dietary sources, particularly if they get little sun exposure or live in areas with little natural light. Vegetarians are advised to think about taking vitamin D supplements.
Some signs of vitamin D deficiency include heart problems, mood swings, weak bones and muscles, and frequent infections.
Most of the essential nutrients needed for good health can be obtained through a vegan diet when it is well-planned, but some nutrients may be more difficult to get exclusively from plant-based sources.