Jenny Carson, MRes, BSc (Hons), MBANT, senior nutritionist at Viridian Nutrition, explores the key nutrients in a vegan diet.
Eating a rich variety of plant-based foods is key, however, you may need to consider food supplements to avoid missing out on essential nutrients – as some nutrients are harder to obtain or available in smaller amounts in plant-based foods.
A vegan diet may, in particular, need supplementation with B12, besides B3, B6, choline, biotin, vitamin D and vitamin K. Vitamin B12 deficiency is the cause of pernicious anaemia, while low B3 and B6 can affect energy levels and disrupt hormones. Low choline status is associated with poor cognition and low biotin, poor skin health. Other considerations are the fat-soluble vitamins vitamin D and K.
Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables and abundant in fermented soy, such as natto. The consumption of fermented vegetables in the UK has declined in the advent of modern food preservation techniques. Subsequently, Vitamin K2 can be found easily in a non-animal tested vegan supplemental form and is often included in a multivitamin and mineral formula.
Iodine, Calcium and Iron are the hardest to ascertain from the vegan diet. Iodine is involved in the immune function and thyroid health, so if you experience lack of energy, unexplained weight gain or you constantly feel cold, you may need to up your iodine sources. Similarly, low iron diminishes energy and immunity. This is a nutrient to monitor especially in menstruating females and endurance athletes. Calcium is probably one of the most well-known minerals for keep our bones strong. Calcium balance in the body requires the presence of magnesium, vitamin K and D.
Essential Fatty Acids
Both omega-3 and 6 play important roles in brain function, cell integrity, blood clotting and inflammation. The vegan diet is rich in omega-6 and some omega-3 from nuts, seeds, avocado and coconut oil, however, the fatty acids are not balanced.
As a result, algae have become popular for its omega-3 content and provides the only vegan source of omega-3 EFAs; eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
With all this in mind, it’s important for vegans to additionally nourish their diet with these nutrients through vegan-friendly supplements, so that the correct therapeutic levels are reached in the body for health benefits.
Pay close attention to the labels
Look on the label to check that a vitamin, mineral or herbal product is vegan. Some capsules are made from gelatine, some tablets are coated with a gelatine spray, beeswax or shellac to make them look shiny. The details are important!
About Viridian Nutrition
Ethical vitamin company Viridian Nutrition has a wide range of Vegan Society approved food supplements. In addition to this, Viridian goes further and ensures that ALL ingredients are traced back to the seed or manufacturing process to ascertain whether animal testing has taken place anywhere along the supply chain for each individual ingredient. It guarantees that none of its products are tested on animals.
Author: Jenny Carson, MRes, BSc (Hons), MBANT, senior nutritionist at ethical vitamin company Viridian Nutrition. Jenny has over 5 years’ experience supporting people with nutritional health advice. She has a first-class degree in Nutritional Science, and has completed a Master of Research (MRes) in Public Health, giving her a wide understanding of public health nutrition. For more information visit www.viridian-nutrition.com
The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.
Read more about plant-based health.