When you adopt a vegan lifestyle, there is a risk that you might end up suffering from nutritional deficiency. Moving away from meat products will inevitably deprive you of certain types of nutrition. And this deprivation can trigger various health issues. For pregnant women, this might mean trouble with delivery or the physical constitution of children. As such, it is essential that you find vegan alternatives to provide your body with the lacking nutrients.
Protein is an essential nutrient in building muscle mass. Much of the protein intake of a regular diet is dependent on meat consumption. Abstaining from meat raises the question of whether a person will be able to get sufficient protein through a vegan lifestyle. “A common myth is that it’s difficult to get protein from plant foods. In reality, they can provide all the essential protein building blocks that we call amino acids. Good sources include beans, lentils, chickpeas, soy products, peanut butter, cashew nuts, and pumpkin seeds,” Heather Russell, a registered dietician at the Vegan Society, said to The Guardian.
Those who consume milk products can look for soya or hemp alternatives. Algae like chlorella and spirulina are excellent sources of protein. People who are worried about losing the taste of cheese can use nutritional yeast that is also rich in proteins. Now, it is true that some plant products tend to provide lower protein per 100 grams when compared to meat products. For example, lentils and firm tofu only provide 9 grams and 17 grams of protein per 100 grams. In contrast, lean chicken breast provides almost 32 grams of protein per 100 grams of meat, which is essentially almost 2 to 4 times that of lentils and tofu. But this issue can be resolved by eating more plant-based products.
Vitamin B12 plays a key role in the functioning of the nervous system as well as the production of red blood cells and DNA. This nutrient is typically found in eggs, fish, and meat. Without appropriate levels of vitamin B12 intake, you will feel exhausted and tired throughout the day.
The most reliable way for vegans to get this nutrient is by consuming vitamin B12-fortified products. When it comes to vitamin D, people usually get it through sardines, salmon, and other canned fish. For vegans, drinking vitamin-D fortified drinks like orange juice or almond milk is recommended. Or you can go the easy route and get some exposure to the sun.
Omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA are critical for the development of the eyes and brain. They are also beneficial in maintaining heart health. Fish tends to be the main source of such fatty acids. To ensure that you are not deficient in these nutrients, look for fortified breakfast bars and soymilk.
Iron is a mineral that is necessary for the proper functioning of hemoglobin, a type of protein that transports oxygen to the cells. A lack of iron can cause problems like anemia. Vegans should pay attention to consuming legumes, leafy greens, etc., to ensure appropriate iron intake. However, there is a drawback — iron from plants will not be efficiently absorbed by the body as easily as iron from meat products. To solve this problem, consume iron-rich plant products with vitamin C rich products. This will boost the absorption of iron.
It is possible that you will never be able to get all the necessary nutrients from plant-based products. As such, the only way is to take supplements to compensate for this deficiency. Some of the supplements you should consider include vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, iron, zinc, iodine, EPA, and DHA.