Have you gone vegan?

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If you have gone vegan, there are some nutrients you should keep an eye on.

B12

B12 is not so available in plant foods, although it is abundant in animal foods. There may be traces in mushrooms, in algae, and plants that are contaminated with soil. Some soy or nutmilks are B12-supplemented- check the label.

B12 is important for the myelin that insulates nerves, neurotransmitters and for making red blood cells, and deficiency can be serious. You can get tested for B12 levels ....it is stored in the liver so you probably won't be deficient in the first months of being vegan but after a while, your stores may run dangerously low. It is easily supplemented and highly recommended to do so.

Zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral that even omnivores are frequently short in. It is needed for the nervous system, for making sure you have enough stomach acid to digest your food well, for fighting infection and all sorts of enzymatic reactions in the body. While there is zinc in many plant foods, such as nuts, seed, chickpeas, bread and leafy greens....it is often poorly absorbed compared to animal sources. To be in the safe side, I recommend getting your zinc levels checked and to supplement if needed.

Iron

Iron is another essential mineral. Again, it is available in many plant-based foods, but often poorly absorbed. Some people seem to have no trouble absorbing iron, and others have a lot of trouble. This may be because of low stomach acid (which needs good amounts of zinc to improve!). If you have chronic low iron, or low ferritin, you will likely have cold hands and feet and feel low in energy. Getting your iron levels up can make a big difference to your sense of wellbeing. I don't recommend the pharmacy iron supplements- they are too harsh. There are some good professional Naturopathic brands available nowadays, with cofactors to help absorb the iron.

Iodine

Another vital nutrient is iodine, which is needed for the thyroid, which governs the metabolic rate..but is also needed by every cell in the body. Iodine is available in seafood for omnivores, but for vegans, the main source is seaweed, although iodised salt alone or in products may also help a little. If you eat plenty of seaweed- which I do recommend, unless you are hyperthyroid, in which case get it checked- you may be ok. If not, or you haven't for a long time, it may be worth getting your iodine levels checked and to supplement for a while.

Calcium

In a study of calcium intakes of 1,475 adults, vegans had below the nationally recommended calcium intakes, compared to vegetarians and omnivores. It is worth being very aware of your calcium intake if you are vegan and making sure your other bone cofactors are plentiful as well (such as silica, Vit D and boron). Calcium absorption can be poorer from plant sources because of the abundant oxalic and phytic acid content of plant foods, which tend to block calcium absorption.

Vegans…please listen to your body

While many sources declare you can source all your nutrients from a vegan diet, that would only be a very ideal vegan diet. It may be possible, but if you lead a busy lifestyle and fall back on less than ideal food such as too much bread, white rice, vegan raw sweets and not enough fruit and vegetables, you will probably need to supplement. Superfoods can be a good way to supplement, such as spirulina and dulse, but it needs to be regular, not occasional.

In my experience, veganism, particularly raw veganism (or mostly raw) can be a very healing diet for a period of time. People usually feel very good on it for the first few months, as the body lightens up, cleanses and heals. However, long term, deficiencies are highly likely unless nutraceuticals and superfoods are a regular part of the diet. Many vegans gravitate back to animal foods after a year or 2, because they recognise their body is no longer thriving as it did in the beginning.

I support people to thrive on whatever diet they wish, but to most importantly, listen to their own body.