Like any other eating regimen, a vegan diet can be poorly planned. That said, poorly planned diets can increase risks of (avoidable) vitamin and nutrient deficiencies. Though plant-based diets have been associated with lower cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers (as compared with diets high in animal products), being vegan does not guarantee immunity from vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Choosing the right foods is essential for minimizing potential risks.
Choosing the Right Foods for Your Vegan Diet
Knowing what the right foods are will vary depending on an individual’s personal needs. Generally, eating a broad array of foods from multiple food groups provides a range of necessary nutrients. However, blood tests are a more definite method to know what is missing from a diet and what needs to be supplemented. Blood tests are used to diagnose numerous vitamin deficiencies.
Dietary Vitamin D, Calcium, Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Zinc
Some people following a vegan diet worry about deficiencies in vitamin D, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc. All of these nutrients are available absent of animal products. Flesh foods sourced from fish are relatively high in omega-3 fatty acids, however, those omega-3 stores are also abundantly available in a multitude of plant-based foods. The same is true for calcium and zinc: animal sources are not the only (nor the healthiest) sources for these vitamins and minerals. Mushrooms also contain vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acid. Soybeans, various kinds of nuts and seeds also contain fatty acids sourced from omega-3.
According to Harvard Health, calcium is widely available in beans, nuts and leafy greens (like collard greens, kale, bok choy and spinach). Dietary zinc can be sourced from unrefined whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, legumes and tofu.
Its worth mentioning that deficiencies can occur on any kind of eating regimen, including diets high in animal products. Like any other diet, vegan diets must be appropriately planned so that the necessary amounts of vitamins and minerals may be implemented.