Second nutrient in question is Vitamin B12, which every transitioning vegan must also learn about in detail, and you can do so right here. Apart from these two, however, there are a few key nutrients that have been largely overlooked by both vegans and non-vegans. Since this way of lifestyle brings with it the benefit of becoming healthier and gaining knowledge on various areas of your life, including how to fuel your body for optimal mental and physical health, here are
According to a report from the World Health Organization, the global prevalence of zinc deficiency is 31%! In high-income countries such as the US and UK, the incidence is much lower at an estimated 4-7%. However, this is still a high prevalence of deficiency. So, everyone (not just vegans) would do good to eat more zinc-rich foods.
Vegans should be aware that plant-based foods which are high in zinc also have high levels of phytic acid. Phytic acid blocks the absorption of zinc. Vegans may need to consume as much as 50% more than the RDA for zinc in order to get adequate amounts. Good vegan sources of zinc include nuts, seeds, bran, and wild rice.
Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is a fatty acid which is incredibly important for cell health and nervous system function. Our bodies can make DHA out of Omega 3 fatty acids. So, one would think that eating more Omega 3 foods (such as flax) would help us get enough DHA. Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as this.
The body is not very good at turning Omega 3 into DHA. Only about 9% of Omega 3 gets turned into DHA in women. With men, the rate is much lower at 0-4%. Luckily, there are DHA supplements available for vegans and vegetarians. We can also get DHA in the diet by eating algae and some types of fungi.
If you are a vegan or vegetarian and aren’t eating iodized salt, then you may not be getting enough iodine. A study published in the Annuals of Nutrition & Metabolism found that 25% of vegetarians and 80% of vegans are not getting enough iodine. These findings are supported by numerous other studies as well.
While mineral salts do contain some naturally-occurring iodine, it is typically only in trace amounts. Unless you are buying a mineral salt which lists its measured mineral contents on the label, you should not rely on these salts for your iodine. Instead, get a salt fortified with iodine or start consuming more seaweed, a natural source of iodine.
It only takes about 20 minutes of sun exposure daily to get enough vitamin D. But, since many Westerners spend most of their time indoors, vitamin D deficiency has become pandemic. One study found that the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in US adults was 41.6%. Some foods do contain vitamin D, but very few of these are plant-based. All of us should make a point to spend more time in direct sunlight (without sun block on!) to get enough vitamin D. If tests show that vitamin D levels are low, then a supplement may be in order.
Are you a vegan and researching nutrient needs and possible deficiencies? Share in the comments below what you would like to read about in the Nutrition Essentials section on the site!
Dea is passionate about pursuing gentle, pure living in all its forms. She’s a veg and fruit foodie, who loves to explore the healing properties of plant-based foods and then fully indulge in their sun-filled taste. She believes that “In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”