Nutrient deficiencies caused by a vegan diet. Vegan nutrition: What deficiencies do vegans have to fear? The vegan diet is [...]
When you eat vegan food, you avoid all animal foods such as meat, fish, eggs or dairy products. But they are all valuable sources of nutrients – and you cannot cover all nutrients with a vegan diet. Vitamin B12, for example, is only contained in animal products, which is why you need an appropriate dietary supplement with a vegan diet. Other nutrients should only be supplemented if your family doctor finds a deficiency.
Vitamin B12: A must for vegans
Only animal products are a safe source of vitamin B12. As a vegan you should therefore take a vitamin B12 preparation. A lack of Vitamin B12 can cause under circumstances lasting damage to brain and nervous system – therefore do not take this too lightly. The German Nutrition Society (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung e. V.) recommends taking 4 micrograms of vitamin B12 per day. Vitamin B12 is available as a vegan food supplement in the form of capsules, lozenges or drops. Some vegan foods such as soy yoghurt or milk alternatives, but also vegan toothpaste are enriched with vitamin B12. If you are unsure which product is best for you, talk to your family doctor about it.
Vitamin D: Also recommended for many meat eaters
Vitamin D is also known as the sun vitamin. Your body can produce the vitamin from the UV-B light of the sun up to a certain degree. In winter, however, this becomes difficult and food sources are limited. Especially with a vegan diet, the supply of nutrients is often inadequate. Vitamin D is mainly found in animal products such as sea fish, liver or egg yolk. However, meat eaters are not always well supplied with vitamin D either. The German Nutrition Society (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung e. V.) lists 20 micrograms of vitamin D per day as a reference value for adolescents and adults. However, it is always decisive how much vitamin D your body produces itself with the help of the sun. Before you take a dietary supplement for vegans, you should therefore have your family doctor carry out a blood test to determine your vitamin D level. If this is too low, he or she will prescribe you a preparation in the appropriate dosage.
Omega-3 fatty acids: a useful supplement
There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids:
alpha linolenic acid: is mainly found in plant sources, for example in walnuts, linseed or hemp seed
Docosahexaenoic acid: Only found in animal sources such as fatty sea fish.
Eicosapentaenoic acid: see DHA
Your body can produce DHA and EPA from alpha-linolenic acid to a certain degree itself. As a vegan, you can also take omega-3 fatty acids as a dietary supplement. According to the European Food Safety Authority (efsa), up to 250 milligrams per day are appropriate.However, you must be careful here, as many preparations contain fish oil. The vegan variant consists of algae oil. The packaging indicates whether the food supplement is vegan or not.
Further food supplementation in vegan nutrition can only be recommended after blood count
A balanced vegan diet with lots of fruit and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds should actually provide all nutrients in sufficient quantity. But each body is different and absorbs nutrients differently. A blood test with your family doctor can help you to track down possible nutrient deficiencies. You may lack iron, zinc or magnesium. In this case, your doctor may recommend a dietary supplement. However, if you suspect you should not take the nutrients.
Not all dietary supplements are vegan
If you are a vegan who uses food supplements, you should definitely take a look at the packaging. By far not all preparations are suitable for vegans. The shell of the capsules, for example, can consist of gelatine, tablets can contain lactose. Many manufacturers indicate on the packaging if their product is vegan.
The intestinal flora also plays a role in the supply of nutrients in vegan nutrition
For nutrients in the vegan diet and in general, it is not only how much you take in, but also how your body processes them. A not insignificant role plays thereby your intestine. Part of your food is digested there and the nutrients it contains are utilized. This role is taken over by various intestinal bacteria. How well they can do their job also depends on the composition of your intestinal flora. With the intestinal test INTEST.pro you can have them examined.