Deficiencies occurring in the course of a vegan diet appear creeping.
Vegan nutrition: What deficiencies do vegans have to fear?
The vegan nourishing way is in the trend. In a survey in 2016, about 1.3 million Germans said that they live vegan1. In 2008, there were only about 80,000. Compared to vegetarians, vegans reject all animal foods, including dairy products, eggs and honey. They have a purely plant-based diet. Who chooses this diet, restricts its selection of food strongly. Nevertheless a vegane nutrition does not have to lead to a lack of certain nutrients at all.
Symptoms of a deficiency symptom due to vegan diet
Deficiencies occurring in the course of a vegan diet appear quietly. Before symptoms are noticeable, the body feeds on its vitamin stores, for example in the liver and fat cells. If all sources are exhausted, it comes to deficiency symptoms. The symptoms can be very different here – depending on which nutrient you have not supplied your body with enough. Frequently these symptoms show up:
Symptoms of fatigue and exhaustion
Mood swings with a tendency to depression
Loss of appetite or an increased appetite
Brittle hair and nails
Decreased physical endurance
However, these symptoms do not necessarily have to be caused by a vegan diet and in many cases have also other causes. If you as a vegan suspect a nutrient deficiency, have your blood values tested.
Especially often affected by deficiency symptoms caused by a vegan diet are people with an increased nutrient requirement, such as women during pregnancy and lactation, children and seniors with limited absorption capacity. Nutritionists advise these risk groups against a purely vegan diet.
Vegans must pay special attention to these nutrients
Who chooses a vegan diet and wants to prevent possible deficiencies, should carefully create his diet plan. Most nutrients and vital substances, most of which are ingested through animal foods, can also be found in plant foods or fortified foods.
Proteins are the basic building blocks of every human cell and are essential for numerous bodily functions. If you don't want to eat animal proteins, you should eat a lot of nuts, pulses and cereals. By the way: soy protein is almost equivalent to animal protein.
Calcium is essential for healthy bone structure. A calcium deficiency caused by a vegan diet can lead to osteoporosis. Calcium is abundant not only in milk and dairy products, but also in many plant sources (such as poppies, almonds, kale, broccoli, beans) and in fortified soy products such as tofu and calcium-rich mineral water.
Vitamin D promotes healthy bones and teeth. It occurs almost exclusively in animal foods, but can also be formed by sunlight under the skin. A vitamin D deficiency is not only an issue for vegans, but also for many people living in our latitudes – especially in winter. Here too, foods enriched with vitamin D (e.g. margarine) or special preparations are recommended.
Probably the greatest danger for vegans is a vitamin B12 deficiency, which can result in anaemia or long-term damage to the nervous system. The problem with a vegan diet is that vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in animal foods. In order to avoid a deficiency, it is recommended to eat products enriched with vitamin B12 or to use special dietary supplements.
Symptoms of iron deficiency in vegans include brittle hair and nails and a higher susceptibility to infection. Although animal protein is better absorbed by the body than plant protein (e.g. through nuts, legumes and seeds), an iron deficiency does not occur more frequently in vegans than in people who eat mixed foods. One reason for this could be that a meat-free diet consumes more vitamin C, which improves iron absorption.
The trace element iodine supports the metabolism. Among other things, a deficiency can lead to an over- or under-functioning of the thyroid gland. As a vegan, you cover your iodine needs with iodized salt or seaweed.
Zinc supports a variety of metabolic processes. A lack of zinc leads to a disturbed growth development, to an increased susceptibility to infections and a worse wound healing. With cereal products, pulses, nuts and seeds you absorb sufficient zinc.
Whether vegans, vegetarians or mixed food lovers - it is best if you always prepare your food fresh, avoid heavily processed foods as much as possible and use alternatives such as cane sugar or agave syrup instead of refined Sugar.
Conclusion: It's the mix that makes the difference
Numerous diseases of civilization, which are often associated with a very meaty diet, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, osteoarthritis, gout, obesity and high blood pressure can be prevented by a vegan diet. The maintenance of a healthy intestinal flora can also be supported by a vegan diet. The complete renunciation of animal food also entails risks . If you do not take in enough nutrients through your vegan diet, deficiency symptoms can be the result. Therefore you have to pay special attention to a balanced combination of nutrients on your plate. With the help of special tests – like INTEST.pro from BIOMES – you can detect possible weak points in your intestinal flora and find out which diet is best for you.