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Vitamins And Minerals In Vegan Diet

Vegan Myth Busting: Vegans don’t get enough essential oils, vitamins and minerals in their diet

vitamins and minerals in vegan diet

Part 3 of a mini-series on the myths about Veganism

While the idea of veganism has moved away from hippies and rabbit food, vegan myths and misconceptions aren’t exactly in short supply. Researchers from the University of Oxford suggest that eating a vegan diet could be the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on earth, in some cases by up to 73%, however many myths circulate that put people off giving it a go. This mini-series will attempt to debunk the most off-putting myths, in hope it will encourage readers to at least try a more plant-based diet.

Myth No.3: Vegans don’t get enough essential oils, vitamins and minerals in their diet

So far in this myth-busting mini-series we have discussed the myth that vegans don’t get enough protein in their diets and how by eating a balanced plant-based diet can provide ample levels of protein as well as plenty of other health benefits. Not only have vegan and vegetarian diets been linked to lower risk of excess weight, heart diseases and cancer, it also makes a huge difference to one’s carbon footprint by eliminating animal-based products from their diet. So far, a vegan diet has been an all-round winning argument, however this week’s blog discusses how there are a few nutrients that are either difficult or impossible to get in adequate amounts from plant foods alone such as: B12, Omega 3 fatty acids (DHA) and Heme Iron.

Take Vitamin B12, it’s an essential nutrient found in animal-sourced foods such as fish, meat, dairy and eggs. It’s vital for developing red blood cells and maintaining normal brain function. Without it, symptoms can include weakness and fatigue, to more serious risks such as neurological and psychiatric diseases. For vegetarians, B12 can be found in foods such as eggs and cheese however for vegans, it’s much more of a challenge. A few plant foods naturally contain trace amounts of vitamin B12, such as nori seaweed, however it still doesn’t provide enough by itself. Some foods are now fortified in this nutrient such as nutritional yeast extract, which is a great alternative for vegans. However, you’d have to make sure you’re getting enough of it and may still need to supplement your diet with tablets, to ensure you’re getting adequate levels of the vitamin.

DHA is an essential omega 2 fatty acid that is, like vitamin B12, important for normal brain development and function. Unsurprisingly, deficiency in DHA has adverse effects on brain health. It is mainly found in fatty fish and fish oil and so to achieve adequate amounts of it with a vegan diet can be impossible, especially as most supplements of DHA will contain fish oil. The fatty acid called AHA which is found in high amounts in chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts, can convert to DHA by our bodies, but the conversion is inefficient and so levels remain low. There are, however, supplements of DHA that are made with algal oil instead of fish oil, and so there are solutions available, but it’s about having informed knowledge about what it is you need to be supplementing on a vegan diet, in order to stay healthy.

Many people would argue that vegan diets are not perfect due to the need to supplement vitamins in order to have a fully nutritional diet. However, on the reverse, supplementing a few vitamins here and there is perhaps a better solution than the current levels of overfishing that is occurring, just so we can make sure we get enough natural omega 3. The cold, hard facts are that over just 40 years, there has been a decrease recorded in marine species of 39%. Illegal and unregulated fishing constitutes an estimated 11-26 million tonnes (12-28%) of fishing world-wide and almost 30% of fish stocks commercially fished are overfished.

The aim of this blog isn’t about encouraging every reader to go fully plant based tomorrow, but to encourage mindfulness about the sources of one’s nutrition over the expense of the planet. For example, due to the vast availability of produce these days, each person eats on average twice as much fish as 50 years ago. We understand that veganism isn’t for everyone, so for some, instead of unwillingly forcing is upon yourself, it’s better to just be conscious of your consumption. Rather than eliminate, just reduce the number of fish and meat eaten, and where possible, purchase from local, sustainable sources, who can trace where the produce came from.

As we often say, it’s about small, achievable steps for a more sustainable future.

The series covers the below topics in detail. Stay tuned for Part 4 next week!

  • Protein Part 1 (adequate levels of protein)
  • Protein Part 2 (inc. amino acids + complete proteins)
  • Essential Oils and vitamins/ minerals vs Overfishing
  • Animal Farming vs Grain Farming
  • Animal Farming vs Grain Farming Part 2

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