Eating a plant-based diet has become somewhat of a trend nowadays. For whatever reason you may have chosen to go vegetarian or vegan, research certainly backs the health benefits that can be enjoyed by eating a plant-based diet. Studies show that symptoms of some of today’s society’s most common health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and type two diabetes can be dramatically improved by eating a diet that is predominantly plant-based.
Some of you may have been vegetarian for years and are now dabbling with being predominantly vegan or questioning the idea of going full blown vegan due to recent health trends. Or you may be thinking about dipping your toes for the first time into the veggie world. Whilst a diet in vegetables, nuts and seeds, wholegrains, legumes and fresh fruits can offer a vast array of essential nutrients for our health, it’s important to consider what you may be missing out on if you decide to cross over into full veganism or vegetarianism.
This nutrient is crucial for our health. It supports red blood cell growth and maturation, the health of our nervous system, DNA repair and energy production. B12 is found in dairy, eggs, meat and fish, which is why a vegan diet would be missing out on this nutrient massively. Deficiency in B12 can have long term consequences such as nerve damage, cognitive decline and anemia. Contrary to what many believe, B12 cannot be found in a vegan diet. Forms of B12, which appear to be in foods like nutritional yeast, are actually analogues of B12 and therefore not bioavailable forms of the nutrient. This is why it is important to supplement B12 if you decide to go vegan.
Zinc and Omega 3:
Two nutrients that can often be lacking in both vegetarian and vegan diets are Zinc and Omega 3 fatty acids. Zinc is found most abundantly in seafood, fish and meat. It is essential for the health of our immune system and for cell growth and repair. Signs of deficiency are frequent infections, loss of appetite and hair. So make sure you load up on plant-based sources of zinc if you want to go vegan or vegetarian, these are things like pumpkin seeds, beans, legumes and spinach.
Whilst Omega 3 can be found in both a vegan and vegetarian diet, our body needs to convert the oils found in plant-based sources of omega 3 to EPA and DHA, two oils readily found in omega 3 from oily fish that play an essential role in controlling inflammatory responses. The problem is that some of us many not convert oils to EPA and DHA very efficiently, meaning that it might be necessary to supplement. Vegan EPA and DHA supplements do exist, so go ahead and have a look in your health store or online to prevent deficiency in these essential oils.
Good luck in your transition to a plant based diet, just consider this before you ditch the dairy and meat from your foods.