There are many common diet deficiencies of the vegan diet. Avoiding all foods with animal products can leave some vegans low on vitamin B 12, calcium, vitamin D, iron and other nutrients.
While eating animal fats has been linked to heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, kidney disease, colon cancer, lung cancer, and other diseases--following a diet that does not contain any animal products can lead to some specific nutritional deficiencies that can lead to other health problems.
While most vegans have lower blood pressure, cholesterol and LDL levels than meat-eaters, many vegans have vitamin B 12 deficiencies, calcium deficiencies, anemia, lower bone density and elevated homocysteine levels--which can lead to other serious health issues. Infants of mothers who lacked vitamin B12 while they were pregnant or nursing can suffer from lasting negative health effects.
Vitamin Deficiency Prevention Tips
Vitamin supplements are recommended for people who follow vegan diet plans. Vitamin B12 and vitamin D supplements are especially recommended for pregnant or lactating women. 50 to 100 mg of vitamin B12 supplements per day are recommended for anyone who does not get enough vitamin B12 from their diet. Fortified cereals, soy beverages and brewer’s yeast are other healthy sources of vitamin B12. Fortified cereal and soy milk are also good sources of vitamin D. Those who take vitamin D supplements should take 200 mg per day.
Iron Deficiency Prevention Tips
Vegans can get the amount of iron their bodies need from cereals, grains, legumes, prunes, raisins and green vegetables. However, iron from meat, poultry and fish is absorbed two to three times faster than iron from plants is absorbed. For vegans to absorb enough iron from plants, it is recommended they take 200 to 250 mg of vitamin C when they eat to increase iron absorption from plant foods. Iron supplements are generally not recommended, unless directed by a health care practitioner.
Calcium Deficiency Prevention Tips
While most men only need 500 mg of calcium per day, women’s bodies need at least 1,000 mg of calcium per day. Soy milk fortified with calcium is a good source of calcium for vegans. Broccoli, sesame seeds, seaweed, and kale are other healthy sources of calcium for vegans. Those who prefer calcium supplements should take 500 mg of calcium two times a day, everyday.
Vegan Diets Can Be Healthy
Overall, vegans who get enough vitamins and minerals from supplements or other healthy sources described above can easily achieve and maintain optimal health. Knowing the common deficiencies of vegan diets can help those who follow them adjust their own diets to prevent deficiencies and maintain good health.
It is best to consult with a health care practitioner, nutritionist or dietician before starting any new diet plan. Pregnant or lactating women should be especially cautious about starting any kind of new diet.