CAN YOU GET ALL ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS FROM DIET ALONE?
The answer is generally not, but it depends on the individual. Consult your healthcare provider for help.
A vegetarian lifestyle can be healthy, no question. But like
all dietary trends, it is up to the individual to make sure they attain a balanced diet. This is especially true for vegans, who consume no dairy or seafood.
The key is to monitor your own levels of key nutrients, especially those you may be lacking. Work with your health care provider to make sure your diet is balanced and to source additional healthy food or supplements if needed.
Experts agree that it is important that all vegans get enough vitamin B12, which can also be a problem for those who eat meat. Fortified foods or a vitamin B12 supplement can help. Levels of vitamin B6 may also be low.
It is difficult for anyone to get enough vitamin D intake from food. Some types of vitamin D are not vegan-friendly. Vitamin D2 is always suitable for vegans, but vitamin D3 can be derived from an animal source (such as sheep’s wool) or lichen (a vegan-friendly source).
Vegans may also have lower levels of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, important for the brain, the heart and vision—and may benefit from supplementing with EPA and DHA.
Thyroid function and metabolism require iodine. Seaweed and iodized salt can help, as can iodine supplements. Those not getting enough iron from their diets should consider fortified foods or a supplement. Careful, though, because high iron levels can be harmful.
Vegans consuming too little dietary calcium should consider taking a daily supplement. Similarly, consider adding zinc-rich foods or a supplement.
Plant-based sources of choline, needed for brain and liver health, include legumes, tofu, green vegetables, potatoes, nuts, seeds, grains, and fruit. However, plant sources are fairly low in choline, so consider a supplement if needed.
Vitamin K activates proteins that play a role in blood clotting, calcium metabolism, and heart health. Vitamin K2, found in animal products and fermented foods, promotes the calcification of bones and prevents the calcification of blood vessels
and kidneys. Consider more fermented foods or a supplement if your levels are low.
While, well-planned vegan diets can fulfill nutrition needs for all stages of life. Certain nutrient requirements may be difficult to achieve through diet and fortified foods alone.
Those vegans unable to meet their dietary recommendations through diet alone should seriously consider taking supplements. Still, it’s best to speak with your healthcare provider before beginning a new supplement regime.
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