Vegan diet caution: Avoid these common nutritional deficiencies that cause health issues

Vegan diet caution: Avoid these common nutritional deficiencies that cause health issues
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(NaturalHealth365) Are you eating a vegan (100% plant-based) diet?  For many people, this lifestyle can be fantastic – filled with health benefits.  But, for others, the poor selection of foods – on a continual basis – can create serious nutritional deficiencies.  So, like with any lifestyle decision, you need to be careful.

For example, if your food choices don’t provide enough vitamin A – in other words, not eating enough beta carotene-rich foods or healthy fats to assure we convert that fat-soluble vitamin A to retinol – we could develop severe macular degeneration and, even, blindness!

To be clear, a deficiency in vitamin A, healthy fats and retinol (at the same time) is the issue to avoid.  In addition, anemia directly impacts the body in such a way as to weaken the eyes, and vitamin A and D deficiency on top of this could cause very poor eyesight.

Nutritional deficiencies on a vegan diet: Myth or reality?

Depending on your dietary habits, being a vegan can make it difficult to get some vitamins because these vitamins are found in their richest stores within animal-based fats.  Although I’m sure there are many vegans that would disagree – it does happen.

The fact is: strict vegans – that eat a diet with zero animal-based foods (for many years) – may find it challenging to get certain vitamins from their diet like, vitamins A, D, and B12.

That being said, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get all the nutrients you need from a vegan diet.  It’s just something to be aware of and make adjustments when necessary to avoid nutritional deficiencies.

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Vitamin A: Feed your eyes and avoid macular degeneration

Vitamin A is one of our most important antioxidants and fat-soluble vitamins. It keeps our eyes bright, our vision sharp, and our skin youthful, amongst other things.

Plant foods are rich in carotenoids, such as beta carotene, but they lack the more bioavailable form of vitamin A – which is retinol, only found in meat, eggs, and dairy foods.  Retinol is 6 times more bioavailable than beta carotene – so it takes a lot of plants to give you your RDA for vitamin A.

Another issue is the BC01 gene, which gives individuals a hard time converting beta carotene into retinol. You can have your doctor check you for the presence of this gene and if you do have it, you can add a food-based supplement like cod liver oil, if you can, which has lots of vitamin A in it.

Now, we only convert around 3% of the plants we consume with carotenoids into retinol, usable vitamin A. So how is a vegan to get enough vitamin A-containing vegetables into their diet?

By carefully making sure to eat at least one salad a day containing all the following ingredients and add one mango a day and this will give you the 900 mcgs a day of vitamin A required.  Women only require 700 mcg – but, a little extra can’t hurt.

Check out this chart below:

   Vitamin A Salad  Cups mcg RAE/Cup
  Spinach    2     281
  Swiss Chard    1     110
  Tomato   .75      57
  Carrots     .5     267
  Red Bell Peppers    .25     58
  Mango     2    181

The top vegan sources of vitamin A are baked or boiled butternut squash, kale, collard greens, bok choy, raw cantaloupe, Romaine lettuce, apricots, grapefruit, and boiled summer squash and broccoli.  Like we always like to remind our readers at NaturalHealth365, choose organic varieties – as much as possible – to avoid unwanted chemicals.

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) for better energy and brain health

Vegetarians – not really considered “vegans” – that eat eggs (as an example of animal food) have a pretty easy time of getting enough B12.  That’s because there are few plants that contain this important vitamin.  By the way, the best vegan option would be to eat fermented foods like natto – but (warning!) it is an acquired taste.

Vitamin B12 is important for energy, brain function, mood and – let’s not forget its heart and nerve protective value.

Again, for those people still looking to enjoy a vegan diet: your top sources for vitamin B12 are natto (already mentioned), nutritional yeast, nori (sea vegetable), tempeh, chlorella and, if needed, B12 nutritional supplements.

Adults need at least 2.4 mcg daily.

Vitamin D3: For healthy bones and a strong immune system

Without vitamin D3 our bones will literally turn to mush, a condition called osteomalacia. The two forms of vitamin D we need to avoid this condition are vitamins D2 and D3. Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

The single best way to ensure your body produces enough vitamin D is to get direct sun exposure, on a regular basis.  But, too many people live in northern climates that make it impossible to get outside – for many months of the year.  Plus, “modern” lifestyle habits tend to generate too much indoor living.

Bottom line: if you can’t get outside (enough), you may want to consider a good vitamin D nutritional supplement that offers the other co-factors needed to absorb vitamin D such as, zinc and boron.

For vegans, the best food sources include the chanterelle and maitake mushrooms.  And, conventional wisdom suggests that adults need about 600 to 800 IU per day.  But, depending on your situation, integrative healthcare providers may suggest substantially more to correct nutritional imbalances.

Just check with your doctor to see what’s best for you.  And, if they don’t know enough about nutrition … fire them!  Remember, having a good team around you is always worth the effort.

Sources for this article include:

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