B12 is mostly made by bacteria in soil and water. Consequently, in the past, people and farmed animals got B12 from eating food from the ground. Now that agricultural processes are so industrialised, it means that both vegans and non-vegans need B12 supplements, thereby exploding the myth that only vegans can suffer from B12 deficiency. Livestock are often fed B12, which means that, by extension, meat-eaters only get their B12 because of a supplement given to the animal they are eating. Why not cut out the cruelty and take a supplement yourself instead?
Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin and, as in the case of B12, is required by both vegans and non-vegans. We make Vitamin D in our skin during exposure to sunlight. Therefore, people who don’t live in warm climates should take Vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D regulates calcium levels in the blood as it helps in the absorption of calcium by the body. Calcium is important in building strong bones, teeth and muscles. Recent research during the Covid-19 pandemic has also shown it strengthens the immune system and can reduce the risk of respiratory infections.
Iodine is a trace element found in seawater, rocks and some soil. It is essential for the production of hormones in the thyroid gland, which regulates energy in the body. Iodine is also necessary for a healthy nervous system and brain health in infants and children. However, a well varied vegan diet which sometimes contains seaweed should be enough for your needs.
People often mistakenly believe that the only way of getting Omega 3 is through eating fish, however this is just not the case. Fish do not produce their own Omega 3 but obtain it by eating
algae. So why not cut out the go-between and go straight to the source by taking a supplement? You can also get your daily requirement of Omega by eating flax seed, hemp seed and walnuts.
Omega 3 is an integral part of cell membranes throughout the body and affects the function of the cell receptors in these membranes. The latter provide the starting point for making the hormones which regulate blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation.
Other nutrients worth talking about
All nutrients are essential, but some are worth talking about more than others either because there is a greater health risk associated with their deficiency. There is a lot of misinformation about the vegan diet, and its alleged inability to provide certain essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients. As the science of food has evolved, the myths surrounding the vegan diet are dying out. Some of the misinformation stems from a lack of knowledge, but those with vested interests in the animal food industry are responsible for widespread anti-vegan propaganda to prop up their cause.
Unfortunately, little interest is shown in the prevention of diseases yet surely, prevention is better than cure? By becoming Vegan you are taking back control over your own health. It is worth noting that British student Doctors only receive between 10 and 24 hours teaching over 5 to 6 years on the link between diet, lifestyle and disease (See article here) There is only one person you can trust to look after your health and that’s you!
Iron is an essential part of the oxygen-carrying molecules haemoglobin and myoglobin. Haemoglobin is found in red blood cells and myoglobin is found in muscles.
As a vegan, it is unlikely you will need an iron supplement as long as you eat iron-rich foods such as quinoa, wholemeal spaghetti, wholemeal bread, fortified breakfast cereals, pulses like lentils, tempeh (fermented soya beans), tofu, baked beans, kidney beans, peas, seeds (such as pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds), tahini (sesame seed paste), dried fruit such as apricots and figs, and seaweed and dark green leafy vegetables.
Probably the greatest misconception surrounding the vegan diet is that it is protein-deficient. Vegans are constantly asked where they get their protein from. The truth is, it’s very protein-rich.
The Real Truth about Protein
Protein is an important nutrient that helps build, maintain, and repair body tissue and is widely available in beans, nuts, vegetables, and grains. Protein deficiency is almost unheard of in the Western world. It’s easy to get all the protein you need without eating meat, dairy, or eggs.
An average woman needs about 46 grams of protein per day; the average man about 56. But many people consume many times this amount, and when it comes to protein more isn’t necessarily better. Studies have found that diets rich in animal protein are linked to a fivefold increase in risk of death from diabetes and a fourfold increase in risk of death from cancer—risk factors that are comparable to smoking. Foods rich in animal protein are often packed with saturated fat and cholesterol.
A healthy plant-based diet provides all the protein our bodies need, without any of the health risks. All foods, including fruits and vegetables, contain protein, while certain plant-based foods, like whole grains, beans, nuts, lentils, tofu, and quinoa are high in protein.
A clear illustration of the quality of a plant-based food compared to that of an animal-based product can be seen if we compare the nutritional data of 100 grams of tofu to that of eggs. The protein content of the tofu is 13g whilst the eggs only provides 10g. The calcium content of tofu is 373mg, while that of eggs comes in at 66mg. The only statistic in which eggs beat tofu in is in the amount of cholesterol, which comes in at a whopping 277mg whilst the tofu has 0mg. Equally the eggs have 145mg of sodium whilst tofu only has 16mg. An excessive amount of sodium in the body increases blood pressure and therefore too much sodium will increase your risk of stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and kidney disease.
Like iron, magnesium, and copper, calcium is a mineral which is found in the soil, where it is absorbed into the roots of plants. As vegans, we eat the plants, and thus get the minerals that are in the plants we consume; animals get their calcium in the same way. So even though we are all conditioned to believe that calcium comes from milk and dairy products, the real source of calcium is coming from the plants the animal is consuming, the animal is just the middle man if you like.
Spinach contains relatively high amounts of calcium but also contain a substance called oxalate, which hinders absorption. It is better to get your calcium from green vegetables such as kale, broccoli and bok choy. The calcium in these is absorbed about twice as well as the calcium in cow’s milk.