Veganism is gaining popularity in the UK, especially in January – otherwise known as ‘Veganuary.’
Many people switch to veganism to be healthy. However, it can easily lead to deficiencies, so it’s important to make sure you get enough calcium, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and zinc.
Here’s how to get some of those crucial vitamins and minerals.
Vitamin B12 is hard to get as part of a vegan diet as it is naturally only occurs in meat, fish and dairy products but lack of it can lead to fatigue, depression, poor cognitive performance, anaemia and peripheral neuropathy.
Food and drink can be fortified with B12, e.g. some breakfast cereals, unsweetened drinks and yeast extract, such as Marmite.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Calcium and vitamin D are vital for maintaining strong bones and healthy teeth. A deficiency can lead to osteoporosis (brittle bones), weak nails and hair, plus seizures. It can be found in tofu, pulses, sesame seeds and tahini, dried fruits and dark green leafy vegetables to name a few.
Your body uses iron to produce red blood cells and to carry oxygen around the body. A lack of iron (anaemia) causes fatigue, shortness of breath and heart palpitations. However, things like dark green leafy vegetables, pulses, nuts, dried fruits, wholemeal breads and fortified flour are all good vegan sources of iron.
Protein is needed for growth and tissue repair. Found in abundance in animal products, it’s also found in pulses, chickpeas, beans, quinoa, soya, tofu, nuts and seeds.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are often lacking in a vegan diet but can be found in flaxseed, linseed, rapeseed and walnut oils.
You should be able to get most of the nutrients you need from eating a balanced diet, however deficiencies can often be treated through supplements or a repeat prescription, so talk to your doctor about your options.