A new year offers a myriad of possibilities, but most people stick to the same resolutions: eating better, working out, or changing their diet. Veganism has gained lots of popularity over the years, known for reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Plant-based diets are also environmentally friendly, reducing the amount of resources used to create processed foods, as well as saving animals from the meat and dairy industry. Often, when a person decides to become a vegan, he or she cuts out the animal products cold-turkey, pun-intended. Dr. Oz, a nutrition professor and a television show host, advises slowly converting to veganism, to give the body time to process and avoid unnecessary blood level spikes or drops. He also suggests to stay away from processed foods. Typically, a vegan diet means eating more natural and whole foods, not products made in factories and stuffed with chemicals to keep them “fresh.” Veganism can be beneficial to many, but many vegans are unaware of vital nutrients they may be missing. One main concern with veganism is finding a source of protein, a vital nutrient. While plant-based foods do have sources of protein in them, the real issue is eating enough calories a day to uphold the protein levels. Plant-based foods are naturally lower in calories, so make sure to digest enough calories (56 grams for the average man, 46 grams for the average woman). Before and while switching diets, use the website chronometer.com to track personal protein levels.
DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, is a constructional component of the brain, found in plants, and plant-eating fish. DHA is converted from the amino acid ALA, and the average person needs 150-300 milligrams a day. DHA is found in most vegetable oils. Mic the Vegan, a Youtube Personality, recommends eating chia seeds, ground flax, and walnuts to get the daily amount of DHA.
Many vegans will suffer from a B12 deficiency. B12 is found in fish, beef, and dairy products. Mic the Vegan suggests taking a supplement, but one alternative is cereal from brands like Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.
Another common vitamin deficiency, among all types of consumers, is a lack of iron in the blood. Iron helps transport oxygen to the blood, and a deficiency causes fatigue, weakness, and chills. Foods such as lemons, beans, kale, and spinach are high in iron. One cup of black beans is 50% of the average daily amount, and a cup of spinach is 80%.
Calcium, Zinc, and Vitamin D are other important nutrients to keep track of while on a vegan diet.Vitamin D can be obtained from the sun and various foods such as beef, fish and egg yolks. For vegans, the winter months can lead to dangerously low vitamin D levels because these foods are not protein. Mic the Vegan suggests mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light in order to regulate vitamin D levels. Calcium is notoriously known to be found in milk and cheese, and many vegans take supplements because of this, but Johns Hopkins University recently discovered as of 2016 that calcium supplements can lead to heart damage, and dementia in some women. Calcium is found in leafy greens, broccoli, and sesame seeds.
Before going vegan, make sure to do the research. Mic the Vegan recommends getting blood tests done before and while eating vegan to keep track of blood levels, and have an awareness of nutrients you might be missing.