Essential Vitamins and Minerals for a Vegan Diet
Published May 1, 2014
When planned carefully, a vegan diet has many health benefits and can provide all your essential nutritional needs. People who eat a plant‐based diet are likely to be at a healthy body weight and often experience better health.1 This is because vegan diets tend to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, and have higher amounts of dietary fiber, magnesium and potassium, vitamins C and E, folate, carotenoids and other plant nutrients.2 However, there are certain nutrients that are harder to get from a vegan diet, either because plant foods contain smaller quantities than animal sources, or because they are less easily absorbed by the body. Vegans need to be extra vigilant about their diet and ensure they get enough of these nutrients on a regular basis.
Which vitamins and minerals are needed on a vegan diet?
- Protein – Protein is an essential component of a healthy diet and is crucial for tissue building and repair. Plant‐based protein can be found in peas, beans and lentils, tofu and tempeh, nuts, seeds such as pumpkin and sunflower and cereals such as buckwheat and quinoa.3
- Vitamin B12 – Vitamin B12 is needed for the production of red blood cells and maintains a healthy brain. The only reliable vegan sources of B12 are foods that are fortified, including some soy and cereal products, and B12 supplements.4
- Iodine – Iodine is essential for normal thyroid function. Plant foods typically contain minimal iodine due to the low iodine levels in soil, but small amounts can be found in seaweed such as kombu (kelp) or nori.5
- Iron – The iron found in plant foods is less easily absorbed than that from animal sources, but can be improved by the presence of vitamin C which is found in many fruits and vegetables.
- Calcium ‐ Calcium is needed for strong bones and teeth. Because vegans eliminate dairy from their diet, they can increase their calcium intake with leafy dark green vegetables, legumes, almonds, Brazil nuts, fortified soy, unhulled tahini and some brands of tofu.1
- Omega-3 – Vegans should include good sources of plant omega-3 in their diet such as flaxseed oil and walnuts.2
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