7 Vitamins and Minerals For Highly Effective Vegans a Guest Post by Justin miller of Limitless365.com
Ok, so I totally piggy backed off of Stephen Covey here and his "7 Habits of Highly Effective People", but I'm a big reader and that's a great book. Plus, it is a very useful guide we can follow as we apply it to our health and fitness. I myself am not a vegan (I won't get stoned here, will I?!), but my good friend Amber here is and when we discussed the opportunity to write a post for her site regarding healthy eating habits and proper nutrition I gladly jumped on the opportunity. Food choices and health decisions should be based on how you feel, how healthy you actually are and, with all honesty, if you are comfortable with the way you look naked. With that in mind I give you "7 vitamins and minerals for highly effective vegans."
Many plant-based eaters plan their daily nutritional intake around foods they will not be consuming. In the case of vegans, that would be animal products. However, avoiding certain animal products means that we may be missing out on vital vitamins and minerals that help sustain or primary bodily functions. This is no different from a Paleo or Primal eater such as myself. Too much emphasis on foods that fall into this nutritional strategy may leave me with certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies. We always want to emphasize real food over nutritional supplements whenever possible. They do a better job of keeping us satisfied and of keeping our appetites in check. (Those of you following a vegan lifestyle probably already understand that some meals can be very filling due to a high emphasis on water dense vegetables.) This usually translates into an overall lower daily caloric intake, which in turn can lead to a lack of certain nutrients... a slippery slope! A few vitamins and minerals recommended to those participating in a vegan nutritional plan should be the following:
1. Omega-3: While most people eat fish for more of these nutrients, walnuts, flax, seaweed, canola, salba, and even vegan algae supplements are all excellent choices that will not contain any animal products. Omega-3 fatty acids (ALA, EPA and DHA) help to support optimal body composition changes, prevent disease, and promote healthy blood vessels, joints, and autoimmune disease. Aim for roughly 2 grams of ALA per day (flax and leafy greens are excellent sources) and/or 1 gram of DHA/EPA a day (found in seaweed and fortified nut milks).
2. Vitamin D: An important thing to remember when supplementing with vitamin D: D2 is plant-based and D3 is animal based. Because vitamin D is found in very few foods, you most likely will need to add it to your diet. Fortified non-dairy drinks may contain some, but aside from that your bet is to get outside and PLAY! Not only will you get some much-needed body movement and calorie burning exercise but you will also soak up some of the natural vitamin D that you can get from sunlight. Vitamin D deficiencies are not unique to those following a vegan lifestyle, we all tend to be a little deficient here. Supplementing with 1,000IU on the days you are stuck inside and don't see the light of day should be sufficient. Vitamin D encourages the absorption of calcium and phosphorus (two of the more difficult nutrients to absorb), growth and repair of bones & increased muscle and immune strength. A lack of vitamin D has also been linked to an increased risk to breast and prostate cancer.
3. Calcium: Plenty of calcium can be found in green leafy veggies, fortified non-dairy drinks, legumes, beans, nuts, and select tofu. So, if it is so easy to get then why the heck is it on this list? Because certain foods such as chocolate, wheat bran, tea, and certain antibiotics severely inhibit its absorption. If you do not take in adequate calcium containing foods on a regular basis you may want to look into supplementing with roughly 1,000mg a day.
4. B12: This may be the most important vitamin that a vegan can ensure they are taking in regularly. Reliable amounts are typically only found in animal products due to its bacterial fermentation. The good news is that it can be taken in via whole food sources such as nutritional yeast (I've seen Amber eat it by the jar), certain grains and breakfast cereals, fortified B12 foods, tempeh, and batabata-cha black tea, a fermented japanese tea. B12 is important because it aids metabolism, red blood cell formation, neurological brain function, reduces the risk of heart disease, and helps your body to produce DNA.
5. Iodine: Iodine is a necessary nutrient in proper thyroid function. Plant-based eaters can tend to take in a larger than normal dose of soy protein, which happens to be a natural thyroid suppressor. Raw vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussels sprouts contain goitrogens which can inhibit the body's ability to absorb iodine. Eat 'em raw or steamed, just eat 'em! Luckily avocado, coconut, dark chocolate, and caffeine all help stimulate the thyroid gland. If you do not consume enough of these foods, properly supplementing with roughly 75-100 mcg every few days (daily is not necessary) should do the trick. If supplements aren't your thing, look to kelp (look for vegan brands), asparagus, and iodized salt for added iodine.
6. Zinc: This mineral is very important for protein synthesis, immunity, the healing of wounds, skin disorders, and male fertility (sorry dudes). Plant foods that are loaded with zinc include quinoa, beans, chickpeas, peanuts, pumpkin, cocoa nibs, hemp, goji, wheat germ, lentils, and dried watermelon seeds.
7. Protein: This may sound weird coming from a meat eater, but protein consumption has become highly overrated. Of course there is a necessary amount that our bodies need; it uses protein to provide adequate amino acids, repair muscles after strenuous exercise, keep us satiated after meals, and help to regulate blood sugar levels, which can be extremely important for fat loss. Luckily, protein is high in leafy greens like spinach, nuts and nut butters, tofu, soybeans, and lentils. The fact is, none of us are going to die living a vegan lifestyle. Plenty of veggies provide adequate protein and some far superior to their animal counterparts. Rice, hemp, and pea protein all provide excellent supplemental options for athletes training for strenuous events like our friend Matt Frazier over at No Meat Athlete, or weekend warriors training for a 5K...or chasing their kids at the playground totaling what seems like a 5K. The wrap up... lettuce wrap up of course! If you are not laughing please do so at this time or this that joke above is very awkward for me :D We always want to emphasis "real, whole, and nutritious food" over supplementation whenever necessary. But the fact remains that sometimes we live busy lives and sometimes are not able to dedicate the time to properly preparing meals that supply us with what our bodies need in order to run efficiently and effectively. Do your body a favor and make it a priority to treat it well! Fettle Vegan has some excellent recipes (like my favorite, the Mighty Vegan Bars) that provide wonderful nutritional profiles, so please take advantage. Here's to staying healthy, happy, and highly active! Cheers, Justin
About Justin Justin is the crossfitting, skydiving, bungee jumping, philosopher wanna-be leader of Limitless365. He's interested in doing more of what he loves and less of what he doesn't, and helping others to do the same. Here's what the Pro's say about him: Eli Manning (Super Bowl winning, QB): "Great catch J. Couldn't have done it without you." Harry Potter: "This guy runs this town! Hogwarts won't be the same without you bro." Albert Einstein. "You're right. E does equal MC2." www.limitless365.com@justinmiller06