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Veganuary? Important Nutrients to Consider for a Plant-Based Diet - Part 2

Welcome back to part 2! Find out about how to include omega-3, vitamin K, zinc and calcium in your plant-based diet.

Omega-3


What is it?


An essential fatty acid for brain development and function and eye structure [1][2]. It helps to stabilise the rhythm of the heart, lower triglycerides, reduce heart disease and Alzheimers risk and prevent common types of cancer. It is responsible for memory, language, creativity, emotion, and attention [1][3].

Where can you find it?


Flaxseeds, chia seeds (crushed or soaked), walnuts, hemp seeds, rapeseed oil, soya based foods and certain types of micro algae [2][3]. Many people know that fish contain omega-3’s. However they don’t make it themselves. They get omega-3 from the plankton and algae that they consume [1].


How much do you need daily?


With no official recommendation on omega-3 intakes, adequate intakes are 1.6 grams for males and 1.1 grams for females [4].


Signs of deficiency:


Changes in behaviour and learning, coping with stress an visual function [5].


Do you need to supplement it?


For the average person, consuming sufficient amounts of foods containing omega-3 should be enough. With sufficient knowledge omega-3 can be obtained from plant based sources [6]. However an algae supplement of 200-300 milligrams per day can be helpful, especially for pregnant and lactating women, older people or those with chronic diseases [7][8]. This is beneficial over fish as it does not contain the toxins carried in fish and fish oils [1].


Vitamin K


What is it?


Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin used for blood clotting, bone function and contributes to keeping the heart healthy. Vitamin K combined with vitamin D promote strong bones and reduce the risk of bone loss and diseases [9].

Where can you find it?


Green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, vegetable oils, cereal grains, sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchi [1][9].


How much do you need daily?


1 microgram per kilogram of bodyweight per day for adults aged 19-50 [9]. For example if a person weight 72kg they would need to consume 72 micrograms of vitamin K per day.


Signs of deficiency:


Easily bruises, small blood clots underneath nails, bleeding from mucus membranes in the body and dark black stool containing blood [10].


Do you need to supplement it?


K2 supplements are widely recommended, and they may be especially beneficial for people who don’t consume dairy products or fermented foods on a regular basis [1]. Taking no more than 1 milligram of vitamin K supplements per day is unlikely to cause harm to the body [9].


Zinc


What is it?


Zinc is a trace mineral necessary for immune system function, cell creation and growth, wound healing and to create enzymes that assist the breakdown of carbohydrates, fat and protein [1][9].

Where can you find it?


Zinc can be obtained by consuming beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, oats, nutritional yeast, bread and wheatgerm [1][9].


How much do you need daily?


9.5 milligrams per day for men and 7 milligrams per day for women aged 19-64 [9][11].


Signs of deficiency:


Weight loss, poor wound healing, fatigue, poor smell and taste accompanied with a lack of appetite and diarrhoea [12].


Do you need to supplement it?


Most people can achieve a sufficient intake of zinc through a health balanced diet. However, the zinc in plant foods can be bound to phytates which can make it difficult for the body to absorb it. Absorption can be helped by soaking and sprouting, however a zinc supplement could be helpful to reduce the risk of deficiency. Should a supplement be taken it should be no more than 25 milligrams per day as this could be harmful [1][9].


Calcium


What is it?


Calcium has many uses in the body, commonly known for its involvement in bone health and structure, it is also used to regulate muscle contractions and is involved in the blood clotting process [9].

Where can you find it?


Green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and okra, fortified plant based milks and tofu, sesame seeds, pulses, dried fruit and brown and white bread (from flour) [3].


How much do you need daily?


700 milligrams per day for adults aged 19-64 [9][11].


Signs of deficiency:


Bone pain, higher incidence of fractures and bone deformities [9]. Often noticed over a long term period as opposed to a sudden onset of signs/symptoms [9].


Do you need to supplement it?


Providing high calcium and vitamin D (to help calcium absorption) containing foods are included in the diet, calcium intake should be sufficient. In addition, foods that contain phytic acid and oxalic acid should be excluded in meals where calcium is abundant so that they cannot bind to the acid and prevent absorption. These foods include spinach, collard greens, sweet potatoes, rhubarb and beans [13]. Taking too much calcium through supplementation can have negative long term effects such as kidney stones and increased calcification in the heart resulting in adverse cardiovascular events [14]. Therefore a supplement is not generally advised unless it is very low or for a short period of time [9].


Summary:


Supplements to take:


Recommended:

- vitamin B12

- iodine

- folic acid (females who can get pregnant)


Optional for deficiency prevention:

- vitamin K

- iron

- vitamin D (in winter)

- omega 3

- zinc


The major foods to consume to ensure optimum intakes are:


- dark green leafy vegetables such as watercress, broccoli, spring greens, brussel sprouts, cabbage, spinach and okra

- mushrooms

- fortified plant milks, cheeses and meat substitutes such as tofu and tempeh

- nutritional yeast

- fortified breakfast cereals

- wholegrains and oats

- seeds such as sesame, hemp, crushed and soaked flax and chia seeds, rapeseed oil

- nuts such as walnuts

- beans, pulses, legumes such as peas, chickpeas

- dried fruit such as apricots, prunes and figs

- seaweed and micro algae

- vegetable oils

- sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchi


It is clear from this list that a plant-based, whole foods, balanced diet is best for maintaining optimal health with the addition of adequate, safe sunlight exposure.


I hope that I have answered some of your questions on the nutritional efficacy of plant-based diets. It is possible to live and thrive on a plant-based diet that provides nutrition for health, wellbeing and physical performance [6]. If you have any further queries, don't hesitate to get in touch, I will be happy to help.


Love Always,


Lottie x


References:


[1] Food Revolution Network (2017) 5 Key Supplements for Vegans and Vegetarians to Thrive on A Plant-Based Diet. Available at: https://foodrevolution.org/blog/supplements-vegetarians-vegans-plant-based/ (Accessed: 2 Jan 2020).

[2] Arnason, A. (2019) 7 Nutrients That You Can’t Get from Plants. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-nutrients-you-cant-get-from-plants#1 (Accessed: 3 Jan 2020).

[3] NHS (2018) The Vegan Diet. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-vegan-diet/ (Accessed: 2 Jan 2020).

[4] National Institutes of Health (NIH) (2019) Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/ (Accessed: 11 Jan 2020).

[5] Sinclair, A. (2019) ‘Docosahexaenoic acid and the brain- what is its role?’, Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 28 (4), pp. 675-688.

[6] Brown, D. (2018) ‘Nutritional Considerations for the Vegetarian and Vegan Dancer’, Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, 22 (1), pp. 44-53.

[7] Saunders, A., Davis, B. and Garg, M. (2013) ‘Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and vegetarian diets’, The Medical Journal of Australia, 199 (S4), pp. S22-26.

[8] Manta-Vogli, P., Schulpis, K., Dotsikas, Y. and Loukas, Y. (2019) ‘The significant role of carnitine and fatty acids during pregnancy, lactation and perinatal period. Nutritional support in specific groups of pregnant women’, Clinical Nutrition, S0261-5614(19)33116-4 (E-pub ahead of print).

[9] NHS (2017) Vitamins and Minerals. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/iodine/ (Accessed: 2 Jan 2020).

[10] Smiley, B. (2017) Understanding Vitamin K Deficiency. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/vitamin-k-deficiency#symptoms (Accessed: 11 Jan 2020).

[11] British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) (2019) Nutrition Requirements. Available at: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/attachments/article/261/Nutrition%20Requirements_Revised%20August%202019.pdf (Accessed: 3 Jan 2020).

[12] Watson, K. (2017) Zinc Deficiency. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/zinc-deficiency (Accessed: 11 Jan 2020).

[13] National Institutes for Health (NIH) (2019) Calcium. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/ (Accessed: 11 Jan 2020).

[14] Chiodini, I. And Bolland, M. (2018) ‘Calcium supplementation in osteoporosis: useful or harmful?’, European Journal of Endocrinology, 178 (4), pp. D13-D25.

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