What are the main nutrients that vegans are missing

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Nutrient deficiency: What additional nutrients does a vegan need to take in!

Certain nutrients are only found in meat and fish products. Is a healthy and wholesome diet still possible for vegans?

The internet is full of horror stories when vegans are told about us. There is talk of anemia, of shrunken cerebellar and cerebellar brains in children who have been breastfed by vegan mothers. We read of a generally increased susceptibility to infection among vegans as well as from vegans who find themselves in rows in the intensive care units of German clinics with considerable nutrient deficits and deficiency symptoms. What is the truth of the nutrient deficiency in the vegan society? Is it true that we vegans generally run a higher health risk and suffer from deficiency symptoms more often than non-vegans? Who lives healthier: vegans or mixed dieters?

We cannot and do not want to bore you today with studies, detailed columns of numbers or average values ​​that prove, down to the last decimal point, that the vegan diet is definitely the healthier one. That’s not the point for us either. Most of us vegans - as all our conversations show - decide not to eat animals, primarily for ethical reasons. We therefore initially accept the associated nutrient deficits with approval.

Nutrient deficiency is the result of an unbalanced diet

It is indisputable that certain vital nutrients such as vitamins B12 and D, iron or calcium are only contained in foods of animal origin or in abundance. Trace elements - for example some proteins or iron - from plant sources cannot be used so easily by the body. But that doesn't mean that as vegans we all suffer from vitamin deficiencies or mineral deficiencies and therefore have to die earlier than everyone else. But on the contrary.

If so, then nutritional deficiencies in vegans are more likely a consequence of an unbalanced diet. Because of course there are also some representatives among vegans who are anything but healthy. They do not use animal products, but make sure they have a balanced diet in no time at all. Instead, they cram themselves full of candy and convenience foods. No wonder if in the end they actually suffer from deficiency symptoms or obesity due to their one-sided diet than vegans who consciously put together their menu.

We would even go so far as to claim that the number of those vegans who eat consciously is significantly higher because they simply deal much more intensively with the topic of nutrition than the majority of the population who eats everything.

Apart from that, it is also no secret that the excessive consumption of meat can favor the typical diseases of civilization such as cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, but also type 2 diabetes mellitus and certain types of cancer! And what makes things more difficult: Even omnivores are not necessarily adequately supplied with the essential nutrients. Because what is often kept secret is that food that has been brought onto the market by industry often does not have the intended quality - and therefore does not contain the essential nutrients assumed to be there. Pasteurized milk is simply not natural cow's milk and whatever meat and sausage crosses the counters usually has little to do with meat and sausage, but is disgustingly confused with substitutes.

But let's get back to our core question: What should vegans watch out for? Where is there an increased need for nutrients? And how can the daily nutrient supply best be covered? We have examined and summarized the most important nutritional components for you.

protein

One of the most persistent prejudices against a vegan diet is the “dreaded” protein deficiency. What vegans don't really have to worry about. You can cover your daily protein requirement with plant-based foods without any problems. They are, so to speak, the staple food for us vegans. Whether cabbage, cress, pumpkin seeds or soy products, they are all rich in protein. Brewer's yeast and many legumes also contain protein - sometimes even more than meat!

However, the question of biological value - i.e. availability for the body - is controversial among experts. A protein consists of many small individual parts, the amino acids. Some of these are neglected when it comes to vegetable proteins compared to animal proteins. Although grain contains z. B. the amino acid lysine, which is essential for humans, but only in very small quantities.

In the end, this is not a problem at all, because the protein quality can be easily improved by combining different vegetable protein sources. So if you combine legumes with cereals, for example falafel with flatbread or beans with corn, your protein balance is saved.

iron

No iron without meat? Are you kidding me? Are you serious when you say that. Plant-based foods can also contain large amounts of the nutrient responsible for transporting oxygen in the body. Iron is mainly found in pumpkin seeds, oat flakes, legumes, oil seeds, nuts, whole grain cereals, fennel, Swiss chard or lamb's lettuce. Sesame is also a real source of iron.

But it is also a fact that animal iron is better absorbed than vegetable iron. This does not mean that there is an iron deficiency per se. As with proteins, iron absorption can also be greatly improved with the right combination. Simply by taking the trace element together with vitamin C. So just drink a glass of orange juice with your oatmeal muesli or enjoy the raw vegetable salad with wholemeal bread, and your iron absorption will be significantly improved.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important for getting calcium from food and building it into bones and teeth. It is also of particular importance for the muscles and the immune system. The vitamin D deficiency is not a specifically vegan problem, but a social problem. Around half of Germans are affected by vitamin D deficiency. The reason: too little natural sunlight and the natural decrease in self-production in old age.

Because vitamin D is produced by the sun. So if you go outside every day, you can at least meet your needs in the warm season. On the other hand, you can only compensate about 10–20 percent of your vitamin D requirement through your daily diet. And since higher amounts of vitamin D are only found in high-fat sea fish, this is not an alternative for us vegans either. Therefore, especially in the months with little sunshine between mid-October and mid-March, you only have to resort to dietary supplements or foods enriched with vitamin D such as margarine or soy drinks to compensate.

calcium

Another classic among the alleged health risks for vegans is the risk of osteoporosis, i.e. bone loss. It's also logical. Because we don't drink milk, and of course only milk contains calcium, our poor vegan bones have to go down the drain at some point. But that's just not true. There are no more cases of osteoporosis among vegans, nor is calcium only found in milk.

There are definitely better alternatives to the good old cow's milk. For example, kale, pak choi, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, legumes, sesame seeds, almonds and tofu are rich in calcium. And as a drink, calcium-containing mineral water or soy drinks. If you also go out in the sun a little and thereby refresh your vitamin D balance, all the better for your bones.

Vitamin B12

There remains one nutrient that vegans cannot adequately replace through plant-based foods: vitamin B12. This vitamin is mainly found in animal products because it is produced by bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract of animals. Vitamin B12 is also said to be found in some algae - but the comparable effect on humans is extremely controversial. Beer, sauerkraut and soy sauce also contain vitamin B12. Unfortunately in too small quantities to cover our daily needs.
However, vitamin B12 is a vital nutrient. It ensures well-functioning DNA synthesis and cell division, the formation of blood and supports the functioning of the nervous system. Therefore, in this case, we vegans have no choice but to resort to dietary supplements and, for example, to use a toothpaste enriched with vitamin B12.

Conclusion

We come to the end of our remarks and the answers to the questions we asked at the beginning. Do we all have to die? Definitely "yes"! Do we all have to die because we are vegans? Absolutely "no". Because even as vegans we can definitely cover all nutrients. Only vitamin B12 should be replaced. And the sun vitamin D is a problem for everyone who prefers to be in front of the computer rather than in the garden.

All other deficiency nutrients that critics of the vegan diet like to cite, which allegedly only occur sufficiently in meat and fish products or are of animal origin (such as protein, iron or calcium), are present in sufficient quantities in a vegan diet: whether soy or Whole grain products, legumes, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds or kernels - if you don't have an unbalanced diet, but instead use the various possibilities of a vegan diet and combine them correctly, you don't have to worry about nutritional or mineral deficiencies.

In veggies we trust!

Photo: iStock.com/Valentina_G

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