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Going vegan: Nutrients to watch out for

Choosing to pursue a vegan lifestyle can be a big change, but a plant-based diet can have plenty of healthy benefits — so long as it’s done right. By keeping an eye on your intake of these vitamins and minerals, you can ensure the transition is a safe and healthy one.

Becoming a vegan and staying healthy
Vegan woman

Though it’s gaining in popularity, veganism is still a relatively unknown term to many people. When you choose to pursue a vegan lifestyle, family members, friends and even your doctor might have questions about how you’re getting all the nutrients you need.

But the fact is, people with all kinds of dietary restrictions and even individuals who eat just about anything can be short on vitamins or nutrients their bodies require. No matter what you do or don’t eat, it’s always a good idea to know which nutrients are crucial for you. Changing your diet is a great opportunity to ensure you know exactly what to keep an eye on.

Vitamin B12

Because vitamin B12 is a bacteria that doesn’t occur naturally in plant foods, this will likely be the vitamin you need to keep a lookout for the most. In her book Main Street Vegan, Victoria Moran explains that some vegan foods, such as non-dairy milks, vegan meats, breakfast cereals and nutritional yeasts, are fortified with B12. If you eat enough of these foods, you may get the 6 milligrams a day you need. But to be on the safe side, she takes a B12 supplement about three times a week. If you aren’t sure whether or not a supplement is necessary, have your doctor perform a test to find out.

Vitamin D

You can breathe a sigh of relief on this one, because it isn’t just vegans who have to keep track of their vitamin D intake. The best source of vitamin D comes from the sun, but because we live so far up north here in Canada, it simply isn’t possible for us to get all the vitamin D we need solely from sunshine.

The additional challenge vegans face, according to Moran, is that most supplements of this vitamin are made of D3, which comes from lanolin, a component of wool. So vegans have to take vitamin D2, which is derived from plants but can be harder for the body to assimilate. Because vitamin D is so crucial in helping our bones absorb calcium, this is one vitamin you especially don’t want to skimp on. So it’s a good idea to get tested by your doctor and ensure you are keeping your vitamin D level at a healthy one.

Omega-3 fatty acids

These days there’s a lot of talk about people needing omega-3 fatty acids. And fortunately eggs and fish aren’t the only ways to get your daily dose of this healthy nutrient. Moran explains that walnuts, chia seeds and ground flaxseeds all have omega-3 fatty acids in them. If you find it hard to incorporate enough of those foods into your diet, consider taking an algae-based omega-3 supplement.

Check in regularly

With the amount of highly processed, nutrient-lacking food we tend to eat today, everyone should keep a closer eye on whether they’re getting all the nutrients they need. Vegans and non-vegans alike should be aware of their intake of other important nutrients, such as calcium, iron and many others. Giving your diet a sizable overhaul can mean some vitamins and minerals start to fall by the wayside. So consider your making the change to veganism the perfect opportunity to check in with your doctor on how your nutrient levels are doing, and make changes accordingly.

More on veganism

The health benefits of going vegan
Alternatives for the experimenting vegan
Soy, almond or rice milk?

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