A balanced nutrition is very important for our health as well as our well-being. People on a vegan diet but also omnivores should be on guard against nutrient deficiencies.
It is possible to eat a vegan diet and stay healthy if you eat balanced and supplement vitamin B12 (every other day) and vitamin D when the synthesis is reduced (e.g. weak sunlight, age and darker skin). Through a vegan diet you consume less hormones, less antibiotic (75% of all antibiotics prescribed in Germany are taken by animals. No wonder more and more people are developing resistance to antibiotics), less carcinogens, less LDL cholesterol and less saturated fats. This results in less heart problems, less cancer, less type 2 diabetes, less overweight, and better cholesterol level.
Read here more about why vegan is healthy: Vegan (with sources).
Proteins (AMINO ACIDS). You need about 0.8 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. More if you are very active and/or looking to gain muscle. Much of this protein should come from lysine-rich foods like beans (e.g. kidney beans, soybeans), legumes (e.g. chickpeas, lentils), vegetables (e.g. spinach, broccoli, Brussel sprout, cauliflower, peas), champignons, nuts (e.g. pumpkin seeds, peanuts, walnuts), seeds, and grains (e.g. quinoa, buckwheat, millet).
Amino Acids. Nine are essential and therefore must come from food. Grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts, and seeds provide all essential amino acids, but are low in one or more. E.g. quinoa, chia seeds, goji berries, seitan, and germinated lentils contain all nine amino acids. They are used to build new proteins in the body.
L-Tryptophan. An essential amino acid. Important for serotonin.
L-tryptophan is first converted into 5-hydroxy-tryptophan (5-HTP). 5-HTP is then converted into serotonin.
- Occurrence: nuts (e.g. walnuts, cashews), seeds (e.g. sesame, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds), grains (e.g. quinoa, millet, wheat germs), legumes (e.g. beans, organic/non-GMO soy beans), vegetables (e.g. potatos, cauliflower), seaweed, and spirulina.
Fats. Maximum 30% of your energy demand. Nuts, seeds, avocado and vegetable oils. Needed to transport fat-soluble vitamins, to form steroid hormones and provide a natural feeling of satiety.
Omega-3 fats (DHA/EPA). There are 3 types of omega 3s in the diet: ALA (in plants) and DHA and EPA (in seaweed and sea food). ALA converts in DHA and EPA in the body. It seems that the gender plays a role how efficient the conversion is. In women, 21% of ALA is converted into EPA and 9% of ALA into DHA. In men, 8% of ALA into EPA and 0-4% of ALA into DHA. If you supplement (e.g. micro algae oil) don’t take it on an empty stomach.
- Daily requirement: 250–500 mg.
- Occurrence: nuts/seeds (e.g. flaxseed, walnuts, chia seeds and to a lesser extent hemp and pumpkin seeds). 2 TBSP ground flaxseeds provide 6000 mg of ALA.7 (28 g) whole walnuts contain 2500 mg of ALA.
- Sources: https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3138/2.
Calcium. The calcium absorption of milk is about 30 %, while the corresponding numbers for broccoli, Brussels sprouts, turnips, kale and some other green leafy vegetables are between 40 and 64 %. Calcium is only properly absorbed into the bones with sufficient vitamin D.
- Daily requirement: 500-700 mg.
- Occurrence: LEAFY GREENS (e.g. Bok choy, collard, kale, turnip greens, broccoli, leek, okra, rucola, spinach), LEGUMES (e.g. soybeans, tofu, white beans), NUTS / SEEDS (e.g. almonds, sesame, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, poppy seed), FRUITS (e.g. fig, orange), WHOLE WHEAT BREAD.
- Source: https://www.vrg.org/nutrition/calcium.php
Vitamin D (fat-soluble). Only a small amount can absorbed with food (e.g. mushrooms). Largely is produced in the skin with the help of ultraviolet beta rays. 15 minutes direct sunlight (not behind a window) per day on your face and hands are enough. Solarium light consists mainly of ultraviolet alpha rays which does not support the vitamin D synthesis. Smog, clouds, sunscreen, darker skin, age and weak sunlight (northern latitudes in winter) reduce vitamin D synthesis. It is recommended to supplement then.
Zinc. Zinc from plant foods is less well absorbed by the body than from animal foods. This is mainly due to phytic acid in plant foods, which binds the zinc and thus reduces its availability. By soaking, germinating, fermenting or sour-sourcing cereals, legumes, nuts and seeds, the phytic acid content is reduced, thus improving zinc absorption.
- Daily requirement: 7 mg (women) / 10 mg (men) / 11 mg (pregnancy & breastfeeding).
- Recommended: The simultaneous intake of protein and citric acid (Vitamin C) improves zinc absorption.
- Not recommended: Tannins (tea, coffee) inhibit zinc absorption. Therefore, this drink should be consumed at least at an interval of one hour of zinc-containing meals.
- Deficiency symptoms: growth inhibition, reduced wound healing, lack of appetite resp. restriction of the sense of smell and taste, skin and cornea changes, impaired vision, disturbed glucose tolerance, frequent colds and slow recovery from illness, reproductive disorders (testosterone deficiency).
- Occurrence: Whole cereals, seeds, nuts, yeast and to a lesser extent legumes.
Magnesium. Amaranth, millet, quinoa, nuts (e.g. almonds, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame, poppy seed, flaxseed), legumes (e.g. white beans, chickpeas, peas, soybeans, lentils), cacao, fruits (e.g. bananas, raspberries, blackberries, kiwi, pineapple, apricots, dates), dried fruits (often more magnesium than fresh ones), avocado, vegetables (e.g. spinach, broccoli, kohlrabies, okra)
Iron. dried apricots, amaranth, millet, cacao, goji berries, seaweed, sourdough bread, white beans, soybeans, Black-eyed peas, lentils, parsley, cinnamon, turmeric, yeast, nuts (e.g. pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds), black salsifies, spinach, and okra. Young women with heavy periods may have a tough time keeping up with iron needs. This is not a problem that is specific to vegans. It can help to take a low dose supplement (30-60 mins preprandial) with vitamin C (e.g. orange juice) to boost absorption. There is some evidence that taking supplements of the amino acid L-lysine boosts absorption as well. There can be negative health consequences to taking in too much iron.
Iodine: Iodized salt (¼ teaspoon per day), sunflower seeds.
Potassium. Not a problem if eating enough vegetables (e.g. potatoes, spinach, okra), beans, lentils, mushrooms, fruits (e.g. bananas), avocados, whole grains and nuts (e.g. walnuts).
Folate. walnuts, chickpeas, sojabeans, yeast, cabbage and leafy greens.
Vitamin B12. If eating vegan you cannot get enough by eating unwashed organic produce, mushrooms grown in B12-rich soil, sauerkraut or fortified foods (e.g. soymilk). Everyone over the age of 50 should add vitamin B12 supplements (not vegan) to their diet since it becomes increasingly difficult to digest and absorb it in animal foods with aging.
Niacin (Vitamin B3). Reduces anxiety and depression. Avocado, broccoli, tomatoes, dates, mushrooms, asparagus, Swiss chard, pumpkin seeds, sweet potatoes, carrots, okra, almonds, and spinach.
Vitamin A (fat-soluble). Carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin (e.g. butternut), spinach, collards, kale, sunflower seeds, goji berries, rock melon.
Vitamin E (fat-soluble). Vegetable oils, nuts (e.g. walnuts, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts), goji berries.
Vitamin K (fat-soluble). Leafy greens, cabbage, sauerkraut, olive oil, champignons, strawberries, Brussel sprout, chives, asparagus, potatoes.
Vitamin C (sensitive to heat, light and oxygen). Improves our immune system. Kiwi, sea buckthorn, citrus fruits (e.g. lemon; not the one in the plastic bottle (E 300), orange, grapefruit), Strawberries, bananas, goji berries, okra, green leafy vegetables (e.g. kale), peppers, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli. We need around 1000 mg per day. Our body cannot store more than 200 mg. That’s why repeat. Since it has a stimulating effect some people cannot sleep if taking in the evening.