When planning your diet it’s so easy to fall into the trap of only thinking about macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat). Admittedly, they are pretty great, they fuel our bodies giving us energy so we can get up and go every morning. But we mustn’t forget about the under dogs, the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). There are lots of different micronutrients that help keep our bodies healthy on the inside.
Following a vegetarian or vegan diet can sometimes lead to being deficient in micros. In this post I have highlighted some key vitamins and minerals that you should keep your eye on too ensure they’re making an appearance in your diet!
Calcium has many roles in the body, it keeps your teeth, bones and immune system healthy and helps maintain muscle function. Food sources include dairy products, soya products, leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds. It’s important you have enough calcium in your diet, but it is equally important to have enough vitamin D too!
Vitamin D is essential for the regulation and absorption of calcium in our bodies. You can get vitamin D in two ways, one being sunlight exposure. However it is very well known that here in the UK we don’t see much sun, so we need to get vitamin D from somewhere else. An alternative way to get vitamin D from out diet is via food sources, these include fish liver oils, fatty fish, eggs and red meat. As you can see, even though these are very good sources, they are not vegetarian or vegan friendly. Other sources include fat spreads, breakfast cereals (with added vitamin D), soya drinks (with added vitamin D) or vitamin D supplements.
Iron is a very important micronutrient, it is vital for red blood cells (equivalent to VIPS, but in our bodies)! If there is not enough iron coming from the diet it can put you at risk of becoming anaemic. Anaemia is one of the leading nutritional disorders in the world, so iron is a common micro that gets missed out. Getting enough iron in your diet whilst following a vegetarian diet isn’t hard, however plant based foods containing iron doesn’t get digested and absorbed as efficiently as animal products, therefore veggies can be at risk of becoming deficient. Some animal products containing lots of iron include fish, meat, poultry, cheese, eggs and milk. Some plant based sources of iron include green leafy veg, legumes (beans, lentils etc) and corn flour.
Vitamin B12 keeps our blood and nervous system happy and healthy. If we become deficient in vitamin B12 it puts us at risk of becoming anaemic. Sources of vitamin B12 are, again, very animal based (fish, meat, eggs, cheeses and yoghurt). If you follow a vegan diet sources include fortified products where vitamin B12 has been added. Things like breakfast cereals, soya drinks and yeast extracts (marmite).
I hope you found this blog post useful and thank you for reading! Don’t forget to follow my Instagram (khs_nutrition) for all things food!
Mann, J. & Truswell, S, A. (2007). Essentials of Human Nutrition.
NHS choices – The Vegan diet: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Vegetarianhealth/Pages/Vegandiets.aspx