Vegan lifestyle: Overcoming nutritional deficiencies in plant based diets

Published: Oct 10, 2019, 15:32 IST | mid-day online correspondent | Mumbai

Vegan food is not only beneficial to the human digestive system but can also result in less environmental and economic degradation

This picture has been used for representational purpose
This picture has been used for representational purpose

Veganism is the deliberate practice of refraining from the use of all animal-based products, especially in diet. A staunch vegan abstains from consuming not only meat but all animal-sourced products such as eggs, milk and in some cases even honey. As per the data shared by the Vegan society, England, the vegan trend has quadrupled between 2012 and 2017 and has become the latest trend generating almost three times the interest as compared to vegetarian and gluten-free dishes.

Well, balanced vegan diets are deemed suitable for all phases of life, including during infancy and pregnancy according to the American Academy of nutrition and dietetics and the Harvard school of medicine. However, opinion remains divided as the German society of nutrition does not suggest vegan diets for children or adolescents and also during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Medical researchers have revealed that a vegan diet may bring down the risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and coronary artery disease. While vegan diets are replete with higher amounts of dietary fibre, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin C and E, iron and phytochemicals, they tend to be lacking in dietary energy, saturated fat, cholesterol, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, calcium, zinc and vitamin B12. Therefore, it is very important that vegans chart out their diet with proper planning and meticulous balance so as to overcome the inherent nutritional inadequacies which may otherwise negate the benefits of a vegan diet.

Vegan diets essentially revolve around grains and other seeds, legumes (especially beans), fruits, vegetables, edible mushrooms and nuts. Milk and egg are replaced by plant-based milks such as soy milk, almond milk, cashew milk, coconut milk etc and tofu respectively.

People who embrace a vegan lifestyle need to direct special emphasis on their diet so as to make sure they do not skip out on any essential nutrient. Dieticians have created specialized and nutrient specific diets for vegans so as to counter the deficiencies which they may incur due to the lack of animal based food products in their diet. Therefore it is important to follow a vegan lifestyle guide so as to gain maximum benefits out of the vegan diet. Mihir Gadani, Co-founder & COO of OZiva lists down what to include in your diet

  • Eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in such a way there is an explosion of contrasting colors on the plate. Different colours denote different nutrients.
  • Vegans should include plant-based protein sources in their food like legumes, peas, peanuts, black beans and grains such as quinoa, brown rice, corn barley etc. They can also include a plant protein supplement as a majority of the people in India miss on this basic macronutrient.
  • Select high fiber starchy foods such as oats, sweet potato, wholemeal bread and pasta and brown rice.
  • Consume seeds and nuts on an everyday basis as they are rich in omega-3 fatty acid.
  • Food that is rich in calcium such as fortified plant milk, kale, collards and raw garlic as a normal vegan diet faces increased risk of calcium deficiency as compared to vegetarians and meat-eaters
  • Vitamin D is a major nutrient that is primarily absent from regular vegan diets and must be supplemented through fortified foods or plant-based dietary supplements.
  • Vegan diets usually have trace amounts of iron and zinc due to the limited bioavailability of these minerals.
  • One ought to make sure that there are enough dietary substitutes for vitamin b12 and iodine in a vegan diet either through fortified foods or supplements.
  • Practitioners of a vegan lifestyle ought to go for full-body health checkups after every six months or so as to cover ground regarding any nutritional deficiencies.

Veganism is slowly spreading across the planet due to the irrefutable positive impact that it has on the environment. Vegan food is not only beneficial to the human digestive system but can also result in less environmental and economic degradation.

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The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. 

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