Nutrients That You Can't Get From Plants
Plant-based lifestyles have been proven to be very healthy and sustainable for the planet. But it is also important to keep in mind that there are a few crucial nutrients that are either very difficult or impossible to obtain from plants. The Little Chive stresses the importance of being mindful and aware of the ingredients we eat, but also the ingredients that we might not be eating enough of. Below is a list of nutrients that you can’t get from plant foods. So, if you’re thinking of going vegan or vegetarian anytime soon, be sure to do thorough research and supplement your diet in order to fully maintain your overall health and performance.
Vitamin B-12, or cobalamin, is a vital nutrient found almost solely in animal products such as fish, meat, dairy, and eggs. It’s a water-soluble nutrient that plays a vital role in developing red blood cells, maintaining nerves, and preserving normal brain function. Vegans who don’t take vitamin B-12 supplements are at high risk of vitamin B-12 deficiency which can result in symptoms relating to fatigue, impaired brain function, and many neurological and psychiatric disorders. If you have a predominantly plant-sourced diet, make sure to get your vitamin B-12 from supplements or foods fortified with this nutrient. Foods fortified with B-12 include nutritional yeast, soy products, breakfast cereals, bread, and meat substitutes. In addition to that, plant foods such as nori seaweed, a marine algae, and tempeh, a fermented soy product, naturally contain small amounts of bioactive vitamin B-12.
Vitamins D3 and K2
Maintaining healthy and strong bones is not just about increasing your calcium consumption. Besides calcium, you should also be knowledgeable about vitamins D3 and K2. Vitamin D3 is commonly found in fatty fish and egg yolks, while vitamin k2 is predominantly found in dairy products and egg yolks. The benefits of intaking vitamin D3 includes the strengthening of your body’s immune system as well as improved muscle function, while vitamin K2 helps your body regulate normal blood clotting. Together, vitamins D3 and K2 work to ensure that calcium is absorbed easily and reaches the bone mass. Luckily, vegan supplements of D3 and K2 made from lichen are widely available.
Docosahexaenoic acid, better known as DHA, is an essential omega-3 fatty acid that’s vital for brain development and function. Deficiency in DHA could have harmful effects on mental health and normal brain function. DHA is most commonly found in fatty fish, fish oil, and certain types of microalgae. Though your body is capable of converting the ALA omega-3 fatty acid found in foods like flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts, into DHA, the conversion is inefficient which is why vegetarians and vegans often experience lower levels of DHA than meat-eaters. Plant-based DHA supplements are made from algal oil, which comes from certain microalgae.
Creatine is a common supplement for muscle building and strengthening and enhancement of overall physical performance. Creatine is a molecule most commonly found in red meats and fish. This nutrient functions as an easily available energy reserve for muscle cells to boost their strength and endurance. Creatine also aids in improving brain function and memory. Creatine is not as essential in your diet as it can be produced by your liver, but studies show that vegans and vegetarians often have lower levels of creatine in their muscles.
Taurine is a sulfur compound found in your body tissues, such as the brain, heart, and kidneys. It is not considered essential in your diet, as your body is able to produce small amounts of it, but it is nevertheless beneficial to maintain your body’s taurine levels with supplements. Taurine plays an important role in muscle function (especially the function of your heart muscle), bile salt formation, and antioxidant defenses. Animal sources of taurine include fish, seafood, meat, poultry, and dairy products.
Heme iron is a type of iron found only in meat, predominantly red meat and is much better absorbed than the non-heme iron that is commonly found in plant foods. However, iron deficiency is easily avoidable with a well-planned plant-based diet that contains plenty of non-heme iron foods such as beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens.