When following a vegan diet it is important to be aware of various nutrients to support your overall health. The following is a general guide for adult nutrient requirements and it is important to discuss your individual circumstances with a medical professional, especially before supplementation.
Low B12 intakes can cause anaemia and nervous system damage and it usually supplemented in vegan diets as they only found naturally in animal products. It is essential to eat foods fortified with B12, such as some soy milks, vegetarian meat sources, or taking a B12 supplement. It is recommended to consume 2-3 fortified foods per day or a daily supplement containing of 10mcg.
You still can get enough iron through plant foods such as legumes, tofu, nuts/seeds, wholegrains, fried fruits and dark leafy vegetables. However, this iron (non-haem) is not as well absorbed as it is from animal products (haem). To boost the absorption of these, include a Vitamin C rich food with meals such as berries, citrus, kiwi, capsicum, tomatoes or broccoli. If supplementing it is ideal to choose a supplement that provides ~8mg iron and usually combined with a Vitamin C to increase absorption.
As a vegan diet does not include dairy products it is important to include calcium rich plant foods or fortified products. Some good plant sources include hard tofu, almonds, unhulled tahini and green leafy vegetables. Common fortified products include milk alternatives eg. Almond or soy milk. Requirements depending of age are between 1000-1300mg/day.
Our bodies cannot make Omega-3 fats so it is important to get these through food. Plant sources are found in linseeds/flaxseed, walnuts, chia seeds, so bean or canola oil. There are also vegan marine omega-3 fat supplements available on the market. If supplementing it is good to aim for one providing a daily dose between 0.8-1.3g of Omega-3 (a-linolenic acid).
It is important to note that just because you follow a vegan lifestyle, you aren’t necessarily deficient in these nutrients as a deficiencies can only be diagnosed by a blood test. Dietitians are experts at supporting people with all dietary habits and can help you meet your nutritional needs through personalised advice and inspiration to making more nutritious choices. Coast Sport Dietitian Ali’s favourite vegan snack is Obela hommus with carrot sticks and meal of vegetable dumplings, basmati rice and Asian greens.