For those who are trying Veganuary for the first time, or for those who have been vegan for a while now, there are specific nutrients that can be lacking in a vegan diet if not carefully planned. Here I outline a few of the key nutrients commonly found to be lower in those consuming a fully plant-based diet.
For the majority of people, calcium comes from milk and dairy products. If you are following a purely plant-based diet, make sure you dairy alternatives are fortified with calcium. Other sources of calcium include dark green leafy vegetables, nuts such as almonds and firm tofu which has been set with either calcium sulphate or calcium phosphate. Silken tofu, which is soft and unset, contains much less calcium per serving, and those set with non-calcium products (e.g. seaweed or magnesium sulphate).
Recommended intakes of calcium are 700mg/d for women and 800mg/d for men aged 18-65 years.
Why not try some of my high calcium recipes which use calcium set tofu, or fortified dailry alternatives:
- Roasted Tofu and Mediterranean Vegetables
- Vegetable and Tofu Gyoza
- Pineapple, Lime and Coconut Ice Lollies
- Coconut, Elderflower and Strawberry Chia Pudding
The richest iodine containing foods are white fish, in particular cod and haddock, as well as scampi, however, the best source of dietary iodine comes from milk and dairy products due to farming practices. Replacing milk with a dairy alternative which has been fortified with iodine is a good option, but not all alternative milks are fortified, so it’s best to check the label. Other dietary sources of iodine include seaweed, but the concentration of iodine varies, with some varieties of seaweed containing very high concentrations and therefore it is not recommended for pregnant women.
Iodine recommendations are 150mg/d for adults, and 200mg/d for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Here are some recipes you can use iodine fortified dairy alternatives with:
- Coconut, Elderflower and Strawberry Chia Pudding
- Either my Apple and Cinnamon Granola or No Added Sugar Berry and Coconut Granola served with iodine fortified milk alternative
There are two main sources of dietary iron; haemiron and non-haem iron. Haem-iron is found in animal products such as meat, in particular red meat and offal, poultry and fish. This form of iron has a higher bioavailability (the ability for your body to absorb it) with particular ference to the red meat and offal. Non-haem iron is found in plnat-based foods and tends to be less bioavailable, despite being more abundant in our diets. Non-haem iron food sources include grains, pulses, beans, nuts, fruits and vegetable.
Non-haem sources of iron can actually benefit from being consumed with a food containing vitamin C. This is because vitamin C increases the absorption of non-haem iron, so including some fruits such as citrus fruits and berries, or green leafy vegetables may increase iron uptake in a purely plant-based diet.
Try some of my iron containing recipes such as:
Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin which plays an important role in energy production and together with folate and vitamin B6 is required for the maintenance of normal blood homocysteine levels, as well as ensuring your brain and nerve cells function properly. B12 food sources are predominantly animal derrived, with meat, fish, cheese and eggs being main contributors. Plant-based sources include fortified cereals, fortified dairy alternatives and yeast extracts such as Marmite. Additionally, some mushrooms contain B12 and will proudly state this on their packaging.
Try some of my B12 containing recipes:
- Roasted Pumpkin and Cannellini Soup using nutritional yeast sprinkle
- One Pot Courgette, Kale and Orzo swapping cheddar for nutritional yeast
- Chocolate, Cherry and Coconut Granola served with B12 fortified dairy alternative
- Frozen Berry Overnight Oats made with dairy alternatives
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
This nutrient is synonymous with oil fish such as salmon and mackerel. However, on a vegan diet these foods are excluded from the diet. We therefore need to find alternative plant-based sources of omega-3’s in the diet such as chia, linseeds and walnuts as these fats are known to be beneficial for brain development at all ages, as well as being good for overall heart health.
Try replacing some of the ingreidnets in these recipes to further boost the omega-3 content:
- Frozen Berry Overnight Oats swapping almonds for walnuts
- Apple and Cinnamon Granola swapping almonds for walnuts and focusing the mixed seeds on chia and linseed
- Bakewell Breakfast Bar swapping all the almonds for walnuts
Zinc is an essential trace mineral most commonly associated with immunity, assisting wound healing and in the production of proteins in the body. Dietary sources of zinc are similar to those of iron, including beans, wholegrains, nuts and seeds. With zinc, fermentation of good plant-based sources of zinc can help increase zinc absorption. This includes foods such as fermented soy beans including tempeh, natto and miso, unfermented beans (soak them before cooking to improve zinc absorption), and certain fortified breakfast cereals.
Try some of my recipes which naturally contain zinc:
- Yellow Split Pea Falafel served with my Easy Hummus
- Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas substituting vegan cheese in
- Mushroom, Lentil & Olive Oil Mash Pie
- Roasted Butternut Squash, Carrot and Chickpea Soup
As you know, this is one of my favourite topics to talk about, and is something we all need to be aware of as dietary sources of vitamin D are rare even for those who aren’t vegan. Vegan sources of vitamin D include fortified foods such as milk alternatives, as well as functional foods such as UVB exposed mushrooms. It is important to consider a supplement for this nutrient as the food sources are quite limited and often do not meet the UK daily recommendation of 10 mcg per day.
I have a few recipes which will provide some of your vitamin D requirements:
- Lentil, Mushroom and Almond Ragu
- Mushroom Risotto swapping parmesan for a vegan alternative of nutritional yeast
- Coffee, Banana and Vanilla Smoothie
For further information I have written a blog for MyNutriWeb on this topic which you may find useful if you are completing Veganuary or follow a vegan or very high plant-based diet.