One of the arguments against a vegan diet is that it lacks certain essential nutrients. If you are a vegan who lives off of mainly diet soda and potato chips, then yeah, you’re probably gonna die. But that is true for anyone who consumes mostly processed foods. When this argument is put up against a balanced vegan diet it holds no water.
Some of the most obvious nutrients that a plant-based diet is abundant in are the following:
This is especially true for Vitamin K, one serving of leafy greens will typically provide about nine times the daily recommended intake. In other words, if you are vegan and you are Vitamin K deficient you need to seriously rethink your life.
Other nutrients that are not as closely associated with a plant-based diet are still found to be abundant include:
What does it do? It is most revered for it’s role in skin health but also helps to balance blood sugar.
Where is it found: peanuts, almonds, sweet potatoes
What does it do? Aids in bone and collagen production and helps to protect against free radicals
Where is it found: Various seeds, cloves, oats, garbanzo beans, brown rice
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
What does it do? Supports the cardiovascular and immune system. This is another nutrient that is ridiculously abundant in a plant-based diet.
Where is it found: Think plant-based fat sources, flax seeds, various nuts, soy
What does it do? Helps form iron into red blood cells, supports collagen and connective tissue, balances cholesterol
Where is it found: Various nuts and seed, legumes, soy,shiitake mushrooms
What does it do? Balances sulfur, which is important for eliminating contiminants found in food from the body, and antioxidant protection
Where is it found: Various legumes, oats, barley
What does it do? Promote production of molecules essential for sending nerve signals through the body, balance levels of homocysteine in blood (having too much Hcy may lead to cardiovascular disease).
Where is it found: Legumes, green vegetables like spinach, broccoli, asparagus
The major nutrients that could potentially be lacking in a vegan diet would be zinc, iron, cobalamin (vitamin B12), niacin (vitamin B3, and pyridoxine (vitamin B6). These nutrients are more limited in plant sources, but in a balanced diet can be obtained.
Zinc can be sourced from quinoa, lentils, and various nuts and seeds in substantial amounts.
Iron, some of its best sources are leafy greens and legumes. So, no more jokes about anemic vegans.
Cobalamin is the most difficult to source from plats. It can ,however, be found in large amounts in nutritional yeast (a vegan foodie staple!) and is often fortified in products such as breakfast cereals and non-dairy milk.
Niacin requirements can easily be met through consumption of peanuts, brown rice, sweet potato, barley, and a few other vegetables.
Pyridoxine can be found in sweet potato, sunflower seeds, spinach, and bananas in adequate amounts.
In conclusion, a well balanced plant-based diet will not leave a vegan malnourished as critics have claimed. Since nutrients are more easily absorbed through food rather than supplements it is good to keep a varied diet based on whole foods.
hese sites provide good sources for information on essential nutrients and their roles in the human body: