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The Vegan Diet

By: Corinna Underwood - Updated: 14 May 2012 | comments*Discuss
Vegan Diet Vegan Diet Food Health

Maintaining a vegan is a strict vegetarian diet means excluding all animal products from your diet, including eggs and dairy products. Many vegans also do not eat honey. Despite such a strict need. There may be some challenges that you need to be aware of if you are adopting a vegan diet in order to ensure that you are obtaining a healthy balance of vitamins and minerals.

Vitamin B12 is a challenge for vegans as this essential nutrient is not available in plant sources. B12 helps to make red blood cells, and helps the body to make use of fatty acids and amino acids. This can be a problem if you don't eat eggs of dairy products. Plants only supply B12 when the soil containing B12 producing microorganisms has not been washed from them. As eating earthy vegetables is not an option, vegans need to take special care to supplement their diets accordingly. Many breakfast cereals and soy products are fortified with a B12 supplement. The best thing to do is check the label for details.

Cyanocobalamin is the most bioavailable form of B12; this means that your body can absorb it most easily. While nutritional yeast is an excellent source of vitamin B12, baking yeast does not provide supplementation.

Vegans should also be aware that seaweed, algae, spirulina and fermented plant food such as tempeh and miso do not contain a form of B12 that the body can use. Vegans wishing to take supplement in tablet form should take no more than 100% of the RDA for vitamin B12, and should also bear in mind that a B complex supplement is better because B vitamins need to be balanced to work together.

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) deficiency has also been highlighted in studies involving vegan diets. Riboflavin is very important for converting fats, carbohydrates and protein into energy and in the maintenance and repair of body tissues. Good sources of riboflavin include mushrooms, almonds, cruciferous vegetables and whole grains.

Vitamin D is another vitamin, which though present in eggs, fish and dairy products is not present in plant sources. Vegans can obtain vitamin D in some vegetable margarines and soy foods, which have been fortified. The skin also synthesizes Vitamin D in sunlight.

Calcium comes mainly from milk and other dairy products in the average diet. It is possible for vegans to acquire adequate calcium from plant sources. Sources are tofu, cruciferous vegetables, cress, dried fruit, nuts and seeds. White bread and soy milk are also usually fortified with calcium.

Iodine deficiency has been reported as being quite common in British studies on veganism. Milk is generally the main source of iodine. For vegans seaweed is a good source of iodine. Some grains and vegetables can contain iodine though this depends upon the amount present in the soil they were cultivated in.

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