by Minodora Campeanu
Last updated on 10 December 2019
The vegan diet is not suitable for everyone. Some people feel refreshed and energized, while others experience constant cravings and hunger. Vegans who notice an improvement in their health or energy levels tend to rely solely on what they eat. Most vegans support the idea that whole-foods and plant-based meals are all that the body needs. Regardless of anyone's beliefs, people who follow the vegan diet need to consider monitoring the following four nutrients. In the long run, these nutrients play a crucial role in your body's health, and vegans need to prevent having deficiencies.
Vitamin B12 is needed to prevent many health conditions, including anemia, infertility, nervous system damage, and heart disease. Many people are at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency, but vegetarians and vegans are the most likely to suffer from it.
There are foods in the vegan diet which contain vitamin B12, such as nutritional yeast, unwashed organic products that grow in B12-rich soils, nori, and plant foods. The problem is that they neither provide the daily recommended intake nor have scientific support. There is also a big debate about whether the type of vitamin B12 found in plant foods is active in humans or not.
Omega-3 can be split into 2 main categories: essential and long chain. The only essential fatty acid is alpha-linolenic acids (ALA). The main long chain fatty acids are EPA and DHA.
Those who follow a vegan diet can get plenty of ALA from chia seeds, flaxseed, nuts, hemp, and soy. However, EPA and DHA are lacking since they are mostly found in fish.
EPA and DHA are essential for brain function. They also help fight inflammation, depression, cancer, and ADHD. The good news is that the two other omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are made from ALA. The bad news is that studies show the conversion of ALA to EPA is about 5-10%, while the conversion of ALA to DHA is about 2-5%. That's not enough. So, the best way to cover up for the remaining amount is by taking some algae oil.  
Iron is essential for a healthy lifestyle. If you have an iron deficiency, it can mess up your daily routine, family relations, work atmosphere, etc. An iron deficiency can lead to anemia, fatigue, low immune system, and depression. Vegans consume non-heme iron, which is harder to absorb than heme iron (found only in animal products). That's why specialists often recommend eating more non-heme iron-rich foods (dried fruit, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, etc.) than the recommended dietary allowance. The only way to tell if you need an iron supplement is to do a blood test. If your hemoglobin and ferritin levels are low, you need to talk to your doctor. Everyone needs to check these levels from time to time because it might be harder to treat later on. It is not recommended to take iron supplements without consulting your doctor because higher levels than needed can do more harm than good.  
The lack of calcium in a vegan diet is not something new. Most vegans get plenty of calcium from plant sources, but according to some studies, they don't reach the RDA. Calcium is essential for bone, teeth, and heart health. If you are an active person, you need this nutrient even more because it aids muscle function. As mentioned in the previous slide, a blood test would be the most accurate way of knowing if you need to add more calcium to your diet. The RDA for calcium is somewhere between 1000 and 1200 mg. Vegans often mention the fact that they don't need as much because they do not need to neutralize the acidity produced by a diet that contains meat. More studies are needed for this statement to become a fact. Nonetheless, consuming less than 500 mg of calcium per day will increase the risk of bone fractures. Those who can't get enough calcium from fortified foods or diet should opt for a supplement.  
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