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How do I nurture my body?

Simon Brandy from vegan supplement brand, Veganicity, talks us through the importance of vitamins and minerals

All vitamins and minerals have vital roles to play in keeping the body functioning and healthy, so it is extremely important to have a diet that is balanced to ensure the body is truly nourished. Vitamins come in two forms - fat and water-soluble.

The body retains and works off fat-soluble vitamins, but water-soluble vitamins need topping up daily, so having a varied diet is essential. Any full-rounded diet has the potential to be nutritionally complete, however, most peoples are not.

There are many reasons why people are not consuming the correct levels of nutrients hectic lifestyles, disliking certain foods, allergies and intolerances among other reasons.

It is important to try to ensure you are getting your vitamins and minerals through food, however, if an individual knows they are not, they should consider taking a suitable supplement to top the body up.

What do we need?

B12
Vitamin B12 helps keep the nervous system and blood cells healthy. If a person is deficient in this vitamin, they tend to feel lethargic and weak. Many foods are now fortified with vitamin B12, so if a balanced diet is followed there should be no reason for a deficiency.

Other than fortified foods like cereal and energy bars, B12 can be found in some non-dairy milk and rice. A B12 deficiency is more commonly seen in raw food vegans who choose not to consume produced products that have added fortification. These vegans should consider supplementation.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C is needed in the body for many reasons. From protecting cells, to keeping skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage heathy, it is vital to ensure you are getting enough.

Most vegans who eat an array of fruit and vegetables do not usually need to supplement as it is found in many raw foods. Citrus fruits like oranges are known for being rich in vitamin C, but it is also found in peppers, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and more.

If a person finds their skin is looking tired or they are slow to heal, then they could be deficient. Vitamin C is water soluble, which means it isn't stored in the body so needs topping up daily.

Vitamin D
Commonly known as the 'sunshine vitamin' vitamin D is required for healthy bones. In recent years, there's been a rise in vitamin D deficiency among everyone. We naturally get vitamin D from the sun between April and October when it is at its highest.

Spending more time indoors and using higher factor sunscreens means we aren't exposing ourselves to enough vitamin D. It is ironic that we need the vitamin from the sun, however, vegans can get it also from a vegetable that grows in the dark - mushrooms.

Vegans who don't eat fortified foods are at risk of being vitamin D deficient which can lead to feeling lethargic. If this is the case, it might be worth topping the body up with a supplement.

 

Iron
The body uses iron to make red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body. A deficiency can lead to extreme tiredness in a person. Iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) is the most common vitamin deficiency in the Western world.

Vegan-friendly foods tend not to be rich in this mineral, so people may have lower levels than their meat-eating counterparts.

Good sources of iron for vegans include lentils, beans, some nuts and seeds as well as figs, dried apricots and raisins. If a person is constantly tired, feels weak, has cold hands and feet or brittle nails they could be deficient and should consider supplementation.

Omega-3 and Omega-6
These long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPs) play a vital role in brain function, but are also beneficial for eye health and have even been used to fight depression and trialled on those living with ADHD.

Vegans can often lack these good fatty acids as the foods they are found in aren't generally common in everyday foods. To combat deficiency, try adding hemp or sunflower seeds to your diet as well as peanut butter, tofu and even walnuts to top the system up.

Unless you are very much aware of the nutritional content of the foods a vegan is consuming then supplementation is a good consideration.

Calcium
Calcium is known for its role in healthy teeth and bones. In the UK, all bread is fortified with calcium, so if a person has toast or regularly eats sandwiches then they should be getting an intake of calcium.

Green leafy vegetables, pulses and sesame seeds are good raw sources of calcium, but it can also be found in fortified soya, rice and oat drinks, as well as white and brown bread.

Consideration could be given to supplementation if a vegan doesn't consume fortified foods or doesn't include enough leafy green vegetables on a daily basis.

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Iodine
Iodine is often the mineral that is forgotten about, but it shouldn't be overlooked as it helps make thyroid hormones and is important for brain and
bone development in pregnancy.

Although iodine is found in many fruits and vegetables, the amount contained within them tends to be low, so vegans can be at risk of lacking in it. Green beans, spring greens, watercress, kale, wholegrains, strawberries, and bananas all contain iodine.

Expectant mums should take a pregnancy specific supplement, which will provide a plethora of vitamins and minerals specific to supporting both themselves and the baby.

Words by Simon Bandy, managing director for Veganicity, healthplus.co.uk, veganicity.com

VeganLife

The lifestyle magazine written by vegans for vegans.