Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and Omega-3-Fatty Acids Deficiency in Vegans

Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and Omega-3-Fatty Acids Deficiency in Vegans

mixed vegetables

This is a guest post written by Dr. Jupitor Chakma.

According to American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada, unplanned or poorly planned vegetarian diet may be deficient in vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, calcium, and iodine and omega-3-fatty acids.

A well planned vegetarian diet can be protective (in compare to usual Western diet which is rich in animal foods) against many degenerative diseases, such as heart disease. In fact many top athletes of endurance sports (such as marathon, triathlon etc.) are reported to be vegan.

If you are a vegetarian, make sure that you get a diet plan from a registered dietician and make sure that you understand the implications of improper vegan diet plan.

Your understanding in regards to vegan foods should be sufficient, so that you can change it during necessary situations, such as travel to different country/region with different food habits.

Vitamin B12 deficiency in Vegans:

Vegans may suffer vitamin B12 deficiency if diet is not properly planned or supplementation not taken, as vitamin B12 is found only in animal products (with exception of some pulses such as lentils).

Vegans should take vitamin B12 supplementation or eat diary products such as yogurt (rich source of B12 vitamin) or curd regularly in adequate quantities.

Vegetarians in India eat curd/yogurt with every meal, which help them get enough Vitamin B12 and most do not suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency.

Some pulses contain vitamin B12, which they get from bacteria that live at the roots of these plants and the plants and the bacteria help each other nutritionally (a process known as “symbiosis”).

But most of the amount of vitamin B12 present in such foods may be lost during cooking, as it is water-soluble vitamin and major percentage is lost during storage and cooking.

Vitamin D deficiency in Vegans:

Amount of vitamin D present in plant-based foods is not significant and vegans may suffer from vitamin D deficiency, although light colored-skin people can get adequate vitamin D by getting exposed to sunlight for 20-30 minutes for few days a week.

But dark-skinned people need much more exposure to sun for adequate vitamin D. if you are vegan and do not get adequate sun exposure, supplementation of vitamin D is recommended.

Exposure to sunlight may not be practical during winter in some parts of the world and supplementation of vitamin D is recommended in those areas, especially during winters.

Omega-3-fatty acids deficiency in Vegans:

Unless planned appropriately, vegans may suffer from Omega-3-fatty acids deficiency, because this is mainly present in fish and very few plant foods contain an adequate amount of Omega-3-fatty acids and those plant foods are not eaten regularly in diet.

Among plant foods flax seeds (also known as linseed) is a rich source of Omega-3-fatty acids. Try incorporating flax seeds in diet, if you are a vegan to prevent Omega-3-fatty acids deficiency.

Other plant sources which contain Omega-3-fatty acids include canola oil, English walnuts, Persian walnuts, Hazel nuts, Chia seed, dry beans, soybeans, Butternuts etc. Incorporate commonly available plant source of Omega-3-fatty acids in your diet such as soybeans (dry), dry beans, walnuts, etc.

Other vegetables also contain Omega-3-fatty acids, but in small quantity such as beans, cauliflower, lettuce, broccoli, radish, green soybeans, spinach, kale, leek etc.

Although these vegetables contain small quantity, they can contribute a significant amount of Omega-3-fatty acids RDA (recommended daily allowances) as we can consume these vegetables in large quantities.

Among cereals/grains rice, wheat, corn, barley, oats contain Omega-3-fatty acids in small quantities.

Image: Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Author: A doctor and enthusiastic health blogger, who is eager to learn more about blogging. Dr. Jupitor Chakma, writes regularly on his Health Blog and Online Health Website. Visit these blogs for regular updates and to read more articles by this writer.

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About the Author

A doctor and enthusiastic health blogger, who is eager to learn more about blogging. Dr. Jupitor Chakma, writes regularly on his Health Blog and Online Health Website. Visit these blogs for regular updates and to read more articles by this writer.

11 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Bruce says:

    Great Article. I especially like the notion that Vegans should plan their diet with the awareness of potential deficiencies. Though the vegan lifestyle is excellent for overall health it still has some potential short falls. It should be noted that there are a large variety of vegan foods that are fortified with B12, in addition to the B12 supplements.

  2. Yes we need to learn from others and our surroundings. Expert opinion is always better. I agree.
    Thanks for your valuable comment.

  3. Lyka Ricks says:

    Traveling and Observing to other people preparing their vegie dishes do a lot in improving our natural diet. On the other hand , it pays also to consult a dietitian to better informed with the nutrients you are getting especially on the meals you wanted to prepare.

  4. Yes total meat free diet may require B12 supplementation.
    By the way what is “pescatarians”?

    • Pescatarians eat only fish and not other animal flesh.

      • Ildiko says:

        Hello Evelyn,
        I am brand new to your website but I just LOVE it. Finally a place where I am able to find all the info I need.:) I am also very new to being a vegan and honestly I do it for health purposes, not because I dont like meat. I just wanted to Thank you for your site.

  5. Tatianna says:

    I am not a vegan, but I do take a vitamin B supplement cause I think people who do eat meat can be deficient as well. It is definitely a challenge to be a vegan, but I recently did some research about superfoods ( the medicinal kind ) after watching the movie Food Matters, and if vegans can include some of those superfoods into their daily regimen it would make a big difference.

  6. Amanda says:

    Some people don’t actually convert the plant-based Omega 3s into the more critical longer-chain Omega 3s and they will have to eat the animal forms directly (salmon etc) for optimal health.

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