Going Vegan or Vegetarian is coming on strong as the latest Diet Du Jour. There are a lot of health benefits to this style of eating, but there are some pitfalls to you need to be know about if you make this switch.

Here are 5 nutrients that are lacking in a vegan/vegetarian diet. 

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)  — B12 is involved in the development of red blood cells, helps maintain nerves and normal brain function.

Symptoms of B12 deficiency can show up as: 

  • Fatigue/Weakness
  • Impaired Brain Function
  • Neurological disorders
  • Psychiatric Disorders
  • Possible links to Alzheimers and Heart Disease

Some ways to add B12 into your diet for vegetarians is through eggs and dairy products. Vegans are limited to bioactive foods like Nori seaweed and fermented soy. Both can add in a high quality supplement and should monitor their B12 levels.

Vitamin D3 – D3 is an essential nutrient, that boosts our immune system, helps keep strong healthy bones, reduces depression and has been linked with reducing the effects of many autoimmune diseases.

Vitamin D deficiency is linked with several conditions such as:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Cancer
  • Heart Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Depression
  • Impaired Brain Function
  • Muscle Wasting & Reduced Strength

You can get vitamin D through sunshine, but if you spend a lot of time indoors or live far from the equator you aren’t getting adequate amounts.

D3 is only found in animal based foods, while D2 is found in plants. D3 increases blood levels of absorbable Vitamin D better than D2. 

Some of the best sources of D3 are fatty fish (think of salmon), egg yolks, cod liver oil and quality supplements.

 DHA – an essential Omega-3 fatty acid that is important for brain function, especially in children. DHA makes the membranes and gaps between nerve cells more fluid, which allows for better communication between cells.

Low levels of DHA are linked to brain diseases like Alzheimers. DHA helps activate rhodopsin, a membrane in the rods of your eyes. Low levels can cause vision problems, especially in children.

Omega-3 fatty acids are generally linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. 

Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish and fish oils. Your body can convert the omega-3 fatty acid ALA into DHA, which is found in high amounts of flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts. You can also consume DHA through microalgae.

Heme Iron – heme iron comes from animals and nonheme iron comes from plants. Iron deficiency is when your blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells.

Symptoms of iron deficiency  can be:

  • Dizziness
  • Fast or unusual heartbeat
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vision problems
  • Tiredness or weakness

The body is better able to absorb heme iron than nonheme iron. Certain plants have anti-nutrients like phytic acid that stifle the bodys ability to absorb nonheme iron.  For this reason vegetarians, vegans and people on raw food diets have a higher risk of being anemic.

Having a well planned vegan diet rich in nonheme foods can prevent iron deficiency. Green leafy vegetable, beans and nuts are all good sources of nonheme iron. Spinach, lentils and pumpkin seeds along with vitamin c can enhance iron absorption. 

Taurine– is an amino acid that occurs naturally in your body. Being Taurine deficient is not common but it does play a vital role in the health of your heart, brain and kidneys. 

Taurine helps maintain proper hydration and electrolyte balance in your cells

Forming bile salts, and regulating minerals such as calcium in your cells

Support of the central nervous system and eyes

Regulating immune system health and antioxidant function

Taurine is found in animal sourced foods like fish, seafood, meat, poultry and dairy.

This is a supplement I recommend to some of my clients when we are working on balancing their minerals for optimal ability to uptake nutrients into their cells, as well as ensuring the detox pathways are clear and functioning.