How to Avoid Nutrient Deficiencies with a Plant Based Lifestyle

How to Avoid Nutrient Deficiencies with a Plant Based Lifestyle

Eating plant-based can be really healthy. 

But if you just jump in with no idea about where crucial nutrients come from and how to get them, you could end up feeling really, really lousy. 

The good news is, if you eat the right whole foods, you can truly thrive…every day.

Here’s are the top 3 nutrient deficiencies I see when people transition into eating more plant-based, and what you can do to get enough of them.

1. Iron

Iron is essential for general energy and focus, gastrointestinal processes, the immune system, and the regulation of body temperature.

Signs of iron deficiency:

  • Fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Hair loss
  • Swelling of tongue + mouth
  • Restless legs
  • Brittle fingernails

Iron supplements may be useful if your levels are low but too much may cause toxicity, so get your levels checked if you think you have a deficiency. Eating iron in whole foods does not pose that problem.

Plant-based Iron Sources (highest at top): 

  • Edamame + tofu
  • Lentils, beans + peas
  • Cacao
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Nettles + nettle tea (one of the best ways to raise iron levels)
  • Nuts – Pistachios, cashews
  • Seeds – Sesame (highest), pumpkin, hemp, chia
  • Blackstrap Molasses
  • Mushrooms
  • Asparagus
  • Quinoa

Note – iron is absorbed best with vitamin C, so think about adding some citrus, strawberries or peppers to the foods above. 

2. B-12

B-12 is essential to the health of nerve cells health and plays a major role in mental health. It also helps make DNA and is necessary for a healthy metabolism and natural energy. It’s usually found in animal products but now even those sources have become depleted.

Signs of B-12 Deficiency: 

  • Weakness + fatigue
  • Pale or yellowish skin
  • Pins + needle sensation
  • Inflamed tongue and mouth ulcers
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Disturbed vision
  • Depression

Plant-based B-12 Sources

  • Spirulina
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Fortified milks + foods

While you can find B-12 in some foods, the research on how effective plant-based sources are is not conclusive. I almost always recommend incorporating a B-complex supplement (with B-12 as “Methylcobalamin”) for anyone eating mostly plant-based. Taking all of the B-vitamins together ensures they stay in balance and is beneficial for your metabolism and mental health.

3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are typically found in wild fish like salmon and cod. Omega-3’s are necessary for brain and heart health, keep inflammation down in the body and play a key role in mental health.

Signs of Omega-3 Deficiency

  • Dry hair
  • Dry skin (with rough patches)
  • Brittle nails
  • Irritability + mood swings
  • Fatigue + poor sleep

Plant-based Omega-3 Sources

  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Algal oil

As you can see, it’s not difficult to get the nutrients you need, you just need to be mindful to get the right foods on your plate.

If you are experiencing any signs of deficiency above, you may want to get a blood test from your doctor to see where your levels are and work on incorporating foods and supplements as needed.


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