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Include these foods and supplements in
your diet for healthy vegan nutrition

Good vegan nutrition does not require high doses of supplements. Some nutrients are even harmful when we take them as supplements. We like to get our nutrition from whole plant foods. Whole plant foods are bursting with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. However, there are a few nutrients that vegans should pay attention to in order to maintain good health:

Take a vitamin B12 supplement

vitamin B12

Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is made by bacteria and fungi. Non-vegans get B12 from meat and dairy products. Animals eat dirt and bacteria with their food. That is how B12 gets into animal flesh and milk. We wash our vegetables. Washing them removes the dirt and the B12.

We need 2.4 mcg of B12 per day, or about 17 mcg per week. Pregnant and nursing women need a little more. Vegan adults and children should take a B12 supplement twice a week. We like the liquid or sublingual type, but tablets or B12 fortified foods are fine too. Excess B12 is not toxic.

A B12 deficiency can be very serious. Symptoms can include macrocytic anemia, nerve damage and eventual paralysis. B12 supplements are inexpensive and easily available. Don't take any chances.

You may hear that vegans can get their B12 from tempeh, algae, seaweed, or other plant foods. Do not rely on these sources. Some of these foods contain B12 analogs. These analogs are similar to cobalamin but they cannot be used by our bodies.

Maintain high vitamin D levels

Recent research shows that vitamin D is very important for overall health. Most people, including vegans, have blood levels that are too low. Protect your health. Learn the best sources of vegan vitamin D.

Eat whole food sources of omega 3 fats

Experts in vegan nutrition recommend that we eat 1 tsp to 1 Tbsp of ground flax seed every day. Flax seeds contain alpha-linolenic acid, an omega 3 fat. Buy whole flax seeds and grind them fresh daily. Use a coffee grinder. Brush the ground flax seeds out of the grinder with a small pastry brush. It is quick, and you won't have to wash the grinder every day.flax seeds and grinder

Eat your ground flax seeds right away or freeze them in a dark, airtight container. Omega 3 fats are very fragile and they go rancid when exposed to air, heat, or light.  

Whole flax seeds are a good source of fiber and fiber helps satisfy our hunger! Do not use flax oil. It may be rancid, and it is not a whole food. 

Chia seeds, walnuts and hemp seeds are other good sources of omega 3 fats. Raw nuts and seeds are nutritious but very high in fat. Keep them in the freezer. Limit your intake to one ounce of nuts per day until you reach normal weight. One ounce is just a small handful.

Consider taking DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)

DHA is a long chain fatty acid in the omega 3 group. It is an important part of our brain, retina, and some cell membranes. Many people on a low fat vegan diet can convert alpha-linolenic acid to DHA. Others cannot convert enough to achieve optimum health. 

A shortage of DHA may be related to depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease and ADHD. Some doctors treat mental disorders with DHA supplements. Vegan physicians recommend DHA for pregnant and lactating women. Many other vegans take DHA as a preventive measure.

Do not eat fish or take fish oil for DHA. If you decide to take DHA, buy plant-source DHA that is made from algae. The fish get it from the algae they eat. Adults should take about 200 - 300 mg per day.

Omega 3 fats thin the blood slightly. If you get too many omega 3's, you may find that you bruise or bleed easily. If this happens, eliminate the supplements. It probably means that you obtain and convert all you need from leafy greens and other plant foods.

A Basic Course in Vegetarian and Vegan Nutrition

Basic Course Vegan Nutrition
Most accurate vegan nutrition information comes from vegan health professionals. There is a vegetarian practice group of dietitians in the American Dietetic Association. They distribute good educational materials.

One book we like is A Basic Course in Vegetarian and Vegan Nutrition by George Eisman, M.A.,M.Sc.,R.D. It is distributed by:

    The Vegetarian and Vegan Association
    427 South Franklin St.
    Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Becoming Vegan

Becoming Vegan
Another excellent book by two registered dietitians is Becoming Vegan by Davis and Melina. We recommend it highly.

Your family physician and dietitian are not good sources of information
. In fact, they may be downright hostile about your decision to follow a vegan diet.

Why is it hard to find health professionals who advocate a vegan nutrition plan?

  • If they are meat-eaters, they probably have personal biases that keep them from being objective.
  • Physicians know little about nutrition, and absolutely nothing about vegan nutrition.

  • They may actually believe the propaganda distributed by the meat and dairy industries.

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