7 Nutrients That You Can’t Get From Plants
They have been linked to multiple health benefits and a lower risk of excess weight, heart disease and even some types of cancer.
However, a few nutrients are either difficult or impossible to get in adequate amounts from plant foods. Therefore, it's very important to be aware and supplement your diet with them to maintain health or physical performance.
Here are 7 nutrients commonly lacking in vegetarian and vegan diets.
1. Vitamin B12
Also known as cobalamin, it's a water-soluble nutrient involved in developing red blood cells and maintaining nerves and normal brain function.
Studies have shown that without supplements or enriched foods, vegetarians are at a high risk of vitamin B12 deficiency (2Trusted Source).
Lacto-ovo-vegetarians can get adequate amounts of this nutrient from dairy products and eggs, but this is much more challenging for vegans (3).
The symptoms and risks associated with vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- weakness, fatigue (8Trusted Source)
- impaired brain function (9Trusted Source)
- neurological disorders (10Trusted Source)
- psychiatric disorders (11Trusted Source)
- neurological disorders in babies of breastfeeding mothers (12Trusted Source)
- megaloblastic anemia (13Trusted Source)
- possible links to Alzheimer's disease (14)
- possible links to heart disease (15Trusted Source)
To get sufficient amounts of vitamin B12, those following a vegan diet must get vitamin B12 by taking supplements or eating food that has been fortified with this nutrient.
In addition, a few plant foods naturally contain trace amounts of bioactive vitamin B12, including:
- nori seaweed, a type of marine algae (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source)
- tempeh, a fermented soy product (21, 22Trusted Source)
Nori seaweed is considered the most suitable source of biologically available vitamin B12 for vegans, though it doesn't provide a sufficient amount on its own (23Trusted Source).
Keep in mind that raw or freeze-dried nori may be better than conventionally dried types, as some of the vitamin B12 is destroyed during the drying process (19Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source).
However, those are not considered to be sufficient sources of dietary vitamin B12 and do not provide the daily need.
Another plant food often claimed to contain vitamin B12 is spirulina. However, it offers only pseudovitamin B12, which is not biologically available. For this reason, it's unsuitable as a source of this vitamin (26Trusted Source).
If you want to boost your vitamin B12 intake, you can buy vegan-friendly supplements locally or online.
Vitamin B12 is only found in animal and fortified foods, as well as in small amounts in certain types of seaweed. People following a vegan diet should supplement with a vegan vitamin B12 supplement.
Creatine is a molecule found in animal foods.
Most of it is stored in muscles but significant amounts are also concentrated in the brain.
It functions as an easily accessible energy reserve for muscle cells, giving them greater strength and endurance (27Trusted Source).
For this reason, it's one of the world's most popular supplements for muscle building.
Studies show that creatine supplements can increase both muscle mass and strength (28Trusted Source).
Creatine is not essential in your diet, as it can be produced by your liver. However, studies have shown that vegetarians tend to have lower amounts of creatine in their muscles (29Trusted Source).
One study placed people on a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet for 26 days and found that doing so caused a significant decrease in their muscle creatine levels (30Trusted Source).
Because creatine is only naturally found in animal tissue, vegetarians and vegans can only get it from supplements.
For vegetarians, creatine supplements may have significant benefits, including:
- improvements in physical performance (29Trusted Source)
- improvements in brain function, such as memory (31Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source)
Some of these effects are stronger in people on a vegetarian diet than in meat eaters. For instance, vegetarians taking creatine supplements may experience significant improvements in brain function while meat eaters see no difference (31Trusted Source).
This may be attributed to the meat eaters already having higher levels of creatine in their muscles as a result of their diet.
You can purchase vegan-friendly creatine supplements locally or online.
Creatine is a bioactive compound that is lacking in plant-based diets. It plays an important role in brain and muscle function.
It's very important for muscle function, and high levels of carnosine in muscles are linked to reduced muscle fatigue and improved performance (35Trusted Source, 36Trusted Source, 37Trusted Source, 38Trusted Source).
Carnosine is only found in animal-based foods. However, it's considered non-essential, as your body can form it from the amino acids histidine and beta-alanine.
Dietary sources of beta-alanine may contribute significantly to muscle levels of carnosine, but the main dietary sources — meat, poultry and fish — are non-vegetarian.
Supplementing with beta-alanine is a great way to increase the levels of carnosine in your muscles, improving endurance and increasing muscle mass (35Trusted Source, 41Trusted Source, 42Trusted Source, 43Trusted Source, 44Trusted Source, 45Trusted Source).
Fortunately, there are multiple vegan beta-alanine supplements available online.
Carnosine is a nutrient only found in animal-derived foods. It's important for muscle function. Beta-alanine supplements increase the levels of carnosine in muscles.
4. Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol)
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient with many important functions.
Also called the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D doesn't have to come from your diet.
Your skin can produce it when it's exposed to sunlight. However, if your sunlight exposure is limited or you live far from the equator, you must get it from food or supplements.
There are two types of dietary vitamin D — ergocalciferol (D2) found in plants and cholecalciferol (D3) found in animal-based foods.
The best sources of vitamin D3 are fatty fish and egg yolks. Other sources include supplements, cod liver oil, or enriched foods like milk or cereals (60Trusted Source).
As the main dietary sources of vitamin D3 are not plant-based, vegetarians and vegans may be at a higher risk of deficiency, especially during the winter in countries north or south of the equator.
Deficiency in vitamin D is linked to an increased risk of various adverse conditions, including:
- osteoporosis, with an increased risk of fractures in older adults (46Trusted Source)
- cancer (47Trusted Source)
- heart disease (48Trusted Source, 49Trusted Source)
- multiple sclerosis (50Trusted Source)
- depression (51Trusted Source)
- impaired brain function (52Trusted Source)
- muscle wasting and reduced strength, especially in older people (53Trusted Source, 54Trusted Source, 55Trusted Source, 56Trusted Source)
Cholecalciferol (D3) is a type of vitamin D found in animal-sourced foods, especially fatty fish, and it's more effective at raising blood levels of vitamin D than the plant form of vitamin D (D2). Vegan vitamin D3 supplements can be purchased online.
5. Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
In addition, inadequate DHA intake in pregnant women may adversely affect fetal brain development (65Trusted Source).
It's mainly found in fatty fish, fish oil and certain types of microalgae.
These supplements are available in specialty stores and online.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an essential omega-3 fatty acid found in fatty fish and fish oil. It's also present in microalgae, which are a suitable dietary source for vegetarians and vegans.
6. Heme Iron
Heme iron is a type of iron only found in meat, especially red meat.
It's much better absorbed than non-heme iron, which is commonly found in plant foods (77Trusted Source).
Heme iron also improves your absorption of non-heme iron from plant foods. This phenomenon is not entirely understood but is called the "meat factor."
Non-heme iron is poorly absorbed, and its absorption can be limited further by antinutrients that are also present in plant foods, such as phytic acid.
Unlike non-heme iron, the absorption of heme iron is not affected by the presence of antinutrients.
However, iron deficiency is easy to avoid on a well-planned vegan diet that contains plenty of non-heme iron.
Meat, especially red meat, contains a type of iron called heme iron, which is much better absorbed than non-heme iron from plant foods.
While its bodily function is not entirely clear, it appears to play a role in muscle function, bile salt formation, and antioxidant defenses (80Trusted Source, 81, 82Trusted Source, 83Trusted Source).
Taurine is only found in animal-sourced foods, such as fish, seafood, meat, poultry and dairy products (84Trusted Source).
It's not considered essential in the diet, as your body produces small amounts. Still, dietary taurine may play a role in maintaining your body's taurine levels.
Synthetic taurine supplements are widely available and suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Taurine is a sulfur compound that has several functions in your body. It's only found naturally in animal-based foods but also available in synthetic supplement form.
The Bottom Line
Well-planned vegetarian and vegan diets are very healthy.
Unfortunately, a few nutrients are impossible or difficult to get from commonly consumed plant foods.
If you plan to eliminate animal-sourced foods from your diet, make sure to keep those nutrients in mind, and take dietary supplements to make sure that you're getting everything your body needs.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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