These 6 Nutrients Could Be Missing From Your Plant-Based Diet

These 6 Nutrients Could Be Missing From Your Plant-Based Diet

Although it’s unnecessary to cut out meat and other animal products to be healthy, there are potential benefits of adopting a plant-based diet. Eating plant-based might contribute to your overall health, and may help you maintain a healthy weight. But, by eliminating so many staple proteins, you also run the risk of removing important nutrients from your diet.

The good news? It’s possible to get all the nutrients on a plant-based diet through a combination of supplements and smart food choices. Here’s what might be missing in your plant-based diet, and how to help fill the gap.

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1. Heme Iron

heme iron -- nutrients plant based diet missing

Plant-based diets are typically lower in iron, an essential component of the proteins in your blood that transport oxygen to your cells. Red meat and other animal products are rich in heme iron, while certain plant-based foods (beans, leafy greens, dark chocolate) contain non-heme iron. The thing is, your body absorbs heme iron more efficiently than it does non-heme iron, explains Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area.

How to fill the gap

Pairing plant-based sources of iron with a source of vitamin C can help increase absorption, Gorin says. If you decide to take iron supplements, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends ferrous sulfate or ferrous gluconate, which are more easily absorbed than other forms.

 

2. Vitamin D3

It’s not just plant-based eaters who might have trouble getting adequate vitamin D3 — the fat-soluble vitamin is available in very few foods. According to the NIH, vitamin D3 is added to plant-based foods like breakfast cereals and non-dairy varieties of milk, as well as dairy products.

How to fill the gap

Need another reason to get outside for at least a little while every day? Your body also makes vitamin D3 when your skin is exposed to sunlight. Because vitamin D3 is important for calcium absorption, bone health, and immune function, it’s a good idea to supplement if you don’t often eat foods that are fortified.

 

3. Vitamin B12

vitamin b12

Essential to red blood cell formation, brain function, and DNA synthesis, vitamin B12 generally isn’t found in plant-based foods. Many kinds of cereal are fortified with B12, meaning it’s added during processing, so read the nutrition facts label to see how much they contribute to your daily requirement.

How to fill the gap

Look for supplements containing cyanocobalamin, a form of B12 that’s easy for the body to use. You can also look to foods fortified with B12, such as nutritional yeast.

 

4. DHA

One of the essential omega-3 fatty acids, DHA is important for brain health. Studies show that a deficiency might impact cognitive abilities, particularly in children, and “may be favorable for later mental development of children.”

How to fill the gap

Unless you regularly eat walnuts, chia seeds, or flaxseed (all great plant-based sources of ALA Omega-3s), it’s good to buy a vegan Omega-3 supplement to take each day. Your body is able to convert plant-based Omega-3s (ALA) into DHA, but on a very small scale.

 

5. Creatine

creatine nutrients -- nutrients-plant-based-diet-missing

Many of us associate creatine with muscle-bound weightlifters, but it’s an important nutrient for everyone. Although it’s commonly taken as a supplement to increase muscle mass and boost performance, it’s also a key chemical in overall muscle function, as it is a key component in the process of fueling them. Trace amounts of creatine are found in meat and fish, but it’s not present in plant-based foods.

How to fill the gap

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, short-term supplementation with up to 4 to 5 grams of creatine per day is likely safe (which you can get with one serving of LADDER Pre-Workout). However, you don’t really need to consume creatine, since it can be made by your liver, kidneys, and pancreas. One thing to keep in mind: Creatine can cause you to retain water, which leads to temporary weight gain.

 

6. Carnosine

According to the National Cancer Institute, this antioxidant-like compound, found in red meat, can help protect your cells against oxidative damage. While it’s not found in plant-based foods, you don’t necessarily need to consume it to get enough — your body can make carnosine out of the amino acids (proteins) that you eat.

How to fill the gap

If you’re worried about not getting enough, studies show that supplementing with beta-alanine can significantly increase the amount of carnosine that your body produces.

 

Fill Nutritional Gaps With LADDER Plant-Based Nutrition Shake

ladder plant based nutrition shake -- nutrients plant based diet missing

Plant-based protein powders often contain some or all of these nutrients, making them a helpful (and simple) addition to a plant-based diet. On top of the nutrients it provides, such as iron and vitamin B12, LADDER Plant-Based Nutrition Shake also gives 20 grams of pea protein.

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