How to Prevent Deficiencies on a Vegan Diet


I’m Mike. And today, how to cut through the bullcrap diet advice, eat a balanced vegan diet, and escape getting a deficiency. We’re going to go through some main nutrients one by one and just see how much of a concern they are and how much you need to eat to get enough. A lot of people are starting a vegan diet with the new year, and, to be honest, follow the wrong person’s advice, and, you know, you could gain 40 pounds and get a B12 deficiency. Just eat 5,000 calories a day, doesn’t matter if you’re 5’2 and sedentary, you’ll be skinny. Nope! None of that here, but listen to a little bit of science, learn three or four important things, and you may be able to achieve your weight goals, your blood work goals, fitness goals, and maybe even reverse the disease. Not to mention, helping your animal friends. Quick point, I am not a dietitian, which is why I will be reiterating the recommendations of dietitians and quoting the nutritional research, which, as usual, will be linked below in the description. I think it’s really important to first note that with every diet comes its own set of due diligence that must be done. If you’re eating an omnivorous diet, it’s a great idea to dodge tuna because of the heavy metals and other contaminants. And to watch your cholesterol intake. Like, the shenanigans that can go wrong when you eat raw meat is SO dangerous. So it’s not unreasonable to expect that there are some things that you should be aware of when you’re on a vegan diet. This is not exposing the inherent flaws of a vegan diet. It just means that it’s a different diet; a fact that is highlighted by the nutrients that vegans get more of. As this study mentions, there’s vitamin A, vitamin C, B6, B9, potassium, magnesium, manganese, copper, and iron. And just in case you’re still concerned about whether or not you can get all the nutrients you need on a vegan diet, here is a statement from the largest group of nutritionists in the world: Once again reiterating in 2016 that a properly planned vegan diet is nutritionally adequate for all stages of life. And they went even further this time saying that plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable, use fewer natural resources, and do less environmental damage. Okay! I’ll get to the nutrients. Let’s start with the most common concern: Protein! After a lifetime of being told that protein is super important, people tend to get triggered when I say that protein is really not a concern here. But please, let this sink in! Vegans, on average, have higher blood protein levels than omnivores. What does that do to your paradigm? And furthermore, that a protein deficiency is only really possible with starvation or an extremely restricted vegan diet. This is why it’s a good idea to go to Chronometer.com And just track what you eat for a couple days to get intuition. And this is just a problem of anybody switching a diet. Not getting enough calories is actually a complaint of people that go on the paleo diet. This is largely from eating a completely different way than you have your entire life. And in the case of a vegan diet, because plant foods have less calories per bite. So unless you decide you don’t want to eat any nuts and any seeds or any legumes and maybe just eat oranges or something, if you eat enough calories you will get enough protein. Now for the second biggest one: B12. Despite there being many vegans out there like FullyRawKristina saying that you do NOT need to supplement, the consensus of plant-based doctors is that you either need to take a supplement or eat fortified foods with B12 every day. It’s misleading because your body can recirculate B12 for many years potentially, but this is just the best ensurance policy. So a few months down the line where you’re like, “I don’t really need to keep taking this.” You pick that B12 right back up, and you take it! And I just have a clarifying point – in my previous video, I mentioned that nori sheets like those used in sushi do have enough bioavailable B12 in the form of cyano, methl, and hydroxyl cobalamin to meet your B12 requirements and have been shown to raise the blood level of B12 in rats. Still take a supplement. Next up: DHA. If you want your brain to still kick ass when you’re 90, then you got to get your DHA on lock. -Down. Lock down, lock it down. DHA is a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid that your body can convert from ALA, which is a plant-based source, or you can get DHA from fish who get it from algae. Your body can only convert a limited amount of ALA to DHA, so you need to make sure you’re getting enough ALA from plant sources or take an algae-based DHA supplement two or three times a week, as many plant-based doctors suggest. But let’s say you don’t want a supplement. Let’s take a look and see how much ALA from plants you need to eat to make enough DHA. Okay, so you need about 300 milligrams per day. I can tell you right now most people are not eating fish every day on an omnivore diet, so they are missing that mark. Conversion rates from ALA vary. On the very low end, it’s 2%. The average seems to be about 3.8% – that’s an often quoted number. But on the high end, young women have been recorded to convert 9% of ALA to DHA. There is good reason to believe that your conversion rate goes up when you don’t eat fish, as this study shows, but we can’t really put a clear, reliable number on it, so we’re just gonna ignore that. One serving, or 3 tablespoons, of chia seeds, which would ideally be crushed for absorption, comes out to 5,400mg of ALA. If you’re really bad at converting, that’s a little over 100mg of DHA that comes out. Average conversion would be about 200 mg, and a young woman might convert up to 480 mg. So if you’re average, one and a half servings of chia would cover you. I just so happen to have one and a half servings of chia right here. Notice anything at first? It’s not a dead fish! And this is really, it’s really like a smaller serving of chia pudding if you add some water, and that stuff’s delicious. Ground flax and walnuts are two other good sources, and thankfully, vegan products are starting to add DHA, like Ripple’s pea-based milk. And now for my next segment – “Looking through the BS.” No, that’s not a real segment. No, you cannot get enough omega-3s to make enough DHA from bananas. You would have to eat 200 bananas in one day. That right there is a challenge for Freelee the Banana Girl. She already unsubscribed from me, it’s okay. I can say whatever I want. Now to iron! It’s IRONic that I even put this in here, pun completely intended, because one of my best friends actually cured her lifelong anemia by going vegan, but that’s just an anecdote. Anyway, I still want to mention one trick that can ensure that you get as much iron out of your plant-based sources as possible. Many people like to point out that plant-based sources of iron are not as absorbable as animal-based, or heme iron, the more bio available and possibly carcinogenic iron. But as this study showed, eating vitamin C with your plant source of iron can increase the bioavailability by three times, surpassing the bioavailability of heme iron. So just like how on an omnivorous diet it’s helpful to know that you might want to spray some lemon on your raw shrimp, so your friend salmonella doesn’t come to the party, It’s also useful to know that you might want to spritz a little bit of lemon on your dark leafy greens to get some extra iron. Now let’s look at some foods to get a practical understanding of your iron needs. One cup of black beans is 50% of your daily requirement of iron. And one cup of spinach is 80%. Another less talked about nutrient is zinc. Phytates, which are very common in plant foods, have been shown to decrease zinc absorption. So on the safe side, it’s a good idea to eat a little bit more zinc, as vegan dietitians have recommended. In chronometer, that would mean upping your zinc requirement for men to 16. And for women, to 12. In order to do that, just click on “Zinc,” check the “Use custom values” box, and then you can edit the minimum value from there. A bowl of oatmeal in the morning can get you pretty far in your zinc requirement. And a quick zinc hack: You can kind of dodge the phytate issue if you snack on pumpkin seeds, which are relatively low in phytates, and 100 grams of pumpkin seeds is about 80% of the normal recommended daily intake. And just to put this risk into perspective, vegans tend to have pretty normal levels of zinc. As this study shows, they’re slightly lower than omnivores but pretty neck-and-neck with vegetarians. Now vitamin D. Depending on where you live in the world, this may or may not be an issue. If you get allot of sun, it’s obviously not. But, you can also get all of the vitamin D that you need by eating mushrooms that are exposed to UV light. As this study showed, they are as effective as vitamin D supplements at raising your blood levels of Vitamin D. So mushrooms are certainly adequate to prevent and reverse vitamin D deficiencies, and the vitamin D is not destroyed during cooking. And almost as if they were chilling on the beach, these mushrooms got more tan the longer they sat in the UV light. These are quite widely available at supermarkets. Just be sure that they’re advertised to have Vitamin D. Next up: calcium, which many people will be concerned about when ditching dairy. It’s a bit confusing for how much you need. The WHO still says we need 400 to 500 mg a day. The US, the highest in the world, says we need 1,000 mg a day. And this study of 212 studies showed that we need to eat about 540 mg to maintain healthy bones, and to be completely in the clear, we should eat about 800 mg. So you can pick and choose your nutrition authority, but it’s quite amazing how quickly you can get to 800 milligrams based off plant sources of calcium. Let’s take a look at how you can get there. One serving of sesame seeds: 300 mg. A cup of collard greens is another 250 mg, that’s 550, which will keep you from losing bone mass, but add a serving of tofu for another 250-ish mg, and you’re at 800 mg. And other random foods you eat throughout the day will easily get you to 1,000, if you want to go there. Quick point: the widely accepted recommendation is now to NOT use calcium supplements because they can spike calcium blood levels and help coagulate and clot your blood. NOT fun. This can be taken as a reason to go a little bit lighter on those plant milks like almond milk and soy milk that are fortified because it’s essentially a calcium supplement added. That’s not a reason to be completely afraid of drinking a little bit, though. Which brings me to: restriction. By now you probably know that I advocate for a whole-food vegan diet, but for people JUST going on a vegan diet, there’s a tendency to continue restricting beyond the animal products to an unnecessary level, so I would say, if restriction is an issue for you, or you’re overwhelmed by a vegan diet – period, then you should JUST focus on getting animal products out of your diet, and feel free to eat a slightly junkier diet in the beginning. One final nutrient I want to talk about, and that brings me to YouTuber Nikocado Avocado who recently had a somewhat dramatic video about how he believes he has a deficiency, I still think he needs to get a blood test, but he did mention vitamin K2, which I have yet to cover. Most sources talking about vitamin K2 are low-carb blogs, but it is believed to be protective for your heart and bones. And Nikicado’s concern is that he’s not getting enough because it’s in animal products mainly. But here’s the deal, our bodies make vitamin K2 from vitamin K1 in plants, sort of like ALA and DHA. And the case for K2 being required in the diet is actually pretty weak. Looking and Chris Kresser’s low-carb website, it’s clear that the main thing that people are hinging on here is that higher K2 was associated with lower heart disease risk. But in population studies, vegans were shown to die 42% less from cardiovascular disease. No, they weren’t dying more of other things; they had 15% less total mortality. And we can observe a 100 times lower incidence of heart attack and stroke in Dr. Esselstyn’s long-term clinical trial on a whole-food vegan diet. So K2 – definitely not a requirement for dodging heart disease, and in terms of bones, vegans were also shown to have equivalent bone density to their omnivore counterparts. But heck, if this whole K2 thing really bothers you, just order some natto online, which is fermented soybeans, which has some of the highest levels of K2 out there. And it’s made from bacteria. So it’s vegan. Finally, if you really want to cover yourself, and you are so fortunate, why not get a blood test every so often? YouTuber Tia Blanco, who is not just a professional surfer, but she also eats a whole food vegan diet – just got her blood test after 4 years of being vegan, and it turned out to be perfect. And now she KNOWS she’s not low on anything, and if she was low, she could focus on that nutrient. And that’s just a good idea whether you’re vegan or not. In conclusion, the three most important things here are: eat enough calories, get an adequate source of B12 and DHA, and beyond that, it’s a good idea to eat those vitamin D mushrooms in the winter, maybe spritz some lemon on your dark leafy greens, and eat some pumpkin seeds to make sure you get enough zinc, and you should be pretty well off. With those concerns taken care of, you will no longer have to be concerned with eating cholesterol, eating heavy metals in fish, eating hormones in dairy, and you can enjoy lower risk of diabetes, obesity hypertension, and many more diseases. All while lowering your environmental footprint and no longer paying for bad things to happen to those cute, little animals that you love. Win for everybody. Alright, that’s it. But I also just wanted to say thank you all so much. When I wasn’t looking, I just flew by 50,000 subscribers overnight. I honestly never thought this would happen back in the day when I had like five views per video when I started. So, thank you for watching! And feel free to like this video, and let me know down below if there are any recommendations that you don’t agree with that I made, or any nutrient concerns that I just left out. And, cite your sources. Alright, vitamin C ya next time!

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