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5 Blood Tests You Should be Getting as a Vegan to Avoid Deficiencies

5 Blood Tests You Should be Getting as a Vegan to Avoid Deficiencies

5 Tests You Should be Getting as a Vegan to Avoid Deficiencies.

Vegan diets are characterised by abstaining from eating any meat or animal products such as milk, dairy and eggs. People may choose to follow this style of eating for a variety of reasons, including ethical, environmental or to improve health.

A vegan diet emphasises eating a variety of different plant foods, including vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds and plant-based proteins. While following this style of eating has been shown to have many health benefits, there are some nutrients to be aware of when following a vegan diet as these can be difficult to get from plant foods alone.

If you are following a vegan diet, it is important to regularly (at least once per year) get relevant health tests to make sure you are meeting your nutrition needs. You will likely need to specifically request these tests, as many GPs may not check for these micronutrient levels by default. The tests to request from your GP include vitamin B12, vitamin D, urine iodine, iron studies and zinc.

A vegan dietitian from Plant Nutrition and Wellness can help interpret these tests and develop an individualised nutrition and supplement plan to help you meet your needs.

 

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is an important vitamin that is essential for maintaining a healthy nervous system.

There are very limited vegan foods containing vitamin B12, therefore supplementation is essential. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to complications such as anaemia and nervous system damage.

 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays many important roles in the body, including maintaining healthy bones, muscles, and supporting overall health and wellbeing. Vitamin D is a unique nutrient as it can be found both in foods, and produced when our skin is exposed to sunlight.

Vegan sources of vitamin D are limited, and therefore following a vegan diet may increase the risk of deficiency.

 

Iodine

Iodine is an essential mineral that is essential for healthy thyroid function, as well as supporting brain and bone development during pregnancy and infancy.

As vegan sources of iodine are limited, it is important to make sure you are getting your levels checked regularly with a urine iodine test.

Nutrition tip: swapping to an iodised salt is the easiest way to meet your iodine requirements on a vegan diet!

 

Iron

Iron plays an essential role in carrying oxygen around the body and making red blood cells.

There are two types of iron – haem which can be found in animal sources, and non-haem which can be found in plant sources. Non-haem sources are not absorbed as easily as haem sources, and therefore people following a vegan diet may need ~1.8 times as much iron than the general population.

Due to this, it can often be difficult for people on a vegan diet to meet their iron requirements. Having your iron levels checked regularly will therefore help make sure your needs are being met through your diet.

If your iron levels are low, your GP may recommend iron supplementation to help improve these levels.

 

Zinc

Zinc is a trace mineral that plays many important roles in the body, including creation of DNA, growth of cells and supporting a health immune system.

Vegan sources of zinc include minimally refined wholegrains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fortified breakfast cereals and soy products such as tofu.

While there is a wide variety of vegan sources of zinc, plant sources have lower bioavailability. This means it is harder for our body to absorb the nutrient from plant-based foods.

Due to this, people following a vegan diet may be at an increased risk of deficiency and should have their levels checked regularly.

 

Summary

While it is completely possible to meet your nutritional needs on a vegan diet, there are some nutrients at risk to be aware of. These nutrients include vitamin B12, vitamin D, iodine, iron and zinc.

If you are following a vegan diet, it is important to get your levels tested regularly to ensure you are not at risk of deficiency. You will likely need to specifically request these tests to your GP, as they may not routinely check for micronutrient deficiencies.   To ensure you’re meeting all your nutrient needs on a vegan diet, we recommend working with a Plant Nutrition and Wellness Dietitian who specialise in vegan and vegetarian nutrition.

 

Final Thoughts

This article was written by Jade Wrigley an Accredited Practising Dietitian, and was contributed on behalf of Plant Nutrition Wellness.

Be sure to follow them on Instagram for updates and tips.

LGV!

 

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