Advanced Nutrition

Now you have your basic nutritional needs sussed out. Are you wondering what’s next?

Our other nutritional needs are really easy to ignore, but also simple to get into your diet – and that counts for meat-eaters and vegans alike. If you start to feel unusually tired or under the weather, it could be due to a deficiency or unbalanced diet. Just like iron or protein, you need to take care of the following for good long-term health. Let us help you out with that balanced diet!

roasted colourful vegetables

Photo by Edgar Castrejon

Vitamin A

What does it do for me?

Vitamin A is key for normal vision, healthy skin, reproduction and our immune system fighting cell damage. If you’re deficient, you can suffer from night blindness, hazy vision, low immunity to illness, rashes and hair loss. Nice!

vegan carrot and tomato juice in glassWhere can I get it from?

Pre-formed vitamin A is only found in animal products. But luckily, we can convert around 50 carotenoids (orange fat-soluble pigments) into vitamin A. The most common is beta-carotene, found in carrot juice, pumpkin and sweet potato. You should also eat dark green leafy vegetables, butternut squash, red peppers and apricots.

How much do I need?

Vitamin A deficiency is quite rare. It’s measured in International Units (IU). An average adult needs 5000 IU of vitamin A per day. For comparison, a half cup of raw carrot contains 10,000 IU!

Any meal ideas?

You really don’t need to go out of your way to get vitamin A into your diet. Try substituting white potato for sweet potato now and then, and including carrots and pumpkin in your diet regularly.

Vitamin C

What does it do for me?

Vitamin C is an essential antioxidant. It is vital for the repair and growth of our bodily tissues. We need it for injuries to heal and to keep bones healthy. It also helps to make collagen, an important part of skin, tendons and blood vessels. With a deficiency, you can suffer from easily bruising and bleeding, fatigue and even depression. In extreme cases, you can contract scurvy, a potentially fatal disease.

oranges in a bowl vitamin cWhere can I get it from?

It’s easy to get sufficient vitamin C if you eat healthily. Oranges, sweet peppers, kiwi fruit, strawberries, broccoli and kale all contain good amounts of it. You can also try melon, cabbage, sprouts and potatoes. The best sources are citrus fruits.

Note that vitamin C is heat and light sensitive. This means if you cook your broccoli or kale until mushy, it will lose a great amount of its vitamin C. So avoid canned, dried or overcooked sources – try to eat raw or lightly steamed if possible.

How much do I need?

40 milligrams for the average adult. You can get 70mg of vitamin C from a 130g orange!

Any meal ideas?

Vitamin C is best consumed raw so enjoy a fruit salad, or snack on an orange or strawberries. You can also whip up a stir fry with broccoli, cabbage, chopped sprouts and noodles.

Vitamin D

What does it do for me?

Vitamin D controls the quantity of calcium and phosphate in our body, therefore keeping our bones healthy. Children suffering a deficiency can develop soft and brittle bones. It also causes back pain, hair loss, muscle pain and yes, fatigue again.

woman in yellow top looking at sun for vitamin d

Where can I get it from?

We can make our own vitamin D from sunlight, but many experts say that this isn’t sufficient for us in the UK. Therefore, we need vitamin D from our diet AND the sun, so firstly get yourself outside every day! Consume fortified orange juice or tofu, and mushrooms. Beware if taking a supplement. Vitamin D2 is vegan-friendly, but vitamin D3 can be taken from an animal source, so be sure to check the packaging.

How much do I need?

10 micrograms per day for an adult. A comparison is difficult as the sun’s strength can vary, as can the quantities in fortified foods, so do check packaging. Between March and October, aim to get out in the sun for 20 minutes per day.

Any meal ideas?

Stuffed mushrooms, portobello mushroom burgers or tofu omelette. Plus eat ‘al fresco’ in the sunshine!

Vitamin E

What does it do for me?

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that helps protect cell membranes against free radical damage. It’s essential for healthy skin and eyes, plus strong immunity. A vitamin E deficiency can cause muscle and nerve damage, weakness, vision problems, and a weakened immune system.

Where can I get it from?

Spinach is an amazing source of vitamin E. Other great sources are avocados, almonds, broccoli, sunflower seeds and oil, hazelnuts, butternut squash, pine nuts, and peanuts.

How much do I need?

The average adult should aim for 15mg per day. For comparison, 100g spinach contains approx 3mg of vitamin E. Half an avocado has around 2mg.

Any meal ideas?

Porridge with hazelnuts, broccoli burgers, butternut squash and spinach soup, avocado pesto pasta, almond butter on toast.

avocado and spinach on toast vegan breakfast

Avocado and spinach are great sources of Vitamin E.

Vitamin K

What does it do for me?

Vitamin K is essential in blood clotting. It also assists in bone health, preventing heart disease and kidney function. Without it, you can bleed too much when injured, bruise easily, have heavy menstruation, and over time suffer from reduced bone strength.

Where can I get it from?

There are two types – K1 and K2. We create K2 when we consume K1, with help from our gut bacteria.

Vitamin K1 is made by plants. Find it in sprouts, kale, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, green leaf lettuce cauliflower, blueberries and kiwi fruit.

The only vegan food high in K2 is natto – a fermented soy superfood that’s tricky to get hold of. But don’t worry, we make our own K2 anyway!

How much do I need?

120mcg for men, and 90mcg for women. For comparison, a half cup of boiled broccoli contains 110mcg vitamin K.

Any meal ideas?

Eat your greens! Spinach quesadillas, sprout and rosemary soup, healthy blueberry muffins, kale and cauliflower curry, broccoli fritters, superfood salad.

Magnesium

What does it do for me?

Magnesium is required for many enzyme functions throughout the body. It regulates blood sugar and blood pressure levels, plus helps to make protein, bone and DNA. If you’re not getting enough, you may feel tired, irritable, struggle from insomnia, anxiety, joint pain and low blood sugar levels.

variety of seeds, beans and nuts

Where can I get it from?

Plants are packed with magnesium, so it’s doubtful you’ll need a supplement for this one! Seaweed, oats, almonds, cashews, cocoa, leafy greens, bananas and sweet potatoes are all fantastic sources of magnesium. Seeds are also a great source, notably chia, hemp pumpkin and sunflower.

How much do I need?

The average adult requires around 310mg per day. For comparison, there is around 90mg of magnesium in 50g of oats, and 130mg in 50g almonds.

Any meal ideas?

Mango and hemp seed smoothie, chocolate chia overnight oats, noodles with kelp and kale, sweet potato pie.

Potassium

What does it do for me?

Potassium is a mineral (electrolyte), mainly found inside our cells. The heart needs it to beat properly and regulate blood pressure. Deficiency causes gradual damage that you may not notice for a while, such as hypertension, heart disease and bone loss.

Where can I get it from?

kidney beans in a vegan pasta meal

Photo by Engin Akyurt

Did you know that vegans generally have a higher potassium intake than meat-eaters? That’s because of all the beans we eat! Beans are a fantastic source of potassium, so foods such as soybeans and kidney beans are a must. Whole grains are also a great source, so eat whole wheat bread, oatmeal and brown rice regularly. Also try sweet potato, spinach and bananas.

How much do I need?

The recommended daily dose of potassium for adults is 4,700mg. One medium banana contains around 420mg, and 100g kidney beans contain 1,400mg.

Any meal ideas?

Three bean chilli, overnight oats with banana and soy milk, asparagus and spinach stuffed potatoes, white bean soup, curried lentil stuffed squash.

Zinc

What does it do for me?

Zinc assists us in fighting infections, growing, efficient production of testosterone, and speeding up our reactions. Symptoms of zinc

vegan oatmeal with banana and apple

deficiency include poor wound healing, hair loss, dermatitis and impaired immune function.

Where can I get it from?

Beans, chickpeas, lentils, quinoa, tofu, walnuts, oats and cashews all have good levels of zinc. Seeds such as chia, pumpkin, and hemp contain it too.

How much do I need?

Men are recommended to consume 9.5mg per day, women slightly less at 7mg. For comparison, oats have 4mg zinc per 50g, and 50g cashews contain 2.5mg.

Any meal ideas?

Baked beans on wholemeal toast, lentil curry, tofu quiche, overnight oats or porridge with chia seeds/nuts, houmous and pumpkin seed wrap, snacking on a variety of nuts.

Selenium

What does it do for me?

Selenium is key in many enzymes. It’s important for healthy reproduction, DNA production, and thyroid gland function. A deficiency can result in hypothyroidism, extreme fatigue, mental slowing, and recurrent miscarriage.

Where can I get it from?

The amount of selenium in plants depends on how much is in the soil it grew in. The content in brazil nuts is variable too, but usually quite high, so it is thought that eating two per day can meet your requirement. Mushrooms can also be a good source.

How much do I need?

The recommended daily dose of selenium is 60mcg for women and 75mcg for men.

eating brazil nuts for selenium

Iodine

What does it do for me?

Iodine helps to make thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism. A deficiency in young people can have an adverse effect on IQ and learning capability.

Where can I get it from?

The amount of iodine in plants depends on how much is in the soil it grew in, so calculations can be unreliable! Food grown near the ocean tends to have higher amounts. Seaweed is a rich source, although can contain too much or be contaminated, so take care when consuming it. Try to consume a wide variety of vegetables daily, and occasionally use iodized salt when cooking. Supplements are also available.

How much do I need?

The adult recommendation is 140mcg per day.

That’s it for now – I’m sure your brain is full!

Note, these aren’t the only nutrients that exist. There are a ton of different vitamins and minerals that we consume every day. But this is a guide for a Learner Vegan, not an advanced science class. We’ve picked these nutrients to talk about as they are commonly discussed by vegans, nutritionists and are generally seen as the staples. Apart from B12, most vegans don’t need to go out of their way to follow a healthy balanced diet. You’ll generally get everything you need if you eat a range of fruit, vegetables, grains and beans. It doesn’t hurt to keep track while you’re adjusting to a new vegan diet, though.

If this has sparked your interest and you’d like to geek out on nutrition, here is a fantastic fully comprehensive guide for you, including extra reading materials. Enjoy!

Otherwise, check out our meal plan and shopping list so that you can start incorporating these nutrients into your diet now!

You can also find our favourite supplements for vegans right here.

**NB: mg = milligrams, mcg = micrograms.

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Even now, as a vegan of 6 years, I create meal plans. I also see if there's any prep work I can do while baby is asleep. It keeps me on track.⁠
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If you’re THAT person – the one who makes dinner plans when they arrive home from work, you could try advance planning. It is much easier to follow a varied vegan diet if you know what you’ll be eating, have the ingredients in, or even partially prepped. You won’t be tempted by a snack on the way home, because something delicious will be waiting! ⁠
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