Making a vegan diet as healthy as that of a carnivore’s

To be a healthy vegan, your diet must have the right amounts of various important nutrients. (rawpixel.com pic)

Going vegan isn’t only a matter of cutting meat from one’s diet and carrying on. There are high concentrations of nutrients in meat that must be accounted for when you decide to go vegan.

Since it’s not always that easy to get appropriate amounts of certain nutrients from diet alone, supplementation is much more efficient.

Creatine

Creatine is the world’s most studied supplement (after protein) and is a key part of our body’s energy production process.

Vegetarians and vegans in particular don’t get anywhere near enough of this supplement as it’s main dietary source is meat.

This means that supplementing it with at least 5g per day is essential to being a fit and healthy vegan. It increases muscular performance and memory recall.

Carnitine

This you may not have heard of, unless you’ve taken weight-loss supplements before. There is however not much proof behind its efficacy in promoting weight loss.

It’s reputation comes from its role in the mitochondrial oxidation of long-chain fatty acids ie burning fat.

Most commonly found in beef, carnitine is most effectively consumed as Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR).

It’s much more effective at improving anaerobic endurance, blood flow, cognition and attention span. It is not understood how, but the latter contributes to it being categorised as a stimulant.

Surprisingly, to most consuming it for the purpose of weight loss, it’s most proven drastic benefit is increasing sperm quality in males. Take 1g a day.

B12

Also (rarely) known as Cobalamin, vegans and the elderly could do with a gram (1000 mg) a day of B12. It is a crucial ingredient in a few enzymes involved in metabolism and methylation.

A topic for another time, this is a complex process in our bodies that switches vital systems on and off. Let’s just say it affects your efficiency and energy.

More concerning than its benefits are the results of deficiency. Studies have found Vitamin B12 deficiency results in impairment of cognition, neuronal damage and a unique form of anaemia. Save your brain – get onto it.

Vitamin A is found in orange plant sources such as sweet potato, carrots and pumpkin. (rawpixel.com pic)

Vitamin A

Contrary to how singular it sounds, Vitamin A is actually a group of vitamins. It comes in two main forms when consumed in foods: Retinol and Beta-Carotene.

The former is present in animal products like dairy, fish and meat (with its highest density in liver meat). You’ll find the latter in orange plant sources such as sweet potato, carrots and pumpkin.

The issue is that, whilst the body converts all sources of Vitamin A into retinol, the bioavailability of beta-carotenes is much lower than consuming dietary retinol from animal sources.

For perspective, the ratio is about 1:12. You need 12 mcg of dietary beta-carotene to create a comparable 1 mcg of retinol. It drops to a much more efficient 1:2 ration when supplemented though.

If the above vegetables are a large part of your diet, you should be fine. If you are averse to them though, consider vitamin A supplementation.

Before doing so, especially for pregnant or post-menopausal women, consult your doctor about the recommended dosage. It would be ideal to have a plasma test conducted first.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important in controlling one’s cholesterol levels. However, every food that contains it, bar one, is animal-based. Seafood and eggs are not on the menu for a vegetarian or vegan, so the only source is mushrooms.

The issue is that those found in supermarkets are often grown in dark rooms these days. The amount of Vitamin D held in mushrooms correlates to their UV exposure during farming.

Luckily, it is free and easy to get your daily Vitamin D top-up from the sun. If you spend time in a country during winter (or periods of bad haze) or certain parts of your lifestyle make it very hard to get much sunlight during the day, look for supplements providing 2000 UI a day.

And for now, that’s it! No one said removing an entire food group from your diet was going to be easy.

“Paleo” dieters are right – humans evolved eating meat and as a result, your stomach and vital mechanisms in your body are reliant upon the nutrients derived from it.

Humans are at the stage in science where this has not only been identified, but how to synthesise them has been worked out as well. If you’re going to be a healthy vegan, make sure you follow the above. Put yourself on a level playing field.

Joompa is a digital platform that facilitates the sourcing and booking of freelance, mobile personal fitness coaches. Available on iOS or via www.joompa.com.my