Being a healthy vegan can take a little bit of work and research, but once you find all the nutrients that your body needs and you are getting proper amounts, watch out world! If you are just starting out or don’t really know what you may be missing, this post is made for you. It will shed light on the nutrients that may be harder to get as a vegan that are needed for conception as well as just living.
Even if we are eating the perfect diet, whatever that looks like, there is still a chance we are not getting everything we need from it. It can be caused by the food we eat not being of the best quality (grown for profit rather than contents), our own bodies could be the problem (not absorbing and/or metabolizing normally), or it could be that we are not eating the perfect diet and some of the food products we eat actually diminish important nutrients in the body.
All of these are possible and have a huge influence on our health. It is because of all this that it is always suggested to get tests done by your healthcare provider to see which nutrients may need a little extra love and attention. At the time I wrote this, the province I live, Alberta, no longer does vitamin D testing because they say everyone is deficient and should be taking supplements. The problem with this is that we do not know what level we are at, so we do not know how much to supplement. It is sad, but thankfully there are other practitioners that do this test, we just have to pay for it. What is it like where you live?
Let’s start with vitamin D. This is a difficult one for anyone, no matter what they eat, but the benefits of this vitamin show that we must do our best to get enough daily. It has been shown that deficiency in pregnancy can increase an infant’s risk of developing type 1 diabetes and asthma, and it is necessary for fat-soluble vitamin absorption (vitamins A, D, E, and K), absorption and use of calcium for strong bones and teeth, moods and emotional well-being, immunity, and a healthy birth weight.
Vitamin D can take a while to build back up in your system, so it is a great one to start in preconception. When you are pregnant, your baby will take 400 IU from your stores whether you are taking some in daily or not.
The rule for going out in the sun seems to be 10-30 minutes at a time, when sunburn is a risk, exposing your forearms and face without sunscreen. If you burn easily, like me, this may not be reasonable for you. You can play around with times and see how long you can be out without burning and then hit the shade. If your skin is darker, you will need more time in the sun to get the same effects.
Sun exposure is all fine and dandy in the summer, but what about those short and cold winter days when being outside takes all the courage you have? Luckily there are a few magical plant foods that contain this nutrient.
Mushrooms contain vitamin D when exposed to sun under normal conditions. The levels of the vitamin increase dramatically when exposed to UV light. Maitake, portabella, and raw chanterelle are examples. It has been said that mushrooms can produce vitamin D even after harvest, so you may want to try this at home:
- Before eating, place the mushrooms, gill-side up, in the sun for a few hours. When ready, prepare as you normally would and enjoy. Do this over the course of a few weeks and see if you notice a difference in your mood.
Another magical plant that produces its own vitamin D is algae and lichen, but you are more likely to find these in supplement form. These contain vitamin D3 which is said to be absorbed by our bodies the best. A supplement that is vegan will have one of these two as the ingredient.
Way back in time, before we started farming as we do today, people used to get enough of this vitamin through the dirt on their food. This was because produce wasn’t cleaned as much as it is today and the soil back then was rich in nutrients and life. It is crazy to think that we could get this vitamin simply through letting a few grains of dirt stay on our salad! This is not the case anymore.
We don’t need much of this nutrient, but we do need it. Deficiency symptoms are pernicious anemia and nervous system damage which can result in the following: loss of energy, numbness, reduced sensitivity to pain or pressure, blurred vision, abnormal gait, sore tongue, poor memory, confusion, hallucinations and personality changes.
Testing for vitamin B12 is not as simple as a regular blood test as many things can effect what the test will show. An example of this is if you are taking any form of algae. This is because the algae can mimic B12 in blood tests, and this would give an inaccurate reading. Another nutrient that will effect testing is folate. If you are getting more folate than B12, it can cover up a B12 deficiency, and it can be hidden for years. This can be the case if you are trying to conceive and are taking a folate supplement that is not part of a B vitamin complex.
The best test for B12 right now is methylmalonic acid (MMA) testing. This tests your MMA levels and works because B12 is working to convert it to another substance, so if your levels of MMA are high, you would likely have a B12 deficiency. If your body has enough B12 and is using it properly, your MMA levels will be normal.
There are many that say you can get B12 from plant sources, but I have found that this is not entirely the case. Normally I am all for food sources and look to that first, but in this case, there hasn’t been good evidence that you can get B12 from plants. Do not worry. There are great supplements out there that will keep you up on your B12 levels.
The key with this vitamin is to look for methylcobalamin instead of cyanocobalamin. Cyanocobalamin is the cheap version and manufacturers use this to cut costs. It is semisynthetic and bound to a cyanide molecule. What? That’s nuts.
Look for whole food sources from your supplements, that it is methylcobalamin, and that it is a B vitamin complex to avoid deficiencies of other B’s. We need from 10 – 100 mcg of this vitamin daily, so make sure the number is somewhere around that. This is a crazy difference, and many supplements supply more than 100mcg, and that is okay too.
There are definitely many other nutrients important for your body while trying to create another life. I just went through the two that you may have the hardest time getting through diet alone. There is nothing wrong with supplements if they are good quality and are filling in the gaps of your already wholefood diet.
Vegans can be very healthy people and they can be very sick people, as can anyone. The important thing is knowing what foods are good for what you need, but also knowing that sometimes your diet alone cannot give you all that you need. It is so important to listen to our bodies so we know when something is off. This will make is easier to start taking steps to work on what is causing us trouble.
Do you have any stories about these two vitamins? I would love to hear them. Leave a comment below to share with us. You can also sign up for the free guide below. It gives you three things to work on to increase your fertility. They’re designed to get your body ready for baby making so that when the time comes, it will be easier.
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