Veganism is such a hot topic at the moment. There are strong opinions coming from all angles and it can sometimes feel hard to find reliable information that isn't fuelled by judgement or anger. No matter what your opinion, the vast majority of us desire health and vibrancy in our lives. We are all so unique and this looks so different for every person. One size does not fit all. But whatever our choices are, it's important to take the time to check in with our bodies and how we're feeling. Do you feel energised by food? Or do you feel endlessly tired and sluggish?
Personally, we stopped eating all animal products around 2 years ago for a variety of reasons; for our health, the environment, ethics and more. It's been a hugely positive journey for both of us and I can't say that I've been tempted to change during that time. However, we recognise the importance in being mindful about what we eat and being intuitive about what feels good. Eating plant based doesn't always translate to eating healthily. You can still serve up junk food at every meal and label it as 'vegan'. So rather than focusing on labels such as 'vegan', 'keto', 'paleo' etc, I think it's crucial to observe how you feel eating certain foods and see each meal as an opportunity to nourish your body and express gratitude.
“Be good to yourself. If you don't take care of your body, where will you live?” - Kobi Yamada
Our bodies communicate with us daily in so many ways. From our skin, to our eliminative system and energy levels. If we become deficient in certain vitamins or our body is off balance, this can show up in a variety of ways - tiredness, dull skin, acne, hormonal issues, poor digestion and more.
If you're a vegan (or non vegan!) that feels consistently tired and you notice some imbalances in your body, then it's so important to look at your diet to see how you can create harmony in the body again. A great way to to do this is by having a blood panel test done, which tests for specific vitamin and nutrient levels to find any deficiencies. For all our readers based in USA, Health Labs offers a 'Vegan Wellness Panel Test' which checks for the 11 most common deficiencies. If you're vegan and want to make sure you're supporting your body the best you can, then it's such a great resource to consider.
These are some of the 11 vitamins/nutrients that Health Labs test for, why they're important and how you can incorporate these more in your life with plant power, herbs or supplements...
Iron deficiency is a growing problem for many women - vegan or non-vegan. When consuming plant-based sources of iron, combine them with Vitamin C when possible to help absorption. Good sources of iron are:
Nettles (no.1 tip for iron is daily nettle infusions!), blackstrap molasses, dark leafy greens, organic spirulina, cacao, quinoa, buckwheat, black beans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, avocado.
Herbs- Nettle, parsley, dandelion, yellow dock.
A hugely important nutrient for bone health. Good sources of calcium are:
dark leafy greens (collard, mustard, kale), organic tempeh, tahini, broccoli, figs, black strap molasses, organic almonds, chia seeds.
Herbs - nettles, horsetail, oat straw, alfalfa.
Zinc is such an important nutrient to support our immune system, regulate hormones and metabolising carbohydrates. Good sources of zinc are:
Black beans, chickpeas, lentils, organic tempeh, oats pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, cashew nuts, quinoa, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, wild rice, shiitake mushrooms, flaxseeds, asparagus, cardamom.
Herbs: oat straw dill, rosemary, sage, chervil
B12 is a complicated issue for those eating plant based, as unlike all the other vitamins/minerals, it's extremely difficult for us to obtain the amount we need from a natural food source. However, our bodies our capable of creating B12 if we have optimal digestion. In the past, we absorbed B12 from fresh spring water and from the soil, but now that so many pesticides are used to cultivate our food, it's very difficult to find natural sources. Even those who absorb B12 from animal products may only be doing so because the farm animal they are consuming was supplemented with B12 when it was alive. This article is highly recommended if you wish to learn more.
We supplement with a liquid B12. This is our favourite product in the UK, and we have heard excellent reviews of this brand in the USA & rest of the world.
Folic acid, or folate, is a B vitamin that assists the body in creating red blood cells and repairing DNA. It's especially important in pregnancy, as it helps the foetus develop. Good sources of Folate are:
organic spinach, broccoli, asparagus, lentils, black beans, pinto beans, avocado, beetroot, romaine lettuce, papaya.
More Helpful Resources
'Vegan done right' with Dr Stephen Cabral - Melissa Ambrosini Podcast
This podcast episode is so informative and helpful, diving deep into common deficiencies for vegans and how we can help to avoid this through diet, Ayurveda and lifestyle. Cannot recommend this enough!
An amazing website full of so many eye opening articles. The article on B-12 deficiency is incredibly interesting and is such an important thing to get educated about.
Health Labs (US)
As we mentioned above, the Vegan Nutritional Maintenance Panel is such an effective way to ensure that you are receiving enough nutrients from your food. The test reveals any deficiencies you may have, so that you can address them and adjust what you're eating. They also offer other tests for food allergies.
Use the code 'PutumayoKitchen' to receive a 25% discount on tests.
Cerascreen (UK & Europe)
A test centre based in Europe, offering deficiency tests.
Our Favourite Nutrition Books
See our 'Essential Book' list for some recommended nutrition books that can help you on your journey!
Have you ever considered testing for vitamin deficiencies? We'd love to hear how you keep healthy eating a plant based diet.
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Thank you to Health Labs for supporting this article.