Vegan diet: which trace elements to watch out for

Vegan diet: which trace elements to watch out for

Protein, certain vitamins and minerals are nutrients that may concern someone following a vegan diet. The vegan diet is characterised by a rich consumption of fibre (legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, etc.) and this has multiple benefits for the human body such as improving blood sugar and lipid profile, preventing colon cancer, etc.


Which are the main minerals to pay attention to if following a vegan diet?


Iodine: it is necessary for the smooth functioning of the body and it is necessary for the creation of thyroid hormones. These hormones regulate body temperature and the production of red blood cells that help in the functioning of the nerves.


The main sources of iodine are yogurt, milk, fish and seaweed (depending on location). Therefore, when following a vegan diet, it is recommended to use iodized table salt. ¼ spoon contains 71 mcg of iodine, which accounts for about 47% of an adult’s daily needs.   However, the use of salt should be limited to people with arterial hypertension, chronic kidney insufficiency, etc.  The industries, however, come to enrich some foods with iodine, such as some vegetable milks (soy milk, almond milk, etc.).


Particular attention should be paid to overconsumption of iodine as this may unfavorably affect thyroid function. It is also recommended to be extra cautious during pregnancy and breastfeeding.


Iron: it has been discussed so much that when we talk about vegan nutrition, I am sure that your first thought is lack of protein and then comes the lack of iron. Well, the main role of iron is to transport and release oxygen throughout the body as well as for muscle contractions. It is also essential for the cellular function and energy utilization.


The lack of iron is the most common nutritional deficiency, which is why greater emphasis is placed on those who follow a vegan diet or those who have problems with the digestive system (mainly due to poor absorption). 


Some good sources of iron for people following a vegan diet are legumes, seeds, fortified cereals, tofu and cashews. As for the plant sources of iron, they do not have a leading role in vegan diet as they are less bio-available in the body if compared to blood iron (meat, etc.). Tannins and phytic acid reduce their absorption in the intestine. However, even in heme iron the absorption varies as it can be affected by food combinations. 


Tip: laboratory analysis such as iron, vitamin B12, iodine, calcium etc. are the best criterion before start taking supplements. Along with your dietitian you can create a complete and balanced dietary menu.


Chrystalla Katelari

Clinical Dietitian – Nutritionist, MSc