When following a vegan or vegetarian diet, there are some nutrients that are more difficult for the body to absorb when they come from plant-based foods. Here are some tips from our d.velop™ Registered Dietitian coaches to optimize nutrient absorption when consuming a plant-based diet.
Iron and Vitamin C
The body absorbs iron best from animal-based foods, such as meat and fish. However, for vegetarians and vegans to get the benefits of ironit is important to pair iron rich plant-based foods with a source of Vitamin C to help enhance absorption. Plant based iron rich foods include beans, spinach, and grains that are fortified with iron such as bread and cereal. Examples of Vitamin C rich foods are citrus fruits, strawberries and bell peppers. Enjoy black bean tacos with diced peppers for a perfect pairing.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Vitamin D aids the absorption of calcium in the body. Plant-based calcium-rich food include tofu, edamame, beans, dark leafy greens and chia seeds. Vitamin D is more difficult to obtain through diet so taking d.velop™ Vitamin D is a great way to support calcium absorption.
Fat Loving Vitamins
Vitamin A, D, E and K are known as fat soluble vitamins. These vitamins are stored in the body’s fat tissue and are best absorbed in the presence of fat. If you are taking these vitamins in supplement form, including d.velop™ Vitamin D, plan to take it alongside a meal. For best results, incorporate a source of healthy fat like avocado, olive oil, or nuts.
Protein increases the absorption of zinc. Foods such as legumes and nuts are ideal choices as they are high in both protein and zinc. Garlic and onion have also been found to significantly increase the bioavailability (improve the way our body uses the nutrient) of zinc in grains, such as quinoa and brown rice (Strombom, 2019).
Since Vitamin B12 only naturally comes from animal products, it can be difficult to ensure you are getting enough on a vegan or vegetarian diet. If you are vegetarian and eat dairy and eggs regularly you may be able to get an adequate amount of B12. There are foods that are fortified with B12 including some soy products and nut milks. If you are following a vegan diet, you likely need to take a daily B12 supplement.
Emma Donnelly, RDN, LDN
Dawson-Hughes B;Harris SS;Lichtenstein AH;Dolnikowski G;Palermo NJ;Rasmussen H; B, Harris SS, Lichtenstein AH, Dolnikowski G, Palermo NJ, Rasmussen H. Dietary fat increases vitamin D-3 absorption. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25441954/. Published February 2015. Accessed August 6, 2021.
Strombom AJ. Ensuring Adequate Zinc Status in Vegans and Vegetarians. Advanced Research in Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 2019;14(3). doi:10.19080/argh.2019.14.555887