7 Nutrients You Can't Get from Plants

As plant-based diets become more popular, concerns arise regarding whether they contain all the nutrients our bodies need. Many vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are found in plants, while a handful are mostly found in animal products. Let's look at seven nutrients that are hard to get from plants.


1. Vitamin B12

This vitamin is needed for neuron function, DNA synthesis, and red blood cell development. Natural B12 sources are mostly animal-derived, however certain plant-based meals are fortified. Vegans should try to get enough B12 from supplements or fortified foods like nutritional yeast.

2. Creatine

Mostly found in animal muscle tissue, creatine is essential for energy synthesis, especially during severe bursts. Since the body produces little creatine, plant-based athletes supplement with creatine monohydrate to support muscle function.

3. Vitamin D3

While vitamin D2, found in mushrooms and other plant-based meals, can be converted to D3, it is not as efficient as getting D3 from animal sources such fatty fish and egg yolks. Vitamin D is essential for bone, immunological, and general health.

4. Heme Iron

Iron can be heme or non-heme. Red meat, poultry, and fish contain heme iron, which the body absorbs better than beans and spinach. Iron is needed for energy and oxygen transport.

5. EPA/DHA Omega-3s

Flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), but the body inefficiently converts it into EPA and DHA, which are essential for brain, heart, and inflammatory health. Cold-water fatty fish like salmon and mackerel are high in EPA and DHA.

6. Zinc

Phytates in legumes, nuts, and seeds make zinc less bioavailable. Zinc is more easily absorbed from red meat and shellfish. Immune function, wound healing, and metabolism require zinc.

7. Choline

Choline, found mostly in eggs, beef, and dairy, is essential for brain, liver, and foetal development. Choline is found in some plant foods like cruciferous vegetables, but getting enough from these might be difficult.

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