Plants contain a complete spectrum of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that the human body can use and yes, you can get all the nutrients your body needs from them. While there’s no arguing the health benefits of eating more plants, it’s important to focus on three individual nutrients that should be included in your plant-based diet, zinc, iron, and vitamin B12.
Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in immune function, wound healing, protein synthesis, and cellular metabolism. Zinc is required for growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence. It has anti-inflammatory properties that may help people with acne, rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis, and it can help heal wounds. Our bodies don’t have a way to store zinc, so we need zinc on a daily basis for optimum health. Fish, shellfish, poultry, meat, and dairy all contain zinc, as do many whole grains and legumes, along with certain fortified foods.
Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, a red blood cell protein that transfers oxygen from the lungs to each cell throughout the body. Without enough iron in our hemoglobin, we feel tired and fatigued. Iron supports muscle metabolism and healthy connective tissue and is also necessary for physical growth, neurological development, cellular functioning, and synthesis of some hormones. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world. Iron is stored in the body as ferritin in the liver, spleen, muscle tissue, and bone marrow.
Vitamin B12 is required for the development, myelination, and function of the central nervous system, healthy red blood cell formation, and DNA synthesis. B12 is the only vitamin that is only naturally available in animal products. Many breakfast cereals and nutritional yeast are fortified with B12. Unlike most other vitamins, B12 is stored in substantial amounts, mainly in the liver, until it is needed by the body. If a person stops consuming B12, it takes about 3 to 5 years to deplete B12 stores in the body. Over time, B12 deficiency can lead to irreversible nerve damage.
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