Checking nutrient status

Author: 

Micaela Karlsen, MSPH

Question: 

Once you adopt a PBWF lifestyle, what is the best way to measure your progress to make sure you are not missing important nutrients?

Answer: 

The question of whether or not you are missing certain nutrients in the diet is a question many people have when eating a WFPB diet. It's difficult to predict exactly how much of any one nutrient you are ingesting on a given day, even if you know the supposed nutrient content of the food you are eating. Absorption and utilization vary so much depending on the body's needs and circumstances, as does the actual nutrient content of food. The nutrient most people are concerned about is Vitamin B12, which can be an issue for plant eaters and meat eaters alike. Staying in touch with your primary care provider is the best way to keep tabs on your nutrient levels. Many physicians may recommend, or perform at your request, a blood panel that measures the levels of a variety of nutrients in your body, including B12. Such tests can also measure your blood cholesterol and triglycerides, things you may want to keep track of anyway as they are also important markers of health. This is something that you can do yearly, or even every six months, and it is probably the most objective way to measure the adequacy of your intake.

In general, someone eating a whole food, plant-based diet is more likely to ingest nutrients in adequante quantity as compared to someone eating the Standard American Diet a diet that contains substantial amounts of processed foods. Eating for variety and color is good practice, and at the same time, getting feedback from your primary care provider by having bloodwork done is always a good idea.