Following a Plant-Based Diet, Part 2

Carrying on from Part 1, we'll be covering omega 3; zinc; and iodine. The additional final blog on soy is available here

Omega 3  

When we usually think of omega 3s we think of oily fish. However, you can get your omega 3 through plant-based sources.  

There are 3 main types of omega 3: 

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) 
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) 
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) 

ALA is an essential fatty acid (which means we have to get it through our diet) and is found in plant-based sources. It is then converted into the long chain EPA and DHA (which comes from marine oils).  

Sources of omega 3 include: 

  • Walnuts 
  • Chia seeds 
  • Flax seeds 
  • Soy beans 
  • Sacha inchi oil - half a tablespoon of sacha inchi oil gives you 3.36g of omega 3 ALA. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommend that we get 2-3g of ALA a day to support health.  

It is important to make sure that you are consuming some omega 3 every day in your diet. This is achievable and helps with maintaining your health. When eating your omega 3s, you should try and make sure that you don’t have a high intake of omega 6 linoleic acid (LA), as this interferes with the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA. Omega 6 is commonly found in sunflower oil, safflower oil and corn oil.  

Vegan salsa verde with roasted baby new potatoes, recipe here.


Zinc plays a role in supporting our immune system; wound healing; production of hormones; making new cells and enzymes; metabolism of protein, lipid, carbohydrate and energy; growth and tissue repair; and normal reproductive development and fertility.   

A well-planned plant-based diet can provide you with enough zinc and sources include:  

  • Tofu 
  • Wholegrains
  • Miso 
  • Legumes 
  • Nuts 
  • Seeds 
  • Fortified cereals
Plant-based sources of zinc usually have a lower absorption availability due to many having phytates in them which bind to zinc and prevent our body from absorbing them. Phytates are found within wholegrains, quinoa, nuts, seeds and legumes.  

Some ways to increase the availability of zinc is to eat fermented soy and soak dried beans and rinse them before using. It appears that our body adapts to lower zinc intake, by increasing the amount that we absorb and retain.  

Recommendation for the amount of zinc we need varies. Between 19-64 years, males need 9.5mg/d, and females 7mg/day.  

Deficiency can lead to infections, poor wound healing, hair loss, and lethargy – it is important to note that zinc in high doses can have a negative consequence, so do not take a supplement unless recommended by a healthcare professional.  

Spicy turmeric and paprika chickpeas, recipe here. 


Iodine is commonly forgotten about when it comes to plant-based diets. It mainly comes from seafood and dairy and there is sometimes iodine in plants, however this is dependent on the iodine content found within the soil. Plants which are grown closer to the ocean will more likely have a higher iodine level than plants grown inland.  

Iodine’s functions include that it forms part of thyroid hormones T3 (triiodothyronine), and T4 (thyroxine), and these help to regulate growth, basal metabolism, cellular metabolism, and it is also required for nervous system and brain development in foetuses and is therefore vital in pregnancy.  

Recently we have seen an increase in the number of school girls and pregnant women found to be deficient in iodine. Iodine deficiency has a number of health implications, and your body has to work harder to maintain thyroid hormones. Deficiency can lead to low levels.  

In pregnancy iodine deficiency can impact foetal growth and development, including their brain, and this can lead to impaired mental function and motor function. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of preventable mental impairment worldwide.  

As mentioned above, there are some difficulties determining the amount of iodine found within plants, as this can vary depending on the soil it is grown in. Seaweed and kelp are a source of iodine; however, they are not recommended as sometimes the iodine content can be too high or vary more than what is stated.  

In excess amount iodine can cause thyroid problems. If you have a thyroid disease, or taking medication, or have an iodine deficiency you should always talk to your GP before increasing your iodine intake.  


Click here for Part 1 of plant-based diets, or here for the blog on soy.


Other blogs you might be interested in:

Daisy, MSc PGDip ANutr, is a Registered Associate Nutritionist with a Master's Degree in Public Health Nutrition, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Eating Disorders and Clinical Nutrition, both of which are Association for Nutrition (AFN) accredited. She, also, has a BSc degree in Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience; and has completed an AFN accredited Diet Specialist Nutrition course.

Daisy has worked for an NHS funded project, the Diabetes Prevention Programme; and shadowed a nutritionist in Harley Street. 

About Lucy Bee Limited

Any information provided by us is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. We always recommend referring your health queries to a qualified medical practitioner.

Lucy Bee is a lifestyle brand selling food, skincare and soap products all completely free from palm oil and with minimal use of plastic. Lucy Bee is concerned with Fair Trade, organic, ethical and sustainable living, recycling and empowering people to make informed choices and select quality, natural products for their food and their skin.

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