What Supplements Should Vegans Take?
Increased exposure on healthy, environmentally friendly diets over the past few years have made vegan and vegetarian diets a preferred choice for many. But there are still concerns about whether they provide all the nutrients that our body needs. The conversation on whether to take vegan supplements or not is not a new topic among the vegan community.
Many claim that plant-based diets provide all the nutrients you need, but research has shown that supplementation in certain areas is still recommended for the healthy functioning of our bodies.
Below are 7 nutrients that you may need to supplement with while on a vegan diet.
Vitamin B12 is one of the most difficult nutrients to obtain from a vegan diet as it is mostly found in animal products such as meat, dairy and fish. We absorb vitamin B12 differently, meaning it is still possible to find people who eat meat with a vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is crucial in our diet, as it plays an essential role in major body functions such as the formation of red blood cells, neurological functions and DNA synthesis.
Lack of enough vitamin B12 can cause anemia, damage to the nervous system, infertility, bone disease and heart disease.
The most effective way for vegans to reach their daily B12 intake levels is by consuming more B12 fortified foods or by taking vitamin B12 supplements. Common B12 fortified foods include nutritional yeast, breakfast cereals and plant milk. There are claims that some plants such as nori are rich in B12, but it is not yet agreed on whether this provides a sufficient amount of B12 on its own.
Recommended Supplement: Vegan Vitality Multivitamins & Minerals with High B12, D3 & K2
Vegan Omega 3
Omega 3 has a range of benefits including contributing to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels, brain development, eye function and functioning of the heart.
There are three types of omega 3 fatty acids, namely alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
The vegan diet usually contains enough ALA, which can be found in plant oils such as canola oils, flax, chia seeds and soybean.
DHA and EPA is difficult to obtain naturally for vegans as its generally only found in microalgae, fish, fish oils and krill oils. DHA is of particular importance due to its link with maintaining normal brain, eye and heart functioning.
The easiest way for vegans to get enough DHA is by consuming algae oil supplements and concentrates.
Our bodies need vitamin D to support the absorption of other micronutrients like magnesium, calcium and phosphate. This means that a person with a vitamin D deficiency will most probably also have a deficiency for several other vital micronutrients. Apart from promoting the absorption of other nutrients, vitamin D also helps in regulating our mood and improving the immune system.
Our bodies can make enough vitamin D through exposure to sunlight, however this is not always possible. Wearing sunscreen in particular reduces the production of vitamin D, and many people live in areas with little or no sunshine.
Vegan food sources of vitamin D include fortified cereals and some types of mushroom. However, most food sources do not contain enough vitamin D to meet your requirements. Therefore both omnivores and vegans can often benefit from taking a vitamin D supplement.
Zinc is crucial for our immune function, metabolism and the repair of cells. Some of the effects of zinc deficiency are hair loss, delayed wound healing and diarrhoea. Zinc deficiency can be common with vegans and vegetarians as there are few plant sources of zinc. In addition, zinc absorption from some plant foods is limited due to their phytate content.
Vegans can maximize their zinc intake by consuming zinc-rich foods throughout the day. Examples of zinc-rich foods are whole grains, tofu, sprouted bread, wheat germ, nuts and seeds, plus fermented foods like Miso and tempeh. Absorption rates of zinc from nuts and legumes are higher if you soak them overnight. Vegans who feel that their zinc absorption is not at its optimum or those showing zinc deficiency symptoms should consider supplements containing zinc.
Vegan Vitality Vegan Collagen Complex
Vegan Vitality Multivitamins & Minerals with High B12, D3 & K2
There are two types of vitamin K – K1 and K2. Vitamin K1 is mainly found in leafy green and other vegetables, while vitamin K2 is mainly present in animal-based foods such as dairy products and egg yolks.
Vitamin K2 is crucial in enabling our bodies to manage calcium properly. Management of calcium means moving it away from the soft tissues of the body like the brain and heart and moving it where needed in bones and teeth.
Vegans can get K2 from consuming fermented foods like unpasteurized Kombucha, raw sauerkraut, kimchi and plant-based kefir.
Our bodies can convert the vitamin K1 into K2. However, as our bodies age, there is a reduction in vitamin K2 production, so it is sometimes recommended that adult vegans take a vitamin K2 supplement.
Iron is essential for energy metabolism, for the normal functioning of the immune system and in making new DNA and red blood cells, as well as carrying oxygen in the blood. Iron deficiency can cause anaemia and other symptoms, like decreased immunity and fatigue.
There are two types of iron sources (heme and non-heme). Heme iron is easier for the body to absorb but can only be found in animals based foods, while non-heme iron can be found in plants.
Vegans can boost their iron intake by eating more iron-rich foods like beans, vegetables, nuts, dried fruits and seeds. Another alternative is iron-fortified foods like cereals and enriched bread. Additionally, adding vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables will increase iron intake. Iron supplements can also be taken to provide an easy way to ensure your body with all the iron it needs.
We need calcium for good bone and teeth health, plus it also helps in other areas such as nerve signalling, muscle function and heart health.
Calcium levels are sometimes lower in vegans compared to vegetarians and omnivores. Vegans can get their calcium from dark, leafy greens like mustard greens, grains, and legumes like chickpeas. There are also a huge number of calcium fortified foods now available to choose from, such as plant milks.
Iodine is a necessity for healthy thyroid function, which controls our body’s metabolism.
Insufficient iodine intake in adults can lead to hypothyroidism, which can cause symptoms such as low energy levels, depression, dry skin, and forgetfulness, tingling in hands and feet and weight gain.
Vegans are considered to be at a high risk of iodine deficiency, as studies have reported that vegans can have 50% lower iodine levels than vegetarians.
Vegans can get iodine from iodized salt and edible seaweeds such as sushi. Iodine supplements are also recommended.
A carefully planned vegan diet can fulfill all of your nutritional requirements. However there are certain nutrient levels that vegans may find difficult to achieve through diet and fortified foods alone.
Supplements offer a fast, convenient and cost effective way prevent deficiency in any of these areas.