What supplements do vegans need to take? This is the second question people ask regarding a plant based diet. The first question is where do you get your protein from?
Following an organic whole foods plant based diet, ideally you should not need to take any supplements . Your nutritional needs should be met from the nutrients contained in the a vegetables, grains and fruits that you are eating. This is possible if you have a balanced diet. However, we know that they are unhealthy vegans out there. Lots of people tend to replace animal products with highly processed vegan products or they just don’t have a varied and balanced diet.
My medical advice before you do anything is to check with your GP. Ask for blood tests that show your vitamin and mineral levels. Once you know where you stand then you can either try and add different foods to your diet or buy supplements.
This is probably the only vitamin that not only you as a vegan, but everyone should supplement.
Vitamin B12 is not made by animals and is not made by plants. It is made by microbes that are found in the earth. Because all of the chemicals that we use for the crops, all the bacteria are killed so we don’t get much B12 anymore. Therefore, not only people who eat a plant based diet should supplement, but also people who eat animal products.
Foods rich in vitamin B12 are organic produce, nutritional yeast, spirulina, fortified cereals and fortified plant milk.
The daily recommended intake is:
- 2.4 micrograms per day for adults
- 2.6 micrograms per day during pregnancy
- 2.8 micrograms per day while breastfeeding.
For vegans it is recommended they consume B12 fortified foods or take a supplement.
Please check your blood levels before you take any supplements.
Zinc has an important role in metabolism, in the repair of body cells as well as a role in our immune system function.
They are numerous plant-based sources of zinc. If you have a varied diet you should not worry.
Those sources are whole grains, soya products, beans, nuts, seeds and pulses. As you can see a balanced diet does not require any supplementation.
There are some concerns about the absorption of zinc. That’s why it is advised that vegans maximise their intake, eating a variety of zinc rich foods throughout the day .
Symptoms of zinc insufficiency are hair loss, delayed wound healing and diarrhoea.
if you are concerned about your zinc intake and you can’t eat nuts or seeds or beans or pulses or whole grains then you should consider taking a supplement.
Iron is used to make new DNA and red cells. It also carries oxygen in the blood and it is needed for energy and metabolism.
Too little iron can lead to anemia.
Plant sources that include iron are: dark leafy green vegetables, pulses, nuts, wholegrains and dried fruits. To Improve iron absorption add to your meals foods rich in vitamin C like orange and berries.
Once again, if you feel that your intake is not enough, please check your levels of hemoblobin and feritin before taking any supplements.
Unnecessary intake of supplements can do more harm than good. High levels of Iron can lead to convulsions, coma and organ failure.
This mineral is necessary for bones and teeth. Furthermore, it plays an important role in normal muscle function, nerve signalling and heart health.
Calcium is found in many vegetables and fruits. Once again, a varied diet will provide enough calcium for you.
You should add to your meals: bok-choy, kale, watercress, broccoli, chickpeas, fortified milks or tofu, sesame seeds, almonds, tahini. Calcium from plants is absorbed twice as well as calcium from milk. Even more, all those foods contain fibre, folate, iron and antioxidants which you can not find in animal milk.
Calcium from supplements, but not from whole food sources, appears to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and death.
We all know how important omega-3 is for our brain.
But where can you find it? Well, it is in chia seeds, walnuts, linseeds, hemp seeds.
It does seem that vegans have a lower level of omega-3 that meat eaters, especially fish eaters. However, when you eat fish you ingest quite a lot of mercury, plus the other possible long term effects of eating animals.
So, the advise from the professionals is to add to your diet one tablespoon of chia seeds per day and you will get enough omega-3.
Have a look at what the experts say!
Iodine is associated with a healthy thyroid function, which as you know, controls your metabolism.
Low iodine levels can lead to low energy levels, dry skin, tingling in hands and feet, depression and weight gain.
Sea weed is the best source of iodine for vegans. Sea weed inhibits human cancer cell growth and there are studies saying that it can help with liver cancer as well. However, sea weeds can contain too much iodine, so limit your intake to once a week. So, add some sushi to your diet once a week.
Also, salt can be found as iodized salt and you only need half a teaspoon per day to cover your needs.
Go out!!! Spend some time in the sun!!!
I refuse to talk about vitamin D and vegans because….well, sun is free for both meat eaters and vegans.
The topic regarding supplements for vegans is and will be researched for a while.
We are all different and our bodies are different. So, what works for me might not work for you. The take home message is that before you run and spend your money on supplements, please see a doctor and get a check up. If you are having a balanced whole foods plant based diet, you might be surprised to see perfect blood results.