One common concern about vegan diets is whether they provide your body with all the vitamins and minerals it needs. Theoretically, one CAN get all the nutrition they need from plants. Is this always possible in today’s world? Not so much.
With the amount of pollution, toxicity, and erosion of soils, our whole system (including our bodies) does not function optimally. This means a lot of us are faced with hormonal imbalances, nutrient malabsorption, and even plant-based foods may not be as rich in nutrients as they used to be just 50 years ago.
This is why, despite meaning well, the advice to solely survive on whole foods may do more harm than good.
Each individual organism functions differently, this is why it is important to observe your body and make the necessary changes. Here are
4 Supplements To Most Definitely Consider On A Vegan Diet
1. Vitamin B12
Even omnivores are nowadays advised to take a B12 supplement.
B12 deficiency is far more common than most health care practitioners and the general public realize. Data from the Tufts University Framingham Offspring Study suggest that 40 percent of people between the ages of 26 and 83 have plasma B12 levels in the low normal range – a range at which many experience neurological symptoms. Most surprising to the researchers was the fact that low B12 levels were as common in younger people as they were in the elderly.
Vitamin B12 is important for many bodily processes, including protein metabolism and the formation of oxygen-transporting red blood cells. It also plays a crucial role in the health of your nervous system.
Too little vitamin B12 can lead to anemia and nervous system damage, as well as infertility, bone disease and heart disease.
The daily recommended intake is 2.4 mcg per day for adults, 2.6 mcg per day during pregnancy and 2.8 mcg per day while breastfeeding.
The only scientifically proven way for vegans to reach these levels is by consuming B12-fortified foods or taking a vitamin B12 supplement. B12-fortified foods commonly include plant milks, soy products, breakfast cereals and nutritional yeast.
It’s important to keep in mind that vitamin B12 is best absorbed in small doses. Thus, the less frequently you ingest vitamin B12, the more you need to take.
Interestingly, your ability to absorb vitamin B12 decreases with age. Therefore, the Institute of Medicine recommends that everyone over the age of 51 — vegan or not — consider fortified foods or a vitamin B12 supplement.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is a problem among vegans and omnivores alike.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps enhance the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from your gut.
This vitamin also influences many other bodily processes, including immune function, mood, memory and muscle recovery.
The RDA for vitamin D for children and adults is 600 IU (15 mcg) per day. The elderly, as well as pregnant or lactating women, should aim for 800 IU (20 mcg) per day.
That said, there is some evidence that your daily requirements are actually far greater than the current RDA.
Unfortunately, very few foods naturally contain vitamin D, and foods fortified with vitamin D are often considered insufficient to satisfy the daily requirements.
Furthermore, because of the known negative effects of excess UV radiation, many dermatologists warn against using sun exposure to boost vitamin D levels.
The best way vegans can ensure they’re getting enough vitamin D is to have their blood levels tested. Those unable to get enough from fortified foods and sunshine should consider taking a daily vitamin D2 or vegan vitamin D3 supplement.
3. Long-Chain Omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids can be split into two categories:
Essential omega-3 fatty acids: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the only essential omega-3 fatty acid, meaning you can only get it from your diet.
Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids: This category includes eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). They are not technically considered essential because your body can make them from ALA.
Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids play a structural role in your brain and eyes. Adequate dietary levels also seem important for brain development and preventing inflammation, depression, breast cancer and ADHD (31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36).
Plants with a high ALA content include flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds and soybeans.
Getting enough ALA should theoretically maintain adequate EPA and DHA levels. However, studies report that the conversion of ALA to EPA may be as low as 5%, whereas conversion to DHA may be near 0% (37, 38).
Additionally, research consistently shows that vegetarians and vegans have up to 50% lower blood and tissue concentrations of EPA and DHA than omnivores (39).
While no official RDA exists, most health professionals agree that 200–300 mg of a supplement containing EPA and DHA per day should be sufficient (39).
Vegans can reach this recommended intake through an algae oil supplement.
Minimizing your intake of omega-6 fatty acids from oils such as corn, soy, safflower, sunflower and sesame, as well as making sure to eat enough ALA-rich foods, may further help maximize EPA and DHA levels (40).
Getting enough iodine is crucial for healthy thyroid function, which controls your metabolism.
An iodine deficiency during pregnancy and early infancy can result in irreversible mental retardation (41).
In adults, insufficient iodine intake can lead to hypothyroidism.
This can cause symptoms such as low energy levels, dry skin, tingling in hands and feet, forgetfulness, depression and weight gain (41).
The RDA for adults is 150 mcg of iodine per day. Pregnant women should aim for 220 mcg per day, and those breastfeeding are recommended to further increase their daily intake to 290 mcg per day (44).
Iodine levels in plant foods depend on the iodine content of the soil. For instance, food grown close to the ocean tends to be higher in iodine.
Vegans who do not want to consume iodized salt or fail to eat seaweed several times per week should consider taking an iodine supplement.