The vegan diet is becoming increasingly popular. Veganism has seen a 600% global increase since 2014. Especially amongst millennials and those conscious of what they are putting into their bodies.
A vegan diet is a plant based diet which eliminates the consumption and use of all animal produce.
Due to lack of animal produce, the vegan diet can lack in essential vitamins. This can cause an individual to have a vitamin deficiency. The easiest and most efficient way of combating this is with supplements.
You may be wondering what exactly the vegan diet entails and why supplements are necessary. Today, we will be covering all of the essentials vitamins, minerals and nutrients a vegan diet may lack and which supplements to take to prevent deficiencies.
To follow is a list of the 10 best supplements you can take whilst being on the vegan diet:
A List of the 10 Supplements you need on a Vegan Diet
Although a vegan diet is highly nutritious, it sometimes lacks certain essential vitamins. To combat nutrient and vitamin deficiencies, vegans can benefit from taking certain supplements that they may lack. The top 10 supplements the vegan diet can benefit from include:
1- Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is one of the crucial vitamins the vegan diet misses out on. This particular B vitamin is primarily found in animal products. As the vegan diet eliminates all animal produce, it eliminates the easy access to vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 is a vitamin that helps manage and maintain many essential bodily functions. It can improve and increase healthy red blood cells, support the nervous system, increase fertility and metabolise proteins. Without this vitamin, these bodily functions can deteriorate and cause health issues.
Thus, it is important to ensure you have enough vitamin B12 in your diet. Especially for those that are vegan and can lack in this vitamin.
Studies show that vegans have dramatically lower vitamin B12 in their blood than consumers of animal produce. The study suggests taking a vitamin B12 supplement can easily increase levels.
Aside from supplements, there are other ways vegans can add vitamin B12 into their diet. Studies reveal that consumption of the following foods can improve vitamin B12 levels:
- Nori seaweed
- Nutritional yeast
- Soy products – tofu, beans and milk
- Breakfast cereals
The only way for vegans to reach the recommended daily intake of vitamin B12 of 2.4 mcg is to take supplements and add these foods into their daily diet.
2 – Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fairly scarce source when it comes to food options. Hence, vegans can struggle to meet the daily vitamin D intake requirements.
It is an essential vitamin that typically promotes easy absorption of calcium and phosphorus. Studies reveal that vitamin D can inhibit many health conditions from cancers to autoimmune diseases. It is a vitamin that expresses health amongst numerous parts of the body. Thus, without it the body can suffer and develop health issues.
Other vital functions of vitamin D include:
- Improving mood
- Helping with memory
- Maintaining healthy immune functioning
- Speeds up muscle recovery
Vitamin D typically comes from foods such as oily fish, eggs, red meats and fat spreads. All of which are prohibited on the vegan diet.
Other ways to increase vitamin D is with sun exposure. But, this is often heavily not recommended due to skin damage and negative effects of regular UV exposure.
Thus, taking a vitamin D supplement can greatly benefit vegans. Vitamin D is also promoted as a fortified vitamin in many plant based milks.
To check your vitamin D level, you can get a reading from a doctor. Healthy levels measure at 30 mg/dL or more. If your reading is below that, vegan or not, it is important and essential to take supplements to improve the reading. Not only will it benefit your mood, memory and muscle repair but healthy levels of vitamin D can inhibit the development of health conditions.
3 – Iron
Anemia is a common problem for vegan diets. This is simply an iron deficiency. Iron is a key vitamin for healthy functioning of red blood cells, which helps carry oxygen through the blood. Studies conclude that iron is also essential for energy absorption and metabolism.
Iron rich foods are categorised into two groups. One being heme, which comes from animal produce such as meat. Heme iron is easier to digest and contains a high concentration of iron. The second group is non heme which is derived from plants.
Plant based/non heme sources that are rich in iron include:
- Nuts – pistachios, brazil, almonds and cashews
- Legumes – beans, pea and lentils
- Whole grains – oatmeal, barley, rice, buckwheat and bulgar
- Dark leafy vegetables – spinach, kale, swiss chard and collard greens
- Dried fruits – peaches, prunes, currants, raisins and pears
- Seeds – pumpkin, flaxseed, sesame and hemp
Whilst these foods can maintain adequate levels of iron for vegans, studies show that some may still develop a deficiency. Taking an iron supplement can combat and prevent a deficiency to help maintain healthy functioning of cells.
Consuming too much iron can cause other medical issues. For an iron level reading, consult your doctor. From the reading, they will suggest whether or not an iron supplement is necessary.
4 – Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3’s are essential fatty acids that derive from a variety of foods. There are two types of omega-3’s. The first are essential omega-3 fatty acids which you can only get from your diet. These foods are known as ALA’s and can be easily consumed by vegans as they are from plant based food sources such as seeds and soybeans.
However, the second type of omega-3 are long chain omega-3 fatty acids, which vegans can easily lack. There are two forms of long chain fatty acids, EPA and DHA. Although these are not essential, they are found to be crucial for brain and cardiovascular health. Long chain omega-3’s can reduce the risk of many diseases from cancers and inflammation to mental disorders. EPA and DHA are most often derived from fatty fish and their oils. Hence, they are not vegan friendly.
Long chain omega-3’s can be maintained through adequate amounts of ALA. But not for all vegans. Research has discovered that vegans typically have 50% less long chain fatty acids in their blood than non-vegans. Thus, taking long chain omega-3 fatty acid supplements can improve this quantity and promote good health and disease prevention.
5 – Iodine
Iodine is a vitamin which is often hard to maintain if your diet eliminates animal produce. This is due to foods high in iodine being grown on farms or in the ocean. These include fish, dairy products and salts.
As vegans lack these foods, they can easily become iodine deficient. Iodine is crucial for thyroid metabolism and can prevent hyperthyroidism. This is an issue that can cause issues for pregnant women and from that, can stunt infants growth. In rare cases, it can cause infant disability. Studies found that symptoms of hyperthyroidism are commonly fatigue, dry skin, weight gain and depression.
To prevent becoming iodine deficient, it is recommended for vegans to take supplements daily. Iodine can be consumed from seaweed in high quantities. Or, fortified foods can be iodized, but are more often than not very unhealthy. So, if you do not wish to consume seaweed or fortified foods daily, supplements are the best option.
6 – Calcium
The calcium vitamin plays an important role in bone health. It can also improve the health of the muscles, teeth, heart and nerves. Without it, these body parts can suffer and be at risk of disease.
Calcium rich foods are typically meat and dairy. For vegans, plant based options can provide a decent amount of calcium. But, not as adequate as animal products. Plant based sources of calcium include:
- Mustard greens
- Bok choy
- Calcium set tofu
- Fortified milks
The recommended daily intake of calcium is 1,000mg. Research suggests that individuals who consume less than 500mg of calcium daily can have a high risk of bone fracture. If a vegan finds they are lacking in calcium, eating plant based sources and taking supplements is advised.
7 – Zinc
Zinc plays an important role in the body. It is a mineral which acts as a stimulant for over 100 enzymes in the body. It can improve immune function, metabolism and gene regulation. As well as that, zinc can combat chronic disease and inflammation.
With there being very few plant food sources being rich in zinc, it is highly recommended to take daily supplements.
Plant based zinc food sources include whole grains, tofu, legumes, seeds and nuts. These foods can increase zinc intake but may not help a vegan reach the daily average intake. The average intake of zinc is 8 to 11 mg. Studies reveal that non-omnivores have a considerably lower zinc reading than omnivores. So, a daily supplement to meet the daily requirement is advised.
8 – Vitamin K2
There are two types of vitamin K that the body needs for healthy functioning. Vitamin K1 is found in dark leafy green, which is appropriate for the plant based diet. Vitamin K2 can be found in some plant based sources such as fermented soy and vegetables dishes. But, vitamin K2 is typically found in dairy products and egg yolks, which is prohibited from the vegan diet.
Both forms of vitamin K are essential for managing and digesting calcium. Those that lack in this crucial vitamin may have issues with bone density.
With there being very few vitamin K2 enriched plant based foods, supplements are an ideal method of increasing daily intake.
9 – Selenium
Selenium is a mineral that helps protect the body from neurodegenerative disorders and cardiovascular diseases. It is very rarely found in plant foods due to soil depletion. Selenium rich foods include red meats, poultry, fish and eggs. Therefore, it can be difficult for the vegan diet to acquire selenium.
The highest selenium plant based food is brazil nuts. Thus, unless you wish to consume brazil nuts with most meals, supplements are an easy way to maintain healthy levels of selenium.
10 – Magnesium
The magnesium mineral can be easily lacked in the vegan diet. Again, due to soil depletion. It is essential to have good levels of magnesium as it helps with iodine absorption, muscle and nerve regulation. If you plan to take iodine supplements it would be beneficial to take magnesium to.
Foods rich in magnesium include non-vegan friendly options such as dairy foods and meat.
But, there are a few plant based options that are vegan friendly such as nuts, brown rice, leafy greens and whole grain.
If you wish to maintain healthy magnesium levels, consuming these foods daily alongside supplements will be highly beneficial.
With those supplements and knowledge in mind, you may have some more concerns. Below are the answers to the most frequently asked questions on this topic:
What nutrients do vegans lack?
The most common nutrients vegans can lack are protein and essential vitamins, due to lack of animal produce. Protein rich foods are traditionally meat, fish, eggs and dairy products.
Vitamin deficiencies that are of most concern for vegans include vitamin B12, calcium, iron and zinc. All of which can be improved with the use of daily supplements.
How much B12 should a vegan take?
Vitamin B12 is the most commonly lacked vitamin in the vegan diet. Supplements can combat this issue. It is recommended for a vegan to take a daily supplement of 250 mcg.
How do vegans gain muscle?
Vegans gain muscle the same way any other individual does, through protein intake. The vegan diet can lack protein and muscle gaining vitamins. This can be resolved through the use of supplements and vegan protein powders to fuel and grow muscle mass.
There are many plant based protein sources such as tofu, legumes, nuts, seeds and nutritional yeast.
Which fruit is rich in vitamin B12?
Plant foods are not commonly rich in vitamin B12. Typical plant based sources for this vitamin do not include fruits. Instead, the best options are cereals, plant based milks and rice.
Can you be a vegan without taking supplements?
With the right planning of meals, nutrition and animal substitutes, the vegan diet can be successful. Missing out on essential nutrients can be easy for a vegan. Thus, the individual must have good knowledge and plans for ensuring they are not deficient in any key nutrients.
What do vegans lack from not eating meat?
The most common nutrients for a vegan to lack due to not eating meat are iron, calcium and vitamin B12. This is because these vitamins are often highly concentrated in animal produce, especially meat.
Do vegans get enough magnesium?
Foods that are rich in magnesium include meat, eggs and dairy. Thus, a vegan can often lack magnesium.
Plant based options include rice and whole grains. But, supplements are often advised to keep up with the required daily intake of magnesium.
Is there a multivitamin for vegans?
There are many multivitamins that are vegan suited. A well planned vegan diet should not need a multivitamin, instead individual supplements focused on certain nutrients are advised. But, multivitamins are a great way to boost many nutrients and essential vitamins at once.
Is the vegan diet really healthy?
The vegan diet is as healthy as each individual makes it. There are numerous health benefits of the vegan diet, which outweigh the cons of the diet.
Most plant based options are very healthy and highly nutritious. The vegan diet consists of many plant based foods that are rich in fibre, low in fat and calories. All of which demonstrate a healthy balanced diet.
Also, research reveals that vegans live longer than omnivores. Hence, with the right meal planning and/or supplementation, the vegan diet proves to be very beneficial.
Now that we’ve covered the top 10 supplement for the vegan diet, let us share our conclusive thoughts:
Thought out vegan diets can be nutritionally fulfilling and meet all requirements. Meal planning to ensure you are getting a sufficient amount of each nutrient is advised in order to prevent deficiencies.
Certain nutrients are crucial for maintaining good health and preventing diseases. To avoid any health issues, always keep your nutrient intake in order. Regular nutrient readings are a good way of checking your vitamin and mineral levels.
Supplements are the best and easiest way for a vegan to keep up with daily requirements and staying healthy.
If you have any more concerns or comments, please leave them with us.