If you stick to a vegan diet, there are vitamins and supplements you may want to keep an eye on, though many people think supplementation is unnecessary since you are eating a whole-food, plant-based diet. Don’t be fooled. Everyone is different and we all have different levels of nutrients in our bodies that we should remain in tune with. Taking too much of a certain supplement can be dangerous to each one of us, vegan or not, so please contact a licensed physician before taking any.
Thanks to Healthline, we are able to list some of the most important nutrients for vegans. Here they are:
Perhaps the most concerning mineral in vegans, iron can be found in two forms: heme and non-heme. Heme iron is only available in animal products, while non-heme iron comes from plants. Since heme iron is more easily absorbed than non-heme, vegans are usually recommended to aim for 1.8 times the typical RDA. It is best for vegans with low iron levels to try and eat more iron-rich foods, such as nuts and seeds, cruciferous vegetables, and dried fruits. Let’s remember that high levels of iron CAN cause convulsions and organ failure, among other life-threatening effects (healthline). That’s why it is not only important to consult with a doctor, but to make sure you need iron supplementation.
A fat-soluble vitamin, Vitamin D helps boost the absorption of phosphorus and calcium from the gut. It also works to keep many other processes functioning properly, including mood, immunity, and muscle recovery (healthline). But did you know that a very limited number of foods naturally contains Vitamin D, and foods fortified with Vitamin D are typically insufficient. This could be why so many people, both vegans and meat-eaters, are deficient in Vitamin D. The best way to ensure you are getting enough is to have your blood levels tested.
Long Chain Omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids can be split into two categories: Essential omega-3 fatty acids and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Long-chain omega-3s are vital for optimal brain and eye health, preventing inflammation, depression, and ADHD (healthline). Studies consistently show that vegetarians AND vegans have up to 50% lower blood and tissue concentrations of EPA and DHA than omnivores. However, the recommended EPA and DHA per day can be obtained through supplementation of the two.
A mineral used for metabolism, immune function and cell repair, zinc is an intrinsic part of our overall health. Few plant foods contain zinc, and zinc absorption from these foods is limited due to their phytate (antioxidant compounds) content. This is why vegetarians are encouraged to aim for 1.5 times the RDA of 8-9 mg a day for adults. Recent research shows that vegetarians—and especially vegans—have lower zinc intakes and somewhat lower blood zinc levels than omnivores. To optimize zinc intake, it is advised to eat a plethora of zinc-rich foods throughout the day. That means grains, legumes, seeds, and sprouted breads. If you are vegan and your levels are low, zinc supplementation is a great option. A daily zinc gluconate or zinc citrate supplement could provide 50-100% of the RDA (healthline).
Another very necessary mineral, calcium is crucial to our bones, teeth, muscles, and heart health. It is no surprise that vegans typically do not consume as much calcium as they should, since many sources include foods such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. What we may not realize is that plant sources of calcium DO exist: Bok choy, kale, watercress, chickpeas (hello hummus), broccoli, and turnip greens. While more research is needed to determine how meatless diets affect daily calcium requirements, there is indeed evidence that vegans consuming less than 535 mg of calcium are disposed to an increased risk of bone fractures (healthine). Again, supplementation can help, especially if the RDA cannot be reached through food alone.
Iodine plays a major role in thyroid health because it controls metabolism. Symptoms of iodine deficiency may include low energy levels, tingling in hands and feet, weight gain, and forgetfulness. Vegans are considered at risk of this deficiency and studies report that they have up to 50% lower blood iodine levels than vegetarians. The only foods that consistently have high iodine levels include seafood, iodized salt, seaweed, and dairy products. Vegans may not want to eat seaweed several times a week—a perfect reason to consider taking an iodine supplement.
Vitamin B12 is key to oxygen-transporting red blood cells and nervous system health. Inadequate Vitamin B12 can yield anemia and damage to the nervous system. Though anyone can have low Vitamin B12 levels, vegetarians and vegans have a higher risk of deficiency. Research shows that this is especially true for vegans who are not taking any supplements (healthline). Here’s a fun but important fact to know: high intakes of seaweed, Vitamin B6, or folic acid may falsely inflate markers of B12. That’s why it is extremely important for a licensed physician to evaluate your methylmalonic acid status instead.
Taking the Leap
Now, even if you aren’t a vegan, there are plenty looking for the right supplement that meets their dietary requirements. YOU can provide that supplement! And we can help. Call Makers Nutrition at 1-844-625-3771 or request a quote at makersnutrition.com today!