Vegan And Broke

Supplements for Vegans

Introduction

Supplementing is essential to living a healthy and content life. It’s imperative that as vegans, we have regular blood tests to check that our diet contains enough nutrients.

 

Recently I had a rude awakening when I noticed that I was becoming very dizzy. After a trip to the A&E and a blood test, I became aware that I was very deficient in Vitamin B12. The whole experience inspired me to research the nutrients that vegans are likely to be deficient in. 

 

In this post we will go over of the top 7 recommended supplements for vegans, that we have discovered throughout our research.

 

We are not claiming to be medical professionals or dietitians but we intend for this post to be a starting point to help you understand the nutrients that are vital for your well being. This post will highlight the different supplements for vegans being recommended online. If you are concerned about your diet, reach out to a medical professional to see if you are deficient in any vital nutrient and how you can resolve the situation.

Vitamin b12

Vitamin B12 is one of the most commonly recommended supplements for vegans. Vitamin B12 is vital as it impacts bodily processes, protein metabolism, the formation of oxygen-transporting red blood cells and promotes a healthy nervous system. A lack of B12 can be detrimental to the nervous system and can affect fertility. It can also cause anaemia, bone and heart disease. You can obtain vitamin B12 by consuming more fortified foods like:

  • plant milks;
  • soy products;
  • breakfast cereals; and 
  • nutritional yeast.

[Healthline

If you are concerned with how much you are consuming as vegans are more at risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency, get advise from a healthcare professional on whether you are actually deficient and how you can improve your consumption [Mic the Vegan]. Some websites claim that B12 is a vital supplement for vegans, however, we recommend trying to fulfill the deficiency through diet. The body absorbs Vitamin B12 more efficiently in smaller amounts so it’s good to keep that in mind when supplementing [NoMeatAthlete].

Vitamin D

Vitamin D promotes immune functions, memory and muscle recovery. It also enhances the absorption of calcium, magnesium and phosphate [Myvegan]. You can naturally intake vitamin D from direct sunlight in between 11 am to 3 pm in the afternoon [NoMeatAthlete].  Exposing yourself to direct sunlight for extended periods of time can be detrimental to your skin health and can cause skin cancers [Healthline]. Make sure to wear a good SPF. Even if you get great exposure to sun, you might not be absorbing sufficient amount of vitamin D. Due to the inconsistency of sun exposure and factors such as location, vitamin D might be crucial supplements for vegans. Alternatively you can try consuming:

  • foods fortified with Vitamin D; and 
  • Mushrooms 

 [Healthline]

Long chain Omega-3s

Omega-3s are essential for the functioning of your brain and your eyes. It’s essential for brain development  [Healthline]. It aids in neurodevelopment in infants and children and prevents Alzhiemer’s disease, cystic fibrosis and dementia [MedicalNewsToday]. Doctors often recommend Omega-3s is an important supplement for vegans who are pregnant as it plays a part in the development of the fetus. A lack of Omega-3s can increase the risk of inflammation, depression, breast-cancer, and attention deficit hyperactivity. You can increase your intake of Omega-3 by consuming more 

  • flax seeds;
  • rapeseed oil; 
  • chia seeds;
  • walnuts;
  • hemp seed; and 
  • soy beans.
Omega-3 alternative supplements for vegans include
  • flaxseed oil; and
  • algae oil. 

Another concern is the ‘long chain omega 3 fatty acids’ called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Your body is able to convert ALA into EPA and DHA however the level of conversion is very low  [Healthline]. A deficiency in EPA and DHA can affect the function of the heart and blood pressure and can increase triglyceride levels [Whitney E. RD] [Myvegan]. Increased triglyceride levels can increase the risk of coronary artery disease and stroke [MedicalNewsToday]. By increasing your intake of ALA rich foods and decreasing your intake of corn oil, safflower, sunflower and sesame oils can maximise your EPA and DHA levels. 

 

Alternatively you can also take an algae oil or seaweed supplement [Healthline]. You may need to consume more than the recommended daily amount to ensure you are getting enough [NoMeatAthlete]. If you have a high risk of getting heart disease, cognitive impairment or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you will probably be asked by your medical professional to supplement Omega-3  [Whitney E. RD].

Iodine

Iodine promotes the healthy function of your metabolism. Iodine will be a important supplement for vegans for who are pregnant and children as a lack of iodine can cause intellectual disabilities. Lack of iodine can also cause hypothyroidism which can cause low energy, dry skin, tingling in hands and feet, forgetfulness, depression and weight gain. You can increase your intake by consuming more: 

  • seaweed;
  • iodized salt; and 
  • foods fortified with iodine. 

You can also take an iodine supplement to reach your intake [Healthline].

Iron

Iron supplements for vegans may not be as important as lots of whole foods contain sufficient amounts of iron. Iron is important for making new DNA and red blood cells that carry oxygen through your bloodstream and for metabolism. A lack of iron can cause anemia, fatigue and decreased immune functions. You can increase your iron by eating more 

  • watercress;
  • broccoli; 
  • spring greens;
  • whole grains;
  • beans;
  • peas; 
  • dried fruits; 
  • nuts;
  • seeds; and
  • fortified foods . 

Combining iron-rich foods with foods that are high in vitamin C will help boost your iron absorption. It is only necessary to supplement if it is absolutely necessary because elevated iron levels can also be detrimental and can cause organ failure and convulsions [Healthline].

Calcium

Calcium promotes bone and teeth health, muscle functioning, nerve signalling and heart health. Lack of calcium increases the risk of bone fractures. You can increase your calcium levels by consuming more 

  • bok choy;
  • kale; 
  • mustard greens;
  • turnip greens;
  • watercress;
  • broccoli; 
  • chickpeas; 
  • calcium-set tofu; 
  • almonds; 
  • sesame seeds (or tahini); 
  • dried fruit; 
  • pulses; 
  • brown wholemeal bread; 
  • kidney beans; and
  • fortified milk and juice. 

increase your iron by eating more 

  • watercress;
  • broccoli; 
  • spring greens;
  • whole grains;
  • beans;
  • peas; 
  • dried fruits; 
  • nuts;
  • seeds; and
  • fortified foods . 

Combining iron-rich foods with foods that are high in vitamin C will help boost your iron absorption. It is only necessary to supplement if it is absolutely necessary because elevated iron levels can also be detrimental and can cause organ failure and convulsions [Healthline].

Zinc

Zinc helps with your metabolism, immune function and repairing of body cells [Healthline]. It also contributes towards normal carbohydrates metabolism and the maintenance of vision [Holland and Barrett]. A lack of zinc causes developmental problems, hair loss, diarrhea and delay wound healing. To increase your zinc levels, you can increase your intake of:

  • whole grains;
  • wheat germ; 
  • soya; 
  • tofu;
  • sprouted bread;
  • legumes; 
  • nuts; and 
  • seed. 

Fermented foods like tempeh and miso can increase your absorption of zinc. Alternatively you can take a supplement to make sure that you are meeting your recommended daily amount [Healthline]. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, it’s vital that you take care of your health and assess any changes. Being deficient can have lasting and detrimental effects on your body in the long run. Work with a medical professional to understand how you can rectify any deficiencies and whether you will be requiring supplements. Every individual is different with different needs so it is important not to simply blanket supplements for yourself without a health professional assessing you.  

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