The Best Vegan Supplements Every Vegan Needs to Have
A recent study performed by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) in 2020 found that at least 5% of consumers follow a vegan diet. With all indications showing that this change away from the traditional diet is growing rather than slowing, there are some important aspects of the vegan diet that newcomers to the eating choices need to understand.
While some people choose the vegan diet because they are health-conscious or animal-friendly, others have turned to the lifestyle for medical reasons. Many doctors have been alarmed by the rise in heart and cardiovascular issues of late, and some have attributed it to the meat-heavy western diet. Many were turned on to the potential health benefits of a vegan diet by the highly popular documentary Forks Over Knives, which features doctors, pro athletes, organic farmers, and others who practice the vegan lifestyle.
No matter what reason people choose to change to a vegan diet, there is no getting around that there are certain vitamins and minerals that are extremely difficult to get without animal products or meats, and some are downright impossible. Thankfully there are vegan supplements available that can help ensure that people who choose to eat vegan can utilize them to keep their health and not encounter complications that may arise due to a lack of some essential vitamins and minerals.What Vegans Typically Need to Supplement
The vegan diet can do wonders for your health, which is one reason that it has become so popular. A vegan diet is far higher in fiber than the traditional western diet and offers plenty of other health benefits.
A vegan diet has been shown to offer advantages to people who have the following health issues:
- Obesity or overweight
- Heart or cardiovascular disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Colon cancer
- Prostate cancer
Cutting down or eliminating meat and animal products reduces the intake of saturated fats significantly, which has been shown to be directly linked to weight loss, lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and can reduce one’s risk of heart disease overall.
There are some elements that are required by the human body, however, that are often plentiful or only available in animal products, such as Vitamin B12. Unfortunately, there are many out there who tell would-be vegan practitioners that a vegan, whole-food diet will easily provide everything that the body needs and will try to steer people away from supplementation, but they are doing them a disservice.
Science has shown that several of the essential nutrients that are often touted as plentiful in the vegan diet are in a form of nutrients that are not absorbed by the human body, even though the plant versions may seem the same to those who don’t know any better.
Let’s go through some of the essential nutrients that those who follow the vegan diet need to ensure they are getting enough of, as they can cause serious health implications if they are lacking:
Vitamin B12 is absolutely integral to certain processes of the human body, and it is not available through plants alone. This puts vegetarians and vegans at a higher risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency. Some believe that vegan-friendly foods such as unwashed organic produce, mushrooms grown in B12-rich soil, nori, spirulina, chlorella, and nutritional yeast are rich in Vitamin B12, but science does not support that belief.
Vitamin B12 is essential to the human body for protein metabolism, the formation of new red blood cells, the health of your nervous system, and DNA synthesis. Not having enough B12 in your diet can lead to anemia (which means you don’t have enough red blood cells to transport oxygen in your body) or irreversible nerve damage.
If you are vegan, you can add Vitamin B12 to your diet through the following methods:
- Fortified plant-based milk
- Fortified meat substitutes
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Fortified nutritional yeast
- Nutritional yeast only contains B12 when fortified. It is also light-sensitive and may degrade if bought or stored in clear plastic containers
How much B12 do you need:
- 2.4mcg per day for adults
- 2.6mcg per day during pregnancy
- 2.8mcg per day when breastfeeding
Experts have warned that both omnivores and vegetarians or vegans around the world are deficient in Vitamin D, and this may be the result of a host of factors. For one, very few foods naturally contain Vitamin D, and even foods fortified with Vitamin D are often lacking in their amounts. Some experts even believe that even the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for Vitamin D is severely lacking.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps enhance the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from your gut, and also influences your immune system, memory, mood, and muscle recovery. It is believed that humans can receive all of the daily Vitamin D that they need by spending 15 minutes in the mid-day sun, but this effect does not work if they are wearing sunscreen. This probably wasn’t an issue when our ancestors spent all of their time outside, but the office and inside culture of our present society does not often grant us as much time in the sun as we are built to receive.
Some vegan-friendly sources for Vitamin D are:
- Vitamin D-rich supplements
- Fortified plant-based milk (oat, almond, or soy)
- Mushrooms that are grown in sunlight, or under a UV lamp
- Fortified orange juice
- Fortified cereals
How much Vitamin D do you need?
- 600 IU daily for adults aged 19-70
- 800 IU daily for adults 71 and older
*keep in mind that some Vitamin D3 supplements are made from animal products. Ensure that they are verified as vegan before you buy them.
Have you ever noticed how much blood smells like iron? That’s because it’s a significant component of it. Since your blood carries Red Blood Cells (RBCs) around your body, and it is those very RBCs that carry oxygen to the various parts of your body that need it, it is extremely important.
While many vegan foods do contain iron, the type of iron that is contained in plants is not absorbed very well by the human body. This is another one of those vitamins & nutrients that people see are available in plants but don’t drill down enough to understand that there is a difference between plant-based and animal-based.
Plants contain non-heme iron, while animal products contain heme iron. If you are on a vegan diet, as long as you like oxygen moving through your body, it is imperative that you either get enough daily iron through supplementation or eat more plant-based iron than an omnivore would.
Some vegan-friendly sources of Iron are:
- Beans & lentils
- Fortified bread
- Fortified breakfast cereal
- Spinach & cruciferous veggies
How much Iron do you need (for those following a vegan diet)?
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are often seen as fish oil because that is typically where those who follow a non-vegan diet will ensure they are getting enough. There is one Omega-3 fatty acid called Alpha Linoleic Acid (ALA) that is found in some vegan foods, but like other plant-based vitamins, it is not the type that is efficiently converted by the human body.
Omega-3 acids are well known to provide HDLs (High-Density Lipoproteins), the “good” fats that can help keep your arteries clear and lower cholesterol, but they do more than that. Omega-3s are also used to make cell membranes, control inflammation, and play a role in the brain, eye, heart, and immune health.
There are two types of Omega-3 acids: essential and long-chain. ALA is the only “essential” Omega-3 because you can only get it through your diet (we have to consume it). The “long-chain” Omega-3s are Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). They are not considered essential because your body can produce these two through ALA, but it has been found that vegetarians & vegans have as little as 50% lower blood and tissue concentrations of EPA and DHA than omnivores.
Some vegan-friendly sources of Omega-3 are:
- Fortified packaged foods
- Some plant oils
- Chia seeds
How much Omega-3 do you need?
It is generally recommended by most health professionals that adults consume 2-300mg of Omega-3 fatty acids per day. Because of the growing popularity of vegetarian & vegan diets, some supplement companies will offer vegan Omega-3s that contain ALA, EPA, and DHA sourced from algae. If you are following the vegan diet, pay attention to ensure any supplements you purchase for Omega-3s are this type, and not derived from fish oil.
Most people believe that calcium is only needed for the bones, and most people on a diet including dairy products believe that they get enough calcium from eating. Both are incorrect. Calcium is a mineral that is necessary for strong bones and teeth but also provides support to your body for heart health, muscle functions, and nerve signals.
Calcium is available in plants such as broccoli, bok choy, kale, mustard greens, chickpeas, and fortified drinks, but most studies show that vegans don’t get enough calcium. Research has shown that anyone consuming less than 525mg of calcium per day is at a greater risk of bone fractures than others, and the recommended daily allowance of calcium is 1,000mg for younger adults but grows to 1,200mg per day for adults over the age of 50.
Zinc is one of those minerals that is not often considered when choosing a diet and supplements, but as it affects your metabolism, repair of body cells, and immune system, it is a crucial one. People who don’t take in enough zinc through diet or supplementation can find themselves with developmental issues, diarrhea, delayed wound healing, and hair loss.
Zinc is another mineral that, while present in some plants that could provide it through a vegan diet, the phylate content within those plants will limit its absorption. Studies have shown that vegans and vegetarians have lower daily zinc intake than those who eat an animal products-based diet, so it is important for vegans to ensure they are taking enough in through eating or supplementation.
Some vegan-friendly sources of Zinc are:
- Nuts that have been soaked overnight
- Whole grains
- Wheat germ
- Sprouted breads
- Legumes, nuts & seeds
How much Zinc do you need?
Adults: 8-11mg per day
Pregnant women: 11-12mg per day
Lactating women: 12-13mg per day
Whether you eat a vegan or animal-based diet, iodine is another mineral that is not often considered when planning their meals, and most people are mistaken to believe that they get enough of it through iodized salt. Having enough iodine in your diet is important for your thyroid to function properly, which controls your metabolism and can lead to some serious diseases if it becomes undernourished. Iodine deficiency during pregnancy and early pregnancy can cause serious, irreversible intellectual disabilities, so it is especially important for pregnant women to pay attention to it.
Not getting enough iodine on a daily basis can lead to hypothyroidism, which may result in low energy levels, dry skin, tingling in your hands, brittle hair, depression, and weight gain. Vegans are seen as at greater risk than others for iodine deficiency, with some studies showing that vegans may have up to 50% less iodine in their blood levels than even vegetarians.
The best bet for you to supplement your vegan diet is to take on Green Vibrance, it has all of the essential supporting vitamins that you need and the additional benefit of probiotics, greens, and superfoods to super charge and already healthy vegan lifestyle.