Which supplements do you need to take as a vegan to stay healthy? Turns out vegans need to get plenty of vitamin D, omega fatty acids, vitamin B12, iron, calcium, zinc, and iodine to avoid common health issues associated with this diet.
While veganism might be your diet of choice, saying goodbye to animal products means saying goodbye to great sources of essential nutrients.
- Vegans are more at risk of developing anemia and thyroid disorders.
- Taking certain vitamins and minerals as supplements every day can help you replace the nutrients in animal products.
- Just because you need supplements as a vegan doesn’t mean you should overdo it.
- Remember that many of the supplements you see on the shelf might be fake or contain dangerous filler ingredients.
We totally commend your effort to steer clear of animal products. However, veganism has consequences; you’ll have to find the nutrients your body needs in other ways when you give up on dairy, meat, and other animal-based foods.
If you aren’t careful, you can develop serious vitamin deficiencies because of your vegan diet. We’ve specifically included vitamins and minerals in Feel that vegans need to stay healthy. Learn more about the benefits of the 7 top vitamins for vegans and why you need them to support your vegan lifestyle.
1. Vitamin D
You may have heard that it’s important to take vitamin D during the winter when there isn’t much sunshine. When you’re a vegan, however, you need to take in the right amount of vitamin D all the time. Animal-based foods are great sources of vitamin D, and without them, you’ll need to get creative.
Vitamin D appears to help your gut absorb other essential vitamins and minerals. Scientific research indicates that vitamin D helps your immune system function efficiently, and it also appears to support healthy cognition. This essential vitamin even plays a key role in recovery after exercise.
Vitamin D deficiency is more common than it should be since most foods don’t contain this nutrient. Foods that are fortified with vitamin D usually aren’t sufficient for your daily intake needs, which means that supplementation is the only effective way to avoid vitamin D deficiency when you’re a vegan.
SUMMING IT UP: Going tanning isn’t enough to cure your vitamin D deficiency. Vegans need to supplement daily with vitamin D.
2. Omega Fatty Acids
When you think of omega fatty acids, you immediately think of fish. However, fish are off-limits to vegans, which means that you’ll need to find your omega fatty acids from another source unless you cheat and become a pescatarian.
According to scientific research, omega fatty acids are essential to your overall health and well-being. Omega-3 fatty acid, for instance, appears to play a crucial role in brain development, and it also decreases inflammation, fights back against depression, and may even reduce your chances of breast cancer.
You can get omega fatty acids from plant sources like chia seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts, but the fact remains that vegans statistically have lower bodily concentrations of omega fatty acids than omnivores. If you’re serious about being vegan, you’ll have to take other tactics to get your daily fatty acid dose.
SUMMING IT UP: Don’t give up on munching hemp seeds, but consider supplementing with omega fatty acids to keep your nervous system functioning smoothly.
3. Vitamin B12
Grabbing a hot steak might be one of the best ways to get your daily dose of vitamin B12, but doing so would break your vegan vow. So, how do you get enough B12 without animal-based foods?
Without adequate levels of vitamin B12, your body won’t be able to produce enough red blood cells, which can lead to anemia. Your chances of nervous system damage and heart disease also increase when you don’t consume enough B12.
You can get some vitamin B12 from spirulina, nutritional yeast, and certain kinds of mushrooms, but it’s still easy to become deficient in vitamin B12 if you observe a strictly animal-free diet. Supplementation is the best way to avoid developing a vitamin B12 deficiency, but remember to be careful; consuming more than your recommended daily dose of vitamin B12 can do more harm than good.
SUMMING IT UP: Like all the B vitamins, vitamin B12 is essential. Don’t leave things up to chance, and supplement with exactly 100 percent of your daily vitamin B12 value daily.
It’s true that you’ll become anemic if you don’t consume enough iron. It’s also true that meat is one of the world’s best sources of this essential mineral.
While some plant-based foods contain iron, not all iron is the same. Plants contain non-heme iron, which is iron that doesn’t efficiently contribute to red blood cell production in your body. Since meat is off-limits, supplementation is the only reliable way to get the iron your body needs to produce blood.
You can try age-old vegan hacks like using a cast iron skillet when you cook and eating lots of leafy greens, nuts, and iron-fortified foods, but since vegans may need as much as 1.8 times the recommended daily dose of iron to stay healthy, taking a daily supplement that contains 100% of your iron RDA is the only way to make your vegan lifestyle practical in the long term.
SUMMING IT UP: Using a cast iron pan isn’t enough to get your daily iron intake. Avoid anemia by supplementing.
Cheese, milk, and butter are great sources of calcium, but they all come from cows. Without enough calcium, your bones and teeth will deteriorate, and your heart and nervous system functioning will also decrease. To improve your calcium intake, you should definitely try eating lots of bok choy, watercress, broccoli, and chickpeas, but it’s undeniable that the majority of vegans don’t have enough calcium in their diets.
It’s possible that vegans don’t need as much calcium because they don’t eat meat. However, this claim is unproven, and it remains the case that you still need plenty of calcium to defend your bone strength and stave off osteoporosis. Instead of relying on plant-based and fortified foods for your calcium intake, try getting 100 percent of your calcium with a supplement every day.
SUMMING IT UP: There’s no reason your vegan diet should increase your risk of breaking your bones. Supplementing with your recommended daily value of calcium keeps you safe.
Meat and shellfish are the two best sources of zinc followed closely by legumes. Eating lots of beans will help you keep up with your bodily zinc concentrations when you’ve given up meat, but zinc deficiency can lead to delayed wound healing, hair loss, immune problems, and stunted growth in children.
Your body doesn’t absorb plant-based zinc as well as it absorbs animal-based zinc, which is probably why studies show that most vegans have dangerously low zinc levels. The best way to avoid zinc deficiency when you’re vegan is to take 100 percent of your RDA in the form of a supplement.
SUMMING IT UP: When you’re serious about being a vegan, you shouldn’t assume that your diet will take care of things for you. Supplement to make sure you don’t develop a dangerous zinc deficiency.
Iodine is absolutely essential to the functioning of your thyroid system. Your thyroid gland controls everything about your body’s metabolism; from your heartbeat to when you get hungry, this gland sets the tempo throughout your body that keeps everything in homeostasis.
Too little iodine can cause hypothyroidism, which is when your thyroid gland becomes under-active and your body doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. If this condition persists, you could develop goiter, which is an enlargement of the thyroid gland that results from your body’s misguided efforts to increase the size of this important organ. People with hypothyroidism almost always gain weight, and they may have trouble summoning the energy necessary to handle the day head-on.
Too much iodine, on the other hand, can result in hyperthyroidism, which is when your body produces too much thyroid hormone. As a result, your metabolism increases, and your body burns through vital energy much too fast. That’s why it’s so important to avoid exceeding your daily dose of iodine.
Vegan mothers should be especially wary of hypothyroidism. Not getting enough iodine during pregnancy and while breastfeeding can result in irreversible birth defects. Vegans are even more prone to iodine deficiency than vegetarians, which means you’ll need to supplement with iodine if you want to stay healthy as a vegan.
Just remember that your thyroid gland is a finely-tuned machine. Don’t panic and overdo it with too much iodine. If you want to be extra-careful, you can have your doctor test your blood iodine levels to determine how much of this substance you should consume per day.
SUMMING IT UP: Don’t rely on seaweed and iodised salt alone to keep your iodine levels up when you observe a vegan diet. Get the exact amount of iodine you need each day with Feel.