Although some medics and nutritionists advise vegans against taking supplements, it could turn out negatively, especially when following the advice results in nutritional deficiency. As such, supplementing with the lacking nutrients is vital and healthy.
Vegan diets have become incredibly popular today, primarily because of the health benefits associated with them, including reduced risk of infection and boosted immunity. Nonetheless, it would be wrong to assume that entirely relying on the diet provides the body with all the required nutrients, at least on a daily basis. In fact, relying solely on such a diet without nutrient supplementation could result in nutritional deficiencies in no time. The following are some dietary supplements you should try if you are on a vegan diet to be on the safe side.
i. Vitamin B12
Most vegans focus on eating spirulina, nutritional yeast, mushrooms from vitamin B12-rich soils, chlorella, and nori and believe they have no reason to worry about vitamin B12 deficiency. However, what studies say may surprise you- everyone is at risk of becoming vitamin B12 deficient, with vegans and vegetarians, especially those not taking supplements, having the highest risk. Yet, the vitamin is essential in the body and has multiple functions, including manufacturing red blood cells, energy production, and protein metabolism. Therefore, it is only by supplementing with vitamin B12 that vegans can avoid the deficiency, which has far-reaching effects, including anemia. The ideal dosage is 2.4, 2.6, and 2.8 mcg for adults, pregnant, and lactating mothers, respectively.
ii. Vitamin D
At the slightest mention of vitamin D, we quickly think about sunlight and then the fat-soluble vitamin that facilitates phosphorus and calcium absorption in the body for strong bone, teeth, and muscle development, and that’s right. Still, vitamin D has many other health benefits, including boosting immunity, memory recovery, and overall well-being. This is why pregnant, lactating, and older people need 20 mcg (800 UI) while children and adults need 15 mcg (600 UI) of the vitamin. Sadly, many people do not meet the daily required value, which is why the cases of vitamin D deficient people are on the rise. Interestingly, deficiency risk is the same for vegans and omnivores, and if one cannot get enough of this vitamin, supplementing with vitamin D2 or vegan D3 is the best way to go.
iii. Omega- 3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential dietary fats and help safeguard the heart, lower the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, promote neurodevelopment in children, youngsters, and adults, besides other health benefits. Regardless of the many benefits, many vegans do not get enough of them because plant-based foods have certain fatty acids and lack others. ALA are essential fatty acids, meaning that they come from diet, while DHA and EPA are nonessential and can be produced by converting ALA to them. However, the body does this rather slowly, necessitating supplementation. Besides, since EPA and DHA are only naturally found in small quantities of fish, fish oil, and microalgae, vegans need to supplement their EPA and DHA intake.
The body needs iron to carry oxygenated blood from the heart to other body parts, manufacture red blood cells and DNA, and produce energy. Consequently, its lack may result in distorted immune function, fatigue, and anemia. The RDA value for iron is 8, 18, and 27 mcg for post-menopausal women and men, adult women, and lactating ladies, respectively. There are two forms of iron; heme (animal-based) and non-heme (plant-based), with the former being more absorbed. Iron deficiency is common among vegans since the non-heme form is less absorbed, necessitating iron supplementation. In fact, health experts recommend that vegans and vegetarians focus on taking at least 1.8 times of the daily required iron values.
Calcium is an incredible nutrient in the body and is needed for many functions, including nerve signaling, muscle mass building, and strong bones at teeth. Adults need 1000 mg daily, while people past 50 years need 1200 mg. Despite vegans focusing on calcium-rich foods such as bok choy, watercress, mustard greens, kales, fortified juice, and plant milk, scientists have established that many do not meet the daily required values for this critical mineral. Although it is often said that vegans don’t need a lot of calcium because the amount present in the body is not used to neutralize the acid found in meat-rich diets, they still suffer from calcium deficiency. Consequently, they should aim at taking at least 525 mg of the mineral per day, and should the problem continue, they will need to supplement.
vi. Vitamin K-2
Vitamin K is an essential nutrient needed by the body to facilitate the healing of wounds and promote blood clotting. Generally, there are two types of vitamin K; K-1 and K-2. The former is naturally found in dark, green leafy veggies, which is why vegans have enough of it. However, K-2 is only naturally present in egg yolk and particular dairy products. Consequently, vegans are prone to suffering from its deficiency and have to focus on taking vitamin K-2 supplements to compensate for the shortage. Alternatively, they can try vegan-friendly sources of this vitamin, including plant-based kefir, unpasteurized kombucha, vegan kimchi, fermented soybeans, and raw sauerkraut.
Iodine is another critical nutrient, and the body needs it for continued thyroid function, metabolism, and hormonal production. Iodine deficiency is common and causes hypothyroidism, a condition characterized by forgetfulness, tingling of hands and feet, depression, low energy levels, and reduced intellectual capabilities. Taking seafood, seaweed, plants grown in iodine-rich soils, especially near the ocean, and particular dairy products ad the body’s iodine levels. Iodized table salt is also rich in iodine, and taking it in moderate amounts boost iodine levels. However, vegans who shun seafood and seaweed should take iodine supplements. The RDA values for iodine are 150, 220, and 290 mcg for adults, pregnant, and breastfeeding ladies, respectively.
A vegan diet is a healthy way of life that promotes overall well-being, boosts the body’s immunity, and safeguards the heart. However, some nutrients are concentrated in animal-based foods and lack in plant-based foods or are only found in negligible amounts. Consequently, vegans need to supplement the lacking nutrients, including iodine, calcium, vitamins K-2, D, and B12, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids to prevent nutrient deficiency.