Do Vegans Need to Take Supplements Thumbnail

Do Vegans Need To Take Supplements?

Last updated on August 11th, 2023 at 08:53 pm

There's a lot of misinformation when it comes to being vegan. And while we're not going to go into the science behind plant-based diets, some misconceptions require clarification. An important question to ask is whether vegans need to take supplements. Many people don't realize this, but vegetables alone cannot provide a person with everything they need nutritionally. It is because some crucial nutrients only come from animal products like eggs and dairy. 

A vegan diet can be a healthy lifestyle but requires extra work. Studies have proven that those who follow an animal-free diet can be weaker physically. They can also have lower levels of certain nutrients, like iron or vitamin D, compared to meat-eaters. You can get all the nutrients your body needs to be healthy without taking supplements if you plan. You also need to understand what makes up a healthy, balanced vegetarian and vegan diet. However, if your diet isn't adequately planned and prepared, you may miss essential nutrients.

While there are many reasons, someone might choose to go vegan or have vegan diets, one of the most common motivations is to live a more ethical lifestyle and improve physical well-being. However, without supplementation, vegans can struggle to get enough nutrients from food sources alone, leading to increased chances of certain health conditions, limited energy levels, or discomfort during cold weather due to lack of vitamin D. Below are some supplements vegans may want to consider.

orange amino acid vitamin

Supplements Vegans May Consider

1. Vitamin B12

Folate deficiency is common among vegans who avoid foods like eggs and dairy because these sources contain naturally occurring nutrients that help maintain average cell growth and DNA synthesis in our bodies. Our bodies can't produce enough vitamin B12 on their own, so when we don't have enough of these nutrients, it can lead to depression and dementia.

The daily recommended intake is 2.4 mcg per day for adults. Vegans can only achieve these levels by eating B12-fortified foods or taking a vitamin B12 supplement. It's important to remember that vitamin B12 absorbs best in small amounts. Therefore, vegans should take a daily supplement with 25–100 mcg of cyanocobalamin or a weekly dose of 2,000 mcg.

Finally, your ability to absorb vitamin B12 decreases with age. Therefore, the Institute of Medicine recommends that everyone over 51 consider vitamin B12 supplementation.

Vegans Need to Take Supplements

2. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps the body absorb calcium. It also regulates muscle contraction and blood pressure levels, which are vital to immune function and cell growth. If you're vegan, it's easy to become malnourished because your diet doesn't contain animal sources of Vitamin D like eggs, dairy, cheese, and fatty fish. 

Most people likely make enough vitamin D by spending 15 minutes in the midday sun. Still, because of the known adverse effects of excess UV radiation, many dermatologists warn against using sun exposure to boost vitamin D levels.

The best way vegans can ensure they're getting enough vitamin D is to have their blood levels tested. Those who don't get enough vitamin D from fortified foods or sunlight should take a daily vitamin D2 or vegan vitamin D3 supplement.

Vitamin D3 concept

3. Omega-3 

Omega-3 fatty acids can be split into two categories:

Essential Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the only essential omega-3 fatty acid, meaning you can only get it from your diet.

Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids: This category includes eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

If you are vegan, it is essential to supplement your diet with fish oil or other sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Some excellent plant-based alternatives do not have the same health benefits as animal products, such as lowering inflammation and improving heart function

A regular intake can benefit vegans since most contain alpha-linolenic acid, which helps prevent depression, among other things. One study found that vegans who took an Omega-3 supplement had blood levels of EPA + D close enough to those eating meat extracts.

Omega-3 supplement

4. Iron

Iron is an essential mineral for vegans. It helps with blood cell production and oxygen delivery. Too little iron can lead to anemia and symptoms like fatigue and decreased immune function. So, it's essential not to rely on food sources alone.

Vegans with a low iron intake should eat more iron-rich foods, such as cruciferous vegetables, beans, peas, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds. Iron-fortified foods, such as cereals, enriched bread, milk, and supplements, can further help.

Unnecessary supplements like iron can do more harm than good by damaging cells or blocking the absorption of other minerals. Extremely high levels can even cause convulsions, lead to organ failure or coma, and be fatal in some cases. Thus, the best way to determine whether supplements are necessary is to check your hemoglobin levels with your health practitioner.

Vegans Need to Take Supplements

5. Calcium

Calcium is an essential mineral for the body. It helps maintain robust bone health and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis, insulin resistance (if your diet isn't rich in dairy), and heart disease by strengthening blood vessels.

Vegans who do not eat animal and dairy products may need to supplement their calcium intake by taking supplements or eating other sources of calcium, such as legumes/beans, which have a higher amount of this nutrient than milk. Vegans are encouraged to consume at least 525 mg of calcium per day.

pea-protein-milk-vegan

6. Zinc

Zinc is a mineral that helps the immune system function and cell growth. It also supports wounds or cuts, making it essential throughout life. The recommended zinc intake is currently set at 8–11 mg for adults. It increases to 11–12 mg for pregnant women and 12–13 mg for lactating women.

While not all vegans have low zinc levels in their blood, various studies show that vegans have lower zinc intakes and slightly lower zinc blood levels than omnivores. Eat different zinc-rich foods throughout the day for the most benefit. These include whole grains, tofu, sprouted bread, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Vegans concerned about their zinc intake or experiencing deficiency symptoms should take zinc gluconate or zinc citrate supplements providing 50–100% of the recommended daily intake.

vitamin-c-zinc-orange

7. Iodine

Iodine is an essential mineral that plays many vital roles in the body. It helps with mental function, hormone regulation, and cellular communication.

In adults, insufficient iodine intake can lead to hypothyroidism. This can cause various symptoms, such as low energy levels, dry skin, tingling in your hands and feet, forgetfulness, depression, and weight gain.

Iodine levels in plant foods depend on the iodine content of the soil. For instance, food grown near the ocean tends to be higher in iodine. The only foods with high iodine levels are iodized salt, seafood, seaweed, and dairy products, which pick up iodine from solutions used to clean cows and farm equipment. 

Half a teaspoon (2.5 ml) of iodized salt is sufficient to meet your daily needs. Vegans who do not want to consume iodized salt or seaweed several times per week should take an iodine supplement.

natural-iodine-capsules

Outlook

Vegan diets have many health benefits. They may even help you live longer compared to eating a Standard American Diet. However, one risk of eating a vegan diet is that you may be at risk of not getting enough nutrients. Fortunately, there are several ways to ensure you get enough of the essential vitamins and minerals you need.

The vegan diet is a healthy and nutritious option for those who want to avoid eating meat. Vegans need to be aware of the potential deficiencies they may encounter. While specific nutrient requirements may be challenging to achieve through diet and fortified foods alone, vegans who cannot meet their dietary recommendations should consider taking supplements.

Whether or not you pursue a vegan diet, healthy eating is the key to good health. Discover the benefits of supplements to heal your body from the inside out here!Guide to Dietary Supplements

Scroll to Top