As a vegan, you may be familiar with the benefits that come with a plant-based diet, however, even with a well-rounded vegan diet, it can be challenging to get all the nutrients your body needs to function at its best.
That’s where supplements come in. In this article, we’ll highlight 6 essential supplements that can help support your vegan lifestyle, from maintaining strong bones to boosting your immune system. Whether you’re a seasoned vegan or just starting out, these supplements can help ensure that you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs to thrive.
Table of Contents
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be kept for a long time in our body. It helps enhance the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from your gut. Several other body functions, such as immune performance, mood, memory, and muscular recovery, are also influenced by this vitamin.
What is the daily recommended Vitamin D dose?
The daily recommended Vitamin D intake (RDI), expressed in International Units (IU), are:
- Children & Adults: 600 IU (15 mcg)
- Elderly, pregnant or lactating women: 800 IU (20 mcg)
Despite this, certain data indicate that your daily needs are far higher than the RDA current recommendation. The official safe upper daily level of Vitamin D is 4000 IU, but there are scientific studies, where people take even more, without side effects. Unfortunately, very few foods contain vitamin D.
Vitamin D2, also known as ergocalciferol, is found mostly in foods of plant origin, such as mushrooms, yeast and algae. In nature, vitamin D3, also called cholecalciferol, is more abundant and comes mostly from animal sources: fatty fish, cod liver oil, eggs and liver.
Our bodies are better able to utilize vitamin D3, which is why, although it affects a large proportion of the population, vitamin D deficiency is even more common among vegetarians and vegans.
A blood test is the best way to make sure you are getting adequate vitamin D. If you don’t receive enough vitamin D from your diet or from direct, unprotected exposure to sunlight, you should think about taking a daily vitamin D supplement.
Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are classified into two types:
- Essential omega-3 fatty acids: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the only essential omega-3 fatty acid, which means it can only be obtained through diet.
- Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids: This group contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (DHA). They are not regarded as essential because your body can produce them from ALA.
Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids play a structural role in your brain and eyes. Adequate dietary levels also seem important for brain development and reducing the risk of inflammation, depression, breast cancer, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Plants with a high ALA content include flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, and soybeans. EPA and DHA are mostly found in animal products like fatty fish and fish oil and the bioavailability of these is also better.
Research consistently shows that vegetarians and vegans have up to 50% lower blood and tissue concentrations of EPA and DHA than omnivores. Vegans may reach their omega-3 need by supplementing with algae oil.
Magnesium is a crucial mineral for the body as it contributes to the normal function of the brain, nerves, bones, muscles, etc. This mineral helps more than 300 enzymes carry out numerous chemical processes in the body, including those that produce proteins and strong bones, control blood sugar and blood pressure, and maintain healthy muscle and nerve function. Magnesium also assists in regulating the melatonin levels for better sleep.
- Adults: Males 400 – 420 mg, Females 310 – 320 mg
- Pregnant women: 350 – 400 mg
- Lactating mothers: 310 – 360 mg
In a plant-based diet, magnesium is found in a variety of leafy greens, such as spinach, as well as avocados, Swiss chard, legumes, nuts and oilseeds such as pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, and also in quinoa, chia seeds, potato skins, oats and cereals, but the problem of phytates also arises here, so plant magnesium cannot be absorbed effectively.
Most people who consume a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes do not lack magnesium. However, magnesium deficiency can cause some conditions that you need to watch out for, such as heart palpitations, sleeping disorder, poor appetite, muscle cramps, weakness and fatigue.
Vitamin B12 has many biological functions, such as healthy metabolism, DNA synthesis, neuron function, and the generation of red blood cells. Infertility, bone and heart problems, anemia, and impairment to the nervous system can all result from inadequate vitamin B12 consumption.
How much Vitamin B12 should we consume daily?
- Adults: 2.4 mcg
- Pregnant women: 2.6 mcg per day, and lactating mothers: 2.8 mcg
Some organic fruits, mushrooms cultivated in B12-rich soils, nori, spirulina, chlorella, and nutritional yeast are foods that are frequently recommended as being sources of this vitamin variant.
Some people think vegans don’t need to worry about vitamin B12 shortage if they consume enough of the correct plant sources. Nevertheless, this assumption is not supported by science.
While anyone can have low vitamin B12 levels, researches reveal that vegetarians and vegans are more likely to be vitamin B12 deficient. This seems to be true in particular for vegans who don’t take any supplements.
Vegans can only achieve these recommended levels by consuming foods fortified with vitamin B12 or by taking a vitamin B12 supplement, according to scientific research. Breakfast cereals, soy products, plant milks, and nutritional yeast are all examples of foods that are B12-fortified. The excessive consumption of these is worrisome even for healthy people, but for many people with food intolerance their consumption is out of the question.
And last, as you age, your capacity to absorb vitamin B12 declines. Hence, whether a person is vegan or not, the Institute of Medicine advises that they think about vitamin B12 supplementation.
Vitamin K is a group of fat-soluble vitamins that is required by the body to produce prothrombin, a protein and clotting factor involved in blood clotting and bone metabolism (together with Vitamin D).
- Male adults: 120 mcg
- Female adults (including pregnant women and lactating moms): 90 mcg
High amounts of vitamin K1 can be found in leafy green veggies, plant-based oils, or fruits, such as kale, Swiss chard, broccoli, lettuce, blueberries, figs, and soybeans. While vitamin K2 mostly occurs in meat, dairy products, and eggs. Vegans may substitute these sources with fermented foods like natto.
Although serious Vitamin K deficiency is uncommon, it might raise clotting time in extreme situations, which can cause hemorrhage and severe bleeding.
Calcium is a mineral that is essential for healthy bones and teeth. It also affects heart health, neuron signaling, and muscle activity. Bok choy, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, watercress, broccoli, chickpeas, calcium-set tofu, and fortified plant milks or juices are some examples of plant sources of calcium.
- Most individuals: 1,000 mg
- Adults over 50: 1,200 mg
According to studies, most vegans do not consume enough calcium, which is especially problematic in the case of vitamin D deficiency.
In conclusion, incorporating these 6 essential nutrients into your vegan diet can help ensure that your body is getting everything it needs to thrive. From supporting your immune system to promoting healthy bones, these supplements are crucial for any vegan. Don’t forget to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.
Did you miss our first part? Don’t worry, check it out here: Vegan Vitality Part I – 4 Must-Have Trace Elements for Optimal Health >
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