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To Supplement Or Not To Supplement, That Is The Question... For Vegans

According to The Vegan Society, “well-planned vegan diets contain all the nutrients we need to remain strong and healthy.” But life is busy, and it’s not always possible to maintain a well-planned diet 100% of the time.


Vegan or not, if you’re not getting a varied enough diet, this is when you may need to consider supplementing your vitamins. If you’re concerned about whether you’re getting enough of the right vitamins and minerals in your Vegan diet, consider the following supplements?



Vitamin B-12


Vitamin B-12 may be the most important supplement for vegans. It is crucial for maintaining many bodily processes. This vitamin plays a role in the formation of red blood cells, helps metabolise proteins, and even supports a healthy nervous system.


Although anyone can have low vitamin B-12 levels, vegans typically have a higher risk of deficiency as there are limited vegan sources of this vitamin. It is important to note that people absorb and use vitamin B-12 differently.


Iodine


Plenty of tabloid "experts" warn that vegans are missing out on Iodine, this mineral is necessary for thyroid function and helps to regulate how energy is produced and used in the body. The amount of iodine in plants depends upon the iodine content of the soil in/on which they are grown.


The closer to the sea, the more iodine and therefore vegans can get enough from plant foods, but there’s no guarantee. Seaweed, which of course grows in seawater, is always a good source, but you can only eat so much Sushi!



Omega-3 Fatty Acids


Humans can’t make omega-3 fatty acids but they can get them from their diet. They benefit mental health, eye health, heart health, brain health, and prevent inflammation. A plant-based vegan diet is generally high in some types of omega-3 fatty acids, but it is low in others.


Vegan food sources of omega-3s include walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, Brussel sprouts, algae oil, wild rice, plant oils, and tofu.


Vitamin D


Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin! Along with calcium, it plays an essential role in maintaining healthy bones, teeth and muscles as well as for many other essential functions. Vitamin D is easily obtained from sun exposure, therefore a supplement may be required for those living in less sunny climates, or those with less outdoor time. The government recommend 10 micrograms a day.



Zinc


Zinc is vital for the immune system. It helps to fight off bacteria and viruses and helps to heal wounds. It also helps with the sense of smell and taste. If the body doesn’t get enough zinc this can lead to a number of conditions including hair loss, impaired immune function, diarrhea, impotence, and the delayed healing of wounds.


Good vegan sources of zinc include whole grains, soya, tofu, pulses, beans, nuts and seeds in your diet.


Iron


Even though iron from plants is not as easily absorbed, eating a varied diet rich in whole plant foods should ensure enough iron. You can find iron in leafy green vegetables, whole grains, lentils, peas, and dried fruits! Adding foods rich in vitamin C will also help iron absorption.


Calcium


Were you told to drink cow’s milk and eat dairy products in order to grow up big and strong? This is because dairy is rich in calcium, which is essential for bone health. It also helps to regulate heartbeat and helps the blood to clot normally.


It is possible to get more than enough calcium from a vegan diet. Soy milk is rich in calcium, as are dark leafy greens, tofu, tempeh, almonds, orange juice, figs, chickpeas, and poppy seeds. If you’re concerned about not getting enough, there are plenty of vegan supplements on the market.



What are...


Vitamins


Vitamins are essential nutrients that regulate metabolic functions throughout your body. Vitamin A stimulates vision and growth of cells. The B vitamins assist enzymes throughout your body. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that stimulates your immune system and protects your cells from environmental toxins. Vitamin D is essential for bone growth. Vitamin E slows down your aging process and protects cellular membranes from degradation. Vitamin K stimulates blood clotting.


Minerals


Minerals are chemical elements found in food that have various functions in your body. Calcium and magnesium are vital for building and maintaining healthy bones and teeth. Iron is a vital part of hemoglobin, the molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to cells throughout your body. Phosphorous is essential for cellular energy metabolism. Zinc, copper, manganese and selenium are trace minerals that you need in tiny amounts. Zinc is involved in tissue growth and repair. Copper and manganese work with enzymes in many types of chemical reactions. Selenium is an antioxidant that protects your cells from toxins and harmful chemicals.


Proteins


Proteins are essential for the growth, development, structure and function of cells, tissues and organs, antibodies, enzymes and nucleic acids. Protein is also part of some hormones. Amino acids are the building blocks for proteins and are found particularly in legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains for vegans.



Is A Multivitamin Enough For A Vegan?


You may be thinking that a multivitamin is the best option for you, just to be on the "safe side?" We would recommend keeping a track of your diet to see what vitamins you are lacking, and then either go down the route of a multivitamin supplement or a specific vitamin, depending on what vitamins you are low or lacking in.


Whilst it may be tempting to take a multivitamin as a precaution and there is little harm in doing this, always check the content and quantities of vitamins and nutrients in a specific product. For example, not all multi options have iodine. On the other hand, some may contain very high levels of one or two nutrients. You don’t want to end up taking too many or too little of a specific vitamin. Remember – always check the label!



It is important for vegans to check in with a doctor from time to time to test vitamin levels. Working directly with a nutritionist or doctor can be helpful to create a balanced diet plan.

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