Vitamin Supplements For Vegans: Maximize A Plant Based Diet & Avoid Deficiencies
Most of the plant based gurus out there never seem to really mention supplements when pursuing a vegan diet.
I’ve read a TON of vegan programs and e-books but the idea of taking supplements or running the risk of being deficient is heavily ignored.
If anything most self-proclaimed gurus claim that simply sticking to a whole foods plant based diet will easily meet your daily requirements for nutrients. I definitely found this to be a somewhat harmful claim.
One of my first rounds of veganism started out awesome…
My diet was very heavy in fruit and salads. I was loving everything I was eating, and was starting to feel lighter with each day.
The specific diet I was following was the Raw Till 4 diet. You basically eat lots of fresh raw fruit throughout the day and one final cooked meal for dinner (which typically was a cooked potato and salad). The amount of fruit in the beginning of the day felt staggering at times (eating 13 dates in one sitting is a lot of chewing!) but I was obsessed with the results a lot of women were getting so I stuck to it.
By the 4th day I was dying.
I had the worst brain fog ever.
I couldn’t focus on anything! All I wanted to do was lay in bed and sleep.’
Besides having absolutely no mental clarity, I felt so weak.
I might have lost a few pounds in the process but it was not worth my physical health being taken down a few notches.
The seemingly beneficial diet I was following seemed to be missing diverse foods in its many major meals
(meaning a wide variety of fruit and vegetables vs 10 of the same food)
and was missing a lot of essential vitamins and minerals the average person simply needs to consume on a daily
It left me wondering:
What Vitamin Supplements Do You Need On A Vegan Diet?
Before we break them down individually here is a quick list of the top supplements all vegans should be taking:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
- Omega 3
Meat eaters typically don’t have to worry about a deficiency in B12 but us plant based foodies definitely need to be start supplementing this essential vitamin.
The recommended daily dose of B12 is about 2.4mg per day which is necessary for healthy blood cells and nerves.
According to Neal Barnard, MD, “A deficiency can take years to develop, but the first sign is irreversible nerve symptoms.”
After learning this lovely little piece of vital information, buying vitamin B12 supplements was a no brainer.
Now of course Vitamin D can be obtained through sun exposure (an easy 20 mins on the face and arms usually does the trick!) however with our busy lives a quick suntan isn’t always possible.
Many health professionals recommend that vegans take either Vitamin D2 or D3 supplement while exploring a plant based diet.
The recommended daily amount of vitamin D is 600 IU for adults.
Omega 3 fatty acids help to support the brain + nerve helps and help the body to maintain an appropriate inflammatory response when needed.
When it comes to Omega 3 fatty acids there is a stark difference between the short chain fatty acids and long chain fatty acids.
Short chain omega 3’s are obtained from vegan friendly foods such as chia seeds and flax seeds.
Long chain omega 3’s are obtained from foods like salmon
“These long-chain omega-3 fatty acids play a structural role in the brain and eyes,” says de Mello, founder of The Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine. “Adequate dietary levels also seem important for brain development and preventing inflammation, depression, breast cancer, and ADHD.”
To consume these valued long chain omega 3 fatty acids as a vegan, many experts recommend consuming daily doses of algae based omega supplements.
Iodine play an important role in the body when it comes to a healthy functioning thyroid.
Many studies have shown that vegans have up to 50% lower blood iodine levels than vegetarians.
Raw food vegans who have sworn off iodized salt may be getting the raw end of the deal. Har har har.
A simple way to ward off an iodine deficiency is by simply adding in one teaspoon of iodized salt to one of your daily recipes.
Iron comes in two forms.
- Heme – Heme iron is only found in animal products.
- Non Heme – Non-Heme iron is found in plants however is more difficult for the body to absorb.
Because of this, many experts urge vegans to absorb 2x as much iron as the recommended daily allowance.
The current RDA for iron stands at 18 mgs per day.
Zinc is essential in the body for immune function, metabolism, and the repair of damaged cells.
However very few plant foods actually contain zinc.
And… unfortunately… zinc found in vegan friendly foods is increasingly difficult to absorb.
Due to this many medical experts recommend that vegans consume 1.5X the current recommended daily allowance.
The current RDA for women in 8 mgs a day and 11 mgs a day for men.
At this point you may be feeling a little overwhelmed and might find yourself asking:
Do I Have To Take A Bunch Of Pills Every Day To Avoid Being Deficient?
The quick and stress relieving answer is:
When I started doing my research on what supplements to take while sticking to a plant based diet I definitely panicked.
I bought a bunch of pills from my local Whole Foods, started swallowing handfuls 2x a day, and quickly got sick.
Learn from my mistakes and instead of buying a bunch of expensive pills and supplements do this simple ritual everyday:
- Take 2 multivitamins
- Consume 1 scoop of plant based protein powder
- Consume 1 tbsp of spirulina
To be more specific I use:
Ritual’s essential for women are not only minty and easy to swallow but also have:
- 333% the daily recommendation of B12
- 250% the daily recommendation of Vitamin D
- 44% the daily recommendation of Iron
If you aren’t taking any kind of supplements at all currently and are following a plant based diet, I highly recommend you start taking a multivitamin like Ritual’s. It’s a nice base for vitamin supplementation that your body may just be craving.
This plant based protein powder will always be my #1 favorite. It’s not too sweet, the flavor is not super over powering, and it is jammed packed with raw nutrition.
1 scoop supplies:
- 20 g of plant based protein
- 25% of the daily recommendation of Zinc
- 20% of the daily recommendation of Iron
- A healthy dose of 6 organic veggies + a probiotic bonus
Adding a scoop of this protein powder has become a solid part of my daily smoothie ritual!
On a daily basis I tend to sneak in a dose of spirulina into my smoothies. Although a quick whiff of spirulina may make your nose crinkle a bit, it’s a great vitamin booster to consume daily.
It definitely has a fishy smell but when you add small doses of it to smoothies and other recipes it tends to blend right in and is not overpowering at all.
It a great way to up your intake of Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin B12, Omegas, Iron, and Manganese.
Wait…Is That It?
These 3 steps cover all of the recommended daily allowances of all 6 supplemental needs discussed above.
You definitely don’t have to force yourself to swallow handfuls of pills to have a healthy and balanced diet. It just takes a few additions to your daily ritual.