Animal foods are rich in various nutrients and when you stop eating them altogether, you may miss a few nutrients contained in the foods. Vegan diets contain no animal foods and thus they might lack some nutrients. Adding plant foods containing the nutrients they lack on avoiding animal foods will work to address nutrient deficiencies but not entirely in some cases. Some nutrients in animal foods are found in meager amounts in plant foods thereby making it necessary for vegans to take supplements.
In this article, we list a few supplements for vegans.
The sunlight is an important source of vitamin D but depending on the sunlight to meet the daily vitamin D requirement is not a feasible solution for all. People who do not spend much time outdoors and people who live in colder climates fail to get much vitamin D from the sun.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is crucial for the absorption of calcium and phosphorous from your gut. It also exerts influence on various body processes including mood, memory, and immune function.
Few natural foods contain vitamin D in amounts that are close to your daily requirement. Vegans who fail to get enough vitamin D from fortified foods and sun exposure has to take vitamin D2 or D3 supplements.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can happen to anyone but it is more prevalent among vegans and vegetarians due to the typical nature of their diet. Vitamin B12 plays a crucial role in the formation of RBCs and the regulation of protein metabolism. Inadequacy in vitamin B12 causes anemia and nervous system damage. B12 deficiency may also increase the risk of infertility, heart disease, and bone disease.
Animal-based foods like fish, meat, dairy, and eggs are rich in the vitamin. Unfortunately, these are not meant for vegans and they have to find out other sources to meet their daily vitamin B12 requirement. Vegans get their daily dose of vitamin B12 from B12-fortified foods and supplements.
Many sources mention the names of some plant sources of vitamin B12 but whether it is active in humans is still a debated topic. Nutritional yeast is sometimes regarded as a vegan source of B12 but it should be understood that it applies only to fortified nutritional yeast.
The absorption rates of vitamin B12 are high when you take it in small doses. If the frequency of your vitamin B12 intake is small, you would need to take more of it. This is why vegans are advised to take B12 supplements in addition to the B12-fortified foods they take.
Calcium plays a significant role in the health of our bones and teeth. It also influences our heart health, muscle function, and nerve signaling.
Animal foods including sardine, salmon, milk, cheese, and yogurt are rich sources of calcium. The mineral isn’t one that is exclusively sourced from animal foods. Plant foods like mustard greens, broccoli, kale, bok choy, and fortified plant milk contain calcium.
Despite the availability of calcium-containing plant foods, many vegans do not get enough calcium from their diet.
All vegans are encouraged to get calcium in amounts that match their daily calcium requirements. They would have to take supplements if they can’t get enough calcium from fortified foods and plant foods.
Long Chain Omega-3s
There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids, namely, ALA (alpha linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). ALA is an essential omega-3 fatty acid which means that our body does not synthesize it and it has to be obtained through our diet. EPA and DHA are long-chain omega-3 fatty acids that are not essential because our body can synthesize them from ALA.
EPA and DHA are important for our brain and eye health. They are mostly found in animal foods like fish oil and fatty fish. Several plant foods including chia seeds, walnuts, flax seeds, and hemp seeds are rich in ALA.
ALA in our body gets converted to EPA and DHA and that should be enough to meet our EPA and DHA needs. However, this is all theoretical information. From what is known from studies, only 5-10% of ALA in the body gets converted to EPA while the conversion rate of ALA to DHA is even lesser. The findings suggest that vegans have to take EPA and DHA supplements to avoid becoming deficient in these nutrients.
Iodine has an important role in regulating our thyroid function that influences our metabolism.
Iodine deficiency in adults causes hypothyroidism that is associated with various symptoms including dry skin, low energy, weight gain, and depression. Vegans are at a higher risk of becoming deficient in iodine because most foods containing iodine are obtained from animal sources. Dairy products and seafood are some examples. Hence they have to take iodine supplements to ensure that they get sufficient iodine regularly.
Always understand that taking supplements of the nutrients that are lacking in our specific diets is important to remain in good health.