We all know that a vegan diet can provide us with a lot of essential nutrients better than a meat-based diet. Indeed, people who follow vegan diets are often well-nourished and have better health. However, there are some nutrients that vegans won’t get enough from a strictly plant-based diet. These nutrients are mainly found in animal products and vegans may have to take supplements to avoid deficiency.
Let’s take a look at some of the supplements that you may need to take when you are on a vegan diet.
This is one of the most common and important supplements you might have to take if you are following a strict plant-based meal plan. Vitamin B-12 supplements are very essential for maintaining many of the body functions. Vitamin B-12 is very helpful in RBC formation, protein metabolism, and also support a healthy nervous system.
The main source of vitamin B-12 is animal products and since vegans only eat plant-based foods, they are at a higher risk of deficiency. Vegan sources of vitamin B-12 are very limited and therefore you have to take B-12 supplements to avoid its deficiency. Talk with a doctor or nutritionist before you start taking B-12 supplements.
Many experts recommend Nori, a type of seaweed, to vegans as a good source of vitamin B-12. Most of the plant-based foods like nut milk, tofu, and soy products are fortified with vitamin B-12. Since the number of vegans around the world is rising every year, we might find more sources of vitamin B-12.
Iron is one of the most essential nutrients that is needed for the formation of healthy blood cells. These healthy blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. Iron comes from animals are known as heme and iron that comes from plants is called nonheme.
Dark, leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, dried fruits, seeds, etc. are some of the plant-based foods that are rich in iron. Consumption of vitamin C also increases the intake of iron in your body. If you haven’t included these iron-rich plant foods in your vegan diet, you may have to take the supplements.
In some cases, the person may not have the ability to store iron in the body and might need supplements for avoiding iron deficiency. Consuming too much iron can also be harmful to your body, so make sure to talk with a doctor before you start to take iron supplements.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
There are several types of omega-3 fatty acids and plant-based foods are rich in some of them. However, plant foods are low in some forms of omega-3 fatty acids and are mainly found in animal foods. They very helpful in reducing the risk of heart diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also helpful in promoting neurodevelopment in children. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), one of the most essential omega-3 fatty acids, come from our diet. Your body converts ALA into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). A study in 2017 showed that levels of (DHA) and (EPA) in vegans are low and they may need to take supplements for preventing deficiency.
Vitamin D is one of the essential nutrients that helps in improving mood and the functioning of the immune system. Vitamin D is also helpful in the absorption of other nutrients like phosphorous and calcium. Apart from our diet, we get vitamin D from the sunlight.
Dairy products like milk and yogurt contain an ample amount of vitamin D but these foods are not suitable for those who follow a vegan diet. Vegans usually get vitamin D from fortified cereals and some types of mushrooms. If your average intake of vitamin D from the diet is lower, you might need to take supplements.
This is one of the main nutrients that vegans don’t get enough from plant-based foods. Milk, eggs, and other dairy products are the major source of calcium. It is very essential for the formation of bone and teeth, heart health, and muscle function.
A 2014 research found that the calcium levels in vegans are very lower when compared to omnivores. Legumes, mustard greens, watercress, and some fortified foods are some of the plant sources rich in calcium. Doctors may recommend supplements if you are not getting enough calcium from these plant foods.
Vitamin K-1 and vitamin K-2 are the two types of vitamin K that are essential for the human body. Vitamin K is essential for wound healing and blood clotting. Vegans do not have any problem in getting vitamin K-1 because it is abundant in plants. On the other hand, vitamin K-2 is mainly found in egg yolks and some dairy products.
The gut bacteria have the ability to convert vitamin K-1 into vitamin K-2. Therefore, vegans usually are not at risk of vitamin K deficiency. However, some people with GI diseases may have to take vitamin K supplements.