Having a plant-based, or vegan, diet and lifestyle to some is the easiest way to live a healthy and wellness-focused lifestyle. With a huge emphasis placed on eating whole fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes - anything and all things plant-based, some argue its the easiest way to get all your necessary nutrients, even protein!
However, some feel that there are specifically some things that plant-based eaters routinely miss out on. Whether its calcium traditionally from cows milk, or iron traditionally from red meats, there are some vitamins and minerals you might want to consider boosting via supplements.
Keep reading for a full look at 5 amazing supplements you might want to consider adding to your daily vitamin routine! ___________________________________________________________________________
Vitamin B12 is important for many bodily processes, including protein metabolism and the formation of oxygen-transporting red blood cells. It also plays a crucial role in the health of your nervous system. Too little vitamin B12 can lead to anemia and nervous system damage, as well as infertility and bone and heart disease.
Foods often found to be rich in vitamin B12 include unwashed organic produce, mushrooms grown in B12-rich soils, nori, spirulina, chlorella, and nutritional yeast. Proven ways for vegans to reach daily levels of B12 also include consuming B12-fortified foods or taking a vitamin B12 supplement. B12-fortified foods commonly include plant milks, soy products, breakfast cereals, and nutritional yeast. For example, nutritional yeast only contains vitamin B12 when fortified.
It's important to keep in mind that vitamin B12 is best absorbed in small doses. Thus, the less frequently you ingest vitamin B12, the more you need to take. This is why vegans who are unable to reach the recommended daily intake using fortified foods should opt for a daily supplements of B12.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps enhance the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from your gut and also influences many other bodily processes, including immune function, mood, memory, and muscle recovery.
Unfortunately, very few foods naturally contain vitamin D, and foods fortified with vitamin D are often considered insufficient to satisfy the daily requirements.
Aside from the small amount you get from your diet, vitamin D can be made from sun exposure. Most people likely make enough vitamin D by spending 15 minutes in the midday sun when the sun is strong — as long as they don't use any sunscreen and expose most of their skin.
The best way vegans can ensure they're getting enough vitamin D is to have their blood levels tested. Those unable to get enough from fortified foods and sunshine should consider taking a daily vitamin D2 or vegan vitamin D3 supplement.
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 even attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Omega-3 fatty acids can be split into two categories:
- Essential omega-3 fatty acids: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the only essential omega-3 fatty acid, meaning you can only get it from your diet.
- Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids: This category includes eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). They are not considered essential because your body can make them from ALA.
Plants with a high ALA content include flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, and soybeans, and vegans can reach their recommended intake by supplementing with algae oil as well.
It is also important to minimize your intake of omega-6 fatty acids from oils, including corn, safflower, sunflower, and sesame oils, as well as making sure to eat enough ALA-rich foods, may further help maximize your healthy omegas.
Iron is a nutrient used to make new DNA and red blood cells, as well as carry oxygen in the blood. It's also needed for energy metabolism, and too little iron can lead to anemia and symptoms like fatigue and decreased immune function.
Iron can be found in two forms: heme and non-heme. Heme iron is only available from animal products, whereas non-heme iron is found in plants. Because heme iron is more easily absorbed from your diet than non-heme iron, vegans are often recommended to aim for higher daily doses of iron from foods.
Iron-rich foods include dark leafy vegetables, beans, peas, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds. Iron-fortified foods, such as cereals, enriched breads, and some plant milks, can further help with diet-related iron intake.
Also, even using cast-iron pots and pans to cook, avoiding tea or coffee with meals, and combining iron-rich foods with a source of vitamin C can help boost iron absorption.
Calcium is a mineral that’s necessary for good bone and teeth health. It also plays a role in muscle function, nerve signaling, and heart health.
Plant sources of calcium include bok choy, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, watercress, broccoli, chickpeas, calcium-set tofu, and fortified plant milks or juices.
Even though cows milk or dairy cheese are not needed to get the full recommended daily dose, evidence suggests that vegans consuming less than 525 mg of calcium tend to have an increased risk of bone fractures, so consuming other calcium-fortified foods or supplements might be needed.