Following a vegan diet had many benefits, but you may need to take extra care to make sure you’re getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need.
We often rely on a varied diet to get all of the vitamins and minerals our bodies need to function and removing all animal products from our diet can increase the risk of missing out on some of these.
Dietary restrictions can make it more difficult to meet your daily requirements. For example, vegans may find they struggle to get enough calcium from other non-animal sources to support bone health. One of the easiest ways to ensure you’re getting everything your body needs to function is to take vitamin supplements. In this blog, we’re going to explore some of the essential vitamins and minerals you may need to supplement if you are following a vegan diet.
I’m a Vegan, What Vitamins Do I Need?
A varied vegan diet will offer plenty of vitamins and minerals, but some are more difficult to get from plants. Some common deficiencies found in plant-based diets include:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
- Long-chain omega-3s
Vitamin B12 for Vegans
B12 is essential for keeping your nerves and blood cells healthy. Fish, meat and poultry are all excellent sources of B12, so a vegan diet can often be lacking in this essential vitamin. Plant-based sources of B12 include fortified flour and cereals, fortified soy milk, tempeh and mushrooms. You will also find vitamin B12 in vegan vitamins.
Vitamin D for Vegans
Vitamin D helps to regulate calcium and phosphate in the body. Dietary sources of Vitamin D include fish, red meat, egg yolks and fortified foods. There are some plant-based sources of vitamin D such as mushrooms and milk alternatives, but vitamin D supplements can ensure this is boosted to the best levels.
Long-chain Omega-3s for Vegans
The most common source of long-chain omega-3s in a human diet is oily fish, but as the vegan diet doesn’t permit fish, this means this is excluded. Even many Omega-3 supplements are made from fish oil meaning they’re would be unsuitable for vegans.
Some great plant-based sources of long-chain omega-3s include flaxseed, chia seed, hemp seed oil and walnuts. A supplement can help you to ensure you enjoy all of the neuroprotective properties of omega-3s without the need to add nuts to every meal.
Iodine for Vegans
Iodine is essential for the thyroid gland and is used to help control growth and repair damaged tissue, but can be harmful if supplements are taken for too long. Seaweed is one of the best sources of iodine to consume and is perfect for a plant-based diet.
Iron for Vegans
Iron is an essential mineral that the body uses to produce red blood cells. Red meat is one of the most common sources of dietary iron, but you can also get iron from plant-based sources like chickpeas, lentils, pumpkin seeds and flax.
Iron deficiency can leave you feeling weak and fatigued, so this can be a sign that you need to add a vegan vitamin supplement to your daily routine. Learn more about iron deficiency here.
Calcium for Vegans
Calcium is a mineral that is stored in the bones. As we age, our calcium reserves will begin to decline. If you aren’t getting enough from your diet, your body will dip into its own supply. This can lead to brittle bones that are more likely to break if you fall.
Commonly humans consume calcium through dairy products such as milk, cheese or yoghurt, but when eating plant-based you need to turn to alternative sources. Foods such as dried figs, almonds, fortified milk alternatives and tofu are great dietary sources of calcium, and a supplement can also be taken to support this.
Zinc for Vegans
Zinc is essential for a properly functioning immune system and metabolism. If you are low on zinc, you might find that you don’t fight off infections very efficiently. Some great vegan sources of zinc needed for a healthy functioning immune system include legumes, nuts and seeds. Alternatively, a vegan multivitamin will contain enough zinc to maintain your immune system.
While there are many plant-based sources for these vitamins, there are also benefits to taking supplements alongside your diet and combining your supplements to support each other. Vitamin C will help you to absorb iron, and vitamin D will help you to absorb calcium. Instead of getting confused by the food pairings, a daily supplement could make things much simpler.