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8 Best Supplements to Take If You're Vegan

A vegan-diet is a healthy lifestyle choice that leads to reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer.

Yet, health expert agree that a whole-food, plant-based diet can still sometimes lead to vitamin and nutritional deficiencies if the diet isn’t closely monitored.

Most non-meat eaters suffer from deficiency of vitamin B-12, calcium, zinc and even iron. For example, a research concluded that 86% of vegans have vitamin B12 deficiency.

Moreover, following a balanced, meat-free meal without supplements during pregnancy can increase the chances of birth defects or complications.

Thus, professional dietitians recommend the intake of supplements along with vegan diets.

Let’s have a look what are the best supplements you should take if you are a vegan:

8 Best Supplements To Take If You’re A Vegan

  1. Vitamin B12

No vegan food contains vitamin B12—an essential nutrient for mental and physical health.

Vitamin B12 is exclusively found in dairy, eggs and milk. So, all vegans supplement their diet with B12 or fortified foods.

What’s the Benefit?

Vitamin B12 is important for DNA synthesis, RBC formation and nervous system functions. A deficiency in vitamin B12 can cause anemia (low RBC count), irreparable nerve damage, and infertility.

A vitamin B12 deficiency in pregnant or lactating women can lead to birth defects, inadequate development of brain and low intellect in babies.

Vegan Food Alternatives

Plant-based diets are devoid of B12. If you are a vegan, you can have fortified cereals, meat substitutes, vegan milk, or nutritional yeast.

RDA of vitamin B12: On average, it is 2.4mcg. It’s even higher for pregnant or nursing women.

Furthermore, it’s important to understand that B12 is most absorbed when taken in small doses. Thus, to fulfil your daily RDA, it’s recommended to have a daily or weekly dosage of B12 supplement.

  1. Iron

Although vegan foods are good source of iron, but plant-based iron is not absorbed completely by our body. Due to this, you must eat more iron-packed foods compared to meat-eaters. A study concluded that vegans, in comparison to non-vegans, have higher chances of iron deficiency.

What’s the Benefit?

Iron is essential component of RBCs, the oxygen transporters in your blood. Iron deficiency leads to improper oxygenation of brain and body that can interfere with normal body functions.

Vegan Food Alternatives

Lentils, beans, tofu, nuts, potatoes, cruciferous vegetables, spinach, fortified cereals and bread are good vegan source of iron.

However, vegan foods have ‘non-heme’ iron that’s not well absorbed by your body compared to ‘heme’ iron found in animal foods. Thus, intake of iron supplements is highly recommended if you are anemic, pregnant or breast-feeding.

RDA of Iron: For adults, it’s 16mg per day. For women between 20-50 years, its 36mg per day. For pregnant or breastfeeding women, it’s even higher.

Thus, vegans should add OTC iron supplements to their daily diet. However, beware of overdose of iron as it causes damage to cells or prevents mineral absorption.

  1. Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency is common in both vegans and non-vegans. However, vegans are more prone to vitamin D deficiency as fish and eggs are good source of it.

What’s the Benefit?

Vitamin D is essential to boost the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in your blood. Due to inadequate absorption of calcium, you may suffer from muscle cramps, fatigue, bone pain, mood swings, slow muscle recovery, memory loss, and weak immunity.

Vegan Food Alternatives

Early morning sunlight is the best natural source of vitamin D. In addition, you can have fortified cereals, soy milk, juices and mushrooms. If you don’t go out a lot, it’s best to add vitamin D supplements to your diet.

RDA for Vitamin D: For adults, it’s 15mcg per day (600 IU).

  1. Iodine

Iodine is vital for healthy thyroid, which helps with our metabolism. Iodine deficiency isn’t common in the UK as it’s consumed through iodized salt, dairy, and seafood. But, vegans are at 50% higher risk of iodine deficiency.  

What’s the Benefit?

Iodine is important for production of thyroid hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Iodine deficiency or hypothyroidism can lead to fatigue, arthritis, and fertility issues. Pregnant women and children need adequate iodine intake as it plays a vital role in proper brain and bone development.

Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism are low energy, depression, dry skin and weight gain.

Vegan Food Alternative:

Iodized salt and seaweed are the two best sources of iodine for vegans. Or you can include iodine supplements to your routine in case of extreme low iodine levels.

RDA of Iodine: For adults, it is 150mcg per day. For pregnant or breastfeeding moms, it is 220-290mcg per day.

However, beware of overdose of iodine as it can have harmful effects.

  1. Calcium

Calcium is mostly found in dairy, which vegans avoid. Research shows that vegans mostly have calcium deficiency. In fact, vegans consuming less than half of daily RDA of calcium suffer from bone fractures.

What’s the Benefit?

Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth as well as proper muscle, nerve and cardiac functions.

Vegan Food Alternatives

Plant-based calcium sources are kale, turnip, broccoli, watercress, chickpeas, tofu, mustard greens, fortified vegan milk and juices.

RDA of Calcium: For adults, it is 1000mg per day. For 50+ adults, it is 1200mg per day. For women, it is 1500-2000mg per day.

  1. Vitamin K

Vitamin K is a gut-friendly bacteria. It occurs in two forms: vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. Although vegan foods are rich in vitamin K, where vitamin K1 is converted to K2. But, vegan like to supplement their diet with vitamin K as it’s a probiotic that boosts gut health.

What’s the Benefit?

Vitamin K is responsible for bone health and clotting of blood. A vitamin K deficiency leads to increased chances of weak bones, bone fractures and arthritis.

Vegan Food Alternatives

Vegan foods rich in vitamin K are broccoli, leafy greens, lettuce, soybean, blueberries, vegetable oils and fermented foods.

RDA of Vitamin K: For adults, it is 90-120mcg per day.

If you need a probiotic containing vitamin K for your gut health, be sure you are not taking a blood thinner as it can interfere with the medication. Consult your doctor before adding it to your diet.

  1. Zinc

Zinc is an essential nutrient for overall health. Although zinc is present in vegan foods, but animal foods are better sources of zinc.

What’s the Benefit?

Zinc is crucial for strong immunity, metabolism, and healthy hair. It quickens the healing of wounds as well.

Vegan Food Alternatives

Vegan sources of zinc include grains, beans, legumes, tofu, lentils, seeds and nuts. But, due to phytate content in vegan alternatives, zinc is insufficiently absorbed by the body. Thus, it’s better to consume a little extra zinc-rich food or have zinc supplements to prevent zinc deficiency.

RDA of Zinc: For adults, its 10mg per day. For pregnant and breastfeeding women, its 11-13mg per day.

  1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3s are the most essential fatty acids of our diet. In vegan foods, linoleic acid (ALA) is found, but they have minimal quantity of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Although ALA is converted to other two forms EPA and DHA naturally by the body, but the conversation is quite low.

What’s the Benefit?

Long chain omega-3s are crucial for healthy brain, eye, and heart functions. It prevents inflammation, ADHD, and reduces the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.

Vegan Food Alternatives

Vegan foods mostly contain ALA in foods like flaxseeds, kidney beans, chia seeds, plant-based oils, walnuts, fortified foods, seaweed and algae.

RDA of ALA: For adults, it is 1.1-1.6g per day. The other two omega-3 forms are made from ALA by the body.

However, to prevent omega-3 deficiency, especially of EPA and DHA in vegans, its recommended to add omega-3 supplements to the diet.

Final Verdict

Although vegan foods cannot fulfil your daily RDA of some essential vitamins and minerals but you can always supplement your diet with it. The above-listed 8 best supplements for vegans can prevent from fatigue, weakness, and growth and development problems in babies.

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