Supplementation is an essential part of a healthy vegan diet. Here are the top 5 vegan supplements you need in your life right now
It’s important as a vegan to ensure that your body is getting all the right vitamins and nutrients.
The vegan diet is more restrictive than the diet of a meat-eater or vegetarian. We have fewer foods available to us and some of those foods include important stuff for our bodies. Supplementing can ensure your body is getting exactly what it needs for a healthy vegan lifestyle.
This is not just for vegans either, everyone, including meat-eaters, should be supplementing. It’s a great way to ensure our body is in the best shape it can be.
There are very few people in the world that eat a whole food diet. So, deficiencies in key vitamins and nutrients are common in most people.
It’s important before taking any supplements that you understand the bioavailability of vitamins and supplements. Bioavailability is the essentially how well the substance is absorbed into the body.
There are many cheap supplements on the market which do not absorb well and your body cannot process. You will see at the bottom of each supplement discussed in this article a header which recommends the best type of supplements for bioavailability.
Here are my top 5 Vegan Supplements you should consider:
B12 is found in meat, fish, eggs, milk and milk products. It is also found in some plant-based milks, soy products and fortified cereals. Although, these are not recognized as reliable sources of the vitamin.
B12 forms when an animal digests grass and is present in animal products when consumed. Humans cannot form B12 in the body. If you are new to veganism then deficiency isn’t as much of a concern than that of a long time vegan. B12 stores in your body for 2-4 years before it needs replenishing.
I would suggest that it is still important for vegans to supplement B12. Deficiency in B12 is common among meat eaters too. Very few animals are raised on grass in modern agriculture meaning there is less B12 in the meat or eggs being eaten.
In fact, factory farmed animals are given B12 supplements to prevent deficiency in humans…
Cut out the middleman (cow/chicken/lamb) and supplement B12 for yourself.
Vitamin B12 is essential for red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis. Symptoms of B12 deficiency include:
- Weakness or feeling tired
- Pale skin (famous vegan stereotype)
- Constipation or diarrhoea
- Nerve problems
Good news is, you can buy B12 as a supplement. It’s cheap and you just take one a day. Problem solved.
Bioavailability: B12 Methylcobalamin
Calcium is an essential nutrient for our body and forms around 2% of our body weight. Calcium is found in our bones and teeth.
Our bodies need calcium in order to build strength and structure to our skeleton. It’s also important that we have calcium in our blood to help regulate muscle contraction and nerve impulse and hormone signalling.
Vegans can source calcium naturally in foods. Such as collard greens, tempeh, broccoli, kale, bok choy, mustard greens, okra (yuck), tahini and almond butter.
So, whilst there are many foods to source calcium from they are not always practical or fit in with our meal plans.
You may want to consider buying a supplement to ensure you are getting the RDA of 1000mg. Calcium supplements are fairly inexpensive and your bones will thank you.
Bioavailability: Calcium Citrate
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps support and enhance the absorption of calcium-phosphorus from your gut.
Deficiency can influence your mood, immune function and muscle recovery.
Vitamin D deficiency is common among both vegans and omnivores. Just 15 minutes in the sun each day without sunscreen can provide you with the RDA of 600IU (15mcg).
It’s important to make sure you get your RDA of Vitamin D.
Deficiency in Vitamin D has been linked with prostate cancer, heart disease, depression and weight gain.
Not everyone lives in a country with sunshine so the best way to ensure vegans get vitamin D is by supplementing Vitamin D2 or a Vitamin D3. But, studies have shown D3 is more effective at raising blood levels of Vitamin D. So D3 is recommended.
Bioavailability: Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)
4. Long-chain Omega-3s
There are 2 types of omega-3. Essential (ALA) and Long Chain (EPA & DHA). I won’t go into too much detail about two.
ALA converts blood sugar (glucose) into energy. It is a powerful antioxidant, neutralises toxins and other free radicals. Studies have shown ALA can prevent heart disease, cancer, liver disease and cell ageing.
EPA & DHA play an important role in the function of our brains and eyes. Studies have shown they can help boost brain development and prevent inflammation, breast cancer, depression and even ADHD.
Theoretically, if we take in enough essential omega-3s via foods like chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts then it should be enough to maintain good levels of EPA and DHA within the body.
However, studies have shown that vegans are around 50% short of these levels when compared to our omnivore friends.
Problem is EPA and DHA is naturally found in fatty fish and fish oil. One way vegans can get there RDA (around 200-300mg) is through an algae oil supplement. Or we can buy specific EPA and DHA supplements.
I would recommend looking at iHerb for algae oil and the EPA and DHA supplement. The algae oil is considered better than the supplement alternatives.
Bioavailability: Algae Oil
5. Plant-based Protein Powder
Vegan protein powder is much like whey protein powder but made from vegetables instead of cows milk.
The most obvious answer is that it’s a fantastic way of adding protein to your diet. If you are training in the gym it is a great supplement to help reach your goals.
Other benefits of adding a plant-based protein include a boost in fibre, vitamins and minerals. It’s also known to boost metabolism.
Plant-based protein has become popular in recent years among the fitness community. This is great because there is lots of choice and flavours. The downside is, you will be paying premium money for it.
But, when you consider the practices of the dairy industry it doesn’t seem so bad.
Bioavailability: It’s important to buy a powder with a good mix of protein sources such as pea, flax, quinoa and pumpkin seeds. Try to buy organic and non-GMO.
Now you mention it, here are some other supplements you could consider buying:
Iodine – supports thyroid function which controls our metabolism
Iron – good for new DNA, red blood cells as well as carrying oxygen to in the blood. Also good for energy metabolism
Zinc – good for metabolism, immune function repair of body cells
Disclaimer – I have linked the website iHerb.com for all of the above supplements. I am in no way affiliated with iHerb.com. I simply believe they are the most convenient health store online with the capability of supporting the consumer needs of my international readers.