Are you a vegan, often asking yourself: Do I need supplements on a vegan diet? How can I thrive on a vegan diet?
Is it a myth or a reality that vegans run short of vital minerals and nutrients quite commonly? In fact, it’s a myth as studies show that vegans have a better index in terms of nutrient quality compared to omnivores. After all, which health expert would recommend GMOs?
Though the same research also reveals that vegans had low calcium intake.
So, basically, it’s all about a well-balanced diet plan for both vegans and non-vegans to satisfy their RDA recommended nutritional needs.
However, to curate a balanced diet, you need to find out where do the essential vitamins and minerals come from in vegan dietary choices?
Here are 8 nutrients that you must need to supplement your vegan diet with
1. Vitamin B12
Vegans who have an adequate intake of foods rich in B12 don’t need any supplements. Yet, the belief has no scientific proof.
Moreover, it is found that the ability to absorb vitamin B12 decreases with age. Therefore, you must fulfill your daily need with fortified foods or B12 supplements.
Foods Rich In Vitamin B12
Mushrooms reaped from B12-rich soil, chlorella, nori, and spirulina. You can also get it from fortified foods such as soy products, plant milk, nutritional yeast, and plant breakfast cereal. Lastly, you can also opt for a vitamin B12 supplement.
Vitamin B12 is necessary for protein metabolism and the production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. It’s vital for the health of your brain.
Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
A deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead to:
- Nervous system damage
- Heart diseases
- Bone diseases
- Immune system disorders
- Atrophic gastritis
Daily Recommended Vitamin B12 Intake
For adults, it is 2.4 mcg/day; for pregnant women, it is 2.6 mcg/day; for breastfeeding females, it is 2.8 mcg/day.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a vital role in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the gut. Moreover, it influences your moods and memory, muscle recovery, and immune functions.
Foods Rich in Vitamin D
There are very few food sources of vitamin D.
Fortified milk products or certain mushrooms are grown under sunlight are a good source of vitamin D.
But, we cannot be sure about the latter option; neither can we have them regularly in our diets.
A natural source of vitamin D is sunlight; so, a sufficient exposure (about 15 minutes), without any sunscreen, might fulfill your recommended need. On the darker side, UV rays are damaging to our skin.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
According to a study, a deficiency of vitamin D can increase the risk of dementia by 53% and that of Alzheimer’s disease by 70%.
Having sufficient levels of vitamin D prevent flu and the common cold during winters.
Here are a few other common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency:
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- Bone and back pain
- Impaired wound healing
- Bone loss
- Hair loss
- Muscle pain
In case of a deficiency, you can take a dose of vitamin D2 or vitamin D3 supplements. Even if vitamin D2 is enough, vitamin D3 can boost the blood levels of vitamin D.
Daily Recommended Vitamin D Intake
For children and healthy adults, it is 15 mcg/day; and for the elderly, and the breastfeeding or pregnant women, it is 20 mcg/day.
3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
There are three primary forms of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acids (ALA) – the essential fatty acid (not made by your body) and; Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and; Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – the non-essential fatty acids (produced within your body).
EPA and DHA are essential for brain development, and prevention of breast cancer, inflammation, depression, and ADHD. Omega-3 fatty acids can significantly improve your concentration and boost your energy for the day.
ALA is converted to EPA and DHA in small quantities.
Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Plant sources high in ALA are chia seeds, hemp seeds, soybeans, walnuts, and flax seeds. However, EPA and DHA are mainly found in animal products. Vegans can compensate by increasing the consumption of algae oils and ALA-rich foods.
Symptoms of Omega-3 Fatty Acids Deficiency
As per research, vegans have about 50% reduced blood concentration of EPA and DHA compared to omnivores.
Here are a few symptoms you must be alert about:
- Mood swings
- Dry skin and hair and soft or brittle nails
- Rough patches of skin
- Dry eyes
- Attention and concentration problems
- Poor sleep quality
- Joint discomfort
Daily Recommended Omega-3 Fatty Acids Intake
As per health professionals, the intake of omega-3 fatty acids should be about 200-300 mg/day.
Iron deficiencies are rare among vegan and plant-based whole food eaters. Although there’s a difference between vegan and plant-based diets, they are a lot healthier than non-vegan foods. Vegetables and fruits are rich in iron and fiber content.
Iron is essential for healthy red blood cells that transfer oxygen within the body.
Be sure to keep your coffee and tea intake limited, as it can slow down the process of iron absorption. You can have your tea or coffee about three hours before your healthy vegan meal.
There’s another vitamin that can increase the absorption of iron: vitamin C. Therefore, you must increase your consumption of foods rich in vitamin C.
For that, you can learn some anti-diabetic juicing recipes that can boost your iron and vitamin C intake. Isn’t it killing two birds with one stone?
Iron is sufficiently present in lentils, nuts, spinach, chickpeas, soy, whole grains, dried fruits, leafy greens, tofu, fortified foods, and hummus.
You may not need any supplements if you keep your iron intake proper through these foods.
Symptoms of Iron Deficiency
A deficiency in iron leads to anemia. The identifiable symptoms of anemia are
- Excessive fatigue
- Pale skin and brittle nails
- Shortness of breath
- Inflammation of the tongue
- Headaches and dizziness
- Cold hands and feet
- Poor appetite
Recommended Iron Intake
For children, the daily iron intake is up to 15.1 mg/day; for teenagers, it is 16.3 mg/day; for men, it is 20.5 mg/day; for women, it is 18.9 mg/day; and for pregnant women, it is 14.7 mg/day.
5. Vitamin K
Vitamin K is present in two forms: vitamin K-1 and vitamin K-2. Vitamin K, in general, boosts the blood clotting and quick healing function of the body.
Foods Rich in Vitamin K
Foods containing high amounts of vitamin K-1 are dark-leafy green plants. However, vitamin K-2 is mainly present in dairy products, which are not a part of vegan diets. Fermented food sources such as natto, unpasteurized kombucha, plant-based kefir, raw sauerkraut, vegan kimchi are good alternatives for vegans.
A vegan doesn’t run deficient in vitamin K-2 as the healthy gut bacteria changes vitamin K-1 to vitamin K-2. Probiotics are enough to help the gut boost the conversion of vitamin K-1.
Symptoms of Deficiency of Vitamin K
Here are a few warning signs of vitamin K deficiency:
- Easy bruising
- Excessive bleeding from wounds or surgical sites
- Heavy menstrual periods
- Oozing from nose or gums
- Blood in the urine and/or stool
Daily Recommended Vitamin K Intake
Women must consume 90 mcg/day, and men should consume 120 mcg/day to satisfy their daily body requirements.
Iodine is essential for thyroid gland regulation. Thyroid hormone, in turn, helps with healthy brain development, growth, healing, and energy-producing metabolism.
Foods Rich in Iodine
In plants, small amounts of iodine are present, depending upon the soil the plants are grown in. A good source of iodine is seaweed, such as sushi. Iodized salt is another great replacement. Plant-Based diet consumers can opt for yogurt as a good source of iodine.
Symptoms of Deficiency of Iodine
According to a recent study, a third of people around the globe are deficient in iodine. Here are a few signs you must register in case of iodine deficiency:
- Weight gain
- Feeling weak
- Hair loss
- Feeling exhausted
- Slow heart rate
- Dry skin
- Swollen neck
- Heavy or irregular periods
- Complication in pregnancy
Recommended Daily Iodine Intake
Everyone needs to consume at least 150 mcg/day to maintain healthy body functions.
Calcium is necessary for bone and dental health. It is also essential for muscle function, proper nerve functioning, and sound heart health.
Foods Rich in Calcium
In vegan diets, foods such as kale, turnip greens, broccoli, chickpeas, calcium-set tofu, watercress, fortified plant milk, mustard greens are excellent calcium sources.
Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency
People with a low intake of calcium have a higher risk of bone fractures. Here are a few signs of calcium deficiency
- Brittle nails
- Painful premenstrual syndrome
- Dental problems
Recommended Daily Calcium Intake
As per RDA, the need for calcium is 1000 mg/day for adults; and it increases to 1200 mg/day by the age of 50.
A standard tip is to keep your meal plate colorful; but, that doesn’t register my daily vitamin and mineral needs. As a vegan, I did face the question of do I need supplements on a vegan diet?
Now, I can plan my meals better without feeling lost and relying on ‘a colorful platter’!
Do you have a vitamin or mineral deficiency?