Why B12 Probably Isnt Enough
The fact is that not all nutrients come from plants.
Or, to be more specific, there are essential nutrients not abundantly available from plants others that may not be adequately absorbed from plant-sources , and still others that may exist as part of certain plant foods, but are not commonly consumed as part of a Western plant-based diet .
My hope is not to convince you to take a vegan supplement. Rather, its to encourage you to be thoughtful about what nutrients youre regularly consuming and which ones you might not be, and to convince you that complementing your plant-based diet with a handful of essential nutrients is critical for your health.
Why do I say complement rather than supplement?
A complement is defined as a thing that completes or brings to perfection. This is not about adding more of the nutrients that you already derive from plant-based foods .
Instead, its about complementing your intake of plants with the essential nutrients that are not found in the most commonly consumed plants .
Vegan Supplements: Which Ones Do You Need
Vegans Need More Than Just B12
Im here with a message that, without a doubt, isnt going to make me the most popular guy at the vegan potluck. Thats right, Im talking vegan supplements.
But its one I believe is absolutely critical to the long term health of our movement, and thats why Im committed to sharing it. Lets dive into vegan supplements and why we need to focus on them.
What To Look Out For
Don’t be fooled. A multivitamin isn’t always considered vegan. There are ways that animal products can sneak into these pills or capsules.
“Vitamin D3 is often made from sheep’s wool , and omega-3 supplements are typically fish-based unless it’s specifically stated as vegan on the label,” says Mimkha. Also, be sure to check what kind of capsule it comes in. “Gelatin capsules are derived from animal products,” she states.
Read labels carefully when choosing a multivitamin or opt for one specifically labeled a vegan product.
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Why A B12 Supplement Can Be Important For Plant
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient for human health, but its only found naturally in dirt and animal products.
Of course, most people prefer not to eat dirt. But does that mean you need to eat animal products to get this crucial nutrient? Does the fact that B12 is only in dirt mean we maybe shouldnt be vegans or vegetarians?
Heres the truth: Animals dont make B12. They get it from the dirt they eat. Soil bacteria in the guts of animals make B12, meaning the B12 comes from the soil, not the animals.
In the last few generations, the way that humans grow, process, and prepare food has changed. Historically, by eating dirty vegetables from the earth or foraging foods from the wild, humans ingested B12. But now, with modern growing and washing practices, dirt is no longer a viable source of B12 for most of us.
Vegan Vitamin D Supplement Recommendations
Lets take a look at vegan vitamin D supplements and whether you should take one. This is a relatively straightforward topic with a few interesting twists. If youre vegan, the information covered here can protect your health.
Vitamin D is naturally present in only a few foods. So, as well see, the only practical way to meet your needs is through supplements, fortified foods, or exposure to sunlight.
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What Vitamins Should Vegetarians Take
When it comes down to how to be a healthy vegetarian, lots of non meat eaters claim you get everything you need from a balanced vegan or vegetarian diet. Though thats true, no one eats perfect all the time. So to make sure the basics are covered, what vitamins should vegetarians take?
Vegetarians should take B12, iron and fish oil. You can get these from a vegetarian diet, but it takes more effort and planning.
Whether youre a longtime vegetarian like me, or whether youre brand new, its always good to look into your options and make sure youre getting everything you need. I talk to a lot of parents who worry about this when their kids stop eating meat. So Im giving you the same advice I would give a good friend.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, a scientist or a nutritionist. These are the supplements that have helped me, and the benefits as I understand them. I have, however, talked to several doctors about nutritional supplements throughout the years and Ive done my research. If you need more information or have questions about your own specific diet, ask your doctor or meet with a dietician.
Zinc Is Important For Many Vegans Vegetarians And Plant
Zinc is an important trace mineral everyone needs to stay healthy.
Its necessary for your bodys immune system to work properly. It also plays a role in cell growth, wound healing, and breaking down carbohydrates. Its also been found effective in helping to fight the common cold.
Plant foods, such as beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, oats, and nutritional yeast, are good sources of zinc.
But the zinc in plant foods is sometimes bound to phytates, making it more difficult for the body to absorb this nutrient.
Soaking and sprouting can help reduce the phytates, but even then, many plant-based eaters struggle to get the optimal amount. And keep in mind that zinc absorption typically decreases as you age.
The reality is, many vegans, vegetarians, and plant-based eaters may be deficient in their zinc levels.
Supplementing with zinc may be the best option for plant-based eaters and often for older adults in general.
How much should you take? For most adults, 11-13 mg per day is generally the recommended supplemental dose of zinc.
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Should Vegans Take Supplements And Which Ones
Many people following the vegan diet may think that they do not need to take any supplements since they eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods. However, some nutrients may be lacking in vegan diets, which can affect their health and overall wellness. So yes, vegans should definitely take supplements, and here are the important ones to remember
What Does Vitamin D Do In The Body
For years, this was the only known function of vitamin D. In recent years, vitamin D has been shown to play many other roles in the body, and in disease processes. Vitamin D also plays a role in gene transcription and cell growth 1.
Vitamin D has been associated with some types of cancer, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, polycystic ovary syndrome, diabetes, high blood pressure, psoriasis, and likely plays a role in helping the immune system fight infections 1, 7.
There have also been studies associating vitamin D with many other health concerns 7. However, association does not mean causation, and one cannot say that low vitamin D levels cause these conditions. They may cause low vitamin D levels, or another factor could be responsible for the association.
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Garden Of Life Mykind Gummy Multivitamin
This is a different multivitamin product from Garden of Life from the one above on the list.
Its ingredients and nutritional value are different from the pill version, so treat them as completely separate products.
Theres a mens, womens and kids version of this gummy multivitamin. Its one of the very few vegan multivitamins for kids.
The good and/or notable:
- Vitamin D is in D3 form.
- All organic ingredients
- Only consists of whole plant ingredients
The only big downside is that theres no iron.
Note that while some levels of vitamins are lower than in comparable products, most vitamins over 100% of the daily requirements dont get fully absorbed, so it doesnt matter in most cases.
Vegan Supplements: Dha And Epa
The Essential Background
Weve all heard of the importance of Omega-3s for vegans, but we dont often hear that not all Omega-3s are created equal.
Omega fatty acids from flax or chia seeds the ALA kind are an amazing addition to your plate, but vegans may not adequately consume other forms namely DHA and EPA, which are critical for cardiovascular and brain health.
Omega-3s play a key role in nearly every cell of your body. As such, a daily intake of these essential fatty acids is critical for optimal functioning from regulating your cholesterol levels to powering your nervous system.
One of the most important functions which we are just recently beginning to appreciate is controlling the low-grade, systemic inflammation that is tied to many chronic diseases, like Alzheimer disease. Some of the strongest evidence, however, relates to the benefits in preventing and treating heart disease.
Why They Matter for Vegans
Fish consume micro-algae and other marine plants, and these species of seaweed are the root source of high-quality EPA and DHA. Those compounds are then deposited in the fishs fat deposits. Thats why folks looking for a supplemental source Omega-3s take fish oil capsules. Its not that fish uniquely produce DHA or EPA its that fish eat Omega-3-rich seaweed.
How to Get Vegan Supplements: DHA & EPA on a Vegan Diet
How Much Vegan Supplements Do You Need
So how much should you consume?
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How To Get Tested For Vitamin D
It may be a good idea to have your blood tested for vitamin D levels every once in a while. One test you may want to consider is the 25-hydroxy vitamin D test, which can measure if youre getting too little or too much vitamin D .
Many experts recommend that you aim for a blood level between 30 and 50. For most people who dont get a daily dose of about 20 to 30 minutes of direct sun exposure, a daily dose of 2,000 IUs of vitamin D3 will ensure you get the right amount.
And you can also perform an easy self-test for vitamin D deficiency right now.
Heres how: Press your thumb into your sternum. Thats your breastbone. Press there with your thumb with moderate pressure.
If you experience discomfort when you push with a moderate amount of force, you may have a vitamin D deficiency, and you might want to get checked.
Is A Multivitamin Enough For A Vegan
With all these important vitamins that as a vegan you could be missing out on, you may be thinking that a multivitamin is the best option for you.
We would recommend keeping a track of your diet to see what vitamins you are lacking, and then either go down the route of a multivitamin supplement or a specific vitamin, depending on what vitamins you are low or lacking in.
Whilst it may be tempting to take a multivitamin as a precaution and there is no harm in doing this, always check the content and quantities of vitamins and nutrients in a specific product.
For example, not all multi options have iodine. On the other hand, some may contain very high levels of one or two nutrients.
You dont want to end up taking too many or too little of a specific vitamin.
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Being A Healthy Vegetarian
So to wrap up, what vitamins should vegetarians take? You really only need three supplements to round out your vegetarian diet iron, B complex and hair, skin, nails. By far the easiest way to ensure youre getting vegan or vegetarian vitamins online is through Amazon Prime and theyll be at your house within a day or two! Of course, supplements are just the beginning. You need to focus on getting enough protein, water, physical activity etc., but these supplements will get you started on being your healthiest vegetarian self!
This post includes affiliate links. I get a small commission if you purchase through these links, at no extra cost to you thanks for supporting Veggie Every Day!
Vegan Vitamins & Supplements Buying Guide
Introductory note: Ive created this page to help you find the best deals on exactly the vegan vitamins you need. On the one hand, some people blow huge amounts of money on useless and overpriced vitamins. But on the other hand, well-chosen supplements offer a reliable and inexpensive way to avoid nutrient deficiencies.
In researching this page, Ive spent hours and hours combing Amazon.com to find the products of greatest interest to vegans. In all cases, I comparison shopped to find the vegan offerings that deliver the greatest bang for the buck. These are exactly the products I buy for myself. Neither I nor Vegan.com receive any endorsement money from any of these brands. Anytime I discover a better deal than what Im currently linking to, I update the recommended product accordingly. I am confident youll find this page of value anytime you need to replenish your supplements. Erik Marcus, Vegan.com publisher.
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Recommended Daily Intake Levels For Vitamin D
The recommended daily intake of vitamin D for vegans is the same as that of the general population. Vitamin D recommendations vary by country, but in Canada for adults, the recommended dietary allowance is 600 IU per day 2.
Theres debate over this vitamin as recommendations are based largely on vitamin Ds role in bone health. Research on other functions of vitamin D is relatively new, but generally suggests a higher intake is favorable. Certain organizations and researchers have made a call to increase these recommendations 8.
That said, there is an upper intake limit set for vitamin D 2. This means that high intakes have been shown to cause some sort of harm or side effects. For adults, the upper intake limit is 4000 IU per day, meaning that intake over this level can cause harm and it is not advised to consume vitamin D over this level unless under the direct supervision of a doctor 2.
How Do Vegans Get Enough Calcium
Although non-vegans tend to get most of their calcium from dairy foods, many plant foods also contain this nutrient.
Vegan women should aim to get around 1,000 mg of calcium per day by including calcium-rich soy foods, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, seaweed, leafy greens and calcium-fortified foods into their diet.
That said, it can be difficult to meet your recommendations if you avoid calcium-fortified plant milks or yogurts. In this case, a supplement may be beneficial.
As a side note, getting enough vitamin D, either through sun exposure, a supplement or foods fortified in this vitamin is important to help the body absorb calcium properly.
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Does A Vegan Diet Require Supplements
Someone who doesnt eat animal products should include certain supplemental nutrients to prevent nutritional deficiencies that can be more common on a vegan diet.
While some plant foods are fortified with these nutrients of concern, its not always enough to rely on these sources to meet your needs consistently.
Some people may prefer to use a multivitamin with minerals supplement, while others may choose to supplement certain nutrients individually. Theres no right or wrong way, as long as youre meeting your needs.
But Why Is It Necessary For Vegans To Take B12
Vitamin B12 is available in fortified plant foods, such as fortified flours, plant milk like soy and almond milk, meat alternatives, vegan spreads, or nutritional yeast.
And although incorporating these foods into your daily diet can help boost your B12 levels, the amount may not be enough to get you to the levels you need. So you can have those foods in your routine, but include a supplement, especially because even though the deficiencies are rare, they are quite fatal when they happen.
On average, an adult needs approximately 2.4 mcg of B12 a day. Here is a Vegan B12 Supplement.
The Vitamin B12 supplement itself is not an animal product, it is made from fermentation and bacteria. Therefore both humans and animals need to get Vitamin B12 from bacteria. However, there might be other things added to the supplement so you need to make sure that your B12 supplement is vegan
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What Vitamins Should I Take As A Vegan
There are no regulations on which vitamins or minerals need to be present in multivitamins. The amounts of the vitamins available can also vary.
Certain types of multivitamins are created and sold.
Some of the most common include:
- Once-daily multivitamin/mineral usually contains most of the recognizable vitamins and minerals, typically at the recommended levels. Different categories are formulated for children, men, women, and pregnancies.
- Some MVMs contain higher amounts above the recommended intakes, focusing more on the upper limits. These types may also include other nutritional or herbal ingredients, and companies often offer these in packages of two or more pills.
- Specialized MVMs are created to be used for performance, weight control, or even improving immune function. These MVMs are often paired up with ingredients such as sterols, probiotics, and glucosamine .
Vegans need to ensure that the multivitamin they choose contains nutrients that are harder to get via diet or more challenging to absorb.
Jen Mimkha, a vegan Registered Dietitian and owner of Prana Nutrition, mentions that she takes a multivitamin regularly. She also states, “All vegans need to take a B12 supplement. Other nutrients of concern on a vegan diet are vitamin D, iron, zinc, calcium, and iodine.”
Vitamin D And Sunlight
Just as you can make vitamin D by exposing oily substances like lanolin to ultraviolet light, strong summer sunlight will also cause your skin to produce vitamin D. But most people cant get all the vitamin D they need through exposure to sunlight, especially in the winter. Whats more, the same sunlight that boosts your vitamin D levels also damages your skin. And if you apply sunscreen to protect your skin, that will decrease the formation of vitamin D.
In winter months, the sun is typically so low in the sky that your skin wont produce any vitamin D. Add to this that youre probably wearing thick layers of clothing and your vitamin D production is probably essentially zero.
Depending on your lifestyle, you may be able to get away with not taking vitamin D during the summer months. But apart from outliers who spend 12 months a year surfing in Hawaii, very few people get sufficient sunlight exposure year-round to meet their vitamin D needs. This is especially the case for people with darker skin, since this heavy pigmentation reduces the creation of vitamin D. As a result, people of color may be at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency. Older people also require more sun exposure to make vitamin D and are at risk for deficiency.
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