August 16, 2020
Right away, veganism promotes many wonderful benefits to its practitioners. Most importantly, you can enjoy the peace of knowing that you’re leading a compassionate and wholesome lifestyle. Still, it takes a lot of work. You must be self-disciplined enough to resist foods that don’t fit within the vegan diet and knowledgeable enough to know which foods are appropriate in the first place. Since the nature of veganism also means that practitioners are prone to missing out on some vitamins, it’s also crucial to be diligent about compensating for them.
Why Do Vegans Struggle with Nutrient Deficiency?
Human bodies are designed to need certain amounts of specific nutrients in order to function. The nutrients they need can be obtained from a variety of different sources, including animals and their by-products. Before anyone questioned whether it was ethical, eating and using animals and their by-products was normalized by people all over the world throughout history.
As a result, your body is wired to get some nutrients from animals. When you choose a vegan lifestyle, it can be difficult to find those same nutrients elsewhere. Vitamin deficiencies can result in some short-term consequences, but left unchecked a vitamin deficiency over a long period of time could have more serious effects, including the following:
These are only a few possibilities, and they can be more common for vegans who aren’t on their guard against nutrient deficiency. That’s why you need to be knowledgeable not only about the risks, but what you can do about them. Taking supplements is one of the most effective solutions.
How Can Supplements Help Vegans?
Theoretically, you can get all the vitamins and nutrients you need if you eat sufficiently large quantities of the right vegan-friendly foods. However, it can be expensive and time-consuming to plan and prepare enough meals to meet your body’s demands. It’s also difficult to measure exactly how many vitamins and nutrients you are eating. Even nutrition labels aren’t an exact science, since the content may differ a little within portions of the same food.
Supplements build upon the nutrients that you’re already consuming to assist in providing what you need. You can select supplements that contain quantities of the vitamins that you’re most likely to lack as a vegan, compensating for any inadequacy you feel you have in your daily diet. Compared to the costs and effort required to keep up with all those vitamins and nutrients in your meals, taking supplements is a quick and simple solution that works.
What Should Vegans Consider When Choosing Supplements?
When looking for a supplement to add to your diet, you want to ensure you are spending your money and time wisely. To start, look for supplements providing active ingredients in as close to their natural form as possible. Excessive additives, flavorings, and preservatives are not necessary if the supplement is packaged and stored correctly.
Check labels to understand how much of the nutrient is available through the supplement and compare this with optimal dosage recommendations. Watch for bioavailability and absorption potential. If your body cannot adequately receive the nutrient from the supplement, the supplement will be ineffective.
As you verify supplements, check known, professional-grade certifications like Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) from NSF International for the organization or supplement company. These certifications confirm the product and facilities have been approved by the most respected independent certification organizations.
But the overall makeup of a supplement is not the only important factor to take into account, you should also look specifically for nutrients you need. How do you know what nutrients you need? Start by assessing your current diet; There are a few nutrients that vegans are particularly vulnerable to miss. While you should always consult with a trusted physician about nutrient needs and adding new supplements to your diet, the following are general recommendations from the National Institutes of Health:
Iron, responsible for transporting oxygen through your blood. Women should get about 18 mg a day, while men need about 8mg
Phosphorus, crucial for growing bones and teeth and keeping your tissues healthy. You should have around 700 mg daily.
Iodine, important for helping your body manage its metabolism and thyroid levels. Roughly 150 mcg is the ideal amount to consume every day.
Calcium, indispensable for strong and healthy bones, teeth, muscles, and nervous systems. Most adults ages 19 to 50 need about 1,000 mg per day. Women older than that should have 1,200 mg every day, and men start needing that amount when they turn 70.
Zinc, a key factor in proper cell growth, healing, and functional immune systems. About 8 mg a day is recommended for women, while it’s 11 mg for men.
Omega-3, fatty acids may have benefits for cardiovascular health. While there is not a recommendation for all three of the main omega-3 fatty acids, most adults should have between 1.1g and 1.6 grams of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) daily.
Vitamins D, which helps you absorb calcium, grow healthy bones, and enjoy a thriving immune system. Adults younger than 70 years old need at least 600 IU every day. Anyone older should have 800 IU.
Vitamin K, critical for controlling blood flow and helping prevent clotting. Generally, women need 90 mcg daily, and men must have 120 mcg.
Vitamin B12, imperative for keeping your nervous system, blood cells, and DNA healthy. At least 2.4 mcg per day is recommended.
Although these nutrients can often be found in vegan-friendly foods like dried fruits, whole grains, leafy greens, seeds, nuts, legumes, rice, soy, and fortified cereals and plant-based milks, the easiest way to know what you are getting is to add high-quality supplements to your daily intake.
Types of Supplements
Multivitamins and supplements are available in all kinds of forms. Many can be consumed as capsules, tablets, or powders stirred in water. No matter how you prefer to take yours, remember that some focus on particular sets of nutrients and not others. Look for supplements that specifically have what you need. Start by examining your diet and figure out what you’re most likely to be lacking.
For example, if you have a nut allergy or simply don’t like how they taste, you may not be getting enough iron, zinc, calcium, or omega-3, all of which are found easily in nuts. In that case, look for supplements that provide these specific nutrients.
Consider whole grains as well. They’re great sources of iron and phosphorus, as well as a decent source of zinc. However, that doesn’t help vegans with allergies to wheat. If that describes you, prioritize supplements containing iron, phosphorus, and zinc.
Vitamins D and B12 are two of the toughest nutrients for vegans to find because bioavailable forms are primarily present in animal meat and by-products, but it’s nothing less than essential. You can’t skip it or risk consuming less of it than you need. Ample sunshine is the only way for a vegan to get vitamin D naturally, but no one expects you to be outside all day every day. And although you can get vitamin B12 by eating soy, rice, almonds, coconuts, nutritional yeast, and cereals and plant-based milks specifically fortified with it, meeting your daily quota with those foods alone is nearly impossible. Especially because most plant foods contain Inactive B12, which doesn’t provide the same absorption and nutrient potential as Active B12. Hence, supplements containing vitamins D and Active B12 are non-negotiable for every vegan.
But these are just a few examples. Write down all the foods you typically include in your daily diet and research what nutrients they provide for you. Compare that to the list of nutrients in which vegans are frequently deficient. From there, determine what kind of supplements you may need most. Get them from a company that cares about helping you adhere to your compassionate lifestyle, like Sun Chlorella.
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Veganism is a beautiful and effective way to feel in harmony with the world around you. However, it can require extra work to maintain your health while you live by its tenets. Be diligent and alert to what your body needs, and use supplements as needed to compensate for whatever you’re struggling to consume. That way, you can fully enjoy the benefits of the vegan lifestyle the way they’re meant to be enjoyed.
Further Reading For Vegan Health and Nutrition:
Vegan Vitamin Deficiency: What Vitamins Vegans Need
Vegan Sources of B12: How Vegans get B12
Chlorella B12 - Active Form v. Inactive Vitamin B12