10 Supplements for a Vegan or Plant-based Diet
Over the last few years, the vegan diet has become a common concern as to whether it provides the essential minerals and vitamins for the body. The majority claim that a plant-based diet meets all the daily nutrients your body requires. Some proponents go to the extent of advising vegans to avoid supplements, which can only precede some ‘important’ mineral or vitamin deprivation to the body. As the vegan diet becomes popular, especially among millennial vegans, it tends to eliminate the consumption of animal products. For what it’s worth, a plant-based diet can lack essential vitamins and minerals which can cause a deficiency in those particular nutrients. The appropriate way of combating such an outcome is by use of supplements.
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Here are the top 10 supplements you need on a vegan or plant-based diet:
Vitamin B12 is a crucial nutrient in your body that is often overlooked in a person’s diet. Lack of vitamin B12 may be detrimental to your health. It helps your body’s blood cells, nerves, and DNA formation. The recommended daily dose of vitamin B12 is approximately 2.4mg for adults. The body cannot produce this important nutrient which typically found in animal and dairy products. Therefore, vegans are likely to suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency. The deficiency symptoms of vitamin B12 include:
Problems in digestion
Tingling and numbness of feet and hands
Fatigue and nausea
Depression and mood swings
For vegans, it can be challenging to find food rich in vitamin B12 as it is mainly found in animal products. However, producers that cater to vegans consider adding vitamin B12 to their products such as non-dairy tofu and milk fortified cereals, and nutritional yeast. Consider intake of supplements with B12 to prevent dietary deficiency.
Omega-3 fatty acids
The omega-3 fatty acids are important fats crucial for the regulation of blood pressure, heart health, and reduce inflammations. There are three main types of omega-three fatty acids, the recommended intake of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) combined is about 500mg while the sufficient intake for alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is approximately 1.1 grams for adult women and about 1.6 for adult men. The deficiency symptom of omega-3 fatty acids is related to:
Painful joints or stiff
Problem in vision
Itchy and dry skin
EPA and DHA are the most important omega-3s typically found in fish. Therefore, it presents a conundrum for vegans to find it in their diet alone. But, plant-based can achieve the daily recommended amount of omega-3 fatty acids from soybeans, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and other legumes.
Iron is a vital mineral to our body that facilitates the transportation of adequate oxygen by red blood cells from the lungs to other parts of the body. It is also crucial for the formation of hormones and children’s brain development. It is hard for the body to absorb iron known as nonheme iron from plant-based food; therefore, vegans are supposed to take nearly twice the recommended amount to counterpart their meat consumption. The recommended amount of iron intake for men over 19 years and under 51 years adults is approximately 8 mg or 18 mg for women within the same age bracket. Lack of iron in your body has the following symptoms
Problem with breathing and chest pains
Cold feet and hands
Weakness and fatigue
Decreased immune function
Iron is mainly found in animal products. Vegans can get the recommended daily intake by consuming plant-based foods such as beans, peas, nuts, and dried fruits. You should consider adding foods rich in vitamin C to your iron diet as it facilitates iron absorption. Note that supplementing iron at high levels can cause damage to your body organs and block the absorption of other minerals in your body. So, consider taking the right amount of iron supplements.
Vitamin D plays important role in your body by improving your immune system, mood regulation, muscle recovery, and memory. It is an aid for the body’s absorption of other essential nutrients such as phosphorous and calcium. The daily recommended amount of vitamin D intake is about 600 international units for adults up to 70 years and approximately 800 international units for adults above 70 years. You can get an ample amount of vitamin D from sunlight which is not advised due to skin damage by ultraviolet rays.
Vitamin D deficiency has the following symptoms in your body:
Cramps, or muscle weakness
Fatigue accompanied by mood swings such as depression
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Typically, vitamin D is found in dairy products and meat, which are not compatible with a plant-based diet. Sources of this vital vitamin for a vegan can be obtained from mushrooms and fortified cereals and drinks such as rice milk, soy milk, and orange juice.
Calcium is a vital mineral essential for blood flow, bone health, muscles, and the release of hormones. The daily recommended calcium intake is about 1000mg in 1 day for women up to 50 years and 1200mg for women above 50 years. For men, the RDA of calcium is approximately 1000mg up to 70 years and about 1200mg per day for men above 70 years. Vegans struggle to get enough calcium in their diet as it is primarily found in dairy products. Vegans can obtain calcium plant-based foods such as tofu, kales, broccoli, and calcium-fortified foods.
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Plant-based calcium is not fully concentrated when compared to daily products. Therefore, consider taking calcium supplements that are paired with vitamin D because calcium cannot be absorbed adequately without vitamin D. Low levels of calcium in your body can cause:
Insomnia or lack of sleep
Muscle ache and spasms
Tingling and numbness in your feet, hands, and around the mouth
Pain in arms and thighs when moving
Individuals who consume less than 500mg of calcium are at higher risk of bone fracture. Consider taking adequate but not excessive amounts of calcium. A higher calcium intake than recommended may bring harm to your body such as kidney stones and can interfere with your heart and brain functioning.
Zinc is an essential mineral for immune function, metabolism, and repair of body cells. The recommended daily amount of zinc is 8 to 11 milligrams while lactating and pregnant women need a slightly higher quantity of 12-13mg. Zinc is rarely found in plants and is limited due to phytate content in some plants. Therefore, vegans are encouraged to take about 1.5 times more than RDA. Vegans consume a lower amount of zinc and lower levels than omnivores. To up the intake of zinc, consume a variety of foods containing zinc in a day which includes nuts, fortified cereals, legumes, wheat germ, and sprouted bread. Though it is difficult to assess zinc status in an individual, there are several symptoms of zinc deficiency which include:
Loss of hair
Delayed wound healing
Vegans with symptoms of deficiency should consider taking supplements such as zinc citrate and zinc gluconate which provide about 50-100 percent of the daily recommended. Excessive zinc ingestion is toxic, make sure you don’t take too much than recommended amount. Limit intake of zinc to about 40mg per day for women and men. Otherwise, there is no reason to take this much unless your doctor instructs you.
Iodine is an essential mineral that your body uses to manufacture thyroid hormones, which is crucial in cell repair and metabolism. It is found in soil, added to table salt, and naturally contained in some food. The daily recommended amount of iodine intake is about 150mg for adults. The symptoms associated with iodine deficiency are:
Swollen neck (goiter)
Weakness and fatigue
Vegans are more likely to suffer from iodine deficiency than individuals who consume meat as iodine is primarily found in animal products such as eggs and fish. The plant-based iodine sources options include lima beans, table salt, lima beans, and prunes. Vegans need about a quarter tablespoon of salt containing iodine every day or consider taking about 90mcg of iodine supplements about three times a week.
Selenium is an excellent antioxidant mineral that is essential in free radicles, prevents cell damage, and helps in thyroid health. The daily recommended intake of selenium is 70ug per day for men and about 60ug for women. The deficiency of selenium in your body has the following symptoms:
Foggy mental status
Weak immune system
Muscle and joint weakness
The limit intake of this crucial mineral is 400 micrograms in a day which is six times the recommended intake. Note that, long-term use of high levels of selenium intake than the recommended amount can be toxic to your body and can lead to nail and hair loss, nausea, and neurologic disorder. White rice, beans, and nuts are good sources of selenium. Consider taking an adequate but not excessive amount of selenium supplements to meet the daily recommendation in your vegan diet.
Vitamin K is a crucial nutrient in your body with a vital role including protection against excess bleeding and is essential in blood clotting. There are two types of vitamin K, i.e., vitamin K2, which is primarily found in fermented foods and animal products, and vitamin K1, which is found in some plant oils and vegetables. The daily recommended intake of vitamin K is about 90 micrograms for women and approximately 120mg for men. The deficiency symptoms of vitamin K are:
Dark, bloody stool
Blood clots on nails
Individuals on a plant-based diet can obtain vitamin K2 from fermented foods such as fermented soybeans(natto), kimchi, and vegan sauerkraut. Vitamin K1 can be obtained through vegetables such as kales, collard greens, brussels sprouts, and broccoli.
Proteins play a major role in your body’s muscle repair and production of essential hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters. There are 8 important amino acids that the body relies on. From what you consume, your body can make up to 22 amino acids from the remaining proteins. Vegans must eat an adequate amount of protein foods to make a good combination of these crucial amino acids. People on a plant-based diet can obtain their protein from peas, beans, pulses, grain and cereals, soya products, almonds, nuts, and seeds.
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You should note that soya, quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat provide all the essential amino acids as they are complete sources of protein. Deficiency of protein has various symptoms including:
Loss of muscle mass
Risks of bone fracture
Increase calories due to appetite
Risks of infections
The supplement daily recommendation for protein intake is about 1 gram of protein (per kg of your weight) every day. If you are struggling to reach your daily recommended intake of protein or need a higher protein in your body, a pea protein supplement can be included in your diet in powder form together with other protein sources to ensure you get an adequate amount of essential amino acids. It is challenging to stick to these nutritional recommendations with necessary minerals and vitamins from natural foods alone. When meat and all animal products are eliminated like dairy products and eggs, the reality is that it becomes difficult for vegans to attain the recommended amount every day.