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Do vegans need to take supplements?

Supplementation is an important part of a healthy plant-based diet to ensure that you get all the essential nutrients that your body needs. Vegans who are unable to get the recommended daily intake of vital nutrients from their diet need to take the right supplementations to achieve balanced vegan diets. Cutting out dairy and meat products from your diet can leave you lacking in certain nutrients that may lead to various health concerns. Making up for these important nutrients, taking supplements, and eating certain foods are recommended. Some of the vital nutrient vegans may lack in their diet and need to supplement include:


Iron is a vital mineral that facilitates the transportation of oxygen by the red blood cells from your lungs to the rest of your body. It also helps in creating essential hormones and assists in brain development. Although iron is found in both plant-based (nonheme iron) and animal products (heme), vegans need to consume twice the recommended amounts as their meat-consumption counterparts. It is hard for your body to absorb the iron found in plant-based sources called nonheme thus creating the iron deficiency for vegans. The daily recommended intake of iron is about 8 mg for adults under 51 years, and about 18 mg for women between 19 -51 years old.

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Vegans can attain their daily intake of iron by consuming foods like fortified cereals, pumpkin seeds, broccoli, tofu, and beans. Low levels of iron are common and associated with multiple symptoms such as

Frequent bouts of illness

  • Tiredness

  • poor concentration

  • pale skin

  • heart palpitation

  • changes your food taste

  • uncontrollable urge to move your legs also known as restless leg symptom

You should note that intake of iron supplements when not necessary may harm your health because they contain high amounts of iron. In excess, iron can lead to organ failure, cell damage, coma, and in severe cases can lead to death. Checking your healthcare professional to know your iron levels regularly is a great way to treat and identify iron deficiency before they potentially develop into IDA (iron deficiency anemia). Always follow your healthcare provider’s dosage for a better outcome on iron supplementation.

Read also>>> 10 supplements for a vegan or plant-based diet

Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 has an important role in your overall health including nerve functioning and the production of red blood cells. More people rely on dairy products and meat to achieve the daily recommended intake of this vital nutrient. Vegans are more likely to have a vitamin B-12 deficiency than those who consume meat because vitamin B-12 is mostly found in animal products. Deficiency symptoms of vitamin B-12 include:

  • Tingling of legs and hands

  • Feeling weak or lightheaded

  • Digestive problems

  • Memory loss

  • Loss of appetite and blurred vision

The daily recommended intake of B-12 is about 2.4 mg per day. Vegans find it hard to get foods rich in vitamin B-12 since it is mainly found in animal products increasing their chances of deficiency symptoms of this vital nutrient. Manufacturers that deal with plant-based eaters usually add vitamin B-12 to their products like nutritional yeast, tofu, nondairy milk, and fortified breakfasts. Vitamin B-12 supplementations are different; the recommended B-12 is cyanocobalamin because it is stable.

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The human body converts cyanocobalamin to adenosylcobalamin and methylcobalamin which are the two active forms of vitamin B-12. Vitamin B-12 is involved in cardiovascular diseases, cognitive and dementia function, endurance and energy, cancer, and stroke. Note that vitamin B-12 comes from micro-organisms and is not produced by plants. Supplements and fortified foods are the only ways to take this important nutrient in a plant-based diet.


Zinc is a mineral essential for immune function, metabolism, and body cell repair. Few plants contain zinc and its absorption is limited due to phytate content in plants. Vegans tend to have lower blood levels of zinc and low zinc intake than those who consume animal products and should consider taking daily supplements. To increase your zinc intake, consider supplements and eat a variety of zinc-rich foods throughout the day such as whole grains, nuts, legumes, and seeds. The daily recommended amount of zinc intake is about 8-11 mg in a day for adults. Lacking enough zinc in your body is accompanied by various symptoms which include:

  • Frequent Symptoms of the common cold

  • Weak immune system

  • Diarrhea

  • Skin rushes mostly around your mouth

  • Problems related to vision due to high risks of macular degeneration age-related

Vegans concerned with zinc intake or those who have the above symptoms should consider taking zinc citrate or zinc gluconate supplements which provide about 50-100 percent of their daily recommended amounts.


It is a vital mineral essential for teeth health, good and strong bones, muscle formation, heart health, and nerve signaling. Vegans consuming below 525 mg of calcium are prone to the risk of bone fracture therefore all vegans should aim to achieve the recommended daily intake. The RDA of calcium intake is about 1000-1200 milligrams.

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Plant sources of this vital nutrient are boy choy, chickpeas, fortified juice and milk, broccoli, and mustard greens. The deficiency symptoms of calcium include:

  • Brain fog

  • Insomnia

  • Lack of energy

  • Feeling of sluggishness

  • Lack of focus and confusion

  • Dental problems

  • Skin inflammation which results to dry patches

Vegans who consume too little calcium or are not able to achieve the daily recommended amount of calcium through their fortified diets are encouraged to consider taking supplements. Especially for those who get less than 525 mg in a day.

Read also>>> 10 supplements for a vegan or plant-based diet

Long-chain omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in reducing the risk of inflammation, brain development, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Vegans have about 50% low tissue and blood concentrations of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) than those individuals who consume animal products. Vegans can attain their daily recommended amount of omega-3 fatty acids by supplementing with algae oil. The daily intake of this vital nutrient is about 250-500 milligrams per day.

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You can reduce the intake of omega-6 fatty acids from oils by safflower, sunflower, corn, and sesame oil. Eating foods rich in alpha-linolenic acids (ALA) such as hemp seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and flax seeds may increase the levels of DHA and EPA intake. The deficiency symptoms due to lack of long-chain omega-3s include:

  • Joint pain

  • Heart problems and poor circulation

  • Dry skin

  • Fatigue

  • Poor memory

When omega-3 supplementation is considered, there is variety and not all of them are good. Some may contain harmful compounds due to pollution. Before making your choice on what supplements to consume, make sure you educate yourself through your nutritionist before acquiring or buying the supplement. Vegans who don’t manage to get enough omega-3 from their diet, it is recommended to take the right omega-3 supplements.

Read also>>> 10 supplements for a vegan or plant-based diet

A vegan diet with all the essential nutrients can fulfill your nutritional needs. Certain requirements may be tricky to achieve on a plant-based diet alone especially long-chain omega-3s, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Vegans who are not able to meet the dietary recommendation through their diet should consider taking supplements. It is good to consult your healthcare provider before beginning a new supplement regime.

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