Vegan Vitamins and Supplements: What you must know about
Vegans, for a variety of reasons, don’t eat animal products and their by-products. They focus on fresh vegetables, grains, legumes, seeds and fruits. This type of diet is very beneficial, but likewise has its own disadvantages. The major pitfall is the likelihood to fall short on some key nutrients such as Vitamin B12 and D, proteins, calcium and zinc. This cannot be ignored if one is to lead a healthy life. Vegans are therefore advised to consider taking some supplements on top of their diet. Here are some of those recommended vegan supplements.
1. Vitamin B12
Research has shown that people differ greatly in their ability to absorb Vitamin B12. With a vegan diet, there is a high possibility of being deficient of this nutrient. Therefore, it is advisable to go for a blood test regularly to check the B12 levels. If it falls below 500pg/mL, you should take vegan vitamin B12 supplement. Injections may be required in those people whose absorption of the nutrient is so poor.
There are two forms of B12 supplements in the industry, namely cyanocobalamin and methylcobalamin. The best form is the cyanocobalamin. The recommended dose is at least 1000 micrograms of B12 twice or thrice a week. Vitamin B12 supplements are available in capsules, tablets, lozenges, liquid and a variety of other forms. You should let the B12 lozenges sit under the tongue for more efficient absorption.
Most of the calcium rich foods are animal products and byproducts, but vegans don’t consume these. Vegans derive calcium from foods such as kales, tofu, soya beans, white beans, Brazil nuts, almonds and almond milk. Failure to eat plenty of these may make you fall short of the recommended target of 1000 mg per day. Vegan calcium supplements come in handy in this case.
The choice of Vegan calcium supplements can be tricky. Some of them are made from oyster shells, and thus are not vegan. Other brands use lanolin-derived vitamin D. Some other brands are marketed in gelatin capsules, or formulated in tablet form with non-vegan coatings. It is therefore advisable to particularly shop for a Vegan calcium supplements.
3. Protein Powders
The most obvious source of proteins is meat and eggs. Since vegans don’t consume these, they have to look for proteins in foods such as beans, wheat gluten. These may however be difficult to digest, especially for the young vegans. The need for proteins can therefore be adequately fulfilled using vegan protein powders.
One scoop of protein powders mixed into water is equivalent to a 16-ounce can of beans. This is certainly a great alternative to the natural proteins.
4. Vitamin D
This nutrient together with Calcium is essential in bone development. It is mostly obtained through exposing your skin to direct light or drinking fortified milk. The skin must be exposed directly to sun to produce Vitamin D, which may not be possible during the cold months. On the other hand, too much exposure to the sun may lead to premature aging of the skin. Vegan vitamin D supplements are therefore necessary for such individuals.
Vitamin D2 supplements have been there in the market for quite a long time. It is only until recently that supplements with the more potent Vitamin D3 have been produced.
Vegan sources of Omega-3 fats include walnuts, chia seeds, flax, hemp and pumpkin seeds. The strange part is that your body may not be properly converting the Omega 3 fats to provide adequate levels of DHA and EPA. This is the reason you may need DHA/EPA supplements. Vegan DHA/EPA supplements are extracted from algae. This makes them almost free of mercury and other heavy metals. Despite of drops in prices over the years, these supplements remain the most expensive for the Vegan.
Vegans can get iron from seaweed, some types of beans and leafy green vegetables. However, during pregnancy, women experience difficulty in getting iron from these foods. Vegan iron supplements or multivitamins that contain iron can adequately solve this problem.
It’s important to note that Vitamin C increases iron absorption. You can therefore squeeze some lemon in water and take along with the iron supplement.
7. Vegan Multivitamins
Vegan multivitamins ensure that the vegan diet does not fall short of some vital nutrients like Zinc and iodine. These are hard to obtain through Vegan foods.
All multivitamins contain cobalamin (B12). However, you should not rely on multivitamins to cover your B12 needs. This is because many people are not able to absorb enough of the B12 even if they take the supplements daily.
Some multivitamins contain iron. Taking too much iron can be hazardous, therefore you should shun such multivitamins unless the doctor recommends it boost your blood iron.
How to choose Vegan Vitamins?
Generally, vegans should not use multivitamin supplements as the only source of vitamins and minerals. Eating a variety of fruits, fresh vegetables and whole grains supplies quite a considerable amount of these minerals and vitamins. Therefore, you should not rely only on supplements for acquiring 100% of all the vitamins and minerals.
When choosing a multivitamin, you should first consider your diet. If the diet is more of fortified cereals or plant-based milk, you should consider buying calcium supplements. If the diet is more of lentils and other legumes, you’ll need multivitamins that provide B12, Vitamin D and iodine.
Side effects of Vegan Vitamins
Most vegan vitamins have little or no side effects. However some people may experience mild side effects such as upset stomach, headache and unpleasant taste in the mouth. More serious side effects may include allergic reactions, hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of your face, lips, tongue or throat. In such cases, it is usually advisable to seek help from your health-care provider.
We have clearly seen that not all the vital nutrients can be extracted from plants alone. Therefore, vegans should take vegan vitamins to fill this gap of nutrients. Care should also be taken to purchase multivitamins meant for Vegans. Some multivitamins are derived from animal products. If taken by vegans, it contradicts their decision to stay away from animal products and byproducts.
- Dr. Danish Raza