Which Supplements Should Vegans be Taking?
It’s no surprise to most of us that switching to a vegan or plant based diet has incredible health benefits. We’re not only avoiding many of the health risks that come from eating meat, we’re also generally going to be consuming a lot less processed food than someone who eats animal products.
Still, some people who haven’t embraced a vegan or plant based lifestyle will make the claim that it’s impossible to get all the nutrients required for a balanced, healthy diet without consuming meat or animal products.
The vitamins that often come up in these conversations are Omega-3, vitamin B12, and vitamin D3. While it is true historically that these vitamins have found their way into a human’s diet through the consumption of animal products, advances in modern supplement technology allow us to get these nutrients without doing so.
Allow me to break down why each of these vitamins is necessary for your health and give you some vegan supplements recommendations.
We’ve all heard about Omega-3s before. They’re a type of fatty acid that people who aren’t on a plant-based diet generally receive by consuming fish. There’s been a trend among health-conscious people to get more Omegs-3s for a reason.
WebMD lists the benefits of Omega-3s as including lowering blood pressure, preventing plaque buildup in arteries, and helping to prevent cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke.
In fact, these benefits are so pronounced that the American Heart Association says that everyone should be eating at least 2 servings of fatty fish per week. Now, no offense to the American Heart Association, but that’s not really how we do things around here.
Though Omega-3s are most often referred to as a fish oil, it can actually be found in a large variety of plants. Among the plants found to contain Omega-3s are chia seeds, flax seeds, and even brussels sprouts.
While it would be beneficial to simply incorporate more of these types of plants into your diet, it can take a large amount of these foods to get the recommended daily value of Omega-3s from plant sources.
Most people will get their daily dose of Omega-3s through supplements. If you’re looking for a supplement that’s vegan, make sure that “fish oil” is never mentioned on the packaging to ensure that the Omega-3s are extracted from one of these plant-based sources.
Oh, vitamin B12. When I first began eating a plant based diet, this was the vitamin that every doctor and health professional made sure to tell me that I should be taking. It was an understandable request, seeing as how not getting enough B12 can have serious side effects and that people tend to get most of their B12 from meat and animal products.
WebMD’s article on vitamin B12 deficiency lists heart palpitations, nerve problems or anemia, and even depression or memory loss as several symptoms. Thankfully, vitamin B12 is another nutrient that can be processed into a vegan friendly supplement without the need to extract it from any animal products.
Vitamin B12 comes in two forms in supplements, methylcobalamin or cyanocobalamin. Methlycoblamin is extracted from bacteria living on plants and in soil while cyanobalamin is a synthetically produced source of B12. The long names can be intimidating, but don’t worry!
Vitamin B12 supplements made from either of those two are healthy, vegan, and perfect for preventing the effects of deficiency listed above. They can even reverse some of these effects if you already have a deficiency.
Most of us associate D vitamins with getting enough sun. While this is certainly one way to increase the amount of vitamin D3 your body is getting, sometimes sunbathing for an hour every day just isn’t practical.
Still, vitamin D is arguably one of the most important vitamins for your overall health. Most of us already know that vitamin D is necessary for good bone health. However, WebMD cites several academic studies and reports backing up claims that getting enough vitamin D can result in the reversal of high blood pressure, a reduced likelihood of developing multiple sclerosis, and even a lower chance of developing certain precancerous polyps!
Some people get vitamin D by consuming products like fortified milk but, for vegans or those of us on a plant based diet, it’s just as beneficial to use supplements. When looking for a vitamin D3 supplement, you should make sure that it comes from a vegan source.
Vitamin D3 can be extracted from either animal products like sheep’s wool or it can be made using plants like lichen. Look for plant based sources on the supplement bottle and you’ll be safe! If there’s any question about the source, consult the manufacture’s website.
A Sensible Supplement Strategy
So, now you know why it’s important to get enough Omega-3, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D3 in your diet as a vegan. These are nutrients that should never be ignored as doing so can have drastic effects on your overall health.
You also know what to look for in order to find a supplement for each of these that’s vegan friendly. It’s important not to be dissuaded by those who would try to tell you that it’s impossible to have a healthy diet as a vegan.
Advances in modern food supplement technology make it more than possible to get the nutrients found in meat exclusively from plant-based sources. Aside from the necessity for these supplements on a plant-based diet, taking vegan supplements is a more convenient option than trying to get them from foods.
It’s a shame that there are still so many people who don’t realize that eating a plant-based diet is a viable and healthier alternative to eating a diet filled with processed foods, meat and animal products. Rest assured that you’ve made an awesome decision for your health, and the well-being of our animal friends.
Check out our supplement recommendations on the Resources page.