Individuals who adhere to a vegan diet do not consume any animal products, including dairy, meat, and eggs. While it can be possible to be vegan and stay properly-nourished by taking whole foods, most individuals prefer to supplement their diet.
A vegan diet is deficient in a few nutrients, such as vitamin B-12, that are majorly found in animal products. Vegan supplements provide a simple way for individuals to get adequate of these nutrients.
Vitamin D improves immune system function and helps regulate mood, and it aids the body’s absorption of other nutrients, such as phosphorus and calcium.
The body can prepare vitamin D when it gets adequate sunlight. Many people can make an ample amount of vitamin D each day by soaking for about 20 to 25 minutes in the afternoon sun .
However, this may not always be possible. Wearing sunscreen, which is critical for skin cancer prevention, may minimize the production of vitamin D. Many individuals live in places with cloudy, cold weather and hide their skin most of the time.
Few foods have vitamin D. Many dairy products, such as yogurt and milk, may have added vitamin D, but these foods are not ideal for vegans.
Vegan sources of vitamin D include some types of mushrooms and fortified cereals. The average vitamin D consumption from food alone tends to be lesser than the prescribed daily intake, so both vegans and omnivores can often benefit from taking a supplement.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a brilliant source of healthful fats. A plant-based vegan diet is usually high in a few types of omega-3 fatty acids, but it is low in others.
Omega-3 fatty acids offer multiple health benefits, including:
Essential omega-3 fatty acids, such as ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), must come from the diet. The body cannot make them itself.
Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, such as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), are nonessential, meaning that the body can prepare them using ALA .
However, as 2017 research observes, the human body has a limited capacity to convert ALA into EPA or DHA. Moreover, vegans and vegetarians tend to have lower DHA and EPA levels.
While ALA is present in canola oil, flaxseed, and soy products, DHA and EPA are only present in microalgae, fish, and fish oils.
Algae oil concentrates and supplements are the best vegan sources of DHA and EPA.
Foods often known to be high in vitamin B12 include unwashed organic produce, mushrooms grown in B12-rich soils, spirulina, nori, nutritional yeast, and chlorella.
Some believe vegans who eat adequate amounts of the right plant foods don’t need to be concerned about vitamin B12 deficiency .
However, there is no scientific data or this belief.
Various studies show that while anyone can have low vitamin B12 levels, vegans and vegetarians have a higher risk of deficiency. This seems particularly true for vegans who do not take any supplements.
Vitamin B12 is essential for several bodily processes, including the formation of oxygen-transporting red blood cells and protein metabolism. It plays an extremely critical role in the health of your nervous system.
Iron is a nutrient used to make red blood cells and new DNA and carry oxygen in the blood. It’s also required for energy metabolism. Too little iron can cause anemia and symptoms like decreased immune function and fatigue .
The RDA is 8 mg for post-menopausal women and adult men. And for adult women, it increases to 18 mg per day, and pregnant women should target 27 mg per day. Iron can be found in two forms: non-heme and heme. Non-heme iron is found in plants, whereas heme iron is only available from animal products.
[Also Read: Who should take Iron Supplements]
Zinc is a mineral that’s crucial for immune function, metabolism, and body cells’ repair. Insufficient zinc intake can lead to delayed wound healing, diarrhea, hair loss, and developmental problems.
The RDA for zinc is presently set at 8–11 mg per day for adults. It increases 12–13 mg for lactating women and 11–12 mg for pregnant women.
Few plant foods contain abundant amounts of zinc. Furthermore, zinc absorption from some plant foods is restricted due to their phytate content. Thus, vegetarians are encouraged to target 1.5 times the RDA.
While not every vegan has low blood levels of zinc, the latest review of twenty-six studies showed that vegetarians — particularly vegans — slightly lower zinc levels and have lower zinc intakes than omnivores.
[Also Read: Foods High in Zinc]
Getting adequate iodine is critical for the healthy functioning of the thyroid, which controls our metabolism. An iodine deficiency during early infancy and pregnancy can result in irreversible intellectual disability.
In adults, iodine deficiency intake can lead to hypothyroidism.
This can lead to umpteen symptoms, such as dry skin, low energy levels, tingling in your hands and feet, depression, forgetfulness, and weight gain. Vegans are regarded at risk of iodine deficiency, and clinical trials report that vegans have up to fifty percent lower blood iodine levels than vegetarians.
[Also Read: Advantages & Benefits of Iodine]
Well-planned vegan diets can fulfill your nutritional requirements. That said, specific nutrient requirements may be challenging to achieve through fortified foods and diet alone. This is particularly true for vitamin D, vitamin B12, and long-chain omega-3s.
All vegans who are not able to meet their dietary recommendations through diet alone should consider using supplements. Still, it’s best to speak with your medical practitioner before starting a new supplement routine.