Even when we eat a clean, whole food, plant-based diet, we still might not be getting an adequate amount of essential nutrients. Read on to get the low-down on vegan supplements and why you may need supplements in your diet.
Do Vegans Need To Supplement?
There’s a common misconception that it’s almost impossible to get all the nutrients you need from a plant based diet. This simply isn’t the case.
Plant foods are dense with nutrients. You can get plenty of vitamins and minerals through whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. While it’s ideal to get all your nutrients through food, modern agriculture, which depletes the soil, is the main culprit in the lack of nutrition in foods grown today as opposed to the same foods grown 30 years ago. Modern intensive agricultural methods have stripped increasing amounts of nutrients from the soil in which the food we eat grows. For vegans in particular, depending on calorie intake and food choices, some vegans may fall short of meeting their needs for all of the required nutrients.
Supplementing your diet can help give you a boost if you’re struggling to get everything through your food. Here are eight supplements you might want to consider if you are vegan or follow a plant-based diet.
What Are The Best Vegan Supplements?
Eight Supplements For Vegans:
5. Vitamin D
Getting all Your Nutrients on a Plant-Based Diet
Just because something is vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy. You can just as easily eat a junk food diet as both a vegan and non-vegan. Try to limit or cut out processed foods and refined sugars and carbohydrates.
Eating a whole food, plant-based diet can help improve your gut health, support your immune system and reduce inflammation. While some nutrients such as vitamin B12 are needed as a supplement, you can find plenty of other minerals and vitamins in your food.
Let’s break down eight essential nutrients and supplements you might need on a vegan diet.
It’s a tired old question to any vegan; “Where do you get your protein?” By now, most people understand that it is very easy to get enough protein on a vegan diet. Although, if you are very active or want to make major muscle gains, adding more protein to your diet is recommended.
Protein is essential to human health. Your body uses protein to build and repair muscle tissue, produce enzymes and hormones, and it creates the building blocks of muscles, bones, blood, and skin. You can find many delicious options of plant-based protein that you can add to your meals. Plant-based protein also has the advantages of being high in antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
10 Vegan sources of protein include:
- Peanut butter
- Whole grains
If you’re looking to increase your protein intake, especially after a workout, it’s a good idea to use a vegan protein powder. This helps to give you a quick and easy serving of protein when your body needs it most to help build muscle and recover faster. Sunwarrior protein powders contain a unique blend of superfood ingredients and a full amino acid profile. These supplements also support a healthy heart and brain with the addition of MCT’s. Unlike whey protein, plant protein doesn’t contain any animal products and tends to be easier to digest and kinder on the stomach.
Most people assume you need to get omega 3’s from a fish or krill source. What if you’re vegan, vegetarian, or don’t like the taste of fish? Algae is the answer to getting your omega-3s!
In fact, fish actually acquire their omega-3 from algae. Fish don’t create omega-3 naturally. Instead, they store the nutrient in their tissues from consuming algae.
Although fish is probably the most widely known source of Omega-3s, there are actually several plant-based vegan sources of Omega-3. Here are five different plant-based options for getting the omega-3s you need:
- Flax & Hemp Seeds
- Dark, Leafy Greens
- Soybeans and Tofu
- Algae, Seaweed or Spirulina
There are actually three different types of omega-3: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA and EPA are long chain omega-3s whereas ALA is a short chain omega-3. Most plant-based sources of omega-3 are in the form of ALA.
Because most plant-based sources are made up of ALA rather than DHA and EPA like your body requires, some people believe that you can’t get your necessary omega-3s from plant-based sources.
This simply isn’t true. It’s one of several myths about eating a plant-based diet. Yes, your body can’t produce Omega-3 on its own, but it can make DHA and EPA from ALA. So, if you’re eating plant-based ALA sources, your body will make DHA and EPA.
When eating a plant-based diet, you usually consume a lot more plant fiber. Sometimes all of that fiber can be taxing on your digestive system when it is not used to the influx of fiber. Digestives enzymes play an essential role in breaking food down in your body. By breaking down food, your body can then access and use the nutrients more readily. These nutrients are then turned into substances that your digestive tract absorbs. When you don’t have enough enzymes, you can start to experience symptoms such as food intolerances, digestive issues, and fatigue.
Related: 8 Signs You Have An Enzyme Deficiency
Raw whole foods like mangoes, papaya, avocado, and bananas all naturally contain digestive enzymes. The problem with the standard American diet is that it tends to be lacking in raw, whole foods. When you cook foods, they start to lose their enzymes. This is why it can be useful to take an enzyme supplement. Unfortunately, many enzyme supplements are not vegan, so you need to be careful which enzyme supplement you choose.
Sunwarrior’s digestive enzyme supplement, Enzorb is 100% vegan, soy-free, and gluten-free. It contains a special blend of enzymes to enhance the absorption of key nutrients in the body, including protein, fats and carbohydrates.
4. Vitamin B12
As a vegan, B12 is especially important to supplement. The majority of foods containing B12 tend to be animal products like red meat, fish, and dairy. B12 is essential for energy levels, it also plays a role in DNA/RNA synthesis, and is essential for the formation of red blood cells. As vitamin B12 plays an essential role in cell production, it’s crucial for healthy skin, hair, and nails. Low levels of vitamin B12 can result in a myriad of dermatologic symptoms like hyperpigmentation, hair changes, nail discoloration, a loss of skin color in patches, and cracked mouth corners.
Related: 8 Benefits of Vitamin B12
Some foods are fortified with B12, however, most are fortified with the synthetic B12 vitamin cyanocobalamin. Cyanocobalamin is a synthetic form of vitamin B12 and is not found in nature. Cobalt and cyanide are fermented to make cyanocobalamin.
Methylcobalamin is a naturally occurring form of B12 that your body can use more readily.
When looking at vitamin supplements, try to focus on whole food vitamins instead of synthetic vitamins. Whole food vitamins use real fruit and vegetables to make natural vitamins for the body. Whereas, synthetic vitamins are made using chemicals that mimic how your body absorbs nutrients from food.
5. Vitamin D
Vegan or not, vitamin D deficiency is extremely common. It’s thought that about one billion people worldwide have low levels of vitamin D. The majority of people get their vitamin D from two sources: their diet and the sun. Foods like oily fish, red meat, and egg yolks contain vitamin D. But the main source of vitamin D for most people is sunlight. During the winter months where days are shorter and you’re spending more time inside, it’s relatively easy to be lacking in vitamin D.
Because most food sources of vitamin D are animal-based, a lot of vegans have a difficult time finding a vegan vitamin D supplement. It’s important to note that some forms of vitamin D aren’t suitable for vegans. Vitamin D2 is always vegan as it’s found in fungi (mushrooms). Whereas vitamin D3 isn’t always vegan. D3 can be made from both animals and certain lichens. So, it’s wise to always double-check the label before purchasing.
The vitamin D3 in Sunwarrior’s liquid Vitamin Mineral Rush is sourced from lichen and easily absorbed by the body.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It’s considered the glue that holds everything together and gives your skin, bones, ligaments and tendons their structure. Collagen provides a kind of scaffolding in the body that gives structure and strength.
Collagen plays an extensive role in skin health, anti-aging, reducing fine lines and wrinkles, and supporting bone and digestive health (leaky gut). It also helps to restore and replace dead skin cells. A decrease in collagen means a reduction in skin integrity. As this happens, wrinkles can start to form and joints, bones and intestinal lining can become weakened. Pollutants in water, air, and food deplete our collagen storehouse, making replenishment vital.
Most collagen, also known as hydrolyzed collagen, comes from the hides, bones & connective tissues of cows, chickens, pigs, rabbits and fish (in the case of marine collagen). These hides would normally be discarded as a byproduct of the meat industry, but since they’re a source of collagen, the hides, connective tissues and bones are turned into a "health" product. A process of cooking cartilaginous animal materials - bones, connective tissues and skin - creates gelatin, a form of collagen that has been hydrolyzed.
Consuming animal collagen does not necessarily equate to building collagen in your own body. When consumed, the animal collagen is broken down into amino acids and then is utilized in your body where it is needed. It does not necessarily mean those nutrients will be turned back into collagen for your own body to use.
Your body uses vitamin C and protein from your diet to produce tiny molecules called procollagen. As more procollagen molecules are produced, they begin to glue themselves to one another. These clumps of procollagen molecules are called fibrils. As the fibrils connect to one another and anchor themselves, they start to look like a net. This fully formed net is what we call collagen.Your body needs three things to make collagen: vitamin C, minerals, and amino acids.
Sunwarrior’s Collagen Building Protein Peptides support your body’s own natural collagen production. High in vitamin C, amino acids and minerals from whole food sources, it’s been designed to boost your own collagen naturally.
Magnesium is found in 60% of your teeth and bones as well as 40% of your muscles. It helps to carry out tasks such as regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure. Magnesium also helps to synthesize protein, ATP, DNA, and RNA. ATP, the ability to store and transport chemicals within cells, is one of the most important metabolic processes within the body. ATP is directly linked to magnesium.
Despite its importance, 8 out of 10 people are magnesium deficient. An adult woman needs approximately 310 to 320 milligrams of magnesium a day, and a man needs 400 to 420 milligrams. Up to 68% of American adults don’t meet the recommended daily intake.
Magnesium has also been shown to help with anxiety, muscle cramps, and insomnia. Plant-based sources of magnesium include:
- Pumpkin seeds
To boost your magnesium intake, try incorporating a supplement such as Sunwarrior’s Magnesium. The supplement features an ionic magnesium complex sourced from a Non-GMO inland seabed to promote sleep and relaxation and support your bones and teeth.
Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional disorders. According to the World Health Organization, as many as 80% of the population don’t have enough iron in their bodies. Iron deficiency is one of the most prevalent causes of anemia. Iron is a component of hemoglobin, which is the protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen around the body. Without enough iron, several bodily functions can be impacted.
Although eating foods high in iron is important, you also need to focus on eating foods that help to increase your iron absorption. When eating an iron-rich meal, think about foods that are complementary so that you can get the most out of your meal. Good sources of iron include:
- Dark leafy greens
- Tofu, Tempeh, Natto
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
An easy way to aid in iron absorption is to pair iron-rich foods with vitamin C. Foods like kale, broccoli, bell peppers, and cauliflower are high in vitamin C. One study found that iron absorption increased by 67% after taking 100mg of vitamin C.
It is always ideal to get the majority of your nutrients from the foods that you eat. Here are a few ways to help get the most out of your plant-based diet:
5 Easy Ways to Boost Your Nutrition!
Smoothies are an easy way to get maximum nutrition in one convenient meal. You can add a myriad of fruits, vegetables like frozen zucchini or cauliflower and leafy greens. Also, healthy fats and protein from chia, hemp or flax seeds. Try this Blueberry Mango Cauliflower Protein Smoothie that is full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Juicing allows you to consume a lot more fruits and vegetables than would be possible by just eating them. Not only do you get a large infusion of vitamins and minerals, but you can also get a wider variety of nutrients just by changing out the ingredients of your juices.
Related: 10 Summer Juicing Recipes
3. Eat whole foods:
Eating foods in their raw, natural state gives you the biggest bang for your nutritional buck, so to speak. Fresh foods in their whole state are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that provide protection against health related complications like arterial damage, heart disease and certain types of cancer. Many phytochemicals have antioxidant properties. Phytochemicals include flavonoids, capsaicin, insoflavones, and indoles.
4. Eat Nutrient Dense Foods
Nutrient dense foods like nuts and seeds are powerhouses of nutrition. A small amount can go a long way to getting your essential nutrients for the day. Other nutrient dense foods include kale, seaweed, berries and lentils.
5. Use More Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices not only add flavor to your dishes, but they also add nutrients without adding a lot of calories. Ginger, for example, contains very potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols – these compounds are the reason people with arthritis experience reductions in their pain levels and improvements in their mobility when they consume ginger regularly. Ginger is a source of magnesium, B6, potassium, manganese, and copper.
By increasing circulation, it helps effect a systemic cleansing through the skin, bowels, and kidneys. It is anti-inflammatory and destroys many intestinal parasites.
Watch this video from Dr. Weston on the many benefits of ginger:
Although it’s best to get as many nutrients as possible through your diet, supplements can help give you the extra nutritional boost you need. Whether it’s after a workout with a quick protein shake or a magnesium supplement before bed to help you nod off, find what works for you. By eating plenty of whole foods, fruit, and vegetables, you can follow a balanced diet and get all the nutrients you need for a healthy, happy body.