Vegans and Vitamins

vegans, vitamins

As a vegan, making sure you get adequate nutrition and vitamins is very important. Since many vitamins and minerals are more readily available from animal sources, it’s important to know how taking certain supplements could affect your health. Fortunately, a vegan diet can be quite nutritious and contain most of the essential nutrients you need. Still, there are some minerals and vitamins you may be missing. Here are just a few of the best supplements every vegan (and non-vegan) should know about.

Veganism focuses on gaining nutrition through whole foods while eliminating all meats and animal byproducts from the everyday diet. Despite being considered a bit of a novelty in the past, veganism has been gaining major traction in recent years and has been proven to be a very healthy and effective lifestyle for many individuals. Veganism can be great for health and wellness if carried out properly, but nobody’s perfect. Sometimes, eliminating meat, dairy and other animal products can lead to slight vitamin deficiencies that require a little extra boost.
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Here are just a few of the best supplements every vegan (and non-vegan) should know about.

Vitamin B12

Often the most common deficiencies associated with veganism is a lack of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is crucial for a number of bodily functions including DNA synthesis, healthy blood cells, reproductive health and overall energy and vitality. Vitamin B12 is only present in its natural form in animal products.  According to a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the deficiency prevalence among adults and elderly individuals affected 86% of all vegans. Higher deficiency prevalence was reported in vegans than in other vegetarians.  Vegans who do not ingest vitamin B12 supplements were found to be at especially high risk.

Calcium

Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth, and also plays a role in muscle function. Consuming a healthy amount of calcium can help decrease bone fractures and overall weakening of bones over time, but can sometimes be difficult to come across in a vegan diet. Since calcium is most abundant in dairy products like milk and cheese, vegans often need to find an alternate way to consume calcium since animal byproducts are strictly off limits.

Protein Powders

One of the only good things you can say about meat and eggs is that they’re full of protein. So if you remove these foods from your diet you’ve got to pick up the slack with other protein-rich foods.
Although it’s certainly possible to consume sufficient protein on a vegan diet without resorting to supplements, many vegans find protein powder of great value.  It provides a convenient, affordable, and highly digestible way to ensure you’re not falling short of this key nutrient.

Many of the hardest-to-digest vegan foods are those that are richest in protein—particularly beans and wheat gluten. So vegan protein powder makes a great alternative. Just one scoop mixed into water provides nearly the amount of protein as an entire 16-ounce can of beans!

Adults should consume, on a daily basis, about one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. On top of this, much of this protein should come from lysine-rich foods like beans, nuts, seeds, and quinoa. One way to help ensure you’re getting sufficient protein is to get into the habit of choosing meals that contain at least one protein-rich item. If, for whatever reason, you find you’re still coming up short—or you don’t eat many lysine-rich foods—a vegan protein powder is a great way to make up the difference.

Iron

Much like vitamin B12, iron deficiencies are also quite common among vegans. Iron is used to produce red blood cells and DNA, and too little can result in fatigue, weakened immune system and anemia. It comes in two forms: heme and non-heme. Heme is only found in animal products, while non-heme can be found in plants. Although it is possible to consume iron without eating animal products, heme iron is much easier to absorb than non-heme. For this reason, it is recommended that vegans aim to consume more iron than the traditional recommended daily amount. Taking an iron supplement allows for an extra boost in non-heme iron for vegans looking to reach their daily nutritional goals.

Zinc

Zinc is crucial for the metabolism, immune system, and repair of body cells. Over time, zinc deficiencies can manifest in weak immunity, poor brain function and fatigue, among other symptoms. Few plant-based foods contain adequate amounts of zinc, and those that do are often more difficult to absorb due to their higher levels of phytate content. A zinc supplement on top of zinc rich foods such as whole grains, legumes, tofu, and nuts and seeds will help achieve healthy levels of zinc without the consumption of animal products.

Iodine

Iodine is heavily involved in thyroid function, which ultimately controls the metabolism. A severe iodine deficiency can lead to hypothyroidism, which causes symptoms such as dry skin, low energy levels and weight gain. The only foods considered to have a significant amount of iodine are iodized salt, seaweed dairy products. Since dairy products are out of the question in a vegan lifestyle, it’s virtually impossible to acquire enough iodine with salt and seaweed alone. An iodine supplement will help fill the gaps and keep your metabolism healthy.

Vitamin D

Most people, both vegans and omnivores, can benefit from Vitamin D supplements. Unfortified foods do not provide Vitamin D. And even though the body produces Vitamin D from sunlight, you need strong direct sun exposure on most of your skin for that to happen. This is impossible during winter months in temperate climates since even if you bare your skin despite the cold, the sun will be too low in the sky to provide sufficient Ultraviolet B rays to generate the vitamin. And even under the best circumstances, Since sun exposure is damaging to cells, over time you may prematurely age your skin by getting your Vitamin D from the sun instead of a supplement.

 

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Author: Jim Wheat

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