What Are the 4 Most Important Supplements for a Healthy Vegan Diet?

Adopting a vegan diet requires some planning, and often, a little compromise. Given the nature of the food industry and our access to quality foods, it’s not always possible to comfortably get all your body requires from a vegan diet to function properly. Instead of compromising your vegan ethics, consider taking a few supplements to strike a healthy balance. The following necessary supplements in a vegan diet outline what it is you may be missing.

Staunch non-vegans often argue that a vegan diet couldn’t possibly be natural if it requires supplementation. However, this argument doesn’t take into consideration the fact that the world has changed considerably since its naturally purist beginnings when soil was richer and we spent more time outside, under the sun, and eating locally-grown food. Whether we are inherently supposed to be vegan or not, those who choose a vegan lifestyle, for either dietary or animal-conscious reasons, should be aware of the necessary supplements that complement a vegan diet. 

1. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is the largest and most complex vitamin known to man. It is essential for the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system as well as for the formation of blood. It is involved in the metabolism of the body’s cells and affects DNA synthesis and regulation as well as fatty acid synthesis and energy production. The top sources of the vitamin include clams, oysters, muscles, liver, caviar, octopus, fish, lobster, crab, beef, lamb, cheese, and eggs. So you can imagine it’s not the most readily available vitamin in a vegan diet. Plant sources no longer cut it (it was once abundant in our soil and thus on fruits and vegetables, but soil quality has diminished its presence). Therefore, it is advisable to take a B12 supplement. The recommended dose is 25 to 100 micrograms per day, or 1,000 micrograms two to three times per week. Get a blood test administered to designate a more appropriate and individualized dose.

2. Vitamin D

Unless you live in a sunny place and are often outdoors sans sunscreen, your body probably isn’t making enough vitamin D. Most of us, omnivores included, don’t get enough vitamin D, which can lead to colon cancer, high blood pressure cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, immune-system abnormalities and infections. Very few foods are considered a good source of vitamin D. The best sources are fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel and fish liver oils. Other small amounts are found in beef liver, cheese and egg yolks. Most people get their dose from fortified foods and it may be necessary for you to take a supplement if you aren’t getting enough in your diet, that is, unless you’re a mushroom person. The recommended daily allowance for vitamin D is approximately 600 IU for those between the ages of 1 and 70, although this number may be higher or lower depending on your individual needs.

3. Iron

Iron is necessary to make red blood cells, which get carried around the body. A lack of iron can lead to iron deficiency anemia. Iron is often found in red meat and fortified foods. However, it is also present in greens, grains, dried fruit, soybean flour, nuts, and chocolate. Unfortunately, the iron from plant sources is harder for the body to absorb than the iron from meat sources. But, with a rounded diet of greens, nuts, and grains (don’t forget chocolate!), it shouldn’t be too hard to get the daily 14.8 mg per day for women and 8.7 mg per day for men.

4. Iodine

Iodine is a trace element that is crucial in thyroid function and the metabolism of cells, and it is especially necessary during pregnancy. Omnivores source most of their iodine from dairy products, as well as iodized salt, seafood, kelp, and plants grown in iodine-rich soil. The regular consumption of sea vegetables may be enough, but if not, supplement with some 150 mcg per day.

Photo Credit: erix