Going vegan has become increasingly popular worldwide and for good reasons. Veganism is not only an ethical and sustainable lifestyle choice but also offers a range of health benefits. However, the absence of animal products from a vegan diet can limit the intake of crucial vitamins and nutrients. As a result, many vegans wonder whether they need to rely on supplements to maintain optimal health.
Before we dive into whether vegans need to take supplements, let’s briefly understand what supplements are. Supplements are products that contain vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients to enhance one’s diet.
Ironically, many studies have shown that non-vegans consume fewer vitamins and nutrients than vegans. However, a vegan diet’s nature might lead to limited intake of specific critical nutrients. For example, vitamin B-12 only occurs naturally in animal products, which is vital for nerve function and red blood cell formation. Thus, if you fail to get enough of this nutrient, you might suffer from fatigue, anemia, and even brain fog.
Additionally, Vitamin D is essential for strong bones and a healthy immune system, yet very few plant-based foods contain this nutrient. Vegans with limited sun exposure might also struggle to get enough vitamin D, which can compromise the immune system, making them more vulnerable to infections. Thus, it is highly recommended to supplement your vegan diet with vitamin D.
Vegans should also watch out for the adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids because they are crucial for brain function and proper development. While non-vegans receive their dosage from fish, vegans can source theirs from flaxseed oil, hemp seed oil, chia seeds, and walnuts. However, these sources might not be enough to meet the recommended levels. Therefore, it is recommended to supplement omega-3 if your diet is inadequate or if your omega-3 levels are low.
Finally, vegans might also struggle with getting enough calcium, which is vital for strong bones and teeth and other vital bodily functions. Luckily, many plant-based sources offer calcium, such as tofu, almonds, and dark leafy greens. Nonetheless, calcium-fortified plant milk, yogurts, and supplements are also great options to incorporate in your diet.
In summary, a well-planned vegan can provide adequate nutrition without the need for supplements. However, vegans need to pay extra attention to nutrients that are less abundant in plant-based food. These include vitamin B-12, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and calcium. As such, a vegan might benefit from a vitamin supplement or choose to include fortified foods in their diet to ensure they are meeting their nutrient requirements. Remember, it is always essential to consult your physician or a registered dietitian before starting any supplements.