3 Important Nutrient Supplements to Include on a Vegan Diet

Below are important nutrients for health but also common nutrient deficiencies that are often found in vegan and vegetarian diets.


1. Iron


Iron outside of a vegan, vegetarian diet, is one of the top nutrients that people are most deficient worldwide. Women in particular are more vulnerable to this. On a vegan or vegetarian diet, one would have even higher chances of becoming iron deficient. Iron sources are best and more easily absorbed in animal meat. The iron found in meat is heme iron and the iron found in plants and grains are non heme iron which is harder to be assimilated in the body. Spinach, for example, is high in iron content, around 6-8mg per cup, however less than 2% of the iron is actually absorbed into our bodies after cooking. 

Because I was also on a low grain vegetarian diet I was supplementing with a liquid iron supplement for a few months to ensure my levels were optimal. Iron is often added into grains however just like vegetables, they have certain nutrient inhibitors like phytic acid that prevent us from truly absorbing and utilizing these nutrients.

Signs of Deficiency:

  • fatigue despite sufficient sleep

  • eye bags

  • pale lips and skin

  • dizziness

  • brittle nails

  • cold hand and feet

  • shortness of breath


Suggestions:
  • Supplement with a high absorbable form of iron like the Salus Floravital Liquid Iron which boasts a 98% absorption rate using the highest absorbable form of iron - ferrous gluconate and a blend of fruits, vegetables and herbals to enhance absorption. This iron supplement also provides vitamin B12 which is also a common nutrient deficiency among vegans.

  • Soak grains and legumes before cooking to minimise the nutrient inhibitors.

2. Omega 3 & 6 


Omega 3 and omega 6 are essential nutrients that our bodies need to live and that our bodies cannot produce. 70% of our brain is made up of fats with about 50% of it being made up of DHA, a form of omega 3. Omega 3 is often found in fatty fish like salmon but also found in seeds like Flaxseed, chia seeds and hemp seeds. However the amount you need to consume from these plant sources is beyond what a normal person would eat in a day and so supplementation is often suggested. Apart from brain and eye function, these important fats are also important for hormone balance and cell health. It’s also important to include unrefined omega 6 as these two fats work in tandem. Today our modern day diet may be high in omega 6 but they come from the refined oils like soybean and canola oil often used in restaurants and found in baked goods.

Signs of Deficiency:
  • dull hair, skin and nails
  • poor concentration and memory
  • joint pains
  • menstrual irregularity
  • acne
  • cardiovascular issues

    Suggestions:
    • Supplement with plant based omega 3 and 6 oil like Udo’s Oil Omega Blend. This oil is contains a blend of six omega rich seeds in a balanced ratio of 2:1 omega 3 and 6.

    • Avoid refined omega 6 oils as this causes inflammation in the body and increases your body's need for omega 3.

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    3. Vitamin D3

    Foods providing the highest amount of Vitamin D are found in animal sources. What's more is that the Vitamin D we get from the sun needs to be converted in our bodies to an usable form of Vitamin D3 that our bodies recognise and can use. Fats, specifically cholesterol in our bodies is required for this conversion process. Although our bodies can make cholesterol, it also relies on the food sources that we intake. Together with minimal plant sources of vitamin D and a low cholesterol intake on a vegetarian and vegan diet, Vitamin D3 levels should definitely be monitored closely considering the importance of this mighty vitamin for our immune system, bone health, mental health and hormones.


    Signs of Deficiency:
    • depression and mood changes

    • low immunity (easily get sick)

    • hormonal changes

    • fatigue

    • bone pain

    • muscle weakness

    • brittle bones, nails, teeth

    • increased hair loss

    • imparied wound healing



    Suggestions:
    The standard dose of Vitamin D3 is typically around 2000 IU per day so what is often recommended is 2 capsules of Pure Encapsulations’ Vitamin D3 1000 IU to cover your basis. If you know your Vitamin D3 levels are low and are struggling with some of the symptoms listed above, you may consider supplementing with a Vitamin D3 5000 IU for a cycle. 

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    Note: Since Vitamin D3 is a fat soluble vitamin, you can store it in your body and it can become dangerous. It is recommended that you check your Vitamin D3 status every so often iwhen supplementing with high doses or rotate on and off.


    Other Nutrients to Consider

     

    Protein


    Amino acids found in protein are important for the building, repairing of our cells, particularly our immune cells. Although protein is not generally a big concern for vegetarian and vegans, if your immune system is compromised or if you’re in need of healing and repair in a certain part of your body, you may want to increase your plant protein.

    Plant sources of protein include :
    • Legumes
    • Nuts
    • Seeds
    • Quinoa
    • Tofu/ tempeh
     

    Vitamin B12

    Long term vegan and vegetarians should be cautious of this nutrient deficiency. One study showed that 86% of the vegans participating in the study had a B12 deficiency. B12 deficiency can lead to anemia, nerve damage, neurocognitive impairment. Although everyone in our modern world runs a risk of a B12 deficiency simply because of the many flaws in our food system. Vitamin B12 is often passed from the bacteria in the soil down to the livestock and plants. For long term vegans who are also on a low grain diet that are usually fortified with vitamin B12, this is an important nutrient to consider supplementing.

    It is important to note that choosing quality supplements is extremely important. The last thing you want is extra strain on your system from fillers or capsules made of unknown or non digestible ingredients. Please also check with your health care provider to ensure your supplements are not conflicting with any mediation.



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