What Supplements Should I Take on a Vegan Diet?
Joanna Dziedzic, Nutritional Therapist at Pure Encapsulations walks us through her top 5 vitamins, minerals and supplements for a vegan diet.
Everyone's needs are personal but there are some particularly important one to consider. Here we discuss the top 5 you do not want to overlook. Bearing in mind nutritional advice should always be personalised, here are 5 very important food supplements to consider:
1. Iron: for energy
Iron is one of the most common deficiencies when following plant-based diet.
Iron is an essential element for almost all living organisms as it participates in a wide variety of metabolic processes. Iron contributes to normal formation of red blood cells and haemoglobin, oxygen transport in the body and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.
Key Deficiency symptoms?
Most of the symptoms of iron deficiency are a result of the associated anaemia and may include fatigue, rapid heart rate, palpitations, and rapid breathing on exertion. Iron deficiency may also impair athletic performance and physical work capacity in several ways as well as our immune function.
What are the best plant food sources of iron?
Luckily there are countless options. Beans, lentils, tofu, dried apricots, prunes, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, kale, broccoli, cabbage, Swiss chard, sundried tomatoes, parsley, and cashew nuts are a good plant sources of iron.
Iron rich vegetable and fruit cocktail might be a great daily fix to restore our levels. It’s worth adding that vitamin C found in fruit and vegetables naturally increases the absorption of iron.
It’s all about absorption
You can make the most of the iron in your plant-based diet by being mindful of foods and nutrients that can improve, or reduce, iron absorption. Polyphenols and tannins found in tea, phytic acid found in grains, oxalic acid found in spinach chocolate, and berries decrease iron absorption so eating these away from iron rich foods can help.
Lentil, kale and tofu stir fry sprinkled with some fresh parsley would be an ideal combination of Iron and vitamin C powerful and synergistic effects.
What else do I need to know before supplementing Iron?
There are non-dietary factors that could cause iron deficiency including low stomach acid production, medications, malabsorption syndrome or coeliac disease so it’s a good idea to speak to a nutritionist or your doctor and have your blood iron levels measured because you should not take iron unless you really need it.
Pure Encapsulations Iron -C provides a highly bioavailable form of iron that is gentle on digestion with vitamin C that increases iron absorption. This product is very well tolerated and gentle on digestion.
2. Vitamin B12: for you brain and nervous system
Low levels of Vitamin B12 are a common problem in people eating plant-based diets due to low dietary intake, or from other causes. Considering the importance of vitamin B12, it’s crucial to ensure optimal intake. It’s not an easy task being vegan as there are few plant-based sources and those that do exist, like the super food chlorella, provide so little it is impossible get enough to meet your daily requirements.
Do I need to supplement and what are the functions of Vitamin B12
So, supplementation is absolutely essential as Vitamin B12 is involved in cellular growth and replication, protein synthesis in DNA and nerve cells. Studies confirm Vitamin B12 being neuroprotective, it may also help with our mood and cognition.
Fortunately, vitamin B12 supplements are an easy, safe way to ensure you are not at risk of deficiency.
Pure Encapsulations B12 (Methylcobalamin) provides 1000 ug of vitamin B12 as methylcobalamin - an activated form of vitamin B12.
And what are the symptoms of deficiency?
People with mild vitamin B12 deficiency may not experience symptoms, therefor testing is essential. A comprehensive blood test would indicate the levels and it should be always reviewed by a health care practitioner.
There are other key deficiency factors that are often overlooked including pernicious anaemia, malabsorption problems, low stomach acid, celiac disease, genetic disorders and all those should be investigated by your doctor.
3. Iodine: for thyroid and reproductive health
People eating a plant-based diet are at higher risk of developing iodine deficiency, although it is a very common problem in the general population as well. Iodine insufficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies, affecting nearly a third of the world's population.
Ways to increase intake on a plant-based diet.
Iodine is mainly found id found in seaweed (e.g. wakame) and iodised salt. Another good source includes baked potatoes with peel, navy beans,
Most countries worldwide have introduced programs of salt fortification with iodine in order to correct iodine deficiency in populations.
It’s good to look for a supplement formula containing 200 mcg of iodine from potassium iodine, which is a more consistent and reliable form of iodine than seaweed and kelp sometimes used in food supplements. Pure Encapsulations Iodine (potassium iodide)
Why Iodine is important to our health?
Iodine helps in maintaining thyroid function which regulates our metabolism. Daily iodine requirements are significantly increased in pregnant and breast-feeding women (200mcg per day) because of the increased thyroid hormone production hence, maternal iodine deficiency and hypothyroidism can result in adverse pregnancy complications.
4. Choline: for cognitive function and healthy pregnancy
Choline is often forgotten as an essential nutrient and it particularly important for people eating a vegan diet because its scarce in plant foods.
Are there any good plant sources of choline?
It’s good to know that some plant foods like cruciferous vegetables and certain beans are good sources of choline. Good examples are shitake mushrooms (1/2 cup; 58 mg), wheat germ (1 oz toasted; 51 mg), brussels sprouts (1/2 cup; 32 mg), and almonds (1 oz; 15 mg), broccoli (1cup; 63 mg) peanut butter (2 tbs 20mg).
Why choline is actually important?
It’s needed for proper liver, muscle, and brain function and it’s used as an essential structural component of our cell membranes.
Mothers to be, following plant-based diet should pay a particular attention to obtaining choline via their diet, as low maternal choline intakes have been shown to increase the risk of developmental problems including neural tube defects and cleft palates. Lactation also increases mothers demand for choline because breast milk is rich in choline.
Speaking to a qualified nutritionist can help you with the right choice.
The unique nutritional requirements for people following vegan plant-based diet are very important as more people adopt this way of eating. Our choice of supplements as well as foods that we consume on plant-based diet need to address key nutrients that could otherwise be overlooked, and in some cases may even develop into a serious health risk.
In additional to being personalised, good food supplements should provide nutrients in forms that are easily absorbed and assimilated by the body and provided in the right amounts to be effective. Not all food supplements are created equal and it pays to look for these qualities. Getting help from qualified nutritionist might benefit you with addressing your questions and help you in achieving optimum health.
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