I’ve decided I’m going to try out being a vegan (again). But to successfully commit to a plant-based diet, I need to ensure that I’m taking in enough nutrients. So I’ve been looking into an answer to the question, “what supplements do you need on a plant-based diet”?
I first adopted a vegetarian/vegan diet about 10 years ago as a bright-eyed university student, with no real consideration for planning out my diet. However, since then, I’ve had to take myself off of a plant-based diet on several occasions (I’m determined to pull it off) because of health issues that arise because I haven’t used the right supplements for my plant-based diet.
I don’t want to make this mistake again, so I’ve done my research and would like to share some of the things I’ve found out so that you will also be able to follow a healthy and sustainable plant-based diet. Here’s what I found out.
Note: This should not be taken as medical advice and, if you’re suffering from any nutritional deficiencies, consult with your doctor to get professional medical advice.
Why You Need Supplements For A Plant-Based Diet
As you probably already know, all of the nutrients that you get from eating meat originally come from the plants that those animals ate. However, if you follow a plant-based diet without supplements, you will always have a deficiency of B12, which is a vitamin that’s found in soil. This is why people often recommend that you eat “dirty vegetables”, or unwashed vegetables. However, there are a few other nutrients that you are simply unlikely to get enough of when you aren’t eating meat or animal products. Here’s a closer look at some of supplements that you need on a plant-based diet to survive and thrive.
Most people probably already know that there are no adequate plant sources of B12 (not even from dirty vegetables). The good news with B12, however, is that your body only uses a little bit of B12 at a time and it stays in your system for a while. It is found in animal products such as red meat and you will get trace amounts from fertile soil, but it won’t be enough. It is a supplement you have to take and cannot do without. You need about 2.4mcg (micrograms) per day to survive, but your supplement will likely provide you with more and you will only take your supplement every few days, or even weeks.
Also keep an eye out for plant-based products like milks and cereals that have been fortified with B12.
Vitamin D is actually absorbed through sunlight and you can get enough of it by simply spending time in the sun. Sadly, most of us work indoors, and/or the climate doesn’t allow us to spend time in the sun. We get a lot of our vitamin D from the meat we eat, so you might be running low and you should get a supplemental dose of around 2,000 IU of Vitamin D3 to ensure that you’re getting the adequate daily requirements for Vitamin D.
You probably already cook with foods rich in “ALA” omega-3, such as flax or chai seeds, but you aren’t likely to find adequate DHA and EPA omegas, or so-called long-chain omega 3s. This is essential for maintaining your cholestrone levels and failing to supplement your diet adequately will be detrimental to your cardiovascular and brain health. Aim for a combined daily dose of 650mg of DHA/EPA vegan supplements.
Iron is a supplement that you should be wary about overdosing on because an unnecessary intake could be harmful. However, it is unlikely that you need an iron supplement because the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of iron for adult men is 8mg and it’s 18mg for women and you can easily get enough from iron-rich foods such as cruciferous vegetables, beans, peas, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds. Iron-fortified foods, such as cereals, enriched bread, and some plant milk.
The RDA for calcium is 1,000mg per day and is important for your bone and teeth health, while also playing a big role in the conditioning of muscles and nerves. Eating foods like bok choy, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, watercress, broccoli, chickpeas, calcium-set tofu, and fortified plant milk or juices can provide you with an adequate intake of calcium, but if your calcium levels are low, consider taking a supplement.
Zinc is very important for your body’s ability to repair cells and plays a key role in maintaining your metabolism and immune system. The RDA is between 8 and 11mg per day for adults.
The RDA for iodine, which also helps control your metabolism and aids with thyroid function, is 220mcg per day. The iodine content of your food will vary according to the content of the soil in which they were grown. However, half a teaspoon of iodized salt in your food every day will be enough to satisfy your daily requirement.
K2, although often ignored or forgotten, is closely linked to maintaining your calcium intake, because it enables your body to manage calcium. It is a vital component of a full nutritional profile. It helps with bone density and ensures that your arteries are properly calcified. The RDA for K2 is 120mcg for men and 90mcg for women.