On a Vegan Diet: Do I Need to Take Supplements to Be Healthy?

Yellow Pills on a Surface

Modern food production and lifestyles are making it harder for vegans to meet their nutritional needs from diet alone.

Rising carbon levels have impacted the plants' ability to produce enough concentrations of vitamins and minerals. Further, soil erosion due to aggressive farming techniques has led to a decrease in nutrients in many staple crops.

While it may seem counterintuitive to add supplements to our plant-based routines, we must be smart vegans and ensure our bodies get everything they need to function at an optimum level.

So, what supplements do vegans need?

What is the role of supplements in maintaining overall health

Whole foods and plant-based nutrition are the best ways to get vitamins and minerals, but supplements may help.

But do vegans need supplements?

If you are doing your best to eat healthy foods but still deficient in some areas, supplements will help. However, ensure that you take them in addition to your nutrient-dense diet.

Apart from providing vitamins, dietary supplements also contain other ingredients, including amino acids, herbs and other botanicals, minerals and enzymes. Supplements come in the form of powders, capsules and tablets. 

What types of supplements do you need as a vegan

Opting for a vegan diet is a fantastic choice for your health, for being mindful of farmed animals and promoting a clean planet.

Plant-based diets have the support of countless medical research studies and have the endorsement of the United Nations (UN). However, whole foods may be short in several critical vitamins and minerals, which means turning to supplements for full nourishment.

What supplements do vegans need? Here are the most common and their benefits:

Vitamin B-12

An essential supplement for vegans that is critical for maintaining several bodily processes. Vitamin B-12 supports a healthy nervous system, helps metabolize proteins, and is used in red blood cell formation.

Omega-3 fatty acids

They provide your body with several health benefits, including:

  • Preventing dementia and Alzheimer's disease
  • Reducing rheumatoid arthritis risk
  • Adding neurodevelopment in children and infants
  • Lowering heart disease risk

While more research is required, vegan omega-3 supplements are critical in the management of:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Childhood allergies
  • Depression
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Cystic fibrosis

Calcium

Another vital nutrient that is lacking for some vegans and that plays a role in teeth and bone formation, heart health and muscle function.

Vitamin D

In addition to regulating mood, a vegan vitamin D supplement helps improve your immune system function and helps in the absorption of phosphorus and calcium nutrients.

Vitamin K-2

Few vegans are lacking in vitamin K since gut microorganisms turn vitamin K-1 into K-2. However, for people who still wish to supplement their vitamin K-2 intake, a vegan probiotic supplement can help the gut produce vitamin K. 

What to look out for when choosing vegan supplements

B12 pills

As you ponder on the question of what supplements do vegans need, remember that not all ingredients or brands are equal. Here are the top things you should avoid when supplement shopping.

  • Gelatin – While you stay clear of gummies, did you know that some gelatin content may be hiding in your supplements? Gelatin is the most popular material for coating pills, so they are unreactive, easily digested and ensure the tablet does not stick in your throat. However, it contains animal remains, preferably choose supplements wrapped in veggie caps (V-caps).
  • Magnesium stearate – This fatty acid is found in animal products and used as an alternative coating or filler. There are vegan variations of this fatty acid, but make sure that the label states the same before consumption.
  • Lanolin – This product is a popular non-vegan source of vitamin D3 from sheep wool. Fortunately, there is a vegan alternative in the form of lichen (algae) extract.
  • Extra ingredients – Some supplements claim to have "additional metabolism-boosting and antioxidant herbs." However, it is advisable to go for the purest supplements to avoid surprises. Further, ingredient additions may have side effects or even affect the absorption of nutrients.
  • Stearic acid – The acid is usually used as the binder in tablets and is made either from animal fats or from vegetable oils. When purchasing supplements, make sure that the ingredients list mentions that the stearic acid is of the vegetable source.
  • Artificial colors – Unfortunately, some supplement manufacturers add chemically processed colors to their products.

Conclusion

Vegan diets provide plenty of health benefits, but they also make it hard for individuals to get the right amount of certain nutrients. Give yourself a little boost by making up for the nutrients you don’t gain by eating specific foods and taking vegan supplements, and ensure that you fuel the body appropriately at the same time! Find out more here.