Becoming a vegan has been a very popular trend over the past few years. According to The Vegan Society, the vegan trend quadrupled within 5 years between 2012 – 2017. Factors like healthy living and the awareness of the link between greenhouse emissions, livestock and our environment have contributed to the rise of no-meat diets.
Veganism is sometimes seen as a healthier lifestyle option. Eating whole, plant-based foods that are either genetically engineered or grown on depleted soil can hinder its nutritional content and the idea of consuming a wholesome diet.
The reason being is that these factors can affect the foods nutrient content, making you believe you are getting the right number of vitamins and minerals when in essence you are not. The answer to this would be simple, go completely organic, right? But not everyone can afford to do so.
What are vegan vitamins?
The more realistic option would be to incorporate vegan supplements to ensure that you are getting all your recommended daily allowances of vitamins for optimal health.
Vegan vitamins are characterized as being gelatin, honey, and dairy-free. So long as there are no animal or animal by-products, it can be considered vegan.
Here is a list of the most important vitamins that vegans should incorporate into their daily regimen.
Although there are fortified beverages and unwashed organic produce that may contain traces of B-12, there is still a high chance of B-12 deficiency among vegans. Readily found in animal products, B-12 supports brain and nervous system function and assists in the prevention of anemia. There are many forms of B-12 that have to go through an extensive conversion process in the body before it is absorbed and utilized by the cells. I recommend the Methylcobalamin form of B-12 as it allows you to bypass all the processes of conversion and is ready for absorption. B-12 is easily consumed in its lozenge or sublingual form at 5-10mcg/day for optimal health.
Iron is a mineral that is at the center of red blood cell production. Its main function is to bring oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body tissues in order to maintain the basic functions of life. There are traces of iron in green leafy vegetables, legumes, whole grains and herbs like Stinging Nettle. When these foods are not consumed on a daily basis and in the right amount, deficiencies can occur. A lack of iron will cause a decrease in healthy red blood cells, which in turn causes weakness and shortness of breath, as less oxygen circulates through the body. When taking Iron supplements, vegans must be careful as most iron on the market comes from animal sources in the form of heme iron. Be sure to look for a non-heme iron supplement which is a plant-derived form. Daily intake will vary and should be discussed with your local pharmacist.
3. Omega 3
Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid and must be taken by everyone (not just vegans) as it is not produced in the body. Omega 3 is a healthy fat that is important for brain function, bone health, inflammatory conditions and hair, skin and nails. It is most often consumed and found in high amounts of fresh water fish. Vegan options include avocado, nuts, and seeds. Deficiency can cause poor brain development and Attention Deficit Disorder in kids and adults, bone problems and brittle/dry hair, skin and nails. The best vegan vitamin for Omega 3 supplementation would be hemp oil, flax-seed oil, coconut oil or algae oil. These oils usually come in an animal-based soft gel so the liquid form would be a better option.
Your daily allowance is dependent upon your age and if there are any underlying conditions but a general dosage for maintenance would be 500mg-1000mg a day.
Multivitamins are amazing. They have a little bit of almost everything you need to meet your body’s daily nutritional requirements. Taking a daily multivitamin in the vegan form will make up for what you didn’t get during the day. Age and gender-specific women’s vitamins as well as men’s vitamins provide more targeted nutritional needs and are highly recommend to be a part of one’s daily regimen.
5. Vitamin D-3
Vitamin D-3, also known as the Sunshine vitamin is readily available in animal protein and can be absorbed in abundance from the Sun. Unfortunately, when the Sun isn’t shining there is no way for vegans to get their vitamin D-3 naturally unless it is artificially fortified in a food or beverage. Vitamin D-3 is vital for maintaining a balanced mood and has been associated with S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Disorder), depression and other mood disorders. This fat-soluble vitamin also maintains immune function, builds strong bones and helps stabilize normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. Most supplements of vitamin D-3 are sourced from Lanolin, which is extracted from Sheep’s wool. A vegan alternative would be vitamin D sourced from Lichen at a general dose of 1000 IU daily.
Although protein is not a vitamin, it is definitely just as important when it comes to veganism. This macro-nutrient is the reason behind the excessive muscle wasting that occurs among some vegans who do not implement complete proteins in their diet. Combining the right foods to create a complete protein is key to maintaining a healthy weight and the vital functions that protein is used for in the body. A complete protein is made up of 20 amino acids, which are its building blocks. Unfortunately, there are only a few vegan foods that provide all 20 amino acids (i.e. quinoa, tempeh, spirulina etc.). In order to create a complete protein, one can combine a legume and grain to ensure that all 20 amino acids are present. Examples of this would be brown rice and kidney beans or a Barley bean stew. A vegan protein shake is also a quick and easy way to maintain protein intake.
All in all, a vegan lifestyle yields many benefits. Eating whole, plant-based foods will offer a variety of nutrients, more energy and will be of service to our environment. That being said, vegan vitamins can play an important role as plant-based and fortified foods have been somewhat tainted with GMO’s and undernourished soils. Always keep in mind that supplements are keys to optimal health, no matter what lifestyle you embrace.
Dr. Dina Khairie is a medical specialist who has spent nearly a decade in key positions at NoorVitamins. After receiving her doctorate in pharmacy from St. John’s University in New York, she began her career working as a supervising clinical pharmacist in the community pharmacy arena.