Harvard Medical School suggests that those observing carefully-planned vegan and vegetarian diets tend to have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, and a lower body mass index. And if you aren’t very vigilant about what you eat when observing a meatless diet, you can suffer from vitamin deficiencies which can lead to serious health implications.
INSIDER spoke to some experts on the topic to help you determine the best vitamins suited for your body when following a vegan diet. Below, are some of their supplement suggestions worth looking into.
You may need a calcium supplement.
Due to the fact they avoid dairy, registered dietitian Lauren Manaker told INSIDER vegans may need to add supplemental calcium to their diet. Although it’s true that vegans may obtain calcium from dark leafy greens such as spinach, collards, and kale, it can be hard to get a full daily recommended amount of calcium without dairy in your diet, Manaker said.
Ask your doctor about taking a vitamin B12 supplement.
“The vitamin I think about most for supplementation is vitamin B12,” Manaker told INSIDER. Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the body, as it helps create red blood cells and DNA in the body, according to a review by the Department of Health Sciences at Qatar University. To make sure you have an adequate amount of B12 in your diets, try having your levels routinely checked to see if you need a supplement or not.
It’s wise to invest in a vitamin D supplement
Vitamin D helps support healthy bone and immune health, Manaker said. So it may need to be supplemented in vegan diets as the vitamin D that’s artificially added to foods is often not the preferred source, added Manaker. To see if you need to add a vitamin D supplement into your diet, ask your doctor about receiving a blood test.
Make sure you have enough zinc in your diet.
According to Texas-based nutritionist Danielle Girdano, zinc is critical in maintaining the metabolism of carbs, producing testosterone, and supporting a high functioning immune system. Vegans may be able to eat zinc-enriched foods (Girdano suggested wheat germ, sprouted bread, and legumes) to keep their zinc levels up. However, you can also look into purchasing a zinc supplement as well.
Find vegan-safe sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids may be found in a lot of vegan-friendly nuts and seeds, but registered dietitian Scott Keatley told INSIDER that alpha-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, and docosahexaenoic acid cannot be made on their own by the body. To make sure you are getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, Keatley recommended investing in a good vegan-friendly algae oil supplement which contains the daily recommended amounts of ALA, DHA, and EPA.
It’s important for people with a uterus to get iron.
Iron is essential for transporting oxygen around the body, registered dietitian Dr. Elizabeth Trattner told INSIDER. She suggested, however, that heme iron (from animals) and non-heme iron (from plants) are two very different forms of iron. Non-heme forms of iron do not typically convert the same way as heme iron does, she said, making it important to make sure you get the daily recommended amount you need.
Trattner suggested that the recommended daily amount of iron is 18 mg for women of childbearing years, (25 mg for pregnant women) making it important to take a daily iron supplement if you are vegan. To take your supplement correctly, she recommended taking an iron supplement (9 mg) that can be split in half and taken twice a day. She explained that breaking up iron doses keeps bowels moving smoothly and prevents unwanted constipation.
Add probiotics to rev up your gut health.
“A balanced gut is vital for extracting beneficial nutrients from the foods you are eating,” registered dietitian Sarah Greenfield told INSIDER. Although a vegan diet does support gut health by including high-fiber foods, Greenfield said that the addition of a probiotic can help ensure your gut stays balanced, allowing good bacteria to thrive.
Sign up here to get INSIDER’s favorite stories straight to your inbox.