Do Vegans need to take supplements?

Do Vegans need to take supplements? Blog post

Although a well-balanced vegan diet should provide all the nutrients we need, even the most conscientious individuals may find it difficult to get all the nutrients they need from food alone, and dietary supplements may help fill nutrient gaps.

Vegan diets have been shown in research to have benefits for health like being thinner, having lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, however, supplementation may be supportive when certain food groups are removed from the diet. 

In the case of vegans, all animal-based ingredients are eliminated and these foods provide some nutrients that are not found in sufficient quantities in plant-based foods. These nutrients include vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, zinc and iron as well as omega-3 fatty acids. In some cases, in vegans, supplementation may be warranted and recommended by healthcare practitioners. 

Solgar Vegan Supplements

Common nutrient deficiencies in vegans include:

  •  Vitamin B12
    is found in a wide variety of animal foods and is added to some fortified foods. Most plants – other than algae – do not have any vitamin B12 unless they are fortified with it.

    The best sources of vitamin B12 are beef liver and clams. Fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and other dairy products contain some vitamin B12 as well. For this reason those individuals following a vegan diet may not be getting an adequate intake of vitamin B12.

    Vitamin B12 helps to support energy production, red blood cell formation, psychological and nervous system wellbeing and also supports immune system function. Like most vitamins, the body can’t make vitamin B12 on its own and must get it from food or supplements.
  • Vitamin D
    is a fat-soluble vitamin produced by the body when skin is exposed to sunlight and has many important functions. These include regulating calcium and phosphorus levels to maintain bone health and supporting immune defences

    Did you know? Only about 10% of the vitamin D in the body comes from food. These foods include fish, mushrooms and eggs.
  • Calcium
    is found in dairy products, fish with edible bones, and leafy green vegetables like broccoli and kale. It is the most abundant mineral in the body, representing between 1-2% of total body weight and stored mainly in bones and teeth.

    As well as its importance for bone and dental health, calcium is critical in muscle contractions, neurotransmission, digestion and blood coagulation. For this reason, the body regulates plasma calcium ion concentrations within strict limits
Solgar Vegan B12 Supplement

  • Zinc
    is a trace mineral and is found mainly in red meats and seafood like oysters and mussels. It is also found in poultry and dairy products. Some populations such as the elderly and those following vegan or plant-based diets may not consume sufficient amounts to meet recommendations and it is estimated that up to 17% of the world’s population may have an inadequate intake.

    Zinc plays an important role in immune system health and is a cofactor for numerous enzymes. It is essential for cell division and therefore growth and repair as well as cognition, reproductive health
  • Iron
    is present mostly in animal protein like lean meats and seafood, but also in nuts, tofu and white beans in smaller amounts. It is an essential component of hundreds of proteins and enzymes supporting essential biological functions, such as oxygen transport, energy production, DNA synthesis, and cell growth and replication.

    Everyone needs iron yet growing children and adolescents, athletes, pregnant and breastfeeding women, vegetarians and vegans are all at risk of not obtaining sufficient amounts of iron from their diets.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids
    The omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) support heart, brain and eye health.

    EPA and DHA are both found in cold water ‘fatty’ fish such as herring, sardines, salmon and mackerel. The human body is unable to make these fatty acids and therefore must obtain them from food.
    Some plant foods such as flaxseed and walnuts contain the omega-3 fatty acid Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA) and can contribute to EPA and DHA in the body. However the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA has been found to be limited.

    For those who are vegetarian or vegan there are alternatives to fish consumption to improve omega-3 levels:   

    1. Increase Alpha- Linoleic Acid (ALA) intake: There is evidence to show this increases Omega- 3 levels, however not as efficiently as oily fish. Good sources of ALA include walnuts, chia seeds, edamame beans and flaxseeds.
    2. Decrease intake of Omega- 6 fatty acids: Most of us consume more than sufficient amounts of Omega-6 on a daily basis. Omega- 6 is found in vegetable and seed oils such as sunflower oil, grains and cereals, chicken, red meat, margarine and also in processed and pre-packaged foods like microwave and take-away meals.

    Recommendations to reduce intake of omega-6 fatty acids without compromising on the intake of other nutrients could include reducing or avoiding ready-made cakes, biscuits, snacks, meals and take-away meals and choosing olive oil or rapeseed oil over other vegetable oils.

If you follow a vegan lifestyle be sure to discuss your diet with a nutritionist of dietician to ensure your meals are balanced and that any nutritional gaps are being addressed.

Solgar Vegan Iron Capsules

  • Highly absorbable unique form of iron 
  • Useful for those with a restricted diet such as Vegans and Vegetarians 
  • Gentle on the stomach /Ideal for sensitive stomachs 
  • Reduces constipating effects (common effect of standard iron supplements)

Food supplements should not be used instead of a varied balanced diet & healthy lifestyle.

For references, click here.