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.
Common nutrient deficiencies in vegans include:
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
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.
- 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.