what supplements should you be taking on a plant-based diet?
Many people on a plant-based diet use supplements to increase their vitamin or mineral intake, in fact, it’s recommended.
Generally people on a plant-based diet supplement for two reasons,
- Restrictions in our diet mean that we struggle to get enough vitamins or minerals.
- In some diets, these vitamins or minerals either aren’t available or are harder to come by.
But don’t despair!
There are tons of ways for you to get these vitamins and minerals you need into your diet, you can take a pill, powder or eat foods that have been fortified.
So, what supplements are needed on a plant-based diet?
- Vitamin B12
- Omega 3
- Vitamin D
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor do I have any medical training. I am providing this information purely from personal research and opinion and it should not be taken as medical advice. As with any information you find online speak with your GP or a medical professional before making any changes to your diet.
DO I NEED TO TAKE SUPPLEMENTS ON A PLANT-BASED DIET?
It is true you can get most of the vitamins you need from your diet, however, it is important to make sure you’re eating a wide variety of food and understand what vitamins and nutrients you are getting from your diet.
These days this is true for any diet … yep, even a meat-eating diet.
The large amount of processed foods we eat and the level of healthy eating and unhealthy lifestyles across the general population means most people are deficient in at least one area (often vitamin D).
Luckily if you just do some research, use a tracking app and eat a wide variety of foods you’ll be able to get everything you need.
Use an app to track what you’re eating. Chronometer is a great option as it gives you tons of information on vitamins, minerals, protein and calories, and is easy to use.
What is vitamin B-12?
One of the first things you will have heard about when transitioning to a plant-based diet is vitamin B-12.
This is because it’s really important but harder to come by.
Vitamin B-12 is made by microorganisms in the soil.
We used to get this in our diets by eating unwashed vegetables but now with modern agricultural practices, this is no longer the case.
It is largely involved in the energy processes in our body.
It plays a role in the production of our red blood cells, helps with cognitive health and our nervous system, and plays a role in the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
Do I need to take vitamin B-12 supplements?
If you want a quick answer YES,
Vitamin B-12 deficiency has been predicted to affect around 20% of individuals so supplementing it should be part of your weekly routine.
This isn’t something that necessarily just affects those following a plant-based diet but is certainly more prevalent.
What are the signs of a vitamin B-12 deficiency?
Vitamin B-12 deficiency can rear its ugly head in several different ways:
- Weakness or Fatigue
- Blurred Vision/ Loss of Vision
- Mental Health Issues
- Pale Skin
- Pins and Needles or Tingling
- Mouth Ulcers
All of the above sound pretty horrible right?
Well don’t worry, it is one of the most accessible and cheapest supplements to find so you’re in luck!
Where can I get vitamin B-12 supplements?
As this is the most common deficiency there are plenty of fortified foods out there to provide the solution to this problem.
The easiest to find include plant-based milks, cereals, fortified flour or nutritional yeast.
If needed you can also take it in tablet form.
These are easily accessible both online and on the high street for a reasonable price.
RELATED: The Complete Guide to a Plant-Based Diet for Beginners
What is protein?
Protein is essential for the maintenance of our muscles and cells and aids in their growth and repair, it helps with major functions in the body such as hormone regulation, in the creation of digestive enzymes.
How much we need dependants on a variety of factors such as height, weight and sex as well as our activity levels. Those with a sedentary lifestyle will only need on average between 40-60g a day which in essence is easy to get.
Do I need to take protein supplements?
In a nutshell, no.
So, if this isn’t a necessary requirement why do people do it?
This is because it is an easy way to get a high amount of protein for when you feel you may need i.e if you are building muscle (although not a requirement still), or want a cheap and easy option on the go.
What are the signs of a protein deficiency?
Despite the badly researched arguments of many meat-eaters, it is actually very easy to get the right amount of protein in your diet.
In fact, protein deficiency is pretty rare in these modern days.
This can manifest itself in several different ways such as:
- Issues with Skin and Nails
- Slow Healing of Wounds
- Hair Loss
Where can I get protein supplements?
Luckily, it is really easy to up your protein intake through food or supplements like protein powder.
If you go down the protein powder route try and find a protein that is heavy metal tested and more importantly something that you get on with either with flavour and texture once it mixes
Believe us when we say that there are some horrendous ones out there.
What is omega-3?
This is where we get a bit technical!
Omega-3 Fatty acids come in the 3 different forms:
This is the only essential fatty acid and comes from the plant kingdom.
EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid)
DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid)
Both of which can be converted by the body from ALA.
Omega-3s are important for neurological and cardiovascular health.
Do I need to take omega-3 supplements?
You don’t need to supplement omega-3 as you should be able to get everything
What are the signs of omega-3 deficiency?
Most symptoms of an Omega-3 deficiency aren’t necessarily unusual so may not just signal a deficiency in this area.
If you notice that you’re affected by a few of these it may be a good idea to speak to your GP.
- Problems with Skin and nails
- Joint Pain
- Cramping in the Legs
- Lower levels of concentration and attention
- Trouble with Sleeping
- Allergy Symptoms
Where can I get omega-3 supplements?
ALA is produced by the plant kingdom so you have plenty of sources that are really easy to get hold of.
Some of the main ones include;
- Chia Seeds
- Flax Seeds
- Edamame Beans
If you’re as fussy as a toddler and don’t like any of these you can also buy plant-based supplements in tablet form online and in stores.
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D (also known as the sunshine vitamin) can be synthesised by the body from Sunlight.
It is used by the body to help regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate within our bodies
Basically, it is essential in keeping teeth, bones and muscles healthy.
Do I need to take vitamin D supplements?
There really isn’t an easy answer to this as it depends on so many factors.
If you live in a climate where sunshine is harder to come by, or, like myself in a country where the weather is so unpredictable sunshine cant be counted on.
I live in the UK – a country notorious for rain, particularly in the Autumn, Winter and Spring, so I supplement between mid-October and May.
During the summer months I tend to spend a lot of time outside so my body is generally able to synthesize the vitamin D that I need.
Vitamin D supplements are often sourced from sheep wool so be mindful of this when shopping for supplements. There are plenty of plant-based alternatives available online.
Do children need to take vitamin D supplements?
NHS guidance is that anyone over the age of 4 should consider supplementing vitamin D as it is difficult to get the recommended amount from diet alone.
There is an NHS recommendation for children under 4, however, before you take any action speak to your midwife or health advisor for recommendations that are specific to you.
What are the signs of a vitamin D deficiency?
The main issue in recognising vitamin D deficiency is that symptoms (tiredness and changes to mood) are also symptoms of having young children!
Others include bone pain, muscle weakness and cramps.
Just as fashion cycles through time (think crop tops and platform shoes), it appears that Ricketts is also having a resurgence. Caused by a lack of vitamin D and calcium it can be another sign of vitamin D deficiency.
Where can I get vitamin D supplements?
As with most items, you can find vitamin D supplements online that aren’t going to break the bank.
Some great natural sources of vitamin D include mushrooms, tofu, cereals, and plant-based milk.
Check out our Baked Oats or Pulled BBQ Mushrooms side recipe for inspiration on how to incorporate more vitamin D into your diet.
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