A vegan diet can be healthy, but there are a few vitamins and minerals that can be low on a vegan diet. Find out which and how to keep those levels up!
One of the best ways to keep healthy is to eat a diet rich in whole foods. It's also a good idea to get blood work done by your healthcare provider at least once a year to make sure your levels are up to par. Often, people may not even know they are deficient until they start experiencing symptoms.
If you are low, you can get your levels back on track through diet and supplements. Here’s our recommended list of the top 5 vitamins and minerals vegans should consider incorporating into their diet:
1. VITAMIN B12 (COBALAMIN)
Vitamin B12 is needed for cell division (production of DNA), healthy red blood cells, production of myelin sheath around nerves, energy, fat and amino acid metabolism, and folate activation.
You can get a blood test for B12 or a urine test for methylmalonic acid (MMA), an organic acid. If MMA is high, it may indicate a B12 deficiency.
There are no naturally occurring plant-based foods that contain B12. However, some foods (like nutritional yeast) are fortified with them. It is essential for vegans to get enough B12, so while it may be possible to get the amount needed through fortified foods, it's easier to take a supplement and be sure you are getting adequate amounts of B12.
The recommended amount of vitamin B12 for adults is 2.4 micrograms (mcg) per day.
Methylcobalamin and cyanocobalamin are two absorbable types of B12. Supplements come in 25mcg-1000mcg. Be sure to check with your personal nutritionist or healthcare provider for the correct kind of B12 for your personal wellness needs.
2. VITAMIN D
Vitamin D is vital for balancing calcium levels, maintaining cell growth and development, supporting immune system cells, and assisting with bone density.
Bloodwork will test 25 OH D levels. If levels are low, which they often are for vegans in the winter because vitamin D is synthesized by the sun, you can take a supplement to get them back up to normal. Once vitamin D levels are balanced, you can re-evaluate your supplement intake with your nutritionist or doctor.
There aren’t many naturally-occurring plant-based foods with vitamin D—except for mushrooms if they have been treated with UV rays.
Some fortified foods like non-dairy yogurt and milk, orange juice, cereals, and tofu contain vitamin D—just be sure to check the packaging.
Much of our population is low in vitamin D, especially in the winter months or in regions that experience less exposure to sunlight. I myself take 1000IU/day to keep my levels up. Before starting any supplementation, be sure to check your vitamin D levels and talk with your personal nutritionist or healthcare provider.
If you supplement with vitamin D and are vegan, be sure to note that most vitamin D3 is animal-based, while vitamin D2 is plant-based.
Your body needs calcium to maintain bone and tooth health, nerve cell transmission, muscle function, blood clotting, and intracellular signaling.
There is no real test for calcium deficiency because your body tightly regulates calcium levels. If you are low in calcium, your body will take it from your bones, so you want to make sure you're getting enough calcium in your diet to support bone density levels.
Leafy greens (kale, turnip greens, mustard greens), fortified soy other non-dairy milks, fortified tofu, white beans, bok choy, broccoli, and watercress are some plant-based sources of calcium.
You can also supplement with calcium to ensure you are getting enough to maintain your levels. Again, it is always recommended to consult your healthcare provider or personal nutritionist to ensure that the addition of any new supplements to your diet fits your health needs.
Many living organisms, along with humans and animals, all share a common necessity for iron in order to function. Iron can help support oxygen transport, muscle formation, energy production, and enzyme function.
Many vegans are low in iron because many sources of iron are meat-based. You can get a full iron panel done, which includes iron and other key indicators of health.
Plant-based sources of iron include lentils, carrots, soybeans, broccoli, oatmeal, quinoa, and fortified cereals.
You can also promote iron absorption by eating foods high in vitamin C. It is important to note that this absorption may be disrupted when taken with tea or coffee.
Zinc helps support proper immune system function, cell division and growth, wound healing, and antioxidant and enzyme function.
You can ingest this mineral by consuming lentils, green peas, white beans, wheat bran, corn, and oatmeal.
Zinc supplementation is sometimes necessary for vegans. While I myself do not follow an entirely plant-based diet, I still integrate these types of supplements into my daily regimen, especially during cold and flu season, to give my body added support. If you are unsure if your diet is lacking in specific vitamins and minerals, you should consult your healthcare provider or personal nutritionist.
How Live it Up Super Greens Could Help
Once you have established what your diet may be lacking, turning to a vitamin or mineral supplement can be the easiest and most efficient way to give your body those added nutrients. Consider trying a superfood supplement or greens powder that is high in quality and contains nutrient-rich ingredients. As an all-natural supplement filled with vitamins, minerals, and superfoods, Live it Up Super Greens can help bridge potential gaps in your diet.
This powdered supplement blends nourishing ingredients like peppermint, alfalfa, kale, broccoli, and spirulina, to name a few. Live it Up thoughtfully picked nutrient-dense ingredients to create a blend designed to support immunity, gut health, and energy levels.
Whether you are following a plant-based diet or are interested in incorporating supplements into your diet, Live it Up Super Greens can help you get started on your health journey.
Be sure to speak with your doctor or nutritionist if you are interested in learning about what vitamins and minerals may support your specific health needs or if you plan on adding a supplement to your diet.
While following a plant-based diet can offer a variety of potential health benefits, it is also important to ensure your body is not missing out on any vital nutrients it needs to function properly. The five vitamins and minerals, as discussed above, are imperative in supporting balanced body functions for vegans.
If you are looking for a more holistic approach to your health or are interested in giving your body the nutrients it needs to flourish, talk to your healthcare provider or personal nutritionist to guide your path to wellness.