If you have eaten a vegan diet for any period of time you have come across the questions like: “where do you get your protein?,” “how do you get enough calcium?,” and “how do you get your iron?” Unfortunately, vegan friends, these questions will never go away due to the stereotypes of our culture. If you live outside of the United States I would LOVE to hear your experience with this!
Awhile back I wrote a post, “Where do you get your protein?.” It gives insight to some great vegan protein sources as well as a little glimpse of where I get my day-to-day nutrition. I also wrote a post called “The Implications of a Strictly Vegan Diet” where I talked about some supplements I find necessary. During that time I was having a lot of issues with energy and nutrition and was really doubting my lifestyle (please do not hold it against me).
Today I wanted to talk about what I do for supplements and vitamins and some other recommendations as well.
Supplements I Take
Vitamin B12 is necessary in the formation of healthy red blood cells, healthy nerve cells, and the generation of DNA. This on is absolutely NECESSARY for all vegans! The way plants are harvested today takes away all of the natural B12 from the soil. Vitamin B12 is VITAL for brain function and is a really big problem if you are not getting enough.
What I do: I take Now Foods B-12 2000 mcg. I take this chewable tablet a few times a week.
Recommended: 25 to 1000 mcg per day.
Omega-3s are fatty acids that are the building blocks for healthy fats. They regulate blood clotting, build cell membranes and support cell health. They help reduce fat in the blood (bad cholesterol). They also curb inflammation. Omega-3 is found naturally in many vegan sources. Some include chia, flax, hemp, sunflower, sesame seeds, walnuts, basil, oregano, and cloves.
What I do: I take DEVA Vegan Vitamin DHA. It is derived from algae. I take this once a day.
Recommended: 200 to 300 mg several times a week.
Probiotics are bacteria that support the natural balance of organisms in the body. This is a supplement that I take personally, not necessarily for a vegan diet. Like I have mentioned before, I have IBS. I take probiotic to regulate the good bacteria in my intestines. It prevents many intestinal issues.
What I do: I take Nutrition Now PB 8 Probiotic Acidophilus. I take at least one tablet everyday. If I have had particularly bad intestinal issues I will take up to three a day.
Recommended: A supplement with one to two million CFUs daily.
Other Possible Supplements to Consider
I don’t take a supplement for this. If you spend a lot of time outdoors or live somewhere sunny you do not need to either. Your body naturally produces Vitamin D through sun rays. If you feel like you may need it, consider a daily vitamin for it or a multi-vitamin that has it included.
Iodine is needed to metabolize cells. This converts food into energy. The easiest way to make sure you are getting enough in your diet is to make sure the salt you buy is iodized.
Recommended: 150 mcg per day
Calcium is needed for strong bones. It is also needed in nerve and muscle function and for blood clotting. Calcium can naturally be found in these vegan foods: calcium-fortified soy milk, tofu, soybeans and nuts, bok choy, broccoli, collards, cabbage, ka,e okra, grains, beans, many other fruits and vegetables. There is more calcium in 4 oz of firm tofu or 3/4 cup of collard greens than in one cup of cows milk. So if you eat a balanced, varied diet, you should have no issue with calcium.
Recommended: 1000-1200 mg per day.
I LOVE when people ask me, “Where do you get your iron?” The funny thing about that is growing up I was always borderline anemic. I could never donate blood because I was always had terribly low iron levels. The only reason I included iron in this list is because it is a popular misconception, much like protein. Some vegan sources of iron include: soybeans, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, tomato paste, white beans, spinach, lentils, tofu, chickpeas, and so many more. Iron is absorbed better along side of Vitamin C, combinations like beans and tomato sauce or stir-fried tofu and broccoli are excellent ways to absorb optimum iron.
Recommended: 10 – 20/mg per day.
Hopefully this post will help you make informed decisions about what is best for you and your dietary lifestyle. For me, it is a matter of eating a well balanced diet with a lot of variety. I try to change up my shopping lists with different fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and beans each week. I rotate tofu into my diet and I take the three supplements I reference above regularly. I also see a doctor annually and get a full physical. There are many other routes other people go as well. I would love to hear what works for you!
NOTE: I am in NO WAY a medical professional. The information in this post is purely of my own opinion and what works for me personally. I have done years of reading and researching on my own. If you are concerned in any way about your health and wellness due to your diet please see a medical professional.