Is your diet missing essential nutrients? Here’s what you need to know about supplements on a plant-based diet.
YOUR GUIDE TO SUPPLEMENTS ON A PLANT-BASED DIET
A popular concern regarding plant-based diets is whether or not they provide enough nutrients.
The truth is, whole foods contain an impressive amount of essential nutrients and being plant-based definitely has its health benefits. But just because you’re on a plant-based diet doesn’t mean you’re getting the vitamins and minerals your body needs to stay healthy.
So how do you know if you need supplements? And what supplements are recommended for plant-based diets? Keep reading to learn more!
DO YOU NEED SUPPLEMENTS ON A PLANT-BASED DIET?
While eating a plant-based diet should provide you with all the nutrients you need, it is still possible to be deficient in vitamins and minerals.
The truth is, most people are lacking essential nutrients in their diet. Yes, omnivores too! In fact, 92% of the U.S. population is suffering from at least one mineral or vitamin deficiency.
But how is deficiency so common in a developed country?
For starters, the nutrients in our food are at an all-time low. Due to industrial farming practices, half of the topsoil on the planet has been depleted and has lost most of its mineral content. In addition to soil depletion, more produce is being treated with pesticides, which can contribute to nutrient loss.
But vegans aren’t the only ones lacking in the nutrient department. In fact, some studies show that vegans consume more nutrients than omnivores. In a 2003 study published in the journal Public Health Nutrition, researchers compared the diets of more than 65,000 men and women ages 20 to 97. Compared to those who ate meat, they found that vegans had the highest intake of all nutrients, except saturated fat.
So, how do you know if your diet is missing essential nutrients? By listening to your body! Your body can tell you a lot about what you’re missing. Fatigue, headaches, depression and sudden weight gain are all common symptoms of nutritional deficiency.
There are a handful of health issues that can be caused by nutrient deficiency. So, if you want to maintain and support a healthy body for as long as possible, you may want to consider taking supplements.
6 KEY SUPPLEMENTS FOR A PLANT-BASED DIET
Vitamin B12 plays an important role in human health. It’s responsible for red blood cell formation, cell metabolism, nerve function and the production of DNA. Deficiency can lead to anemia, dementia and nerve damage. Unfortunately, it’s pretty common to be deficient in B12, especially if you’re vegan. That’s because it’s primarily found in animal products such as milk, eggs and fish. If you’re on a plant-based diet, your best option is to take a B12 supplement. The recommended daily amount of vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms for adults.
Vitamin D performs many important functions in your body, but its most important role is helping your body absorb calcium to support healthy bones. Vitamin D is also known as “the sunshine vitamin” because the greatest source of it comes from the sun. But unless you spend every day sunbathing, you’re most likely vitamin D deficient. In fact, it’s the most common deficiency in the world! An estimated 40% to 60% of the world’s adult population doesn’t get enough vitamin D. Which isn’t very surprising, considering we spend most of our time indoors.
Research suggests that people with a vitamin D deficiency are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. So, how much vitamin D is required in your diet? The average adult needs 15mcg per day. But if you’re trying to avoid a sunburn, plant-based milks and some mushrooms are great sources of vitamin D. Get a boost of vitamin D in our Magic Mushroom mix! Thanks to chaga mushrooms, this chocolatey mix is a powerful plant-based source of vitamin D, plus it tastes great, too!
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
Your body can make most types of fat, but it can only get essential fatty acids from the food you consume. Omega-3s are a family of essential fatty acids. The most common ones are ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
ALA is primarily found in plants, while DHA and EPA mainly come from fish. Your body needs Omega- 3s to support heart health, reduce inflammation, improve cell receptors and regulate blood clotting.
The Institute of Medicine has yet to establish exactly how much omega-3s you need per day, but the recommended amount of ALA for women is at least 1.1 grams per day. This can easily be achieved by eating plant-based foods! Plant-based foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include flax seeds, flaxseed oil, and walnuts. Thanks to chia seeds, you can also get the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in our Forever Beautiful mix as well as our tasty Chocolate Lover mix!
Iron is a nutrient required to transport oxygen in the blood and used to make new DNA and red blood cells. It also plays an important role in your muscle tissues, as it helps store and transport oxygen to your muscles.
Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the U.S. and it can lead to a handful of health issues, including anemia and a poor immune system. The recommended dietary allowance of iron is 17.0-18.9 mg/day for women and 19.3-20.5 mg/day for men.
There are plenty of iron-rich foods that you can add to your diet, such as chickpeas, lentils, tofu and edamame. Or, enjoy a scoop of our Forever Beautiful mix, loaded with iron-rich chia seeds and vitamin C-rich acerola, which can help increase your iron absorption!
Zinc is found in cells throughout your body. It’s required to metabolize nutrients, grow and repair body tissues and support immune function. There is a handful of plant-based foods that contain zinc, such as potatoes, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. Unfortunately, the zinc in these foods is often bound to phytates, making it difficult for the body to absorb this nutrient. This could be why vegans and vegetarians tend to have a lower zinc intake than omnivores. If you’re concerned you’re not getting enough zinc in your plant-based diet, you may want to consider taking a supplement. The recommended daily amount for adults is 8mg for women and 11mg for men, but because zinc absorption decreases as you age, you may need more than that amount.
Vitamin K2 plays an important role in bone health. It helps regulate and metabolize calcium which helps build and maintain healthy bones. Research shows that adequate intake of vitamin K2 can lower the risk of vascular damage and protect cardiovascular health. So how much do you need to per day? Although the number seems to vary, most experts suggest consuming 100 mcg per day. Vitamin K2 can be found in plant-based foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha.
GET YOUR NUTRIENTS FROM PLANTS
Nutrient deficiency is common among all groups of people, vegan and meat eaters alike. But the healthiest (and most affordable) way to get the nutrients you need is by having a diverse whole food diet.
Fruits, veggies, nuts, grains and superfoods can supply your body with almost all of the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.
But if you’re unable to get the nutrients you need from plant-based foods, you’ll have to supplement with a vitamin.
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TELL US WHAT YOU THINK!
Are you on a plant-based diet? What type of supplements do you take?