Following the vegan diet can come with many inherent health benefits. After all, studies have shown that vegans have a much lower risk of developing heart disease than those that consume meat regularly 1. Along with this, vegans are generally much thinner and have lower overall blood pressure as well. However, there are certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can result from having such a restrictive diet that need to be addressed. For some, it can be resolved by consuming more of a specific food, but for others, vegan supplements might be required for adequate intake. Adding supplements to one’s diet as a vegan can help address these specific deficiencies and make it a much healthier diet overall.
Vegan Supplements and Nutrients Lacking in Diet
This is one of the most common deficiencies among those that adhere to a vegan diet and therefore require vegan supplements. Unfortunately, vitamin B12 can only be found in animal foods. As a result, anyone that adheres to a basic vegan diet is going to be inherently deficient in vitamin B12 intake. Thus, they must find other sources of vitamin B12 to get in their diets. Because without adding foods that have been fortified with vitamin B12 or without taking added vitamin B12 supplements, both vegetarians and vegans are going to be at increased risk for vitamin B12 deficiency 2.
Some of the greatest whole food sources of vitamin B12 are prohibited while following a vegan diet because they consist of eggs and fish 3. As a result of this, vegans are at an even higher risk of suffering from vitamin B12 deficiency than vegetarians are 4,5. After all, vegetarians have a lot more options to get an increased intake of vitamin B12 in their diets because they are willing and able to consume various sources that feature high amounts of vitamin B12. Whereas, vegans are left with different fortified foods as their only viable sources. Some of the sources that you will find that has been fortified are grain products including cereal and bread 6.
What Happens With Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
Unfortunately, vitamin B12 is one of the most important vitamins that you are going to want to get sufficient amounts of in your diet because a deficiency in this vitamin can result in various issues. For one, vitamin B12 plays a critical role in sustaining your energy levels. Because of this, anyone that is classified as a deficiency in vitamin B12 is likely to suffer from serious fatigue 7. Another big issue is the fact that vitamin B12 is so imperative for proper brain function. Thus, anyone that has a deficiency is likely to have impaired brain function as a direct result 8.
Another nutrient that vegan supplements would be required with time would be creatine. Creatine is another nutrient that can only be found in animal foods. As a result, a vegan is not going to be able to get a natural food source that contains creatine in their daily diet. With that being said, it is not classified as an essential nutrient to have in your diet due to your body’s natural ability to produce it. Your liver is responsible for the production of creatine. However, your body is typically not going to be able to keep up with increased production without the regular intake. As a result, vegans and vegetarians are likely to have much less creatine in their muscles 9. This is something that is important to address if you are someone that is following a vegan diet because creatine, while not deemed an essential nutrient, it important to have in sufficient quantities due to its effect that it can have on your muscle mass 10. This is typically why you will find this supplement being taken by bodybuilders and athletes. However, because a vegan and a vegetarian do not get meat-based food sources in their diets, anyone that follows this type of diet is going to want to fill in the gaps through proper supplementation. Not only is it going to help boost muscle mass as it would with those that already get sufficient creatine through food sources and bodily production, but it can also directly impact your brain’s performance and brain function in general 11. In fact, studies have shown that creatine supplementation has the ability to really provide many cognitive benefits for those that adhere to a vegetarian based diet rather than those that regularly consume meat 12.
What Happens With Creatine Deficiency?
When your body is deficient in creatine, you are likely going to begin to experience various issues with your muscles. For some, it can contribute to muscular dystrophy and for others, it can cause poor general liver function. Thus, you are likely to experience significant muscle loss and weight loss as a direct result of having severe creatine deficiency.
Another nutrient that you are going to have trouble getting through your diet when you follow a vegan diet with its respective limitations would be vitamin D3. While it’s true that you get a majority of your vitamin B3 intake through sun exposure, vitamin D does come from the diet as well. Vitamin D3 is the specific form of vitamin D that you will typically find in animal-based sources. This is the form of vitamin D that is much more bio-available and it has a much greater result on vitamin D levels as a direct result. Because of this, you want to be sure to focus on getting enough vitamin D3 on a daily basis.
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While vegans could certainly do this through proper amounts of sun exposure without utilizing sunscreen, a lot of the added vitamin D3 would normally be consumed through egg yolks, fatty fish, and more. These sources offer Vitamin D3 which is much more bio-available than the vitamin D (D2) that you will find readily available in plants. Therefore, vegans will have trouble getting sufficient quantities through diet and will require much more sun exposure as a result which can be inherently dangerous due to additional exposure to harmful UV rays. Thus, anyone that adheres to a vegan diet is going to want to add a high-quality vitamin D3 supplement to their daily routine. However, vitamin D3 requires vitamin K for proper absorption 13. Luckily, vegans will have no trouble getting sufficient quantities of vitamin K in their diets as a majority of the highest sources of vitamin K come from leafy greens and other plants and vegetables.
What Happens With Vitamin D3 Deficiency?
An increasing number of people are being classified as vitamin D3 deficient. In fact, over 1 billion people throughout the world have too low levels of vitamin D3 in their blood 14. Unfortunately, vitamin D3 deficiency has been linked to numerous serious health problems including bone loss, fatigue, and even impaired immune system function 15.
Another nutrient deficiency that is very common among those that follow a vegan diet would be iron deficiency 16. This is a very common deficiency because red meat is the number one source for iron intake. Thus, if you are a vegan that doesn’t consume red meat, you are going to have to rely on other sources. The problem is, there are not many other high sources that are eligible to be consumed by vegans. Some of the highest sources that you will find that are plant-based are from leafy greens, chickpeas, nuts, seeds, and quinoa 17. Therefore, you are going to need to get increased amounts of these in your diet. Meat-based iron is the most bio-available. Therefore, you will need added sources of these foods to really get enough.
Overall, there are a lot of different nutrients that you are going to have trouble getting in sufficient quantities when you are following such a restrictive diet. This is virtually true of every diet with such restrictions. While a vegan diet has proven to have a lot of benefits, you want to be aware of the inherent flaws in the diet when you are coming up with a comprehensive meal plan and supplementation plan to remain as healthy as possible.
By adding these nutrients into your diet through proper supplementation, you should be able to adequately fill in the gaps of your restrictive diet to make it a much more sustainable and healthy diet to follow. This will help to ensure that you are not depriving your body of a specific nutrient that it might need to function properly. Whether it’s vitamin B12, creatine, vitamin D3, or even iron, you want to address the potential for deficiency prior to it becoming a problem. With that being said, you should always discuss different supplements with your doctor to ensure that you are a candidate to be taking them.
While you’re looking into the different vegan supplements and nutrients in your diet, consider keeping essential oils in your regimen with MONQ blends such as Healthy to help you breathe natural wellness with restorative qualities in its cinnamon leaf, marjoram, and turmeric essential oils.
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