Disclaimer: As a 50+ year practitioner of a vegan diet, and a Macrobiotic nutrition counselor, Holistic Holiday at Sea founder Sandy Pukel believes that we can all achieve balanced nutrition by eating a whole foods plant-based diet. We also recognize that with busy schedules, food quality and accessibility issues, and other challenges we all face, many of us need to supplement our diets. The article below features one of the supplement brands that we support, whose co-founder and co-author of this article, Matt Frazier, has been on our Holistic Holiday Vegan cruise many times as a speaker.
It’s no secret that plants are a nutrient powerhouse.
A whole foods, plant-powered diet can play an important role in protecting against cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, dementia, and many other health issues.
However while many vegans (and non-vegans) believe that eating a well-rounded diet is enough, science suggests that even the healthiest plant-based and vegan diets may require some supplementation, in the form of vegan vitamins or vegan supplements. A vegan supplement is especially helpful for people with busy lifestyles that need extra support to ensure balanced nutrition.
For plant-based eaters and vegans, knowing how to get important nutrients and what type of vegan multivitamins to take can feel confusing. For the most part, vegans can get high-quality nutritional value from food. Here are some important nutrients that you may want to consider adding to your plant-based diet by supplementing.
Why Most Vegans Need More Than Just Vitamin B12
If there’s one nutrient people like to point towards when it comes to supplementing a plant-based diet, it’s Vitamin B12. Most vegans and plant-based eaters take B12 supplements.
We know there’s a handful of essential nutrients that you can technically get through plants, but they require eating an abundance of certain foods most of us rarely touch.
Let’s explore those nutrients.
The Big 4 Nutrients for Plant-Based Eaters
- Vitamin B12: Supports red blood cell formation, neurological function, DNA synthesis, and is helpful for avoiding pernicious anemia. Certain animal products, like red meat, contain B12. Nutritional yeast, tempeh, sauerkraut, sea vegetables, and miso contain Vitamin B12.
- Vitamin D3: Protects from a host of chronic diseases, from osteoporosis to heart disease, some cancers, and even multiple sclerosis. Vitamin D helps enhance the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. While we can get Vitamin D through the sun, most people, including non-vegans, are not getting enough. Animal products such as fish supply Vitamin D for meat eaters, but plant-based eaters should turn towards supplementing. Dried mushrooms contain Vitamin D.
- Vitamin K2: Helps with blood clotting, reduces the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and osteoporosis. There are only a few plant-based foods rich in K2, such as fermented foods like miso and natto which are both Japanese condiments made from soybeans. Leafy greens, alfalfa sprouts, and whole grains also have K vitamins.
- DHA/EPA Omega-3’s: Critical for everything from brain health and regulating your cholesterol, to powering your nervous system and increasing your energy levels. While most vegans get ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid) Omega-3 Fatty Acids through foods like chia seeds and flax seeds, there are two other critical forms of Omega-3s that many plant-based eaters (including people who take a fish oil supplement) don’t get enough of—DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Our bodies can actually use ALA to synthesize other fatty acids, like EPA and DHA (great news for everyone), but it’s a common misconception among vegans that this is enough.
Getting Calcium on a Plant-based Diet
Calcium is a mineral that’s necessary for good bone and teeth health. It also plays a role in muscle function, nerve signaling, and heart health. Plant sources of calcium include bok choy, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, watercress, broccoli, chickpeas, calcium-set tofu, and fortified plant milks or juices. Vegans are encouraged to consume at least 525 mg of calcium per day, which is the recommended daily allowance. Calcium supplements should be used if this can’t be achieved through diet or fortified foods alone.
Nutrients That Are Harder-to-Get on a Vegan Diet
- Zinc: Helps enhance the skin and nails, your sense of smell, healthy growth, healthy eyesight, wound healing, and a well-functioning immune system. Zinc is available from a wide range of plant-foods, including legumes, tempeh, and tofu, along with many nuts, seeds, and grains. Zinc is also available from mushrooms and spinach. Most of these foods that are rich in zinc also contain phytates, which hinder our bodies’ ability to absorb the nutrient.
- Iodine: Supports healthy thyroid function, which regulates the metabolism. Iodine exists in seaweeds like kelp, hiziki, kombu, or wakame, but may not be adequately consumed as part of a typical, Western plant-based diet. Prunes, cranberries, and baked potatoes also contain iodine.
- Selenium: Helps protect from neurodegenerative disorders, mood changes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as reproductive problems in men and women. The only plant food with an abundance of selenium is brazil nuts. Brown rice, barley, oatmeal, baked beans, and spinach also contain selenium.
- Magnesium: Affects your mood, weight, sleep health, regularity, heart beat, energy, and metabolism, and can even affect PMS and depression. Some studies suggest that up to 80% of the U.S. population—vegans and omnivores alike—are deficient in the nutrient.
One Vegan Supplement Has All These Vitamins and Nutrients
Complement Plus is a vegan multivitamin with all of the hard-to-find nutrients in a plant-based diet, including B12, DHA/EPA Omega-3s, K2, D3, Zinc, Iodine, Selenium, and Magnesium.
Complement Plus is the only vegan vitamin that publishes their third-party test results right on their website. Use code HHAS to save 10% on their products.
Benefits of Complement Plus
- Increases Energy: Methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin forms of B12 are combined in Complement Plus to support energy levels.
- Better Sleep: Selenium may help you fall asleep faster, and magnesium can work to improve sleep quality.
- Sharper Focus: Omega-3s and B12 can contribute to overall brain health, improving memory and focus.
- Heart Health: DHA+EPA, K2, magnesium and D3 all work together to support a healthy cardiovascular system.
- Enhance Immunity: Vitamin D, zinc, and selenium have all been shown to help boost immunity and fight against certain diseases.
- Regulates Metabolism: Iodine supports the thyroid function, while zinc and magnesium contribute to regulating the metabolism.
Save 10% on Complement Plus
Complement Plus is a vegan multivitamin with all of the hard-to-find nutrients in a plant-based diet. Use code HHAS to save 10% on their products.