When I started to go vegetarian in late 2018 I was hearing many mixed messages about what vitamin and mineral supplements I should be taking – which type, which brand, how much – it was all a bit confusing. So I done my own research and I have since had my findings confirmed by a gastroenterologist.
While it is important to have the right levels of vitamins and minerals no matter what diet you follow, it can be extra important for vegetarians and vegans due to the variety of vegetables needed to be consumed to maintain optimal health. This does not at all mean that these diets are unhealthy for you, it is for a number of reasons such as soil composition changes or reduced time spend outdoors that lead to the need for them – in fact a whole-foods plant-based vegan diet had been proven to be the healthiest diet for humans.
So here is what I know about taking supplements when on a whole-foods, plant-based diet:
To maintain good health it is mandatory to take a vitamin B12 supplement. It supports normal functioning of the brain and whole nervous system, formation of red blood cells, and to create and regulate DNA. So, pretty damn important! Eating animal products will provide vitamins B12, as the animals produce it by eating soil. Primates such as gorillas take B12 from eating soil and drinking dirty water, but the soil on the plants which humans eat is not as nutrient rich die to reasons such as fertilizers and pesticides, therefore we need to supplement – unless you want to start to eat soil?!
Recommended daily supplement dose: 25mcg
Vegan brand I currently use: Veg 1
Alternative sources: Nutritional yeast is also a great source of B12 too, now readily accessible in health book stores and supermarkets now, it is really tasty as it gives food a cheesy nutty taste. But you may not be able to consume enough everyday to reach the optimal levels.
The majority of the UK population, and many any other European populations, do not get nearly enough vitamin D throughout that year. It helps to regulate calcium and phosphate in the body, and is essential for bone and muscle health, energy levels and an overall happy feeling. It is especially important if you suffer with depression or anxiety disorders. We need to be outside in the sunshine for at least 20 minutes a day to absorb enough D, which with office based work and busier lives than every before, that unfortunately is not always feasible. I have been taking a D supplement since it was recommended to me by a GP about 6 years ago, and now I wouldn’t be without it.
Recommended daily supplement dose: 10mg
Vegan brand I currently use: Veg 1
Alternative sources: 20 minutes outside in the sunshine daily
Long chain omega 3 fatty acids maintain long tern brain health by maintaining a healthy brain and nervous system, and healthy aging overall. Taking in the recommenced daily dose reduces the risk of diseases such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis, and some heart problems.
Originally Omega 3 supplements came on to market as fish oils sources from numerous fish. With the current climate, ocean pollution, and other factors, if has been shown that it can now only now come from extremely oily, small fish, such as sardines. Recent studies have also shown that these fish oil supplements have no positive impact in humans anymore. Also, the oils extracted have been shown to contain pollutants like heavy metals and plastics…
Fish get their omega from algae; therefore, we can cut out the middleman, and get our own omega from algae too. There are now Omega 3 supplements from algae grown in pollutant free sustainable farms.
Recommended daily supplement dose: 250mg (EPA and DHA)
Vegan brand I currently use: Nothing Fishy
Alternative sources: A tablespoon of Flaxseed / Linseed, Chai Seeds, or walnuts per day
If you are not vegetarian or vegan and use want to maintain optimal health: Multivitamins are your friend
Before I transitioned to a vegetarian diet I took a multivitamin. Helps to regulate the system throughout the year and prevent the common cold. When I did get a cold, I would recover much more quickly than I used to. Especially important in the autumn and winter months when our immune systems are fighting off lots of bugs and we are not getting much time in the sunshine. Try to choose a good organic brand with the right quantities (I used to take BioCare) – remember that spending on a good vitamin can save you a lot more on medicines and time off work when you are ill!
It is simple to make supplements part of your daily routine – just pop a glad of water by your bed at night and take the tablets every morning – you will know that you are giving yourself the best start to the day 🙂
Some people will need to get a blood test to check their vitamin and mineral levels– especially if you are suffering from ongoing symptoms such as fatigue, are over 65, or pregnant.
*Please note that the above details are my educated recommendations from reputable resources, but you should always consult with a medical professional when making big changes to your diet. One size does not fit all.
One of the best resources for further information is nutritionfacts.org