46% of people turn to vegan diets for “health” reasons, according to the UK based charity survey Veganuary. Yet one of the most common concerns for those following a vegan diet is knowing how to get enough nutrients needed for good health.
Some claim that a vegan diet easily meets all of the daily nutrient requirements and that supplements do more harm than good. Despite such advice being well intended, eliminating all animal products from your diet does increase the risk of certain nutritional deficiencies. Supplementation is therefore often required.
Katherine Kimber, Dietitian, has outlined below what constitutes a nutritionally adequate vegan diet, as well as information on where supplementation may be required. She has created a bundle which includes all the neceesary supplements:View/Buy our Adult Vegan Bundle
What constitutes a nutritionally adequate vegan diet?
- Eating a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables at least five per day. 15-20 different types a week is optimal, and fresh, tinned, frozen and dried all count.
- Opting for high fibre starchy foods such as oats, wholemeal pasta, brown rice and potatoes with the skins on at most of your meals.
- Including high protein options such as lentils, beans, pulses, tofu, fortified milk alternatives, and nuts at most meals.
- Including a variety of nuts and seeds on a daily basis.
- Choosing calcium-rich foods daily, such as fortified plant milk or calcium set tofu is important to maintain calcium requirements for good health. kale, pak choi, okra, spring greens, dried figs, chia seeds, and almonds are also good sources.
What supplements may need to be considered?
- Omega 3 – Vegan diets generally lack the long-chain n-3 fatty acids which are important for cardiovascular health as well as eye and brain functions. A vegan should regularly consume plant foods naturally rich in the n-3 fatty acid ALA, such as flaxseed, walnuts, rapeseed oil, soy products, and hemp seed. In addition, it is recommended that vegans consume foods that are fortified with the long-chain n-3 fatty acid DHA, such as some soy milk and cereal products. Those with increased requirements of long-chain n-3 fatty acids, such as pregnant and lactating women, or those who are not eating the above foods regularly would benefit from using DHA-rich microalgae supplements.
- Vitamin B12 – Compared with vegetarians and meat-eaters, vegans typically have higher rates of vitamin B12 deficiency. This has been considered a risk factor for heart disease, bone fractures, tiredness, low energy, palpitations amongst others. If fortified foods such as yeast extract, vegan spread, fortified milk products, and breakfast cereals, are not included in the diet twice daily, a B12 supplement of 10mcg daily or at least 2000mcg weekly for adults is usually required.
- Vitamin D – It is difficult for anyone to get enough vitamin D from food, regardless of whether they follow a vegan diet or not. For adults living in the UK, it’s recommended that 10ug or 400IU of Vitamin D is taken daily between October and early March. Keep in mind that vitamin D2 is always suitable for vegans, but vitamin D3 is often derived from animal sources.
- Iodine – Getting enough iodine is vital for a healthy thyroid function. The thyroid is a gland in your neck, responsible for controlling your metabolism. The levels of iodine in plant foods depends on the iodine content of the soil in which they are grown. It can, therefore, be unpredictable to know whether you’re getting enough for good health. Unless you can source plant-based milk fortified with Iodine, a supplement is argued to be one of the most reliable ways of meeting your body’s need for iodine.
- Selenium – Selenium is important for enzymes which help to speed up reactions in our body. Like iodine, the amount of selenium found in plant food depends on the selenium content of the soil in which they are grown. Good plant food sources of selenium are brazil nuts, however, the levels of selenium in these will be variable. A supplement can, therefore, guarantee a reliable selenium intake.
In summary, your nutritional needs for good health can be met through a well planned vegan diet. However, with the busy lives we lead and with a higher risk of nutritional deficiencies when following a vegan diet, certain supplements may be required. That’s especially true for Vitamins B12, D and Omega 3’s, Iodine and Selenium. Calcium and Iron are also important considerations that can usually be met through food sources alone.Those following a vegan diet who are unable to meet their dietary needs through food alone should consider taking supplements. It’s best to speak to your healthcare provider before doing so.
Katherine Kimber, Dietitian has designed a bundle that contains all these essential nutrients and are within the recommended levels:View/Buy our Adult Vegan Bundle
Products included in the bundle are: