Do Vegans Need Supplements?
by Callum Allan on Nov 14, 2022
Anyone who's ever seen me knows that I am not a vegan. I'm an omnivore through and through. But that doesn't mean I don't have respect for those who choose to live a vegan lifestyle. In fact, I have several friends who are vegans, and I am always in awe of their dedication to their chosen way of life. So when it comes to the question of whether or not vegans need supplements, I'm approaching it from a place of curiosity rather than judgement. Here's what I've been able to find out.
Vitamin B12 is found naturally in animal products like meat, eggs, and dairy. It's responsible for maintaining healthy nerve function and producing red blood cells. Because vegans do not consume any animal products, they are at risk for a deficiency in vitamin B12. Symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency can include fatigue, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, and weight loss. If left untreated, a vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to serious health problems like anaemia and neurological damage.
There are a few ways that vegans can get their Vitamin B12. The first is by taking a supplement. You can also get Vitamin B12 from fortified foods like plant-based milk and some breakfast cereals. And finally, you can get Vitamin B12 through daily exposure to the sun. Just 10-15 minutes of sun exposure per day should do the trick.
Protein powder is often thought of as a bodybuilding supplement, but it can be beneficial for vegans as well. That's because vegan diets tend to be lacking in protein. And while you can get protein from plant-based sources like beans and lentils, sometimes it's nice to have a quick and easy option like protein powder. There are plenty of vegan protein powders on the market these days made from ingredients like pea protein, brown rice protein, and hemp protein.
Iron is found in animal products like meat, poultry, and fish as well as in dark leafy greens and legumes. It's responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body and keeping our immune system strong. Because vegan diets can be lacking in iron, vegans are at risk for developing anaemia. Symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia include fatigue, pallor (paleness), shortness of breath, cold hands and feet, lightheadedness/dizziness, headache, brittle nails/hair loss, irregular heartbeat, sleep problems/trouble staying awake during the day. If left untreated iron deficiency anaemia can lead to serious health problems like heart failure or pregnancy complications.
To avoid developing anaemia, vegans should make sure they're eating plenty of iron-rich foods including dark leafy greens such as spinach and Swiss chard as well as legumes such as beans and lentils. Fortified cereals are also a good source of iron for vegans. In addition, vegans should pair iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C which helps with absorption. And finally, vegans should avoid consuming coffee or tea with meals since they contain compounds that inhibit iron absorption.
The bottom line is that while vegans need to be aware of potential deficiencies and make sure they're getting enough nutrients through their diet or supplements, it is certainly possible to live a healthy vegan lifestyle with proper planning and supplementation!