Some might be intimidated about making the decision to go vegan or whole food plant-based but the truth is, eating a vegan or a plant-based diet is one of the easiest ways to eat. All you have to do is eat yummy fruits, vegetables, and beans, right? At the same time, it's hard to give up what you have been eating. You might be avoiding the mere thought of going vegan for fear of missing out on bacon and eggs in the morning, big juicy steaks at your favorite restaurants, or indulging on charcuterie boards with a nice glass of wine. Wherever you are in your journey to eating more plant-based, knowing the right supplements to help fill in nutritional gaps is key for long-term success.
Some Resources Before Talk Supplements
Before I get started on the 5 supplements I feel all Vegans should be taking, I want to recommend a few resources first. The Vegan Starter Kit by Dr. Neal Barnard is a great book to pick up and get started. You can also go to PCRM.org and sign up for the 21-Day Kickstart. There is even an app you can download with grocery lists, recipes, and support.
If you like podcasts, listen to the Exam Room Podcast by Chuck Carrol. NutritionFacts.Org is another great resource. From there you can download the Daily Dozen App which helps you check off the 12 things Dr. Gregor thinks all plant-based eaters should be doing daily. One last resource I will mention is The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet by Rip Esslstyn. This is a great book for those that want to dip their toes into a new lifestyle for only seven days!
Now that you have your resources, let’s narrow our conversation down to the five supplements I feel all plant-based eaters should be taking. Plant-based eaters already eat a colorful diet filled with colorful vegetables, beans, fruits, nuts and seeds, and great herbs and spices. There are, however, a few nutritional gaps that can easily be filled through supplementation.
Here are my top 5 Daily Supplements for Vegans
1. B-Complex or Vitamin B-12
I have been taking Bioactive Complete B-Complex by Life Extension for quite some time as I feel like I cover all of my bases in the B vitamin arena. I have never been tested for the MTFHR genetic mutation. However if I do have that mutation I feel confident that I am still getting what I need by taking a methylated form of a B-complex.
Check out our blog on B Vitamins and Your Genes for more information on methylation.
As a plant-based eater I have kept an eye on my Homocysteine levels to ensure I am taking in adequate B vitamins. This is an easy lab value to add onto basic blood work with your primary care physician. Dr. Gregor mentions on his site NutritionFacts.Org that Vitamin B-12 is not made by animals or plants but rather by microbes which is hard to come by in our newly sanitized world.
A deficiency in Vitamin B-12 can lead to serious health concerns especially those in infants from mothers lacking in Vitamin B-12. Other concerns include psychosis and paralysis. Why risk it? If you don’t want to add a B-vitamin into your daily regimen, you could add Nutritional Yeast to your food. The only drawback here is you will have to eat quite a bit of it to meet your daily needs of Vitamin B-12. Nutritional Yeast or “Nooch'' provides a great cheesy flavor to meals and is a great spice to add flavor and texture to your meals.
2. Omega 3s
It seems like the Standard American Diet alone is low in Omega 3s. EPA and DHA are essential for so many systems in the body, especially brain health and memory. According to OmegaQuant, The Omega-3 Index Test is a measure of the amount of EPA and DHA in the blood. It specifically measures the red blood cell membranes. If you curious about your Omega 3-Index, get it tested with OmegaQuant. A great lab result would be between 6% and 8%.
Traditional vegans don’t eat fish, so how do they get their Omega 3s? If you are making the decision to be strictly vegan, we do carry several algae based Omega-3 supplements at our store. My favorite supplements we carry include Algae Omega by Nordic Naturals and CatchFree Vegan Full Spectrum Omega by Wiley’s Finest.
3. Vitamin D
Vegan or not, all of us could use Vitamin D daily. Vitamin D is essential for our bones, muscle function, weight management, immune health, mood, and so much more. Most of us are not exposed to enough sunlight or are eating enough mushrooms to get adequate Vitamin D. Plant-Based News reports that there are two types of Vitamin D which are D2 and D3. D2 is always vegan while D3 could be derived from animal sources however you can find Vegan Vitamin D3. Some of my favorites at the store are Vegan Vitamin D3 + K2 by Enzymedica, Vitamin D3 Gold 5000 IU by Nutragold, and Everyday Liquid Sunshine Vitamin D3 by Mount Angel.
4. Protein Powder
A lot of people think that vegans and vegetarians do not get enough protein. The truth is, if they are eating enough of the right foods, then they are getting enough protein. However, we will just assume that protein is a nutritional gap. Supplementing with a clean, plant-based protein is a safe bet.
I have fallen in love with our Truvani options we carry at the store. Each morning I wake up and enjoy a breakfast shake with the Vanilla Truvani Protein Powder, Green Vibrance, a serving of Garden of Life’s Flax and Chia Blend, one cup or more of unsweetened cashew milk, and some frozen organic berries. I have been calling this my green go-go juice because this shake is action packed with the best ingredients that help me feel nourished throughout the work day and in my workouts. Sometimes before long bike rides or long runs I throw my morning concoction into a coconut bowl and add a few hemp seeds and some Sugar Free Blackberry Hills Granola.
Did you know that almost 80 percent of Americans are deficient in Magnesium? (One Green Planet) Magnesium helps with regular bowel movements, metabolism, sleep and relaxation, our mood, our heart health, and our overall energy levels. It turns out that some medications and stress deplete our Magnesium stores.
While Magnesium is found in many yummy vegetables, nuts, beans, and some fruit, our soil in this country is just not the same in modern times. That’s why I don’t risk it and supplement with magnesium. Some magnesium supplements are energizing while others help us relax. My favorite Magnesium supplement at the store is Thorne Research Magnesium CitraMate but oftentimes I take a Magnesium Glycinate if I feel I don’t need as much of my Malate and Citrate Blend. See the chart below to see what is right for you.
Want to Learn More About Going Vegan?
Implementing these supplements is a great addition to any one's diet but especially if you are vegan or are thinking about adopting a vegan diet. But, if you still have questions about this topic, reach out to us today to see how we can help you achieve optimal health and vitality. Our experts are here to help you live your best life.
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