Updated: Jan 14, 2019
It's crucial to supplement your diet if you decide to go vegan. You won't be able to stay vegan for very long unless you learn the what vitamins are essential to staying healthy.
When I first became vegan I felt great about my decision. I knew I was doing the right thing and that I would be a healthier me. I thought nothing could get me down!
Then why after a week of being vegan did I start to become so exhausted all the time?
I could barely get out of bed in the morning (more so than normal) and when I finally got up I felt weak throughout the day. I thought something was seriously wrong. It then dawned on me that it could have been my recent switch to a vegan diet.
Vegan supplements are essential to a vegan diet
If you’re considering becoming vegan or if you are vegan you'll want to make sure you're getting the right vitamins in your diet. Nobody wants to feel tired, weak, anxious or depressed so don't give up on your dietary choice quite yet!
I've got good news for you! There’s an easy fix to this and I’ve outlined it right here for you :)
1. Vitamin B-12 + Folate
This vitamin is only found in animal products and is essential to your health. Vitamin B-12 helps your body make DNA and red blood cells and if you have a deficiency the main symptoms are weakness, tiredness and even lightheadedness.
If vitamin B-12 is only found in animal products where do vegans get it from?
Most vegan foods that you buy in the store are fortified with vitamin B-12 including nutritional yeast, vegan meats, cereal, plant milks and more! If you're relying on fortified foods as your main source be sure to check the nutritional facts because not all vegan substitutes add these vitamins in.
Surprisingly plant alternatives have more vitamin B-12 than its animal counterpart:
How much vitamin B-12 do I need?
Vitamin B-12 is best absorbed in small amounts so as long as you eat vitamin B-12 fortified foods at least a few times a day you should be getting the right amount. For adults the daily recommended amount of vitamin B-12 is about 2.4 mcg. If you don't want to worry about eating the right types of foods or if you mostly eat fresh foods then it's best to take a vegan supplement.
Be careful when selecting supplements
Surprisingly most vitamin supplements are not vegan. They either use animal products to derive the nutrients or they use an animal product to make the casing. There's too many ingredients in some vitamins so trying to figure out which ingredients are vegan can be time consuming and stressful! Luckily some companies specifically label their supplements as vegan or vegetarian. I also recommend getting vitamins in a liquid form. They're typically absorbed into the body faster than capsules or tablets.
Be sure that the vitamin B-12 supplement you choose has folate. Folate is essential for the creation of DNA and a deficiency in it can cause anemia.
Here's the B-12 that I take that was recommended to me by my Naturopathic doctor:
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential for strong bones. It's also believed to help treat some serious conditions such as cancer, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and more!
Vitamin D is essential to everyone not just vegans
If you have a vitamin D deficiency some of the symptoms include:
Inability to think clearly
If you love mushrooms you're in luck, if not don't worry!
Mushrooms are a great source of vitamin D there's about 7 mcg in 100 grams of white mushrooms. There's a lot of foods that are also fortified with vitamin D including plant milks, cereal, oatmeal and orange juice.
Let the sunshine in!
Your body naturally creates vitamin D after being exposed to the sun. Just 15 minutes a day in the sun without sunblock can be enough to produce the right amount of vitamin D. Don't go too crazy because too much sun exposure is not good either due to the risk of skin cancer.
But how much do I actually need?
If you get a decent amount of sun exposure in your daily life or eat a fair amount of foods that have vitamin D you should be getting your daily recommended amount of 10 to 20 mcg (depending on where you live, time of year, skin type, etc.). There is a such thing as too much vitamin D, not from foods or the sun but from taking supplements. It's been shown that taking 1,250 mcg of vitamin D can cause toxicity. So stick to the recommended dosing and don't over do it.
Be careful what type of vitamin D supplements you buy
Vitamin D is typically derived from sheep wool so make sure you're not getting this version.
Here's the Vitamin D supplement recommended by my Naturopathic Dr:
3. Omegas EPA/DHA
This one is super important in the long run. You may not notice the effects of the omega deficiency now but in a couple years you'll be sorry you didn't supplement with omegas. They help with a healthy heart, brain and immune system.
Studies suggest that omegas can provide benefit to the following diseases: cancer, asthma, depression, cardiovascular disease, ADHD, and autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
A deficiency in omegas can cause anxiety and depression so it's important to staying happy. This is difficult to get through diet so it's best to supplement.
You can get ALA from flax but it's less potent than EPA or DHA.
Here's the supplement recommended to me by my doctor:
I never knew how important gut health was until I went to see a naturopathic doctor. Gut health is important for immune health. There are a ton of bacteria in the gut and certain foods can negatively affect gut health. Gluten can cause a leaky gut so it's important to ensure your gut is full of healthy bacteria.
You can get probiotics from some foods like:
Sauerkraut, kombucha and yogurt.
Here's the probiotics recommended to me:
Iodine is essential for a healthy thyroid.
Why a healthy thyroid will increase energy and weight loss
The Thyroid gland is very important for energy levels as well as a healthy metabolism. The hormones produced by the Thyroid essentially help convert food to energy. So if you can imagine having a deficiency in iodine will definitely contribute to the weak and tired feeling when switching to a vegan diet.
The daily recommended dose for adults is 150 mcg. Start out slow because iodine also helps in removing toxins and if you start out too high it can cause the same symptoms as having a deficiency. Like vitamin D you don't want to take too much Iodine as it can be harmful. Be sure not to take more than 1,100 mcg.
Iodine is found in most table salts
In an effort to help people get their intake of iodine most table salts have been fortified with iodine. Only certain companies add iodine to their salts so if you don't typically buy those brands you'll need to get your iodine a different way or through supplements.
Kelp flakes are a natural source of iodine
Too much salt can cause inflammation so I prefer to use kelp flakes. I like to sprinkle kelp flakes over every meal I eat. They contain a large amount of iodine so it's easy to get enough. In one teaspoon there's 970% of your daily iodine.
Here's the kelp flakes I enjoy:
With all these nutrients you'll find yourself feeling better than ever!
Living a vegan life can be a little extra work at times but it's well worth it. Not just vegans need to supplement. Ensuring you're taking all these supplements will ensure you're living a healthy and happy life <3
PS. I don't use affiliate links so I won't get anything if you purchase any of these items. I just want to share my knowledge to help :)