Thursday, 21 May 2020

DISCLOSED: 4 Vital Supplements for a Vegan Diet

Across the UK there has been an increasing number of people that have taken up a plant-based diet and vegan way of life. Supermarkets are catching on and cashing in on this growing lifestyle, with Sainsbury’s launching a 31 product vegan range at the end of last year, Tesco producing a vast range of vegan options, and fast food giants such as McDonald’s, KFC, and Burger King introducing plant-based options.

With the UK’s number of vegans rising from 150,000 in 2014 to 600,000 in 2019, it’s fair to say this lifestyle is an increasingly preferred choice for many. 42 per cent of the UK’s vegans made the dietary shift in 2018 and are forecasted to make up a quarter of the British population by 2025.

Although this is a positive change, there are concerns that vegan diets don’t give the body all of the vitamins and minerals it needs to function healthily and in optimum performance. With veganism garnering more attention and a demand for education, Google Trends data reports that the term ‘vegan supplements’ is often searched for in the UK, with a particular spike in early January 2020, likely after the indulgence of the Christmas period.

Although, this isn’t to assume that vegan diets aren’t healthy — in fact, a plant-based diet has many nutritious benefits. However, there are some nutrients we may need health supplements for if we can’t get them solely from plants. With good planning, you can make sure you’re not missing out on anything important. If you find yourself wondering ‘what vegan supplements do I need?’, here, we’ll look at the most important additions you should be taking on a vegan diet.

Number one: Vitamin B12

B12 is derived from foods from animal sources and is arguably one of the most important nutrients vegans need. There’s a common misconception that vegans who eat the right kind of plants don’t need to be wary of a vitamin B12 deficiency. Unfortunately, there is no research to confirm this. Vegans are at higher risk of B12 deficiencies, so it’s important that adults consume around 1.5 micrograms of B12 every day.

The health of the nervous system, brain functionality, the development of oxygen-carrying red blood cells and protein metabolism are all supported by Vitamin B12. If not enough B12 is consumed, this can lead to anaemia, nervous system damage, infertility, and bone and heart disease. Humans used to get B12 from natural water in soil, however with declining soil quality from intensive farming and filtered water, this isn’t the case anymore. Taking supplements or fortified foods such as soymilk, nutritional yeast, meat substitutes, and breakfast cereals.

Number 2: Iron

The transportation of oxygen around the body, DNA development and red blood cells are all improved by iron. Therefore, an iron deficiency can result in anaemia. Symptoms of anaemia include a decreased immune system functioning, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and difficult concentrating. Iron is derived from meat, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, cheese, and cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, kale, broccoli, and pak choi.

However, it’s important to only take iron supplements if you’ve been told to by your GP since too much iron can be harmful and prevent the absorption of other vitamins and minerals - but it’s worth being aware in case you start to feel the symptoms and aren’t sure why.

Number 3: Vitamin D

Acting as a fat soluble nutrient, Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from our guts. Not only that, it helps encourage healthy bone, teeth, and muscle growth. Vitamin D is comprised of two forms — vitamin D3 is taken from animal products such as oily fish, red meat, liver, egg yolk, and butter, whereas vitamin D2 comes from plants, like mushrooms, and fortified foods.

There are a limited number of foods that Vitamin D can be derived from, therefore the recommended daily intake of 10 micrograms a day is sometimes a struggle to meet. It is primarily derived from sun exposure, which is why the NHS recommend vitamin D supplements, even for carnivores, in the darker winter months.

Number 4: Iodine

Maintaining healthy thyroid functioning can be done by consuming an adequate amount of iodine. This is a regulator of your metabolism. Good sources of iodine include sea fish, shellfish, dairy, and some plants and grains depending on the level of iodine in the soil in which they grew. If not enough iodine is taken, you can experience low energy, dry skin, forgetfulness, depression, and weight gain — so it’s recommended that adults consume 0.14mg of iodine each day.

In comparison to vegetarians, vegans have up to 50 per cent lower iodine levels in their blood -according to research. Ultimately, this makes them more susceptible to risk of iodine deficiency.

When changing to a vegan diet, to make sure you’re consuming an adequate level of vitamins and nutrients we recommend getting your blood taken at your GP to find out what you should do.

Watanabe, F. and Bito, T., 2018. Vitamin B12 sources and microbial interaction. Experimental Biology and Medicine, 243(2), pp.148-158.

© Diets and Calories written in conjunction with Pharma Nord 


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