IF YOUR DIET IS PLANT-BASED, YOU COULD BE IN DANGER OF LACKING CERTAIN NUTRIENTS – HERE’S HOW TO FIX IT
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What are they?
A vegan diet can be super-healthy, but some nutrients are trickier to get from plant-based foods. If you’re one of the one-in-four Brits who has reduced the amount of animal products they’re eating since the start of the pandemic, here’s how to make sure you don’t miss out.
The supp: vitamin B12
Why we need it: It helps our body release energy from food, among other roles. However, a study of 689 vegans found that half were deficient.
What it’s in: Meat, fish or dairy. The only way vegans can get enough B12 is through fortified foods and supplements.
Signs you’re lacking: Fatigue. Some doctors warn of a risk of peripheral neuropathy, which causes permanent numbness in the hands and feet.
The supp: calcium
Why we need it: For strong bones, muscle contractions and nerve function.
What it’s in: Cow’s milk, green vegetables like cabbage and okra, and fortified plant milks and bread (flour is fortified by law).
Signs you’re lacking: Cramps, numbness and muscle pain. Fractures may be up to 30% higher in vegans due to lower bone density, which some doctors suggest might be due to lower calcium intakes (though this link isn’t proven).
The supp: choline
Why we need it: Similar to B vitamins, choline helps us make cell membranes and produce neurotransmitters. A 2019 paper in BMJ Nutrition suggested the UK is close to a ‘choline crisis’, due to our failure to understand its importance. What it’s in: Meat, fish and eggs. Broccoli, kale, mushrooms and beans contain some, and our liver can manufacture a little.
Signs you’re lacking: In extreme cases, a fatty liver and muscle problems.
The supp: vitamin D
Why we need it: For strong bones and immunity. Our levels dip in winter, when we can’t make enough from sunlight. What it’s in: Mostly animal-based foods, like eggs and oily fish. Chestnut mushrooms exposed to UV light also contain some. The NHS recommends all adults supplement with 10 muy gram daily from October to April. Signs you’re lacking: Bone pain, fatigue.
The supp: iodine
Why we need it: For healthy thyroid function, we should be getting 140pg daily. What it’s in: Dairy, fish and seaweed. And some fortified plant milks – though one study found these don’t contain enough.
Signs you’re lacking: Weight gain, feeling sluggish and constipation.
The supp: iron
Why we need it: For making red blood cells, and many other roles. Iron is the world’s most common deficiency.
What it’s in: Red meat, but also leafy greens like kale, tofu, dried apricots, pumpkin seeds and lentils. Non-haem (plant-based) iron is harder to absorb, so aim to consume meals that also contain vitamin C, which aids absorption.
Signs you’re lacking: Pale skin, shortness of breath and fatigue.
The supp: omega-3s
Why we need it: For brain function and heart health. We can only get these essential fatty acids through food or supplements. What it’s in: Oily fish, mainly, plus flax, hemp or chia seeds, walnuts, vegan algae oil supplements. As alpha linoleic acid (ALA) – plant-based omega-3 – isn’t very active in the body, vegans may need extra. Signs you’re lacking: Dull hair, dry skin, and possibly low mood – studies suggest omega-3 may relieve depressive symptoms.
The supp: zinc
Why we need it: For making new cells and enzymes, and to support immune function. One review of 26 studies found vegetarians and vegans had lower zinc blood levels than omnivores.
What it’s in: Mainly fish and dairy, but also chickpeas, walnuts, tofu and lentils. Signs you’re lacking: If levels crash, hair loss, diarrhoea, and lack of appetite.
Who can take them?
If you’re pregnant, breast-feeding or under medical supervision, check with your GP before taking any supplements, vegan or not, and always read the label.
WHICH VEGAN SUPP?
If you’re vegan you’ll want to be sure your supplements are, too
Look for synthetic B12 (cyanocobalamin); some vegan supps use the version found in food (methylcobalamin).
H&B Timed Release Vitamin B12 1000 muyg
Not all supplements are vegan – check the label.
H&B Vegan Calcium, Magnesium & Zinc
Some supps are sourced from eggs – not this one.
H&B Choline & Inositol 500mg
Seek out vegan-friendly D3 derived from lichens.
Vitabiotics Ultra Vitamin D3 1000IU Vegan
Seaweed is a natural vegan source.
Weed & Wonderful Organic Scottish Seaweed
Look for vegan- friencly ferrous sulphate or ferrous bisglycinate.
Algae or flaxseed oils are a good source for non-fish eaters.
H&B Vegan Omega 3
Zinc gluconate, citrate and picolinate can all be vegan.
H&B Maximum Strength Zinc 25mg