Don’t you eat meat or animal foods at all? Then it is extra important to follow a varied diet. By following a balanced plant-based diet as a vegan or vegetarian, you can get all the important nutrients. Nevertheless, you should pay close attention to several vitamins and minerals, mainly found in animal products. In an earlier article, I have already given some tips for vegan athletes. In this blog, I want to go into what vegan supplements there are. Here you can read which supplements are useful for vegans and which vegan supplements you can buy.
What supplements for vegans?
In a healthy lifestyle and well-thought-out diet, supplements are not immediately necessary. Supplements can be a good supplement, especially when you completely avoid certain foods. If there is a shortage of certain nutrients, you can supplement them using dietary supplements. Of course, a supplement is not a substitute for healthy eating.
But which supplements for vegans are recommended? With a vegan diet, shortages of certain substances are real, as no dairy, eggs and oily fish are eaten. In this case, it is recommended to supplement the following vitamins and minerals.
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B12
- Omega 3 fatty acids
These vitamins and minerals will be further explained later. We first treat the shortage of protein, a problem for many vegan athletes.
Proteins are the building blocks of our bodies. Especially for muscle recovery, proteins are important. These proteins are found mainly in eggs, chicken, fish, meat and dairy. However, these are products that vegans avoid. Whey supplements are also made from dairy and are therefore not suitable. Proteins are also nuts and legumes, but this is insufficient for most vegan athletes.
Nowadays, protein supplements are also made, especially for vegans. For example, blessed, popular in America, extracts its proteins from one source; pure golden pea protein isolate. Other brands such as ‘The Protein Works’ combine various natural proteins from hemp, sunflower, peas and soy.
Proteins are converted into amino acids that are necessary for the recovery of muscles. It is also possible for vegans to take BCAA’s (branched-Chain Amino Acids) as a separate supplement.
Vitamin D is important for maintaining strong bones and teeth. It ensures that our body can absorb calcium better. Also, it contributes to the proper functioning of muscles and strengthens our immune system.
The main source of vitamin D is sunlight. Our body absorbs enough in the summer, but a deficiency can arise during the dark winter months. Swallowing extra vitamin D in winter is therefore advisable—both for vegans and for ‘non-vegans’.
You can have your vitamin D levels checked with your GP. Is this on the low side? Then supplement with a vitamin D supplement is recommended. For vegans good to know; vegetable margarine and cooking and roasting products often contain extra added vitamin D.
In a vegan diet, supplementing vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is actually indispensable. This is because our body cannot produce this vitamin on our own. So you’re taking it out of your diet. Unfortunately for vegans, this substance is mainly found in animal foods. So if we look at vegan supplements, then vitamin B12 is a must-have.
Cobalamine is necessary for the production of red blood cells and the transport of oxygen. It is also necessary for the proper functioning of our nervous system. You can find B12 in animal products such as dairy, eggs, oily fish and meat/meats. So, as a vegan, always opt for supplementation of vitamin B12 to avoid deficiency.
Omega 3 supplements for vegans
Another important supplement for vegans is omega 3. Omega 3 is a fatty acid found mainly in fish oil or oily fish. Our body cannot make these fatty acids themselves, so if you do not eat fish, then a supplement is needed. Omega 3 is important for our brain’s functioning and helps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
But fish oil isn’t vegan. That’s right! Therefore, it is important to opt for an omega 3 supplement based on algae oil or ahi flower. These plant omega 3 capsules contain a good DHA dosage (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). And that without the use of animal products!
Calcium, Iron, Iodine and Zinc
These minerals are common in animal products, but fortunately, plant foods contain these substances as well. And although there are few shortages of these minerals and trace elements in the Netherlands, it is important as a vegan to check these values regularly. If deficiencies occur, calcium, iron, iodine or zinc are often not present enough in the body. So you can supplement these using vegan supplements.
Female, vegan and pregnant or on her period? Then be sure to take extra iron to keep your values up to date. Iron is a mineral that is important for the formation of haemoglobin, a component of red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen through our bodies. Zinc is important for the build-up of proteins in our body and contributes to the growth of tissues. It also ensures the proper functioning of the immune system. Calcium helps build up and maintain strong bones and teeth. In later life, osteoporosis (bone decalcification) can occur. It also ensures the proper functioning of nerves and muscles. Iodine is important for the production of thyroid hormones. This controls our metabolism and is important for the growth and proper functioning of the nervous system.
Are dietary supplements vegan?
Do you want to take vegan supplements? Then, of course, you want to make sure that no animal products are included in your dietary supplements. The powders, pills or capsules you take must be completely plant-based (or possibly synthetic).
If you opt for powdered supplements, you will often be fine. These generally consist of pulverized plants or herbs. Very pure and not polluted with animal substances. Of course, this does not apply to protein shakes based on the meadow. These contain proteins from cow’s milk. So pay attention to this when purchasing a protein shake.
With pills and capsules, this is different. Not so much because the supplement itself is of animal origin, but because gelatin is used for the pills or capsules. These are animal substances, and you want to avoid them. So always check the label to make sure that no animal substances are used to produce the capsules. Watch out; sometimes, animal ingredients are listed under an E number. Animal E-numbers include E120/carmin acid, E542, E920 and certain flavourings.
What vegan supplements can you buy?
Do you want to buy vegan supplements? Then it is important to check the list of ingredients. Be critical, because animal ingredients can also be listed as an E-number. As more and more people choose a vegan lifestyle, more (web) shops focus on vegan supps. The offer for you as a vegan is therefore growing!
This applies not only to plant vitamins and minerals, there are also more and more fitness supplements suitable for vegans. Brands such as Blessed, Plantforce and The Protein Works market dietary supplements without animal substances. You can also opt for vegetable protein shakes or BCAAs from plant sources. In addition to these brands, more well-known supplements webshops in the Netherlands will sell vegan products from their home line. As a vegan or vegetarian, you can easily replenish important vitamins, minerals and amino acids to keep your health and resistance optimal!