Useful Supplements for Vegans… and Everyone Else!

As I’ve come to expect, the latest issue of Vegan Life was jam-packed with interesting articles, interviews and delicious recipes. It’s so refreshing to have a magazine where you don’t have to flick through pages and pages of adverts before you actually find something worth reading! In fact, there was so much to read in this issue that I managed to savour it over an entire week

Did you manage to get a copy yourself? If so, I’d love to know whether you’ve tried those onion rings yet. They look lush!

Vegan Life Issue 3

One feature in particular that caught my eye in this issue was the guide to useful supplements. This is something that I looked into myself last year as I wanted to make sure the family was getting all the nutrients needed for tip-top health and not lacking anything vital.

Vegan Life Issue 3

While a varied, balanced vegan diet can meet all nutrients needs (with the exception of vitamin B12), as mentioned in The Vegan Life article, there are four key nutrients to consider supplementing, and these are vitamins B12 and D, iodine and omega 3 essential fatty acids.

However, it’s worth noting that it’s not vegans exclusively that would benefit from taking these supplements. As we get older, our ability to absorb B12 from foods diminishes, so anyone over 50 years old is advised to consume fortified foods and/or take a B12 supplement. The UK government’s health advisers are also proposing that millions of people should be offered free vitamin D supplements as it’s estimated that one in five adults in the UK is at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Worldwide, iodine deficiency has become a major health problem too. To reduce the risk amongst their own populations, countries such as the USA, India, Denmark and Switzerland fortify table salt with iodine (‘iodized salt’). And when it comes to essential fatty acids, people are generally getting too much omega 6 and not enough omega 3.

Let food be thy medicineMy number one choice for nutrient intake will always be food. However, for these key nutrients – vitamins B12 and D, iodine, omega 3 (especially EPA & DHA) – I’ve decided to take a ‘belt and braces’ approach for now and use supplements to top up our levels, as and when needed.

Here’s how my family currently accesses these four nutrients…

Vitamin B12
Foods – fortified non dairy milks, non dairy yogurts, nutritional yeast flakes, breakfast cereals
Supplement – We’re currently using the BetterYou B12 Boost Oral Spray, which has a nice apricot flavour. (I do find that an opened bottle leaks when we travel though, so I’ll try out another brand for vacations). UPDATE 2016 – We also use SOLGAR Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin) 1000mg Sublingual Nuggets, which we buy from a local health food shop (Green Ginger in Corsham).

Vitamin D
Food – fortified non dairy milks, non dairy yogurts, breakfast cereals
Summer months – lots of time spent outdoors in T-shirts & vest tops
SupplementViridian Liquid Vitamin D drops and virikid Vitamin D drops, which have a nice, fruity flavour (we squirt it straight into our mouths or into smoothies/yogurt).

Iodine
Foodiodised salt; seaweed (Clearspring Nori Sprinkle is a favourite) UPDATE 2017 – we also love making vegan sushi rolls with nori sheets – another great source of iodine!

Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids
Food – walnuts, ground linseed, chia seeds, hemp seeds, greens
Supplements – Since it’s not known how well the body converts the omega 3 in walnuts and seeds from ALA into DHA, I also like to give the family a supplement which includes DHA (derived from marine algae). Our current favourite is Solgar Omega Advanced Blend 2:1:1, which is a lemon flavoured liquid – UPDATE 2016 – sadly Solgar have discontinued this omega 3 blend :o( UPDATE 2017 – we’re now using Viridian Vegan EPA & DHA – a lovely orange-tasting liquid that we squirt on smoothies, yogurts or straight into our mouths!

In addition to these four, I also think it’s important to pay attention to Iron and ensure that we eat lots of iron-rich meals. Worldwide, iron deficiency is the most common nutritional disorder and affects a staggering 2 billion people.

Vegan for Life has a useful section on iron, which includes the levels needed by gender and age, ways to enhance iron absorption, and a list of foods and their iron content. I also love this infographic by Vegans of Instagram

 

Iron Rich Plant Sources

 

While the recommended intake for men and post menopausal women is 8mg (which is pretty easy to achieve on a well-balanced varied diet), for menstruating women it’s 18mg – more than double! Considering ½ cup beans and ½ cup cooked greens each contain around 2mg, it can be quite a challenge to reach the 18 mg RDA. And that’s before we even take account of the fact that certain minerals (especially calcium), and beverages such as coffee and tea inhibit the absorption of iron. I’ve had my iron levels checked twice in the past couple of years and both times they’ve been low. Not anaemic low, but lower than optimal.

A few months ago I decided to top up my iron intake during the ‘time of the month’ with an iron supplement. I’ve been taking Viridian Balanced Iron Complex, which contains iron bisglycinate, a form of iron that is gentler on the digestive system than ferrous sulphate. I’ve had no stomach issues at all taking this supplement. As an added bonus, the supplement contains B12, magnesium, folic acid and vitamin C. I either swallow the tablets or simply empty the contents of the capsule into my daily smoothie.

For years, I was ‘anti supplements’ but now I understand that they do have their place… just as long as we see them as a ‘supplement’ rather than a substitute for healthy eating 😉

What’s your stance on supplements? Do you take any yourself?

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15 Comments

Filed under Nutrition, Vegan magazines

15 Responses to Useful Supplements for Vegans… and Everyone Else!

  1. What a useful and brilliant guide Sharon! Have you heard of Spatone sachets of natural iron rich water from Snowdonia – they are perfectly natural and absolutely gentle, I know you’ll like them. Since taking these sachets (2 a day for 2 months) my iron rich foods have kept my levels quite high – which is amazing! I do like the Viridian Vitamin D drops but after taking them for 2 months every day my levels were way, way beyond normal so I’m just taking them once a week now! We also take the Viridian B12 drops – the ingredients are so simple!
    Vicky recently posted..Roasted Cauliflower with Paprika and Oregano GF SCDMy Profile

    • No I haven’t heard of Spatone sachets but they sound wonderful! I’ll definitely look into them. Wow those vitamin d drops are effective! Thanks for the heads up. It’s the one supplement I tend to take every day, so maybe I’ll drop back to a couple of times a week. I didn’t know that Viridian did B12 drops, as I’d only seen the capsules so thanks for letting me know. As soon as my spray runs out, I’ll give them a try xx

  2. Great article, very interesting and useful , the book seems to be very good,thanks Sharon

  3. This is such a useful post! I liked the Vegan Life article but your write up goes 1 step further 😀

    Also, I felt terribly when I read your comment regarding oat servings!! I don’t know what standard is but I do tend to have smaller breakfasts on weekdays and snack more often during the workday, so my 1/4 cup oats reflects that 🙂 I also don’t measure oats out unless I’m trying to note amounts for recipes, so suspect that quite often I use more…on weekends that’s certainly the case!
    Kari @ bite-sized thoughts recently posted..Paprika-spiced sweet potato, bean and tahini patties {London marathon fundraising}My Profile

  4. I’m a supplement fan as an addition a good diet I think it’s good to top up levels now and again with those either lacking in diet, or those that are easily depleted. I take b12 or a b-complex on rotation, vitamin d and Viridians sport oil every day, I also take zinc every now and again. I like to use walnuts, flax etc for my omegas too, and I eat seaweed everyday for my iodine 🙂
    Lauren (@PoweredbyPB) recently posted..Breaking PointMy Profile

  5. Markio

    So a mug of oats is a bit much?!? Probably OK if you’re a horse.

    (I like that lemony Omega stuff on my yoghurt)

  6. Oooh those onion rings do look rather enticing….!!

    I actually take a lot of supplements, due to compromised gut health…just to be sure I’m absorbing enough nutrients. I started to list them but then felt like a crazy person!! haha

    I have recently thought about going to get b12 shots as well, as I’ve heard the supplements are not that well absorbed. I’d like to get my levels checked before I commit to that, though!!

    There is so much to think about!! But when it comes down to it, if we are eating organic, and incorporating local foods as much as possible, we are doing better than a lot of others out there. Thanks for your recommendations, too! It will be interesting to see if I can find some of those in Canada!
    Koko recently posted..Valentine’s Day French ToastMy Profile

    • Hi Koko! Yes, it would definitely be worth getting your B12 levels checked before you opt for the shots. I only started taking a B12 supplement a couple of months ago… before that I was just getting it from fortified foods (mainly milks & nooch) but my blood tests have always come back fine x

  7. I didn’t manage to get hold of this issue :o( but I’ve subscribed now so that won’t happen again. Did you know that M&S are selling Vitamin D mushrooms? It was a great find! And yes those onion rings look absolutely delicious!
    Jasmine recently posted..Winter Wellness – Part 3My Profile

    • Hey Jasmine! Lovely to hear from you! That’s so cool that M&S have started selling Vitamin D mushrooms. I read an article about people who put their mushrooms outside to ‘sunbathe’ as they absorb vitamin D from sunshine but I doubt very much that we get enough sun here in the UK!

  8. I recognized the photo on the cover – it belonged to Kristy of Keepin’ It Kind and the recipe is in her new cookbook (currently running a giveaway on her cookbook)! I haven’t tried her onion rings, but they look so good! What a helpful guide – I don’t take a lot of supplements ;( I think I should take them more often after reading this post! Thanks Sharon!

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