In this month’s issue of Vegan Life magazine, there was a useful guide to supplements for vegans. 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.
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.
My 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…
Foods – fortified non dairy milks, non dairy yogurts, nutritional yeast flakes, breakfast cereals
Supplement – SOLGAR Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin) 1000mg Sublingual Nuggets
Food – fortified non dairy milks, non dairy yogurts, breakfast cereals
Summer months – lots of time spent outdoors in T-shirts & vest tops
Supplement – Viridian Liquid Vitamin D drops which have a nice, fruity flavour (we squirt it straight into our mouths or into smoothies/yogurt).
Food – iodised salt (from Sainsburys); 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 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 ♥
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.
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?
15 thoughts on “Useful Supplements for Vegans… and Everyone Else!”
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!
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
Oh I made a mistake – they’re Bio-care B12 drops – sorry xo
Great article, very interesting and useful , the book seems to be very good,thanks Sharon
Thanks Maria ♥ I’m so glad you’ve found it useful. Have a wonderful weekend xx
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!
Hey Kari! So glad you found it useful!
You have no need at all to feel bad about your porridge serving size. My family are breakfast monsters. Seriously you should see the size of our bowls! I don’t think there’s any hard & fast rules about what constitutes a single serving. I think 1/3 cup is quite common, but I was pleased to see a recipe recently on Deliciously Ella that had 1/2 cup for 1 person http://deliciouslyella.com/recipe/guest-recipe-nordic-spiced-porridge/ (it’s good to know I’m not the only greedy guts 😉 ) My hubbie’s even worse… he has 3/4 cup for breakfast and sometimes has another bowl when he gets in from work!
Haha, excellent 🙂 I wish my husband would eat oats at all – he is a toast person which I find so boring!
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 🙂
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)
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!
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
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!
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!
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!