You can get many of your vitamins by eating a healthy, balanced, and well-rounded diet. However, sometimes there are a few supplements you may need to add to your routine.
Before you begin supplementing, have your blood levels checked to see if you are deficient in any vitamins or minerals and ask your health care professional for a recommendation for your individual dosage needs.
Vitamin B12 – Everybody needs B12, especially those over the age of 50. Studies have shown that vegans have a higher risk of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency since it’s commonly found in animal-based foods. However, there are tons of vegan options to attain your B12 needs. To add B12 to your diet, look for plant milk, yogurt, cereal, spread, yeast extracts, and nutritional yeast products that are fortified with vitamin B12, and take a physician-approved supplement. I take this take this liquid B12 complex from Whole Foods daily.
Vitamin D – Unless you live where the sun shines all year long, you may be vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption, gut and bone health, immune function and disease prevention. Very few foods naturally contain vitamin D and most of them, such as meat, eggs, fish and dairy, are not vegan friendly. According to the Mayo Clinic, the daily recommendation for people 1 to 70 years of age is 600 IU (International Units) per day and 800 IU for pregnant or breastfeeding women and adults over 70 years of age. Sitting in sunlight for just 10 to 15 minutes per day is a great way to absorb some vitamin D in addition to taking a supplement.
Iodine – Iodine is needed to make thyroid hormones, which control metabolism and other important bodily functions. Getting enough iodine is important for everyone, especially babies and women who are pregnant. The amount of iodine you need depends on your age. The National Institutes of Health recommends adults take 150 mcg (micrograms) per day, more for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Some fruits and vegetables contain iodine, though the amount depends on the iodine in the soil and fertilizer where it was grown. Another source is iodized salt or kelp.
Zinc – Zinc can help protect you from many diseases. Maintaining healthy zinc levels can help shield you from pathogens and minimize future illness. Unfortunately, the more pollution we encounter, the more zinc we lose, and the fruits and vegetables we grow for food no longer contain this essential mineral. According to Medical Medium, “avoid the many liquid zinc supplements that are loaded with citric acid, natural flavors, alcohol, and other toxic ingredients. Instead, search for a clean, high-quality liquid ionic zinc,” such as this one.
Calcium – Your body needs calcium to maintain strong bones, support muscle and nerve health, help blood vessels move throughout the body, and release hormones and enzymes that affect almost every function in your body. The National Institutes of Health recommends that adults 19 to 50 consume 1,000 mcg per day, adult women 51 to 70 consume 1,200 mcg per day, and adults 71 and older consume 1,200 mcg per day. Vegan friendly foods that contain calcium include kale, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, most grains, non-dairy fortified milk, dark and leafy greens, and orange juice.
Iron – Iron is a mineral needed for optimal growth and development. Your body uses iron to support healthy red blood cell and muscle function and make hormones and connective tissue.
You can start by making sure that you’re eating foods that contain substantial amounts of iron. Some of the best plant sources of iron include:
- Legumes: lentils, soybeans, tofu, tempeh, lima beans
- Grains: quinoa, fortified cereals, brown rice, oatmeal
- Nuts and seeds: pumpkin, squash, pine, pistacio, sunflower, cashews, unhulled sesame
- Vegetables: tomato sauce, swiss chard, collard greens,
- Other: blackstrap molasses, prune juice
For increased iron absorption as much as five times, eat your non-heme iron foods with vitamin C foods.
Probiotics – A non-dairy probiotic can be super helpful from everything to digestive issues to acne. Take advantage of any chance you get to eat freshly picked produce and ingest the foods’ beneficial microorganisms, but when garden veggies aren’t an option, relying on a solid probiotic like The Coconut Cult probiotic yogurt is a great choice. I take a spoonful of this probiotic powerhouse every single morning on an empty stomach, or, right before bed. My favorite flavors are Mango Cream and Coconut Cream.