Let’s start with calcium. There are many calcium-rich plant-based foods, but dairy is the main natural source, which means that vegans usually lack this essential nutrient in their diets. Calcium is required for the formation of bones, function of muscles, healthy blood pressure and nerve transmission. For your body to absorb it, you need to take it alongside vitamin D, which we will look into later. If you need to buy supplements, check out Future Kind as these are perfect for those living a vegan lifestyle.
Iodine is a trace mineral required for the optimal function of the thyroid. It is also a vital component of the thyroid hormone. This hormone is accountable for many enzymes, protein syntheses and the development of the nervous and skeletal system in babies. The main sources for iodine are dairy, fish and shellfish. If you follow a strict vegan diet, then you put yourself at risk of iodine deficiency. You can consume iodine through certain types of seaweed, but taking a supplement is recommended.
Iron can be found in both animal and plant-based products. It is essential for carrying the correct levels of oxygen in your blood, creating new DNA, growth and is used in energy metabolism. There are two forms of iron; heme, which is from animals, and is more bioavailable in humans compared to non-heme iron (which is from plants). If you don’t consume enough iron, it can lead to fatigue and anemia, so as a vegan, you should definitely be taking iron supplements alongside cooking with iron-rich plant foods.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for the health and development of your nervous systems, brain and eyes. It is also a strong anti-inflammatory. There are many different types of omega-3s, but the three that we know the most about are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Although some plant-based foods contain omega-3, the main source is oily fish. The human body cannot produce omega-3, so vegans must take it in supplement form.
#5. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal products, from meat, to eggs and dairy. This water-soluble vitamin supports the function of the nervous system and helps with the formation of red blood cells. Despite its water solubility, stores of vitamin B12 can circulate throughout the body for many years. This means that it can take up to five years to develop a deficiency. Even though it naturally occurs in animal products, vitamin B12 can be produced synthetically, so no cruelty needs to be involved.
#6. Vitamin D
When it comes to taking care of your immune function and bone health, consuming enough vitamin D is crucial. This vitamin is fat-soluble and acts as a hormone in your body. Its role is to promote the absorption of calcium, support the correct levels of blood pressure and a healthy heart. Vitamin D can be found in some food products, but its main source is the sun. Whether you eat meat or not, if you don’t spend 20-30 minutes in the sun each day, you should take a vitamin D supplement.
Zinc is an essential mineral that is required for the optimum function of the immune system. It also sustains your sense of taste and smell, growth and supports hormones. You cannot store zinc and your body needs it for over 100 enzyme reactions, so taking this mineral daily is critical. Zinc deficiency is fairly common in the US, especially amongst the vegan community. There are many vegan foods that contain zinc, but animal products aid absorption, so taking a supplement is advised.
Whether you do or don’t consume animal products, many people take supplements to support certain body functions and our health. If you are sticking to a plant-based diet, then taking daily supplements is more crucial, but in the grand scheme of things, it is not something that should put you off being a vegan. Always speak to your doctor or a nutritionist if you have any questions or concerns.