Plant Based Supplement Guide
If you tell someone you’re considering a plant-based diet, chances are the first thing they'll say is ‘but what about....?’ While it’s true that some supplementation is necessary on a plant-based diet, people generally misunderstand the role and needs of supplements. N.B. The contents of this article are not intended as medical advice; you should consult a healthcare professional before taking any new supplements or medicines.
Let’s start with the big one! Everyone is concerned about protein. Over the last decade or so, protein has become some sort of miracle macronutrient. Protein, like fat and carbohydrates, is essential for good health. But the amount you need is subject to widely different studies. One of the generally accepted lower ranges is 0.8 grams per kg of bodyweight. While athletes may require up to 2 grams per kg of body weight per day
This is relatively easy to achieve for most people as, contrary to what you may think, almost all foods contain protein. Provided you eat a diet rich in beans, nuts, lentils, and seeds, you should have no trouble reaching your daily goal. Many vegetables are also good protein sources, such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, corn, and potatoes.
Suppose you are an athlete or just want to increase your protein. In that case, there are several high-quality vegan protein powders available, such as Sun Warrior.
B12 is produced by bacteria, either living in the soil or in the digestive systems of animals. Now, I'm not suggesting you go and eat a handful of dirt - but ALL B12 is made by bacteria. You see, animals are not B12 factories; they just happen to accumulate it in their bodies thanks to the actions of bacteria in their digestive tracts. We also produce B12 in our large intestine, but unfortunately, it is too far down our digestive tract for us to absorb.
If you're following an entirely plant-based diet, you need to take a B12 supplement. They are pretty easy to get, and a high potency brand such as Solgar is a sound investment. Also, contrary to popular opinion, it’s not just plant-based eaters who need a B12 supplement. A 2018 study showed that 30-40% of people have B12 deficiency.
Vitamin D is essential for health. Unfortunately, there aren’t many non-animal dietary sources. In hot countries, people make their own in their skin when exposed to sunlight. Here in Ireland, our climate doesn't allow us to do this. Mushrooms can be an excellent source of Vitamin D; check out
this article to find out more. If you follow an entirely plant-based diet, it may be advisable to take a vitamin D supplement. There are plenty of high-quality brands available, but be mindful of the origin as many are animal-derived.
Unlike B12 and Vitamin D, Iron is readily available in plant foods. Green vegetables such as spinach, lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, and cashews are all good sources of Iron. Be mindful, though, that Iron needs Vitamin C to be absorbed, so pairing your food with a Vitamin C source is important. If you are medically deficient in Iron or have higher Iron needs, a high-quality supplement such as Floradix may benefit.
Although eggs and salmon are probably the best-known sources of Omega 3, they are certainly not the only ones! Chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and flaxseed are all excellent sources of plant-based Omegas. Provided you eat a balanced diet, you should not have any problems getting enough of this brain-boosting fatty acid!
The Bottom Line
Nutrition quality is the most crucial part of any diet. Supplements can be a valuable tool, but your focus should always be on improving your diet first.
If you want to learn how to manage your health through diet best, check out our plant-based nutrition course, Plant-Based Basics. You will learn how to build a well-balanced plant-based diet that will ensure you're eating all the proper nutrients to get in excellent health.
With easy, simple-to-follow advice, our video-on-demand course will teach you everything you need to know.
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