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One of the things I hear the most from women about starting a vegan diet is whether or not going vegan will provide your body with all the essential vitamins and minerals that it needs.
There are some people that will tell you that following a whole food, plant based diet will help you meets all the daily nutritional requirements.
And there are others who will tell you that if you’re vegan then you should avoid taking any supplements.
I’m of the belief that our vegan or not, our bodies need additional supplements and despite people’s good intentions, telling you otherwise can do your body more harm than good!
So what supplements do you need?
I’m glad you asked because I’ve outlined the top 7 supplements that women need on a vegan diet below!
Supplement # 1: Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps to keep your body’s nerve and blood cells healthy.
Vitamin B12 also helps your body make DNA which is the genetic material in all cells.
You won’t find vitamin b12 in plant based foods that’s why some vegans end up deficient in it.
What does a lack of vitamin b12 do?
When you do not have enough B12 you can end up with anemia, which means your body does not have enough red blood cells to do the job and this can make you feel weak and tired.
Having a vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause damage to your nerves and can affect memory and thinking.
Supplement # 2: Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an important mineral because it helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate that a woman has in her body.
Vitamin D provides your body with the nutrients that it needs in order to keep your bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
What does not getting enough vitamin D do?
A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities in children such as rickets, and can cause a condition called osteomalacia which cause bone pain in adults.
And many of the foods high in vitamin d are not vegan friendly.
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can include pain, fatigue, muscle weakness and depression.
To make sure you’ve getting enough vitamin D, make sure that you eat food such as orange juice, tofu, soy milk and soy yogurt.
And of course… try to get as much sunlight as possible!
Supplement # 3: Omega 3
Omega 3 fatty acids are beneficial for you because they help your heart in several different ways.
Omega 3 will also help curb and inflammation in your body and also in your blood vessels.
And when taken in high doses, omega 3’s can also make abnormal heart rhythms less likely and lower your level of blood fats called triglycerides.
Finally, omega 3 can slow plaque buildup inside the blood vessels which can help decrease your risk of having a heart attack or a stroke.
What does not getting enough omega 3 do to you?
Omega 3 is typically plentiful in foods like flaxseeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans and soy products yet most vegans don’t get enough of it.
And when you don’t get enough omega 3’s, you may experience flaky, dry skin and dermatitis.
In addition, you may also experience heightened anxiety.
Supplement # 4: Iodine
Iodine is a very essential mineral that’s needed to create thyroid hormones.
You can have a deficiency and toxicity from iodine so it’s important that you are careful to make sure you’re getting enough iodine but not taking more than your body needs.
What does an iodine deficiency do?
Low levels of iodine can cause your thyroid to not function properly.
And while an iodine deficiency is not the only cause of low thyroid function, it’s definitely a common cause.
A lack of iodine can cause an abnormal enlargement of your thyroid gland (which is also known as a goiter) in addition to other thyroid problems.
And an iodine deficiency in children can cause mental disabilities.
The easiest was to get the iodine that you need as a vegan is to eat iodized salt.
There are also many plant based foods that contain iodine as well and that includes green beans, kale, spring greens, watercress, strawberries, whole grains, and organic potatoes with the skin on them just to name a few.
Supplement # 5: Iron
Iron is a very important nutrient because it’s used to make new DNA and red blood cells, as well as carry oxygen in the blood. It’s also needed for energy metabolism.
Having an iron deficiency can come from several things including a poor or restrictive diet, an inflammatory bowel disease, and it can also come from pregnancy, heavy periods and internal bleeding.
What does having low iron do to you?
When your iron is low it can lead to anemia and you may end up dealing with fatigue and a decrease in your immune system function.
As a vegan women, if you have low iron then you should consider eating more foods that are rich in iron.
You can also find iron in some cereals, breads that have been enriched, and even some plant milks.
You can use cast-iron pots and pans for cooking to help increase your iron level.
Also if you are low on iron, then I would avoid drinking coffee or tea with your meals and instead start adding foods that are high in vitamin C instead because it will help boost your iron absorption.
If, after trying all of these suggestions, nothing seems to work then I would look into getting tested.
Supplement # 6: Calcium
Calcium is an important mineral because it provides what you need for healthy bones and teeth.
Calcium also plays a critical role in your muscle function, nerve signaling, and your heart health.
What happens if you don’t get enough calcium?
This process is called losing bone mass which of course is not good for your body.
In addition to loss of bone mass due to calcium deficiency, some of the other symptoms you may experience include confusion or memory loss, muscle spams, and numbness and/or tingling in your hands, feet and face.
Some of the more extreme symptoms of calcium deficiency may include depression, hallucinations, muscle cramps, and weak or brittle nails.
Supplement # 7: Zinc
Zinc is a very important mineral that’s necessary for your metabolism and immune function plus it aids in the repair of body cells.
What happens when you don’t get enough zinc?
When you don’t get enough zinc, it can cause developmental problems, hair loss, diarrhea, and delayed wound healing.
In addition, a zinc deficiency can also cause loss of appetite, weight loss, skin or eye sores and problems with wounds healing properly.
In extreme cases some people with zinc deficiency have a decreased ability to taste food and sometimes brain fog or the feeling or not being alert.
Following a plant based vegan diet can fulfill most of your nutritional needs but some of your nutritional requirements may be difficult to achieve through diet alone.
If you are a vegan woman who has been unable to meet her dietary recommendations through diet alone, then you should consider taking supplements.
Just make sure you speak with your primary care doctor before beginning any new supplements!