Are Vitamin Supplements Healthy?

It is common for people to consider starting to take vitamin supplements during diet changes, such as transitioning to veganism. Taking vitamin supplements can help offset some of the nutrients that are hard to come by, but they should not be relied on as the ultimate solution for a healthy diet.

It is definitely a good idea to be concerned that your body is getting the essential nutrients that it needs, however, it is common for meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans alike to be lacking the vitamins and minerals their bodies require.

It’s ultimately up to you to decide whether or not vitamin supplements will benefit you. To enhance a plant-based diet, you’ll need to first analyze what nutrients you are getting sufficient amounts of, and which you are lacking. Then you can determine which vitamin supplements make sense for you, and find a brand that offers these as plant-based vitamin supplements.

Do Vitamin Supplements Work?

This really depends on the definition of “work”. Like we said before, vitamin supplements are not an excuse to eat whatever you want and ignore which nutrients you are, and are not, consuming. It is not a “fix-all” solution.

It all comes down to you as an individual and what nutrients you are not getting from your regular diet. The more you can be aware of this and identify what nutrients you need, the more beneficial vegan vitamin supplements will be for you.

Are Vitamin Supplements Necessary?

If you are conscious of your nutrient intake and ensure that you are eating a well balanced vegan diet, in most cases no. It is important to monitor the foods you eat, regardless of your diet style.

Some of the most crucial nutrients are prominent in common plant-based foods, making them very easy for vegans to maintain a healthy balance.

Protein:
One of the main questions that you’ll likely hear from others as you transition into veganism is “are you getting enough protein?”. It is actually very easy for vegans to get all of the protein they need, and then some! Soy products such as tofu, tempeh, edamame, and soy milk are packed full of protein! You can use tofu in just about anything, from healthy fruit smoothies to a tofu breakfast scramble. Beans and nuts are also great protein sources, so you probably won’t need a vegan protein supplement.

Calcium:
We all know cow’s milk to be the iconic source of calcium, important to build strong bones. Thankfully (since we’re not baby cows) there are plenty of other vegan sources of calcium. Dark leafy greens such as kale and spinach, as well as  soy milk serve as great sources of calcium.

Iron:
Vegan iron sources include kale, lentils, and chickpeas. But why is iron important for your body? It is essential for healthy blood flow, assisting your body in generating red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body. According to WebMD, if you are lacking in iron, you can become easily exhausted and struggle with simple physical activity such as climbing up the stairs. Which makes sense if your body isn’t getting sufficient oxygen.

Vitamin B12:
Vitamin B12 can be hard to come by for vegans. According to thespruceeats.com, a vitamin B12 deficiency is extremely rare regardless of your diet, but can be a very serious health concern if it does occur. There are small amounts of B12 in some seaweeds, but provide much less than some non-vegan foods. You may want to consider supplementing B12 for safe measure.

Vitamin D:
Vitamin D can be obtained by vegans in several ways. The sun is a great way to get vitamin D, as it is created by the body when exposed to sunlight. There are also foods that contain vitamin D such as mushrooms. Some even say that vitamin D value can be increased in foods if you let them sit in the sun for a while before eating them! (cool, right?)

Omega-3s:
Omega-3s are fatty acids often found in fish oils that help enhance heart health. There are very few vegan sources of Omega-3, but chia seeds are the most popular. Chia seeds can be great to sprinkle on a healthy breakfast bowl, or enjoy in a hydrated chia seed drink.

Find Vitamin Supplements Worth Taking

There’s no sense in taking vitamin supplements simply for the sake of “taking your daily vitamins”. Consider some of the essential nutrients that we’ve highlighted above, as well as others and think about where your diet may be lacking nutrients.

If you find that you are not getting a sufficient amount of certain vitamins, you can consider supplementing them or researching which vegan foods provide them and then work them into your diet.

Non-Vegan Ingredients in Vitamin Supplements to Watch Out For

In the event that you decide vitamin supplements are the way to go, make sure that you read the ingredients carefully to ensure you’re choosing a vegan-friendly supplement. There are several sneaky ingredients to look out for that are commonly in vitamin supplements:

    1. Gelatin – especially common in gel capsules. Gelatin is made from collagen, which is extracted from animal skin, bones, and hooves by boiling.
    2. Fish oil  – this one is a bit obvious to avoid. Health benefits of fish oil such as the omega-3s we mentioned above can be obtained through vegan means.
    3. Tyrosine – an amino acid that your body actually produces on its own. It is commonly found in dairy products and fish.
    4. Glucosamine – used for building cartilage and soothing joint pain.  It is most commonly made from shellfish and bone marrow.
    5. Chondroitin – this is found in many different medications and supplements and is primarily made from the cartilage of sharks or other animals.

There are many more non-vegan items that can be found in vitamin supplements. Your best bet is to look for something certified vegan to be certain.

So, Are Vegan Vitamin Supplements Good For You?

Consider the things we’ve discussed above to determine if vitamin supplements are a good idea for you. They can prove to be helpful in balancing a vegan diet and ensuring that you get essential vitamins and minerals. However, it is arguably more important to simply be aware of the foods you’re eating and the nutrients they contain. Check out some of the tasty Veggums vegan recipes that contain the nutrients you’re looking for to find some delicious ways to work them into your diet.

If you have a recipe of your own that you’d like to share, please join the Veggums vegan community and have it posted on our site! Or if you have a recommendation for us to make, please let us know.

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