I’ve rounded up the info on all the vitamin & supplement questions you guys have been asking on Instagram. Everything from what exact vitamins and supplements are needed as a vegan. To is this something you should be worried about, and what do I take in my daily routine?
First off, vitamins and supplements can feel very overwhelming and very serious. The number one thing is, don’t get too crazy about it. Supplements are just that, a supplement to your existing diet. You should be eating a well-balanced diet, ingesting nutrients from your food first and foremost, then supplementing what you feel is lacking. Don’t get carried away, and overwhelm yourself in the wold of herbs. Know who you’re buying from, seek out quality ingredients, and only take what is necessary for you.
Q1: What exact vitamins and supplements are needed on a vegan diet?
The only thing 100% necessary is B12. With a balanced plant-rich diet you can get everything you need except for B12. Since B12 comes from animal products, specifically from animals who graze and produce B12 from their gut bacteria, vegans won’t be ingesting B12.
B12 supports cognitive functioning, nerve functioning, and red blood cell formation. Without B12 you can feel tired, groggy, have memory loss, feel depressed, and have muscle weakness, among other things.
1 in 10 people in the US is B12 deficient.
Don’t mess around with B12, make sure and supplement especially if you’re on a vegan diet. I personally take these ‘lozenges’ by Source Naturals. They melt on your tongue and taste sweet so they are a breeze to take.
Q2: Should I be worried about my vitamin levels?
If you suspect you have a vitamin deficiency or if something feels off you can easily do a blood test with your doctor. Just make sure and ask for a full screen or else you may get more top level info like blood sugar etc. rather than vitamin levels.
If you recently switched (meaning the past few months) to a vegan diet, make sure you’re eating enough. If you’re feeling tired or groggy you could be calorie deficient and not realize it. Many people switch to a vegan diet and don’t realize how less calorie dense plant foods are than animal product. If you’re eating a whole food vegan diet you may need to increase your amount of food. Try adding potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, quinoa, beans, and legumes, to your diet. These foods pack a higher count, which will keep you fuller longer and supply your body with the energy it needs to run all day long.
If you’re eating more of a processed vegan diet, try adding more greens and fresh foods to see if your energy levels balance out. You can always supplement with a multi-vitamin to make sure you’re covered. I personally take the Source Naturals Vegan Multiple Tablets.
Q3: I’m confused, what do I need to know about herbal supplements?
First off, I highly recommend the book ‘Green Pharmacy‘. It’s basically the bible of natural remedies, everything from headaches to poison ivy to child birth is covered in the book. Any herb you want to know about is covered with pros and cons listed for each one.
Second, if you’re consuming an herb in a capsule make sure it’s a vegetable capsule. Many supplements come in gelatin capsules. Gelatin is made from crushed bones, ligaments and tendons of dead animals. This is obviously counter-intuitive to any health benefits we’re trying to gain from the supplements. You can learn more about collagen and gelatin, in the Collagen Episode of the podcast.
Third, make sure the oils or herbs are for internal consumption. An essential oil is different than a supplement. Some essential oils can be taken internally, some are for topical use only. Read the label, don’t ingest topical treatments.
Q4: So, what do you take, Alyssa?
1. Oregano Oil: This antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory herb is also a powerful antioxidant. This herb is natures antibiotic. It helps with immunity, killing bad bacteria from the inside. I take capsules daily and load up when I’m sick but many people only take them when they are sick or stressed.
2. St. John’s Wort: Nature’s ‘good mood’ drug. This herb has been used for thousands of years as a natural antidepressant and anti-anxiety. Clinical studies show that treatment with this herb results in significant improvement in anxiety and depression. Plus, there are no side effects that come along with pharmaceutical drugs.
*If you suffer from a serious disorder or ongoing depression, you should see a doctor. In the meantime herbs can be helpful.
3. Vitamin D: Vit D is good for your bones, controls your ability to adsorb calcium, and helps muscle function. We get Vitamin D from sun exposure as well as some food items, but living in grey Ohio I supplement.
4. Spirulina: This algae is an antioxidant, a good source of iron, and high in B vitamins. It’s recommended to vegetarians and vegans due to it’s high iron content.
Don’t worry if you miss a day when taking your vitamins. It shouldn’t be a burden or overwhelming, they are for extra supplementation and making extra sure you’re getting everything necessary. I recommend tying taking vitamins to something else in your daily routine, such as eating breakfast or lunch. This way you’ll remember to take them.
A whole podcast episode talking about this subject & answering your questions will be out Tuesday Feb 6.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This post is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.