3 supplements vegans need for optimal health

Posted by Dayne Hudson in Plant Based

Estimated reading time: 4mins

3 supplements vegans need for optimal health | Bulk Nutrients blog

1. Vitamin B12: How vegans can get more

Vitamin B12 is found largely in animal products, meaning it can be difficult for vegans to come by. Research shows that even vegetarians, who may get more vitamin B12 via dairy products, are low on Vitamin B12. The evidence has found vitamin B12 deficiency for specific populations as:

- 62% among pregnant women

- Between 25% and nearly 86% among children

- 21-41% among adolescents

- 11-90% among the elderly.

And not surprisingly, higher rates of deficiency were reported for vegans in comparison to vegetarians, with researchers recommending that vegetarians and vegans regularly consume supplements containing vitamin B12. 

Vitamin B12 is critical to consume because it helps keep your nerve and blood cells healthy.

Vitamin B12 also assists in making DNA; the genetic material in all cells. 

How much Vitamin B12 do you need daily?

Foods high in Vitamin B12 for vegans

Research suggests 2.4 micrograms for men and women and 2.6 micrograms for pregnant and lactating women. **Vitamin B12 options for vegans:

FoodMicrograms per serving Percent DV*
Beef liver, cooked, pan-fried, 3 ounces70.7 2,944
Clams (without shells), cooked, 3 ounces17708
Tuna, bluefin, cooked, dry heat, 3 ounces9.3385
Nutritional yeast, fortified, from several brands (check label), about ¼ cup**8.3 to 24346 to 1,000
Salmon, Atlantic, cooked, 3 ounces2.6108
Beef, ground, 85% lean meat/15% fat, pan-browned, 3 ounces2.4100
Milk, 2% milkfat, 1 cup1.354
Yogurt, plain, fat free, 6-ounce container1.043
Breakfast cereals, fortified with 25% of the DV for vitamin B12, 1 serving**0.625
Cheese, cheddar, 1½ ounces0.519
Egg, whole, cooked, 1 large0.519
Turkey, breast meat, roasted, 3 ounces0.314
Tempeh, 1/2 cup**0.13
Banana, 1 medium**0.00
Bread, whole-wheat, 1 slice**0.00
Strawberries, raw, halved, 1/2 cup**0.00
Beans, kidney, boiled, 1/2 cup**0.00
Spinach, boiled, drained, 1/2 cup**0.00

Source: National Institutes of Health: Vitamin B12 Fact Sheet for Health Professionals

You can see how there's nothing in the last 6 items. Therefore, getting enough all the time can be challenging.

So, a convenient way to get enough vitamin B12 is with our Bulk Nutrients Green Fusion supplement, which contains 1 microgram of vitamin B12 per serving or Bulk Nutrients Spirulina which contains a whopping 17.5 micrograms of vitamin B12 per serving.

Our Green Fusion ensures you get a solid hit of Vitamin B12 as well as a general spectrum of vitamins and minerals.
Our Green Fusion ensures you get a solid hit of Vitamin B12 as well as a general spectrum of vitamins and minerals.

2. Iron: How vegans can get enough

Vegans are "especially" at risk for iron deficiencies given the Iron found in plant-based foods is more difficult to absorb and use. 

Iron is found mostly in our blood and helps it to transport oxygen. The feeling of being exhausted or tired is associated with severe cases of iron deficiency.

Recommendations for daily iron intake are 15 milligrams for women and 10mg for men (women need more due to the losses that come about due to their menstrual cycle).

However, iron can be obtained from bread and greens for vegans, as the below illustrates:

Food productTypical portion sizeIron in mg/portion
Spelt bread1 slice (50g)2.1
Soy bread1 slice (45g)2
Whole grain buckwheat bread1 slice (45g)1.7
Whole grain oat bread1 slice (50g)1.4
Whole grain bread with sesame seeds1 slice (50g)1.3
Whole grain bread1 slice (50g)1
Rye bread1 slice (45g)0.6
Oats60g2.7
Muesli50g1.7
Cereal flakes2 to 3 tbsp (20g)0.8
Food productTypical portion sizeIron in mg/portion
Chanterelle mushrooms, steamed200g11.6
Black salsify, steamed250g5.5
Spinach, steamed150g4.6
Swiss chard, steamed150g4.6
Canned chickpeas150g3.3
White beans (dry), cooked150g3.3
Green peas, steamed250g2.5
Lamb's lettuce100g2
Green cabbage, as traditionally prepared at home200g1.9
Brussel sprouts, steamed250g1.7
Leeks, steamed200g1.3
Asparagus, steamed200g1.3
Beetroot, cooked150g1.2
Thyme, fresh5g1
Parsley15g0.5
Garden cress15g0.4
Food productTypical portion sizeIron in mg/portion
Pistachios60g4.4
Cashews60g3.8
Sesame seeds20g2
Strawberries250g1.6
Blackcurrants125g1.6
Raspberries125g1.6
Dried apricots25g1.1
Kiwis125g1
Dried figs25g0.8
Yeast flakes5g0.8
Rhubarb, cooked150g0.6
Nectarines125g0.6
Food productTypical portion sizeIron in mg/portion
Tofu100g2.8
Whole grain rice, boiled180g2.2
Millet, cooked80g2.1
Whole grain pasta with soy   protein, cooked125g2
Parboiled rice, boiled180g1.9
Whole grain pasta, boiled125g1.6
Pasta (without eggs), boiled200g0.9
White rice (milled), boiled180g0.5

But when life gets busy, it's not always easy to consume the amount of iron you require.

Our Bulk Nutrients Vital Pre Mix vitamin blend contains 3.2 milligrams of iron, making it easy for you to get enough iron when you need it. 

3.2 milligrams of iron in our Vital Pre-Mix blend goes a long way towards your daily iron numbers.
3.2 milligrams of iron in our Vital Pre-Mix blend goes a long way towards your daily iron numbers.

3. Omega fatty acids for vegans: how to get enough

Whilst research shows omega 3 fatty acid intake is essentially the same between vegans and omnivores, what differs is the intake of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which is "virtually absent" in vegans. Omega 3s are important for our wellbeing due to their role in our heart health.

Research shows omega 3 fatty acids are found in fish but also in many nut oils, krill and algae. You'll need a minimum of 250–500 mg combined EPA and DHA every day.

Whilst spirulina (a supplement that we possess) is obviously an algae, it seems the aforementioned daily requirement is not found in a high enough dose. But the way around this is simply by adding chia seeds or flaxseed oil to your protein shakes in order to get enough!

So, there are three supplements that can help you achieve optimal health as a vegan, and ensure you don't go without enough vitamin B12, iron, and fatty acids EPA and DHA. By planning ahead with these aforementioned supplements and foods, you're giving yourself your best chance at great health!

References:

  1. Gammone MA, Riccioni G, Parrinello G, D'Orazio N. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Benefits and Endpoints in Sport. Nutrients. 2018;11(1):46. Published 2018 Dec 27. doi:10.3390/nu11010046 
  2. Gille D, Schmid A. Vitamin B12 in meat and dairy products. Nutr Rev. 2015 Feb;73(2):106-15. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuu011. PMID: 26024497. 
  3. Harper CR, Edwards MJ, DeFilippis AP, Jacobson TA. Flaxseed oil increases the plasma concentrations of cardioprotective (n-3) fatty acids in humans. J Nutr. 2006 Jan;136(1):83-7. doi: 10.1093/jn/136.1.83. Erratum in: J Nutr. 2007 Dec;137(12):2816. DeFilipis, Andrew P [corrected to DeFilippis, Andrew P]. PMID: 16365063. 
  4. InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. How can I get enough iron? 2014 Mar 20 [Updated 2018 Mar 22]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279618/ 
  5. Jin F, Nieman DC, Sha W, Xie G, Qiu Y, Jia W. Supplementation of milled chia seeds increases plasma ALA and EPA in postmenopausal women. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2012 Jun;67(2):105-10. doi: 10.1007/s11130-012-0286-0. PMID: 22538527. 
  6. O'Leary F, Samman S. Vitamin B12 in health and disease. Nutrients. 2010;2(3):299-316. doi:10.3390/nu2030299 
  7. Pawlak R, Parrott SJ, Raj S, Cullum-Dugan D, Lucus D. How prevalent is vitamin B(12) deficiency among vegetarians? Nutr Rev. 2013 Feb;71(2):110-7. doi: 10.1111/nure.12001. Epub 2013 Jan 2. PMID: 23356638. 
  8. Swanson D, Block R, Mousa SA. Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA: health benefits throughout life. Adv Nutr. 2012 Jan;3(1):1-7. doi: 10.3945/an.111.000893. Epub 2012 Jan 5. PMID: 22332096; PMCID: PMC3262608.  
  9. Waldmann A, Koschizke JW, Leitzmann C, Hahn A. Dietary iron intake and iron status of German female vegans: results of the German vegan study. Ann Nutr Metab. 2004;48(2):103-8. doi: 10.1159/000077045. Epub 2004 Feb 25. PMID: 14988640.  
  10. Watanabe F. Vitamin B12 sources and bioavailability. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2007 Nov;232(10):1266-74. doi: 10.3181/0703-MR-67. PMID: 17959839.

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