What supplements should you take as a vegan?

Lately quite a few people have asked me what supplements I take as a vegan and why I take them, so I figured I could address this topic in a post.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or professional in the field, what I wrote here is a combination of my personal experience and research, so don’t take my word as absolute truth.

First I’d like to say that I’ve always taken supplements, even as a kid, my parents would give me and my sister supplements to make sure the whole family was getting all the nutrients we needed, especially in winter as our immune system gets weaker and more sensitive to infections.

Thus it wasn’t anything new to me, lots of people take them no matter what diet they follow, it’s the easiest way to make sure you’re getting what you need, but it’s definitely not a way to substitute a various and healthy diet.

So going back to the point, what I take is B12, Vitamin D, and recently also Omega DHA-EPA. Sometimes I also take a multivitamin (in winter or when I feel like my diet hasn’t been that good for a few days), and a probiotic when I travel.

So let’s see why I take these supplements.

B12

The first thing I want to clarify is that although we consider B12 as a vitamin that comes from animals, it does not, B12 is made by bacterial fermentation.
Farmed animals assume it by eating unwashed food from the ground, and they store it in their body, that we eventually eat, so that’s why it can be misleading.
The thing is that nowadays some animals even have to get B12 injections because they are fed with food that won’t provide them enough of it.

Studies also show that B12 is best absorbed though supplements than food, especially when we get old, therefore old people, vegan or not, are often advised to take a vitamin B12 supplement.

That’s why in my opinion it makes more sense to take a supplement that’s easier to absorb, rather than getting B12 from animals and contribute to their suffering. Plus remember that animal products also come along with hormones, antibiotics and who knows what else, all things that are definitely not healthy for our bodies.

In my opinion if you’re vegan you should take vitamin B12 even if you’re eating fortified foods that contain it, for it’s a very tricky vitamin, its excess can be stored in the body for years, therefore deficiency symptoms aren’t immediate, and some people may not even be aware that they’re lacking B12.


Also B12 supplements are usually cheap and easy to find, so you have no excuse not to take one if you’re vegan. 😉

Vitamin D

If you know anything about Vitamin D you’re probably thinking “you get that from the sun!”, which is true 100%, but sadly not all of us live in a very sunny place all year long, so a supplement helps in that case.

You can get vitamin D from the sun, from food and supplements. It’s an important vitamin because it really helps with calcium absorption, so it’s needed for bone growth, without it bones can get thin and weak.

In terms of food, certain animal products contain amounts of it, and for my vegan friends, mushrooms can be a source, but most of the vitamin D we all consume comes from fortified foods and supplements, and the sun if you expose your body to it.
In fact both cow’s milk and plant based milks are often fortified with vitamin D, and even cereal, yogurt and orange juice can be nowadays.


It’s important to mention that vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, and therefore is better to assume it with food that contains some source of fat in it.

Omega-3 DHA-EPA

Omega-3s are fundamentally a group of fatty acids that are essential for our bodies to live, but unfortunately we are not capable of producing them on our own. As a result, our daily intake of omega-3s depends on what we eat.

DHA and EPA refer to Docosahexaenoic Acid and Eicosapentaenoic Acid, these two fatty acids work together to keep us healthy throughout our lifetime.
DHA helps with cell membrane structure and assists in normal growth and development.
EPA assists from a physiological perspective as an anti-inflammatory agent for our bodies.

Vegans can get omega-3s from nuts and seeds such as walnuts, chia seeds or flax seeds, etc. but specifically omega-3 DHA-EPA are found in algae, that’s why all DHA and EPA vegan supplements that you can find out there are derived from them.

If you eat animal products I still recommend you see whether you’re getting enough omega-3s DHA-EPA, because lots of people don’t get enough due to a lack of fish in their diet.

I just recently started taking this supplement, I don’t think it’s as necessary as B12 for example, but supplementation is particularly important for infants and pregnant or breastfeeding women, since omega-3 fats are fundamental in brain health and its development. So if you fall into one of those categories, make sure to supplement.


If you’re interested in buying a supplement and you’re vegan or vegetarian, make sure to get a kind that comes from algae and not fish oil.

Multivitamin

Multivitamins are pretty common, there a so many different kinds and lots of people have them in their house all year round, no matter what diet they follow.

I think a multivitamin can be a sort of backup during those busy days when you have no time to prep a real meal, or all you get to eat is take away.
There are thousands out there, you just need to find one that’s suitable for your lifestyle.

Probiotics

I personally don’t think probiotics are necessary, but when one firsts transitions from a standard diet to a vegan one, their fiber intake is very likely to increase, and their body will need time to adjust, thus taking a probiotic can help a lot with tummy discomfort and bloating.

I use probiotics when I travel, because my routine and the food I eat change, and I feel like my body needs a little help adjusting sometimes.

Last thoughts

You’ve probably heard of vegans who claim they need no supplements at all, but I think we should all take at least vitamin B12. And if possible also Vitamin D and Omega-3s DHA-EPA.

You might think that’s a lot, but I believe it’s better to take a few little pills in the morning than risking your health or contributing to the suffering of billions of animals.
But of course you do you, that’s just my personal opinion.
I hope this helped some of you clarify the supplements topic, if you have questions comment down below!

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Author: Marta Nepi

Vegan | Italy

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