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Are you getting the nutrients you need from your plant-based diet?
On the whole, a diet rich in a variety of plant foods will provide you with an excellent intake of most of the nutrients you require, but there are a few exceptions.
Anyone who has chosen to reduce or exclude animal products should be aware of a few essential nutrients that aren’t easily obtained through diet and may need to be supplemented.
If your eating patterns identify with any of these diets, this post is for you:
🌱 Whole-food, plant based (WFPB)
🌱 Mediterranean, Nutritarian etc.
*DISCLAIMER: If you are receiving treatment for an illness or taking any medications, please check with your doctor before you start taking any supplements.*
Required Supplements On A Plant-Based Diet
There are very few plant sources of vitamin B12, which is needed for metabolism, red blood cell creation, and to keep the nervous system healthy. Nutritional yeast and marmite are high in B12, but it’s generally a non-negotiable supplement for people on a plant-based diet.
Essential Omega 3 Fatty Acids
The omega 3 fat ALA is found in walnuts and flax seeds, as well as a few other nuts and seeds, so this is relatively easy to get from your diet. We can convert a small amount of ALA to EPA and DHA but this is not an efficient process, and it has various limiting factors. So, if you’re not eating fish and seafood, an algae-based supplement is a good idea.
Omega 3’s are involved in a range of functions in the body, from heart health to immunity. They’re called essential for good reason!
The sunshine vitamin isn’t easy to come by if you aren’t able to spend ten minutes a day outdoors in sunlight. Some plant-based foods have been fortified with vitamin D, but it varies by brand, so check the label. Mushrooms can also be a good source and you can boost their vitamin D content by placing them next to a window for an hour or two before eating.
But for those of us who live in countries where winters are cold and dark, it’s widely recommended that we take a vitamin D3 supplement.
To give you an idea of its importance, every cell in the body has a vitamin D receptor!
Essential for thyroid function, iodine is found in fish and dairy, but plant-based eaters can get it from seaweeds, chlorella and wheatgrass.
Or a good quality supplement if you prefer. Sea vegetables have a distinctive taste, not dissimilar to (what I imagine) the taste of eating your lawn.
Let’s address calcium and iron as well, although a balanced diet should provide more than you need of both of these…
Good sources of calcium
🌱 Leafy greens, broccoli, edamame and bok choi
🌱 Kidney beans
🌱 Chia seeds and sesame seeds (tahini)
🌱 Oats and quinoa
🌱 Fortified cereals, tofu, orange juice and plant-based milks
Supplementation with calcium generally isn’t recommended, as it has been associated with heart attacks, whereas dietary calcium isn’t.
Good sources of (non-heme) iron
🌱 Broccoli and spinach
🌱 Tofu, chickpeas, green lentils and kidney beans
🌱 Almonds and cashews
🌱 Oats, brown rice and whole-grain wheat flour
Eating some vitamin C rich foods (like bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries and citrus fruits) along with your iron sources can boost absorption, and be aware that coffee, tea and red wine have the opposite effect, and will inhibit absorption.
I haven’t included dose recommendations here because they will vary based on your status and your location in the world. Before taking any supplements, it’s a good idea to touch base with your doctor or nutrition professional to ensure you take the correct dose for your personal needs.