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9 Top Supplements For Vegans - To Keep An Optimum Health On A Plant-Based Diet

The vegan movement is one of the fastest growing social movements on Earth at the moment.[1] [2] The reasons are pretty straightforward. Making a change to a vegan diet is a great way to help promote:

  • A better environment [3]
  • Better personal health [4]
  • Animal welfare [5]

However, many people remain confused about whether or not it is possible to be completely healthy living on a vegan diet. One of the biggest concerns is a lack of nutrients and vitamins.

In this article, we’ll explore the 9 top vegan supplements for promoting optimum health on a plant-based diet.

superfood. frame of healthy vegan ingredients on white wooden board. healthy food concept. Vegan diets can be very healthy and nutritious. However, vegans do need one or two supplements for optimum health

Vegan Supplements: Do Vegans and Vegetarians Need to Take Them?

This is a big question for many people! Newly vegan and vegetarian people might be wondering if they can really live a healthy life without taking supplements. People who eat meat often consider vegan diets as an extreme lifestyle that excludes key nutrients required for health.

However, the position of the American Dietetic Association – the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition experts, comprised of over 100’000 practicing nutrition professionals [6] – is:

It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” [7]

Nevertheless, the debate still continues about vegan supplements, and whether or not a vegan or vegetarian diet is healthy. This article does not explain the health benefits of a plant-based diet. However, we’ll look into some of the top vegan supplements for optimum health.

The only supplements that are really recommended to take for a healthy body and mind are vitamin B12 and omega-3. However, as we’ll explain further in the article, other supplements may provide additional health benefits depending on your choice of foods.

Not all vegan diets are equal. Not all vegetarian diets are equal. For this reason, some people may benefit from taking extra vegan supplements. This especially applies to people eating a Western vegan or vegetarian diet – high in oils, sugar, fat, and processed foods. Believe it or not, vegan diets can be just as unhealthy as any other diet!

So, check out our list of the 9 top vegan supplements for both vegans and vegetarians alike:

vegan doctor with fruits and veg Doctors and nutritionists agree that vegetarian and vegan diets are healthy for people of all ages

1.    Vitamin B12: Vegan Supplements for Your Heart

Vitamin B12 deficiency is often used as a point of argument against veganism and vegetarianism. This is the one vitamin supplement that all vegetarians and vegans should be taking.

B12 deficiency, if left untreated, can cause serious health effects. Even people who do not qualify for full deficiency, but have lower-than-normal B12 levels, are at risk of developing negative health effects. Some symptoms of B12 deficiency include:

B12 chemical structure Vitamin B12: A necessary supplement for vegans`
  • Tingling, numb sensations in feet and hands
  • Difficulty keeping balance
  • Anemia
  • Yellow skin
  • Swollen tongue
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Weakness
  • Tiredness [8]

B12 deficiency is common in vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters alike. Studies estimate that the percentage of people around the world with B12 deficiency is somewhere between 20-40%. In developing countries, this number is closer to 70-80%.[9]

In Western countries, vitamin B12 deficiency most often affects people over the age of 50, who begin to experience problems with absorbing their food.[10]

Bacteria produce vitamin B12, which is stored in the muscles and fat cells of humans and animals. Most animals are able to produce B12 in their intestines.

 

Contrary to popular belief, the human intestine also contains B12-synthesizing bacteria. However, the endogenous B12 is absorbed high up in the intestine, so it is not easily available for your body to metabolize.[11]

Meat products contain stored B12 from bacteria. However, B12 deficiency is still common and prevalent in meat-eaters. The reasons for this include:

  • Animals are pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones, killing off much of the potential B12-supplying bacteria [12]
  • Meat is mostly cooked, degrading the B12 [13]
  • Many other nutritional and lifestyle factors that affect your metabolism (see the section on <*Probiotics*>)

Soil is extremely high in B12-synthesizing bacteria, and before modernized industry began, our fruits and vegetables used to contain some soil, and even animal feces – the highest content of B12 bacteria available! [14]

 

2.    Vitamin D2: A Top Vegan Supplement for Optimum Health

Vitamin D deficiency is the most prevalent vitamin deficiency in the world today, with an estimated 40-60% of the world’s adult population having insufficient vitamin D levels! [15]

Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of developing many chronic diseases including cancer, autoimmune diseases, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, infectious diseases, and osteoarthritis. [16]

Various studies have shown that vitamin D supplements can drastically reduce your risk of developing health problems. For example, a number of studies have indicated that Vitamin D supplements early in life significantly reduce your risk of developing Type 1 diabetes later.[17]

Other studies have shown a clear link between vitamin D intake and a reduction in the risk of developing breast cancer.[18] Vitamin D is one of the top vegan supplements for immune system health.

It’s not always clear why vitamin D for vegans is such a popular search term, considering that food sources are generally low in vitamin D. The only meat source that is high in vitamin D is fatty fish like salmon and cod. [19]

However, the levels of vitamin D in fatty fish are not sufficient enough to meet your vitamin D requirements, even if you ate them every day. These meats are also very high in saturated fats and cholesterol, which are terrible for your health and can cause atherosclerosis and heart disease.[20]

The best way to get sufficient vitamin D is through sunlight. However, this is not always easy for people living in the Northern hemisphere or working in an office job.

There are two types of vitamin D supplements: vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Most vitamin D supplements contain vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), which is derived from animals – often from fish oil or sheep’s wool. Vitamin D2 supplements are vegan and vegetarian-friendly and are just as effective as vitamin D3 supplements. [21]

sunlight beautiful ocean picture Sunlight is the best source of vitamin D

3.    Omega-3: Fatty Acid Supplements for Vegans!

Omega-3 is an especially important supplement for vegans and vegetarians. This is because of a complex relationship between fatty acids and your risk of developing heart disease.

Vegans and vegetarians tend to have very little cholesterol (the primary source of cholesterol is meat). However, studies have shown that they still suffer from almost as many heart attacks as meat-eaters. [22]

The reasons for this can be traced to a number of factors, the most important being low levels of vitamin B12 and a high Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio.

An important enzyme in our bodies converts Omega-3 fatty acids – which are found in avocados, dark leafy greens, walnuts, hemp seeds, and flax seeds[23] – into a compound called EPA. Another enzyme then converts EPA into something called DHA.[24]

Both EPA and DHA are very important because they help to block the inflammation and ‘clot-formation’ stages of artery degradation and atherosclerosis.[25]

Omega-6 fatty acids are found in cottonseed oil, corn oil, safflower oil, and sunflower oil.[26] These fatty acids are converted by the same enzyme as before into a compound called AA. This compound has negative effects, in that it helps to trigger inflammation in heart disease.[27]

Our bodies naturally opt for Omega-3 conversion over Omega-6. However, processed foods are high in Omega-6s. [28] Contrary to popular belief, being vegan or vegetarian does not necessarily mean having healthy eating habits.

Vegans tend to have an Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio that is far too high! [29] This is why supplementing with Omega-3 is a great idea. As we’ll explain further on in this article, the ratio of Omega-3s to Omega-6s in your diet is very important. [30]

Ideally, you’ll want to have a ratio that is close to 1:4. The best natural source of Omega-3 is flaxseeds. Flaxseed can be used as an egg replacement and is one of the top vegan supplements for eggs.[31]

4.    Quercetin: One of the Top Anti-Inflammatory Vegan Supplements

Quercetin is a wonderful supplement derived from a number of plant sources. Many people think of Quercetin as a ‘wonder-food’ supplement. Its major benefits include antioxidant effects, supporting cardiovascular health, potentially reducing cortisol levels, and supporting endurance and energy. [32]

Furthermore, multiple studies have confirmed that Quercetin has powerful anti-inflammatory effects. [33] Not only this, but Quercetin may be one of the best vegan supplements for immune system health. [34]

Inflammation is something that affects people all around the world. The inflammation response is an important aspect of developing heart disease and is especially triggered in people with high Omega-6 intake (high levels of processed foods).[35]

This research stands in contrast to that produced by the American Heart Association (AMA), who recommend eating 5-10% of your daily calorie intake from Omega-6 sources.[36]

Research from independent nutritional scientists suggests that the Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio is very important, and should be close to around 1:2 or 1:4. Modern Western diets (including vegan and vegetarian diets) have an Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio closer to around 1:15, sometimes as high as 1:20.[37]

 

Anti-inflammatory compounds are extremely important in preserving cardiovascular health, especially for people eating a Western diet (even for vegans!). The powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects make Quercetin one of the best vegan supplements available today!

In fact, some doctors would recommend taking an aspirin a day to prevent heart disease.[38] Why they don’t recommend a powerful, well-researched <nutritional supplement> instead is anybody’s guess!

healthy food on a plate of heart shape with food Keep your heart healthy with a natural Quercetin supplement

5.    Zinc: One of The Best Vegan Supplements for Immune System Health

Again, zinc supplements for vegans and vegetarianism is a difficult question to answer due to the lack of conclusive evidence. It is still unclear whether or not vegans and vegetarians need to supplement with zinc. [39] This is due to the difficulty in obtaining data as well as the extreme variation in diets.

People often assume that all vegans or vegetarians have similar diets, and are all eating very healthily. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Many processed foods, including crisps, deep-fried potato chips, sodas, some pies, and a growing number of fast-food products are vegan-friendly.

So, while they do not contain any animal products, a vegan diet is not always a healthier diet than a meat-eating one.

Zinc is an essential nutrient, meaning that we cannot synthesize it and we need to get it from our diet. The recommended daily intake of zinc is around 8mg for adult women and 11mg for adult men.[40]

The top vegan dietary sources of zinc include beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, oats, nutritional yeast, and wheat germ.[41] As you can see, these are all products of a very healthy diet. Other good zinc sources include fortified foods like breakfast cereals and table salt.[42]

If you consume these foods in plentiful amounts, you probably won’t need to take a vegan zinc supplement. However, most Western diets – whether vegan, vegetarian, or omnivorous – do not contain many of these food sources. So, it may be beneficial for to take zinc as one of the top powerful vegan supplements.

Zinc is very important for the proper function of your immune system. It also plays an important role in cell division, cell growth, wound healing, and the metabolism of starch. Zinc supplements may be beneficial in reducing your risk of getting colds and flu. [43]

 

6.    Berberine HCl: A Great Supplement for Blood Sugar

Berberine is another one of the top vegan supplements for health! One of the best effects of Berberine is its ability to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Study after study shows that Berberine has the potential to drastically improve blood sugar levels. [44]

Vegan diets and vegetarianism are good factors in reducing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In fact, recent research has indicated that vegans are about half as likely to develop diabetes than meat-eaters. [45]

Again, the type of vegan or vegetarian diet that you eat is important for your blood sugar levels. You can be vegan or vegetarian and still consume unhealthy amounts of fatty acids and sugar. These directly affect your blood sugar levels and can contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, among others.[46]

Berberine is extracted from a variety of plants and herbs that were previously used in Chinese medicine. In the past, people with high cholesterol and diabetes used Berberine because of its apparent health effects. Today, you can purchase Berberine as a dietary supplement to add to a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Studies have shown that Berberine HCl is highly effective at reducing high blood sugar levels, as well as inflammation markers like HbA1c, triglyceride levels, and cholesterol.[47]

A number of studies have compared Berberine’s effects to common anti-diabetic medication. There is a growing body of research that shows Berberine’s potential ability to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood. [48]

Berberine is a recommended dietary supplement for ‘unhealthy vegans and vegetarians’. It is a great dietary supplement to take if you’re still consuming sugar and processed foods in large amounts. It may also be useful to someone who has recently turned vegan or vegetarian and is looking to fast-track the beneficial results of this dietary choice! [49]

 

Liftmode Berberine HCl, 98+% purity Berberine HCl is a great vegan supplement for blood sugar

 

 

 

7.    Choline Bitartrate: For a Healthy Vegan Brain!

Choline is another important vegan supplement for brain health. Choline is an essential nutrient so we can’t synthesize it. Vegan foods that are highest in choline include raw cauliflower, cooked shiitake mushrooms, dark leafy greens, and cooked asparagus.[50]

An important factor is that the recommended daily allowance for choline is currently based on a single study. So, scientists and nutritionists are still not quite sure about the recommended daily allowance.

However, choline is very important in the proper function of your body, especially your circulatory system. Choline, along with vitamin B12 and folate, acts as a methyl-donor and helps to keep homocysteine levels low.

Homocysteine is a neurotoxin and a vascular toxin – it breaks down the inner linings of your arteries and can contribute to heart disease. Lowering your levels of homocysteine is always a good idea!

Choline bitartrate is simply a salt form of choline that is easily absorbed by your body and readily available. It is also vegan and vegetarian-friendly. Some nutritional information sources state that strict vegans and vegetarians may be at risk for choline deficiency if they do not take a supplement. [51]

Choline is essential for the correct development of your brain and influences cognitive function. Choline deficiency is linked to muscle damage and fatty liver syndrome (called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). To avoid a risk of developing health problems we recommend taking a Choline supplement for vegans!

young pretty girl reading a book with choline Choline is great for your brain!

 

8.    Green Tea Extract: The Most Powerful Vegan Antioxidant Supplement!

Green tea extract is another great vegan supplement, mostly used for its amazing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. In fact, green tea extract has so many health benefits that it is often considered as the healthiest supplement on Earth![52]

Other green tea extract benefits include the ability to support weight loss, it’s powerful antibiotic and antiviral effects, and the fact that it has been researched for its potential in cancer support.[53]

The most powerful effect of a green tea extract is its ability to work as an antioxidant. Like we mentioned earlier, antioxidants help your body to get rid of harmful free-radicals, which cause damage to your body.

One of the best antioxidant effects of green tea extract is its ability to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.[54] This is great for most people, but for vegans, it’s not so important because of the low dietary cholesterol intake.

However, antioxidants also destroy other free radicals that are generated in response to environmental factors like pollution, as well as alcohol use and cigarette smoke. Some medications also produce free-radicals, as do processed foods.[55] So, an antioxidant supplement is actually very beneficial to vegans and vegetarians as well as meat-eaters.

Several studies have looked into the potential benefits of green tea and green tea extracts for the prevention of cancer cell development. However, this research is still in preliminary phases.[56]

Another great reason that green tea extract is one of the top vegan supplements is that it is useful in maintaining a healthy BMI. Researchers have confirmed these findings in multiple studies – green tea extract helps you keep a healthy-looking waistline! These effects are most noticeable when combined with caffeine.[57]

9.    Probiotics: Keep your Gut-Mind Healthy

A growing number of highly qualified scientists, nutritionists, and doctors argue that B12 deficiency in humans is actually not a result of a lack of B12 in our diets. Our intestines are known to contain the bacteria that synthesize B12, as well as the Intrinsic Factor enzyme which is required for its absorption.[58]

The argument is that humans are actually capable of producing ample B12 endogenously. However, various lifestyle and dietary factors contribute to our internal bacteria and our metabolism not functioning properly. Toxins like antibiotics kill our internal bacteria. So does alcohol, cigarette smoke, and excessively acidic or alkaline food sources.[59]

These nutritional factors as well as lifestyle factors like a lack of exercise, high stress, and lack of proper sleep, result in our metabolism not functioning correctly. The new argument is that vitamin B12 deficiency is not a lack of the vitamin in our diets, but rather a symptom of a malfunctioning metabolism and a lack of internal bacteria.[60]

Our internal bacteria (also known as internal gut flora) are very important for our metabolism. In fact, some researchers believe that the gut flora should be thought of as a separate organ entirely, due to their essential functions in our metabolism.[61]

Incredibly, our gut flora may even be responsible for some of our psychological wellbeing. There are trillions of microbes living in our stomach and intestines. These bacteria secrete hormones that are very similar to the neurotransmitter hormones produced in our brains.

Scientists are only now beginning to understand how the gut-brain barrier works – allowing the hormones secreted by internal gut flora to affect our psychology! [62]

Either way, a probiotic supplement is useful for maintaining healthy internal flora. A probiotic vegan supplement is especially important as it may improve metabolism – especially B12 metabolism.

mood and gut bacteria with chalk on blackboard The gut-brain connection is a new part of neuroscience

What about Vegan Calcium and Vegan Iron?

Some of the top myths about vegan supplements are that vegan diets do not contain enough calcium or iron. For this reason, many people wonder about vegan supplements for bone health, and for energy. However, research has shown that:

  • Calcium: The myth that cow’s milk is a good source of calcium and a support for healthy bones has long been busted. In fact, according to research by top nutritional scientists:

The countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis are the ones where people drink the most milk and have the most calcium in their diets. The connection between calcium consumption and bone health is actually very weak, and the connection between dairy consumption and bone health is almost nonexistent.” - Amy Lanou Ph.D., nutrition director for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C.[63]

  • Iron: Another myth busted! There is no evidence that vegetarians or vegans have any greater risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia than non-vegetarians. However, B12 is an important vitamin in iron absorption – and this needs to be taken as a supplement. According to the Medical Journal of Australia:

 Vegetarians who eat a varied and well-balanced diet are not at any greater risk of iron deficiency anemia than non-vegetarians”. [64]

Conclusion: So, Are special Supplements For Vegans Necessary?

In summary, as the American Board of Dietetics has agreed: vegan diets and vegetarian diets are healthy and appropriate for people of all ages, including children and pregnant women.  The diet should be well-planned and varied and should aim to exclude processed foods as well as foods that are high in saturated fats and sugars.

Around the world, millions of vegans are thriving on a plant-based diet. There is no reason to avoid a plant-based diet due to health concerns.

In fact, a vegan or vegetarian diet may provide many health benefits over a diet that contains meat products.

Vegan diets reduce your risk of developing:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Hypertension
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Prostate and colon cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis [65]

 

Despite the health benefits of their diet, many vegans may still wish to include some supplements in their diet. The most important vegan supplements include vitamin B12 and Omega-3s. Other beneficial supplements include Quercetin, vitamin D, Choline Bitartrate, and zinc.

fruits and vegetables in the shape of a muscular man There is no reason that you can't be healthy on a vegan diet

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