Do Vegans Need to Take Multivitamins?
In the UK, the number of vegans is on the rise. Many people are switching to a plant-based diet because of their concerns over animal welfare, but even more are making the switch out of a desire to improve their own health. Can you really get all of the vitamins you need if you don’t eat animal products? Let’s review the most common areas of concern.
Iron is essential in the manufacture of haemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen around the body. That means that if you are low in iron, you can feel tired and be more susceptible to infections. Severe iron deficiency (anaemia) can cause heart palpitations, brittle nails and thinning hair.
Traditional advice has been to consume red meat to ensure that you are getting enough iron; however, the consumption of too much red meat has also been linked to the formation of cancer. Advice from BUPA and the NHS is to cut down on red meat consumption and instead to consume more plant-based iron-rich foods such as broccoli, spinach, chickpeas and tofu. If you’re thoughtful about what you eat, you can easily get all the iron you need on a plant-based diet. It’s also worth noting that Vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron, so it’s important to eat foods rich in Vitamin C as well.
Calcium is essential, particularly when children are growing, as it helps to form strong teeth and bones. People with low calcium can be at risk of developing osteoporosis. Paradoxically, although milk is a good source of calcium, it is also high in saturated fats and retinol (Vitamin A) which can actually weaken the bones. Milk consumption has also been linked with prostate and ovarian cancer.
Excellent non-dairy sources of calcium are leafy green vegetables and broccoli, which, as a bonus, also provide Vitamin K – important for bone health. You can also get calcium from beans and tofu.
Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium and is essential for good teeth, bone and muscle health. It has also been shown to be important for your mood. The main source of Vitamin D is the sun, so for people who are living in countries that get lower levels of sunshine – like the UK – it can be beneficial to take a Vitamin D supplement, whether you eat meat or not. You can get supplements from any pharmacist, but if you are looking to save money, use Boots discount codes to stock up on vitamins.
B12 is used to keep the nervous system healthy and in releasing energy from food. It isn’t readily available from fruits and vegetables, so if you aren’t consuming dairy or meat it is a good idea to take a B12 supplement.
Omega 3 is crucial for brain health and has been linked to lowering the risk of heart disease. Traditionally, the source of Omega 3 is oily fish, but unfortunately, lots of pollution in the ocean sometimes leaves the fish with harmful levels of poisonous compounds; levels of sea mercury have increased by 30% over the past 30 years alone. This mercury is almost impossible to remove from the fish when extracting the fish oil.
Omega 3 is made up of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Vegans can get ALA from seeds such as chia and flax, but DHA is only available through supplements, as it originates in the kelp eaten by fish.