Supplements on a Vegan Diet - Are Vegan Diets Nutritionally Complete?
If a vegan diet was healthy, you wouldn't need any supplements. I eat meat and I don't take supplements, so my diet must be natural for humans and healthier than yours.
Oh, carnist logic. Does it really mean that veganism isn't healthy if vegans have to take supplements to maintain optimal functioning of bodily systems?
No, and I'll tell you why.
Carnists/Omnivores/People eating the Standard American Diet like to harp on the idea that a vegan diet couldn't possibly healthy. That humans are meant to eat meat, or even MUST eat meat (and other animal products) to survive.
They cry: Protein! and Iron! and B12! in the hopes that you'll get freaked out by them yelling random macro and micronutrients in your face, forget all of the scientific evidence, and give up on veganism.
Unfortunately for them, vegans don't give up quite so easily.
So can you get protein on a vegan diet? Yes.
Can you get enough iron? Yes.
Can you get B12? Not really.
But, BUT, hear me out on this one, neither can carnists. Everyone, regardless of diet, is at risk of B12 deficiency. It is estimated that as many as 40% of the US population are deficient in B12, and let me tell you, as much as I wish 40% of the US population was vegan, they're not.
So, yeah, vegans should be taking B12 supplements. But so should vegetarians and carnists. We're all in this "B12-deficiency-waiting-to-happen" boat together, people.*
*Fun fact: most B12 that the animals we raise for food get comes from B12 shots. So if you eat meat, you're just getting a second0hand B12 supplement.
So, B12 aside, if we can get all of the nutrition we need from a vegan diet (and we can, says every major dietetics association I've seen) then why do some vegan and plant-based doctors and nutritionists recommend taking various supplements?
A) No one is perfect. And:
B) Everyone is unique.
No One Is Perfect
No matter how well you plan your diet, no matter how many superfoods you consume, no matter how many green veggies you pack into your daily smoothie, you will not be perfect. You will not get the exact RDA for every macro and micronutrient every single day. If you're anything like me, you're really bad at planning your diet and sometimes just want to eat cereal and potatoes and there's nothing wrong with that, OK??
Sorry. That got a little out of hand.
But really, it's hard to eat a perfectly planned diet all of the time. And even if you could, we've got to look at what we're working with. Produce isn't as nutritionally dense as it once was, our soil is being depleted, and buying a wide variety of fresh, seasonal, locally grown produce isn't always possible depending on your area and pocketbook.
So let's be a little kinder to each other, ok? Sometimes taking a supplement is the best way to be sure you're getting enough of an important nutrient, without having to obsess over it.
And really, that's better for everyone.
Everyone Is Unique
Some people are pre-disposed to certain nutrient deficiencies like anaemia, just like some people are pre-disposed to liking horrible music. We're all unique snowflakes, and that's great.
What this means is that some people need to get more of certain nutrients than others, and sometimes that means they need to supplement their diet with concentrated sources of those nutrients.
Just leave them be already, ok?
The Supplements I Take
I am not prescribing anything here because I'm not a doctor or a nutritionist. I am simply sharing my experience!
Every day I take B12 and vitamin D, two nutrients that even vegetarians and carnists are likely low on. We touched on B12 earlier, and most people are aware that if you live in a less sunny climate, a vitamin D supplement is a good idea.
A couple times a week I'll take an algea-derived omega-3 supplement (because unless I'm really focusing on it, I tend to forget to eat the plant-based foods that provide omega-3 like ground flaxseeds) and biotin (or vitamin B7) which is meant to aid in maintaining healthy hair, skin, and nails. As you probably know, my hair is quite long and I haven't had it cut for about 4 years. In light of this I like to try to keep it as healthy as I can!
For those who are curious, here are the specific supplements I take:
Vitamin B12 - SBR Nutrition Liquid Dietary Supplement* (You use the dropper to pop it under your tongue and hold it for 30 seconds then swallow. It tastes like cherries!)
Vitamin D - Vitashine by Vegetology 2500iu Vitamin D3 Tablets (This is the only Vegan Society Registered Vitamin D3 supplement)
Omega-3 - Opti3 by Vegetology Omega-3 EOA & DHA Capsules (This one also contains a dose of their vitashine vitamin D3, so you can take this one supplement daily for both uses, if you like!)
Biotin - SBR Nutrition Liquid Dietary Supplement* (You also pop this one under your tongue, but this one is vanilla flavour!)
The point is, taking supplements does not invalidate the health benefits of a plant-based vegan diet. So carnists, I'd appreciate it if you'd stop implying it does!
Do you take any supplements? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below!
Until next time,
*The products from SBR Nutrition were sent to me for review, but all opinions are my own. I have been using them and plan on repurchasing with my own money when they run out. If you're interested in giving them a try you can use the code: plantSBR for 20% off your purchase on their website or amazon.com. If you purchase through amazon.ca you can email Neil at firstname.lastname@example.org letting him know that I sent you and 20% will be refunded after your product ships!
I am not an affiliate for SBR Nutrition, so I don't make any commission if you decide to purchase from them. If you do want to kick me some change then click the image below and then make your purchase - that way Amazon will send me a couple cents with no extra cost to you!