Recently, I’ve been hearing the same question over and over again: What supplements do I need to take if I go vegan? To be honest, I’m happy people are asking this question because it shows that they care and want to be on top of their health.
While I’m not a doctor, and am in no capacity of giving you medical advice, I can share the knowledge I have acquired through my plant based nutrition certificate at Cornell as well as my thorough conversations and collaborations with doctors.
I love science and I love it even more that we have plenty of scientific evidence that eating vegan reduces your risk for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and most of the other leading causes of death in North America. It reduces all these risks CONSIDERABLY and hence also improves life quality and expectancy of everyone who follows a whole foods, vegan diet.
The focus should be on whole foods. Everything that is processed and contains added sugar, oils as well as preservatives, artificial colors and other chemical ingredients, should be reduced to an absolute minimum. If you follow these rules, you are already 80% there.
Now it’s essential to think about a couple things that you might not get through a vegan diet. To be honest, the only nutrient that you can absolutely not get enough of on a vegan diet, but that is absolutely essential for your health, is vitamin B12. Doctors recommend to supplement with 7,500 mcg per week. Just do it, and you’ll be fine.
If you are pregnant, you should also think about a couple other nutrients that you might want to take in supplement form. The best way to find out what you need, is to talk to your doctor.
Another essential nutrient to watch, no matter if you are vegan or not, is vitamin D. Vitamin D can not be created by your body, it’s mainly taken in by sun exposure. If you live in northern latitudes, like North America, most of Europe, Russia, Antarctica and other geographical areas with very limited sun in the winter, you should probably take a Vitamin D supplement. Again, this has very little to do with your diet but it’s mainly due to sun light. Vitamin D is essential for bone health and calcium absorption, so please be on top of it. 600IU to 1000IU are the recommended daily supplement amount here.
Other than Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D, I do not take supplements. I eat the colors of the rainbow, I stay away from processed, high sugar and high oil food and I balance all macro nutrients (fat, carbs and protein) so that I get enough different foods. But again, I’m not a doctor and I would recommend to get a yearly blood test and make sure your individual needs are covered.
Lastly, it’s essential to keep in mind that when transitioning from a standard American diet, to a plant based diet, you will probably have to eat larger amounts of food. This is actually great because you don’t ever go hungry. The reason for wanting to increase the volume of food you are eating, is because most plant based foods, although dense in nutrition, are lower in calories. So make sure you eat enough calories. Although I don’t personally do this, you can track your calories with apps such as Cron-o-meter the first couple of weeks, just so you get an idea of how much you are eating. Another great way to be on top of your daily intake is to aim for about 5 servings of grains and starchy veggies (1 serving equals ½ fist ), 4 servings of veggies (1 serving is 1/2 fist), 3 servings of legumes (1 serving equals1 fist), 2 servings of fruit (1 serving equals 1 fist) and 1-2 servings of nuts and seeds (1 servings equals one cupped hand).