The Most Common Vegan Nutrient Deficiencies and the Best Corrective Supplements
A nutritious plant-based or vegan diet offers so many benefits. It’s the best solution for long term weight loss and it’s been scientifically proven to enhance longevity and reduce mortality rates. It also lowers the risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and several other chronic diseases and can reduce the number of medications needed to treat these diseases. There is a caveat though, poorly constructed vegan diets can predispose you to certain nutrient deficiencies and depending on your biochemistry, the specific foods that you eat, and your level of physical activity, you may need to supplement your diet.
The main source of B12 in the diet is typically meat and dairy, which means vegans are predisposed to a deficiency. B12 is not naturally occurring in plant foods, so you will need to get your B12 needs met with B12 fortified foods (such as cereal), or by consuming brewers yeast liberally. A B12 deficiency leads to morphological changes to the blood cells, neurological problems and symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, foggy-headedness, memory loss, balance problems and numbing or tingling in the hands and feet. If left untreated, it can lead to permanent neurological damage, so this is not something you want to take lightly.
If you are a vegan, I recommend you have your B12 levels checked and if you have a deficiency take a supplement daily. You need to choose your supplement wisely though because the body has a limited ability to absorb B12 in the synthetic form (cyanocobalamin) that most supplements contain. Instead, look for methylcobalamin, this natural form of B12 is more easily absorbed in the body.
You can order methylcobalamin in isolated form by calling in at: 1-866-319-0566. You can also get methylcobalamin by taking Neuro-Insight, which provides 833% of your daily value per serving, plus several other B vitamins and nutrients that help support healthy brain function. Alternatively, you can take Stay Young tablets, which also provide 833% of the daily value of B12 (more on Stay Young below).
Vitamin D3 is essential for bone health, it regulates insulin, helps reduce depression risk and supports the brain, immune system, and cardiovascular system. It also helps reduce the risk for several chronic diseases including certain types of cancer, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, and dementia. The foods richest in vitamin D include fish and egg yolks, so if you are a vegan who does not get daily sun exposure, you may be deficient.
If you supplement with vitamin D be sure to choose one that is in the D3 form because D2 is synthetic and less bioavailable. As a vegan, you will also want to check that the D3 is derived from lichen (a composite fungal-algae) as opposed to fish. We offer a D3 supplement, but you need to call in to order it: 1-866-319-0566. Aim for 1000 IU a day, but be sure to monitor your blood levels while supplementing because vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means it can get stored in your body fat and build-up to toxic levels if you consume too much.
Vegans tend to have lower omega-3 intakes because of the absence of marine sourced fats. Omega-3s are important for normal growth and development, they reduce inflammation, help fight several chronic diseases, and play an important role in cardiovascular health and immunity. Ensure to include vegan sources of omega 3’s in your diet, such as flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, edamame, brussels sprouts and seaweed. If you suspect a deficiency, you can take a microalgae-oil supplement, aiming for a serving of 1-2 grams per day.
Iodine is an essential trace element for growth and development, and it plays an important role in thyroid function and metabolism. Consuming too much or too little iodine can be problematic and lead to thyroid dysfunction. Unfortunately for vegans, studies show they tend to consume either excessively high or excessively low amounts depending on their dietary choices. If you consume seaweed and sea vegetables abundantly you likely don’t need to worry about a deficiency, but you may want to get checked for an excess. If you do not consume these foods you are at risk for a deficiency and the development of goiter or hypothyroidism.
If you experience symptoms such as cold hands and feet, trouble losing weight, fatigue, dry skin, puffy face, constipation, muscle weakness; or a tight feeling in the throat and swelling at the base of the neck, you should have your iodine levels tested as well as a full thyroid panel, which should include TSH, Free T3, Free T4, and Reverse T3. Should blood or urine tests confirm an iodine deficiency, you can restore optimal levels with RAD iodine. RAD iodine is a highly absorbable form of iodine derived from Atlantic kelp. It is especially helpful for hypothyroid and goiter sufferers because it also contains tyrosine, which the thyroid needs in combination with iodine, in order to produce hormones.
Carnosine is a protein building block and antioxidant, and it’s important for the proper functioning of the muscles, heart, brain, liver, kidneys and many other parts of the body. Studies have found carnosine helpful in the management of autism, cataracts, and diabetes, and protect against age-related brain degeneration. It is also used to slow down the signs and symptoms of aging and to boost muscle strength and exercise performance, and reduce fatigue. Meat and poultry are the main dietary sources of carnosine; consequently, carnosine levels tend to be lower in vegetarians than omnivores. Carnosine levels also naturally drop with age, so if you are a vegan over the age of 50, you should consider supplementation.
If you would like to support healthy carnosine levels, you can take our Stay Young tablets daily. This proprietary formula contains not only carnosine, but also B12 in it’s most absorbable form, beetroot, and red spinach to support circulation, oxygenation, sexual functioning and arousal; astragalus for healthy energy levels, and several potent antioxidants to protect against DNA damage and slow down the signs of aging.
Additional Supplements to Consider
Vegans are also prone to deficiencies of zinc and calcium. If your diet is imbalanced, you are menstruating or recently experienced large blood loss, or if you have problems with proper absorption you may be deficient in iron as well.