It’s a pretty big misconception that you can’t get all your vitamins and nutrients from a vegan diet. People think that you need meat to get protein, milk to get calcium, and fish to get your omega-3s. But this isn’t true at all! YOU CAN GET EVERY VITAMIN AND MINERAL FROM A VEGAN DIET!
As soon as I went vegan (or even vegetarian really) people were continually asking me if I got enough protein, how I was going to get my calcium...the list goes on and on. While most of these concerns were out of love, I found it quite frustrating. If someone was eating meat no one was asking them if they were getting their daily dose of vitamins and minerals. In fact most Americans DON’T eat a well-rounded diet and are lacking in some way.
So why do I take supplements? Like I said above, a vegan diet is able to provide you with every nutrient that your body needs. The supplements I take are NOT because I am vegan. They are ones that I have been taking before I went vegan because my personal body was lacking in them (even when I was eating meat and dairy). I am not a doctor and recommend you talk to your own doctor and get blood work done before you start taking any new supplements.
-IRON: Most people who aren’t vegan will get a majority of their Iron intake from meat. However, even when I was eating meat I was still iron deficient. This has been something that I’ve dealt with since I was in high school. My body doesn’t easily absorb iron found in food so instead I supplement with an Iron pill to ensure my body gets enough. Common vegan foods that are high in iron includes lentils, quinoa, oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, cashews, tomato sauce, and blackstrap molasses.
-D3: If you don’t have enough vitamin D your body can’t absorb Iron properly. When I started taking Iron it was recommended that I also take D3. This helps my body absorb the Iron I am taking. Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D3. Unfortunately, living in the Pacific Northwest means that I don’t see the sun that much. It is not uncommon for people that live in cloudy climates to be lacking in vitamin D. So while D3 helps my body absorb Iron, it is also an added bonus that it aids me in my lack of sunshine!
-B12: There is a lot of argument surround this one little vitamin. B12 helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy. When following a non-vegan diet, individuals can get vitamin B12 from meat, eggs, and dairy. So what about vegans? There are a plethora of fortified cereals, plant based milks, and soy based ‘meat’ that contains a necessary amount of B12. And while meat does contain a high concentration of this vitamin, still 40% of meat eaters are not getting a sufficient amount. Compare that to 60% of vegans, and it shows that B12 deficiency is not just from lack of meat. Although it is more common among vegans, B12 deficiency can occur to anyone. The best way to figure out if YOU need to take a B12 supplement is to get a blood test.
When it really comes down to it, taking supplements is up to you and your doctor. I’ve been vegan for over 1.5 years, vegetarian for over 3, and I feel better than ever. Some people talk about feeling weak when they stop eating meat but that usually has to do with not making sure they are getting enough protein. When you cut out meat and dairy you need to make sure you’re still getting enough plant based protein; beans, lentils, quinoa, nuts, seeds, etc.
It can be easy to think that we need meat to survive, but I’ve learned that that just isn’t true. I am able to get every vitamin and mineral my body needs from eating a plant based diet. When you realize this it really comes down to your own taste buds. I didn’t stop eating meat because I didn’t like the taste of it. I stopped eating meat because I didn’t believe that animals should die when they didn’t need to. I stopped eating meat because I knew how terrible the meat industry was for the environment. I stopped eating meat because I realized that I could easily get everything my body needed from a vegan diet.