Today I want to talk about the specific supplements that vegans should take for health and wellness. There are 2 trains of thought when it comes to vitamin or nutritional supplements whether you are vegan or vegetarian or otherwise.
The first school of thought is that you should take a vegan multi-vitamin supplement daily or at least every other day to fill any stop gaps in your general vegetarian diet.
The other train of thought is that you shouldn’t take a vegetarian multi-vitamin or supplement your diet with concentrated and extracted nutrients at all.
I fall into the latter school of thought. Though I’m not rigidly opposed to taking a vegan vitamins or a mutlti now and then, and I take one haphazardly maybe once a month or less often.
If you’d like to learn more about why vegan supplements are not a good idea, Dr. McDougall has a short video on it. In a nutshell, he feels that you’re basically pissing your money away and that in fact you can end up creating nutritionally imbalances. More than that, taking certain vitamins in excess can cause health problems. So there is that risk even if it is small.
Now I’m not necessarily a McDougall fan boy, but I do agree with a lot of what he suggests and in this instance I think he’s got a point.
But before we get going on the only 2 supplements that vegans need to take, and you want to take a vegan multivitamin then I recommend Deva Vegan Vitamins Daily Multivitamin and Mineral supplement. Costs like less than 15 cents a tablet.
Some of you might be wondering what the difference is between a vegan or vegetarian multivitamin and mineral supplement and a run of the mill supplement? Well, it has to do with the vitamin D that is added to the multivitamin supplement.
A vegetarian or vegan multivitamin has vitamin D2 added which is known as ergocalciferol which is made from fungal sources. Most regular multivitamins contain vitamin D3 which is known as cholecalciferol. Cholecalciferol is produced from either lanolin (sheep’s wool byproduct) or cod live oil. Therefore, either sources are not strictly vegan.
Unfortunately there is no such thing as vegan vitamin D3. The D3 means that it comes from an animal source. The vegan vitamin D is D2. Research suggests that it is not as readily absorbed as vitamin D3, and in fact it is vitamin D3 that is used to treat vitamin D deficiency.
On the other hand excess vitamin D has been implicated in some cancers and other health issues when taken as a supplement in higher doses.
Personally, as a vegan I am not that concerned about the source of vitamin D in my multivitamin supplement however infrequently I take it. This is not to say I don’t applaud your efforts for vegan purity. But having been vegan for over 20 years I have come to the determination that it is the big items that need fixing before I feel I should be overly concerned about the small items.
Anyway, this is not supposed to be a treatise on vitamin D but rather about the recommended nutrition supplements that vegans should take for ultimate health.
So let’s get back to it shall we! If you’ve been vegan for more than a couple or three years I recommend taking a vitamin B12 supplement. I believe that in a more natural environment we and/or our food would provide sufficient vitamin B12 there would be no need to supplement. Unfortunately, as I have mentioned to my wife before, if wishes were coins I’d be a millionaire 🙂
I recommend vitamin B12 supplementation not just for vegans but I think vegetarians would be wise to supplement with vitamin B12 too. It is cheap and easy and if you use a sublingual or liquid form or B12 then you only need to take a dose once a week or so.
The kind of vitamin B12 supplement I recommend is like this one found here. It contains both cyanocobalamin and methylcobalamin and gives you 5,000mcg per teaspoon at a cost of about 25 cents per teaspoon. They recommend a daily dose but once or twice a week should be fine with a dose of 5,000mcg per serving. It will last you around a year or more at this rate. Chump change for protecting your health.
Listen, please take this seriously, vitamin B12 deficiency although rare is not to be toyed with. Worst case it can lead to nerve disorders and blindness. Easily preventable. It seems however from recent research that vegans are not getting the message. Over 50% of vegans studied in a British (a couple of hundred) were deficient. Let’s fix this. Over 5% of vegetarians were deficient too.
Okay, the only other supplement I like to take and I recommend vegans and vegetarians take is an Omega 3 supplementation and more specifically a vegan DHA and Vegan EPA. These are the sub omega 3 fatty acids that are found typically in fish and sea plants.
That’s right, the fish eat the sea plants that contain these omega 3s and that’s a primary source of how they get them. We can get vegan DHA and EPA the same way now.
I have 2 options for you to try. You can get the Deva Vegan Omega 3 DHA from algae source as seen here. Or you can choose the Nuique omega 3, which is the one I use. The V Pure is the only one that I’ve found that contains both vegan DHA and vegan EPA in one vegan soft gel. Both of the above get their DHA from algae.
Listen, the omega 3s are not essential or life threatening unlike a lack of vitamin B12, but our diets are generally too heavy in the omega 6s so I like to add a couple of soft gel filled vegetarian DHA and EPA to my diet. No taste, no hassle and only about fiddy cent (50 cents) 😉 per serving.
To your vegetarian and vegan health. Live long and prosper as the vegetarian Spock would say.
Udo’s oil is a great DHA source of omegas too. And, readily available in most major cities.
Excellent, thanks for sharing. We need access to as many sources as possible 🙂
I am using V-Mega3. 100% vegan supplement of Omega3 DHA EPA. it gives me superb results. find more on v-mega3.com.
Thanks for the tip.
Again, great comments. The best source of vitamin D3 is of course sunlight, and failing that in Canada in winter, once a week in a sun bed. Specifically, UVB is the pre-cursor to vitamin D3 production. Why UV light-produced D3 is so important is because it produces the water-soluble version which is much more readily absorbed in the human body – unlike the pharmaceutical-produced vitamin D they want you to buy! Let’s not get started on the paharmaceutical industry just yet!
Exactly, vitamin D is actually a hormone as the reaction of melanin with natural sun on our skin.
Great tip about the tanning beds. I think that is a great option in moderation for those who live in colder and more northern climates. Especially in winter!
Hi Jason, I am not sure whether infos are different in the USA but my doctor told me the other day to be careful with B12 vitamin as it can cause cancer ?? I have found some info on the web but nothing conclusive. What are your thoughts?
Great question. I’d ask your doctor for the study that he is referring to so you can actually read it yourself.
Personally, I try to take around 1,000mcg to 2,500mcg once per week. If you are concerned about any adverse effects from too much B12 you might want to take 250mcg to 500mcg daily or alternately ensure that you are taking fortified vegan products 3 times per day. 3 glasses of fortified soy milk would adequately meet your daily needs.
Generally, from what I have researched, vitamin B12 is generally considered safe which is why no tolerable upper limits have been determined.
Those with Leber’s disease are cautioned about taking the cyanocobalamin form of vitamin B12 as there is confusing evidence that it can harm this condition. Additionally, those with kidney disease should choose a form of vitamin B12 other than cyanocobalamin – such as methylcobalamin.
Generally, the risks of vitamin B12 deficiency far outweigh the side effects that I have heard about in the research. I also couldn’t find any research that suggested a causal relationship between vitamin B12 and cancer. The only research suggesting such a relationship included other B vitamins and especially folic acid which we know can be harmful when taken as a supplement in large doses.
As always consult your doctor about any supplementation and use your own judgement and research to make your own decisions.
Hope this helps,