I’m vegan, do I need to take supplements?
Q: I turned vegan three months ago and I’m really enjoying it but should I be worried about nutritional deficiencies? Should I be taking any supplements? – Belinda
If you eat a vegan diet, you need to ensure you obtain optimal levels of specific nutrients that can be too low when you eat this way. With any particular diet or way of eating, it is the food choices that are made within the context of that diet that will determine whether it is nutritionally adequate, not the label.
The nutrients that you need to be particularly mindful of as a vegan include vitamin B12, iron (particularly for menstruating women), zinc, calcium and omega3 fatty acids.
vitamin B12 stores will generally last a couple of years, however a deficiency can cause irreversible damage so it’s vital that you don’t let yourself get depleted. important to avoid drinking tea, coffee and wine with meals, as tannins in these can bind the iron, which inhibits absorption.
It’s important to have your iron levels checked before supplementing, as an excess of iron in the body is also problematic, and some of the symptoms of iron overload are actually similar to those of deficiency. Nuts and legumes also contain small amounts of zinc. Women require 8mg of zinc per day and men require 14mg per day to prevent deficiency. label to see if it has calcium added.
There are calcium-fortified almond milk options for those who go vegan.