A vegan lifestyle and meal plan is a great way to improve your health, but even the healthiest diets can sometimes have nutritional gaps. Supplements are an easy way to ensure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals, but it can be difficult to know if the supplements you purchase are as healthy and ethical as the rest of your lifestyle.
It’s important always to check the sources of any supplements you buy to make sure they do not contain animal products, chemicals, pesticides and other harmful substances. Read on to learn about some of the most common supplements for vegans and how to find ethically-sourced, cruelty-free versions.
Pick Your Protein
Although protein is the nutrient that most people worry about lacking in a vegan diet, it isn’t difficult to get an adequate amount from plant-based foods. However, many people use protein powder as a filling breakfast or for an extra boost when lifting weights or engaging in a rigorous physical activity. The most common types of protein powder are made from whey or soy. Whey is a dairy-based product, which means that it isn’t suitable for vegans, and excessive soy has been associated with adverse health side effects.
Pea protein is the new protein powder on the block. It’s plant-based and provides fibre and phytonutrients in addition to protein. Pea protein can also help lower blood pressure and regulate blood sugar, which makes it an excellent choice for people with diabetes. Choose an organic brand of pea protein to limit your exposure to pesticides and chemicals.
“B” Your Best
B-vitamins are another essential nutrient for vegans, especially B12, which is exclusively found in meat and dairy foods. The animal origin of B-12 means that it is necessary to check the sources when purchasing this nutrient in supplement form. Fortunately, many B12 supplements on the market are cruelty-free and sourced from microbes. Consider a liquid form of B12 for better absorption and to avoid the non-vegan gel capsules that are commonly used to manufacture the pill version of this supplement.
Keep an Eye on Iodine
Iodine is an essential mineral that keeps your thyroid healthy. A vegan diet can sometimes be lacking in this nutrient because the iodine content of plant foods depends on the soil in which they were grown. Iodized salt is the most common way to supplement your diet with iodine, but if you are watching your sodium or using only sea salt, additional supplementation may be helpful.
Liquid sea kelp drops are a vegan-friendly and all-natural form of iodine that is easy to take. Just add a few drops of this tasteless and colourless liquid to a glass of water. Sea kelp can also be found in vegan capsules and tablets. Look for a label indicating that your kelp supplement was ethically sourced from clean waters.
Consume More Calcium
Many people, especially post-menopausal women, have sub-optimal calcium levels. Calcium deficiency can lead to osteoporosis and broken bones later in life. Although plenty of healthy plant-based foods contain high levels of calcium, it can still be challenging to get enough from diet alone.
Most calcium supplements are cruelty-free and vegan-friendly but beware of oyster shell calcium, which can also contain heavy metal contaminants like lead and mercury. You should also pay attention to the dosage of calcium supplements and avoid anything over 100% of your daily value because excess amounts of this mineral can lead to kidney stones.
Most often found in red meats, iron can be a challenging nutrient for vegans. Women of childbearing age may have a particularly hard time avoiding iron deficiency. While most iron supplements are derived from minerals, liquid liver fractions and other bovine-sourced supplements are increasing in popularity. A simple way to add iron to your diet is to cook in cast iron pans or a use a lucky iron fish to make iron-rich soups and teas.
The Gel-cap Trap
Many otherwise cruelty-free supplements fall short by encasing the product in a capsule made of animal-derived gelatin. Always look for products labelled “vegan capsules” or “vegan tablets” to make sure your supplements meet ethical standards. Gelatin caps can also be avoided by purchasing supplements in liquid or powder form. VITL | Personalised Nutrition offers free personalised health consultations and vegan vitamins.
Whether you need to pump up your protein, boost your B12 or increase your iron, finding ethical, cruelty-free supplements can be easy and affordable. Just remember to read labels carefully and check the sources of any unfamiliar ingredients. When in doubt, consult a vegan or animal rights organization. These non-profits usually maintain large databases of ethical products and components.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link.