Vegan diets and supplementation

Vegan diets and supplementation

Supplementation and fortification that’s a way of getting extra nutrients into your diet be that vitamins, minerals or even protein. Supplements are extras you take that can be tablets or powders such as protein powders. Fortification is where the extra nutrients are added into your food by the manufacturers which is common with things like B12 into a number of vegan foods but even common white flour has added iron and calcium. Some people get worried about taking supplements they either don’t want to take too much or they want to avoid them altogether, and… if you’re following a balanced diet the need for supplements can be fairly minimal. I think it’s important to be selective and if we look at general advice across the whole population of the UK we’re encouraged to take vitamin D at least some of the year because of the lack of sunlight and the lack of good weather we tend to have Vitamin D or what is sometimes called the sunshine vitamin is something we all need to think about in the UK because our weather is not always the greatest all year round. It is possible in summer with sensible safe sun exposure for us to make vitamin D from sunlight but in winter months and even in autumn and spring we need to look for sources of vitamin D from our diet. When people are choosing a vitamin D supplement it can be confusing because there are different types – D2 and D3. If possible, it’s best to choose a D3 supplement. Historically, they have come from animal products typically lanolin from sheep’s wool but increasingly we are getting vegan options which are made fr lichens. There are a number of nutrients that people thinking about eating a vegan diet or starting to eat a vegan diet should probably think about. B12 is an interesting vitamin because
it’s a vitamin that we associate with only being found in animal products. If you’re choosing to follow a vegan diet you need to find other sources. If you’re choosing to take a supplement it’s probably the only vitamin where it’s OK to take more than 100% of the RDA because we possibly need more of it from a supplemented form. We also find it in a number of vegan products where it’s added in there such as some of the
replacements for milk. Selenium is another interesting one because
it’s a useful mineral that helps our body protect itself against some of the aggressive
chemicals that can exist in our environment called free radicals. Typically, the amount
of selenium that we find in our food depends on the soil that it lives and grows in. Some parts of the world have higher levels of selenium than others. So we know that things like wheat
that grows in Canada or certain nuts like Brazil nuts can be good sources of selenium. Iodine is an interesting one because across
the UK we had quite a low iodine intake until it was actually supplemented into the feed
of cattle so it started appearing in the meat and the milk that we consume from those animals.
So if you are not eating those foods and you’re choosing to follow a vegan diet you may need to look at other sources of iodine which can come from things like seaweed so something
like vegan sushi but increasingly it is being fortified into some plant-based milk substitutes or you can have a look as in other countries where they actually iodize the salt. I think the message would be to try and eat a variety of foods and to think carefully how your foods fit together so you enjoy them but also they give you all the nutrients
you need and then think carefully about selecting supplements as appropriate for your
needs so you can be healthy and as happy as possible. If you want to find out more about nutrients
of interest to people choosing to follow a vegan diet it might be worth looking at The
Vegan Society website where there is a page all about nutrients where all the content has
either been written or checked by a registered dietitian. If you have individual needs it’s
maybe worth speaking to a health professional and if you feel you have complex health needs
or challenging questions about nutrition it’s worth speaking to your doctor and maybe ask
for a referral to a registered dietitian.

2 thoughts on “Vegan diets and supplementation

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