Vegetarian supplements: what should I take?
Nutritionist Libby Limon looks at the specific nutritional considerations vegans and vegetarians should be aware of in order to maintain optimal health and wellbeing.
As a nutritional therapist, I am equally passionate about health and food. I believe food cannot only support and heal but is one of life’s truest and simplest pleasures. So when it comes to nutrition for health, food is undoubtedly the ideal source of nutrients. However, there are some situations where your diet alone cannot provide enough of a particular nutrient. This can be due to the natural supply being diminished or maybe your need being greater due to ill health or dietary choices. Vegetarianism or veganism is one such choice that on the one hand can be extremely beneficial for wellbeing, but on the other can also benefit from an extra helping hand from a few quality supplements.
First things first; when making choices about what supplement you should take, know that not all supplements are made equal. While there is strong regulation on the safety and advertising claims made on supplements, there is little or no regulation on quality. Cheap means that they are generally going to be poor quality, have less absorbable nutrients with bulking agents and sweeteners to mask the taste. Always look for products with quality and bioavailable ingredients. At VITL, we struggled to find such supplements on the high street, which is why we decided to produce clean, filler-free supplements in their most bioavailable form and have them delivered directly to your door.
When becoming a vegetarian, there is a natural tendency to not adequately replace the eliminated animal protein. Food-state vegetarian protein powders can make up this missing protein. A great way to add them in is to mix powders such as spirulina, hemp, rice and pea protein to smoothies and soups.
Omega 3s are an essential fatty acid vital for mood, cardiovascular health, and immunity, not to mention a glowing completion. The best source of Omega 3 is oily fish. Vegetarian sources of omega 3 include flax, chia and walnuts but these are less efficiently used by the body. The ideal Omega 6: Omega 3 ratio is somewhere between 3:1 and 1:1 but vegetarian diets have often been shown to have a pro-inflammatory ratio of around 15:1. The best way to bring your Omega ratio down is with a high potency vegan Omega 3 (EPA/DHA) supplement made from algae.
This key vitamin is only available from animal based products and therefore absent from the vegan diet. The few plant foods that are sources of B12 often contain mostly B12 'analogs'. An analog is a substance that blocks the uptake of true B12, so it can actually exacerbate deficiency. B12 is essential and contributes to the normal functioning of the nervous system, metabolism, psychological function, and a deficiency often results in fatigue. Quality, bioavailable B12 supplements are recommended for vegans, but vegetarians should be fine provided they often eat eggs and/or dairy products.
Most of the population will be vitamin D deficient. Sufficient vitamin D levels are key for the absorption and efficient use of fatty acids as well as immunity, calcium and magnesium absorption, and fertility. I recommend a quality vitamin D3 supplement at a dosage level of 1000 I.U.