SUPPLEMENT WHEN NEEDED
A varied vegan diet with a strong emphasis on whole foods will provide your body with most of the vitamins and minerals it needs. That being said, there are a couple of exceptions you might want to keep an eye out for:
1) Vitamin B12
Our bodies use B12 to make protein, for muscle repair and to produce enough oxygen-transporting red blood cells. Because whole plant foods lack B12, vegans should rely on fortified foods and / or supplements to ensure an adequate supply. Adequate intakes can be achieved through either:
- 3 micrograms from fortified foods consumed each day
- 10 micrograms from a daily B12 supplement
- 2000 micrograms from a weekly B12 supplement.
Iron is important for oxygen transport in the body as well as energy production. Too little can lead to muscle fatigue, lowered performance and a weaker immune system. Research shows that at similar levels of iron intake, vegetarian athletes have lower iron stores, possibly because iron from plant-foods is less well absorbed (3). For this reason, vegans are encouraged to aim for a 40-80% higher iron intake than omnivores (4, 5).
- Iron-rich plant foods include:
- Leafy greens,
- Tomato puree,
- Heart of palm,
- Leek, lentils,
- Dried fruit,
- Whole grains,
- And, my personal favorite, dark chocolate.
To boost iron absorption, aim to consume your iron-rich foods in combination with a source of vitamin C (i.e. fruits and veggies). Soaking and fermenting foods can also help increase iron absorption.