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Vegans and vitamin supplements

What combination of vitamins are essential for a vegan to take on a daily basis? I have a daily multi-vitamin I take every morning, and I take iron + vitamin C every evening. I try to keep up on my fresh veggies and fruits etc. to maintain a balanced diet, but a busy lifestyle takes away from my time to regularly prepare proper meals so I’ve taken to vitamin supplements. I know vegans should be absorbing B12, calcium and omega-3s – if I am taking vitamin supplements for these, will eating foods containing them as well harm me?

Answer:

It depends on the vitamin supplement you are taking. I generally only recommend using a multivitamin that provides no more than 100% RDA (recommended daily allowance) Some vitamin formulas contain ten or a hundred times the RDA. B vitamins can often be taken in large doses as the body will simple excrete what it doesn’t need, however other vitamins such as vitamin A can be toxic in large doses. If you want to take a multivitamin I would suggest using a 100% RDA formula and take it every other day. Secondly I would avoid taking an iron supplement daily, while there is evidence that vegans have lower iron levels than meat eaters, there is not that much evidence that it causes vegans health issues. If anything reduced iron levels reduce the risk of some chronic diseases. Excess consumption of minerals such as copper and iron have been linked to an increase in Alzheimer’s.

Vegetarian diet

I am making an effort to eat only plant based food. My primary care physician advised me that I also needed protein. So I have been eating Red Kidney Beans and a quarter-can of Alaskan canned salmon every day. A friend of mine advised me that I may be eating too much salmon because it contains iron. Is this “adviser” correct?

Answer:

Hi, your friend is half right! The issue is that salmon along with many other fish can contain various heavy metals, in particular Methylmercury. Methylmercury is toxic organic form of mercury that can be found in seawater, it is absorbed by algae which is in turn eaten by small sea life, which in turn is eaten by small fish, the small fish eaten by large fish and so on. Eventually this ends up on our dinner plate in the fish we eat. It is not easily processed by our own bodies and therefore we need to restrict our consumption. The benefits of eating oily fish are considered to outweigh the risks of the mercury, canned salmon is low on the scale of contamination. There are a few different recommendations out there, but the general rule is that you should aim for two to three 3.5oz servings per week of fish with the lowest level of mercury. I would suggest reducing your consumption to every other day or Mon/Wed/Fri.

Vegan nutrients

I am a 20 year old female and have just started to follow a vegan diet. I am taking a multivitamin and trying to get protein from nuts and healthy oils. What nutrients should I be careful to get or add and what are some of the signs that I am not getting enough of these nutrients?

Answer:

If you are taking a multivitamin that will certainly help to prevent any serious deficiency, however it is still important to create a balanced diet and ensure you are getting a varied source of nutrients from your foods. Ensuring adequate protein intake is important however there are plenty of options and making sure you consume a protein rich food with each meal with help keep Soy is rich in protein, edamame beans and tofu are a good source of soy protein. Mushrooms, peas, chickpeas, kidney beans (must be cooked) and grains like quinoa are also good sources. Nutrients you want to focus on consuming are Omega-3 fatty acids which can be found in flax seeds and walnuts, Iron found in beans, seeds and leafy green vegetables. Zinc from nuts and seeds. Calcium from Broccoli, Kale, Molasses. Vitamin D from Mushrooms but also from sunlight exposure. Getting 10-15 minutes sunlight exposure everyday at least on your arms and face will help your natural Vitamin D production. Vitamin B12 is more difficult to source in the vegan diet, your multivitamin will help, but you might want to consider adding some fortified yeast supplement.

Veganism

Can the vegan diet be healthy if done properly?

Answer:

Absolutely, recently a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people following a vegetable based diet had a 12% lower risk of dying compared to meat eaters. http://www.livescience.com/37102-vegetarians-live-longer.html Sometimes peoples protein or fat consumption may be a bit low, but with good meal planning there is no reason why this should occur.

Vegetarianism & Broken Bones

I have never broken a bone before in my life. Two years ago, I decided to become a vegetarian. I’m very active–in the gym, playing soccer, running–and recently broke my fibula playing soccer. Family members kept telling me that my diet is weakening my bones (lack of amino acids, regular protein, etc.). Are they right? Does a vegetarian diet put you at risk for things like osteoporosis and broken bones?

Answer:

Currently there is conflicting evidence whether vegetarian diets can lead to lower bone mineral density. Some studies have suggested vegetarians are at higher risk than meat eaters, whilst other studies say the opposite. What has been shown is that people who consume large amounts of protein are actually at a higher risk of osteoporosis than others. Consuming large amounts of protein can result in a more acidic blood PH, and the calcium in the bone is often used as a buffering agent to normalise blood PH. Consuming sufficient Calcium and Vitamin D is more important as vegetarians can be deficient in these two nutrients. It is worthwhile making sure you do plan your diet to include these nutrients, as the bulk of scientific research shows that these are important factors in bone development. Other important factors for building strong bones, are engaging in weight bearing exercise, avoiding alcohol, soft drinks and not smoking, all of which you already do. Overall I think that you are following a healthier lifestyle than most, and with that the overall health of your bones is likely to be better than most. Sports injuries occur to the best of athletes, and realistically I think you can put your injury down to bad luck, rather than your diet choice.

Vegetarianism?

I’m sixteen, a female, and have been eating meat since I was old enough. I’ve been trying to loose weight(exercising and eating healthier) and have lost twenty five pounds successfully. I now weigh 165. I’ve been giving it some thought and I think I’d like to become a vegetarian, specifically one that does not eat meat, poultry, nor fish. Just how bad is meat for you? Will I become healthier this way? Would I need to take supplements? Thanks! Any info is appreciated!

Answer:

At sixteen I would personally not recommend that you follow a vegetarian, pescatarian or vegan diet. Your body is still developing and growing and needs adequate calories and nutrition. Whilst a vegetarian diet does have many health benefits, many people are not able to put together a balanced diet without careful planning. Making sure you get adequate protein is the most important part of a vegetarian diet, supplements should not be necessary. I would suggest that if you can follow your current diet for a couple more years and then consider perhaps moving to a vegetarian diet in your late teens, early twenties. In the long term studies have shown vegetarians live longer and better overall health.

Protein advice for new vegan

I’ve recently been starting to go vegan and eating more whole vegetables and fruits (as opposed to vegan junk-food) but I picked up a soy protein isolate to take in the morning. Is 25 gm of soy protein too much soy? I drink almond milk and avoid soy in general because I know it’s bad for estrogen levels if you consume too much. If it is too much, can you suggest a different protein source?

Answer:

In the case of soy protein isolate the majority of the active ingredients found in soy have been removed during the processing, leaving only the protein. However some believe that there are still some estrogenic compounds intact in the protein powder. If you are active and engaging in exercise a single serving of 25 grams soy protein daily would not be too much. If you are concerned about the possibility of phyto estrogens you may want to consider Pea protein isolate. Pea protein products are becoming more readily available and there are a variety of brands that offer flavoured or unflavoured products. http://www.iherb.com/Growing-Naturals-Yellow-Pea-Protein-Vanilla-Blast-16-7-oz-475-g/42062