The Plain-English Guide to Vegan Supplements
Since 2016, the Canadian public has cultivated an interest in all things veganism. Google data reports an insane 113% spike of vegan or plant-based searches. With this piqued interest in how to survive and thrive on a plant-based diet, people are looking for more Canadian supplement brands with vegan supplement options. Even those that don’t strictly abide by a vegan diet prefer vegan multivitamins and supplements.
If you follow a vegan or plant-based diet, you know that there is a lot of misinformation out there regarding how to stay healthy. It can be confusing knowing where to get your nutrients, how much you need, and how to keep track of it all. Every time you turn around it seems you get new information about vegan multivitamins and minerals that you can’t get from plants.
Consider this your go-to guide for the vitamins and minerals most vegans have trouble with, plant-based food sources, and vegan supplements. We will also cover some vegan supplements from Canada that you don’t necessarily need but that can better support vegan athletes in their fitness endeavors.
What is Veganism?
People often use the terms vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based interchangeably, but there are differences in the three lifestyles. Vegans are plant-based and vegetarian, but vegetarians and plant-based dieters are not necessarily vegan.
- Vegan—people who abstain from using any and all animal products. Many people who follow a vegan diet also live their lives that way, meaning everything from their clothing to their household and personal care items are vegan.
- Vegetarian—people who do not eat meat but might eat other animal products, including dairy, eggs, and honey.
- Plant-Based—people who consume mostly foods derived from plants with little to no animal products, including meat, dairy, and eggs. This diet allows for some flexibility and usually does not extend into the lifestyle.
Can I Get All My Nutrients from Whole Foods on a Vegan Diet?
Just as you can get all your nutrients from whole foods on an omnivore diet, it is possible to consume everything you need from a vegan diet as well. Even vegan athletes can consume all their nutrients without resorting to vegan supplements. Some vegans resent lists such as these because they often make it seem as though to survive on a vegan diet, you must buy a lengthy list of vegan supplements. This is not our intention.
This list serves to raise awareness for vegan athletes and others that follow a vegan lifestyle to either include foods rich in these micronutrients every day or use vegan multivitamins and supplements for convenience and security.
Many omnivores use multivitamins to bridge the gaps in their nutrition. Similarly, many vegans need vegan multivitamins for the same reason. The following list includes vitamins that people mostly consume from animal products, and therefore many vegan athletes and others that follow a vegan lifestyle may be lacking.
The B vitamins are a group of eight water-soluble vitamins—thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9), and B12. Each B vitamin plays roles in various bodily functions, including immune function, nerve, blood, skin, and eye health, and more.
Many B vitamins are readily available in a balanced vegan diet, but that’s not the case for vitamin B12.
Why You Need it: B12 is essential for vegans and vegan athletes because it plays a crucial role in healthy nerve function and DNA production. Animal products are a good source of this essential vitamin, and since that’s against rule number one of a vegan diet, the best way to consume it is through a vegan supplement.
Signs of a B12 Deficiency: Vegans and vegan athletes may experience fatigue, low energy, muscle weakness, pins and needles sensations, poor memory function, depression, and impaired understanding and judgment. These symptoms might indicate a vitamin B12 deficiency.
How Much You Need: Adults require 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 per day. Pregnant or lactating women require 2.6 or 2.8 mcg, respectively.
Vegan Food Sources:
- Nutritional yeast contains 48.7 mcg/100 grams
- Marmite contains 1.3 mcg/100 grams
- Fortified soy or almond milk contains about 0.4 mcg/100 grams
- Plant-based meats contain about 3.3 mcg/100 grams
- Fortified cereals contain about 3.3 mcg/100 grams
Vegan Supplement: Vegan multivitamins often have adequate dosing of the B vitamins, or you can take a B12 vegan supplement on its own. Our recommended Canadian Supplement Brand is Alora Naturals Super B-Complex.
Vitamin D, otherwise known as the sunshine vitamin, is essential to human cellular function. Most notably, vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium for strong bones and joints. More recently, research is proving that vitamin D is enormously impactful in our immune systems.
It’s not just vegans and vegan athletes that struggle with their vitamin D levels. Approximately one-third of Canadian adults have blood levels below the healthy vitamin D cut off. Basically, most people could benefit from a good ol’ vegan supplement from Canada to support their cells.
Why You Need it: Getting vitamin D from the sun is great, but unless you live in a particularly sunny climate year-round, it’s just not possible to keep blood levels high enough. Most food sources of vitamin D are in animal products like dairy.
Signs of a Vitamin D Deficiency: Vegan athletes that suffer from getting ill frequently, fatigue, bone pain, bone loss, depression, slow wound healing, hair loss, and muscle pain may have a vitamin D deficiency and should consider a vegan supplement.
How Much You Need: Healthy adults and vegan athletes need about 600 IU per day.
Vegan Food Sources:
- Fortified soy milk contains 2.9 mcg/200 gram
- Fortified almond milk contains 2.4 mcg/serving
- Fortified rice milk contains 2.4 mcg/serving
- Fortified orange juice contains 2.5 mcg/serving
- Fortified cereals typically contain between 0.2 and 2.5 mcg/serving
- Mushrooms contain about 2 IU/35 grams
Vegan Supplement: you can get your vitamin D individually or from a vegan multivitamin. If your vitamin is not a certified vegan multivitamin, make sure it is vitamin D2, as most D3 is derived from animals unless otherwise stated. Our recommended Canada Supplement Brand for Vitamin D is CavPrev Magnesium and Vegan D3.
You don’t need to take a vegan multivitamin in addition to the vitamins we’ve listed. A vegan multivitamin is a convenient alternative to individual pills. You can get the proper dose of all the listed vitamins in a good, quality vegan multivitamin
Why You Need It: Vegan athletes may benefit from taking a vegan multivitamin instead of individual pills because it’s more convenient and includes various other vitamins and minerals essential for healthy living.
Vegan Supplement: Check the label to ensure all ingredients are vegan or choose a vegan multivitamin that is certified. Our Canada Supplement Brand multivitamin recommendation is ANS Performance Fresh1 Vegan Multivitamin.
Omega Fatty Acids Including DHA and EPA
We know the importance of omega-3 fatty acids—they’re essential for eye, brain, heart, and skin health. Now more research is proving these beneficial fats can also fight inflammation, anxiety, depression, ADHD, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Why You Need It: Some vegan foods are good sources of omega-3s, but for the most part, people get their omega fatty acids from fatty, cold-water fish. While a vegan athlete’s diet might provide enough omegas, it likely lacks in DHA and EPA. These fatty acids are important for heart and brain health and crucial for healthy fetal development in pregnant women.
Signs of an Omega Fatty Acid Deficiency: Vegan athletes who eat a balanced diet probably get enough ALA omegas, but DHA and EPA might be completely absent. In fact, when celebrities like Miley Cyrus famously quit being vegan, they typically blame things like brain fog and fatigue. It’s possible that the addition of a vegan supplement with all the omega fatty acids would fix that problem.
How Much You Need: While specific daily recommendations have not been set for DHA and EPA, healthy adult men need about 1.6 grams, and women need 1.1 grams. Pregnant women need 1.4 grams, and lactation requires 1.3 grams.
Vegan food Sources:
- Chia seeds contain 4915 mg/28 grams
- Brussels sprouts contain 44 mg/44 grams
- Hemp seeds contain 6000 mg/28 grams
- Walnuts contain 2542 mg/28 grams
- Flaxseeds contain 6388 mg/28 grams
Note that these foods are rich in ALA omegas. But not DHA and EPA.
Vegan Supplements: Most people turn to fish oil to supplement their omegas, and luckily there is a vegan supplement alternative. Fish gain their fatty acid content by consuming algae, and you can get your omegas the same way! Unfortunately, most vegan multivitamins do not contain omegas, so that vegan athletes will benefit from an additional supplement. Our Canadian Supplement Brand recommendation for omegas is ANS Performance Fresh1 Vegan Omega-3.
Probiotics are a staple that many health professionals recommended for various symptoms, from diarrhea to mental health support. Probiotics work to balance the good bacteria with the bad bacteria in your gut and maintain a healthy balance.
Why You Need it: Vegan athletes and all vegans can benefit from a probiotic supplement because many foods containing live bacteria are animal products
Signs of an Unhealthy Gut Microbiome: Your gut bacteria biome may be out of whack if you’re experiencing frequent gastro-intestinal disturbances, you consume a lot of sugar and processed foods, your weight is fluctuating, your skin is problematic, you’re having trouble sleeping, feeling fatigued, or you’re struggling with allergies and eczema.
How Much You Need: Vegan athletes should find a vegan supplement containing ten to twenty billion colony-forming units. Don’t worry about consuming too much, as the digestive tract is continuously cleared out.
Vegan Food Sources:
- Fermented soy products like miso and tempeh
It’s challenging to determine exactly how many live units of bacteria survive the cooking process and make it to your intestines, so the easiest way to ensure you’re consuming enough is to take a daily vegan supplement. Take this in addition to your vegan multivitamin. Probiotics are not typically included in a vegan multivitamin formula.
We recommend Canada Supplement Brand CanPrev Pro-Biotik 15B Multi-Strain Probiotic Vegan Supplement for your probiotic.
Additional Supplements for Vegan Athletes
In addition to your vegan multivitamin, omegas, and probiotics, there is another supplement that vegan athletes may want to consider.
Many registered dieticians don’t love veganism for athletes because the more you exercise, the more macronutrients your body requires to support your work and heal effectively. While carbs and fats aren’t all that difficult to get as a vegan athlete (hello, peanut butter, bread, and pasta), there’s no denying that meat is the most efficient way to get large amounts of protein in small servings.
Just because it’s convenient doesn’t mean it’s the only way, and vegan athletes can hit their protein goals through whole foods alone with some careful planning. However, just as many omnivore athletes use a protein powder to support their efforts, it can be beneficial to vegan athletes as well.
Vegan protein powders are more popular now than ever, and the growing interest has led to the plant-based formulas coming leaps and bounds in terms of consistency and taste
Why You Need It: Athletes require between 1.2 and 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. That means if you weigh 68 kilograms, you need between 81.6 and 136 grams of protein every day. To conveniently hit your protein goals and support muscle function and growth, add a protein powder every day after you exercise.
Signs You’re Not Eating Enough Protein: Vegan athletes who are experiencing swelling, mood changes, hair, skin, and nail problems, weakness, fatigue, a hunger that won’t subside, slow wound healing, and getting sick often, you might not be eating enough protein.
Vegan Food Sources
- Seitan contains 25 grams/3.5 ounces
- Tofu, tempeh, and edamame contain between 10-19 grams/3.5 ounces
- Lentils contain about 18 grams/cup
- Chickpeas and other beans contain about 15 grams/cup
- Nutritional yeast contains about 14 grams/28 grams.
- Green peas contain 9 grams/cup
- Ancient grains like quinoa and amaranth contain between 8 and 9 grams/cup
- Soy milk has about 7 grams/cup
- Oats contain about 6 grams/half cup
- Rice contains 7 grams/cup
- Nut butters contain between 5 and 7 grams/ounce
Lots of vegan foods contain protein, but most contain smaller quantities than the equivalent serving of meat. An easy way to ensure you’re consistently hitting your protein goals is to include a daily protein shake in the same way you include a daily vegan multivitamin. We also recommend Canada Supplement Brand Vega Sport Performance Protein for anyone with additional protein needs.
Adhering to a vegan diet has tons of health benefits, but it can be difficult to consume certain vitamins and minerals, as with an omnivore diet. While with careful planning and tracking you can get all your micronutrients from whole, plant-based foods, it might be more convenient to add a vegan multivitamin, omegas, a probiotic, and a protein supplement to ensure all your nutritional bases are covered.