5 Vitamins and Minerals You Need in a Plant-Based Diet
Anyone can thrive on a plant-based diet.
It's possible to get almost any necessary vitamin or mineral with plant-based foods. Still, it can be challenging at times because plant-based diets are naturally lower in certain vitamins. You must know which nutrients your body needs and where you can find them. That can be as easy as introducing new foods in your diet that are rich in vitamins and minerals. Taking supplements is another easy way to make sure you're not deficient, but we strongly recommend speaking to a doctor before starting a new supplement.
Here is a list of five vitamins and minerals you need to make sure you have in your plant-based diet. These are not the only vitamins and minerals your body needs, but they are commonly low in vegetarian and vegan diets. And just because you have a plant-based diet doesn't mean you're deficient in any nutrients! It is just helpful to know which foods to include in your diet so you can feel healthy and happy.
Vitamin B12 helps your nerve cells function, produces red blood cells and makes DNA. Vitamin B12 is essential for vegans to supplement because it is one of the few vitamins that does not naturally occur in plant-based foods. B12 is found in animal products like meat, fish and milk. There are only two ways vegans can consume B12. The first way is through fortified food, such as soy milk or nutritional yeast. The second way is by taking a supplement. If you don't want to take a supplement, The Vegan Society suggests you eat B12 fortified food two or three times a day. The National Institue of Health Recommends recommends a daily dose of 1.8 mcg micrograms if you're between the ages of 8-13 and 2.4 mcg if you're over the age of 14.
Your parents might have told you to drink milk growing up. After all, it is full of calcium, which helps strengthen your bones. Calcium is a nutrient that we all need to maintain healthy bones and regulate muscle movement. It is also commonly found in dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt. You can take a calcium supplement if your diet lacks calcium-rich food, although there is some debate on calcium supplements' effectiveness. Luckily, there are many plant-based sources of calcium. Chia seeds, beans and lentils, almonds and green leafy vegetables like kale are all rich in calcium. You can also find calcium in fortified foods like calcium-fortified soy-milk, cereal and flour. You should aim for 1,300 mg a day, which is what the National Institutes of Health recommends for people between the ages of 9-18.
Vitamin D is commonly known as the "sunshine vitamin" because you can get vitamin D from the sun. Vitamin D is also calcium's best friend, because vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Animal products like red meat, egg yolks, and oily fish such as salmon are sources of vitamin D. Plant-based eaters can also get vitamin D from fortified soy milk, orange juice and non-dairy milk. Mushrooms are also a great source of vitamin D. The National Health Institutes recommend a dose of 15 mcg if you're between the ages of 1-18. It is helpful to include a supplement in your diet, especially if you live in a place that isn't sunny. Sorry, Seattle! Unless recommended by a doctor, Yale Medicine advises against taking a supplement higher than 600 IU per day because too much vitamin D can be dangerous.
Iron helps carry oxygen through our body and remove carbon dioxide. This is a fundamental process that can be interrupted by a lack of iron and may cause iron-deficient anemia. The symptoms of anemia include dizziness, headaches and exhaustion. To make sure your body runs smoothly, you need to have iron-rich food in your diet. It's common to think that all plant-based eaters are deficient in iron because meat and seafood have iron, but so do many plant sources. Vegetarians and vegans can get iron from beans, tofu, baked potatoes, nuts, spinach, whole grains, dried fruit and fortified cereals. It is more difficult for the body to absorb iron from plant-based sources, so including vitamin C in the same meal will help your body absorb. You can choose many delicious vitamin C sources like citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, tomato juice and green peas. The recommended dose of iron from National Institutes of Health is 8mg of iron if you're between the ages of 9-13 and 15 mg if you're between the ages of 14-18.
Iodine is one of the lesser-known minerals, but it's just as important. We need iodine to make thyroid hormones, which regulate our metabolisms and aid in our development. Familiar sources of iodine include milk products, seafood and eggs, so a plant-based diet may lack the necessary amount. Plant-based eaters can find iodine in iodized table salt, seaweed, prunes and lima beans. The easiest way to add iodine to your diet is by using iodized table salt for your food. You can also take an iodine supplement made from kelp to avoid using salt if you're not a fan. The National Health Institutes recommends that you consume 120 mcg a day if you're between the ages of 9-13 years old and 140 mcg between the ages of 14-18.
Curious about vitamins now? Take a look at this article where we asked a nutritionist if hair and nail vitamins actually work!