The number of people eating a plant-based diet in New Zealand is on the rise. In fact, the country now ranks fifth for veganism worldwide.
There are tons of health benefits associated with a vegan or plant-based diet. However, there is also a risk of vitamin deficiencies if you don’t plan well.
To avoid deficiencies, you need to make sure you’re following a strict supplement regimen. Listed below are some of the most important nutrients and best vitamins for vegans in New Zealand to include in their diets.
Vitamin B12 is one of the most common deficiencies that vegans have to deal with. This vitamin plays an essential role in proper nervous system function. It also supports healthy red blood cell formation.
If you’re deficient in Vitamin B12, you might experience fatigue and anemia. Long-term deficiencies can lead to nervous system damage, an increased risk of heart and bone disease, and an increased risk of infertility.
Vitamin B12 is most plentiful in animal foods like meat, fish, and dairy products. You can find it in some plant-based foods, like nutritional yeast and spirulina. However, you would have to eat a lot of these foods to get a sufficient amount of B12.
To consume enough vitamin B12, it’s best to take a supplement every day. Even if you’re getting some from your diet, a supplement will help you ensure you’re meeting the recommended daily serving.
Vitamin D is another important vitamin for vegans.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. It supports calcium and phosphorus absorption. It’s also important for a healthy immune system, balanced mood, and proper muscle recovery.
Like vitamin B12, most sources of vitamin D, such as dairy products and egg yolks, come from animals. The best source of vitamin D, though, is sun exposure. When you sit in the sun, your body produces vitamin D from cholesterol.
For vegans who don’t want to spend time in the sun or don’t get out regularly, it’s best to take a vitamin D supplement. Supplementation will help you to ensure you’re getting enough each day, regardless of the weather.
Calcium is a mineral that is essential to strong, healthy bones and teeth. It also supports proper muscle function, nervous system function, and heart health.
Calcium is available in dairy products, but vegans can also get it from plant-based foods, including bok choy, kale, sesame seeds, broccoli, chickpeas, and fortified, plant-based milk.
If you’re following a vegan diet but suspect that you’re not getting enough calcium from plant foods alone (research shows that most vegans don’t, so it’s okay if you’re not), it’s a good idea to take a calcium supplement.
Zinc is another essential mineral that many vegans tend to be deficient in. You need zinc for a variety of processes, including a healthy metabolism, proper immune system function, and cell repair. Deficiencies can lead to hair loss, poor digestion, and slower wound healing.
Very few plant foods are rich in zinc. Furthermore, the zinc that is found in plant foods also isn’t as easily absorbed (at least without proper preparation techniques like soaking and fermenting) because of the presence of phytic acid, an antinutrient.
If you don’t eat animal-based foods that contain zinc, such as red meat or eggs, a zinc supplement is a good alternative. It can make up for a lack of zinc in your plant-based diet and help you avoid symptoms of deficiency.
Everyone needs iron to support normal red blood cell formation and hemoglobin (a protein found in red blood cells) formation. Without proper red blood cell formation, oxygen transportation throughout the body is negatively affected.
The most absorbable form of iron is known as heme iron. It’s found in animal foods like meat and fish. You can get iron from plant foods like leafy green vegetables, but it’s non-heme iron that isn’t as absorbable.
To improve iron absorption, it’s helpful to pair plant-based iron sources with vitamin C-containing foods and beverages (berries, oranges, broccoli, etc.). You can also support your body’s iron levels (and avoid negative health effects like anemia) with an iron supplement.
Remember, if you’re thinking about supplementing with iron, it’s important to have your levels tested first. If you consume too much iron, you could experience iron overload, which is characterized by symptoms like joint pain, chronic fatigue, and hypothyroidism.
Omega-3 fatty acids support heart health, brain health, and joint health.
There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: Alpha-linolenic acid (or ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (or EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (or DHA).
ALA is found in plant-based foods like flaxseeds and walnuts. EPA and DHA, on the other hand, are mainly found in aminal foods like salmon and sardines.
Your body can produce EPA and DHA from the ALA you get from plant-based foods. However, research shows that vegans tend to have lower levels of omega-3s than people who eat omnivorous diets.
To avoid deficiencies, it’s helpful to take a supplement that contains plant-based EPA and DHA from seaweed or algae.
Iodine is essential to proper thyroid function. Without a functioning thyroid, you may be prone to poor metabolic health, as well as symptoms like weight gain and fatigue.
Iodine is found in foods like fortified table salt and seaweed. If you don’t include these in your diet regularly, though, you can also include a supplement.
Just be sure to have your iodine levels tested first. You might end up with excessive iodine, which can also have a negative effect on your thyroid health.
Now that you know more about the best vitamins for vegans in New Zealand, what do you think? Do you need to include some more supplements in your routine?
If so, keep the list above in mind. That way, you can fill in the gaps in your diet, avoid deficiencies, and feel your best long-term.
Are you ready to buy vitamins and minerals to support your vegan lifestyle? If so, head to the Vitamins and Herbals section of our site today to start shopping.