If your family has recently transitioned to a plant-based diet, you might be noticing changes in the way you feel. Many of these changes will be positive. A lot of families find that incorporating more whole foods into their diets and eliminating processed animal products leaves everyone feeling healthier. You might be off to a great start.
There are a few important things you need to pay attention to when you transition the way you eat. Your previous menu may have accommodated all of your dietary needs, but when you switched to a vegan lifestyle, you took some foods off the table. Here’s what you need to know about the vitamins that might be missing from your plate.
What Should I Know About Nutritional Needs?
There are no vitamins that the human body can do without. Recommended daily values for each vitamin and mineral aren’t suggestions. They’re scientifically calculated averages for what the human body needs to survive without illness or complication. No one can afford to skip out on the things their body needs to function properly.
Most of the vitamins your family needs are easily accessible through fresh fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods. If your family eats a vegan diet, these things probably aren’t in short supply. You’re likely serving up several portions of healthy, whole fruits and vegetables with every meal. You probably don’t think twice about the amount of vitamin C you’re getting from citrus or bell peppers or the amount of vitamin A you’re getting from carrots and sweet potatoes.
Vegans won’t have difficulty meeting most of their needs through a well-balanced diet, but there are still many important needs to address.
What Vitamins Does a Vegan Need?
The only substantial source of vitamin B12 is animal products. Red meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, dairy products, and eggs contain the vitamin B12 your body needs to stay healthy. When these foods are permanently off the menu, this can pose a problem. Vegans can be healthy while eliminating these foods, but it does take some clever negotiating to incorporate more vitamin B12 into your family’s diet.
What Is Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
Vitamin B12 deficiency can have serious consequences on your family’s health. Vegan families need to be especially careful about vitamin B12 deficiency. The majority of vegans are deficient in vitamin B12, with studies finding that anywhere between 60% and 92% of vegan participants have at least a mild deficiency. If your family eats a strictly vegan diet, it’s safe to assume you aren’t meeting your recommended daily value of vitamin B12 through diet alone.
What Are the Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
Vitamin B12 deficiency can be serious. If you believe a member of your family is experiencing symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, treat the situation with urgency.
- Heart palpitations
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Feeling faint
- Generalized weakness
- Mood changes
- Yellow tinted skin
- Pins and needles feeling in limbs
The symptoms tend to develop gradually. They may start as a desire to take more naps until they eventually progress into significant changes in behavior and the way the body works. Don’t wait for the symptoms to progress before intervening.
How Much Vitamin B12 Should Children and Adults Have Daily?
Your child’s vitamin B12 needs may vary from standard recommendations, especially if they’re currently deficient in vitamin B12. Your child’s pediatrician may recommend that your child use more than the minimum amount of vitamin B12 to correct a deficiency. Always follow your pediatrician’s guidelines.
- Newborn to 6 months old - 0.4 micrograms daily
- 7 to 12 months old - 0.5 micrograms daily
- 1 to 3 years old - 0.9 micrograms daily
- 4 to 8 years old - 1.2 micrograms daily
- 9 to 13 years old - 1.8 micrograms daily
The standard recommendation for adults is2.4 micrograms daily. This amount can change with lifestyle factors and circumstances. Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers may need substantially more vitamin B12 to maintain their health and the health of the baby.
How Can I Incorporate More Vitamin B12 Into a Vegan Diet?
Vegan families will find that dietary sources of vitamin B12 are very hard to come by. You may have to use vegan vitamin B12 supplements.
Vegan Sources of Vitamin B12
Fortified foods like plant milk, bread, and breakfast cereals often contain vitamin B12. These foods can be vegan. You should always double-check the ingredients list or see if the packaging specifically states that the product is vegan.
Fortified nutritional yeast contains vitamin B12. If everyone in your family had several tablespoons of fortified nutritional yeast every day, they’d be able to meet their vitamin B12 needs. This isn’t always practical or feasible, so it’s best not to rely on nutritional yeast as your sole source of vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 Supplements
Many vegan families choose to use vegan vitamin B12 supplements to help their families meet their daily needs. Hiya’s children’s chewable multivitamin contains plenty of vegan, eco-friendly, non-GMO vitamin B12 for children on plant-based diets.
What Should I Know About Vitamin D?
The body can make some of its own vitamin D3 with sun exposure, but it’s not a good idea to go outdoors without sunscreen. That’s why so many of the foods we eat are fortified with vitamin D. Almost all sources of vitamin D are animal-based.
How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?
Vitamin D requirements don’t change as much as other vitamin requirements. They slightly increase with age, but almost everyone will need the exact same amount.
- 400 IU daily for children up to 1 year old
- 600 IU daily for people up to 70 years old
- 800 IU daily for people over 70 years old
Are There Dietary Sources of Vitamin D for Vegans?
Small amounts of vitamin D occur naturally in vegan meat substitutes like mushrooms, but plant-based sources usually aren’t sufficient. Instead, look for fortified plant-based milk alternatives. Many soy, rice, or nut milk products are fortified with vitamin D. Check the label and choose a variety that includes vitamin D.
If you don’t regularly use plant-based milk alternatives in your household, vegan vitamin D supplements can help to fill in the gaps. Our children’s chewable multivitamin contains more than the daily minimum recommended value of vegan vitamin D for kids.
What Else Do Vegans Need To Stay Healthy?
In addition to keeping an eye on vitamin B12 intake, vegan families should also ensure they’re getting enough healthy fats and minerals that most people would otherwise get through a diet, including animal food sources.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Your body needs omega-3 fats such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to stay healthy. Omega fats are a part of the membrane in every cell within the human body.
They also work to promote healthy arterial function, blood pressure levels, and blood clotting to support your body’s natural defenses against heart disease and promote overall wellness. Omega-3s are known to support the brain and central nervous system, which means
Many people get their omega-3 fats from fish or fish oil supplements. However, walnuts, hemp seeds, flax seeds, and hemp seed oil are also good sources of omega-3s.
Most Americans meet their daily calcium requirements by consuming dairy foods. Calcium is especially important for growing children. It promotes bone health, preventing conditions like rickets. It’s also important for older adults who may be more prone to loss of bone density with age.
Dairy isn’t the only place to find calcium. Vegan families can get calcium from almost all leafy greens, like bok choy. Flax seeds, chia seeds, many beans, and soy-based foods will also contain calcium.
Plant-based sources of calcium contain less calcium per serving than dairy. Consider making your portion sizes a little bigger to help make up the difference. It’s never a bad idea to toss an extra serving of greens onto your plate.
If you can’t get enough calcium from food sources alone, you may want to try calcium supplements to help you reach your daily goal of this important nutrient.
Although meat is commonly regarded as the most abundant source of iron, there are plenty of whole fruits and vegetables that contain substantial amounts of iron. Vegan foods like spinach, tofu, soybeans, legumes, lentils, and sweet potatoes contain iron. Incorporate some iron rich foods into every meal. If you can’t get enough iron from your food, an iron supplement can also help you get enough iron.
Iron is an essential nutrient for heart health and general wellness. Iron helps support your red blood cells to ensure your body gets enough oxygen, among other benefits.
However, iron supplements are generally not recommended for children. Consult your pediatrician if you are concerned about your child’s iron intake or levels.
Other vitamins that are also essential to general wellness are vitamin K, selenium, and vitamin C. To make sure you and your family are getting enough vitamins, you may want to employ the assistance of a registered dietitian or someone who is educated in dietetics. A professional can also help you make sure you’re getting enough probiotics and maintaining an adequate iodine intake.
Keeping Your Vegan Family Healthy
Vegan families can be just as healthy as families that eat any other type of diet. It just requires a little more consideration and planning. You might want to restructure your meal plans, increase your portion sizes of foods like leafy greens, and incorporate some daily supplements.
Hiya is the perfect solution for children in plant-based households who need a little extra help to meet their daily vitamin requirements.