In this article, I’ll provide a shortlist of supplements you will need to help you get off to a strong start as you begin a Whole Food Plant Based Diet (WFPBD).
Once you’ve incorporated a variety of whole, healthy plant food into your eating regimen, and get away from the Standard American Diet (SAD), some of the supplements on this list will become unnecessary.
NOTE: The following suggestions are based on adult dose recommendations.
4 Supplements You May Need on a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet
- Multivitamin: daily, for those beginning a WFPBD and for those with poor diets. Not proven to benefit those eating a healthy WFPBD, though some experts continue to recommend multivitamins to cover all nutrient needs. Make sure whatever vitamins or supplements you take are made from natural plant sources.
- B12, Cyanocobalamin: daily or weekly, 50 micrograms (mcg) per day or at least 2,000 mcg per week while on any type of diet for life. Recommendations you see in most publicly accessible sources are much lower, but most expert nutritional scientists agree upon 50 mcg daily. B12 is considered a nontoxic, water-soluble vitamin, so there are no real concerns about getting higher than recommended amounts because the body typically uses what it needs and disposes of the rest. Some doctors speculate that very high levels of B12 can interfere in metabolic processes, but only in very rare instances.
- Omega DHA/EPA: daily, 250 mg, and 1 tablespoon of flaxseed or 1-2 tablespoons of chia seeds, crushed and/or blended is recommended along with the best source of omega derived from algae to preserve and improve brain function, reduce heart disease, and extend longevity. Use these to replace potentially dangerous/contaminated forms of omega oil derived from fish.
- Vitamin D3: daily supplement, 2,000 IU (international units) is recommended unless you can acquire enough through your food and sunlight.
Ideally, have your vitamin D levels checked and monitored for optimal levels.
Now, Let’s Examine the 4 Supplements You Need on a Whole Food Plant Based Diet in Detail
Multivitamins have not been proven to benefit people who consume a healthy diet and are certainly not as healthy as the plants from which they are extracted. In fact, scientific studies contradict one another about the benefits and risks of multivitamins and many indicate that multivitamins may not be necessary at all.
However, taking a multivitamin may be a good idea if your dietary intake is questionable.
Note: For those who are pregnant, or could possibly become pregnant, consult with your obstetrician to determine
prenatal vitamin and nutrient needs, as the baby’s brain and heart development begin very early on, even before
you know you are pregnant. Children should be seen regularly by their pediatrician and should have dietary nutritional
needs assessed and monitored while adjusting to a WFPBD.
B12, cyanocobalamin is required for the proper function and development of the brain, nerves, blood cells, and many other body processes. It is crucial for preventing potentially irreversible neurological disorders.
It is not made by animals or plants. B12 is a natural vitamin produced from bacteria found in some soil, streams, and rivers. Humans used to get it from unwashed vegetables and from drinking from streams and rivers. Antibiotics and chlorine destroy it and they also kill our natural intestinal bacteria designed to process B12.
B12 can be consumed in food fortified with it like cereal, nondairy milk, and nutritional yeast, which is often richly fortified with B12 and commonly used in plant based food as a savory cheese flavor (check the nutrition label for B12 content).
More than 35 percent of the general population is deficient in B12, and that includes people who eat meat. Only those taking regular supplementation of B12 or eating enough fortified food have normal levels of B12. Most multivitamins contain about 4-6 mcg of B12. Most nutritional scientists recommend 50 mcg per day or at least 2,000 mcg per week. I realize that is a significant difference, but you can trust the true scientific experts on this.
Three types of omega-3 fatty acids are “essential” to the human body, meaning they must be acquired from our food. They are (alpha-linolenic acid) ALA, (eicosapentaenoic acid) EPA, and (docosahexaenoic acid) DHA. In their purest and healthiest form, all three of these fatty acids can be obtained from flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, algae, and seaweed. Many nutritional sources recommend fish, but our seafood supply has been damaged and many experts consider it dangerous, especially to those with cancer and to those who are pregnant.
Omega-3 fatty acids improve heart health by improving vessel dilation and blood flow which lowers blood pressure and reduces heart attack and stroke risk. They reduce joint pain associated with autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis by reducing inflammation.
Omega fatty acids provide anti-aging effects resulting in healthier and younger-looking skin and they help prevent dry eyes. They are beneficial for weight loss, decreasing asthma symptoms, reducing food allergy reactions, improving sleep, fighting depression, increasing the effectiveness of anticancer drugs, and decreasing chemotherapy effects.
They are essential for the production of sperm and sperm health. Low intake of DHA is the most common cause of low-quality sperm and resultant infertility.
The DHA and EPA intake by pregnant women should be at a level to help reduce the possibility of preterm birth and in nursing mothers for proper development of their baby. Children also need adequate amounts of DHA and EPA, essential for brain and eye development, improving memory, learning, reducing impulsiveness, and increasing the ability to focus on tasks at hand. Interestingly, all of the things just noted are common symptoms of ADHD.
The brains of Alzheimer’s patients have lower levels of DHA and EPA than older adults with normal brain function. After six and a half months of supplementation, less brain shrinkage was seen, as well as significant improvements in executive function.
Vitamin D and Other Fat-soluble Vitamins
Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins that can be stored in our fat cells for long periods. Excessive amounts are not easily cleared and can cause damage, especially in those with kidney and liver disease, and in the elderly.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus and is necessary for building and maintaining healthy bones. It helps facilitate and enhance the immune system, regulates the neuromuscular system, helps prevent cancer, and plays a significant role in the life cycle of cells.
The best vitamin D source for increased longevity and vitality is D3, which is the active form that is acquired from the sun, produced in our skin, and readily utilized. Mushrooms, nuts, seeds, shiitake, portobello, and chanterelle mushrooms are typical sources of vitamin D2.
Vitamin D is also found in food that is fortified with it such as non-dairy milk, tofu, cereal, and orange juice. If you spend a lot of time indoors or often use sunscreen and do not take any supplements, you are likely low in vitamin D. A supplement of 2,000 IUs (International Units) per day. is recommended and is an especially important practice in the winter or if you live in zones where the sun is not as abundant.
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