The journey towards a vegan diet regimen, or an ethical vegan lifestyle is long and full of research!
Living in the age of the information superhighway is a boon to anyone exploring veganism. There are more resources, advice, recipes and products geared towards a vegan lifestyle now than ever before. Unfortunately, not all the information out there is right, and there are as many myths as there are facts.
A common myth that comes up about veganism is that with a vegan diet, one ends up excluding some of the most important dietary supplements that one needs. Can you take Vitamin D3 supplements within a vegan lifestyle? What about calcium? Vegan foods with calcium aside, can you take a calcium supplement and still be a vegan?’ Will you need to exclude Omega-3 supplements as a vegan? Aren’t all Omega-3 supplements derived from fish oil?
Before we hit the ground running on looking at vegan supplements in detail, *drum roll*, the answer to all of the above is YES.
This one needs no introduction. From strong bones and teeth, to cardiovascular and neurological functioning, to important functions like blood clotting, calcium is indispensable to the finely tuned gears of our wondrous bodies.
For most of us, the word ‘calcium’ brings back memories of our mothers placing a massive glass of milk on the table and not leaving our side till we finished every little drop (how many of you tipped that glass into the nearby potted plant? Confess!).
So, as a vegan, how do you ensure that you are getting adequate levels of calcium in your dietary intake from non-dairy sources? Oranges, fennel, almonds, dates and figs are some foods that do fulfill a certain part of your calcium requirement; however, it is recommended that you supplement these foods with a specialized source of calcium.
Vegan calcium supplements offer a natural, organic and non-GMO source of this vital nutrient. The calcium in these supplements comes from algae, which are the only source of plant calcium available to us. Algal calcium is also more bio-available than non-organic sources of calcium like calcium carbonate. There are vegan calcium supplements out there that are also additionally fortified with vitamin D3 and vitamin K2-7, both equally as important as calcium for bone growth and bone strength.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is crucial to a plethora of functions relating to bone health, immune health, cardiovascular and respiratory function, brain development and the prevention of osteoporosis in women. Nicknamed the ‘Sunshine Vitamin’, the natural form of vitamin D synthesized by humans when skin is exposed to sunlight is vitamin D3. However, vitamin D deficiency is shockingly common across the world. Alarmingly enough, over 80% of Indians are believed to be vitamin D deficient.
As a vegan, without access to the common animal sources of vitamin D like egg yolk, sardines and cod liver oil, it is essential that you to supplement yourself with vitamin D.
The vitamin D in vegan supplements comes from Lichens, the only plant based source of this vitamin that we know of. Lichen vitamin D3 has a high purity value and meets the daily intake recommendations. Vitamin D3 is especially recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Say ‘Omega-3’, and the rather ‘acquired’ taste of fish oil capsules comes flooding back. Contrary to popular wisdom, fish do not produce Omega-3 DHA. Fish oil supplements contain Omega-3 DHA only because of the microalgae consumed by fish. Thus, microalgae are the true primary source of Omage-3 DHA.
Vegan Omega-3 supplements contain Omega-3 DHA produced from fermented microalgae. Unlike fish oil supplements, algal oil has pure Omega-3 DHA and does not contain toxic substances like Mercury and Arsenic.
Considering the massive toll the fishing industry takes on our oceans and on our environment, vegan supplements are an ethical and sustainable way of ensuring that you get your recommended intake. Omega-3 DHA is essential for heart, eye and brain function. 70% of a child’s brain development occurs in utero and Omega-3 DHA is crucial to the development of the nervous system, thus it is recommended that pregnant women consume an Omega-3 DHA supplement during pregnancy. You can always incorporate more Omega-3 DHA into your diet with foods such as flax seeds, spinach and cauliflower.
On a final note, if you are exploring vegan food and veganism, congratulations on making a responsible choice! However, remember that as great as it is to adopt a compassionate lifestyle, it is equally important to make informed choices and to treat your body with care and responsibility.