6 important nutrients to supplement a plant-based diet
02/09/2021 / By Winnie Martin / Comments
6 important nutrients to supplement a plant-based diet

Plant-based diets have been proven to have more health benefits compared to meat-based ones. But some people who eat vegan may still have a poor diet for two main reasons.

First, some foods may be labeled as suitable for vegans but do not actually contribute to overall wellness. There should be an emphasis on non-processed foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seeds and nuts if a vegan diet seeks to promote health.

Second, vegans do not supplement their diet with necessary nutrients. Some adults who follow a vegan diet lack a number of key nutrients their bodies need when they undergo advanced nutritional testing. Cardiologist Dr. Joel Kahn explained that this lack of nutrients represents the depleted soils and indoor lifestyles prevalent in this current period. These result in a uniformly low intake of vitamins and other important nutrients.


Kahn recommended six nutrients that those following a plant-based diet should supplement – with the first three especially important for overall health.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 or cobalamin is an important nutrient for the blood, nerves and brain. It plays a key role in regulating homocysteine, a building block of protein. Excessive homocysteine in the blood is associated with heart disease. Vitamin B12 is produced by gut bacteria in animals and is ingested when we eat animal products. Washing animal produce also washes off the bacteria responsible for producing this nutrient.

A 2013 paper reported that 50 percent of vegans and 10 percent of vegetarians lack vitamin B12. Kahn recommends a dosage of 2,500 micrograms once a week or a daily intake of 250 micrograms. He added that there is no known risk to taking large amounts of vitamin B12 – whether as a liquid, sublingual or chewable form.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is known as a nutrient for bone health, but some studies have shown its positive effects on blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Exposing yourself to direct sunshine for 20 to 30 minutes every day can provide adequate vitamin D. But for those who don’t have time to go out, oral vitamin D supplements are a necessity. Vitamin D3 is the most commonly recommended supplement, but it is derived from animal sources. Thankfully, vegan versions of vitamin D3 are not available.

British researchers noted in a 2010 study of over 65,000 England residents, those following a vegan diet had lower vitamin D levels compared to meat-eaters. According to Kahn, a standard daily dose of 800 IU vitamin D is recommended. However, he personally prescribes 2,00 IU a day – more than double the standard dose.


Omega-3 is an important brain nutrient: Deficiency of this key brain compound has been linked to increased mental problems. Fish oil is a rich source of omega-3, but it is not an option for vegans. Kahn recommends a supplement with combined eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) sourced from algae. These two omega-3 fatty acids contribute to heart and brain health. He also recommended foods rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which serves as the precursor to both EPA and DHA. Some examples of ALA-rich food include ground flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds and leafy greens.

Kahn advised vegans to take 250 milligrams of omega-3 supplements each day. He also warned against foods rich in omega-6 that contribute to inflammation. These omega-6-rich foods are mainly comprised of oils from corn, soy, safflower, sunflower and vegetable oil blends.


L-carnitine helps in bringing fatty acids across membranes to trigger energy production in the heart and other muscles. It is mainly found in meat and as expected, vegans and vegetarians have low levels of this nutrient. Instances of heart disease in people lacking L-carnitine have been reported, although these are rare.

Kahn recommended vegans – especially those who are athletic or suffer from heart disease – to take 500 milligrams of this nutrient every day. However, L-carnitine has been linked to the production of the compound trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). Excessive levels of TMAO are detrimental for the arteries and can lead to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. In case high TMAO levels have been detected in the blood, Kahn advised to avoid meat and stop taking L-carnitine supplements.


Taurine is the most abundant amino acid in the body. It is an important nutrient to ensure that the body’s cardiac immune system, insulin action, hearing and electrolyte balance function properly. In fact, a 2008 study listed down the positive effects of taurine when it comes to different cardiovascular ailments.

Taurine is typically found in meat and seafood and is also added as an extra ingredient in energy drinks. As vegans do not consume meat and seafood, they may have low levels of taurine. Khan recommended taking 500 milligrams of supplements daily to augment the body’s taurine content.

Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2 or menaquinone is an important nutrient for bone health. It directs calcium absorbed by the body to the bones rather than the arteries: Vitamin D bolsters vitamin K2’s bone-strengthening properties. While pure vitamin K2 is difficult to find in plant foods, the body converts vitamin K1 in dark leafy greens to vitamin K2 – albeit how much of it is converted is uncertain.

According to Kahn, our bodies produce less vitamin K2 as we age so supplementing this nutrient is very important. Vitamin K2 supplements are available which provide a daily dose ranging from 50 micrograms to 100 micrograms. Fortunately, this vitamin can be found in fermented plant-based foods such as sauerkraut and vegan kimchi from cabbage and natto or Japanese fermented soybeans.

Sticking to a vegan diet may restrict your possible dietary sources of nutrients, but supplements can fill the nutrient gaps. Ultimately, it is best to ask a medical professional before taking any dietary supplements.










100% Fresh Food News, Right at Your Fingertips!
Find out everything you need to know about clean and healthy eating when you sign up for our FREE email newsletter. Receive the latest news on all the top superfoods, recipes, natural remedies, diets, food tips, and more!
Your privacy is protected. Subscription confirmation required.

Related Articles
comments powered by Disqus

100% Fresh Food News, Right at Your Fingertips!
Find out everything you need to know about clean and healthy eating when you sign up for our FREE email newsletter. Receive the latest news on all the top superfoods, recipes, natural remedies, diets, food tips, and more!
Your privacy is protected. Subscription confirmation required.

Popular articles