Essential Vitamins for Good Health

2 Jun 2020

@abillion profile image
abillion

Vegan Nutrition

Our bodies require vitamins to stay healthy and function normally. These include fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K, and water-soluble vitamins C, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxal), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate), and B12 (cobalamin).

Do Note: Everyone’s vitamin requirements are different. They vary based on age, gender, pre-existing medical conditions, lifestyle, and the environment you live in. Therefore, consult your local health regulatory authorities or licensed nutritionist for personalized recommendations. Now, let's look at each of these vitamins briefly.

Water and Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Vitamins are either water and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins (C, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12) dissolve with water in the small intestine, but aren't stored in the body and are quickly excreted through urine. Hence, they must be replenished daily.

Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), on the other hand, are stored in one's liver and turn into adipose (fat) tissue when not used. Hence, they deplete much more slowly.

Water Soluble Vitamins 

Water-soluble Vitamins

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

Converts food into energy (cellular respiration)

 

Maintains healthy hair, skin, muscles, and brain and nerve function

 

  • Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for adults: Men: 0.9-1.2 mg, Women: 0.8-1.1 mg
  • Food sources: Whole grains, fortified bread, cereal, pasta, brown rice, legumes, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, oatmeal, soy milk, watermelon, and acorn squash

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

Converts food into energy (cellular respiration)

 

Maintains healthy skin, hair

 

Ensures good blood circulation and well-functioning nervous system

 

  • RDI for adults: Men: 1.2-1.7 mg, Women: 1.1-1.3 mg
  • Food sources: Green leafy vegetables (asparagus, spinach), broccoli, enriched whole grains and cereals, and almonds

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Maintains healthy skin, hair, blood, and nervous system

 

  • RDI for adults: Men: 16-19 mg, Women: 13-14 mg
  • Food sources: Nuts and legumes, enriched and fortified grains and cereals (rice bran, wheat bran), barley, rice, mushrooms, potatoes, and peanut butter

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)

Creates lipids, neurotransmitters, steroid hormones, and hemoglobin

 

  • RDI for adults: Men: 5 mg, Women: 5 mg
  • Food sources: Whole grains, legumes, mushrooms (especially shiitake), avocados, potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and brewer’s yeast

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxal)

Helps lower homocysteine levels (concentration of amino acids in the blood) to prevent arterial damage and blood clots

 

Helps convert tryptophan to niacin and serotonin (a monoamine neurotransmitter) to promote higher quality sleep, better appetite, and mood

 

Aids in red blood cell production

 

Enhances cognitive abilities and immune function

 

  • RDI for adults: Men: 1.3-1.7 mg, Women: 1.2-1.5 mg
  • Food sources: Starchy vegetables (asparagus, spinach), peas, okra, celery, legumes (especially chickpeas), soy products, wheat bran, walnuts, flax, sesame, most whole grains, bananas, avocados, and non-citrus fruits

Vitamin B7 (Biotin)

Metabolizes fats, carbohydrates, and protein to energy

 

Synthesises glucose and fatty acids

 

Crucial to maintaining healthy bones and hair

 

  • RDI for adults: Men: 30 mcg, Women: 30 mcg
  • Food sources: Seeds and nuts, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, whole grains, soybeans, and legumes

Vitamin B9 (Folate/Folic Acid)

Creates DNA and other genetic material

 

Aids in cell division and creation

 

Offsets breast cancer risk among women who consume alcohol

 

Helps prevent brain and spine birth defects when taken early in pregnancy

 

  • RDI for adults: 200-400 mcg
  • Food sources: Fortified grains and cereals, asparagus, brussels sprouts, dark green leafy vegetables, oranges, orange juice, peanuts, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, lentils, and chickpeas

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

Helps lower homocysteine levels (amino acids) to prevent arterial damage and blood clots

 

Assists in cell generation and body's absorption of folic acid

 

Aids in red blood cell and DNA generation and regulation

 

Protects nerve cells and encourages their normal growth, guarding against dementia and degenerative diseases

 

  • RDI for adults: 2-2.4 mcg
  • Food sources: Fortified cereals, fortified soy milk, and nutritional yeast.

soy milk with soy in background

Do Vegans have vitamin b12 deficiency?

While many people can have a B-12 deficiency, vegans (and vegetarians) are at higher risk of it, given the most reliable dietary sources of vitamin B12 are found in animal-derived products.

Some plant-based individuals who consume folate-rich foods, such as legumes, leafy greens, and citrus fruits, in their diet may mask vitamin B12 deficiency. This is because high folate levels can reduce the extent of anemia caused by vitamin B12 deficiency (pernicious anemia). They may experience subtle signs of neurological damage (weakness in limbs, fatigue, and weakness) indicating a vitamin B12 deficiency, or seem generally healthy. This makes early detection of vitamin B12 deficiency more difficult.

Given that vitamin B12 is stored in substantial amounts in the liver until it's needed by the body, it takes approximately 3 to 5 years to completely exhaust it. Hence, vegans who don't take vitamin B12 supplements or vitamin B12 fortified foods may only observe anemia years after making the dietary change.

If you're following a plant-based lifestyle, you're encouraged to consume vegan vitamin B12 supplements to ensure your B12 stores aren't depleted.

It's important to note that B12 deficiency doesn't affect only vegans and vegetarians but is more widespread among the general population than we think. So, vegan or not, everyone is encouraged to take a B12 analysis test to make sure they've sufficient B12 intake.

Some of the best-rated Vitamin B12 Supplements on abillionveg are: Solgar Sublingual Vitamin B12 Supplement, Deva Vegan B12 With Folic Acid, and B6 and Saturn B12 Cardio Essential.

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

Acts as an antioxidant that neutralizes unstable molecules which can damage cells

 

Helps make collagen, a connective tissue

 

Plays an important role in skin structure and wound healing

 

Maintains and supports blood vessel layers

 

Bolsters the immune system to fight against illnesses and infections

 

Promotes healthy teeth and gums

 

Helps the body absorb Iron

 

  • Avg. RDI for adults: Men: 40-90 mg, Women: 30-75 mg.
  • Food sources: Citrus fruits, Kakadu plums, acerola cherries, broccoli, bell peppers, spinach, strawberries, cantaloupe, baked potatoes, and tomatoes

Fat Soluble Vitamins 

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Vitamin A

Helps the body's immune system defend against illness and infection

 

Aids in bone growth

 

Keeps the skin and lining of some parts of the body, such as the nose, healthy

 

Lowers risk for some cancers (diets rich in carotenoids may lower lung cancer risk. Foods rich in lycopene, a bright red carotenoid, may lower prostate cancer risk)

 

  • RDI for adults: Men: 700-900 mcg, Women: 600-750 mcg
  • Food sources: Green leafy vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables, cantaloupe, apricots, and mangoes

Vitamin A compounds are split into two groups, preformed vitamin A (Retinoids) and provitamin A (Carotenoids). Preformed vitamin A is the active form of the vitamin and is found in animal-derived foods. Provitamin A is a precursor of vitamin A found in plant-based foods which are then converted into the active form in your body. On a plant-based diet, you can obtain an adequate intake of vitamin A simply through consuming foods rich in carotenoids.

Vitamin D (Calciferol)

Helps maintain normal calcium and phosphorus levels, which develop and strengthen bones

 

Helps form teeth

 

Maintains bone health and reduces the risk of hip fractures among the elderly

 

Aids neuromuscular functioning

 

  • RDI for adults: 2.5-15 mcg, depending on the sun exposure you receive
  • Food sources: Fortified plant-based milk, orange juice, mushrooms, plant-based yogurt, soy beverages, and fortified cereals

Direct sun exposure is the best source of Vitamin D. The sun's ultraviolet B (UVB) rays interact in the skin with a protein called 7-DHC, converting it into vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol, the active form of vitamin D.

However, people living in regions with low sun exposure may not be able to receive adequate vitamin D3 by just stepping outside, especially in winter months when the UVB radiation is low. This lowers calcium absorption and adversely affects the musculoskeletal system, making bones and teeth brittle in the long run. To avoid these outcomes, you can consider taking Vitamin D supplements after consulting your physician.

Some of the best-rated vitamin D supplements on abillionveg are: Doctor's Best Vegan D3, Dulzura Natural Vitamin D2, and MRM Vegan Vitamin D3 2,5000 IU.

Vitamin D

Vitamin E (Alpha-Tocopherol)

Acts as an antioxidant, neutralizing free radicals that can damage cells.

 

Helps form red blood cells

 

Helps the body use Vitamin K for blood clotting

 

Protects vitamin A and certain lipids from damage

 

Diets rich in vitamin E may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease

 

  • RDI for adults: 15 mg
  • Food sources: Plant-based oils (wheat germ, sunflower, soybean, safflower, rapeseed, olive), almonds, sunflower seeds, collard greens, beet greens, spinach, asparagus, red bell pepper, peanuts and peanut butter, mangoes, avocados, pumpkins, fortified breakfast cereals, and fruit juice

 

Coconut Oil Neutral Taste Coconut Oil reviewed by @maesti

Vitamin K

Activates proteins and calcium essential to blood clotting

 

May reverse the calcification of arteries (the buildup of calcium which narrows blood vessels, leading to the development of heart disease)

 

Essential to bone health and may help prevent hip fractures

 

  • RDI for adults: Men: 120 mcg, Women: 90 mcg
  • Food sources: Phylloquinone (vitamin K1): Spinach, boiled collard greens, turnip greens, broccoli. Menadione (vitamin K2): Natto

 

Natto Natto Kotsubu Yuzu reviewed by @morethanveggies

We all need both Phylloquinone (K1) and Menadione (K2) for healthy physiological functions. Phylloquinone is primarily found in green, leafy vegetables, while Menadione is present in animal and fermented foods as they are from bacterial origin. The human gut also produces long-chain menadiones in sufficient amounts, so you don't have to consume animal products.

However, if you're concerned that you've insufficient intake of Menadione (K2) on a plant-based diet, try eating natto. It's a fermented soybean that boasts an incredible 10mcg of Vitamin K-2 per gram. You only need a few grams to meet your RDI. Other vegetable sources include boiled collards (530mcg of Vitamin K per half cup) and turnip greens (426mcg per half a cup).

All this may be a lot to take in, but to ensure you're getting your required vitamins, eat a wide variety of plant-based foods from various food groups. You can go about this is by following the plate method we mentioned in our Vegan Nutrition Guide.

Vegan Plate

For further information, visit Pick Up Limes' informative guide for tips and insights when organizing your vegan healthy plate.

Stay tuned for our second article on Essential Nutrients for good health!

. . .




Suggested Articles

See all

Responses

Post
@freedomforanimals profile image
This information is extremely helpful in ensuring all essential nutrients are included in a vegan diet.
REPLY
@elodiee profile image
elodiee2 YEARS AGO
This is great information, for anyone interested in this you can also use the website cronometer.com (for free) to help u track ur vitamin intake . I use it occasionally to check that I’m getting enough of everything but done start over focusing on it , but would def recommend especially if ur starting to change ur diet!
REPLY
@yolkyb profile image
yolkyb2 YEARS AGO
Very informative!
REPLY