Vegan health: What nutrients are you missing?

As a vegan, do you ever wonder if you’re getting all the vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients your body needs for optimal health. If you don’t, you should. We talked with New York based registered dietician Sharon Richter about the nutrients vegans need to tune into and the supplements that vegans should take to avoid deficiencies.
As a vegan, do you ever wonder if you’re getting all the vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients your body needs for optimal health. If you don’t, you should. We talked with New York based registered dietician Sharon Richter about the nutrients vegans need to tune into and the supplements that vegans should take to avoid deficiencies.

Who is Sharon Richter?

Sharon Richter, MS, RD, CCN, is a registered dietitian in private practice in Manhattan. She holds a Master’s and Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. Prior to working in private practice, Richter was the director of nutrition for The Tiger Schulmann’s Karate (TSK) organization. While working for this organization Richter developed a nutritional supplement line, conducted nutrition seminars, and developed a nutrition certification program for all instructors. She sits on the medical/executive board for Healthination, Gojee Seed, WlTS (wellness in the schools) and Sports For Youth.

Q&A with registered dietician Sharon Richter

Miso Vegan: What nutrients are vegans at risk of being deficient in and how can this affect their health?

Sharon Richter: These are the nutrients that vegans are at risk of being deficient in:

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  • Vitamin B12 — Helps protect the nervous system. Without it, some may experience fatigue and tingling in the hands and feet.
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  • Omega-3 fatty acids — Can help prevent heart disease and neurological problems.
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  • Vitamin D and calcium — Both help to support healthy bones. Deficiency in these nutrients can result in rickets and osteoporosis.
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  • Iodine — Helps support healthy thyroid function, which regulates the metabolism.
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  • Iron — Contributes to the production of blood cells. Iron deficiency can result in anemia.

Miso Vegan: Generically, what supplements should vegans be taking every day?

Sharon Richter: As vegans tend to be deficient in one or more of the above nutrients, they can consider supplementing with a vegan-friendly brand. You should of course always consult with your doctor before beginning a supplement regimen.
 
Miso Vegan: Not all supplements are vegan-friendly, what common ingredients are derived from animal?

Sharon Richter: The most common ingredient you’ll find is gelatin, which is often used to make hard and soft capsule supplements. Other ingredients include honey, bee pollen, casein, and cochineal.
 
Miso Vegan: Can vegans get omega-3 supplements that are not derived from fish oil?

Sharon Richter: Chia is a great whole food source of pure omega-3. It’s perfect to add on top of salads, or even mixed with water or your favorite fruit/vegetable juice. I like Greens+ Organic Chia Seeds. Another great source of omega-3 is flaxseed. It contains ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which is an omega-3 essential fatty acid. Like chia, flaxseed is also perfect for sprinkling on salads and other foods. I like Spectrum Naturals Organic Ground Flaxseed. You can also find brands that make supplements specifically for vegans, such as Barlean’s Organic Oils – Total Omega 3-6-9 Vegan Swirl. 
 
Miso Vegan: Please provide specific name brands of vegan-friendly supplements.

Sharon Richter: I recommend Greens+ and Solaray.

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