Plant-Based diets are often promoted based on their possible health benefits, and for a good reason. Plants have been shown to contain all the necessary supplements needed for our bodies to function properly, you just need to consume it right.

For example: Different plants contain numerous kinds of vitamins, proteins, zinc, and iron. Eating a plant-based diet enhances gut health, allowing you to consume more nutrients from food that helps your immune system and reduce inflammation. Fiber may help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and it’s also good for bowel health.

Listed below are some of the essential supplements, and how we get them currently, followed by their plant based alternatives.

Essential Supplements

  1. Protein
  2. Iron
  3. Calcium
  4. Zinc
  5. Omega-3
  6. Folate
  7. Vitamin B12
  8. Magnesium
  9. Vitamin D

Natural Sources of Essential Supplements

Protein: It is found in Meat, Beef, Turkey, Chicken

Function: Muscle Building, Bone strength, hormones balance

Iron: It is found in Turkey, Beef, Beans, Lentil, Soy beans

Function: Required for Red blood cells and hemoglobin

Calcium: It is found in Milk, Yogurt, Cheese, Fortified Cereals

Function: Required for Bone Health and Strength, Blood clotting, Muscular contraction

 Zinc: It is found in Red Meat, Seafood

Function: Improves Immunity, Important for Reproduction

 Omega-3: It is found in Fish, seafood, nuts and seeds, flaxseed oil

Function: Fight Depression, Improve Brain Health, Reduce cardiovascular risks, Improve Eye health

 Folate: It is found in Leafy Vegetables, Whole grains bread

Function: Important for cardiac health, prevents birth defects

Vitamin B12: It is found in Fish, Poultry, Meat

Function: Improves the production of Red Blood Cells, Overall muscle health

Magnesium: It is found in nuts, beans, whole grain

Function: regulates nerve function, maintains blood pressure

Vitamin D: It is found in sunlight, egg yolks, liver

Function: Improves bone health, reduces joints pain

Plant Based Alternates of Supplements

  1. Protein

When it comes to following a plant-based diet, proteins are usually the nutrient that people are most worried about and for good reason. Protein’s role in the diet is difficult to overestimate. Protein is one of the most fundamental components of the human body.

It is found in every cell of the body and is involved in almost every bodily function. Its functions include muscle and bone maintenance, immune system support, and blood oxygen transport. There are enough plant-based protein alternatives too, lets know more.

Plant-Based Protein Sources

The plant-based foods mentioned below are high in proteins.

  • Tofu
  • Black beans
  • Tempeh
  • Soy milk
  • Soy burger
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Green peas
  • Kidney beans
  • Peanut butter
  • Quinoa
  • Almond butter
  • Oatmeal
  • Mushrooms
  • Edamame
  • Asparagus
  • Artichoke
  1. Iron

Iron is a nutrient that is needed for the transport of oxygen and nutrients to our cells in our bodies. Sure, we think of beef, chicken, and eggs as good sources of iron, but there are many vegetable sources of iron as well. (Cavuto Boyle, 2013)

Plant-Based Iron Sources

Following are the Plant-based alternates of Iron, which can be easily consumed.

  • Legumes
  • Grains
  • Tomato sauce
  • Collard greens
  • Prune juice
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Squash seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Brown rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Quinoa
  • Black beans

Benefits of Plant-Based Iron

Iron is a vital mineral that your body needs to maintain peak fitness. There is a common misconception that iron can only be obtained by eating meat and that iron deficiency is more common in Plant-Based eaters.

The variations in absorption between these two types of iron have been studied extensively. Even though animal, or heme, iron is consumed more quickly, it can seriously overburden your system or even cause iron toxicity. Plant, or non-heme, iron, on the other hand, is absorbed at a more regulated charge by the body.

Sluggish, regulated absorption allows you to keep your body’s iron levels at their most satisfying and balanced levels.

Fatigue, chills, brain fog, and, worst of all, iron deficiency anemia may all be symptoms of low iron levels. Vomiting, severe bellyache, and even organ failure are all symptoms of too much iron. Plant-based iron is consumed more slowly, allowing normal iron balance to be maintained, resulting in less health problems.

  1. Calcium

Our bodies are made up primarily of calcium. Of course, we know that calcium is essential for strong bones. In fact, our bones and teeth store 99 percent of the calcium we consume, which helps to maintain their structure and function.

Benefits of Plant-Based Calcium

Calcium is needed for muscle function, including heartbeat, blood flow throughout the body, vascular contraction, and dilation, intracellular signaling and hormone secretion, and nerve transmission.

Calcium aids in the formation of new bone as the bones are naturally breaking down. When your body is going through growth spurts, bone growth is particularly important.

Some other functions of calcium in our body are:

  • Transmission of Nerve Signals
  • Releasing Various Hormones
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Blood Vessel Function
  • Blood Clotting

Daily Calcium Requirement

Adults typically require 1000mg per day, with women over 50 requiring 1200mg per day.

Some people need special attention to their calcium intake because they either do not get enough calcium in their daily diets or do not absorb it well.

Among them are:

  • Women above 50 years of age
  • Athletes
  • People with Celiac Disease, Crohn’s disease, IBS
  • People following Plant-Based Diet

Plant-Based Calcium Sources

When most people think about dietary calcium, the first thing that comes to mind is dairy. Although it’s true that dairy is a decent source of calcium, it’s far from the only one! Plant-based eaters and lactose intolerants should rest easy knowing that there are many plant-based calcium sources available.

Following are some of the plant-based sources of Calcium, which are easily available across the markets

  • Spinach
  • Chickpeas
  • Sesame seeds
  • Bok Choy
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Tofu
  • Almonds
  • Tahini
  • Chia seeds
  • Blackstrap molasses

A plant-based diet should provide you with all the calcium you need on a daily basis. Include foods like leafy greens cooked to minimize oxalic acid, beans, and tahini in your diet to naturally increase calcium levels. If you’re worried about a deficiency or if you’re in an at-risk category, talk to your doctor about supplementation.

  1. Zinc

When not completely present in our daily diets, this necessary trace mineral is needed for proper immune function and cell development, and it can cause serious problems. Zinc deficiency is most common in seniors, vegetarians, and pregnant women who are devoting a large portion of their nutritional resources to their growing children.

Function of Zinc

The mineral aids enzymes in carrying out critical cellular functions such as cell division and metabolism. This means that adequate zinc levels are needed for our bodies to develop normally and our immune systems to protect us. Zinc is also linked to hormone and emotional regulation, implying more stable moods and cognitive balance.

Importance of Zinc in Pregnancy

Zinc levels in pregnant women should be monitored closely, as the mineral is critical for unborn babies’ growth and development. Prenatal vitamins are high in folate and iron, both of which are essential for the growth of the fetus. These minerals, on the other hand, reduce zinc bioavailability, or the capacity of our bodies to absorb zinc. Zinc deficiency can cause premature labor and delivery.

Daily Requirement of Zinc

Adults aged 19 and up require between 8 and 11 milligrams. Pregnant women should get a total of 11 mg, whereas lactating or breastfeeding women should aim for a total of 12 mg.

Plant-Based Zinc Sources

If you’re looking for some additional plant-based sources of zinc to add into your diet, then following are the plant-based zinc sources:

  • Chickpeas
  • Almonds
  • Chia seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Kidney beans
  • Tofu
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Oatmeal
  1. Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats with many health benefits.

They have been shown in studies to minimize inflammation, lower blood triglycerides, and even lower the risk of dementia.

Fish oil and fatty fish like salmon, trout, and tuna are the most well known sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

What is Fish Oil?

The fat or oil derived from fish tissue is known as fish oil.

Oily fish, such as herring, salmon, anchovies, and mackerel, are the most common sources. However, it can also be made from the livers of other fish, such as cod liver oil. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the most common omega-3s found in fish oil, while alpha-linolenic acid is the most common omega-3 found in plant sources (ALA).

ALA is an essential fatty acid, but EPA and DHA have a lot of health benefits.

Benefits of Omega-3

There are countless benefits of Omega-3 in our body. Although Fish is one of the best sources of Omega-3, However, it can also be found in certain plant-based foods.

  • Improve Heart Health
  • Treat multiple mental disorders
  • Help to reduce weight
  • Good for eye health
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Improves skin health
  • Important in pregnancy and lactating mother
  • Reduce the risk of fatty liver
  • Improve Depression
  • Improve ADHD in children
  • Reduce risk of asthma and allergy
  • Good for bone health

Plant-Based Omega-3 Sources

Following are some of the best plant-based sources of omega-3:

  • Chia seeds
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Algal oil
  • Hemp seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Perilla oil
  • Flaxseeds
  1. Folate

Folate is a water-soluble form of vitamin B9 that can be found in a variety of foods. It is also marketed as a supplement in the form of folic acid which is added to foods. Folate aids in the formation of DNA and RNA, as well as protein metabolism. It is necessary for the breakdown of homocysteine, an amino acid that can be toxic to the body if consumed in large quantities.

Include healthy sources of this nutrient in your diet on a daily basis, such as

  • Leafy greens
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Oranges
  • Beets
  • Quinoa
  • Mango
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Okra
  • Parsnips
  • Chia seeds
  • Ground linseed (flaxseed).
  1. Vitamin B12

Many misconceptions about vitamin B2’s unavailability in a plant-based diet are circulating on social media. This assertion is only partially accurate. Many plant-based foods, such as non-dairy milks, cereals, spreads, and nutritional yeast flakes, are naturally fortified with B12.

Since this form of fortified plant-based B12 is not bound to protein, it has a higher bioavailability. Unlike animal-based B12, which depend on the digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid in the stomach to break into smaller component.

Eating more B12-fortified plant- based foods, such as breakfast, plant based cereals and plant-based drinks is enough to meet the b12 requirements.

  1. Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that the body requires in order to remain healthy. Magnesium is needed for a variety of bodily functions, such as muscle and nerve function; maintain blood sugar, and blood pressure regulation, as well as the formation of protein, and bone.

There are many plant-based sources for magnesium, such as:

  1. Oats
  2. Almonds
  3. Cashews
  4. Cocoa
  5. Hemp Seeds
  6. Pumpkin Seeds

 

  1. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is also known as the “sunshine vitamin.” Vitamin D’s main purpose is to absorb calcium, which helps to keep the bones, teeth, and muscles healthy. People who eat a plant-based diet should spend more time outdoors in order to consume as much vitamin D as possible from the sun. Apart from sunlight, some mushrooms are a good source of vitamin D that can be easily eaten.

Bottom Line

Plants are high in vitamins, minerals, and supplements, all of which the human body needs to function properly. A nutritionist or a dietician can guide you properly to achieve the balance you seek in meeting your dietary requirements.

References

Nationalacademies.org. 2021. [online] Available at: <https://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/Nutrition/DRI-Tables/8_Macronutrient%20Summary.pdf?la=en> [Accessed 26 April 2021].

Cavuto Boyle, K., 2013. Search Page. [online] Food Network UK | TV Channel | Easy Recipes, TV Shows. Available at: <https://www.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/healthy-tips/2013/06/plant-based-sources-of-iron> [Accessed 26 April 2021].

Vegan Life Magazine. 2021. Debunking the Myth – Vegans and Vitamin B12. [online] Available at: <https://www.veganlifemag.com/debunking-myth-vegans-vitamin-b12/> [Accessed 29 April 2021].