One of the hottest topics on any vegan blog or social media account always seems to be supplements. There’s this bizarre belief in the community that being vegan means you’re going to have subpar nutrition to some degree, that you’ll be lacking in your diet without animal products.
It truly seems to permeate a large part of the community as a whole. Some people take supplementing as gospel, as if vegans who don’t supplement are “doing it wrong,” or are even unhealthy.
Let’s clear up these misconception, because this issues goes right to the heart of what veganism is all about at the end of the day: living naturally and compassionately.
Supplements Are Designed For People on a Normal Western Diet
The vast majority of all vitamin and mineral supplements on the market were designed for people who regularly consume animal products, not vegans. This is because nutrient deficiency is an epidemic in the west.
The truth is, many new vegans go into this lifestyle change far too wary and paranoid. The second they feel “off” (which could very well be psychosomatic to begin with), they rush out to see a doctor and get bloodwork done for the first time in their adult lives.
Lo and behold, they discover that they are deficient in iron, potassium, magnesium, copper, and even vitamin D.
“I have to start taking supplements,” is the general response to this. But what they don’t realize is, it takes years of poor diet for vitamin and mineral deficiencies to form.
The vast majority of these issues occur because of eating the typical Western diet, not because of veganism, and certainly not because of being vegan for a few weeks or even a couple months. It’s just simply not biologically possible.
You have to remember, those iron supplements weren’t designed for people not eating meat. They were designed for people chowing down on steak and bacon every day.
Those protein supplements? They are almost all marketed to people who routinely ingest upwards to 30 or 40 grams of protein PER DAY.
Vitamin D deficient, eh? It’s not because you’re no longer drinking milk, it’s because you haven’t been exposed to more than 10 minutes of direct sunlight in the past year.
You will rarely fine a long-term vegan with nutrition problems. This is because not only do fruits and vegetables in and of themselves carry complete nutrition, but vegans have cleaner, more efficient digestive tracts, meaning they are absorbing the nutrients they put into their body.
You can eat all the supplements and food you want, but if your system is clogged up or malfunctioning, it’s all useless.
Veganism is Our Optimal Diet
Unless you are eating nothing but corn chips and rice, you are likely getting far more nutrition than your average meat and dairy eater.
This holds true even for the “taboo” nutrients like B12 and iron.
Did you know that B12 deficiency is actually more common in people with typical Western diets than vegans? In fact, upwards to 40% or more of the entire population is B12 deficient.
This is because B12 happens to be very susceptible to heat, and gets destroyed with even moderate cooking.
Most of the B12 in “meat” gets destroyed long before it ever touches your plate, and the little bit that does survive is mostly unusable, as we are biologically designed to extract nutrients from plants, not meat.
Iron, sodium, and protein are some of the only nutrients we can extract properly from meat. The rest of it gets cooked away or is too foreign for our bodies to do anything with.
You have to keep in mind in all matters of nutrition, that veganism is our optimal diet. So if you are eating even a relatively healthy vegan diet, you are getting far more optimal nutrition than you ever have at any other point in your life.
It’s important that you know that if you suddenly start losing hair, getting brittle nails, dry mouth, or any other strange symptom shortly after going vegan, it is not because of nutritional issues. It takes months for the effects of nutrient deficiencies to set in, if not years.
In other words, if you go vegan today and then three weeks from now you start losing hair in the shower more than you are used to, please don’t blame lack of bacon.
If anything, going vegan will invariably make your hair healthier, you skin smoother, your digestion better, your sleep sounder, and your energy more abundant.
What often happens is the process of taking on a new diet stresses people out, and stress is actually one of the major causes of symptoms like short-term hair loss, digestion problems, brittle nails, etc.
Sometimes, symptoms like these can also be signs of detox. When you take yourself off refined sugars and the highly acidic meat and dairy products, your body feels comfortable enough to begin “flushing” itself out. This can result in the lymphatic system filtering out some nasty business, which in turn stresses your body out. You may even develop temporary acne or bowel issues.
Detox symptoms typically last less than a week. Keep in mind though that a diet full of bleached grain, processed sugars, and the like, will not allow your body to detox much. If you encounter any bizarre ailments after going vegan, I would blame system shock and stress before detoxing or nutrient deficiency.
The bottom line is, it typically takes months or even years for nutritional deficiencies to form. Most people have been deficient in key nutrients since they were teenagers. Don’t jump to conclusions and rush out to get bloodwork just because you went vegan last month. The chances you are suddenly “missing” a nutrient on a vegan diet that you were somehow getting on a typical Western diet is extremely slim
After all, on a typical Western diet, where do you think you get the bulk of your nutrients anyway? Big Macs? Frozen waffles? Cream cheese? Bacon? Pizza? Pork chops? Chicken wings? Hoagies? Soda?
If you felt “fine” just eating whatever, you’re going to feel amazing being vegan. Because you weren’t ever getting any nutrients from this garbage. We’re talking little to no nutritional value whatsoever.
Most of what constitutes the typical Western diet is empty carbs and acidic animal protein chains (aminos). Actual vitamins and minerals are few and very far between.
You were getting your nutrients from the occasional pieces of lettuce, whole grains, peas, carrots, berries, bananas, juices, and nuts that happened to enter your body out of happenstance.
In other words, you were always getting your nutrients from the “vegan” parts of your diet anyway, because the rest of it is barely even food to begin with, and has all the nutritional value of paper.
You do realize that grass has more nutritional value than most of what is in a typical Western diet, right? There’s no reason to believe you are suddenly going to get “nutritional deficiencies” by going vegan. There’s no scientific or biological basis for it.