Part V: Do Plant-Based Diets Need Supplementing?

Part V: Do Plant-Based Diets Need Supplementing?

Many of us worry about things that never crossed the minds of our great grandparents. Am I eating enough protein? Do I need more calcium to strengthen my bones? Will my iron stores get low? How can I ensure enough omega-3 in my diet? The modern supplement industry benefits from these fears of "nonexistent deficiencies." This blog series has explored the common nutrients that people suspect are inadequate in a plant-based diet and answers the question, "Do I need to take supplements if I'm eating only plants?"

Fruits, Veggies, Beans, Whole Grains, Nuts and Seeds ALMOST Have It All. Eating from a variety of plant-based foods gives us nearly all the nutrients we need for radiant health. There are, however, two nutrients that plants can't provide in sufficient amounts. Vitamin D is a hormone produced when sunlight hits our skin. If we find ourselves spending more time under a roof than out of doors, we can easily become deficient in this vital nutrient. A simple 25-hydroxy Vitamin D blood test will tell if our bodies are missing this vitamin. For patients who are severely deficient in Vitamin D, I recommend getting more sunshine, eating an oil-free, whole-food, plant-based diet, and supplementing with Vitamin D (but no more than 5,000 units daily. Never do I recommend taking 50,000 units of vitamin D at one dose).

Vitamin B-12 is produced by bacteria, not plants. The World Health Organization supports the recommendation that all people take 1,000 mcg of hydroxycobalamine (B-12) daily. As we age, our bodies become less efficient at absorbing Vitamin B-12, so a daily supplement is recommended for everyone, regardless of diet style. Individuals who drink alcoholic beverages, take strong antacids like proton pump inhibitors, or use caffeine are at increased risk of becoming Vitamin B-12 deficient due to the diuretic effect of these addictive substances.

As a physician, I keep a sharp eye on the latest scientific research into health and nutrition. It still amazes me that as our knowledge expands, we are repeatedly discovering that a simple, whole-food plant-based diet free from added oil is the best for vitality and longevity. The needs of the human body haven't changed over time.

Do plant-based diets require supplements? As long as we are in good health and are eating sufficient calories from a wide variety of whole plant foods, getting adequate sunshine for our Vitamin D, and supplementing with Vitamin B-12, our nutritional needs will be bountifully met by plants.

For additional information, click on the following links:

(1) Vitamin D Supplements Are Harmful—Sunshine and Food Determine Health

(2) Vitamin D - To Supplement Or Not To Supplement?

(3) Shining a Light on Vitamin D

(4) McDougall’s Moments: Vitamin B12

(5) 12 Questions Answered Regarding Vitamin B12

(6) Vitamin B12 - Why You Should Never Go Plant-Based Without It

(7) Vitamin B12 Deficiency—the Meat-eaters’ Last Stand

(8) Vitamin B12 Necessary for Arterial Health

(9) Vegan Paralysis

(10) Vegan Pitfalls - Dr. Michael Klaper

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Part IV: Do Plant-Based Diets Need Supplementing?

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Comments (2)

Rated 4.5 out of 5 based on 1 votes
  1. Bonnie
  1. 4.5 / 5

What about getting enough fat. I had someone tell me that since I don't eat animal products and don't use oil that I don't get enough lubricant for my joints - plus the brain needs fat. I would love to see a post in this series on essential fatty acids in plant food.

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  1. Sean Carney

Bonnie,

We are grateful for your helpful suggestion and we are giving thought to an article on essential fatty acids. Please accept our apologies for such a belated reply! We do have a previous blog that speaks somewhat, but not extensively, to your suggested topic located at http://www.drcarney.com/blog/entry/are-omega-3-supplements-necessary

Stay tuned for more to come on this topic! :-)

Sean

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