When talking about nutrients essential for living vibrantly — especially for the long term — it’s nearly impossible to zero in on just a few.


Vitamin B12, for example, is critical for the synthesis of red blood cells.


Magnesium supports your metabolism, energy, and protein production.


Vitamins C, D, K, A… each play a critical role in keeping you healthy, energized, and happy.


And the list goes on.

But for plant-based eaters, there are a few essential nutrients you rarely hear about. Often overlooked because they’re either available in some amount through plant foods, or because they aren’t the hot nutrient of the moment.


Today we’re going to dig into four nutrients you’re probably not thinking about, but should.  


(Side note: Complement Essential contains the 8 hard-to-get nutrients for plant-based eaters — like vitamins B12, D3, and K2. I’m not including all of those here because most of them are already on the top of people’s mind.)


1. Creatine: The Unseen Energizer


Creatine — affectionately referred to as “muscle candy” by many strength and performance athletes — plays a role in health and longevity far greater than making you look shredded.


Creatine is stored in the muscles where it’s used for energy production.


As muscle mass and strength decline with age, increased creatine (with or without resistance training) can increase aging muscle mass and strength. A recent meta-analysis of studies looking at fall risk in aging adults found that creatine may decrease the risk of falls and subsequently, reduce the risk of

bone fractures.


But the latest research isn’t just looking at muscle mass and strength.


A 2022 meta-analysis exploring the effects of creatine supplementation on memory performance found that creatine improved measures of memory, with the most significant improvements coming in older adults aged 66-76.


Challenges for Plant-Based Eaters


We get creatine two ways:


  1. Our bodies synthesize about 1-3 grams of creatine through the liver, pancreas, and kidneys
  2. Omnivorous diets provide additional creatine from meat and fish. Red meat contains about 1 to 2 grams of creatine per pound (2.2 kg), and fish contains about 1 to 4.5 grams per pound, with variation depending on the type of fish.


The result is that most omnivores get roughly 2-4 grams of creatine per day, and vegetarians and vegans about half that, missing out on many of the benefits of higher creatine levels.


How to Get It On a Plant-Based Diet


As noted above, our bodies naturally synthesize some creatine, but unfortunately, no plant foods naturally contain creatine.


The best approach for plant-based eaters to increase creatine levels is through high-quality creatine monohydrate supplementation.


Creatine monohydrate is one of the most used and well-researched supplements available, and high-quality, pure creatine monohydrate has been shown to be safe and effective for long-term use.


2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Heart of Vitality


While Complement has been beating the omega-3 drum for years, focusing on DHA and EPA is still uncommon.


Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA, are crucial for the health of almost every cell in your body, making their daily consumption essential for feeling your best. They play a significant role in everything from brain health to managing your cholesterol and supporting your nervous system.


A key benefit of omega-3s, one that we're only beginning to fully understand, is their ability to manage low-grade, systemic inflammation, which is associated with numerous chronic conditions, including Alzheimer's disease. Some of the strongest research, however, shows evidence of their effectiveness in preventing and addressing heart disease.


Challenges for Plant-Based Eaters


A plant-based diet is rich in omega-3s, but the most common sources (like flax or chia seeds) provide ALA, which the body must convert to EPA and DHA. And unfortunately, our bodies are very inefficient in converting ALA.


Research suggests that less than 1% of ALA is converted into “physiologically effective levels” of DHA or EPA. A blood test can diagnose how well you convert ALA into DHA and EPA; the vast majority of people cannot do so adequately.


How to Get It On a Plant-Based Diet


Focus on flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts for ALA, which can be converted into DHA and EPA in small amounts.


However, the most effective way to increase DHA and EPA on a plant-based diet is through an algae-based supplementation.


Side note: Fish are rich in omega-3s because they eat algae and marine plants, which is the root source of high-quality DHA and EPA omega-3s.


3. Choline: A Nutrient with Many Benefits


Choline is so overlooked that it wasn’t until 1998 that the Institute of Medicine acknowledged it as a required nutrient.


Because it has a similar structure, choline is often grouped with B vitamins. But it is neither a vitamin nor a mineral.


Choline supports several critical functions in the body, including brain health, liver function, and metabolism.


It is particularly important for maintaining the structural integrity and signaling functions of cell membranes.


Choline is also crucial for the synthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in memory, mood, muscle control, and other brain and nervous system functions.


Challenges for Plant-Based Eaters


Your liver can produce small amounts of choline, but most people get the majority through food.


Choline is primarily found in high concentrations in animal products, such as eggs, liver, and meat, posing a challenge for those of us following a plant-based diet.


How to Get It On a Plant-Based Diet


While not at the levels of some animal products, there are a number of good plant-based sources of choline:


  1. Soybeans (Cooked, 1 cup): Contains about 107 mg of choline
  2. Tofu (Firm, 1/2 cup): Contains approximately 35 mg of choline
  3. Quinoa (Cooked, 1 cup): Contains around 43 mg of choline
  4. Broccoli (Cooked, 1 cup, chopped): Contains about 63 mg of choline
  5. Cauliflower (Cooked, 1 cup, chopped): Contains about 48 mg of choline
  6. Brussels Sprouts (Cooked, 1 cup): Contains about 63 mg of choline


Supplements are also an option. Some people most at risk of a deficiency include endurance athletes, postmenopausal women, and pregnant women. High doses of supplemental choline may raise blood levels of TMAO, potentially adverse to cardiovascular health. Always consult your healthcare provider — checking a blood level of TMAO when taking these is a consideration.


4. Selenium: The Immune Booster


Selenium is a trace mineral that plays a crucial role in protecting the body from oxidative stress and infections, thanks to its antioxidant properties.


It supports immune function, thyroid health, and plays a role in DNA synthesis.


Adequate selenium intake is essential for thyroid hormone

metabolism, which regulates growth, energy, and metabolism.


Challenges for Plant-Based Eaters


The selenium content in plant-based foods can vary significantly depending on the selenium content of the soil where the plants are grown. This can make it challenging for those on a plant-based diet to consistently get enough selenium, especially in regions where the soil is low in selenium.


How to Get It On a Plant-Based Diet


There are a handful of plant foods rich in selenium, most notably, Brazil nuts.


Just one or two Brazil nuts can provide the daily recommended intake.


Other plant-based sources include whole grains, brown rice, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, and spinach, although in much smaller amounts.


Note: Selenium is included in Complement Essential precisely because of how impactful it can be for your vitality and long-term health. Research suggests that vegetarians and plant-based eaters are at a particularly high risk of deficiency.


A Mindful Approach to Longevity and Vitality


A plant-forward diet is a nutrient powerhouse, and by simply eating mostly plants, you’re filling your body with powerful vitamins, minerals, and nutrients for living a long, healthy life.


But as it goes with any diet, you should also be mindful of areas of weakness due to lifestyle, access to certain foods, or personal needs.


With a little thoughtfulness and planning, you can ensure you’re meeting your needs to enjoy sustained energy, reduced.