The 7 Critical Nutrients Not to Ignore in a Plant-Based Diet

And how to get them natural through your food.

It’s no secret that the plant-based diet is a nutrient powerhouse.

If you look at the nutritional profiles of the most common foods in a particular diet, the clear winner, across the board, is fruits and vegetables (including nuts, seeds, legumes, and the like).

But still, there are a few hard-to-get nutrients for vegans, most talked about, Vitamin B12.  

But as much as some plant-based advocates hate to admit it, B12 is not the only hard-to-get nutrient.

Below I break down seven hard-to-get vitamins and minerals not commonly found in abundance in plant foods, and how to get them through whole foods.

1. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 helps to keep the body's cells healthy and helps to create your DHA (the genetic material found in your cells).

While you may theoretically be able to derive B12 from dirty vegetables, when you recognize the critical importance of B12, you realize that method is quite risky.

You can, alternatively, maintain adequate B12 stores by intentionally eating foods fortified with the vitamin — nutritional yeast is a great example, but many common breads and cereals are also fortified. This, of course, is just another form of supplementation, but one that some people prefer.

Girl sitting down to eat algae to get her plant-based omega-3s DHA and EPA.

2. DHA/EPA Omega-3s

Omega-3’s play a key role in nearly every cell of your body. As such, a daily intake of these essential fatty acids is critical for optimal functioning — from regulating your cholesterol levels to powering your nervous system.

While most vegans are getting plenty of “ALA” Omega-3 Fatty Acids through foods like chia and flax seeds, there are two other critical forms of Omega-3s that many of us don’t get enough of — DHA and EPA.

Our bodies can actually use ALA to synthesize other fatty acids, like EPA and DHA (great news for everyone), but it’s a common misconception among vegans that this is enough.

The challenge is that our body is extremely inefficient at deriving DHA or EPA from ALA. Research suggests that less than 1% of ALA is converted into “physiologically effective levels” of DHA or EPA.

So where do we get more? Seaweed is the first place to look, but because seaweeds are so low in fat, they provide relatively low amounts of EPA and DHA on a per gram basis. You would have to eat an extraordinary amount of seaweed every single day in order to reap a sufficient amount of Omega-3’s.

3. Iodine

Your body relies on iodine in order to create essential thyroid hormones. Without those, you would be unable to properly regulate metabolism and other vital functions. This process is even more important for pregnant women and children because a growing human relies on thyroid hormones for skeletal and brain development.

Iodine exists seaweeds like kelp, hiziki, kombu, or wakame, but may not be adequately consumed as part of a typical, Western plant-based diet.

Aside from these marine plants, there are land-grown iodine sources like cranberries and potatoes, but beware: the iodine content largely depends on the cultivation practices, soil quality, and the iodine levels in that particular plot of land.

4. Zinc

Our body utilizes zinc in a variety of ways. In fact, the mineral helps stimulate the activity of more than 100 enzymes. It also supports proper immune function, plays a role in ensuring normal growth, enables processes like gene regulation, and even helps neurons communicate, thereby enabling memory formation and learning.

Zinc is available from a wide range of plant-foods, including legumes, tempeh, and tofu, along with many nuts, seeds, and grains. It can also be derived from a variety of fortified products, like plant-based milks, many cereals, and even certain meat-substitutes.

It makes this list, however, because most of these foods that are rich in zinc also contain phytates, which hinder our bodies’ ability to absorb zinc. Some medical researchers suggest that, as a result, vegans and vegetarians may need to increase their zinc intake by as much as 50% in order to compensate for the diminished absorption.

5. Selenium

Selenium is important to help protect against neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer and Parkinson’s disease, mood changes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, as well as reproductive problems in men and women.

Unfortunately it’s not in many plant foods (thanks, soil depletion!), but it is in one, and in abundance: brazil nuts.

If you want to get selenium this way, one nut day is the right amount for most people.

6. Magnesium

Magnesium helps with absorption of other minerals (like Iodine), improves brain function, and aids with sleep. In fact, it's a hot mineral right now because we're learning so much about the benefits.

Magnesium can be found in a lot of common plant foods like avocados, legumes, and even bananas, but once again, soil depletion is holding us back. Some studies suggest that up to 80% of the U.S. population — vegans and omnivores alike — are deficient in the nutrient.

But once again, soil depletion means is leaving many of us deficient, vegans and omnivores alike.

7. Vitamin K2

Like the Omega-3’s, Vitamin K comes in multiple forms. One of those, K2, is critical to enable your body to properly manage calcium, moving calcium away from soft tissues, like your brain and your heart, and towards your bones and teeth.

There are only a few plant-based foods rich in K2. The notable examples are certain fermented foods, like natto, a Japanese dish made from soybeans (which is a pungent and polarizing dish even in Japan).

Fermented foods like miso and tempeh are not high in K2. That’s the challenge with relying on foods for bacterially derived compounds: There’s no real way to know how much you might be consuming in any given bite, and you may go days or weeks without adequate intake.

With foods making it tough, is there a better option?

The common claim that vegans can get every nutrient through plant foods is absolutely true.

But that doesn't mean it's easy.

To get adequate amounts of the nutrients above you'd need to drastically shift your diet to focus on seaweeds or fermented foods, and that just covers a few of them.

Possible? Sure. But not practical.

So where does that leave you?

Unfortunately, some vegans choose to ignore the science and assume that their weekly plant-based sushi will be enough, only to start feeling crappy over time and eventually giving up on the diet.

The other option is to supplement.

Gasp! I know... the naughty s-word we don't like to use...

Because up until recently, supplementing typically meant taking a standard multivitamin filled with nutrients you already had in abundance through your food and admitting defeat.

That’s why we created a completely new option.

It's a simple way to get each of the six hard-to-get nutrients (plus B12), with none of the extras you're already getting from plants.

It’s a solution designed specifically for vegans, by vegans, to solve the hard-to-get nutrients problem once and for all.

Introducing Complement Plus.

Everything you need and nothing you don't.

Complement Plus is a smart multivitamin, tailored specifically for vegans, with just the hard-to-find nutrients in a plant-based diet like B12, DHA/EPA Omega-3s, K2, D3, Zinc, Iodine, Selenium, and Magnesium, and nothing else.

We're hyper-focused on the latest science around supplementing, so you can rest easy knowing that you're getting everything you need in the right amounts.

Plus, we're also the only vegan vitamin that publishes our third-party test results right on our website. Claiming third party testing is one thing, publishing the results for you to see is full transparency.

Ready to get started?

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The benefits.

Increases Energy

Methylcobalamine and adenosylcobalamine forms of B12 are combined in Complement Plus to support energy levels.

 

Better Sleep

Selenium may help you fall asleep faster, and magnesium can work to improve sleep quality.

 

Sharper Focus

Omega-3s and B12 can contribute to overall brain health, improving memory and focus.

 

Heart Health

DHA+EPA, K2, magnesium and D3 all work together to support a healthy cardiovascular system.

 

Enhance Immunity

Vitamin D, zinc, and selenium have all been shown to help boost immunity and fight against certain diseases.

 

Regulates Metabolism

Iodine supports the thyroid function, while zinc and magnesium contribute to regulating the metabolism..

What They're saying

MATT FRAZIER

Author of No Meat Athlete and Co-Founder of Complement

"Complement Plus provides all the essential nutrients missing from many plant-based diets, without all the unnecessary extras in most multivitamins — so that my family can eat plant-based and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'm setting myself and my children up for long-term health."

JOEL KAHN, MD

America's Healthy Heart Doc

"Complement Plus is the first capsule to include only the key nutrients that can be difficult to adequately obtain from plants, but are critical to ensuring your plant-based diet is protecting your long-term health and well-being."

JULIEANNA HEVER, MS RD CPT

The Plant-Based Dietitian™, author of The Healthspan Solution and Plant-Based Nutrition (Idiots Guide)

"Finally, the supplement I’ve sought after for fifteen years to add to my arsenal of recommendations. Complement Plus contains all of the notable nutrients, in optimal quantities, and without any excess. It is the perfect complement to a health-promoting plant-based diet."

Why do Olympic athletes and plant-based doctors love it so much?

Olympic Athlete + Nutritionist
Doctor + 43-Year Vegan

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Loved by thousands.

 

Over 57,000 bottles shipped to 16,214+ happy vegans and plant eaters

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Complement Plus
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15% OFF

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Everything you need to know about supplementing a plant-based diet.

 

Everything you need to know about supplementing a plant-based diet.

 

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