Going Vegan? Find Out the Essential Vitamins & Supplements for Vegans
Thinking about going vegan? Whether it’s a concern for animal welfare, the planet or your own health, there are many reasons people follow a vegan diet. If you’re new to veganism or interested in trying it out, talk to your healthcare provider to make sure you have a plan for getting all the essential vitamins you need from your diet and a plan to add supplements if required. Follow along on this quick guide to vitamin supplements for vegans.
What is Veganism?
The vegan diet is similar to vegetarianism in that you avoid eating animal meat. But, vegans also avoid eating or using any animal product including dairy, eggs, honey, or animal-based gelatin. Many vegans also avoid using any product that is created from animals including wool, silk, leather clothes and certain skin-care products and soaps.i
Following a well-planned vegan diet can be healthy with potential benefits.ii
However, you won't automatically be healthier just by cutting out meat. You need to ensure you're getting enough fluids, and protein while avoiding too many high-sugar and fatty foods.
Vegan Vitamins and Supplements to Consider While on a Vegan Diet
You need to pay special attention to your nutrient intake as a vegan because it can be difficult to get enough of the vitamins and minerals that are usually provided by animal products. Make sure you're eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, dairy alternatives, nuts and whole grains, and focus on getting these vitamins below in your diet:
Iron is important for producing new blood cells and carrying oxygen throughout your body. Iron found in non-meat sources can be harder to digest, but foods high in vitamin C can help absorb iron. For more iron in your vegan diet, eat beans, broccoli, wheat, and tofu. Many cereals are also fortified with iron and other vitamins.iii
This mineral helps strengthen your bones and keeps them healthy. To get enough calcium, make sure to eat soybeans, dark leafy greens, and fortified alternative milks or juices. Calcium is also available as a vitamin supplement for vegans if you need it.iii
Vitamin D is another essential vitamin for everyone. It helps your body absorb calcium and supports bone growth. Your body does produce vitamin D itself if you’re exposed to sunlight. But if you don't get outside enough, especially in the colder months of the year, you may need to try a supplement. You can also look for fortified products like milks, juices, and some cereals.iv
This B vitamin helps produce blood cells. But B12 is hard to find in plant products as it's mainly in fish, shellfish, meat, and dairy products. You can try eating more vitamin B12 fortified foods like soymilk, cereals and nutritional yeast or look for a supplement with B12 and other needed vitamins such as folic acid.iv
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These important fatty acids support your heart and brain function, and you can find them in flaxseed meal or flaxseed oil. You can also look for fortified products or omega-3 fatty acid supplements.iv
While it's not a vitamin, it's important to get enough protein in a vegan diet. Good sources of protein include ingredients like beans, soy products, nuts, seeds, and cereals (oats, wheat, rice). It's important to eat different proteins to create amino acids that can help repair your cells.v
Other Supplement Concerns
You may find that you need to take vitamin supplements when following a vegan diet. However, some vitamins use animal sources to supply some of the nutrients and minerals in their supplements. So read those labels carefully!
For example, many omega-3 fatty acid supplements come in the form of fish oil pills. A vegan would want to avoid those, and be on the lookout for other tricky ingredients like:
- Whey: a common ingredient that's a dairy product
- Shellac: a glaze derived from beetles found on some hard candies or sprinkles
- Carmine/cochineal: an ingredient in food coloring that comes from beetles
- Casein: a milk protein found in protein shakes and other productsvi
Plan and get nutritional support
Veganism can be a fulfilling lifestyle if you plan accordingly and take vitamin supplements when you need them. Just like any diet, it's important to get enough of the right nutrients. Read more about vitamins and nutrition from Centrum, investigate ingredients, and find the right multivitamin for you.
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i. Vegan Diet: How to Get the Nutrients You Need. American Academy of Family Physicians. https://familydoctor.org/vegan-diet-how-to-get-the-nutrients-you-need/ii. Vegan Diet: How to Get the Nutrients You Need. American Academy of Family Physicians. https://familydoctor.org/vegan-diet-how-to-get-the-nutrients-you-need/iii. Vegan Diet: How to Get the Nutrients You Need. American Academy of Family Physicians. https://familydoctor.org/vegan-diet-how-to-get-the-nutrients-you-need/iv. Vegan Diet: How to Get the Nutrients You Need. American Academy of Family Physicians. https://familydoctor.org/vegan-diet-how-to-get-the-nutrients-you-need/v. Vegetarian and vegan diets Q&A. NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/vegetarian-and-vegan-diets-q-and-a/vi. Vegan Diet: How to Get the Nutrients You Need. American Academy of Family Physicians. https://familydoctor.org/vegan-diet-how-to-get-the-nutrients-you-need/