Vegan Vitamin & Supplement Guide

Here are the vitamins and supplements that are of particular interest to vegans.
Vegan Nutrition Supplements

One thing that vegans and omnivores have in common is neither group gets a free pass when it comes to avoiding risks of nutrient deficiencies. For vegans, a well-planned diet can go a long way toward avoiding the most common pitfalls. That means plenty of vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fruit—as well as a small amount of nuts or seeds each day. But even with all this taken care of, it can be difficult for some vegans to obtain optimal levels of a few key nutrients, especially B-12. Other nutrients that may deserve special attention are calcium, iron, and zinc. Also, while outright cases of protein deficiency among vegans are almost unheard of, some vegans may fall short of obtaining optimal levels.

Here are the most widely-used supplements for vegans:

B-12

Despite what you may have heard, the only vegan foods that reliably contain significant amounts of B-12 are foods that have been fortified with lab-cultured B-12. So unless you eat B-12 fortified foods every day, you run the risk of developing a deficiency. B-12 deficiencies are associated with a host of health problems, including irreversible nerve damage that can occur before symptoms are noticed. The easiest way to avoid B-12 deficiency is to take a B-12 supplement containing at least 1000 micrograms of B-12 two or three times a week, like the products we’ve linked to below. Since B-12 has no toxicity there’s no risk of overdoing it. And a $10 bottle of Twinlab’s B-12 tablets will last you more than a year.

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Iron

Significant amounts of iron are found in a number of vegan foods including leafy green vegetables, seaweed, and some types of beans. That said, it can be a challenge for some people, especially women of child-bearing years, to obtain sufficient iron. You can easily meet these needs with iron supplements, or through a multivitamin that includes iron.

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Calcium

The good news for vegans is that most soy and almond milk contains more calcium than cows’ milk. Drinking these products daily and regularly eating tofu prepared with calcium sulfate can go a long way towards ensuring adequate calcium intake. That said, anyone concerned that they might not be taking in sufficient amounts of calcium can turn to a vegan supplement. Some calcium supplements are not vegan, since they’re made from oyster shells. But vegan brands are available, and our favorites are below.

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Multivitamins

If you follow a well-planned vegan diet, chances are you’re getting abundant levels of most of the nutrients that a multivitamin provides. But as we’ve seen, a few nutrients (particularly iron, B-12, zinc, and iodine) may fall through the cracks. So a vegan multivitamin can be a great way to ensure that your vegan diet avoids any needless nutritional pitfalls. Zinc in particular is hard to obtain in sufficient amounts through vegan sources, so for many vegans it’s reason enough to choose a multivitamin.

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Vitamin D

Vitamin D is primarily obtained through three sources: by exposing your skin to direct sunlight, fortified cows’ milk or vegan milk, and supplements. It’s not a vitamin that appears naturally in many foods, and most people in temperate climates will not have adequate sunlight exposure in winter months to ensure sufficient vitamin D levels. So a supplement can be a great way to obtain sufficient vitamin D. Unfortunately most supplements on the market source their vitamin D from animal sources. But vegan versions are available (they use D2 rather than the far more common D3.) Here are a few brands made with D2.

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Omega-3 and DHA

Many people think the essential Omega-3 type of fat is only available from eating fish. But there are several rich vegan sources: walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, and to a lesser extent hemp and pumpkin seeds. But even if you’re getting plenty of Omega 3s, your body may not be properly converting these fats to provide sufficient levels of DHA. So consider Deva’s Vegan Omega-3 DHA supplement. Also be aware that if you choose to purchase flax oil, it’s crucial to keep this oil refrigerated as it otherwise quickly goes rancid.

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Kids

Good news: kids aren’t left out in the cold when it comes to vegan multivitamins. These brands provide crucial nutrients for a child’s key developmental years.

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Prenatal

If ever there was a time in life when supplements can make a crucial difference, it’s during pregnancy. Deva’s prenatal multivitamin is specifically formulated to address the nutritional needs that arise during pregnancy.

Protein Powders

Great for anyone on a workout regimen requiring a convenient and balanced source of easily-digested amino acids.

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