If you’re vegan or vegetarian, then you may find that you need to top up your intake of certain vitamins and minerals to make sure you are still benefiting from a healthy, balanced diet.
Vital vitamins and supplements for non-meat eaters:
- Vitamin B12 plays a key role in enabling our brain to function and our blood to flow through our bodies and is mainly found in animal products, which aren’t found in vegan or vegetarian diets.
- Zinc is responsible for regulating the body’s immune system. However, it’s only present in a few plant-based foods.
- Iron transports oxygen around our blood, which helps fuel our energy levels. The body absorbs two to three times more iron from animal sources than plant sources.
- Omega 3 is important for brain and eye function. It can be found in fish – especially fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna – so if you’re a vegetarian, who happens to still eat fish, then you should hopefully be getting your quota of fatty acids. However, it’s a different story for vegans, who should top up with supplements or other food sources, such as chia seeds and walnuts.
- Calcium helps keep our bones strong and the main source of it tends to be dairy. Plant-based sources of calcium include kale, broccoli, chickpeas, soybeans, almonds and bok choy. It’s also advisable for vegans and vegetarians to take a daily calcium supplement.
- Protein tends to mainly be linked to meat however, if you’re vegetarian or vegan and obviously don’t eat meat, you can get your protein through plant-based protein sources, of which there are many. They include tofu, lentils, seeds and whole grains.
- Vitamin B2, also known as Riboflavin, Vitamin B2 is responsible for helping convert our food into energy. Being deficient in it can lead to low energy levels and digestive problems. This nutrient is mainly found in animal proteins, but it can be found in several plant-based sources, including almonds, spinach and mushrooms.
There’s also Vitamin D to think about too…
One vitamin that hasn’t appeared in the list above, but is still something both vegetarians and vegans can be deficient in, is Vitamin D.
But it’s not just something vegans and vegetarians can be lacking in, being low in Vitamin D affects almost 50% of people worldwide.1
One of the main ways our bodies get Vitamin D is by creating it from the sun’s rays.2 It’s also present is a small selection of food and Vitamin D supplements.
Q. Is there Vitamin D in food?
Yes, there is Vitamin D in food, but not in huge amounts of food products. It’s mainly found in oily fish (e.g. salmon, sardines, mackerel and herrings), meat, liver, eggs yolks and some fortified spreads and cereals.3
Q. Why take Vitamin D?
Vitamin D does a lot of fundamental good for the body. The benefits of taking it include:4
- Promoting healthy bones and teeth
- Supporting our immune, brain and nervous systems
- Regulating our insulin levels
Not having enough Vitamin D can lead to bone deformities, such as rickets in children, and Osteomalacia (bone pain) in adults.5 Taking a daily Vitamin D supplement for part or all of the year, which has been recommended by the NHS, can help people maintain healthy Vitamin D levels.6
Q. Can you get Vitamin D from sun?
You most certainly can – vegans, vegetarians, everybody can boost their Vitamin D levels from being in the sun! When the sun’s ultraviolet B rays hit our skin, processes inside the tissue start making vitamin D our bodies to use.7
Q. Are there Vitamin D foods for vegetarians?
Yes, there are, here are some examples:8
|Food||Amount||Amount of Vitamin D (IU)|
|Low fat milk, fortified with Vitamin D
|Yoghurt, fortified with Vitamin D||6 ounces||80|
|1 whole, medium||41|
|Swiss cheese||1 ounce||6|
Q. What about diet and Vitamin D for vegans?
Certain vegan food can naturally contain and be fortified in Vitamin D too:9
|Food||Amount||Amount of Vitamin D (IU)|
|Almond milk, original, fortiﬁed with Vitamin D
|Portobello mushrooms||1 cup, sliced||634|
|Orange juice, fortiﬁed with Vitamin D
|Soy yoghurt, fortified with Vitamin D||150g||80|
|Cereal, fortified with Vitamin D||¾ to 1 cup||40|
Q. Do vegans and vegetarians need more Vitamin D?
It’s important we’re all mindful of our Vitamin D levels, especially if we have limited access to the sun. The general guidance is that our daily Vitamin D intake should be 400 to 800 IU/ 10 to 20 micrograms, vegans and vegetarians included.10
However, with Vitamin D only being present in a small amount of food, it’s important those following a vegan or vegetarian diet, aren’t cutting out Vitamin D-rich food.
If you’re planning to up your Vitamin D intake, have a read of this article, which talks you through the different types of Vitamin D that’s available, ‘Which type of Vitamin D is best for you?’
Last updated: 23 June 2020