We, vegans, get so many nutrients from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Still, there are certain vitamins that are specific to animal products. Although these vitamins, can be found in a small quantity in plant-based food, these are not enough.
So what can we do in this situation? Personally, I respect all lives, so I just take vegan supplements, instead of killing innocent animals. If you have friends of relatives who aren’t vegans, they probably told you that you wil get sick if you don’t eat meat because you are missing a ton of nutrients. Which is not true.
I’ve raised my kids vegan so I did a lot of research on this topic to not put their health in danger. That’s why for this post, I didn’t want to give you only one opinion. So I reached out to 26 vegan bloggers, and asked them:
What is the most important supplement that you rely on as a vegan? And why?
It really is very simple to be in the best shape of your life as a vegan.
Keep reading to see what other long-time vegans had to say.
Heather Russell – The Vegan Society
When I started working for The Vegan Society, I realized that I could simplify and improve my supplementation routine by taking the charity’s VEG 1 supplement. This product was designed for vegans, by vegans and carries the Vegan Trademark. It allows a selective approach, complementing a well-planned diet. Also, each purchase supports the charity’s work.
Vitamins B12 and D, iodine, and selenium are nutrients that deserve special attention in relation to vegan diets and supplementation. VEG 1 contains these nutrients plus some extra B vitamins, which help to ensure that the B12 can do its job.
Since I live in the UK and I don’t get regular safe sun during spring and summer, I ensure that my diet includes year-round vitamin D supplementation as per government guidelines. VEG 1 contains a good dose of vitamin D3 derived from lichen.
The iodine and selenium contents of plants vary according to their growing environments and tend to be low. Taking VEG 1 is a reliable way of guaranteeing that my body has a consistent supply of these minerals.
Ginny McMeans – Vegan in the Freezer
I take Jarrow Formulas Menthyl B12 Cherry lozenges. It’s vegan and mentholated which is good for absorption. This is a low dose one but you can buy them in larger doses.
B12 deficiency sneaks up on you and it hits hard. You can have enough B12 in your system for a very long time, years even, but when the deficiency starts to show up it increases very quickly. The earliest sign is fatigue but it can end up with dementia.
There is no reliable plant-based source for vegans to get enough Vitamin B12 in their diets but luckily there are many products that are fortified with B12 now. Along with a supplement, you definitely will have your bases covered.
Nava Gross Beginsky – Yum Vegan Lunch Ideas
The most important supplement I take, and the only one I take regularly, is B12. B12 is incredibly important because it protects our nervous system and keeps our DNA material inside its cell. It also helps to prevent anemia.
Without b12, red blood cells can become too big and not function properly when there is a b12 deficiency. It’s especially important for vegans to be aware of their b12 intake because it’s a vitamin that mainly only exists in animal products.
Because it is also a vitamin that many people have trouble absorbing (meat-eaters and vegans alike), it is added to a lot of everyday foods including a lot of cereals, milk made from some plants, nutritional yeast and more. But in case you aren’t getting enough from fortified sources or you just don’t want to have to worry about keeping track, it’s good to regularly take a supplement.
Keep a lookout for symptoms which include tiredness, weakness, and general lethargy. If a B12 deficiency affects the nervous system, symptoms such as tingling in the hands and feet may occur. It’s best to get a blood test from time to time to ensure you have adequate levels. Here’s an in-depth guide on vegan blood tests.
Rose Lee – Cheap Lazy Vegan
The most important supplement I take as a vegan is B12 because, in today’s day and age, we cannot get a reliable source of B12 from plant sources.
I take it to maintain my health, in order to make sure I am fit and well.
Victoria Moran – Main Street Vegan
My go-to supplement is Complement-Plus.
I started with Complement, yummy gummies providing vitamin B12 (gotta have that); vitamin D3 (I avoid the sun); EPA and DHA, algae-based, fully formed Omega-3 fatty acids. (A test had revealed that I had optimal ALA from flax and walnuts, but my EPA and DHA, the Omega-3s the body can use, were almost non-existent.)
Complement was great, but with input from cardiologist Joel Fuhrman, MD, the company added Complement-Plus, with the above nutrients plus iodine, magnesium, selenium, vitamin K2, and zinc — altogether a vegan’s nutrient dream team. Vitamin K2, needed for blood clotting, bone and heart health, is in animal foods and fermented products, notably soyfood, natto — not in my diet. Immune-boosting zinc is found in pumpkin and chia seeds, beans, and quinoa, but it’s still tough for vegans to get the recommended levels.
I turned 70 in March, feel fabulous, and part of the credit goes to Complement-Plus.
Bree Sheree – Bree’s Vegan Life
As a vegan, the most important supplement that I rely on is vitamin B12. I am unable to get B12 from the food I eat in adequate amounts, on a consistent basis.
On some days I get my B12 intake from B12-fortified foods such as nutritional yeast. I love to sprinkle nutritional yeast on rice, potatoes, and pasta (see also ‘ Vegan Italian Pasta Dinner Ideas’ ), but it isn’t something that I consume every single day.
So on days when I am not eating B12-fortified foods, I rely on a B12 supplement in the form of a pill.
Katy Malkin – Learner Vegan
The most important supplement I rely on as a vegan is Vitamin B12. It is such a key nutrient, as it keeps our nerves and blood cells healthy; it even helps to create DNA!
Unlike other vitamins, a B12 deficiency can take years to show and do slow damage to your body without you knowing it. The eventual symptoms of a deficiency can be recurring mouth ulcers, pins, and needles, weakness, and irritability – something that none of us want to experience!
It’s also a vitamin that vegans struggle to get sufficient amounts from food. That’s because it comes from bacteria, that livestock accumulates throughout their lives, and non-vegans then eat. Farmers also supplement their animals’ feed.
As vegans, we can get our daily dose of Vitamin B12 through certain cereals, milk, and bread (see also our article on bagels) – they will state that they are fortified on the box. I also highly recommend nutritional yeast, which has a nutty and cheesy taste – perfect for sauces and toppings.
For fantastic B12 levels, I suggest 3 portions of fortified foods per day or a supplement of 10mcg per day.
Julianne Lynch – No Sweat Vegan
Without a doubt, the most important supplement I take on a vegan diet is B12. In a nutshell, B12 is a vitamin found in the dirt rather than plants. Because of today’s high standards of sanitary living conditions, B12 is the only vitamin we can’t get through diet alone.
Our bodies can’t make it and being deficient in B12 can have devastating effects on us. (Omnivores can get it from meat and dairy because animals ingest dirt, but even those B12 levels are waning as soil nutrients deplete. Therefore, many omnivores also have low B12 levels and should also consider supplementing).
Some people can get B12 from fortified foods like nutritional yeast, but where I live, the nutritional yeast is not fortified with B12. I take a daily multivitamin (see also ‘Naturelo Whole Food Multivitamin Review‘) that contains some B12, but because our bodies can have trouble absorbing it, I take an additional 2000 MCG (µg) per week.
Jill Nussinow – The Veggie Queen
The one nutrient that most vegans know that they need is Vitamin B12 since it is essential and it is only found in animal foods. There is some interest in the fact that Vitamin B12 might be bioavailable in fermented foods but since that has not yet been proven, it makes sense to take a supplement. There a variety of supplements available.
You can build up a store of Vitamin B12 which is why I don’t take a supplement daily. I also eat fortified nutritional yeast which often has B12 in it, and they do fortify some plant-milks with B12.
Although the current recommendation is a supplement of 250 mcg (micrograms) per day, I do not do that. I take a 1000 mcg sublingual tablet when I remember which might be a few times a month.
Jenn Sebestyen – Veggie Inspired
There are several supplements that most vegans and plant-based eaters should consider taking, but the ones I personally take on a daily basis are vitamin B12 and iron.
B12 is made neither by plants nor animals but is a bacteria found in soil. It is a nutrient that keeps our nerves and blood cells healthy. It can take years to become deficient, but if that happens, there can be irreversible nerve damage…something I’m not willing to risk.
Iron is a mineral important in making red blood cells. These cells carry oxygen throughout your body. Iron deficiency can leave you feeling tired and lethargic. While there are plenty of plant foods that contain nonheme iron, it’s not as easily absorbed and used by the body as heme iron found in animals. Not all vegans may need an iron supplement, but I personally notice a big difference in my energy levels if I’m taking it on a regular basis.
Floradix Iron + Herbs is the brand I take. It is in liquid form and contains both of these supplements. I would suggest consulting with your doctor before starting on any supplements to ensure you get the most beneficial dosages for you.
Dassana Amit – Veg Recipes of India
I am a vegetarian. For both vegetarians and vegans, one of the essential nutrients missing in their diets is Vitamin B12.
I add the nutritional yeast flakes to salads, to sandwiches (see also our guide to eating vegan at Jimmy John’s), scrambled tofu, guacamole, mashed potatoes, sauteed veggies and sometimes just sprinkle them over a bowl of curry and rice or on lentils.
It is an important part of our meals and we take about 2 to 3 teaspoons of nutritional yeast per person every few days.
Carleigh Bodrug – Plant You
The most important supplement I rely on as a vegan is Vitamin B12. This is because Vitamin B12 is not produced by plants, so the only way of getting it is through a supplement or fortified foods.
Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal foods or bacteria. Animals get this B12 by eating foods covered in bacteria, or the bacteria that lines their intestines.
Prehistoric people never got B12 deficiency because they didn’t have the hygiene standards we have today. Their food had enough bacteria on its surfaces, and subsequently, B12 even if they were eating a plant-based diet.
As we’ve evolved to clean, wash, and cook our foods, our risk of B12 deficiency has increased.
Eating a plant-based diet without supplementing B12 poses a very serious risk of B12 deficiency and can cause anemia, nerve damage, neurocognitive changes, and even paralysis. Every single person who is vegan or vegetarian should be taking a B12 supplement.
The most reliable way to ensure you are getting adequate B12 is through a daily oral supplement. The average person needs 250 micrograms per day. Vegan foods like cereal and almond milk are often fortified with B12, but to me, the risk of deficiency is too great.
Alena Schowalter – Nutriciously
There’s no question that every vegan definitely relies on vitamin B12 supplementation to fulfill their need for this critical nutrient. B12 is produced by microbes, not animals, and thanks to proper sanitation, most microbes and bacteria aren’t in our food or water supply anymore. That’s why we need to get it via fortified plant-based foods or taking a tablet regularly.
Another often overlooked nutrient vegans should look out for, and possibly supplement with, is iodine. In many parts of the world, there isn’t enough of this mineral in our soil, so the produce we eat doesn’t necessarily cover our needs — some types of algae contain iodine but not everyone loves their taste and the iodine content can vary widely which makes this an unreliable source. There’s iodized salt but you’d have to eat way above the RDA for sodium to meet your iodine needs that way.
Unfortunately, our food system is set up to work for meat-eaters (fortifying animal feed with B12 and other nutrients) so that the majority of the population can most likely meet their minimum requirements, but we as vegans should definitely get a thorough blood test to see which supplements make sense to add to our individual diet.
Christy Morgan – Blissful and Fit Chef
I actually didn’t start taking vitamins or supplements until I was already vegan for a decade. I ate very healthfully, but when I went to have my bloodwork done, there was only one vitamin I was deficient in.
Everyone knows it’s important to take vitamin B12, but almost just as important is vitamin D. Since we spend so much time indoors, vitamin D deficiency has become a big problem for all people, not just vegans.
When you have blood work, make sure they check all your vitamin levels. If you are feeling tired and fatigued you could be simply low on vitamin D.
Larisha Campbell – Make It Dairy Free
The most important supplement to us is b12.
There are many health benefits to making sure that your B12 levels do not fall in deficiency ranges – such as energy levels, improving mood, and helping with red blood cell levels.
Since most B12 sources are not vegan, it was important to us to find a vegan b12 supplement.
Brittany Berlin – The Banana Diaries
I wanted to share my favorite supplement is pea protein.
I use unflavored pea protein to add not only to smoothies, but to soups, beans when I cook them, oatmeal, and even baked good recipes.
It’s a wonderful way to get an extra boost of plant-based protein, and using unflavored, straight up pea protein allows it to be used in both sweet and savory recipes.
Shena Jaramillo – Peace and Nutrition
The most important supplement I rely on as a vegan is B12.
This is a supplement that is found naturally only in animal products. It is very difficult to get B12 the vegan diet without supplementation or fortified products.
B12 is a critical water-soluble vitamin necessary for nerve function and DNA synthesis.
Zoe Pickburn – Eats Leeds
The supplement I most rely on as a vegan is iron. Vegan staples like lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, and cashew nuts do contain iron, but young (menstruating) women need around 14.8mg of iron per day, or they are at risk of developing an iron deficiency or anemia.
Even when you include those iron-rich vegan foods in your diet, it can be hard to make sure you are getting enough iron without red meat, so I take a supplement. I try to make sure my iron supplement includes vitamin C as well, as that increases iron absorption in the body.
When I don’t take my iron supplement I feel lethargic and tired, and I feel more alert and energetic when I do take it.
Mary Ellen Valverde – VNutrition and Wellness
As a vegan, I rely on my B12 supplementation because there are no naturally occurring vegan foods that contain B12. Vitamin B12 is needed for the production of red blood cells and DNA as well as the functioning of our nervous systems.
While some foods can be fortified with B12, it’s easier and more reliable to take a supplement such as methylcobalamin or cyanocobalamin which are 2 absorbable types of B12.
Another important supplement vegans need is vitamin D, especially in the winter because we don’t get as much sun exposure. Vitamin D is not found in most plant-based foods unless the food is fortified so supplementation can help keep our levels up. Vitamin D plays a role in bone health, immune function, and cell growth and development.
As a vegan, you should look for a plant-based source of Vitamin D such as D2 because D3 is mainly animal-derived. Please note: It’s important to get your blood work checked to see if your levels are low before supplementing.
Shawna Clapper – Stress Less Be Healthy
I’ve been vegan for the past 8 years (vegetarian for 21 years), and am raising my three girls vegan.
The most important supplement I rely on as a vegan is a vitamin B12 supplement. Vitamin B12 is one of the only nutrients that you can’t get on a vegan diet unless using a supplement or ensuring to get enough foods fortified with B12 into your diet.
Some foods that are fortified with B12 are soy milk and nutritional yeast, but with raising kids, you can’t always ensure they get enough. That’s why I choose to supplement with a liquid B12 vitamin and just add it to their smoothie for the day!
Kate – The Green Lot
The most important supplement I rely on is definitely Vitamin B12, as it’s crucial for the health of the nervous system and it cannot be find in plant-based sources naturally.
They create it artificially in labs and add it to certain foods, like morning cereals or nutritional yeast. I don’t consume any fortified foods, so I choose the pill form.
Basil Larios – PlantX
When it comes to supplements I am always looking for something that multi-tasks since I’m not much of a fan of taking 4 or 5 pills a day. It’s also been difficult to find a multivitamin that carries vegan B12 sources. If I just wanted a B12 vitamin it would be one thing, but finding a great vegan multivitamin that fits all my specific needs has started to feel like a mission.
Abundant Earth’s Whole Food Multivitamin has been one of those rare finds for me. Abundant Earth has B12 that is sourced from methylcobalamin, a mushroom blend, while also containing a powerhouse of digestive support with three different probiotics.
There’s been a very clear improvement to my day since I’ve started taking them and it’s helped me get more work done while stopping my afternoon energy crashes. Plus it is 100% organic.
Cindy Thompson – Trimazing
As a vegan, I use a vitamin B12 supplement. Vitamin B12 is made by a bacteria, which used to be abundant in soil and on plants. Humans and animals got their vitamin B12 by eating these plants, however, modern farming (see also ‘Organic Farming Statistics‘) and hygiene practices have all but eliminated this source.
Animals have this bacteria in their digestive tract and B12 infiltrates animal-based foods, but these animals are also commonly supplemented with vitamin B12 in their feed due to this soil bacteria deficiency. This supplement is important for everyone, whether vegan or not, due to the loss of vitamin B12-producing bacteria in our soil.
Vitamin B12 is important for neurologic health and prevents a specific anemia (megalobastic), which can lead to permanent neurologic damage.
Judy DeLorenzo – A Life Well Planted
A varied whole-food vegan diet is perfectly capable of providing for all of our nutritional needs except for B12 and the sunshine vitamin D.
Low levels of B12 are contained in mushrooms (see also our review of Meati Foods), nori seaweed, algae, chlorella, and fermented foods – but in general it is the only nutrient that you can’t reliably obtain through plant foods besides vitamin D.
Thus it is very important to supplement with B12; a deficiency may result in serious consequences including anemia, fatigue, nervous system issues, breathlessness, vision difficulties, dementia, and more.
Adriana Dikih – Willamette Transplant
The most important daily supplement I rely on as a vegan is a Vitamin D supplement.
Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption, bone development, and mood regulation!
Fish is a big source of vitamin D but sun exposure can also be a great way for our bodies to make our own vitamin D.
However, taking a vitamin D supplement can help ensure adequate levels of vitamin D and assist with calcium absorption!
Alison Corey – Keeping The Peas
When you follow a vegan diet it is important to find supplements that include B12, iron, zinc, and vitamin D.
To ensure I’m hitting those essential nutrients that are sometimes lacking in a vegan diet I rely on the Garden of Life myKind Multivitamin for Women as my daily supplement. It is specifically made for a woman’s nutrient needs.
I like this particular multivitamin because it is certified vegan, and organic,
(affordable organic clothing) and doesn’t contain any added sugars or stevia. These vitamins include 200% of your daily recommended B12, which is always a concern when you are on a vegan diet.
In addition, this multivitamin offers a healthy dose of numerous other important nutrients such as 100% of your recommended D3, 15% of your iron, and 35% of zinc.
This one vitamin has you covered for immune support, healthy skin and nails, energy, metabolism, and heart health in one easy to take a supplement that’s made from natural fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
Thank you so much to all the experts that contributed to this expert roundup!
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