If you have made the decision to be a vegetarian, you are probably passionate about the environment, animal welfare, or your health.
The amount of nutritional advice available for vegetarians can be overwhelming. But with the proper planning and precise supplementation, a plant-based diet can provide all the nutrients your body requires.
A vegetarian diet can actually reduce the risk of chronic disease including heart disease, cancer, and Type 2 diabetes. Then review your current diet, or consult with a dietitian or nutritionist to determine if supplementation may be necessary for you to avoid vitamin deficiency.
Best Vitamin Supplements for Vegetarians
All of the B vitamins are important for your body’s growth and development.
Without the proper amount in your diet, you could have problems with muscle and nerve function, red blood cell development and much more.
All B vitamins can be found in animal products, as well as some fortified foods, so vegetarians might not get enough of each vitamin. If you’re at risk of a deficiency, pay closer attention to the foods you eat to be sure you’re consuming the right amount of all the B vitamins.
1. Vitamin B1
Thiamine, or vitamin B1, is involved with the metabolism of carbohydrates and the production of energy. Vegetarian sources include whole grains, enriched bread, and flours, dried beans, nuts and seeds, peas and eggs.
2. Vitamin B2
Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, works with other B vitamins to produce red blood cells and generate energy by breaking down carbohydrates. You can find riboflavin in green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, eggs, and dairy products.
3. Vitamin B3
Avocados, eggs, beans, nuts, and potatoes all contain vitamin B3, also known as niacin. Eating enough of these foods will help nerves to function properly.
4. Vitamin B5
Pantothenic acid, also known as vitamin B5, is necessary for the metabolism of food as well as the production of hormones and cholesterol. It can be found in avocados, broccoli, kale, cabbage, eggs, beans and lentils, mushrooms, whole-grain cereals, and milk products.
5. Vitamin B6
Also known as pyridoxine, vitamin B6 is involved in blood cell production and brain function. Avocados, bananas, beans, nuts and whole grains are all sources of vitamin B6.
6. Vitamin B7
Found in chocolate, egg yolks, fortified cereals, beans, nuts and milk, biotin is involved in the breakdown of proteins and carbohydrates for energy. And it plays a critical role in the production of cholesterol and hormones.
7. Vitamin B9
Folate, also known as vitamin B9, helps prevent birth defects because of its role in the production and repair of DNA.
Vegetarian sources include asparagus, broccoli, beets, beans and lentils, green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, oranges and fortified orange juice, peanuts, and wheat germ.
Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate and is what is added to fortified foods and juices.
The Harvard School of Public Health and the Institute of Medicine recommend against getting too much folic acid from fortified foods and supplements. Instead, focus on natural folate found in foods.
8. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is often thought of as a mood-boosting supplement.
Like the other B vitamins, it is crucial for many critical processes. It is responsible for making new red blood cells and is needed for nerve function, cell metabolism, and DNA synthesis, as well as supporting brain function.
While soy products and some nutritional yeasts, fortified meat substitutes and supplements may help vegetarians get the recommended amounts of the needed B12, it is generally found in animal products.
It can be found in eggs and dairy products as well as fortified cereals and soy milk. The main concern is for vegetarians who do not eat eggs and dairy, as they are not able to get enough vitamin B12 from other sources.
9. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is essential for the growth and repair of all the tissues in the human body.
It helps make collagen, an important protein that is one of the basic components in the skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels. vitamin C is also necessary for wounds to heal properly and for healthy bones and teeth.
Vitamin C is an extremely powerful antioxidant, which helps protect our cells, DNA, and organs from free radicals – dangerous metabolism by-products that can cause considerable damage.
And, as if that wasn’t enough, vitamin C can also help your body absorb iron from the foods you eat.
It’s important to remember that when you’re planning your meals to include sources of vitamin C, so fresh fruit with your cereal, peppers or tomatoes with bean chili or casserole and a smoothie with a snack of nuts and seeds.
If you only eat an apple and a banana a day, that’s not enough to cover your daily needs. Dried fruit isn’t a good source either as most vitamin C is lost in the process.
10. Vitamin D
Vitamin D or the ‘sunshine vitamin’ is an essential nutrient that keeps the bones and teeth healthy.
It also plays a major role in the regulation and absorption of calcium in the body. “Calcium strengthens the bones” but is only useful in the presence of Vitamin D. The Vitamin acts on cells in the body and allows them to absorb calcium from the intestines.
This ensures that there is enough calcium for the body to use.
Best Mineral Supplement For Vegans
Minerals can be easy to obtain on a vegetarian diet, especially if you love to pile vegetables on your plate.
Daily doses of leafy greens like spinach, chard, kale, and seaweeds can help you meet your mineral needs. But if you don’t have Popeye’s palate, mineral supplements can help.
Calcium and zinc are the two main minerals every vegetarian needs to be aware of.
Calcium is a mineral that depends on vitamin D to be properly absorbed.
Calcium is particularly important to maintain healthy bones throughout your life. Even if you are an avid eater-of-greens, you should consider calcium supplementation.
This is especially true if you drink a lot of coffee or green tea, as caffeine has been shown to interfere with calcium absorption. The best foods for vegetarians that contain calcium include dairy, turnips, and leafy greens.
Your body uses zinc, another essential mineral, for supporting immune function and cell metabolism.
The cells of your entire body depend on zinc to replicate, regulate, differentiate and proliferate. As a component of more than 300 active enzymes, zinc plays a role in basically everything that cells do.
The best foods for vegetarians that contain zinc include;
Dosage is vitally important with all minerals, but special care should be taken not to overdo it with zinc. Zinc is known to interfere with the absorption of other minerals, such as iron and copper.
Iron is an essential mineral that helps red blood cells transport oxygen and nutrients to the body’s cells. Heme iron comes from animal sources, and non-heme iron is found in plants.
Vegetarians can get non-heme iron from a diet rich in vegetables. However, non-heme iron isn’t as readily absorbed by the body. A routine blood test can reveal if you’re getting enough iron. If your blood levels of iron are low, then supplementing can help.
Be careful not to exceed the daily recommended amounts of iron. Too much of it can lead to negative effects including nausea and vomiting.
The best foods for vegetarians that contain iron include:
- Egg yolks.
- Leafy greens.
Other supplements considerations for vegetarians
Vegetarians are shown to be low in these essential fatty acids.
One popular and potent source of omega-3s is fish oil. Fortunately for those vegetarians that avoid fish altogether, there are totally vegan sources of omega-3s.
Flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, olive oil, and walnuts are all rich sources of omega-3 fats. Though you should consume more omega-3 than omega-6 fats, the ideal ratio still isn’t known.
Generally, lowering your omega-6 intake while increasing omega-3s will lead to better health. A simple way to achieve this is to increase your use of healthy oils like olive, avocado, and coconut.
The three forms of omega-3s fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for a variety of biological functions. They are primarily known for their benefits to heart, joint, metabolic and cognitive health.
There are three main kinds of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is an essential nutrient because the body cannot produce it. Luckily, this oil is in plants such as leafy greens, nuts, and seeds.
- The other important omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
EPA and DHA are commonly found in animal products. DHA is also found in high amounts in seaweed.
The body can synthesize them EPA and DHA from ALA, if it is available in large amounts.
When it comes to the best supplements to focus on for vegans, In most cases, your dietician can provide a personalized vitamin and supplement plan that will help you reach your health goals.
Every aspect of your lifestyle, not just your dietary preferences, can influence what supplements you should take. It’s important to be thoughtful about your daily nutrition, as vitamin deficiencies can have long-lasting effects.