Will I Need Vitamins on a Plant Based Diet?

This is such a common question amongst people who are new to plant based eating and I am always thrilled to hear it because it shows how passionate they are about their health. The answer is barely, but yes. In that same breath, you will have such a diverse profile of macronutrients and micronutrients that most will never get in a standard American diet. Let’s take a look at what plant based eaters are missing.

Vitamin B12 is critical to nervous system, red blood cell, and emotional health. Luckily, it is created by bacteria and doesn’t require supplementation via animal products.

B12 is now heavily added to animal feed as the high antibiotic use in farming has killed off the bacteria in livestock gut that used to produce this essential vitamin. In order for the meat to continue to supply us with this critical vitamin, it has to be supplemented to the animal. In fact, 90% of all B12 sales in this country are for animal ingestion. According to the Framingham Study, which was published in 2000 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a staggering 39% of all people are deficient in B12, even regular meat-eaters.

So what does this mean?

Since you won’t be routinely eating animals on a plant based diet, you will not be eating the supplemented B12 from the meat. This is why you need to supplement with B12 on your own. Think of it as swapping out the delivery method in which you receive it.

What else do we need to be mindful of?

You may also want to consider supplementing with algae based DHA and EPA; these are long chain omega 3 fatty acids that are essential to neurological and cardiovascular health. DHA and EPA and are mostly found in fish and dairy, but can also be found in flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, and soy. If you are eating a Mediterranean or Pescatarean diet, you are probably eating enough of this in your diet, but Vegans and Vegetarians may find it harder to achieve the RDA’s of DHA and EPA.

It is also difficult to eat enough Vitamin D in the diet, even as a carnivore. We mainly get Vitamin D from the sunshine, but wearing sunscreen or having limited outdoor exposure can absolutely inhibit the absorption of this essential fat soluble vitamin. Most people will need to supplement with Vitamin D in the wintertime, and some may benefit from supplementing year round. Again, this is not exclusive to vegans, but all people.

As you can see, there is very little that you nutritionally lose as a plant based eater; especially when you consider what you are gaining in vitamins and nutrients. With that being said, it’s always important to be be mindful of your consumption of things like iron, calcium and folate, but it’s very easy to find these essential nutrients in your plant based foods. In fact, a study in 2013 showed that Plant Based Diets are not Nutritionally Deficient, follow the link here to read more.

We recommend checking your Vitamin D and B12 levels every 2 to 3 years to make sure they are adequate! Deficiencies in these vitamins can cause serious health issues if left untreated.

Legal disclaimer: Please always check with your doctor before beginning a new supplement as this is not medical advice. Some supplements may not be appropriate for certain people.

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