What Vitamins Should Vegetarians Be Taking?

What vitamins do vegetarians need to take to ensure that they are getting all essential nutrients?

J.D. Vines

J.D. Vines

J.D. Vines is a holistic health educator and herbalist, with an extensive history with various supplement brands. Vines holds degrees in both metaphysics and mysticism from Denver University.


-Vegetarians have unique dietary considerations because many essential nutrients are less available in plant-based foods, compared to animal-based foods. 

-Numerous research studies have concluded that vegetarians are significantly more likely to be deficient in essential nutrients like Omega 3, B-12 & D-3. 

-It makes sense for vegetarians to supplement their diet with a product that ensures that all of these essential nutrients are provided for.

Vegetarian diets have become increasingly popular over the past decade. But nutritionists agree that there are some inherent nutritional deficiencies in the diet. So, what vitamins do vegetarians need to take?

A 2014 study on the demographics of vegetarian and vegan diets concluded that there were 6.5 million vegetarians in the U.S. and 1.6 million vegans, or 2% and .5% respectively [1]. However, a more recent report found that as of 2019, 6% of Americans now describe themselves as being vegan [2]. Seventy-five percent of those 6% are female, and the average age of a vegan is forty-two. While it defies logic to some extent to try and reconcile these widely varying statistics, what is clear is that the population of vegetarians and vegans is on the rise.

The health benefits of the vegetarian diet are well-documented. It significantly reduces risks associated with high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, and an array of chronic illnesses [3].

Plant-based diets are good for your health

Dr. Walter Willett, Harvard Medical School professor: 

“We have just been doing some calculations looking at the question of how much could we reduce mortality [by] shifting toward a healthy, more plant-based diet — not necessarily totally vegan — and our estimates are [that] about one-third of early deaths could be prevented [4].”

Verb One Daily Vegan Vitamin

Key Nutrients for Vegetarians:

There are certain nutrients which are more easily found in animal-based foods than plant-based diets that a vegetarian should be aware of. If these nutrients are not accounted for in a vegetarian’s diet, then they should be consumed as dietary supplements. These nutrients include vitamins, minerals, and nutraceuticals.

vitamin B-12

There are certain nutrients which are more easily found in animal-based foods than plant-based diets that a vegetarian should be aware of. If these nutrients are not accounted for in a vegetarian’s diet, then they should be consumed as dietary supplements. These nutrients include vitamins, minerals, and nutraceuticals.

Researchers have concluded that vegetarians are at a significantly higher risk of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency, compared to meat-eaters [5]. Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient for protein metabolism, proper functioning of the nervous system, and red blood cell function. A vitamin B12 deficiency can contribute to anemia, nerve damage, infertility, and heart disease.

Vegans should supplement with Vitamin B-12

Nutritionists generally recommend about 3 mcg of B12 daily.

Vitamin D3

You probably remember being taught from an early age that being out in the sunlight is how we get our Vitamin D. It is oftentimes referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin’. When skin is exposed to the sun, the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays penetrate cholesterol in our skin cells, providing the energy for Vitamin D synthesis to take place. Vitamin D aids in the process of calcium and phosphorous absorption. It also influences a number of other physiological processes, including immune function, mood, memory, and muscle recovery.

Researchers estimate that 40% of American adults are deficient in vitamin D [6]. Deficiencies of vitamin D have been scientifically linked to metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a group of health conditions, or risk factors, that increase your chances for developing obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Vegetarians who don’t get enough sunlight should supplement their diets with vitamin D.

With vitamin D synthesis being such a simple process, needing only fifteen or twenty minutes of daily sunlight exposure, what is clear is that people don’t spend enough time outdoors in sunlight. This is true for everyone, regardless of diet. The few food choices that do contain vitamin D, including fish, egg yolks, and cod liver oil, are all animal-based. Most processed milk is fortified with vitamin D, but vegans don’t consume dairy.

The best way to ensure that you consume sufficient amounts of vitamin D is through dietary supplementation. Nutritionists recommend about 20 mcg per day.

OMEGA-3’s and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)

DHA is a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 fatty acids have been thoroughly researched and recognized for the essential role they play in:

• cardiovascular health 

• building and maintaining strong bones and joints 

• controlling inflammation 

 • modulating cholesterol and blood pressure levels 

• supporting brain and cognitive health 

• mitigating symptoms of PMS

The most common source of omega-3 fatty acids is through consuming fish or fish oils. The only omega-3 that is considered essential is ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), and it can only come from our diet. The body can then produce DHA and EPA from ALA. For a vegetarian, the only practical way to obtain omega-3’s is with dietary supplementation.  

Its important to add omega 3 to a plant-based diet

Fortunately, algae oil is an excellent plant-based source for long-chain omega-3’s, both DHA and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).


Iron is an important mineral, required for red blood cells and new DNA production. We also use it for energy metabolism [8]. There are two types of iron found in food; heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is only found in animals and non-heme iron is found in plants. Since heme iron is more easily absorbed and assimilated than non-heme iron, vegetarians often find themselves deficient in iron. Iron deficiency can result in anemia with symptoms like fatigue and decreased immune function. It is also linked with cognitive impairment, and increased risk for chronic diseases.

It is important to be mindful of how much iron we consume because too much iron can also be harmful. Too much iron can block the assimilation of other minerals and even cause cell damage. Extremely high iron levels can cause convulsions, organ failure, and could be potentially fatal. 

Iron is an essential nutrient for plant-based diets

Vegans, consuming a non-heme iron supplement, probably need between ten and eighteen mg per day of iron.

vitamin c

Iron absorption is an important consideration, since less than 20% of the non-heme iron we consume is going to be assimilated. Vitamin C has been shown to increase iron bioavailability. 

Combining foods that are rich in iron, along with a good source of vitamin C will help boost iron absorption. When consuming a dietary supplement which includes iron, it makes sense to include vitamin C in the formula.  

Vitamin C increases immunity

Vitamin C also boosts our immunity and is a powerful antioxidant.


Few plant foods contain high amounts of zinc. A recent review study of vegetarians and vegans showed that they are significantly more likely than omnivores to be deficient in zinc [10].Zinc is a vital mineral for cell repair, immune response, and metabolism. It is also an important mineral for men’s health. Zinc deficiency can lead to hair loss and delayed wound healing.

Plant foods that do contain some zinc include: 

• whole grains 

• wheat germ 

• sprouts and sprouted breads 

• legumes 

• nuts and seeds 

• tofu

Zinc is an essential mineral for plant-based diets

As a dietary supplement, most nutritionists recommend 8-10 mg of zinc per day.

calcium and magnesium

Calcium is a vital mineral, needed for the proper maintenance of healthy bone and teeth. It plays a key role in muscle function and cardiovascular health. It is also an electrolyte mineral, and as such, plays an important role in nerve cell communication and cognitive health.

There are plant-based sources for calcium, including kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, watercress, broccoli, chickpeas, and fortified, processed foods (milk and orange juice). However, research studies have concluded that most vegetarians don’t consume enough calcium [7]. 

Magnesium is important for vegans and vegetarians

Therefore, dietary supplementation with calcium makes sense for those on a plant-based diet.

Magnesium and calcium have an important interconnection. In addition to assisting in calcium absorption, magnesium has been shown to enhance exercise performance and assist in protein synthesis [8].

The Vegan/Vegetarian Vitamin Take-Away:

There are certain key nutrients that are lacking in a plant-based diet. Vegetarians and vegans are often found to be deficient in some of these nutrients. It would therefore be wise for any vegan or vegetarian to find a reliable dietary supplement, formulated specifically for the purpose of ensuring that these key nutrients are provided for every day.