Vegan Supplements: A Guide to Nourishing Your Body And Avoiding Deficiencies

Secure Ordering | Free Shipping | 20% Off Retail Prices

Along with providing information on whether certain vegan supplements might be right for you, this article also links to Fullscript where you can buy supplements for vegans’ needs online through the secure healthcare formulary and get free shipping and 20% off the retail price of professional-grade supplements.

Plant-based diets offer many health benefits. Yet vegan diets may also present certain nutritional gaps that need to be addressed. In this comprehensive guide to vegan supplements, we cover the vital role certain supplements may play in nourishing your body and preventing deficiencies. Whether you’re new to veganism or a seasoned plant-based eater seeking to optimize your health, understanding the benefits of nutritional supplements is essential for maintaining overall health.

What Is A Vegan Diet?

A vegan diet excludes all animal products, including meat, dairy, eggs, and honey. Instead, people following a vegan diet consume plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Common symptoms of a vegan diet include increased energy levels, weight loss, improved digestion, and lower cholesterol levels. Some people may also experience better skin health and a reduced risk of certain chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.

The main advocacy of a vegan diet is ethical beliefs regarding animal welfare, environmental concerns related to animal agriculture, and health reasons. Many vegans choose this lifestyle to align with their values of compassion towards animals and to reduce their environmental footprint. Additionally, adopting a vegan diet can offer various health benefits, making it an appealing choice for many people.

What Nutrient Considerations Are Important For Optimizing Nutrition With A Vegan Diet?

Adopting a vegan diet involves making mindful choices about nutrition, as it excludes animal products like meat, dairy, eggs, and fish. These exclusions necessitate a thoughtful approach to ensure adequate intake of certain nutrients.

Vitamin B12, which is crucial for nerve function and blood production, is naturally present in significant amounts only in animal products. Vegans may need to seek alternative sources such as fortified foods or supplements to prevent B12 deficiency, which can lead to anemia and neurological issues if left unaddressed.

Protein, while available in plant-based foods like legumes, nuts, and seeds, may require more varied consumption to ensure intake of all essential amino acids typically found in animal proteins. This is especially important for muscle repair and growth. Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, are abundant in fish and are important for brain and heart health. Vegans can turn to plant-based sources like flaxseeds, chia seeds, and algae supplements to meet these needs.

Iron is another nutrient that warrants attention. While plant-based sources like lentils and leafy greens are abundant, the non-heme iron they provide is less readily absorbed by the body compared to heme iron from animal products. Consuming vitamin C-rich foods alongside iron-rich foods can enhance absorption.

Calcium, vital for bone health, is found in dairy products but can also be obtained from fortified plant milks, tofu, and certain green vegetables. Similarly, vitamin D, which is essential for bone and immune health, might require supplementation or fortified foods, particularly in regions with limited sunlight exposure.

Zinc, important for immune function and wound healing, is less bioavailable in plant-based sources, but can be found in whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Iodine levels in plant foods can vary, so using iodized salt or consuming seaweed can help maintain thyroid health.

Vitamin K2, primarily found in animal products and certain fermented foods, plays a role in bone and cardiovascular health. Its limited presence in a vegan diet could be addressed through specific foods like natto or supplements.

Vitamin D, essential for bone health and immune function, can be challenging for vegans to obtain due to limited natural food sources and reliance on sun exposure. Fortified plant milks, certain mushrooms, and supplements like Vitamin D2 or lichen-derived D3 are crucial for maintaining adequate levels, especially given the risks associated with Vitamin D deficiency.

In essence, while a vegan diet is rich in many nutrients and has several health benefits, it requires careful planning to ensure adequate intake of certain nutrients. Consulting with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian can be beneficial in managing these nutritional needs effectively, ensuring a balanced and healthful vegan diet.

What Nutritional Supplements Might Be Needed For People Eating A Vegan Diet?

People following a vegan diet may need certain nutritional supplements to ensure they receive adequate nutrients that are less commonly found in plant-based foods. These include:

  • Multivitamin: A good quality multivitamin should contain the following:
    • Vitamin B12: Essential for nerve function and blood cell production, B12 is predominantly found in animal products. Vegans are advised to take B12 supplements or consume B12-fortified foods. [PMC10056340]
    • Zinc: Found in smaller amounts and less absorbable forms in plant-based foods. Zinc supplements can help meet the body’s needs. [PMC10056340]
    • Iodine: Especially important for thyroid function, iodine is found in limited plant-based sources. Vegans might need supplements, particularly if they don’t consume iodized salt or seaweed regularly.
    • Selenium: Depending on the soil quality where the food is grown, plant-based sources of selenium can vary greatly. Supplements or consumption of Brazil nuts, which are high in selenium, can help maintain adequate levels.
    • Vitamin D: While it can be synthesized from sunlight, vitamin D is also found in animal products. Vegan vitamin D supplements, especially D2 or lichen-derived D3, can be beneficial. [PMC10056340]
    • Riboflavin: While found in some plant foods, vegans may be at risk of lower intake. B2 supplements can help ensure adequate levels, important for energy production and cellular function.
    • Choline: Critical for liver function, brain development, and nerve function, choline is more abundant in animal foods. Although the body produces some choline, supplementation may be beneficial for vegans.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Specifically EPA and DHA, which are mainly found in fish. Vegans can consider algae-based supplements to ensure adequate intake. [PMC10056340]
  • Iron: Non-heme iron in plant-based foods is less easily absorbed by the body compared to heme iron from animal products. Iron supplements might be necessary, especially for persons with a higher risk of deficiency like pregnant women or those with heavy menstrual bleeding. [PMC10056340]
  • Calcium: Essential for bone health, calcium is less abundant in vegan diets. Supplements may be needed, especially if dietary intake from fortified foods or high-calcium plant sources is insufficient. [PMC10056340]
  • Vegan Protein: While many plant foods contain protein, they may lack certain essential amino acids. Vegans might consider protein supplements, especially those based on soy, pea, or rice protein. [PMC10056340]
    • Essential Amino Acids:
    • Lysine: “Diets with too few legumes, such as low lectin diets, may mean an insufficient intake of lysine. Significant lysine deficiency can exist despite a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, as well as corn, wheat, and brown rice [204]. Lysine insufficiency is a causal factor for delayed growth, insufficient collagen production, osteoporosis (due to urinary calcium loss), as well as recurrent herpes simplex outbreaks. Plant-based foods with higher amounts of lysine include avocados, wheat germ, and legumes (soybeans, beans, peas and lentils) [205].” [PMC10056340]
    • Methionine: “plant-based diets low in grains, such as gluten-free diets, but still rich in legumes, may be low in methionine. Commonly eaten foods low in methionine are asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, kale, pea, soy, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, seaweed, turnips, and zucchini. Plant-based diets are best balanced with the inclusion of grains rich in methionine: wheat, wheat germ, millet, barley, rice including brown rice, corn, kamut, oats, rye, sorghum, teff, triticale, and quinoa. Of these, only millet, rice, corn, sorghum, teff, and quinoa are gluten-free. Oats, depending upon processing, may be gluten-free. Methionine sufficiency is essential for growth, healthy hair, skin, and nails. Methionine sufficiency is required for selenium and zinc absorption, as well as T-cell proliferation and differentiation. Additionally, methionine is essential for methylation, an important factor in the prevention of both neural tube defects and osteoporosis [206,207]. Of note, patients may intentionally restrict methionine intake for health reasons, including life extension, fat loss, and cancer-cell-growth inhibition [208,209].” [PMC10056340]
    • Tryptophan: Tryptophan deficiency can occur in diets low in total protein or with low intake of seeds, (pumpkin, chia, sesame, sunflower, and squash), nuts, legumes, and grains. Concentration of this essential amino acid in proteins is most often significantly lower than for other amino acids. For example, plant-based diets rich in foods, such as lentils, avocados, broccoli, eggplant, spinach, and tomatoes, may be low in tryptophan [203,210]. Tryptophan is the essential amino-acid necessary for growth, as well as the production of serotonin, melatonin, and vitamin B3 (niacin, nicotinamide). Tryptophan deficiencies can present as mood disorders, fatigue, insomnia, or disordered eating. Vitamin B3 deficiencies can present with headaches and dizziness, as well as changes in skin, mood, energy, cognition, and digestive system function [211]. (Of note, symptoms of tryptophan deficiency may occur at intakes as little as 25% below the required daily intake [211].) [PMC10056340]
    • Other Important Amino Acids:
    • Creatine: Found naturally in muscle cells, creatine is typically obtained from meat. Vegan athletes may benefit from creatine supplements for enhanced physical performance and muscle growth. “Creatine supplies energy to both the muscle and brain to meet suddenly increased energy demands. Plant-based diets are inherently low in creatine, a principal component of both muscle and brain. Supplementation may be important. For persons with a genetic impairment of creatine production, creatine supplementation reverses cognitive and neurodevelopmental defects [212]. Similarly, creatine supplementation has resulted in improved memory in young female vegetarians, and short-term memory and intelligence/reasoning in other normal populations [213,214]. Creatine supplementation in vegetarian athletes has resulted in significant improvements in both muscular strength and endurance in addition to memory [215].”[PMC10056340]
    • Carnitine: L-Carnitine, is a compound derived from amino acids lysine and methionine. “Carnitine status is clinically relevant as it is crucial for mitochondrial function and cellular energy production. Persons consuming a plant-based diet under increased physical stress, including pregnancy or dialysis, are at increased risk of hypocarnitinemia [212,216]. Carnitine shuttles long-chain fatty acids across the mitochondrial membrane from the cytosol into the mitochondrial matrix for β-oxidation. Carnitine production is especially important for cardiac and skeletal muscle function. Moreover, carnitine has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and plays a role in insulin sensitivity [217]. Defective fatty acid oxidation can present as fatigue, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, fat accumulation, or hypoglycemia [218,219,220]. Fatty acid oxidation is also important for oocyte developmental competence [128]. Patients with chronic diarrhea or taking valproic acid, omeprazole, or zwitterionic drugs such as levofloxacin are at risk for secondary carnitine deficiency [221].” [PMC10056340]
    • Taurine: An amino acid found mainly in meat. While not essential as the body can synthesize it, vegans might have lower levels and could consider supplementation. “Taurine is one of the most important amino acids in high energy tissues, including the brain, retina, and muscles. Plant-based diets do not contain taurine [222]. Analysis of taurine levels in vegans have been slightly lower to half that of omnivores [223]. Taurine is critical for neurological development and neurodegenerative protection. In the eye, taurine provides critical antioxidant protection for the retina, lens, vitreous, cornea, iris, and ciliary body. This includes critical photoreceptor and retinal pigment epithelium antioxidant protection [224,225]. Taurine supports bile flow and cholesterol conjugation. It affects blood pressure regulation, mitochondrial function, and electron transport chain activity [224,225]. Taurine provides valuable xenobiotic detoxification and protects against degenerative endocrine hormone disruption [226]. Consequences of inadequate taurine intake or production include magnesium wasting, cardiomyopathy and arrhythmias, renal dysfunction, pancreatic beta cell dysfunction, plus numerous neurological and vision disorders including loss of retinal photoreceptors. Additional concerns with insufficiency include infertility, still births, and neonatal developmental problems [224,225].”[PMC10056340]
    • Beta-Alanine / Carnosine: Carnosine is a dipeptide, meaning it’s made up of two amino acids – beta-alanine and histidine. Carnosine is found in muscle tissue and brain, it’s important for muscle function in that it buffers the pH in the muscles during exercise reducing fatigue. While not essential, vegans may have lower levels of carnosine and could consider beta-alanine supplements, which help the body synthesize carnosine. Beta-Alanine is an amino acid that is needed for the production of carnosine. [PMID: 20479615]
  • Vitamin K2: Primarily found in animal products and certain fermented foods, vitamin K2 is important for bone and cardiovascular health. Vegans may consider a supplement, especially MK-7, derived from natto or other fermented foods.

For vegans, especially those with specific health conditions, dietary restrictions, or increased nutritional needs (like athletes, pregnant women, or the elderly), a tailored supplement plan is advisable. Consulting with a healthcare professional ensures that dietary choices and supplement use adequately meet nutritional requirements.

Individual Amino Acid Needs

In a vegan diet, where all animal products are excluded, special attention is required to ensure adequate intake of specific amino acids. Essential amino acids, which the body cannot synthesize and must be obtained through diet, are particularly important. While plant-based foods contain all essential amino acids, they often have them in varying proportions, and some, like lysine and methionine, might be present in lower amounts compared to animal-based foods.

Lysine, for instance, is abundant in legumes but less so in grains, highlighting the need for a varied and balanced vegan diet to ensure a complete amino acid profile. Additionally, since the bioavailability and digestibility of plant proteins can be lower than animal proteins, it may be necessary to consume a higher volume of plant-based protein sources.

This approach ensures that all essential amino acids are consumed in sufficient quantities to support bodily functions such as muscle repair, immune response, and enzyme production. Vegan athletes or others with higher protein requirements should be particularly mindful of combining different plant protein sources to meet their amino acid needs effectively.

Here’s a table that shows the complementary proteins and the key amino acids they contain:

Protein SourceKey Amino AcidsComplements With
Legumes (e.g., beans, lentils, chickpeas)LysineRice, Wheat, Corn
RiceMethionineLegumes (e.g., lentils, beans)
WheatMethionineLegumes (e.g., chickpeas, black beans)
CornLeucine, TryptophanLegumes (e.g., beans, lentils)
Nuts and Seeds (e.g., almonds, sunflower seeds)MethionineLegumes
Whole Grains (e.g., barley, brown rice)MethionineLegumes (e.g., lentils, black beans)
Seeds (e.g., chia, hemp seeds)Methionine, ThreonineLegumes
Vegetables (e.g., spinach, broccoli)Various but lower in quantityGrains and Legumes

Complete Vegan Protein Sources

Examples of vegan foods that offer complete proteins include quinoa, buckwheat, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and soy products like tofu, tempeh, and edamame. These foods provide a balanced amino acid profile on their own, making them excellent choices for vegans to ensure they are getting all the essential amino acids necessary for good health.

Individual Amino Acid Requirements

For a person who does not eat complete protein sources and who also avoids For a 70 kg adult, the estimated daily requirements for essential and conditionally essential amino acids, based on the general guidelines, would be as follows:

Essential Amino Acids:

  • Histidine: 980 mg/day (14 mg/kg)
  • Isoleucine: 1,330 mg/day (19 mg/kg)
  • Leucine: 2,940 mg/day (42 mg/kg)
  • Lysine: 2,660 mg/day (38 mg/kg)
  • Methionine (including cysteine): 1,330 mg/day (19 mg/kg)
  • Phenylalanine (including tyrosine): 2,310 mg/day (33 mg/kg)
  • Threonine: 1,400 mg/day (20 mg/kg)
  • Tryptophan: 350 mg/day (5 mg/kg)
  • Valine: 1,680 mg/day (24 mg/kg)

Conditionally Essential Amino Acids:

  • Arginine: Specific requirements can vary, especially in conditions like pregnancy or illness.
  • Cysteine: Approximately 287 mg/day (assuming 4.1 mg/kg).
  • Glutamine: Increased needs may occur during periods of stress or illness, but a specific amount for a 70 kg adult is not universally defined.
  • Tyrosine: Depends on phenylalanine intake but typically around half, so approximately 1,155 mg/day if phenylalanine requirements are considered as a guide.
  • Glycine, Proline, Serine: Specific requirements are not well-defined as the body generally synthesizes adequate amounts. Needs may increase in certain conditions.

These amounts provide a general guideline, but individual requirements can vary based on factors like metabolic health, activity level, and overall dietary composition. For tailored nutritional advice, it’s best to consult a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian.

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This article aims to offer valuable insights into which nutritional supplements have undergone scientific study and shown promise in supporting specific health conditions. We break down the research, so you can work with your medical providers to make informed decisions about adding supplements to your health regimen. For personalized advice tailored to your needs, we recommend consulting with a registered dietitian in addition to your primary care provider.

Check with your physician when adding supplements. While supplements are generally safe for most people, do not add nutritional supplements without your physician’s specific approval if you are pregnant or nursing, are undergoing cancer treatment, have a history of organ transplant, liver or kidney disease, or take medications that interact with supplements.

Order Supplements For Managing A Vegan Diet

Why Professionals Choose the Fullscript Formulary

Your health is on the line. Health professionals know that many other online and retail options set a very low bar for quality–sometimes amazingly low. The Fullscript formulary is the most secure online source for the highest quality brands securely sourced to assure freshness and purity. Here’s what makes Fullscript the best:

  • Meticulous vetting of brand quality. Health professionals trust Fullscript to continuously monitor the quality of each item on the platform. Other retailers operate with profit as their highest or only motive when choosing brands. Fullscript cares only about quality and reliability. Unlike discount stores, large online marketplaces, and other retailers you won’t find ingredients sourced from China or other questionable locations or companies.
  • Always 20% Discount off the manufacturer’s retail price. When you follow any link from, you will automatically get 20% off the retail price.
  • Free shipping over $50.
  • Freshness. Fullscript prioritizes freshness over bulk buying even if it means an increased risk of briefly being out of stock.
  • Top quality phone and online support. When you call, knowledgeable humans at Fullscript answer your questions.
  • How It Works:
    • Easy Sign-up & No Spam Email: Click the “View Product” button below to be taken to Fullscript’s login page where you can quickly create your secure account with just your name, email, and phone number. Then you will be taken directly to the product page.
    • Wide variety of supplement options: Once you sign in to your account, you are not limited to the products listed below. You will see similar items listed at the bottom of each product page on Fullscript.
    • Search For What You Want: Once inside Fullscript, you can search for the exact brands and products you want from their wide selection of quality brands.

When you purchase linked products presented on this page, Supplement Sciences, LLC receives affiliate fees so that our dietitians can continue to create great content.

Thank you for your support!

Supplement Safety Information

Vegan supplements offer a safe and reliable means for persons following plant-based diets to meet their nutritional requirements with confidence. Manufacturers of vegan supplements prioritize safety through rigorous quality control measures and adherence to regulatory standards. These supplements undergo thorough testing to ensure purity, potency, and absence of contaminants, providing consumers with peace of mind regarding their safety. Furthermore, reputable vegan supplements often carry certifications from trusted organizations, verifying their quality and efficacy. By choosing vegan supplements from reputable sources and following recommended dosage guidelines, persons can support their health without compromising safety, thus enhancing their overall health on their plant-based journey.

Medication Interactions:

  • Warfarin (Coumadin): persons taking warfarin should be cautious when supplementing with vitamin K, as it can interfere with the medication’s anticoagulant effects. Maintaining consistent vitamin K intake from plant-based sources is advisable to avoid fluctuations in medication efficacy.
  • Levothyroxine (Synthroid): Calcium supplements should be taken at least four hours apart from levothyroxine, as they can interfere with its absorption. Vegans should be mindful of their calcium supplementation timing to ensure optimal thyroid hormone levels.
  • Tetracycline antibiotics: Calcium supplements, particularly those containing calcium carbonate, can decrease the absorption of tetracycline antibiotics when taken together. It’s recommended to separate the doses by at least two hours to prevent this interaction and ensure the effectiveness of the antibiotic.
  • L-Dopa (Levodopa): Protein-rich foods, such as legumes and soy products commonly consumed in a vegan diet, may reduce the absorption of L-dopa. Persons taking L-dopa should consider spacing out their protein intake throughout the day to minimize this interaction and optimize medication effectiveness.
  • Methotrexate: Folic acid supplementation may interfere with the effectiveness of methotrexate in treating certain conditions. While folate is important for overall health, persons taking methotrexate should consult with their healthcare provider to determine the appropriate supplementation regimen, if necessary, to avoid any potential interactions.

Supplement Interactions:

  • Vitamin B12: It’s recommended to take vitamin B12 supplements separately from medications like proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and H2-receptor antagonists (H2RAs) since these drugs can hinder B12 absorption. For vegans, ensuring optimal B12 absorption involves avoiding simultaneous intake of supplements and these medications.
  • Iron: Calcium supplements and certain antacids containing aluminum or magnesium can impede iron absorption. To maximize iron uptake and prevent potential interactions, vegans should consider taking iron supplements separately from these medications.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Vegans taking blood-thinning medications like aspirin or warfarin need to be cautious when adding omega-3 supplements to their regimen, as they may heighten the risk of bleeding. Consulting healthcare providers before starting omega-3 supplements is crucial, particularly for persons on blood-thinning medications.
  • Vitamin D: Some medications, such as thiazide diuretics, glucocorticoids, and certain anticonvulsants, can increase vitamin D metabolism, possibly reducing its effectiveness. Regular monitoring of vitamin D levels and discussing supplementation with healthcare providers is advisable for vegans taking these medications to prevent deficiencies.
  • Calcium: Bisphosphonates, used in osteoporosis treatment, may not work as effectively when taken alongside calcium supplements. To ensure optimal absorption and efficacy of both medications, vegans should space out their calcium supplement intake from bisphosphonates.

Food First!

Although this article discusses supplements in detail, don’t forget that we are absolutely committed to the “Food First” approach to nutrition. When it comes to your health, the totality of your eating habits far surpasses the impact of individual nutrients or any single supplement you consume. Even though this article doesn’t delve into the broader picture of your overall diet, it’s crucial to keep this element at the forefront of our minds. Your food needs to provide all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals to nourish your body systems down to the cellular level.

Food choices, rather than supplements, are the most critical factors for a healthy gut microbiome. These trillions of tiny inhabitants in your gut affect your brain waves; they orchestrate your immune system. They possess the power to create molecules that can switch genes on or off and are even capable of synthesizing neurotransmitters. Opting for organic foods and steering clear of plastic packaging (including those labeled BPA-free) is a smart move to limit toxin exposure. The sum of all these parts leads to a powerful conclusion: the ultimate key to your health lies in the quality and balance of the food you consume. Supplements are secondary.

What Lab Tests Might Be Helpful In Optimizing A Vegan Diet?

When managing a vegan diet, certain lab tests can be helpful to ensure nutritional adequacy and address any potential deficiencies. These tests include:

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC): To check for signs of anemia, which can result from deficiencies in iron, vitamin B12, or folate.
  • Vitamin B12 Levels: Since B12 is primarily found in animal products, vegans are at higher risk of deficiency.
  • Iron Studies: Including serum iron, ferritin (stores), and transferrin saturation, to assess iron status.
  • Vitamin D Levels: Important for bone health and immune function, and can be low in vegans due to dietary restrictions and insufficient sun exposure.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Particularly EPA and DHA levels, to evaluate if dietary intake of EPA and DHA supplements is adequate.

Regular monitoring through these tests can help vegans make informed dietary choices and address any nutritional gaps with dietary adjustments or supplementation. It’s advisable to work with a healthcare provider to determine which tests are necessary based on individual health profiles and dietary practices.

To Sum It Up

As we’ve explored the various health benefits of nutritional supplements for vegans, it’s evident that these nutrients play a vital role in supporting overall health and filling potential nutrient gaps in plant-based diets. From ensuring adequate intake of essential vitamins like B12 and D, incorporating these supplements into one’s routine can enhance energy and promote long-term health. However, it’s important to remember that individual nutrient needs may vary, and consulting with a Registered Dietitian can provide personalized guidance. Knowing the deep nutritional details can help you thrive with your vegan lifestyle.

This Article is Not a Substitute for Medical Advice

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The Supplement Sciences website seeks to provide comprehensive access to the most relevant supplement information along with convenient online ordering. We do not provide medical advice and cannot guarantee that every product suggested is completely without risk. Since each person is unique in their health history and medication use, it is important to discuss supplements with your personal physician. Specifically, pregnant women and individuals being treated for cancer or liver or kidney problems must consult their physician about every nutritional supplement they plan to take. People taking medications for the treatment of HIV or with a history of organ transplant must not take supplements without consulting with their physician.

About the Author

Supplement Sciences

Staff Authors at Nutriscape have been working on this article and it is still a work in progress. Please feel free to login and comment on what you see so far.

Leave a Reply