On Becoming Vegan: Avoiding Vitamin B12 Deficiency and Others

Published on: Modified on:

The vegan diet has gained much popularity since Oprah Winfrey took her 7-day Vegan Challenge.  But there’s more to following a vegan diet than just not eating animal products like meat, fish, eggs and dairy foods and observing Meatless Mondays.

A vegetarian diet requires a strict adherence to a nutritious vitamin fortified diet in order to avoid vitamin deficiency.  And since vegans deliberately avoid eating proteins which are rich in vitamin B12, they must make a special effort to supplement everyday in order to avoid the many symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, such as anemia.

Here is a short list of vitamins to include in your diet if you are a strict vegan:

  • Vitamin B12

If you’re a strict vegan, than you’re not getting enough vitamin B12, which occurs naturally in lean meats ( think beef chuck), cheeses (Swiss), shellfish (clams and mussels, in particular), fish and eggs.

There are great soy products (smoked tofu) which have B12; also nutritional yeast, which many vegans use as a cheesy substitute.

Don’t forget to supplement with extra vitamin B12, though.

Because vitamin B12 deficiency is serious business; your body needs this essential vitamin for proper brain functioning and production of red blood cells. A vitamin B12 deficiency could cause anemia or severe neurological damage.

Read Are Vegans in France Responsible for Breast-fed Baby’s Death?

  • Vitamin D

If you’re a vegan who remembers to wear sunscreen everyday (and we hope you are), or if you live in a particularly cold climate where the sun don’t shine, there is a vegan vitamin D option available to you- ergocalciferol, also known as vitamin D2, which is a form of algae.

  • Calcium

Everybody needs 1000mg of calcium per day, which is the vegan equivalent of 3 cups of calcium fortified soy milk, a few cups of sauteed dark greens, or a large chunk of tofu with added calcium.  Many seeds and nuts also have a decent amount of calcium in them. Still, in order to preserve you bones and avoid bone brittleness in old age, a vegan calcium supplement is highly regarded.

  • Iron

The best, most highly digestible forms of iron are found in non-vegan sources, so as with vitamin B12, the word is supplement, supplement, supplement- but be on the lookout for a low dose that doesn’t irritate the tummy. Women need 32mg or iron per day; men need about 14mg.  Including a source of vitamin C along with your iron supplement will boost iron absorption.

  • Zinc

Zinc occurs in few vegan sources, but most people- vegan and meat-eaters alike- are able to eat sufficient amounts of zinc their diets. Zinc is used by many as an alternative medicine for preventing colds.  Wheat germ and pumpkin seeds are very high in zinc- try tossing them into your salad for a tasty vitamin boost.

Like this?

You also might like:

Vegan Dieters at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease, After All

Getting Enough Vitamin B12? Three Reasons Why you Might Not Be

Vegetarian Diets, Pregnant Women and Vitamin B12


FYI Living