As physicians people often ask us if what vitamins they should take if they follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. This is a great question since what we eat can be a big determinant of what vitamins we should take. How is it possible that someone who eats mostly burgers and bacon needs the same vitamins as someone who eats salads and tofu? One of the founding principals of Vous Vitamin is that we are not all the same. We all have different diets, lifestyle and health concerns. These factors all influence what vitamins we do or don’t need to take. For this reason personalized vitamins make sense to meet each person’s needs.
Eating a vegan or vegetarian diet is a great way to reduce or eliminate consuming animal products. There is good data to suggest that keeping these diets may reduce heart disease and cancer. However there are many important nutrients found in meat and dairy products that are hard to find in sufficient quantities from other food sources. While many diets are healthy in some ways, they often reduce key nutrients that we also need for health. It turns out it is very hard to find all of the vitamins we need for optimal health even when we attempt to eat a healthful diet. We still fall short on some things. In part this is due to the lack of vitamins and minerals in our produce today. Soil demineralization has contributed to this problem. Organic farming practices do help, but our fruits and vegetable unfortunately still do not have the nutritional value that they once did.
So what vitamins should a vegetarian or vegan take? It turns out that Iron is hard to obtain from non meat sources. Yes, iron is found in some legumes and vegetables. However, our GI tract does not seem to absorb the iron nearly as well from these sources. Thus, it is not uncommon for some people who do not eat meat to be deficient in this important nutrient. This can lead to fatigue, low energy, thinning hair, trouble sleeping and more. So many people with this type of diet benefit from some additional iron. This however, is not absolute. Other factors can influence someone’s need for iron including age, menopausal status for women and more. For some people taking supplemental vitamin C can help promote increased dietary iron absorption and this can be enough to make up for a diet lacking in iron.
What other nutrients are often obtained from animal and dairy products? It turns out that several B vitamins are also found in abundance in both meat and dairy products. These can be important for many aspects of our health. For example, Vitamin B12 is an important vitamin for nerve function. Deficiency in B12 often manifests as fatigue, weakness, numbness or tingling and decreased memory or attention. For this reason it is essential that those who keep a vegan (and often vegetarian) diet get the proper vitamin B deficiencies corrected.
Another common nutrient deficiency we see commonly in those who keep a vegan or vegetarian diet is that of Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is very common among many people, as it is not found in many food sources. The rare food sources include liver and wild caught salmon. Thus, those who do not eat meat or fish are likely to get any via diet. While vitamin D can be obtained from sun, most of us do not get year round sun exposure (with no sunscreen and most of our skin exposed). Supplementing with vitamin D is important for most people, but how much varies greatly depending on the individual basis. As with all vitamins, many factors must be taken into account as to what to take and how much.
Another supplement that may benefit some who keep a vegan or vegetarian diet is Omega-3 fatty acids. These important oils are essential components of many cell membranes. Found mostly in fish, those who do not consume fatty fish on a regular basis may find supplementing Omega 3s beneficial. They play a major role in fighting inflammation and have been touted to play a role in heart health and improving brain function and cognition.
Those who keep a vegan or vegetarian diet may also benefit from a host of other vitamins depending on other aspects of their diet, lifestyle and health concerns or symptoms including magnesium, iodine and more. As with all people looking for what vitamins to take it, the best approach is a personalized one. At Vous Vitamin we use our knowledge as physicians to create a system whereby people can get an all in one daily vitamin regimen based on their individual needs. Take our on line vitamin quiz to get a doctor created multivitamin that takes into account many factors that help determine the exact vitamins you need as a vegan or vegetarian.
Romy Block specializes in Endocrinology and Metabolism and is mother to three active adolescent boys. Arielle Levitan is a Doctor of Internal Medicine with a special interest in Preventive Medicine and Women’s Health. She is a mother of three teenagers. As professional women with active family lives, they recognize that people often neglect their own health needs and are uncertain about what vitamins to take. Each person is different in her diet, exercise and health history, and will benefit from different nutrients. After years of advising their patients about the proper vitamins to take, Drs. Block and Levitan created Vous Vitamin® to provide people everywhere with quality vitamins that are suited to their individual needs. They are authors of the award winning The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health (She Writes Press, 2015). Take your vitamin quiz now to get exactly the right vitamins for your needs.
The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products offered by Vous Vitamin® are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Nothing contained herein is intended to be a diagnosis or constitute medical advice. The symptoms described in this Blog may be a result of a serious medical condition which requires medical treatment. You should consult with your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this Blog and before beginning any vitamin or supplement regimen.