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Whilst having a vegan diet can have many different health benefits, such as being low in fats and containing higher levels of antioxidants, excluding certain foods from your diet may lead to deficiencies in particular vitamins and nutrients. Supporting your diet with vegan supplements and vitamins can replace those nutrients that are typically found in animal-based products, which are lost when following a vegan diet. You can read more about how to eat a healthy vegan diet on the NHS website.

Individuals who follow a vegan diet are often concerned about getting the recommended levels of certain vitamins and nutrients from their diet. Whilst a varied and balanced vegan diet containing fortified foods can provide everything you need, many vegans might find themselves reaching for supplements to support their diet.

Best vitamin supplements for vegans

Vegan supplements can help support your body in a range of ways, including boosting your energy levels, supporting your digestive health and mood support. Lots of people who follow a vegan diet may not realise that they are not consuming enough of certain nutrients and vitamins, so to ensure that you are getting a well-balanced diet and consuming the recommended amount of vitamins and minerals you need, taking vegan supplements alongside a vegan diet can ensure that your body is well nourished and supported.

Best B12 supplements for vegans

B12 is perhaps the best known of the vitamins that vegans can struggle to consume enough off but there are other vitamins and minerals that vegans may want to consider too. A diet with no animal source foods can mean that other nutrients such as iron, calcium, zinc and omega-3 can become a challenge to find enough of as well as high quality protein which can be a problem for active vegans or vegan athletes. There are more details on the best vitamins and minerals supplements for vegans below.

Vitamin B12 for vegans

Vitamin B12 is a nutrient of particular concern for anyone following an exclusively plant-based diet because it is found mainly in foods of animal origin such as fish, meat, eggs, poultry and dairy products. It is generally agreed that anyone following a vegan diet should take a daily supplement to ensure optimal intake. Vitamin B12 can be taken in the bioactive and absorbable form of methylcobalamin. Our ability to absorb vitamin B12 often decreases with age, so older adults will likely need a higher daily dose to maintain optimal levels.

Iron for vegans

Iron exists in two different forms in our food; heme iron - found in animal products, and non-heme iron - found in some plant foods. Getting enough iron through dietary sources is more challenging for anyone following a vegan or vegetarian diet because non-heme iron (from plants) is less well absorbed than heme iron (from animal products such as meat). Low levels of iron are associated with anaemia, fatigue and lowered immune function. It is important therefore for anyone following a plant-based diet to ensure regular intake of iron-rich foods such as beans, lentils, tofu, dark leafy greens, dark chocolate, wholegrains, mushrooms, nuts, seeds, pumpkin, squash and salad greens.

Consuming vitamin C-rich foods alongside iron-rich foods may help to increase iron absorption. It is worth noting that phytates (found in many plants foods) can actually inhibit absorption, and tea and coffee are best avoided around or with meals as they can hinder iron absorption too. Iron can be found in a good quality daily multivitamin & mineral or can be taken as a separate supplement. It can be supplemented as iron bisglycinate - a well absorbed form that is not associated with the gastrointestinal distress that many other iron supplements are. It is important to note however that whilst highly unlikely for vegans, too much iron can be just as harmful as not getting enough, so measuring current iron status with a simple blood test may be useful before starting supplementation.

Zinc for vegans

The best sources of zinc are animal foods such as lamb, beef, poultry and seafood. Few plant foods contain high levels of zinc so anyone following a vegan diet needs to carefully consider their intake. Zinc is an essential mineral for immune function, wound healing, growth and development, cell repair and metabolism. Similar to iron, the bioavailability of zinc is impaired by phytates (which, ironically, are found in many zinc-rich plant foods such as lentils, beans, chickpeas, nuts, seeds and wholegrains). Zinc is best supplemented in the form of citrate or picolinate and is usually included in a good quality multivitamin and mineral.

Calcium for vegans

Best known as an essential mineral for bones and teeth, calcium has many other important health roles too, such as for the cardiovascular and nervous systems, and for muscle function too. Good plant sources of calcium include green leafy vegetables, pak choi, watercress, silken tofu (often fortified with calcium), sesame seeds, tahini, pulses, almonds and fortified nut and soy milks. Many people following a vegan diet however will struggle to regularly achieve optimal daily calcium intake and are often encouraged to take supplements to bolster their levels. Calcium can be found in a good quality daily multivitamin & mineral or can be taken as a separate supplement. Algae-sourced calcium is an effective plant-based option providing a natural form of calcium, along with magnesium, and 13 bone-supporting nutrients including boron and manganese.

If you are unsure whether a supplement is the best choice for you then you can book a call with one of our trained advisors to see what is the best option for you.

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