Going vegan is a huge change when it comes to the nutrition you’ll be getting.
This is good in a lot of ways. It becomes much easier to get most nutrients.
But, there are a few vitamins and minerals that are harder to get enough of on a vegan diet.
You need to pay extra attention to these, at least until you’re sure that you’re getting enough of them.
The 6 Hardest Nutrients for Vegans to Get
Many studies have looked at this exact topic.
I’ll refer you to this study on the Health Effects of Vegan Diets, and summarize the main takeaways here.
The author had no conflicts of interest, and it was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which is about as reputable as peer-reviewed journals come.
Vegans tend to be thinner, have lower serum cholesterol, and lower blood pressure, reducing their risk of heart disease. However, eliminating all animal products from the diet increases the risk of certain nutritional deficiencies.
So mostly good things, but deficiencies that we need to be aware of.
The biggest risks for deficiency were for:
- Vitamin B-12
- Vitamin D
- Omega 3 fatty acids
How to Get More of These Vitamins in Your Diet
The first thing you should do is start tracking how much of these vitamins you’re getting by using a food tracker like Cronometer.
That will help identify if you need to put in extra effort to get any of them.
From there, you have 2 options: supplements, or eat more vegan foods that contain them.
I’ve put together lists of your options for each of these:
- Vitamin D – There are no good vegan sources of vitamin D besides the sun (that’s the best option). If you can’t get much sun for some reason, you will need to buy a vegan vitamin D supplement, otherwise you’ll be at risk for symptoms like restless leg syndrome.
- Calcium – Here’s a list of the best vegan sources of calcium. If you don’t think you’ll be able to eat enough of those on a regular basis, you can get a vegan calcium supplement.
- Iron – Here are the best vegan sources of iron. Iron is a tough one for vegans to absorb enough of, so you may need to consider a vegan iron supplement as well.
- Zinc – Here are the 30 best vegan zinc sources. Zinc deficiency isn’t as common as the others, so you probably won’t need a supplement.
- Omega 3 Fats – If you pay enough attention to them, you can get enough omega 3 fats from your diet; here are the best vegan omega fat sources. Alternatively, there are vegan omega 3 supplements made from algae.
Vitamin B-12 is an exception, you won’t find it in vegan foods. If you’d like to know why, read about where vitamin B-12 comes from in nature. You’ll need to consume foods fortified with B-12, or buy a vegan B12 supplement. It’s super important to get enough B-12; a B12 deficiency can even lead to brain shrinkage.
Should You Buy a Vegan Multivitamin?
If you read that list above and feel like you’ll have a tough time getting more than one of those vitamins, a multivitamin is a much more convenient option.
I’ve put together a guide to the best vegan multivitamins.
Each of them have different amounts of each important vitamin, so pick one that reflects the potential deficiencies you’re worried about.
Something All Vegans Should Do
Whenever you make a radical diet change, you should get your blood work done.
It’s fast, not too painful, and can help avoid potential issues.
Ideally, do it as soon as possible after going vegan to get a baseline.
Then, do it as frequently as you’d like to monitor any good or bad changes. Your doctor will likely recommend a frequency to do so.
It’s important to do it on a regular basis, since you can have some built-up stores of vitamins like B-12 that last for years. Initial follow ups after going vegan might not pick up a deficiency right away.
Finally, you should track what you eat with a free tool like Cronometer, even just for a little bit.
You may find out that you have enough of all those hard to get vitamins above, but are low in another nutrient you’d never expect.
In that case, see my vegan nutrition guide to see if you can get it in your diet, or try to find a supplement from a good vegan vitamin brand. There are supplements for everything if needed, even vegan biotin supplements to prevent hair loss.