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The Ultimate Guide to Vitamins & Minerals for Vegetarians & Vegans

For me, one of the hardest things about going vegetarian was not having to adjust to new foods, but instead having to deal with people saying that vegetarian diets are somehow deficient, when it is clearly not the case. So in order to help people that are considering going vegetarian or vegan, I have decided to create the best possible guide that is available on the internet to each of the most important vitamins and minerals, how much of each you need, and where you can get the vitamin or mineral from, whether you are vegetarian or vegan. This is going to be a long and detailed article, so if you want to skip to a particular vitamin or mineral, just click on one of the links in the table of contents below:

Table of Contents

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a very important, and often overlooked vitamin that is responsible for very important functions in the body such as; growth and development, vision, and maintenance of the immune system. A deficiency of Vitamin A is most commonly associated with blindness and it is estimated that one third of children in the world are deficient in Vitamin A, putting them at risk of losing their sight.

Where can Vegetarians Get Vitamin A?

Food Vitamin A per 100g RDV (%) per 100g
Butter 684μg 76%
Egg 140μg 16%
Milk 28μg 3%
Cheddar Cheese 265μg 29%


Where can Vegans Get Vitamin A?
 

Food Vitamin A per 100g RDV (%) per 100g
Capsicum Pepper 2081μg 231%
Sweet Potato 961μg 107%
Carrot 835μg 93%
Broccoli Leaf 800μg 89%
Kale 681μg 76%
Butternut Squash 532μg 59%
Dandelion Greens 508μg 56%
Spinach 469μg 52%
Pumpkin 426μg 43%
Cantaloupe Melon 169μg 19%
Apricot 96μg 11%
Papaya 55μg 6%
Tomatoes 42μg 5%
Mango 38μg 4%


As you can see above, the vegetable based sources generally have larger amounts of Vitamin A than the vegetarian animal based sources. The easiest way to make sure that you have plenty of Vitamin A in your diet is to eat lots of peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots & kale.

 

B Vitamins

B Vitamins are important for cell metabolism in your body and play a vital role in your energy levels and how well your body functions in general. There are 8 types of essential B vitamins that your body needs to survive:

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

Vitamin B1, or Thiamine, is an important vitamin that can easily be found in plant based foods for vegetarians and vegans. A deficiency in Vitamin B1 can result in weight loss, irritability and confusion. More severe cases can result in conditions such as beriberi.

Where can Vegetarians & Vegans Get Vitamin B1?

Food Vitamin B1 per 100g RDV (%) per 100g
Sunflower Seeds 1.48mg 99%
Macadamia Nuts 0.71mg 47%
Wheat Bread 0.47mg 31%
Black Beans 0.244mg 21%
Green Peas 0.28mg 19%
Butternut Squash 0.1mg 9%


The table above is just a small example of some of the best sources of Vitamin B1 for vegetarians and vegans. The best way for vegetarians and vegans to get adequate Vitamin B1 in their diets is to make sure that plenty of whole grains, seeds, beans and nuts are consumed.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

Vitamin B2, or Riboflavin is another important part of the B Vitamins group, and is used by the body for cellular respiration. Riboflavin deficiency can result in skin issues such as rashes, stomatitis, and anemia. It is also known to be helpful in the treatment of migraines. The recommended daily value for Vitamin B2 is 1.3mg.

Where can Vegetarians Get Vitamin B2?

Food Vitamin B2 per 100g RDV (%) per 100g
Egg 0.47mg 36%
Cheddar Cheese 0.43mg 33%
Milk 0.183mg 14%

Where can Vegans Get Vitamin B2?

Food Vitamin B2 per 100g RDV (%) per 100g
Almonds 1.10mg 85%
Brown Mushrooms 0.49mg 38%
Sesame Seeds 0.47mg 36%
Whole Wheat Flour 0.20mg 15%
Spinach 0.20mg 15%


Vitamin B2, or Riboflavin, is present in a wide variety of whole-grains, nuts, seeds and leafy green vegetables. The best way to get enough vitamin B2 is to make sure that you have a wide variety of these foods in your diet.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Vitamin B3, or Niacin, is used by the body for catabolism and the repair of DNA. A deficiency in Niacin is called pellegria, which can result in lesions of the skin and mouth, anemia, nausea, headaches, and fatigue. The recommended daily value for Niacin is 16mg per day.

Where can Vegetarians & Vegans get Vitamin B3 (Niacin)?

As Niacin is not present in significant quantities in dairy products or eggs, vegetarians and vegans will generally be getting their Niacin from the same sources.

Food Vitamin B3 per 100g RDV (%) per 100g
Ground Ginger 9.6mg 60%
Whole Wheat Flour 6.4mg 40%
Toasted Sesame Seeds 4.6mg 29%
Brown Rice 1.5mg 9%


Vegetarians and Vegans should be able to obtain adequate amount of Niacin by making sure that their diets contain whole-grains, seeds and spices. Niacin can also be obtained by eating enriched cereals.

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)

Vitamin B5, or Pantothenic Acid, is a water-soluble vitamin and is essential to all forms of life by being used in the synthesis of Coenzyme A, which is necessary for transporting carbon within cells. Vitamin B5 deficiency is extremely rare and is not something that most vegetarians will have to worry about as it is easily available in vegetarian and vegan food.

Where can Vegetarians Get Vitamin B5?

Food Vitamin B5 per 100g RDV (%) per 100g
Egg 1.4mg 14%
Milk 0.4mg 4%
Cheddar Cheese 0.4mg 4%


Where can Vegans Get Vitamin B5?

Food Vitamin B5 per 100g RDV (%) per 100g
Toasted Sunflower Seeds 7.1mg 71%
Shiitake Mushrooms 3.6mg 36%
Avocado 1.5mg 15%
Whole Wheat Flour 1.0mg 10%
Baked Sweet Potato 0.9mg 9%

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is an important B vitamin that is important for your body’s metabolism. Similarly to Vitamin B5, deficiency in Vitamin B6 is rare and should not be an issue for vegetarians and vegans who have a balanced diet. The recommended daily value for vitamin B6 is 1.7mg.

Where can Vegetarians & Vegans get Vitamin B6?

The below foods are high in vitamin B6 and are suitable for both vegetarians and vegans. A diet that is high in whole grains, nuts, and seeds should contain an adequate amount of vitamin B6.

Food Vitamin B6 per 100g RDV (%) per 100g
Pistachio Nuts 1.7mg 100%
Banana 0.4mg 24%
Potatoes (With skin on) 0.25mg 15%
Chickpeas 0.139mg 8%

Vitamin B7 (Biotin)

Vitamin B7, or Biotin is important for cell metabolism, production of fatty acids, and cell growth. Deficiency in Biotin results in thinning hair and skin rashes, though it is rare as Biotin is present in most foods and the amount your body needs is small. The recommended daily value for Biotin is 30μg, though it is safe to consume far more than this.

Where can Vegetarians Get Vitamin B7 (Biotin)?

Food Vitamin B7 per 100g RDV (%) per 100g
Butter 94.3μg 314%
Eggs 18.9μg 63%


Where can Vegans Get Vitamin B7 (Biotin)?

Food Vitamin B7 per 100g RDV (%) per 100g
Brewer’s Yeast 188.8μg 629%
Soybeans 179.4μg 598%
Split Peas 77.7μg 257%
Lentils 40μg 133%
Peanuts 37.5μg 125%

Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)

Vitamin B9, or Folic Acid, is an important vitamin that your body uses for DNA & Amino Acid production, as well as cell division. Deficiency in Folic Acid can result in anemia and can also cause issues with pregnancies. Folic acid is relatively easy for vegetarians and vegans to obtain in sufficient quantities as it is found in a wide variety of foods such as leafy green vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, nuts, and beans. The recommended daily value for Folic Acid is 400 μg.

Food Vitamin B9 per 100g RDV (%) per 100g
Black Eyed Peas 208μg 52%
Spinach 194μg 48%
Lentils 181μg 45%
Broccoli 108μg 27%
Whole Wheat Bread 85μg 21%
Oranges 39μg 10%

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12, also known as Cobalamin, is a very important vitamin for the brain, nervous system, and also in the production of red blood cells. It is one of the hardest vitamins for vegetarians and vegans to get from natural sources as it is only naturally present in animal products and some fermented foods. Vegetarians and vegans have to be very careful that they do not become deficient in Vitamin B12, as severe deficiency is very serious and some of the results of a deficiency can be irreversible such as damage to the brain and nervous system. Minor deficiencies are not as serious, but should still be avoided as minor deficiencies in Vitamin B12 can result in fatigue, poor memory, depression and other issues. It is estimated that somewhere between 40% & 80% of vegetarians have at least a slight deficiency in Vitamin B12.

The easiest way for vegetarians and vegans to make sure that they are getting an adequate amount of Vitamin B12 is to simply take a supplement. You can either buy a vitamin b12 supplement on it’s own or get a multivitamin. Vegetarians will find it easier to get Vitamin B12 from dietary sources than vegans as they can obtain small amounts of the vitamin from animal sources such as eggs, milk, butter and cheese. However, as the amounts are small, supplementation is still recommended unless you consume these foods in larger quantities. Bioavailability is also lower in vegetarian foods, meaning that larger amounts of Vitamin B12 need to be consumed for the same amount of Vitamin B12 to be absorbed by your body.  

Vegans will struggle to get enough Vitamin B12 from dietary sources as there are few vegan foods which contain Vitamin B12 and these are not widely eaten such as Tempeh and a type of seaweed called Purple Laver. It is also not currently know how bioavailable the Vitamin B12 is in these foods.

The recommended daily value for Vitamin B12 is 2.4 μg.

Where can Vegetarians Get Vitamin B12?

Food Vitamin B12 per 100g RDV (%) per 100g
Egg 1.11μg 46%
Cheddar Cheese 0.8μg 33%
Milk 0.5μg 21%


Where can Vegans Get Vitamin B12?

Food Vitamin B12 per 100g RDV (%) per 100g
Tempeh 0.1μg 4%
Chlorella Varies Varies
Purple Laver (Nori) 77.6μg 3233%

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, which is also known as ascorbic acid or l-ascorbic acid is the vitamin that people generally know the most about, and is not normally a problem for vegetarians and vegans (we love vegetables right!)

Although people normally associate Vitamin C with fruit, it is also present in large quantities in lots of other vegetables such as peppers and even chillis, a plus if you like spicy foods! Deficiency in Vitamin C can result in scurvy, which is a disease that results in bleeding from the gums and brown spots on the skin. However, deficiency is very rare in western societies as it is in many fortified foods. Most Vitamin C sources are plant based, so vegetarians and vegans can get Vitamin C from the same sources. The Recommended Daily Value for Vitamin C is 90mg per day.

Where can Vegetarians & Vegans get Vitamin C?

As Vitamin C is present in almost all vegetables (even potatoes if you eat them with the skin on) it is easy to make sure that you get enough Vitamin C, just make sure that your diet contains a variety of vegetables!

Food Vitamin C per 100g RDV(%) per 100g
Kakadu plum 1000–5300 1111%
Indian gooseberry 445 494%
Rose hip 426 473%
Green Chilli Pepper 244 271%
Guava 228.3 254%
Blackcurrant 200 222%
Red Bell Pepper 190 211%
Red Chilli Pepper 144 160%
Parsley 130 144%
Kiwifruit 90 100%
Broccoli 90 100%
Loganberry 80 89%
Redcurrant 80 89%
Brussels sprouts 80 89%
Goji Berry 73 81%
Lychee 70 78%
Persimmon 66 73%
Cloudberry 60 67%
Elderberry 60 67%

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an extremely important vitamin, that only recently people are beginning to understand the importance of. Vitamin D is important for your immune system and mineral absorption as it increases absorption of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphate and zinc. There are two types of Vitamin D, Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3. If you choose to supplement, the best one to go with is Vitamin D3. Deficiency in Vitamin D can lead to rickets as well as decreased immunity and bone weakness.

Vitamin D is present in few plant sources, so obtaining enough Vitamin D can be an issue for both vegetarians and vegans, however this is especially true with vegans. If you like in a sunny climate, and get enough sun exposure, getting enough Vitamin D should not be a problem as the body synthesizes enough Vitamin D through exposure of the skin to the sun. However, if you live in a northern area it is often not possible to get enough Vitamin D this way, especially in winter, so supplementing Vitamin D3 is recommended.

Where can Vegetarians & Vegans get Vitamin D?

For vegans, the only natural foods that contain Vitamin D are lichens and mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light. It is difficult to say exactly how much Vitamin D is in these foods. However, it is possible to obtain enough Vitamin D through fortified foods, many foods such are soy milk and breakfast cereals are fortified with Vitamin D, however as the levels can vary based on the brand and where you live, you will have to check the labels to see how much Vitamin D is present in each product. The Recommended Daily Value of Vitamin D3 is 600IU. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, so always consume with something that contains fat so that it can be absorbed properly.

Food Vitamin D per 100g RDV (%) per 100g
Egg 87IU 14.5%
Whole Milk 51IU 8.5%
Butter 60IU 10%

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin that can be found in a variety of oils, nuts and vegetables. It works in the body as an antioxidant. Deficiency in Vitamin E is rare and is rarely caused by a poor diet. As Vitamin E is present in a wide variety of plant based foods, Vitamin E deficiency is not something that Vegetarians and Vegans will generally have to worry about. The Recommended Daily Value for Vitamin E is 15mg.

Where can Vegetarians & Vegans get Vitamin E?

Food Vitamin E per 100g RDV (%) per 100g
Wheat Germ Oil 150mg 1000%
Sunflower Oil 41mg 273%
Olive Oil 14mg 93%
Almonds 26mg 173%
Hazelnuts 15mg 100%
Peanuts 8.33mg 56%
Avocados 2mg 13%
Broccoli 1.5mg 10%
Sweet Potato 0.9mg 6%

Vitamin K

No, I didn’t just skip Vitamins F to J, these were vitamins that were discovered to not be essential to human life, therefore they do not need to be included on this list. Vitamin K is essential for blood coagulation and strong bones and a deficiency can result in osteoporosis or in extreme cases, uncontrolled bleeding. There are two types of Vitamin K, Vitamin K1, which is present mostly in leafy green vegetables and Vitamin K2, which is the type of the vitamin from animal products. The RDV for Vitamin K is 120μg. There are currently discussions as to whether people who get enough Vitamin K1 also need to consume Vitamin K2, this is especially important for vegans as there are few vegan foods that contain Vitamin K2, other than fermented foods. As scientists appear to be undecided on this at the moment, vegans will have to decide whether they wish to supplement Vitamin K2 or not.

Where can Vegetarians & Vegans get Vitamin K1?

Food Vitamin K1 per 100g RDV (%) per 100g
Kale 817μg 681%
Cooked Spinach 494μg 412%
Swiss Chard 327μg 273%
Green Leaf Lettuce 174μg 145%
Broccoli 141μg 118%
Cabbage 109μg 91%
Asparagus 50.6μg 42%


Where can Vegetarians Vitamin K2?

Vitamin K2 is available in most animal based foods, but is especially prevalent in the fattier foods as it is a fat soluble vitamin.

Food Vitamin K2 per 100g RDV (%) per 100g
Hard Cheeses 76.3μg 64%
Soft Cheeses 56.5μg 47%
Egg Yolk 32.1μg 27%
Butter 15μg 13%
Whole Milk Yoghurt 0.9μg 0.75%
Whole Milk 0.9μg 0.75%


Where can Vegans get Vitamin K2?

Unfortunately for vegans, the only significant source of Vitamin K2 is the Japanese food Natto. Natto consists of fermented soy beans.

Food Vitamin K2 per 100g RDV (%) per 100g
Natto (Fermented Soy Beans) 1,103μg 919%
Sauerkraut 4.8μg 4%
Buckwheat Bread 1.1μg 1%

Minerals

Now that we have all of the vitamins covered, we will be moving on to minerals. Making sure that you consume enough minerals in your diet is often overlooked, yet it is extremely important if you want to be healthy. When people think about minerals, they normally only think of a few, such as calcium and iron, when there are lots of other minerals that are just as important to health.

Calcium

Where do you get your calcium from? This is one question that vegans often have to answer again and again. Most people think that the only way to get calcium is through eating dairy products. This common misconception is due to the work of the dairy industry in making dairy the first thing people think of when it comes to calcium. However, calcium is present in a large variety of plant based foods such as nuts, seeds, and leafy green vegetables. Many other foods are also fortified with calcium, such as soy milk so it is possible for vegans to get a similar level of calcium from drinking soy milk as they wood from drinking cow’s milk. The recommended daily value for calcium in adults is 1,000mg, however children should consume more than this due to their growing bones, teenagers generally need around 1,300mg.

Where can Vegetarians get Calcium?

Most vegetarians will get calcium in the same way that other omnivores get it, through dairy products and some plant foods:

Food Calcium per 100g RDV (%) per 100g
Whole Milk 113mg 11%
Cheddar Cheese 721mg 72%
Yoghurt 110mg 11%


Where can Vegans get Calcium?

Getting enough calcium is far harder for vegans than vegetarians, however it is possible to do so without supplementation. Vegans should eat lots of nuts, seeds, beans and leafy green vegetables

Food Calcium per 100g RDV (%) per 100g
Cooked Soy Beans 102mg 10%
Cooked Broccoli 40mg 4%
Crunchy Peanut Butter 45mg 5%
Kidney Beans 145mg 15%
Almonds 264mg 26%
Cooked Spinach 136mg 14%

Iron

Getting adequate iron is one of the most common dietary issues for both vegetarians and vegans. Iron exists in two forms, haem iron, which is found only in meat products and is the easiest form of iron for the body to absorb, and non haem iron which is present in eggs, dairy and plants.

Unfortunately, many foods impact the ability of the body to absorb iron. These foods include calcium, phenols and tannins, which you will normally find in tea, coffee, chocolate, and some other foods, and phytates, which are found in grains.

If you are having difficulties absorbing iron, you can increase your bodies ability to absorb the iron by including iron rich foods with vitamin c rich foods as vitamin c increases your body’s ability to absorb iron. Iron has a very different recommended daily value depending on gender, with 6mg necessary for men, 19mg necessary for women. Iron deficiency is the most common food deficiency in the word and can lead to anemia, so it is very important to make sure that you get enough iron in your diet. If you think that you may find this difficult, it may be a good idea for you to supplement.

Where can Vegetarians get Iron?

Food Iron per 100g RDV (%) per 100g (Men) RDV (%) per 100g (Women)
Boiled Egg 1.2mg 20% 6%
Cheddar Cheese 0.7mg 12% 4%

Where can Vegans get Iron?

Food Iron per 100g RDV (%) per 100g (Men) RDV (%) per 100g (Women)
Cooked Chickpeas 2.9mg 48% 15%
Cooked Lentils 3.3mg 55% 17%
Almonds 3.7mg 62% 19%
Cashews 6.7mg 112% 35%
Kale 1.5mg 25% 8%
Broccoli 0.7mg 12% 4%
Savoy Cabbage 0.4mg 7% 2%
Dried Apricots 2.7mg 45% 14%

 

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