Recommended Supplements for Vegans

Recommended Supplements for Vegans

By |2010-11-28T13:19:06+00:00November 28th, 2010|Tags: , , , , , |176 Comments
Just days before everyone was talking about the Voracious [ex-] Vegan story, I received a severe scolding from a reader for my stance on supplements (this was in response to my post on omega-3s). She was adamant about the fact that “whole plant foods” can easily provide everything we need.
An effort to prove that a whole foods vegan diet is the ideal or foolproof diet of all humans gives rise to all kinds of potentially harmful myths. These include the unfounded position that vegans can meet vitamin B12 needs by consuming unwashed organic produce, or that we have lower calcium needs than omnivores, or that it’s been “proven” that no one needs long chain omega-3 fats in their diet.
If these claims make vegan diets look easy and ideal, but they jeopardize health—well, that just seems like a pretty poor trade-off. There are many reasons why people abandon vegan diets, and bad nutrition advice from within the vegan community is probably one of them.
Many ex-vegans claim that they supplemented with vitamin B12 and still developed a deficiency. I have no trouble believing it when I read the incorrect or inadequate advice that some vegan advocates provide. These include the suggestion that you may wish to take an “occasional” small B12 supplement after you’ve been vegan for three years. Some resources on vegan diets don’t even bother with any specifics about dosages or absorption issues regarding vitamin B12.
Here is how those who are supplementing with B12 could become deficient:
·They waited too long to start supplementing and then didn’t take a high enough dosage to rebuild stores.
·They think they are supplementing “faithfully,” but are really just taking a small dose of B12 a couple of times a week.
·They aren’t chewing their B12 tablet or using a sublingual pill and aren’t digesting the pills that are swallowed whole.
·They are using methylcobalamin instead of cyanocobalamin, not realizing that the dosage requirements for methylcobalamin could be much higher—maybe as high as 1,000 to 2,000 micrograms per day (as opposed to the 25 micrograms of cyanocobalamin that are probably sufficient.)
Any of these would be a good example of how a conscientious vegan could fail to get adequate B12 simply because the vegan nutrition information they read was inadequate.
This is where we are with vegan diets: We promote a way of eating that is well outside the mainstream and, therefore, are challenged to prove its safety every step of the way. The things at stake are the health of the people to whom we promote it, and the lives of the billions of animals who depend on us to make veganism a realistic and safe choice for everyone. So we’d be very wise to err on the side of caution in making recommendations about how to eat.
Vegans do need supplements or fortified foods, and admitting that a vegan diet is not automatically pure perfection is way better than getting sick.
Here, then, are supplements (or fortified foods) that vegans need:
All vegans:
Vitamin B12. You can’t get enough by eating unwashed organic produce or mushrooms grown in B12-rich soil. The recommended dose is 25 to 100 micrograms per day or 1,000 micrograms 2-3 times per week. If you have not been taking B12 for a while, start out with 2,000 micrograms daily for several weeks. Or get a blood test to see where you are and whether you might need a more therapeutic dose.
Most vegans:
Vitamin D. If you live where it’s sunny and warm all year and you spend time outdoors without sunscreen, you can make enough. The rest of us need a supplement or fortified foods (just like omnivores do) supplying 1,000 I.U.s of vitamin D. (This amount is well above the RDA for vitamin D but most experts think it’s warranted.
Iodine. Omnivores get most of their iodine from dairy products, which pick up iodine from solutions used to clean cows and equipment on dairy farms. Vegans who regularly eat sea vegetables may get enough, but the content varies a lot as it does for sea salt and other “natural” salts. Miso, which some vegans prefer to use in place of salt—because it’s a whole food—is not usually a good source of iodine. The only reliable sources are iodized salt or a supplement providing around 90 micrograms per day.

Some vegans:
Calcium. We don’t know if vegans have lower needs, but the old “low protein diets reduce calcium needs” theory has taken some real hits in the past years. Based on current understanding–which is admittedly pretty poor–we vegans should strive for the RDA. Our ancestors didn’t drink milk and got all the calcium they needed from wild greens. And even though modern cultivated greens have less, we could get enough calcium just from these foods, too. But the recommendation to eat four or more cups of cooked greens per day makes veganism a hard sell. Without fortified foods, many vegans fall short on calcium. (So do most omnivores; the food industry doesn’t fortify orange juice or instant oatmeal with calcium as a favor to vegans. Those foods are marketed to omnivore women.)

Iron. Young women with heavy periods may have a tough time keeping up with iron needs, and again, this is not a problem that is specific to vegans. Rates of iron deficiency anemia are actually very high among pre-menopausal omnivore women. It can help to take a low dose supplement (high doses can be hard on the stomach) with orange juice to boost absorption, or to include some fortified foods in the diet. There is some evidence that taking supplements of the amino acid L-lysine boosts absorption of supplemental iron.
Possible supplement requirements
DHA: 200 to 300 mg several times a week. It may be a good idea, but we don’t know for sure. I take this amount almost daily and would recommend it in particular for anyone who is prone to depression.
Sound like a lot of supplements? Well, here is some perspective: Omnivores get their vitamin D from fortified foods (cow’s milk is not a natural source of this nutrient) and their iodine from accidental contamination of dairy foods. Many omnivores—women especially—depend on supplements to meet calcium and iron needs. And the Institute of Medicine recommends that everyone over the age of 50 should add vitamin B12 supplements or fortified foods to their diet since it becomes increasingly difficult to digest and absorb the vitamin B12 in animal foods with aging.
Vegans may need to work a little bit harder to meet nutrient needs, but that’s a small trade-off for making choices based on compassion and justice for animals.


  1. kira November 28, 2010 at 1:37 pm - Reply

    is there a vegan multivitamin that would meet all these requirements?

    • Bella April 2, 2012 at 6:33 pm - Reply

      To be honest, No. You’re welcome to look for one but believe me, I have done the search and i haven’t found the multivitamin that you can just pop one pill and be good to go.
      What I’m currently taking is this:
      -Now Special two multivit. (the best I have found. I take the recommended dosage. The tablets are huge so I recommend the vcaps even though its 4 pills/day)
      -Veglife vit D2 400 I. U (2 pill/day in winter, in summer i dont take any because there is already 1000 I.U in the multi vit)
      -pure vegan B12 spray (1 spray/day)
      -Deva DHA-EPA (1pill/day) + 1 tbsp of ground flax/day
      I also take from time to time a prebiotic pill and/or an enzyme digestive helper to renew my microbe flora/enzymes. It helps with the bloating and the gases.
      Hope this helped! Dont forget to eat loads of veggies! Good luck! 😀

      • Kayla Marie August 29, 2012 at 2:47 pm - Reply

        I take Equaline: One Daily Women’s. It contains Vitamin D, B12, Calcium, and Iron. I get iodine from iodized sea salt.

        • Grace April 10, 2016 at 10:05 pm - Reply

          Equaline uses gelatin in their tablets, so they are not vegan

        • Emily December 14, 2017 at 10:30 pm - Reply

          Also, calcium and iron should always be taken separately, since calcium inhibits iron absorption.

          • Meag February 13, 2018 at 3:47 pm

            This is good to know! thank you

    • Maddi August 21, 2014 at 6:47 pm - Reply
      • Indira March 13, 2015 at 2:31 am - Reply

        i want to try it online
        i dont live in America 🙂

        • PhilC June 11, 2016 at 12:45 am - Reply

          They are available outside the US and online.

      • Sam November 16, 2017 at 8:31 pm - Reply


        The vitamin D listed on the Deva multivitamin is D2, a synthetic form of vitamin D which the body can’t use half as effectively as D3, which is the form of D you want to take. As for Vitamin C … I discovered a couple of years ago that all vitamin C used in health supplements worldwide comes from China, which is the only country that makes vitamin C. And since I don’t trust the manufacturing standards in China anymore than I trust US manufacturing standards today which is now set by big business, I never take multivitamins.

        The problem with multivitamins is one has to go down the list of every vitamin and mineral listed on the bottle and investigate the source. Most multivitamins will have some form of synthetic vitamins or minerals in them, even when they’re in a food-based tablet or capsule.

        If you’re vegan you really should be getting all the vitamins and nutrients you need from whole foods, with the exception of D3, B12 (which you can easily get from nutritional yeast), and DHA. Unless you’re someone who never eats out and prepares all your own meals, then you’re probably getting enough iodine from the salt in restaurant or other outside foods.


        • Eric May 31, 2018 at 9:46 pm - Reply

          Actually, and you may know this at this point, multiple studies show that D3 absorption from supplementation isn’t significantly lower than that of D3. You can check the scholarly articles available via google search for this info.

    • Dianne January 14, 2016 at 10:49 am - Reply

      Yes! Dr. Fuhrman Women’s daily formula D3 is what I use. It meets all of these requirements and is vegan.

      • Lindsey April 18, 2017 at 10:01 pm - Reply

        I don’t see that that one contains iron. 🙁

        • Jamee April 6, 2018 at 10:43 am - Reply

          The Dr. Fuhrman Gentle Prenatal multi does, though. The only difference (at least that I can tell right now) from the Women’s Daily formula is that it contains iron, which is helpful for women who are pregnant or menstruating.

    • Kelly May 22, 2016 at 3:39 pm - Reply

      Alive Brand meets the requirements:

    • Sabrina November 14, 2017 at 4:04 am - Reply

      I’m not sure if there is a vegan multivitamin that you can take that says vegan multivitamin but I know a multivitamin that is vegan friendly it’s called equate one daily Women’s Health and it’s got 100% of any and every of the vitamins and minerals listed above wish you luck on your vegan Journey

  2. Linda November 28, 2010 at 1:53 pm - Reply

    Thank you for an excellent article!  This is quite a moderate position, I would say.  I definitely like food to be my medicine, but I follow evidence-based research to guide me on supplements.  Right now, I put vitamin D and B12 drops in a liter bottle with 2 tablespoons of chia seeds.  I drink this gradually over the day. 
    I will also consider your advice on calcium and DHA.  I used to take calcium supplements, but reconsidered the practice a couple of months ago when that research came out on its association with heart disease.
    What's your take on iron supplements for post-menopausal women?  And is it true that the 5 – 15% of people whose urine turns pink or red after eating beets should have their doctors access their iron status?

    • Ginny Messina November 28, 2010 at 5:54 pm - Reply

       I think that most vegan post-menopausal women will not need iron supplements, but it is still worth checking in with your doctor every once in a while to see what your iron levels are. I really wouldn't bother with supplements for this nutrient unless you know that getting adequate iron is a problem for you.

      I have never heard of the beet thing!! I'll check it out.

    • Angela R October 20, 2011 at 8:48 am - Reply

      it is better to take the b-12 drops and put them directly under the tongue, hold for 30 seconds then swallow. Absorption is much better this way 🙂

  3. Deb November 28, 2010 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    I admit I had been completely confused about the b-12, thinking it was cyanocobalamin that was the less desirable.  And I just checked out a couple online vegan stores, and the only b-12 they seem to carry is the methylcobalamin.  Where do you get your cyanocobalamin? 

  4. Gail November 28, 2010 at 2:03 pm - Reply

    Do you know of any vegan sources of vitamin D3?  I understand they're either from fish or wool (sheep) sources.  Or is it fine to take another type of vitamin D?  (my naturopath had recommended D3, but I'm not sure what the difference is.)
    Thanks so much.

    • Ryan November 29, 2010 at 12:31 pm - Reply

      You can get Natural Vitamin D2 from a website.  The company is in the business of creating Natural Vitamin D2 from a mushroom.  I have been taking these mushroom supplements for 2 years now.  They now have a D product.  Each serving gives up to 2,000 IU per day.  Not only do you get the benefits from the D2, but you get the benefits from the Mushrooms as well.

  5. […] to add: Recommended Supplements for Vegans: by Ginny Messina RD 29 November […]

  6. jill November 28, 2010 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    We take Deva Vegan multivitamins – 100% iodine, 100% iron, 1666% B12, 100% D2.
    Only 10% calcium, though, and no DHA, though there are a couple of vegan DHA supplements out there, as well.

    • kira November 29, 2010 at 5:33 am - Reply

      i'll check that out. thank you! =]

  7. […] and be the next poster child of the ex-vegans as noted by Ginny Messina, The Vegan RD, in a recent must-read-post on supplements“There are many reasons why people abandon vegan diets, and bad nutrition […]

  8. Sayward November 28, 2010 at 5:30 pm - Reply

    Ginny, thank you thank you thank you for the work that you do here. Every time I see a new post from you I get excited. I'm a total hobby nutritionist and am often frustrated with the misinformation all over the internet. It's so refreshing to have a place to point people at with the credibility of an RD – as opposed to just myself going "No, REALLY, please listen to me you can't get B12 from spinach or bran!"
    Anyways, I supplemented with calcium during my pregnancy (on top of my prenatal) but have dropped off in the months following. I'm still breastfeeding and taking a multi with 20% rda. You've advised that we should probably sup, but how much? 100% over the course of the day? Is the 15-30% found in most multis going to be enough on top of a whole foods, greens-rich diet?
    Thanks again for being ridiculously awesome.  =)

    • Ginny Messina November 29, 2010 at 3:06 pm - Reply

      How much calcium you need from supplements really depends on the rest of your diet. If you are eating plenty of calcium-rich foods like calcium-set tofu, fortified plant milks and juices, and leafy greens, you may not need a supplement at all. But if your diet varies, you may want to add about 200 to 300 mg of calcium per day just to round it out. That's what I do.

      • Amy April 5, 2013 at 7:38 am - Reply

        Trader Joe’s makes a 1000mcg Cyanocobalamin B-12 supplement.

        • Judith April 10, 2013 at 10:37 am - Reply

          the Trader Joe’s 1000 mcg Cyanocobalamin B-12 pills I’m looking at contain milk. they’re the only ones I’ve found there.

  9. Ginny Messina November 28, 2010 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    I didn't mean to suggest that people shouldn't take methylcobalamin–just that many might not realize that the recommended dosage is probably much higher. The concern is that someone using a supplement that provides 1,000 micrograms of methylcobalamin might think that they need to take this only twice a week or so.

    I agree that finding a vegan source of cobalamin is not that easy and most are really big doses. I know that Nature Made makes one and I think the one made by Sundown is vegan. So is the NOW brand, which I believe is in the form of a liquid. I'll keep looking for more.  

    And remember that if you are using a multivitamin, it may still be necessary to chew it to get adequate absorbable B12. And you'll still need to find a source of DHA if you choose to supplement with it.

    As for vitamin D–no, vitamin D3 is never vegan. Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is the vegan form. I'll try to write more about vitamin D soon, but the evidence suggests that vitamin D2 is well absorbed and raises blood levels of vitamin D. It's what I use.

    • Jan November 29, 2010 at 7:40 am - Reply

      hi Ginny, thank you for your amazing site. I've been vegan for 10 years and have just had my B12 levels tested with a blood test. Today however I was looking at Vegan Health's site, and I'm now a bit confused. My question is: can I trust the blood test to determine whether my B12 level is adequate? (I don't understand how to read the chart). Many thanks, and with warm regards.

      • Ginny Messina November 29, 2010 at 3:36 pm - Reply

         I think what Jack is saying is that measuring serum levels of B12 alone can miss some deficiencies. It's generally better to use more than one type of test and some types are more sensitive–especially to early deficiency–than others. You might want to ask your doctor how your B12 status was measured. None of the tests is absolutely perfect–another good reason to supplement no matter what!

    • Nicole December 6, 2010 at 10:04 am - Reply

      I have to admit I am a little confused – I did a bit of reading up about the forms of B12 and which one was better (and Wikipedia wasn't one of my sources 🙂  I'd read that methylcobalamin was the better source of B12 because it is a type that is already converted to the form most easily usable by the body.  And I'd read that methylcobalamin was the form most likely to be vegan, whereas cyanocobalamin might not always be from a vegan source.  Luckily, it's fairly easy for me to find cyanocoblamin where I live, but it'll take some sleuthing to find a brand that's vegan.
      And what is your opinion on xylitol?  I had been using the NOW brand of B12 until I learned there could be potential carcinogenic issues with xyitol and decided to avoid it and stop buying NOW (though it's a really good deal for the size of the bottle I can get).

    • Frank August 7, 2011 at 6:21 pm - Reply

      Ginny, do you have experience or an opinion about the methylcobalamin ‘energy patch’ that is available? The ones I am using have 1000mcg of methylcobalamin and they recommend one to two patches a week placed on the skin behind the ear for 24 hours each dose. It also has 400 mcg of folic acid.

      • Ginny Messina August 8, 2011 at 5:13 pm - Reply

        No, I’m not familiar with it. I’m not convinced that the 1,000 dose twice a week is enough, although it’s possible that it’s absorbed better over the period of 24 hours. I’m still inclined to stick with cyanocobalamin which has been better researched.

    • Brynn November 7, 2013 at 10:18 am - Reply

      I researched this extensively and your site is the only one I found that recommends cyanocobalamin over methylcobalamin. Apparently cyanocobalamin is not found in nature and is synthetic. Some researchers say it is toxic. And I found a number of researchers who said that methylcobalamin is better absorbed. These sites aren’t ones advertising products. It’s almost like their info is the opposite of yours. Could you please clarify this for me?

      • Mark Avrum Drutz December 18, 2013 at 2:10 pm - Reply

        Cyanocobalamine derives from cyanide, which I was shocked to discover. I asked my pharmacist about it, and he said that your body converts the cyano (and the cyanide is in small amounts so is ‘likely’ not toxic) into methylcobalamin which the body can absorb. So why not take the supplement that your body can use, rather than one it needs to convert?! So I switched immediately to methylco, and the recommended dosage is 1 per day, and each pill is 1000 mcg. So yes, the dosage is higher, but so what, it’s still 1 pill?!

    • Nikki Hurst January 22, 2014 at 7:55 pm - Reply
    • VeganRHN May 15, 2015 at 12:15 pm - Reply

      What do you think of the new lichen sourced vegan D3 from AOR?

    • Gina May 20, 2015 at 1:18 pm - Reply

      Actually you can get vegan D3. You can get it from lichen. I use the brand MRM. 100% vegan D3.

    • Brad January 15, 2016 at 7:42 am - Reply

      Regarding D3. I take “Dr. Fuhrman Men’s Daily Formula + D3” multivitamin, which is labeled 100% vegan.

      The label says:
      Vitamin D3 (as vegan cholecalciferol) (VitaShine®)

      Fuhrman contradicts your assertion that “vitamin D3 is never vegan.” Please elucidate.

  10. Meg November 28, 2010 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    Hi Ginny,
    I've heard of new processes that make vegan D3 starting with rye and maybe also algae. I've looked into "vegan" D3 before and found that they started with lanolin and so it wasn't vegan, but this seems different. Do you have any info on these new processes?

    It's mentioned here:

    (Also, just fyi, if I hit "reply" above it brings up a comment box that says "Null" and won't let me comment. Tried on FF and Chrome.)

    • Ginny Messina November 29, 2010 at 3:08 pm - Reply

      I'm not seeing how that product contains D3. It says that the vitamin D is derived from rye. And there is a fungus that grows on rye that produces vitamin D–but it's D2. So I suspect that this is what this product actually contains. I have yet to see any source of vegan D3. It always turns out to be not vegan or, it's actually D2.

      • Adam May 21, 2012 at 11:10 am - Reply


        There is a new product called Vitashine which is vegan society approved and D3, made from lichen.

        They do sprays for 1000IU per spray or capsules 5000IU.

        The parent company also makes vegan EPA/DHA supplements with good EPA levels (unusual for a vegan EPA and DHA supplement).

        Take care

        Adam x

  11. Heather November 29, 2010 at 2:06 am - Reply

    I supplement with Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer every morning with a banana and either hemp or almond milk.  (  Do you have any experience with this or with people who use this as their primary vitamin and mineral supplement?  My partner and I are whole foods vegans, and so we eat lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.  I've recently, too, begun to supplement with DHA.

    I've recently in the last few months discovered your blog and love it.  Thanks for all of the information you put out there!

    • Ginny Messina November 30, 2010 at 1:30 pm - Reply

      No, I'm not familiar with that supplement. It looks like the link to the info might be broken?

  12. thefruitpersuit (Sabine) November 29, 2010 at 2:37 am - Reply

    Hey Ginny, thanks for writing this post to shine some light on vegan nutrition. My boyfriend always tries to convince me that a vegan diet is not healthier, since we need supplements. I try and explain to him that almost all omnivores also need supplements and/or fortified foods, but just don't know it. I don't know any omnivore who eats fatty fish 1-2 a week, meaning they don't get any DHA either. I really don't get how they can't realize that for themselves, oh well. By the way, I don't know how it is in the states but in Europe, we get our Iodine from bread consumption! All breads are baked with Iodined salt, apart from the bread you bake yourself.
    I would also like to add to your conclusion that a vegan diet is not only healthier, in most cases, than omnivore diets because of the higher amount of (most) vitamins and minerals we get, it's also much healthier because of the crap we don't ingest (hormones, antibiotocs, carcinogens, cholesterol, sodium and more saturated fats)! For me, a vegan diet is healthier because we get more particular nutrients in (potassium, unsaturated fats, vitamin K, folate, vitamin C, phytochemicals, etc), can easily supplement the ones that we cannot obtain on a vegan diet (b12), and get a lot less of the nasty stuff (aforementioned). 

  13. Lindsay November 29, 2010 at 4:38 am - Reply

    another fabulous—well said and true post! I only wished you'd have touched on whether we can meet these needs with fortified foods–such as nutritional yeast and fortified almond milk that has cyanocoblamin, or cereals with vitamin D, etc.

    • Ginny Messina November 29, 2010 at 3:11 pm - Reply

      Yes, you can meet these needs with fortified foods–and I did want to emphasize that "supplements" means either pills or fortified foods. But foods are fortified with vitamin D at levels that will help people meet the current RDA, but not the higher amounts of this vitamin that most experts are recommending. So in this case, I still recommend a vitamin supplement. For vitamin B12, 2 to 3 servings of a fortified food per day should be enough.

  14. Michelle November 29, 2010 at 4:51 am - Reply

    For those in the UK Holland & Barrett do a vegan B12 supplement. It is cyanocobalamin. However each tablet is 500 microgram and the bottle recommends 1 to 2 tablets daily. I'm taking one a day but after reading this post I feel I may be vastly overdosing if 25 micograms of cyanocobalamin is likely to be sufficient! It does on the bottle each tablet contains 50,000% RDA !
    What do you recommend? Keep taking it? I'm confused!

    • Ginny Messina November 29, 2010 at 3:12 pm - Reply

      You don't really need to worry about overdosing on vitamin B12, but I don't think you need to take the 2 pills every day. You can take 2 pills two to three times per week and that should be enough.

      • Michelle November 30, 2010 at 8:06 pm - Reply

        Thanks Ginny. And thanks for always writing such informative and interesting articles. I always try to make sure I retweet them so people can access your professional info.

  15. beforewisdom November 29, 2010 at 6:35 am - Reply

    I'm not a 100% sure, but I think vitamin b-12 supplements are manufactured by using bacteria to ferment it.   It seems a bit silly to think of that as being any less natural than buying a food, out of season, shipped across a continent, in a plastic coated box.

    • Ginny Messina November 29, 2010 at 3:12 pm - Reply

      Yes, B12 comes from bacteria–so I agree with your conclusion!

  16. beforewisdom November 29, 2010 at 6:41 am - Reply

    "The food industry doesn’t fortify orange juice or instant oatmeal with calcium as a favor to vegans; those foods are marketed to omnivore women"

    Excellent point.  These supplements are available because carnists need them.  

  17. beforewisdom November 29, 2010 at 6:44 am - Reply

    The list of supplements in the post above is short compared to what non-vegan health authorities who believe in supplementation would prescribe for the general public.

  18. Amy November 29, 2010 at 8:44 am - Reply

    Hi Ginny,
    I love your site and I am in my 2nd year of the Dietetics program. I have 2 children, 7 yr old daughter and 3 1/2 yr old son. They are about 90% vegan (grandparents on the weekends is the other 10 %) They take Animal Parade vitamins somewhat regularly. Would this be sufficient for all their supplement needs? 

    • Ginny Messina November 29, 2010 at 3:17 pm - Reply

      I'd suggest a little bit more B12–maybe a separate supplement providing 15 to 25 micrograms of B12 per day. And are they consuming some calcium-fortified beverages–plant milks or juices? Otherwise, that supplement looks good. And I'm so happy to see another vegan coming through a dietetics program!

  19. Holy Crêpe November 29, 2010 at 2:48 pm - Reply

    Omnivores also get some of their B12 through “fortification” of animal products.
    >50% of the vitamin B12 produced is used for animal feed. For other vitamins the numbers are even higher. Some animals like chickens and pigs are raised on plant only diets, though they are omnivores. Therefore supplementation with some vitamins is required (also vitamin D if they are kept indoors all the time).
    At least in Europe the animal feed is enriched with iodine and often other stuff like selenium.
    For vitamin D new recommendations will be published in a couple of hours :

    Thanks for this nice blog btw, Ginny 🙂

  20. Jamie November 29, 2010 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the wonderful post, especially the part about fortified foods. Great simple and rational recommendations!

  21. Jack Norris November 29, 2010 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    Hi Jan,
    This is a better page to read regarding getting your B12 levels tested:
    If you don't eat a lot of seaweed, then your B12 levels should be relatively accurate.

    I hope that helps.


  22. Sarah November 29, 2010 at 5:36 pm - Reply

    Hi,   I had a question regarding the B12.  Everyone is always saying that vegans MUST supplement with B12, but I find that almost anything I eat that isn't made from scratch (i.e. soymilk, veggie burgers, cereal…) is fortified with 50% or more B12!  I usually figure that that is fine since I eat some sort of fake meat/tofu/soymilk just about every day… Do you think that is okay, or is supplementing better?
    And about the iodine and Vitamin D– totally! I just did a four day diet analysis for one of my courses in my dietetic program at school and I was deficient in both 🙁

  23. Evelyn November 29, 2010 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    Another great post – thanks!

  24. Laura November 30, 2010 at 6:37 am - Reply says beeturia is most common in people with enhanced iron absorption. 
    So if you aren't getting much iron in your diet and your body is trying to pull in more, you're more likely to have beeturia. 

  25. Wendy H. November 30, 2010 at 9:37 am - Reply

    Hi Ginny, thanks for all the info!  What brands of supplements do you recommend for DHA?

    • Ginny Messina November 30, 2010 at 1:32 pm - Reply

      I think anything from one of the vegan stores like Vegan Essentials is fine. I've been using Deva brand.

  26. Rob November 30, 2010 at 10:06 am - Reply

    I am a little confused  now my wife and I have been vegans for 5 yrs and feel great and we get most of our B12 in a multi vitamin supplement.  Am I understanding you right that if it is in a multivitamin we need to chew it instead of swallowing it?

    • Ginny Messina November 30, 2010 at 1:33 pm - Reply

      There is some evidence that B12 is better absorbed if you chew the pill or use a sublingual one that dissolves under the tongue. So I tend to recommend this to be on the safe side. It doesn't mean that you absolutely won't get enough B12 if you swallow the pill whole–just that chewing gives you some added protection.

  27. Tumeria Langlois November 30, 2010 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    Great article. I actually take these supplements. I take B12 every day. The sublingual is very tasty. I do vit D in the late fall and winter months. Dr. Greger recommends 4,000 IU's. We did this last Winter and stayed healthy -no colds! I can't eat sea vegetables because of the taste. I just can't stomach it. I take a kelp supplement for my iodine as I don't like salt. For calcium I eat a lot of dark green leafy veggies. I also lift weights 4 times a week. Also drink some soy milk that has added calcium. I do eat spinach for iron and I am at the point now in my life (50) where I don't often have periods any more.  For DHA we take V-Pure. The DHA comes from algae. Omega Zen is good too but has a "fishy" after taste. We also eat flax seeds and walnuts.

  28. Al December 2, 2010 at 9:03 am - Reply

    First of all, thank you for this post. Also, thanks for taking the time to answer so many questions in the comment thread. You seriously rock. 
    I had a question in regard to cyanocobalamin. I saw an article linked to on a vegan form that said cyanocobalamin was inferior to the other types of B12. Can you speak to this? The article is here:
    Thank you.

  29. Chuck Bluestein December 2, 2010 at 11:34 am - Reply

    Vitamin D and B-12 supplements are very cheap because you need so little. You have heard of people taking a 500 mg vitamin C supplement. That much B-12 or vitamin D is enough to last for decades. Micrograms are a 1/1000 of a milligram. I.U.s of vitamin D are even less than micrograms. So 1,000 micrograms are 1 milligram.

  30. Elena December 10, 2010 at 11:51 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for this.  It's hard to find reliable information on nutrition and supplements and having a clear, concise list of the most important ones is fantastic!  Keep up the good work.

  31. michelle December 10, 2010 at 10:19 pm - Reply

    Do you recommend a lysine supplement? Just briefly read Jack Norris's post on how many us may not be consuming enough.

    • Ginny Messina December 15, 2010 at 12:04 pm - Reply

      No, I don’t recommend a lysine supplement. I think people don’t get enough lysine only if they aren’t including enough protein-rich foods like legumes and soy products. If you are eating at least 1 1/2 cups per day of high-protein plant foods like these, you’ll get enough lysine.

  32. […] another good post from the blog: Recommended Supplements for Vegans Just days before everyone was talking about the Voracious [ex-] Vegan story, I received a severe […]

  33. Paula January 1, 2011 at 5:12 pm - Reply

    Thank you for that crucial clarification on B-12.  I've done a pretty good amount of reading on veganism on the blogosphere but have not come across a single other blog that provides this information. 
    Your science-based vegan nutrition information is much needed in a vegan blogosphere that can be quite fanciful and imaginative as far as nourishment concepts and data are concerned. 
    Again, many thanks

  34. Jenny January 11, 2011 at 5:45 pm - Reply

    I bought a B12 supp at Natural Grocers for my hubby and I.  It is Cyanocobalamin.  After reading this, I am confused.  It says each serving is 1500mcg (also says 25,000%!!!!!) and to take daily.  Should we be taking this just once a week?

  35. Santiago Ieng January 16, 2011 at 1:08 pm - Reply

    . Awsome blog, and awsome information. I run a blog myself in sweden- just about Vitamin D. I seems like you have found your niche, but with a little antispam function and tweaks on the performance and interface, it could be even better. My niche is Vitamin D – It seems like the officials are not interested in a healthier population, since Vitamin D is not pre- added so fx. milk or other foods. In the nothern europe more than 60 % of the elder are ind Vitamin D deficiency, and surely as a cause of that, in a higher risk of developing cancer, osteoporosis, and many other deseases.
    That was all I had to say. Hope you will keep up the good work.

    • Robert January 17, 2011 at 3:17 pm - Reply

      What are the doctors in Sweden recommending to people now? Some doctors in North America are recommending  1000-2000 IU. I myself have bought a bottle of vitamin D, 1000 IU per capsule.

  36. Sarah GM January 21, 2011 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this great information. I'm curious about choline.  I just heard a nutritionist on the radio say that vegans should supplement with it because we're at risk for deficiency.  Looking at a chart on Wikipedia regarding choline content in food, I would estimate I get 100-200 mg per day, whereas 425 mg is the DRI.  What do you think?

    • Dawn September 1, 2017 at 6:36 am - Reply

      Hi Sarah, I hope you see my response (years after your question). I recently started tracking all of my nutritional intake to ensure I’m getting everything I need and the one glaring deficiency I found was Choline! Yes, we need it and I doubt we’ll get the RDI without supplements. I was told by my physician to take it in the Citicholine form, but have also read that the Alpha-GPC form is good as well. I would strongly recommend you just do a quick google search on the importance of getting enough choline in your diet. We should get around 500mg/day and I’ve seen people low ball that figure to dangerous levels…imho, better safe than sorry so I’ll just supplement at the RDI and let others experiment on themselves.

  37. adam antichrist February 15, 2011 at 7:18 am - Reply

    how come you didn't discuss B12 in algae? Have you read this review:

  38. Theresa March 5, 2011 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    Hi Ginny,
    I've been cutting down on animal products x 8 months, and I'm at a point now where I'm almost 100% vegan. I've been trying to read more on what I need to do to make sure that I stay healthy (even as an omnivore I have had problems with iron deficiency, so this is one thing I worry about), but I have 2 questions that I'm having difficulty answering.
    1) You've suggested (I think) that it's hard to overdose on Vitamin B12, since the acceptable dose range is quite wide. Is this accurate? Right now I take a (non-chewable) multivitamin that provides 6 mcg of Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin). I also usually eat about 1 Tbsp a day of nutritional yeast (on salads), plus I drink a cup of fortified soymilk on most days (1 cup=70% of the RDI for Vitamin B12). I'm anxious about making sure that I take in enough of this vitamin, so I went to the drugstore in search of an additional supplement. I was going to purchase a bottle of Vitamin B12 dissolvable tablets (each tablet=1000 mcg of mehtylcobalamin), and then take this tablet 1x daily (as instructed on the bottle) but I decided to run this by the pharmacist, just to make sure that this was appropriate. The pharmacist told me that this dose is meant for people with a pre-existing Vitamin B12 deficiency, and that it could be harmful to take it every day. I asked if this was the case even if I was a vegan, and she said yes. What would the upper daily limit of Vitamin B12 be?
    2) I've done a quick inventory of my diet and can see that I might be lacking iodine, because I don't use iodized table salt. (I use sea salt). I wanted to try supplementing with kelp powder, and purchased a bag of this at a grocery store. Is this a reliable way of getting iodine? I've heard reports that iodine levels in kelp powder can vary a lot, and since it seems possible to overdose on iodine, I'm worried about getting sick. I've read that 1/10 tsp of kelp powder provides the RDI for iodine, but if iodine levels vary a lot, is this a reliable way of getting iodine? (I haven't been able to find supplements that provide iodine only).

  39. Timothy May 29, 2011 at 1:29 pm - Reply

    I am currently converting my diet to a vegan diet, this after a life of eating meat. Dairy seems to be my biggest challenge, as well as finding simple, easy recipes that do not take a shopping excursion to 20 different stores.
    Thank you for credible advice, I shall look forward to reading more.

  40. […] that a vegan diet is not automatically pure perfection is way better than getting sick.”, I think everyone should eat what keeps them happy and healthy, but to claim the vegan […]

  41. Donna Barski September 24, 2011 at 5:54 am - Reply

    Can B-12 levels be too high?

    In May of 2011, my blood analysis of B-12 indicated that I was over the optimal level. Optimal range from this lab is 211 – 946 pg/ml. My level was1817 pg/ml.

    My B-12 level has been in the high range for a couple of years, actually. At my last visit to my medical practitioner, I was told to stop my supplementation to get my B-12 levels down. I am a bit confused – thinking that it does not matter if my B-12 levels are high. In fact, I was feeling confident about my B-12 levels.

    I did go on the internet and finally found an article stating that a high level of B-12 is associated with cancer. (Most articles talk about deficiencies.)

    I decided to stop taking a B-12 supplement. (I had been taking 1000 mcg B-12 around 3 times a week.) I was also taking a multi-vitamin with B-12 so I stopped taking it. I’ll be getting another blood analysis on October 25.

    I am 60 years old and have been vegan for 3 years.



    • VeganRHN May 15, 2015 at 12:30 pm - Reply

      Do you eat a lot of seaweed and algae? They contain B12 analogues that can show up as B12 on blood tests.

      I always ask for a homocysteine test as well as B12 serum to determine my B12 status since I eat a lot of seaweed. A B12 serum test alone may be falsely high because of the analogues.

      But if homocysteine is high that is an indication of low B12 (being low in a couple other B vitamins would also cause high homocysteine).

  42. […] Strict vegetarians or vegans […]

  43. Al December 15, 2011 at 8:04 pm - Reply

    Hi Ginny, I was just checking back to see if you had written any more about cyanocobalamin versus methylcobalamin. I recently read a comment about these different forms of B12 and would love to read a dietician’s response to these concerns. Here’s the comment in question, which was posted to a parenting forum:

    “It may be important to make sure that the B12 is not in the form of cyanocobalamin, as this form of B12 is cheap and contains a cyanide molecule and this may be viewed as insignificant from a toxicity point of view, but the body still needs to eliminate this compound and it may even cause complications for some people. Cyanocobalamin is not biologically active until converted to methylcobalamin, which also means releasing its cyanide. This binds to iron and blocks electron transport action and interrupts cellular respiration. Yikes! Foods fortified with B12 (as cyanocobalamin) maybe even more dangerous when cooked. Methylcobalamin is what you want to look for when choosing a B12 supplement…….”

    Thoughts? Or is there any place you can point me to that gives this issue a thorough, science-based treatment?

    Thank you.

  44. […] on any empirical evidence. Vegans are most likely to get sick when they refuse to supplement with vitamin B12 and vitamin D or they skimp on calcium and iron—not from eating veggie burgers and pouring a […]

  45. Pete Kruse January 30, 2012 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    Excellent, Excellent, Excellent post! Thanks for putting it all in such a readable, practical and educational form. Pete

  46. […] "Vitamin B12. You cant get enough by eating unwashed organic produce or mushrooms grown in B12-rich soil. The recommended dose is 25 to 100 micrograms per day or 1,000 micrograms 2-3 times per week. If you have not been taking B12 for a while, start out with 2,000 micrograms daily for several weeks. Or get a blood test to see where you are and whether you might need a more therapeutic dose." […]

  47. […] Salt.  Though I like the idea of using sea vegetables for seasoning, sometimes it just doesn’t do it for me. I use iodized salt for both flavor and to meet my iodine needs. […]

  48. Sunny H March 4, 2012 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    Thanks Ginny, this is very Important info. I have been eating vegan for 3 years, and at age 60 just sustained a spontaneous fracture of the femur by my knee, must walk with a cane for 4-6 months, and orthopedist says the cause is osteoporosis! 2 MDs swear it’s not my vegan diet but heredity, but I now need to consider biphosphonates (Boniva, etc) and more optimal supplementation. Used to eat spinach daily in my green smoothie, but no more. I tske a multi for seniors and 1200 mg calcium with D3. I use sublingual B12 almost every day. Any illumination appreciated!

    • Michael S May 22, 2012 at 11:58 am - Reply

      This post has been extremely helpful! Thank you very much for taking the time to write it.

      I have one question on B12, though.
      I purchased the Deva B12 1000 supplement that you put under your tongue.

      Should I do that 3 times a day once a week or once a day 3 times a week? Or does it really matter? It’d be a lot easier for me to do it once a day three times a week, but I wanted to see if that was okay.

  49. Mel August 30, 2012 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    Cyanocobalamin is a low-grade, low-quality and slightly toxic (cyanide) form of vitamin B-12 that’s used by all the cheap vitamin manufacturers. I recommend avoiding it completely. It won’t kill you to take it, of course, but there’s a better solution for B-12.

    The proper form of vitamin B-12 to supplement is called methylcobalamin. This is the form that exists in nature, and it is pre-methylated, meaning it’s ready for your biochemistry to put to immediate use. Methylcobalamin has several key advantages over cyanocobalamin:

    * Increased absorption
    * Better retention in tissues
    * Contains no toxic cyanide
    * Supports production of SAMe

    • Ginny Messina August 30, 2012 at 5:47 pm - Reply

      No, methylcobalamin isn’t a better choice. The little bit of research on it suggests that it takes very high amounts of methylcobalamin to raise B2 blood levels compared to cyanocobalamin–maybe because the methylcobalamin is less stable. Until we know more, the responsible choice is cyanocobalamin which has been shown to protect vitamin B12 status.

      • Mel August 30, 2012 at 6:47 pm - Reply

        I have done my research.

        In the body cyanocobalamin (B12) it is converted to the physiological forms, methylcobalamin (B12) and adenosylcobalamin, leaving behind a small amount of molecula cyanide. Because this B vitamin leaves a small trace of cyanide, your body will still need to remove and eliminate this compound through the kidneys.

        Personally as a vegan, my motivations is to endorse a plant based, organic lifestyle. Consciousness must be given therefore into what lies hidden in our suppliments. Methylcobalamin may need to be taken at greater doses in some people. But it is a natural form of B12 and does not have a poisonous residue.

        What is the point of eating a plant based organic diet if by ignorance your very suppliments have cyanide.

        Quite astonished you would argue otherwise.

  50. […] ready to think about what I might be missing.  I began by finding a really helpful fellow blogger, Ginny Messina (who is also a registered dietitian) and found a very blunt approach to the supplement […]

  51. Alex Strain October 6, 2012 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent among many humans. It is not a vegan issue, which is what you imply. I have been a vegan for about 6 years and don’t supplement and I am fine. I’ve had my blood work done as recently as 2 months ago and I was told my levels are perfect. What about suggesting first that anyone who reads your post get their blood work done, get a physical and see where they are and take it from there?

    Beyond that you talk about people giving bad advice and then you share your thoughts with no back up. Where are your facts?

    Also,we’re not on a diet. What do you mean vegan diet? Being a vegan is about your ethics.

    And people need to stop blaming everything that goes wrong with them on them no longer consuming animal products. There are tons of vitamins and minerals found in non-animal products. Also, it is not enough to have a plant based diet or be vegan. We still have to eat healthy and get off of our butts. That is not directed at you but at some of the comments. If people genuinely care about their health then they’d stay away from animal products anyway.

    Lastly, why are you concerned with what an ex-vegan thinks and why should anyone be? Especially, when they’re some random nameless people.

  52. Lauren October 22, 2012 at 11:31 am - Reply

    I use deva vegan multivitamin; the once daily with iron. Perfect amounts of b vitamins iodine and iron; although if you are a man you should get the one without iron. Alive! Multivitamin women’s one Max potency is mother good choice; meets all requirements plus 20% dv of calcium

  53. Compassion | Healthy Minimalist November 7, 2012 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    […] is that most people simply do not need animal protein to have a nutritious, healthy diet. I like this article, written by a dietician, on possible deficiencies and recommended supplements for a plant-based […]

  54. Katie December 1, 2012 at 2:49 pm - Reply

    I am confused about cyanocobalamin and methylocbalamin and absorption. I have ready numerous times, learned in school as well as from naturopaths how methylcobalamin is a better source because it is already in its active form. Cyanocobalamin is the supplement needed in higher amounts because only a small amount of it is converted by the liver into methylcobalamin which is the active form. So why not take methylcobalamin if the body needs to convert it to that anyways? I also know that cyanocobalamin does not act on homosysteine levels in the conversion to methionine and that high homocysteine levels contribute to cardiovascular problems and plaque build-up. As well as the cyanocobalamin is broken down and leaves molecula cyanide which is a toxic substance. So why is cyanocobalamin a better choice???

    • Ginny Messina December 8, 2012 at 8:39 am - Reply

      There is concern that methylcobalamin in supplements is less stable, which is why very high doses are usually recommended. Cyanocobalamin has been better studied and is effective in protecting B12 status. So, since we have better info on it, and questions about the stability of methylcobalamin, I recommend the cyano form.

  55. Sarah December 6, 2012 at 10:40 am - Reply

    Hi Ginny,

    I am a longtime reader and fan of your work and I have a few questions on B-12 supplementation.

    I am vegan and I have been taking a B-Complex vitamin that I purchased from Trader Joe’s for a while now (this one:

    These questions may seem a bit silly but I figured that it is best to throw them out there in hopes of getting a clear answer rather than worry needlessly.

    My questions are:

    A) Is it dangerous to take high doses of B-vitamins and riboflavin, folic acid, biotic, pantothenic acid, and the like (it seems like the doses are pretty high in the Trader Joe’s
    supplement but I am no nutrition expert)? I have read that you can overdose on these and I don’t want to over-do it. I eat a well-balanced vegan diet with plenty leafy greens, grains, soy, beans, and healthy fats.

    My second question is: do you recommend taking just a B-12 supplement (without the other B vitamins)? If so, is there a specific amount that you recommend taking on a daily basis and/or a brand that you recommend?

    On a similar note, do you think there is any risk of overdoing it on any vitamins or minerals in a vegan diet? It seems as if everything is fortified with vitamins and minerals today (cereals, non-dairy milks, etc.). Sometimes I get worried that consuming fortified foods, along with vitamins and supplements on top of a well-balnced vegan diet (which is general pretty nutrient dense to begin with), will lead to a vitamin overload. Is this a silly thing to be concerned about?

    On the flip side sometimes I wonder if I’m not getting everything I need nutrient-wise.

    Do you think that it is a good idea to take a multi-vitamin? What kind of supplementation do you recommend for someone on a vegan diet and what kind do you follow yourself?

    Maybe I think too much about these things but I am genuinely curious to hear what you have to say about it.


    • Ginny Messina December 8, 2012 at 8:31 am - Reply

      Sarah, I don’t really recommend multivitamins. If you are eating a good diet–and it sounds like you are–then the only thing you definitely need is a supplement of vitamin B12–around 25 micrograms per day. If you don’t get adequate sun exposure, you need 600 IUs of vitamin D. And if you don’t use iodized salt, you should take a small iodine supplement. But there is no need for all of those other B vitamins–you get plenty of those from the food you’re eating.

      • B Hartman December 10, 2012 at 10:00 am - Reply

        I agree with Ginny and do not recommend multivitamins in general to my patients except for Vit D (as Canadians we don’t make enough D for at least 8 months of the year!) and sometimes calcium when dietary intake is low (my patients are children so calcium and vit D are especially important for bone growth).
        It is possible that you can have too much of a good thing when it comes to vitamins and minerals. I am doing my PhD in maternal and infant nutrition and there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that high intakes of folic acid (the form of folate used in supplements and fortified foods) may be linked to epigenetic effects (effects on the child from the gestational environment) on insulin resistance, obesity and repiratory issues. There is evidence (although more consistent in animal models) linking high intake to certain types of cancer. There is even evidence linking high folate intake and low B12 status to increase cognitive issues in the elderly. North americans are not folate deficient; less than 1% of the Canadian population are deficient but 40% have concentrations above the high cut-off. All from supplements! there is a recent paper that modelled dietary intakes and found that only multivitamin supplement use is linked to dietary intakes (for many vitamins and minerals) above the upper limit; not intakes from food and fortified foods.
        As a longtime vegetarian and RD who raised both her children as vegetarian since birth i made sure that they ate a varied diet and used fortified soy products (for B12); especially my son who has multiple food allergies.
        I also tried to sneak in ground flax as much as possible.
        Thank you for the interesting website Ginny. I have read the position paper you helped to write for DC/ADA on vegetarianism.

  56. […] TheVeganRD says "Vitamin B12. You can’t get enough by eating unwashed organic produce or mushrooms grown in B12-rich soil. The recommended dose is 25 to 100 micrograms per day or 1,000 micrograms 2-3 times per week. If you have not been taking B12 for a while, start out with 2,000 micrograms daily for several weeks. Or get a blood test to see where you are and whether you might need a more therapeutic dose." In other words: supplement […]

  57. […] Other potential deficiencies could be vitamin D, iodine, calcium, iron and DHA.  In general, I recommend Omega-3s too (yes, they make a vegan version without fish oil).  Learn a little bit more about this from a registered dietician: […]

  58. […] B12 in animal …… Can a vegetarian diet cause depression? … Read more here: Recommended Supplements for Vegans | The Vegan RD ← Health Food Vitamin Supplements – 9 a Day Plus Dr Oz Garcinia Cambogia: Does […]

  59. […] of the amino-acids that might go amiss! i will leave supplementing up to you (and read up more here about it) but in the very least, you are very likely to need at least a b12 supplement and perhaps, […]

  60. […] very difficult to meet your iron needs with a plant-based diet. As vegan dietician Ginny Messina points out: this is not a problem that is specific to vegans. Rates of iron deficiency anemia are actually […]

  61. Chris June 2, 2013 at 6:54 pm - Reply

    Thank you for the fantastic article. It really helped me to gain some clarity on meeting my needs and those of my vegan kids. My red blood cell count recently came back low, and I wonder if that’s in part because I haven’t been getting enough B12. I’ve been supplementing, but learned through this article that I’ve been taking far too little of the wrong kind! Thanks!!

    • OLO September 20, 2013 at 7:14 am - Reply

      Hi Ginny,
      Many thanks for the great site and excellent resources. I read an article recently on vegans needing to supplement with co-enzymeQ10 and I just wondered what your thoughts were on this? Do you feel that it is necessary?

  62. Vegan Q&A | One Crunchy Mama August 17, 2013 at 12:06 am - Reply

    […] Recommended Supplements for Vegans from […]

  63. Tami October 16, 2013 at 6:17 pm - Reply

    I hope this question isn’t redundant; I didn’t see it come up yet. Do I also need a to consume an essential amino acids supplement? I am desperate for energy and the muscles and strength I had before going vegan.

    I am a new vegan. Just six months ago I consumed a predominately animal protein based diet. I was strong, healthy (ideal blood values), full of energy. I went vegetarian for one month when I went to India to study yoga. When I came home, I felt there was no choice but to go full vegan. I had been living in denial for years about how farm factory animals were treated. Now, although I feel better spiritually – no more denial 🙂 – I am physically weak, lost five pounds but my clothes are tighter (obviously lost muscle), have NO energy and feel depressed all the time. I have absolutely no regrets as I do not believe animals should have to suffer for me to feel better but I also don’t believe I need to settle for feeling like this. This is hardly the message I want to put forth to my friends who already think I’m crazy for making this choice. Please help. :-))))

    • katy March 23, 2014 at 8:32 pm - Reply

      hullo – – i am just sending this because i couldn’t see that anyone else has answered you – – hopefully somebody has by now!! i am totally not an expert at all, but i am a long-term (more than 18 years now) vegan. i just want to say that .. . have you been and had your B12 and your iron levels tested??? and/or do go and see a series (if necessary)(as many as you need to) of vegan friendly health practitioners. Yes, it is really unnecessary to be feeling the way that you do, and there is a high chance that it will be something that is easy to fix. ((possibly your body is doing some kind of detox thing but I don’t know much about the theory of that??)) Also do your own research, just keep reading and talking to people especially vegans, and lots and lots of trial and error until something starts making sense.

  64. […] yogurt, and cheese, but can also be found in many dark leafy greens, and even from the sunshine. Ginny Messina at talks about the importance of vitamin D in our diets, If you live where […]

  65. Bessie November 20, 2013 at 8:55 pm - Reply

    I was wondering about newly vegan breastfeeding moms. I’m exclusively breastfeeding my two month old, I take rainbow light vegan guard prenatal with 25 mcg b12, as well as iron, calcium, and so on. Should that daily be adequate? Peace and blessings: )

  66. Rhonda December 17, 2013 at 10:00 am - Reply

    I truly can not help but wonder how the human race was able to survive before supplementation came along.

    This is a real question. I am not being cheeky. Can anybody answer that?

    • Winona January 22, 2014 at 8:10 am - Reply

      As a student of history, Rhonda, I can tell you…they were sick a lot and died early of many kinds of diseases related to poor nutrition and sanitation. Illnesses that cause us a day or two of “down time” like flu, etc., killed people because they were not well enough to withstand the stress on the system. Additionally, they did not develop physically, with most people being considerably shorter than modern people. This can be seen in cultures today, where the improved diet shows up as significantly taller, stronger children in the next generation (Korea is a good example in the 1950’s).

  67. Vegan Supplements January 10, 2014 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    As a vegan of almost 3 years now, I mainly take B12, vitamin D (winter mostly) and I try and get a blood test done at least once a year. I think that is the most important thing for anyone, vegan or not to do. Better be safe than sorry!

  68. Christine January 17, 2014 at 5:30 pm - Reply

    Why do you recommend so much B-12 when the RDA is 2.4 mcg and the DV is 6 mcg? People who are consuming it through animal products aren’t generally getting 25 mcg per day, so why is your recommendation different for vegans? Do you think that a daily B complex vitamin containing 6 mcg is insufficient? What about consuming fortified foods w/ 2.4 mcg/day?

  69. Therese January 26, 2014 at 2:26 am - Reply

    Hi Ginny, do you think both of the below would be effective? They both seem to be recommended as one a day. I don’t know if the cyanocobalamin one is chewable, but since it’s 1000mcg a day, I wonder if that would make up for it not being chewable.

    Methylcobalamin lozenges 1000mcg:

    Cyanocobalamin tablets 1000mcg:

  70. Human rights to dolphins? - Page 10 February 23, 2014 at 5:45 am - Reply

    […] accepted to be correct. Vegans do need to supplement their diets or will suffer consequences. Recommended Supplements for Vegans | The Vegan RD The issue is not what is in an omnivore diet, but what is missing from an exclusion diet. The same […]

  71. Amelia Katz April 22, 2014 at 11:44 am - Reply

    Dear Ginny,
    My hematologist just informed me that I have to stop taking my “vegan” b12 and switch to a non-vegan b12 supplement (the CVS brand is what she is recommending). I was incredibly upset, and tried doing some research on non-vegan b12 supplements. From what I have read, the supposedly “non-vegan” b12 is basically the same thing. There does not appear to be any animal products in any b12 supplement…whether it is vegan or not.
    If all the b12 is generated by bacteria, does it matter if I have to take a non-vegan supplement? Shouldn’t they be made the same way?

    Thank you very much,

    • Ginny Messina April 29, 2014 at 11:25 am - Reply

      Amelia, I can’t think of any reason why you would need to take a “non-vegan” vitamin B12 supplement. This would refer only to any filler ingredients, not the B12 itself. Can you ask your hematologist for specific information about why this is important?

      • Amelia Katz April 30, 2014 at 12:16 pm - Reply

        Thank you for responding Ginny!
        Right now, I am taking the CVS brand of b-12. Ingredients are as follows: Dicalcium Phosphate, Mannitol, Cellulose (Plant Origin), Croscarmellose, Vegetable Stearic Acid. Contains less than 2 percent of: Cellulose coating, natural palm leaf glaze, silica, Vegetable Magnesium Stearate.

        The last 12 I was taking, from MegaFoods contained Plant Cellulose, S. Cerevisiae, vegetable lubricant, and silica.
        It was 500 mcg versus the 1000 mcg of the CVS brand.

        The hematologist was very concerned about my bone marrow, but she was obviously not aware of the difference between vegan and non-vegan supplements. She never responds to phone calls (even though she is from Children’s Hospital). When I asked her about getting b12 from Nooch and non-dairy milks, she said she couldn’t tell me if that would be adequate because she did not know about those fortified products. I just do not think she is knowledgeable about veganism. I am taking the supposedly “non-vegan” b12 for now because my parents are very concerned, and as a minor, I do not really have a say.
        The doctor said “non-vegan” b12 is more absorbable; perhaps she thinks there is actually meat in the product? That was my impression before reading about the production.

        The CVS brand says there is no wheat, gluten, milk or milk derivatives, lactose, sugar, preservatives, soy, artificial color or flavor, or salt in the product. It says nothing about meat…

        In your opinion, do you think this product is vegan? It is my opinion that the doctor just is not knowledgeable about this stuff.

        Thank you again,

  72. […] to an article by Ginny Messina on The Vegan R.D., the more common deficiencies found in vegetarians include Vitamin B-12, Vitamin D, Calcium and […]

  73. Estela July 10, 2014 at 3:18 am - Reply

    I have hyperthyroid disease, and i dont take iodine, and also avoid iodine rich foods, such as sea vegtables, and some othe foods.
    Is that OK, or what can i do ?

    Thank you. kind regards, Estela

  74. Stephanie August 6, 2014 at 8:27 pm - Reply

    Hi! My husband, two little girls and I went vegan back in January. I know I have not been eating enough and am noticing that my hair is thinning and I am having tingling in my hands and arms at times. We haven’t been taking vitamins regularly due to the cost. I like to get non-GMO/organic vitamins, which are so expensive. I feel that we just need to make it priority, though. I’m concerned that my girls aren’t getting what they need since they don’t like very many types vegetables. We currently take Juice Plus vitamins because we get them free, but I know we should take a multi-vitamin and a B complex. I’m considering Garden of Life vitamins, but I’m not sure what to get for the girls. Please help! Any advise would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!!

  75. Robert DiSilvestro September 26, 2014 at 11:10 pm - Reply

    Hello. I am a Professor of Human Nutrition. Although I am not a vegan, I am currently designing a supplement for vegans. It’s not out yet, but I hope to launch it before year’s end. The product will have a lot of what is mentioned here plus some other nutrients. I am especially careful about the specific forms for some of the nutrients. Part of the formulation has had amazing effects on aerobic exercise performance in young adult women even if they are not vegan. Hopefully, this product will prove valuable to a lot of people.

  76. Vegan Athlete December 19, 2014 at 6:24 am - Reply

    Great article, I personally uses B-12 and B-Complex injectable to keep me going and especially when my body has had enough! 🙂 I’m a competitive Vegan Athlete and this helps me keep my sharpness both mentally and physically.

    Thanks for the great post.

  77. L January 21, 2015 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    My doctor is vegan and she says she gets b12 shots and she reccomds that we take my bloods from time to time to see what I need more of

  78. Arthur C February 6, 2015 at 5:04 am - Reply


    I read something that surprised me : “They are using methylcobalamin instead of cyanocobalamin, not realizing that the dosage requirements for methylcobalamin could be much higher—maybe as high as 1,000 to 2,000 micrograms per day (as opposed to the 25 micrograms of cyanocobalamin that are probably sufficient.)”
    I’d like to know the source of this declaration. I personnaly take cyanocobalamin (2000 µg per week), and I participate on a vegan page that spread the knowledge about the need of b12 in a vegan diet (following the recommandations of the vegan society).
    We often have people who come and say “methyl is better than cyano”, but we’ve debunked that. However, it’s the first time I read that methylcobalamin would be less efficient than cyano, so I’m interested if you have a source (a study, or a scientific publication) explaining why.

  79. Aly February 14, 2015 at 5:35 am - Reply

    I would suggest that people chron-o-meter or healthwatch360. I realized that I was getting almost 200% of iron, D2, and calcium from fortified foods. However, I realized that I was lacking in zinc. So now I take a multi, zinc, and D12.

  80. Jane May 14, 2015 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    What are your thoughts on ? It contains 200mg of DHA in each capsule, will this be sufficient? Thank you.

  81. VeganRHN May 15, 2015 at 12:58 pm - Reply

    Thoughts on the need for carnosine supplementation?

    Also, how to prevent your cholesterol from getting too low? Maybe just supporting liver health and eating lots of cholesterol precursors?

    Tried to look into what these building blocks may be and could only find acetyl coenzyme A.

    Would eating enough phyto sterols and healthy fats also promote sufficient endogenous cholesterol production?

    Thank you 🙂

    • Joe September 2, 2015 at 10:11 am - Reply

      Carnosine is a combination of amino acids found in a variety of plants if im not mistaken. Look up the 3 acids in carnosine and then search for each acid among plants. I know chia, hemp, flax seeds have a majority of the omegas we need.

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  86. Joe September 2, 2015 at 10:10 am - Reply

    Not sure if anyone mentioned k-2. Your body converts k-1 into k-2 inefficiently. It comes more efficiently from animal sources. I take b12 and k2 bio identical supplements. Ill be taking d3 in the fall/winter. I get my iron from 86% dark chocolate. As for iodine i get it from salt but i believe seaweed varieties and dark greens have iodine, correct me if im wrong.

  87. […] read this webpage, from a vegan Registered Dietitian, regarding recommended supplements for vegans:…or-vegans.html . The most important supplements – vitamin B12, vitamin D, and iodine – are all very affordable. […]

  88. […] ging op onderzoek uit naar een goede onderbouwing van de benodigde supplementen. Ik stuitte op een artikel dat is geschreven door een diëtist, Ginny Messina, en dat voor mij heel onderbouwd voelt. Volgens haar heb je dit […]

  89. […] Recommended Supplements for Vegans […]

  90. […] de aanbevolen dagelijkse dosis veel hoger ligt dan bij cyanocobalamine (ong 1000-2000 mcg per dag (5)). De meeste mensen kunnen cyanocobalamine prima opnemen en omzetten, waardoor het niet nodig is om […]

  91. […] is particularly true when you consider health benefits. All vegans need to supplement with vitamin B12; most should also supplement with vitamin D and iodin…. With the exception of iron, Vitamin-D-fortified milk is a good source of all those nutrients. (In […]

  92. […] to an article by Ginny Messina on The Vegan R.D., the more common deficiencies found in vegetarians include Vitamin B-12, Vitamin D, Calcium and […]

  93. Shannon January 27, 2016 at 9:26 am - Reply

    I agree that a vegan diet makes it very challenging to get required amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. This is especially true if you have to avoid other foods like grains and foods to which you are allergic. This is the case with me, so I must be extra diligent.

    Like you, I’m willing to trade in taking a few supplements in exchange for not harming other beings. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

  94. […] example, vegetarians and vegans need to make sure they’re getting vitamin B12, vitamin D, iodine, calcium, iron, and […]

  95. […] With such a long list of things not to eat, it might seem that a vegan diet would be difficult to follow healthfully. But other than making sure you have a balance of different plant proteins and sources of iron, Distasio says that the major supplement to be aware of is vitamin B12, which isn’t available in any plant-based foods, as well as vitamin D, particularly in the winter. She also recommends vegan registered dietician Ginny Messina’s resource on supplements for vegans. […]

  96. […] Confused about what supplements to take yourself? Read this article by vegan Registered Dietitian, Virginia Messina: […]

  97. […] may be necessary to ensure adequate intake of various micronutrients. Luckily, resources outlining why and how much of some vitamin and mineral supplements may be beneficial for vegans are not lacking. Many common […]

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  99. […] Vitamins! The vegan diet does not call for much supplementation except for 1-2 vitamins. […]

  100. Vegan Iron Rich Foods + Recipes April 27, 2016 at 10:37 am - Reply

    […] I am not a nutritionist, so my first stop in researching veganism and iron was The Great Vegan Search Engine. Yay for heavily-curated sources! Of course, my search for iron spit back articles from two solid sites: The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) and The Vegan RD. […]

  101. Melody Lugo May 3, 2016 at 10:01 pm - Reply

    Hi! I wanted to know if you can make a list of vegan vitamins that you use or know that are vegan it would be very helpful thanks! (And if you already made a post on that can you just give me the link please)
    – Melody L

  102. Susie June 15, 2016 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    Hi there,

    Thank you for your article, very helpful 🙂

    I had been recommended Holland and Barrett vegan supplement ( but thought they looked low on B12, Oct no idea if it’s the “right kind” and don’t see any iodine but do see other things… can you give me any advice as to whether this is worth taking? I think I’m more likely to take regularly and consistently one easy pill I can buy on my high street…

    Thanks in advance!

  103. Katia June 29, 2016 at 3:07 am - Reply

    Dear Virgina,

    Thank you very much for this post! I am actually taking Veg1 which containt 150 mcg of Iodine. You are writing that we need 90mcg, am I taking too much?

    Kind regards,


  104. kayleigh July 4, 2016 at 2:53 am - Reply

    I’ve started taking vegan multivitamin and b12 and I feel rubbish- very lightheaded with heart palpitations. I’ve been veggie for 16 years and vegan for a month, I’ve only felt like this for the last week or so.

    A lot of my other symptoms point to low magnesium and I noticed there’s no magnesium in my multi and also no iodine?

    Can anyone recommend a better multivitamin from H&B?

    (based in uk)

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  106. […] Before you write off a diet that requires some supplementation, consider that pretty much everyone could benefit from supplementation, and most omnivores are supplementing without even realizing it. The registered dietician Ginny Messina – The Vegan R.D. – explains: […]

  107. […] should consider taking to stay healthy, I recommend checking out Ginny Messina, R.D.’s site. Her article on supplements for vegans is a great place to start and really puts the whole supplements thing in […]

  108. MB October 22, 2016 at 12:48 pm - Reply

    Hello! I am a 46 yr old woman in great health, plant-based, 98% vegan 🙂 What are your thoughts on collagen? I would never take collagen made from cows, etc but I might consider a marine collagen like Sea Source… reason being that I seem to meet many of the ‘symptoms’ that collagen seems to help.. dry, weak, brittle hair, slow growing hair and nails, cellulite, wrinkles…. thoughts? I supplement B12, get lots of sunshine, will look into DHA, and exercise regularly.

  109. Jacquilyn November 17, 2016 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    I’m a vegan of 15 years who recently found out I could not readily absorb B vitamins in capsules, tablets, and pill forms despite taking them. I also have an allergy to combat inB12 cobalamim injections. My B12 deficiency comes via a combination of Hashimoto’s Thyroid and having the compound MFTHR gene mutation enzyme (discovered from 2003 gene project)…that often run together in 55% of Euros with Irish or Scottish descent. That combo makes it impossible to process synthetic folic acid in flours, wheat, processed food. It is not enough to get folate and B vitamins and B12 from just natural whole food sources on a vegan/vegetarian diet and supplementation is necessary in more readily absorbable forms of B vitamins such P-5-P, methyl form of B12, Biotin, Selenium, Lethicin, SAMe, Colostrum. It is why histamines and allergies to dust mites and black mold and chemical sensitivities are at all time high and ability to detoxify is 50% loss of function, why I have hives and a rash that will not go away, and why and how main methyl donor SAMe is not working in body right and can set up for more immune disease, neurotransmitter deterioration, thyroid cancer, and other cancers. It is one MotherFR this MFTHR gene mutation that if you think you may have it, get tested and then do the things necessary so things don’t spiral downward more!

    • Jacquilyn November 17, 2016 at 3:00 pm - Reply

      PS allergic to cobalt in B12~

  110. Lynn July 12, 2017 at 9:14 pm - Reply

    All the things you named are in a multivitamin why cant you just take that?

  111. Edna August 15, 2017 at 4:01 am - Reply

    Hello Ginny,
    My husband and I have recently discovered the unpleasant truth of what our family has been consuming. We are now changing our lives and becoming vegan. We have an 8 year old 6 year old, 2 year old, and an 11 month baby. I have been reading and looking at facts about beginning a vegan life style. Do you have any recombinations/facts for the children vitamins. Is there a brand that I should get or stay away from

  112. Mason Woods January 8, 2018 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    I would appreciate it if you talked about the health and environmental benefits of veganism as well as animal rights! It isn’t fair to neglect those details, as they’re so central to our lifestyle.

  113. Frederique August 7, 2018 at 8:46 am - Reply

    Hi Ginny Messina,

    After reading your blog posts, I got a bit worried: I’ve been vegetarian (now fully vegan) since a few years now. Due to digestive problems, I can’t eat walnuts, flaxseeds, dries fruits, certain cabbages & larger amounts of legumes/whole grains. The insoluble fibre seems to be the biggest issue for me. So, as you can imagine, It’s a bit of a problem to get enough ALA omega 3, protein, iron & calcium (i eat 1 portion of fortified soy yogurt a day without any problems luckily), zinc and so on. I’ve been to a dietitian before and she immediately adviced a multi vitamin. But I’ve read a lot of articles/research about the possible harmful effects of multivitamins. At the moment, I take b12, vitamin d, iodine and an algea based omega 3 supplement. But because my diet is a bit restrictive, It falls short on a lot more nutrients (like i said: Iron, zinc, selenium, protein, certain b vitamins, ALA…). What would you do if you were me? Is it safe to take a multi, or would you have any other ideas? It would mean so much to me if you responded to my question. I really don’t know anyone as educated on a vegan diet as you! Kind regards, Frederique

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