As a vegetarian or vegan, you may worry that you aren’t getting all of the nutrients that your body needs. Although it’s certainly possible to eat a balanced and complete diet while excluding meat and/or other animal products, it can be more challenging.
Adding a multivitamin to your daily routine can help cover all of your nutritional bases, giving you peace of mind. I’ve put together this list to help you pick the best multivitamin for vegetarians.
Types of Vegetarian Diet
Most of us know that a vegetarian is a person who doesn’t eat meat, however, there are various other categories which come under the “vegetarian” umbrella with slightly different health needs.
These include: lacto vegetarian (doesn’t eat meat or eggs but consumes dairy), ovo vegetarian (no meat or dairy but does eat eggs) and vegan (avoids animal products altogether including eggs, dairy and honey).
There are many different reasons people choose to become a vegetarian. Some of these reasons include health concerns, food safety concerns, religion, environmental, and animal rights. A balanced vegetarian diet can help such conditions as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity.
Who Needs a Multivitamin for Vegetarians?
As I mentioned above, a vegetarian lifestyle doesn’t mean for certain that you’ll be deficient in any nutrients. However, the more restrictive you are, the more difficult it becomes to meet the recommended daily allowance of all vitamins and minerals.
The average adult needs around 1500 to 2500 calories per day. You must make sure that your calories are coming from a variety of whole food sources for the best results.
I think we all know vegetarians who are overweight or otherwise unhealthy who would be more likely to snack on a bag of potato chips rather than a plate of raw veggies. Depending on the type of vegetarian or vegan you are, some of vital nutrients may be lacking in your diet.
This link gives some good pointers for healthy vegetarian recipe.
Which Vitamins to Look For?
When most of us think of iron-rich food, red meat is probably the first thing that comes to mind. However, if you abstain from meat there are plenty of other iron sources for you to consider such as lentils, spinach, tofu and pumpkin seeds.
The type of iron found in non-animal sources (non-haem iron) is not as easily absorbed as that from meat (haem iron) so you can still end up deficient with the best efforts. (source) Iron supplements are especially important for women of menstruating age who lose blood every month.
It’s easy for vegetarians to get vitamin C from fruit and vegetables (orange, pineapple, strawberry, etc) so there’s no need to worry about this. However, vitamin C helps your body absorb iron so a good multivitamin will contain both.
Again, most of us associate calcium with animal products – i.e. dairy. It can be particularly difficult for vegans to get the correct amount of calcium although it is also found in almonds, brazil nuts and leafy greens like collard greens and kale. (source)
Iodine is used by the thyroid and is essential for its proper function. Table salt may provide your daily allowance but not all brands are iodized. (source)
Vitamin D is important for bone health, along with calcium. Sunlight is a great source but the highest concentrations are found in fish and eggs. Luckily, many vegetarian-safe products are also fortified with vitamin D such as juices and non-dairy milks.
Zinc is involved in immune function, among other things. Again, it is found in highest quantities in meat and seafood but you can also get it from legumes, nuts and spinach. (source)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are mostly found in fish. They are important for heart and cognative health. (source) Look for non-fish derived omega-3 when choosing a vegetarian multivitamin.
Some people are of the opinion that multivitamins are not necessary. For those with special nutritional needs, such as vegetarians or vegans, that theory is certainly arguable. Work, travel, and a busy life may get in the way of preparing nutritionally complete meals and restaurant meals are usually high in flavour but seriously lacking in vitamins and minerals.
In my opinion, it’s better to be safe than sorry – you won’t do any harm with a multivitamin and you might just avoid serious health outcomes.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Multivitamin for Vegetarians
Many multivitamin capsules are made from gelatin which is an animal product usually derived from pork. Vegetarians will need to look for products marked “suitable for vegetarians/vegans” to avoid this.
If you have a long term illness or take any prescriptions, make sure to check with your doctor before starting to take a multivitamin as many components can cause serious interactions. Of course this applies to everyone, not just vegetarians.
Try to choose a multivitamin that requires once-daily dosing as more frequent obligations are easily forgotten. You need to take your multivitamin every day to see the best results! If you have trouble swallowing large tablets, look for a liquid or chewable formulation.
Overall, I think that Nature’s Way Alive product is the best multivitamin for vegetarians. It has the most complete nutrient profile and delivers excellent results – as long as you can get past the taste and potency. However, if you are someone who should not be adding iron, the Deva Vegan product may be a better choice for you.
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