DISCLAIMER: Please note that this is not to be taken as medical advice. As with anything else you may be putting into your body, be sure to consult with your doctor or dietitian first.
A whole foods plant-based diet will help you ensure that you’re going to get all the nutrients your body needs to function optimally. Your diet will be your first line of defense, but if you’re looking to reinforce your body further, taking a vegan multivitamin can be a good option for you as a supplement.
And there’s no shame in taking a multivitamin! Non-vegans often have trouble meeting the daily nutritional requirement. A multivitamin is simply a surefire way to do that. Vegans, however, shouldn’t be reaching for the same multivitamins as non-vegans, because vegans have different nutritional needs.
Here’s what you need to know about vegan multivitamins and where to find some of the best ones in Canada.
What supplements do vegans need
Now that we’ve cleared that up, we can move on to what exact nutrients you may need as a vegan. Though a whole foods-focused vegan diet is chock full in a number of nutrients, certain requirements may be difficult to achieve through food alone.
So, which vitamins and minerals do you need in your vegan multivitamin?
Iron deficiencies are common amongst both vegans and non-vegans. But because iron—specifically heme iron, which humans need to make new DNA and red blood cells, amongst other things—is only found in animal sources, it’s important to supplement this mineral.
Non-heme iron can be found in plants, but it’s more difficult for your body to absorb. Because of this, vegans are recommended to aim for 1.8 times the normal recommended daily requirement, and since it can be hard to keep track of how much iron-rich foods to eat, taking a vegan multivitamin may help with that.
With that said, vegans who are low on iron should aim to eat more iron-rich foods, such as beans, nuts, seeds, cruciferous vegetables, as well as iron-fortified foods like enriched breads and certain plant millks. Cooking in cast-iron pots and pans and eating iron-rich foods alongside foods that contain vitamin C can also help with iron absorption.
A mineral that’s crucial for strong bones and healthy teeth, calcium also helps with muscle function and nerve signaling. Though calcium is often associated with dairy, there’s actually a lot of plant-based foods that contain calcium, such as kale, broccoli, chickpeas, bok choy, and soy milk if you’re looking for a milk replacement, since it’s often fortified with calcium.
Zinc, unfortunately, is one of those minerals that many plant-based foods lack, and zinc absorption from some plant foods is limited because of their phytate content. Since zinc is important for metabolism, the repairing of cells, and immune function, vegans should aim for 1.5 times the recommended daily amount.
A zinc deficiency could lead to a number of issues, including hair loss and developmental problems. Studies have shown that vegans who do not focus on a whole foods plant-based diet generally have lower zinc intake and blood levels of zinc than those who do consume animal products.
Be sure to incorporate foods like tofu, legumes, whole grains, and nuts and seeds, which contain a good amount of zinc to keep you going, into your diet.
Vitamin B12 is one of those vitamins that vegans need to pay special attention to, as it’s important for a number of bodily processes, including the health of your nervous system and protein metabolism. The best way for vegans to reach the recommended daily intake (which is 2.4 mcg per day for adults) is to eat foods that are fortified with vitamin B12 or to take a B12 supplement.
As it turns out, very few foods contain vitamin D, and even foods that make the promise of being fortified with that vitamin won't be enough for your recommended daily intake. This is why both vegans and non-vegans alike are susceptible to being deficient in this vitamin. Because it’s such a crucial vitamin for your body—it helps with immune function, mood, muscle recovery, and memory—we highly recommend taking a supplement for this to ensure you’re getting your required amount. This becomes especially crucial during the fall and winter months, when on the whole, we’re getting less sunlight.
Iodine is necessary for proper thyroid function, which is what controls your metabolism. When imbalanced, insufficient iodine can lead to hypothyroidism, leading to low energy levels, depression, weight gain, and more.
Vegans are more at risk of having an iodine deficiency due to the fact that iodine levels in plants depend on where they were grown. Seafood, seaweed, and dairy products are generally high in iodine. Luckily, iodized salt—just half a teaspoon of it—should be sufficient to meet your daily requirement. If consuming iodized salt doesn’t seem appealing to you, an iodine supplement would work perfectly for your needs.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids offer a number of health benefits, including lowering the risk of heart disease, reducing risk of rheumatoid arthritis, preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia, aiding with the neurodevelopment in children, and may potentially treat conditions such as cystic fibrosis, depression, inflammatory bowel disease, and more.
Vegan diets do contain some types of omega-3 fatty acids. Essential omega-3 fatty acids like alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) can only be found in one’s diet as the body cannot make them. Long chain omega-3 fatty acids, however, are nonessential which means that the body can make long chain omega-3 fatty acids using ALA.
Because the body can only convert so much ALA into certain long chain omega-3 fatty acids—which are only present in fish, fish oils, and microalgae—vegans often compensate and take supplements that are concentrated in them. With that said, a lot of omega-3 fatty acids can be incorporated through foods like ground flaxseed and chia seeds.
Oh, and fun fact: fish get the omega-3 fatty acids that humans extract from them through sea vegetables like kelp and algae. Through eating such foods as kelp and algae, we can cut out the middleman by eating the source directly.
Why you need a vegan specific multivitamin
Here’s the thing about multivitamins: there are so many vitamins and minerals in one that it’s likely some of the ingredients aren’t vegan-friendly, such as the gelatin casing that many non-vegan multivitamins use. And while you may be someone who tries to eat well, it’s possible that you’re still missing some key nutrients, especially on a plant-based diet.
So, that’s number one: you need one that’s vegan-specific so that you can sidestep potentially consuming animal products. Another reason is that both vegans and non-vegans should focus on getting nutrients like Vitamin B12 and D, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, iodine, zinc, and calcium, regardless of your diet choice. Ensuring that your vegan multivitamin contains those specific nutrients will keep you strong and healthy.
Ingredients to avoid when choosing a vegan multivitamin
As with anything you put into your body, it’s crucial that you, as a vegan, read the label carefully. Oftentimes, multivitamins will feature ingredients that are not vegan-friendly. Mastering this skill takes practice, especially considering how sometimes, companies aren’t that forthcoming with their ingredients. We cover this extensively in our post about how to read labels for vegan ingredients, but be sure to look out for things like shellac and gelatin.
Many vegan products feature a label signalling that the item is appropriate for vegans to consume. These may say “vegan-friendly,” “certified vegan,” or “contains no animal ingredients.” Other products may include, for example, a seafood allergen label, which also means that the item isn’t vegan friendly. You may also see a PETA logo that certifies the food item as safe to eat for vegans.
Bottom line: read those labels thoroughly, and be wary of suspicious ingredients!
The 5 Best Vegan Multivitamins
Veganly One-Daily Vegan Vitamins
Needless to say, Veganly One-Day Vegan Vitamins is a multivitamin that’s made for vegans. Veganly contains some of the essential vitamins and minerals that vegans usually need supplemented, including Vitamins B12 and D, iron, and every other nutrient that you can find in traditional multivitamins. If you’re looking for a well-rounded vitamin, Veganly is your multivitamin.
Future Kind Essential Multivitamin for Vegans
Future Kind is a vegan-friendly brand that aims to satisfy all the needs that vegans may have. The unique thing about Future Kind is that it features only some of the nutrients that vegans usually lack. Future Kind Essential Multivitamins for Vegans feature Vitamins B12 and D3, and omega-3 fatty acids that are derived from algae.
With that said, we do recommend that vegans look for a multivitamin that contains iron, which may be particularly important if you give blood or menstruate.
NATURELO One Daily Multivitamin
Though Naturelo makes a version of their multivitamins for men and one for women, it’s the one for women that we’d recommend since it contains iron. They also contain Vitamins B12 and D, along with all the other nutrients that many multivitamins contain.
Herbaland Multivitamin Gummies
Embrace your inner child and consider taking Herbaland Multivitamin Gummies. Herbaland is based in British Columbia, and they’re vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free, and allergen-free. These multivitamin gummies feature Vitamins B6, B12, and D3, as well as iodine and zinc. Herbaland also uses compostable packaging and focuses on eco-forming environmentally responsible technology.
Vitality Time Release Super Multi+ Vitamin
Vitality is based right here in Vancouver, B.C., and this company offers a wide range of supplements. Their Time Release Super Multi+ Vitamin features Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12, as well as iron, zinc, calcium, and iodine. The benefit of taking a time release multivitamin is that they help support the effective absorption by your body. Vitality’s tablets are made with plant fibres, keeping in trend with their commitment to veganism.
Do you take a multivitamin? If so, let us know your favourite vegan multivitamin in the comments below!