A Guide to Choosing the Best Multivitamin for Vegans
“Food first, then supplements.”
While we don’t want the nutritional focus and responsibility to be on multivitamins alone, the convenient little pills can help plug nutrition gaps in a diet that are otherwise rich in a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
In many ways, multivitamins can provide certain vitamins and minerals, but because they’re unable to mimic completely the way these nutrients are derived from plants, it’s better to use them as a nutritional insurance policy than to depend on them completely.
While most healthy adults can benefit from adding a multivitamin into their diet, taking a multivitamin is especially important for people currently consuming a plant-based diet free of any meat or animal products.
Do Vegans Need to Take a Multivitamin?
Supplementation is a hot topic in the vegan community. While humans can get most of the essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals from a varied vegan diet, the fact of the matter is there are certain things we can’t get in adequate amounts from plants alone.
To defend the lifestyle and put veganism in the purest, natural spotlight possible, some vegans try to make the claim that supplementation isn’t necessary, and that all nutrients can be derived from enough plants in the diet.
This is dangerous thinking, as even if you had the time and attention to focus on every last micronutrient you were taking in, certain nutrients like B12 simply aren’t available in plants in the amounts that we need.
By trying to make veganism look “easy” and “natural”, they are taking risks with people’s health, and contributing to people abandoning vegan diets due to deficiency and returning to eating animals and animal products.
Supplementing doesn’t make a way of eating any less “pure”, and ultimately it’s better to ensure health and safety through supplementation than jeopardize health to be “pure.” By taking a simple multivitamin, vegans can make sure they’re getting everything they need while still being kind to animals and the planet.
What Should Vegans Look For in a Multivitamin?
It’s important to remember that you aren’t looking for a multivitamin to be your sole source of vitamins and minerals - if you’re eating a varied diet full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, you’re getting more (probably way more) than zero percent of your recommended daily allowance!
As such, you don’t need to worry about finding a multivitamin that provides 100% of every single vitamin and mineral - in a lot of cases, more of something isn’t always better.
Similarly, if you eat lots of lentils and other legumes, your iron may not need as much of a boost. At the very least, you’ll want to make sure the multi provides some B12, Vitamin D, and iodine, which are nutrients that many vegans are lacking.
Avoid Gelatin at All Costs...
It’s important to know that many vitamins (and pills in general) use gelatin to hold everything together, or to form the “case” of the pill. Gelatin is made from skin, ligaments, and other connective tissue from cows or pigs, which means this ingredient isn’t even vegetarian. As such, vegans should avoid any multivitamin that lists gelatin as an ingredient.
Supplementation for Women
Women’s multivitamins are designed to support women’s nutritional requirements, hormones, and health needs. Women’s multivitamins are even further categorized by the age of the women taking them.
Women in childbearing years have much higher iron needs than men in the same age group, due to women losing significant amounts of iron from their periods.
As a woman gets older and goes through menopause, her iron requirements decrease considerably, but she will need more calcium in her multivitamin to preserve bone strength as she ages. Women should look for a multivitamin that addresses the deficiencies that might be happening at each point in her reproductive life.
Some multivitamins advertise added herbs with benefits that are specific to women, but it’s unclear as to whether the amount present in multivitamins is adequate to produce any effect. Beware of paying extra for multivitamins that advertise these added botanicals, and focus more on how it delivers on your iron/calcium needs.
Supplementation for Men
Just as women need extra iron and calcium, men searching for a good multivitamin need to look for certain ingredients that are most beneficial to males.
Lycopene, which is found in tomatoes, boosts prostate health, while Vitamin E reduces inflammation and protects against cancer, heart disease, and macular degeneration.
While folate gets all the attention as an important ingredient in prenatal vitamins for women, men should also look for this in their multivitamin, as it helps sperm production, protects against Alzheimer’s disease, and prevents certain types of cancer.
You can get folate from dark, leafy greens, but this is one of those nutrients where it’s important, and a better idea, to ensure you’re getting enough through a multi.
Supplementation Based on Age
For both men and women, bone health and strength is a huge focus throughout the aging process, especially if those people are vegan or currently eat a plant-based lifestyle.
Older adults will want to look for a multivitamin with plenty of Vitamin D2, which is essential for the gut and plays a key role in building and maintaining strong, healthy bones. Vitamin D will also help ward off osteoporosis, which contributes to bad breaks, and can also reduce the risk of certain types of cancers. A multivitamin with both Vitamin D and calcium will be the best protection against brittle bones, as consumption of Vitamin D helps you absorb more calcium.
Vegan children also have their needs when it comes to multivitamins, in both nutritional contents as well as how those vitamins are consumed. Thankfully, there are plenty of alternatives to gelatin-laden children’s chewable and gummy vitamins for healthy vegan kids.
While the focus of childhood nutrition should be on whole, fresh foods, there are six essential vitamins and minerals that play key roles in childhood development: Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, calcium, and iron. You’ll want to look for a multivitamin that contains adequate amounts of these nutrients for your child.
Remember that especially in the case of children, huge doses of vitamins could be potentially dangerous. Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) can be toxic if given to children in too large of a dose.
It’s best to discuss your child’s nutritional needs with your doctor to make sure they’re getting a dose of supplemented vitamins and minerals that's just right for their gender and activity level.
List of Vegan Multivitamin Brands
The Deva Vegan Multivitamin with greens is a 100% animal-free (certified by the Vegan Society), a gluten-free tablet that’s specially formulated to meet the nutritional needs of people who eat a vegan diet. Each tablet contains 1,667% percent of your daily recommended allowance of B12, to build up and maintain stores, and 100% of your daily recommended allowance of iron.
Garden of Life’s multivitamins for women are raw, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and contain no soy allergens. This formula supports breast and reproductive system health, bone strength, and contributes to a healthy heart and skin, in addition to being super easy to digest. Users on Amazon report that this vitamin gives them a noticeable increase in energy and doesn’t cause queasiness like some other brands.
Made from 71% certified organic ingredients, this multivitamin is specifically geared toward men’s specific nutritional needs. Free of dairy, gluten, soy, and other allergens, it’s high in vitamin D3, B-complex vitamins, important nutrients for vegan men. These capsules also include a hefty dose of probiotics, which maintain a healthy digestive system, as well as antioxidants from goji and acai berries. The suggested dose is 4 capsules daily, so each bottle comes out to be a one-month supply.
Hypoallergenic, preservative free, and high-potency, this Vitanica multivitamin is geared specific toward people age 65 years and older. The capsules contain calcium for maintaining healthy, strong bones through the aging process, as well as ingredients to address memory loss and slower digestion as people get older. They also include digestive enzymes, to help enhance absorption and make the pills easier to digest.These capsules tend to be more geared toward women.
Formulated just for kids, these easy-to-chew berry flavored tablets contain all the nutrients to ensure children’s health. One of the best things about this multivitamin is that it contains the natural sweeteners sorbitol and xylitol, making it sugar-free.Only children above the age of 2 should take these vitamins. 2-3 year-olds should take a single tablet, while children 4 and older should take 2 to meet their dietary needs. The tablets are on the larger side, but users note that the chalky consistency makes them easy to chew.
Supplementation as a Vegan
While a vegan diet is ultimately higher in nutrients than an omnivorous diet due to increased consumption of leafy greens and other nutritious whole foods, there are certain things we need that we simply can’t get in adequate amounts from plants alone.
This doesn’t mean a vegan diet is unnatural or unhealthy, it simply means that vegans should plan to take out some nutritional insurance through an easy-to-take multivitamin, as a way to ensure they’re getting exactly what they need.
It’s better to eat a varied diet and supplement with a multivitamin than to jeopardize your health by striving for “purity”.
Supplementing with a multivitamin doesn’t invalidate the health benefits and world benefits of a vegan diet, and by taking a multivitamin, you’re setting a good example for those who are considering a plant-based, compassionate way of life.