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What Vitamins Are Lacking In A Vegetarian Diet?

Removing meat and fish from your diet to become a vegetarian can be a great health decision. 

However, following a veggie diet may also leave you lacking in certain vitamins, minerals and nutrients our bodies need. The common deficiencies vegetarians face are: 

  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Omega-3 fatty acids

The good news is that there are foods and supplements you can eat to prevent these deficiencies. This post will cover some different options to ensure you achieve a healthy, well-balanced diet. 

Vitamins lacking in a vegetarian diet 

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin and part of the B complex, which is important for keeping blood and nerve cells healthy. 

We can only get vitamin B12 through our diet because our body doesn’t produce it naturally, which makes it tricky for vegetarians as it’s mainly found in animal sources. 

Recommended daily allowance

According to the NHS, adults need around 1.5 micrograms of Vitamin B12 per day

Symptoms of being vitamin B12 deficient

  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Breathlessness
  • Feeling faint
  • Headaches
  • Pale skin 
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss

How to get Vitamin B12 on a vegetarian diet

Some of the best food sources of vitamin B12 for vegetarians include eggs, milk, cheese and yoghurt, some plant-based milks, yeast extract and certain breakfast cereals. 

One hard-boiled egg contains about 0.6 micrograms of B12, which is around ⅓ of your daily value. You’ll need to eat the whole egg because most of the B12 is in the yolk. 

Some days, you’re going to miss breakfast and let your diet slide, so that’s why we have a fantastic collection of Vitamin B12 products to choose from, which will ensure you always get your daily intake, no matter what. 

Vitamin D

We need Vitamin D to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in our bodies, which is crucial for keeping bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Vitamin D is also crucial for the immune system and our emotional health.

Vitamin D is actually a hormone and is produced in our skin in response to sunlight during the summer months. In the UK, we are advised to supplement year-round. This is due to our climate and the fact that is impossible to get enough through diet alone. For vegetarians, this is even more of a problem as the foods that contain vitamin D are mainly from animal sources, such as liver and red meat. 

Recommended daily allowance

The NHS recommends that adults consume 10 micrograms of Vitamin D per day. 

Symptoms of being vitamin D deficient 

  • Depression
  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain 
  • Bone pain 

How to get Vitamin D on a vegetarian diet

You can get your recommended dose of vitamin D from egg yolks, cheese and mushrooms. Some products such as cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, cereals and oatmeal are also known to contain vitamin D. 

One 237ml cup of orange juice contains roughly 12% of the recommended daily value. This will help you maintain your vitamin D levels, but it’s not going to be easy getting enough each day. 

You can give yourself that extra vitamin D push with our daily tablets. These contain 5 micrograms, putting you at the halfway point of hitting the recommended daily value. 

Minerals you may be missing if you’re a vegetarian

Zinc 

We need enough zinc in our diets to prevent illnesses and maintain a healthy immune system. But with seafood and red meat containing the highest levels of zinc, getting enough isn’t always easy.

Recommended daily allowance

Men need to consume around 9.5mg of zinc daily and 7mg for women. 

Symptoms of being zinc deficient 

  • Hair loss
  • Diarrhoea
  • Infections
  • Feeling irritable
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of taste and smell

How to get Zinc on a vegetarian diet

Zinc can be consumed in dairy foods, bread and cereal products. However, these foods usually only contain small amounts. For example, a slice of white bread typically contains 0.24mg-0.35mg of Zinc. This means that an average man would need to eat more than 27 slices of bread daily to hit the recommended allowance. 

That doesn’t sound very appetising. So as an alternative, one Multivits tablet alone will give you 5mg of Zinc, making it much easier to hit that goal. 

Iron

Consuming enough iron is important for making red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. Maintaining iron levels is something to watch out for, in particular, if you’re female, as a condition called iron deficiency anaemia is often caused by blood loss or pregnancy. 

Vegetarians often have difficulty getting the iron they need because it’s much easier to absorb from animal sources than plant sources. 

Recommended daily allowance

Men over 18 need 8.7mg of iron per day, women aged 19-50 need 14.8mg and women over 50 need 8.7mg.

Symptoms of being iron deficient 

 Symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia can be so mild that it initially goes unnoticed. But if the anaemia worsens, you may experience symptoms of: 

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Easy bruising
  • Brittle nails
  • Headaches, dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Poor appetite

How to get iron on a vegetarian diet

Vegetarians can get their recommended allowance of iron from beans, chickpeas, tofu, soybeans, lentils, spinach, kale, nuts, seeds and quinoa. 

However, some days you’ll skip the salads and indulge in fast food. So a good alternative is our Multivits + Iron supplements, which contain 14mg of iron per tablet. These foods and supplements combined will be more than enough to eliminate the risk of iron deficiency anaemia. 

Omega-3 fatty acids 

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for a number of functions in the body, such as reducing the risk of heart disease, supporting growth and development, improving blood circulation and lowering blood pressure.  

Recommended daily allowance

If you’re a vegetarian and still eat fish, such as salmon, tuna or trout - you’re probably not going to experience a deficiency in omega-3. 

But if you avoid eating fish, you need to make sure you’re consuming around 500mg of EPA and DHA combined each day, which is around the same as 140g of oily fish per week. 

Symptoms of being deficient in omega 3 fatty acids

  • Fatigue
  • Poor memory
  • Dry skin
  • Heart problems
  • Mood swings
  • Poor circulation

How to get omega-3 on a vegetarian diet 

Seafood sources, such as oily or fatty fish, are higher in DHA and EPA. Plant sources are typically higher in ALA. These include walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds. You can also get omega-3 by adding a drizzle of flaxseed or walnut oil to salads and cooked veggies. However, never cook with these oils as they are damaged at high heat. 

Summary

It’s extremely important we have the right amount of nutrition to keep our bodies and minds healthy. Whether you are embarking on a vegetarian diet or want to check if you have a vitamin deficiency, we recommend consulting with your healthcare provider to get assessed and discuss any concerns. 

If you’re thinking about going that step further and turning vegan, then you can read our post on what vitamins are lacking in a vegan diet, where go through the deficiencies vegans face and how to prevent them.