Don't Worry about Your Protein Needs

Proteins &

Many vegans and aspiring vegans care about eating a healthy, balanced diet and want to be well-informed about nutrition. Vegans have a significantly reduced risk for type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure and, on average, have lower cholesterol levels.

Although there are health benefits to being vegan, there are also nutrients to be aware of. We aim to give you all the essential information you need to know about vegan nutrition on this page.

Page info by Jack Norris, registered dietitian and executive director of Vegan Outreach


“Where do you get your protein” is typically the first question vegans are asked. And it’s a bit hard to answer because all plant foods contain protein. In other words, vegans get our protein in everything we eat!

However, some plant foods are higher in protein than others and if you avoid most high-protein foods you might start craving animal products or feeling fatigued.

If you want a thorough discussion about plant vs. animal protein, check out the article Protein Needs of Vegans from


Speaking of protein, soy foods have traditionally been a staple of many vegan diets due to their high protein content. Myths abound that soy is harmful, and that has made some people shy away, but there’s plenty of scientific evidence that two servings of soyfoods per day is perfectly safe. Higher amounts are probably also safe, but they haven’t been studied as thoroughly.

The most robust area of research on soy has been with respect to breast cancer, and the overwhelming evidence is that soy can reduce the risk of breast cancer. There’s also evidence to suggest that soy can reduce the risk of prostate cancer and heart disease (by lowering LDL cholesterol). Soy: Main Controversies.


People often associate iron with red meat, so you might be surprised to know that iron is plentiful in plant foods, and vegans often have higher iron intakes than meat-eaters. Obtaining enough iron from vegan foods is easy if you eat legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) and dark leafy green vegetables (such as spinach and collards).

Iron is found in a range of other plant foods and many countries have foods fortified with iron. Blackstrap molasses is a type of molasses that’s high in iron.

More info on iron

Vitamin C

Most vegans don’t need to be too concerned about iron unless they have a history of iron deficiency. One exception is long-distance runners who menstruate, as they have a high amount of red blood cell loss. If you’re prone to iron deficiency, eat plenty of meals containing foods high in iron and vitamin C and avoid coffee and tea (which decrease iron absorption) within an hour of such meals.


Vegan adults should eat 3 servings of good sources of calcium per day while teenagers should eat 4 servings. 

Luckily, most plant-based milks are fortified with calcium.If you find it inconvenient to eat foods high in calcium each day, a calcium supplement of about 500 mg per day is another option.

Resistance exercise twice a week, involving lifting moderate weights, is possibly the most reliable way for people to increase the strength of their bones. We encourage everyone to follow such a program. Talk to your health professional about what program is right for you.

More info on calcium

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is important for night vision and bone density. Vegans should eat at least two servings of good sources daily. Good sources are vegetables and fruits whose edible flesh is orange: carrots and other root vegetables (1/2 cup), squash (1/2 cup), and melons (2 cups). The orange color indicates beta-carotene which our bodies can turn into vitamin A. Dark leafy green vegetables (1 cup cooked) are also high in vitamin A. Foods with yellow flesh are generally good sources of vitamin A.

A great way to help satisfy your vitamin A needs is with Gajar Halwa!

More info on vitamin A

Omega 3s

Omega-3 fats are important for the long-term health of the heart and brain but are found in a limited number of plant foods. Walnuts, canola oil, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and perilla oil are high in omega-3s.

A delicious way to get your daily omega-3s is from Falooda (Chia Seed Pudding), which you can eat for breakfast or as a dessert.

More on omega- 3s

Nutrients Most Easily Obtained from Supplements

Nutrient deficiencies won’t occur in only a few weeks or even months of being vegan. That’s good news because it means you can go vegan at your own pace and worry about perfecting the nutrition later. In the long term, to be a thriving vegan, you’ll want to make sure you obtain a reliable source of vitamin B12, iodine, selenium, vitamin D, and in some cases zinc.

  • Vitamin B12 in vegan diets has been a source of controversy and myths. Plant foods don’t contain vitamin B12 unless fortified. If you don’t get a reliable source, the chances are high that you’ll eventually develop fatigue or tingling in your fingers or toes. On the other hand, vegans who obtain a reliable source of vitamin B12 can have healthier levels than nonvegans. Additional info on vitamin B12.
  • Iodine is important for a healthy thyroid. Iodine is found inconsistently in plant foods depending on the iodine content of the soil. The soil in many countries is low in iodine and so iodine has been added to some brands of table salt. You should make sure you have a source of iodine either from iodized salt or a supplement containing potassium iodide. For supplements, if convenient choose potassium iodide over kelp. Additional info on iodine.
  • Selenium is lacking in the soil in many countries and so a multivitamin with selenium is the most reliable source. Soil in the United States and Canada has enough selenium for vegans there not to be concerned. Additional info on selenium.
  • Vitamin D deficiency can result in fatigue and muscle and bone pain. Vitamin D can be created by skin exposure to sunshine (10-15 minutes for people with light skin, 20 minutes for people with dark skin, 30 minutes for seniors) when the sun is direct enough to cause sunburn. But to avoid skin cancer, dermatologists recommend obtaining vitamin D from supplements rather than sunshine. The dietary reference intake (DRI) for most age groups is 600 IU per day. Additional info on vitamin D.
  • Zinc intakes from food are usually adequate for most vegans, but some vegans might fall a bit short. Symptoms of zinc deficiency include catching frequent colds or developing cracks at the corners of your mouth. Additional info on zinc.

Supplement Recommendations

We recommend that vegans take a daily multivitamin that contains the amounts of nutrients listed in the table below. These amounts are not the recommended daily allowances (RDAs), but rather the amounts that will meet the needs of vegans after taking into account what vegans typically obtain through foods.

Good options for meeting these requirements are:

  • We recommend taking one Carbamide Forte Plant Based Mulitivitamin+ tablet per day which provides 2.2 µg of B12, 140 µg of iodine, 600 IU of vitamin D, 17 mg of zinc, and 40 µg of selenium. Because the Carbamide Forte doesn’t have enough B12 for vegans, we recommend supplementing with a tablet of Neurobion Forte B1 + B6 + B12 containing 5,000 µg of B12 once a week.

Vegan Nutrition, Meal Plans and More!

Good Luck—and May You Thrive on a Vegan Diet!​