Do I need to take any particular vitamins or minerals because of eating this way?
Actually, vegans generally have better overall vitamin intake, compared with meat eaters. Meat has essentially no vitamin C and is low in many other vitamins as well. In contrast, vegetables, fruits and legumes (beans, peas and lentils) are vitamin-rich. In controlled studies, people switching to vegan diets typically increase their intake of several vitamins and reduce their intake of the undesirables—saturated fat and cholesterol, in particular. Even so, two vitamins deserve special comment:
- Vitamin B12 is made, not by plants or animals, but by bacteria. Animal products contain B12 made by the bacteria in their intestinal tracts. A more healthful source is any common multivitamin. B12 supplements are also widely available.
- Vitamin D normally comes from exposure to the sun. About fifteen minutes of direct sunlight on your face and arms each day gives you all the vitamin D you need. However, if you are indoors much of the day or live in an area where sunlight is limited, it is important to take a supplement. Any common multivitamin is fine. Most foods have little or no vitamin D. Certain fish contain some vitamin D, but they also harbor cholesterol, mercury, and other things you don’t want. Surprisingly, mushrooms (for example, shiitakes and chanterelles) contain vitamin D. Five dried shiitakes provide roughly 5 micrograms of vitamin D. You’ll also find it in fortified soy milk.
Nowadays, some health authorities recommend high vitamin D intakes—up to 2,000 IU (50 micrograms) per day, because of its reputed cancer-fighting properties. To get there, you’ll need to take a vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is plant-derived, while vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol, typically comes from lanolin in sheep's wool.