Nutrient recommendations for vegans

The following recommendations are general guidelines for your orientation. You do not have to follow them in the minutest detail. 

1) Vitamin B12
Choose one of the following options (1–4):   

- 2–5 µg twice per day (from fortified foods or a supplement) (5–12)
- 10–200 µg per day from a supplement (6,10–15)
- 2000–2500 µg per week from a supplement (7,11,12,16–18)

2) Calcium
Consume at least 600 mg of calcium per day (2,19–28).
Choose at least one of the following options every day:

- 1 glass of calcium fortified plant milk (for example soya milk; the label should state that it contains 120 mg of calcium per 100 ml – just like cow’s milk) (3,23,28–31)
- other calcium fortified foods, for example juice, soya yoghurt, rolled oats, bread,...) (23,28,30,32)
- 1 to 2 cups of cooked dark green leafy vegetables, like:
- pak choi (bok choy)
- kale
- Collard greens/Spring greens
- broccoli raab
- broccoli (23,28,31)
- dandelion greens
- nettles
(Spinach and chard are not good calcium sources, as the bioavailability is low.)
- 2 to 3 cups of raw or cooked Napa cabbage
- 1 cup of tofu made with calcium (23,28–31)
- calcium rich water/mineral water which should provide at least 300 mg calcium per day – check the label (33,34)
- ½ cup of dried figs + 3 oranges (23)
- 6 nixtamalized corn (maize) tortillas (Ø ~15 cm) (These are available in Mexico and Guatemala.) (35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40–42)

3) Vitamin D
In summer:
- 15–30 minutes of midday sun every day – or more sun less often. Your shadow should not be much longer than your height. Avoid sunburn!
- a supplement – like in winter. Do not avoid the sun completely.

In winter (“vitamin D winter”):
- ~25 µg (~1000 IU) vitamin D per day from a supplement (2,3,23,28,43–50)

“Vitamin D winter” is when your body cannot make vitamin D from sunshine, and this depends on where you live on this planet (latitude).
“Vitamin D winter”:
- Between 35° north and 35° south: No “vitamin D winter” at all – you can make vitamin D all year long from sunshine on your skin (51)
- Between 35° and 40° north OR south: December and January
- Between 40° and 50° north OR south: November until February
- North of 50° north OR south of 50° south: October until March (or longer)     

4) Iodine
Choose one of the following options (2,3,45,52–60):

- 100–200 µg per day from a supplement
- seaweed like nori or wakame, several times per week
- iodized salt (1 teaspoon contains 40–240 µg of iodine – check the label) (61–63) Avoid excessive salt intake.

5) Omega-3 fatty acids
Choose one of these options every day (19,30,64–69). The following recommendations are for men – who generally consume more calories. For women a little less is sufficient.

- ~10 walnuts (=20 walnut halves; ~40 g) (64)
- 1–2 teaspoons of linseed oil (flaxseed oil) (64)
- 2 tablespoons of ground linseeds (flaxseeds) (64,70,71)
- 1–2 tablespoons of chia seeds (69,72–74)
- 1–2 tablespoons of hemp seed oil (64)
- ¼ cup of hemp seeds, or 1–2 tablespoons of shelled hemp seeds   
- 2–3 tablespoons of rapeseed oil (canola oil) (64)

Optionally (there isn’t much evidence for recommending this for the average vegan):
Use half of the above recommendations – and add a vegan DHA supplement:
- 200–300 mg DHA every two or three days (or every day if you like) (64,67–69,75–77)

6) Iron
Eat legumes (26,78,79).

Additional tips:
- Consuming vitamin C at the same time as iron rich foods increases the absorption of iron from plant sources (78,80–83).
- Drinking coffee or tea with meals lowers the absorption of iron (80–84).
- Cooking tomato sauce (or other sauces that are slightly acidic) in cast iron cookware increases the amount of iron in the sauce (83–86).

7) Zinc  
Eat legumes, nuts and seeds (2,30,87,88).

8) Selenium
Choose (only) one of the following options (45,89–91):
- 1–2 Brazil nuts per day (92–95)
- 50–60 µg of selenium per day, from a supplement (selenomethionine) (92,95–100)

If you live in the United States, Canada or Venezuela you can ignore these recommendations (101–104). If you live in Finland (where selenium is added to fertilizer) and you consume plenty of non-organic grains, you can probably ignore these recommendations, too (53). If you live in any regions in China which have soils extremely high in selenium – do NOT use selenium supplements, and do NOT eat Brazil nuts. If you live in any of the regions of China with extremely low soil selenium levels, do take a selenium supplement (as recommended above) – unless there are local measures being taken to fortify certain foods with selenium (and you eat those foods).  

9) Vitamin A
Eat plenty of dark green vegetables, orange coloured fruits and orange coloured vegetables (3,45,105).

Great beta-carotene sources are, for example: cooked carrots, carrot juice, pumpkin, orange coloured sweet potatoes, any dark green leafy vegetable – and (containing lower amounts) orange coloured fruits like mangoes and papayas as well as red bell peppers.

10) Protein  
Eat legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds (3,106–108). Eat legumes (soya milk, tofu, beans, peas, peanut butter, soya flour) or pistachios or hemp seeds or quinoa or amaranth daily. Eat enough calories. Most vegans eat enough calories. But if you don’t eat enough calories your body will use the protein you eat as calories, and you might end up with too little protein and you might lose muscle mass.


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