What Vitamins Do Vegetarians Need?

by Laura Wright

About Laura Wright

Laura Wright started writing professionally in 2010. She has worked with women's health issues and gender-based violence, and as a research associate on human rights with The Protection Project. She earned both a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and anthropology and a Master of Public Health from West Virginia University.


Vegetarianism applies to a variety of diets that abstain from consuming animal products. Lacto-ovo vegetarian diets exclude meat products but allow milk and eggs. Lacto-vegetarian diets exclude meat products, eggs and products containing eggs but allow milk. Vegan diets exclude meat products, eggs and milk and products containing all of these items. The American Dietetic Association states vegetarian diets are healthy and nutritionally adequate when planned appropriately. However, certain nutrients may need special attention when accounting for your dietary needs as a vegetarian.

Riboflavin-Vitamin B-2

Riboflavin is a water-soluble vitamin that must be consumed on a regular basis, preferably every day. Riboflavin is needed for your body to grow, to produce red blood cells and to assist in releasing the energy from the carbohydrates you consume. Liver, red meat and dairy products are the best dietary sources of riboflavin, but it is also found in leafy green vegetables and fortified breads and cereals. The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine recommends that women consume 1.0 to 1.1 milligrams of riboflavin each day.

Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 is an interesting in part because it is water soluble, but also it can be stored for years in the human liver rather than being excreted in urine like most water-soluble vitamins. Vitamin B-12 is important for your metabolism, helps to form red blood cells and assists in the maintenance of your central nervous system. Vitamin B-12 deficiencies may take a long time to appear, but the result is irreversible nerve damage, notes the Colorado State University Extension website. Vitamin B-12 is primarily found in animal sources, so vegans and strict vegetarians may need supplementation to their diet. The Food and Nutrition Board recommends women consume 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B-12 a day.

Vitamin D

Your body needs Vitamin D to absorb calcium and to regulate the levels of calcium and phosphorus in your blood, according to MedlinePlus. Your body can produce vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, but sun exposure can be limited by factors including pollution and your location. Vitamin D is available in fortified milk, egg yolks and liver, but few fortified products may be available for vegans or strict vegetarians. Women should aim for 600 international units of vitamin D each day.


In addition to vitamins, as a vegetarian you may also need to watch your intake of minerals. Calcium deficiencies in vegetarians are rare, and less common than in non-vegetarians; however, certain plant components may inhibit your body’s absorption of calcium, according to the Colorado State University Extension. Both vegetarians and nonvegetarians in the U.S. have difficulty consuming adequate levels of iron, but animal sources of iron are more easily absorbed by the human body than plant sources. Zinc is also more easily absorbed by the body from animal sources than plant sources; however, cheese is an option for zinc for less strict vegetarians. If you have concerns about your intake of nutrients, talk to your doctor or dietitian for advice on planning your diet.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.