Vegan diet – what nutritional supplements are useful?

you can eat healthy even without animal food. However, there are some important recommendations regarding nutrient intake that must be followed.

The basics in a nutshell:

Vitamin B12 is only found in sufficient quantities in foods of animal origin and must therefore be supplemented.

Iodine intake is another problem for children, so use iodized table salt.

With a well-planned selection of foods, the need for other essential nutrients such as iron, calcium or omega-3 fatty acids can be met.

Combination products containing vitamins, minerals and other ingredients according to the “watering can principle” are not necessary.

Capsules or lozenges may contain gelatin or milk sugar – check the ingredient list or ask the manufacturer.

What is a “vegan diet”?

While vegetarians eat live animal products such as dairy products, eggs or honey, vegans avoid them. You only eat foods of plant origin. Additives and flavourings, food supplements and medicines should not be of animal origin either. In addition, some vegans do without animal materials for clothing and everyday items such as wool and leather.

How do you evaluate a vegan diet?

In principle, any severe restriction in the choice of food increases the risk of not receiving certain nutrients optimally. In the long term, there may even be a shortage. Because different food groups provide the body with different nutrients. Vegans, therefore, need a good knowledge of nutrition.

Positive points: with a selection of cheap foods with lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grain products, nuts and seeds, vegans are well supplied with potassium, magnesium, folic acid, vitamins C and E, as well as fibre and healthy plant substances.

Risks: Vegans often eat less than a conventional diet.

  • Iron (if the meat is avoided)
  • Calcium (if you do without milk and dairy products)
  • Iodine and omega-3 fatty acids (avoid fish)
  • Zinc and B vitamins – especially vitamin B12 – are activated.
  • The protein content of a vegan diet can also be too low if not enough protein sources such as legumes and nuts are used.

A current study by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment has shown that the supply of vitamin B12 in vegans is good through the use of dietary supplements. The supply of iodine, on the other hand, is a real problem. This already needs to be improved for people who eat mixed foods, but it is even more pronounced for people who live vegan.

The German Society for Nutrition (DGE) is of the opinion that a vegan diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding and throughout Kin de – and adolescence is not suitable to cover enough to meet nutritional needs. The Nutrition Commission of the German Society for Child and Adolescent Medicine (DGKJ) is also critical. Anyone wishing to eat vegan food for themselves or their children in these special situations should be particularly well informed and possibly seek advice from a nutritionist. The specialists present (paediatrician, gynaecologist) must absolutely be familiar with the vegan diet.

Special dietary supplements for vegans?

Special dietary supplements for vegans should provide nutrients that may be neglected in a vegan diet. The products are not always put together in a sensible way:

Some products contain an arbitrary mix of vitamins, minerals and plant substances.

Some nutrients are unnecessary, such as vitamin C or folic acid, which vegans usually consume in

larger amounts through food or they are contained in much too high doses.

A particular advantage has not been proven for substances such as borage oil or olive leaves.
What is really useful?

Vitamin B12 is only contained in foods of animal origin and must be supplemented with food supplements (ideally called nanoproducts that contain only vitamin B12) or fortified foods (e.g. breakfast cereals) in a vegan diet; if the deficiency is proven, the doctor may also administer an injection.

Caution: Vitamin B12 from plant sources such as sauerkraut, seaweed (e.g. spirulina), yeast, sea buckthorn, or other plant foods may be used as a source of vitamin B12.


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DGE: Valeurs de référence pour l’apport en nutriments, 2e édition, 4e édition mise à jour 2018, estimations pour un apport adéquat en vitamine B12.

Pabel B (2015). Pilules de vitamines pour les végétaliens. Forum UGB 32 (2): 100-101.

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Rudloff S et coll. (2018): Régimes végétariens chez les enfants et les adolescents . Déclaration de la Commission de la nutrition de la Société allemande de médecine de l’enfant et de l’adolescent (DGKJ). Monthly Pediatrics, publié en ligne le 6 août 2018.

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