It is very easy to get all the nutrients your body needs in order to thrive as a vegan. Down below is a brief but detailed list of all the main essential vitamins and minerals that our body needs, the role that they play and the best food sources. I don’t recommend supplementation for vitamin or mineral isolates. Each whole food is created perfectly for all it’s individual components to work synergistically with one another. Therefore, if you are deficient or low in different vitamins or minerals, the most important thing you can do to get yourself back on track is to alter your eating habits. Switching to a primarily raw whole foods plant based diet will help you get everything you need. To start to understand your food choices better, you can measure your nutrient consumption online. When you’re first starting out, I recommend using a website called chronometer. It is simple to use and free, all you have to do is type in what you eat in a day and it will show you approximately all the levels of the different vitamins, minerals and nutrients that you consume in a day. This does not show you what your body is actually absorbing however, so it is important to be aware of any digestive weaknesses or intestinal problems that you may have so that you can address those as well to increase absorbency of your food.
As a primarily raw vegan thriving on mostly fruit, I will always recommend raw fruits and vegetables over any other food source because they contain everything your body needs. Everything listed down below can be found in fruits and vegetables. This article was created for a basic guide for those of you are are transitioning your diets from the SAD (standard American diet) to vegetarianism, veganism, or for anyone who wants a bit more information on vitamins and minerals, their sources and what to try to incorporate in your diet more to increase your nutrition levels.
Vitamin A (beta carotene & retinol) is an antioxidant that plays an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system, healthy eyes and healthy skin. Most green and orange foods will contain beta carotene which will then be converted into retinol and absorbed by your body.
Sources: Vitamin A is very abundant and can be found in every fruit and vegetable in varying amounts. Some of the highest sources of Vitamin A are carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, squash, mango, kale, romaine, peas, broccoli, mustard greens, swiss chard, matcha and green tea
In general, B vitamins are good for promoting healthy skin, hair and nails. They are useful to prevent headaches and body aches due to inflammation in the body and help reduce the negative impacts of stress by supporting your adrenal glands and immune system. They can help regulate your mood, boost your energy and support your body if you are prone to anxiety or depression. They also support the brain in focusing, increasing concentration and memory, prevent brain fog, adrenal fatigue and mental exhaustion.
B1 (Thiamin) Helps protect the body from the effects of stress by supporting the immune system and adrenals. Thiamin can also help you focus, boost your memory, support a healthy balanced mood and provide you with sustainable energy through out the day.
Sources: whole gains, nuts, seeds, spinach, kale, matcha and green tea
B2 (Riboflavin) Helps transport oxygen throughout the body so it is useful to combat frequent headaches and migraines. B2 is also beneficial for the skin and protecting the body from free-radical damage.
Sources: almonds, wild rice, spinach, bananas, apples, flax, oats, carrots, berries, pears, sweet potatoes
B3 (Niacin) Supports healthy skin, and energy production. Niacin also helps balance mood assists in preventing mood swings, depression and anxiety.
Sources: brown rice, mushroom, bell peppers, tomatoes, peas, avocados, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peanuts, sunflower seeds, asparagus, carrots, kale
B5 (Pantothenic acid) Helps protect the body from the effects of stress, supports healthy production of sex hormones and maintains healthy skin.
Sources: avocado, broccoli, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, potatoes, soy
B6 (Pyridoxine) Helps reduce inflammation in the body and support the immune system. Helps regulate sleeping patterns, eating patterns and regulate mood. Also, known to be supportive for people who may experience anxiety, depression and chronic stress.
Sources: bananas, spinach, sweet potatoes, potatoes, lentils, brown rice, carrots
B7 (Biotin) Promotes healthy hair, skin and nails.
Sources: sweet potatoes, almond, cauliflower, walnuts. carrots, avocado, spinach, bananas, mushrooms, beans, peas
B9 (Folate) Promotes healthy skin and hair and regulate mood. Important for pregnant women to take to support healthy fetal development.
Sources: spinach, lentils, beets, beans, avocado, mango
B12 (Cobalamin) Supportive of the brain and helps promotes sustainable energy and focus through out the day. Important for mood and sleep regulation.
Sources: seaweed, kelp, spirulina, nutritional yeast *fortified foods such as cereals and milks contain synthetic vitamins that are not easily absorbed into our bodies
Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) is an important vitamin and antioxidant for the bones and skin. Vitamin C can help be protective of the immune system, hence why it is known to help “prevent” the common cold. It also can help reduce inflammation in the body and help repair and prevent damage to cells within the body.
Sources: bell pepper, mango, oranges, cantaloupe, grapefruits, spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kiwi, strawberry, pineapple, papaya
Vitamin D is important for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus making it a critical player for bone and teeth health. Vitamin D also helps improve and balance mood as well as support the immune system.
Sources: mushrooms, full body sun exposure for 20 minutes
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that is important for the skin, immune system and blood. Vitamin E also helps the body utilize vitamin K.
Sources: almonds, bell pepper, spinach, corn, swiss chard, olives, walnuts, mustard greens, avocado, pine nuts, kale, broccoli, papaya, peanuts, soy, matcha and green tea
Vitamin K is important for blood clotting, bone strength, the brain and teeth.
Sources: miso, kale, spinach, broccoli, mustard greens, matcha, green tea, spinach, spirulina
Calcium is important for bone and muscle health. Calcium helps you maintain a healthy weight and is an important mineral for the heart. Calcium and magnesium help each other get absorbed by the body. Calcium is a very abundant mineral in the body, the issue with calcium is often that we are not properly absorbing it. *all animal products including dairy leach calcium from our bones
Sources: moringa, spinach, kale, tahini, sesame seeds, almond butter, almonds, blackberries, dates, collard greens
Iron is an important mineral for the transport of oxygen through red blood cells across the body. Iron is important for all tissues and cells, especially the brain and lungs which require oxygen. Iron is important to maintain high energy levels which is especially important for people who live an active lifestyle. If you consume more iron than needed, it is stored in your body for later. If you don’t consume enough iron, you may feel tired, weak, have trouble concentrating, experience hair loss, have a pale complexion and feel cold frequently.
Sources: tofu, black strap molasses, spirulina, moringa, pumpkin seeds, potatoes, beans, peas, lentils,
Magnese is important for your bones and skin.
Sources: cinnamon, clove, spinach, strawberry, raspberries, potatoes, oats, brown rice
Magnesium is important for your nervous system. Magnesium helps your body relax and can assist you in getting a good nights sleep, as well as prevent muscle cramps and spasms. Magnesium can help keep your bowel movements regular and prevent constipation. Magnesium is also essential for your bones and teeth.
Sources: potatoes, almonds, banana, dark chocolate, spinach, pumpkin seeds, avocado
Selenium is important for the immune system and fertility. Selenium is also important for your skin.
Sources: brazil nuts, whole grains, soy
Phosphorus is important for bone formation, and for growth and repair of body tissue.
Sources: lentils, potatoes, quinoa, oats, soy, rice
Potassium is an electrolyte that is important for muscles, hydration, the brain, nerves and heart.
Sources: dates, sweet potatoes, bananas, broccoli, lentils, raisins, oranges, cantaloupe
Zinc is important for the skin, hair, fertility, hormones and immunity.
Sources: potatoes, lentils, oats, tofu, almonds, miso, cashews, broccoli, kidney beans, pinto beans
Omega 3 is important for your brain, eyes, skin and hair. Omega 3 can help reduce inflammation in the body and help increase your ability to concentrate.
Sources: blueberries, chia, flax, spinach, hemp, romaine, beans, seaweed, mango, oregano
Omega 3 can be broken down into 3 components:
ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) a short chain omega 3 fatty acid, found in plant foods like flax, nuts, beans, seeds, spinach, kale broccoli etc. the body can use the ALA in these foods to create EPA.
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) is a long chain omega 3 fatty acid, like DHA.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) some people think you can only acquire DHA from fish, but fish themselves get the DHA from algae, so why not go to the source?
All 3 are important for all of the above functions in the human body, however, DHA is more powerful for the brain and EPA is more powerful in reducing inflammation and ALA is best for eye and skin health.
Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues. Every cell in the human body has protein. Your nails and hair are almost entirely made of it. Protein is important, but is it also very easy to come by. Most people today are consuming too much protein so don’t be fooled into buying protein bars and powders, simply eat whole foods like the ones listed below and you will get everything your body needs. There are some dangers to eating too much protein, and it is impossible to not get enough protein, unless you are starving your body all together. Every fruit and vegetable, nut and seed, whole grain, anything that has come from a living plant has protein. Yes even fruits like watermelon have protein, so do not stress about it. Just enjoy real foods!
Sources: lentils, potatoes, cashews, avocado, black beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, tofu, soy, peanuts, quinoa, oats, broccoli, peas *all fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds contain protein, for more information on protein check out my article here: *
essential amino acids
There are 9 essential amino acids, essential meaning they are required for good health and life. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are chemical messengers through out the body.
You can get all of these amino acids from consuming these foods
Sources: spinach, split peas, avocado, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lentils, beans, soy, tofu, spirulina, quinoa, chia, hemp, brown rice with beans, nut butter on whole grain bread, bean chili, burrtio bowls etc.
Fiber is important to move things along in your body and cleanse everything out. Soluble fiber, found in blueberries or oats for example turn into a thick gooey gel like texture in your body and that helps absorb particles in your intestines and colon as well as helps slow your digestion, making you feel full for longer. Insoluble fiber, found in greens, help by absorbing water, bulking and puffing up and weighing down and pushing everything out of the intestines and colon. Both are essential and both can be found in plant foods.
Sources: all fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds contain fiber. Some high fiber foods are, psyllium, ground flax seeds, oat bran, whole grains, black beans, lentils, amaranth, split peas
One of the reasons animal products are so damaging to our health is because they lack fiber. This makes them hard to digest, and causes them to be slow moving through our body. Usually what will happen is they will get stuck in our intestines and colon for an extended period of time and stay there while they breakdown and rot. Because animal products are acidic (especially meat) staying in your intestines and colon for a prolonged period of time can cause a host of issues such as an inflamed bowel, constipation, IBS, chron’s, diverticulitis, allergies, colon cancer, poor digestion, acne, skin sensitivities and much, much more. These acids deteriorate corrode the colon and intestinal lining. What essentially causes these issues is that hard digesting foods that contain minimal to no fiber are full of toxins at the time that they are in your colon because they are been processed into waste. When this gets stuck or moves very slowly through through the colon, the toxins build up and are either absorbed into the blood stream which cycle through your body and need to be expelled in another way, for example through the skin in the form of acne, or, the colon will swell up and become inflamed and push everything out in a harsh way to flush the toxins, for example IBS or Chron’s. By eliminating animal products from your diet, and replacing them with whole, fiber rich, plant foods, you can reduce and eventually eliminate your risk for developing these health issues.