More than B12: The Ultimate Guide to Supplementing Your Plant-Based Diet

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Note from Matt Frazier: When people ask me about the biggest mistake I’ve made in my plant-based journey, it’s a no-brainer.

My answer is that I went too long without supplementing. I don’t mean protein powder or even a multivitamin, but instead just a handful of nutrients that, for one reason or another, simply aren’t that easy to get on a plant-based diet … nutrients that, when lacking in your diet, can result in deficiencies that have a serious impact on your long-term health, even increasing risk of heart disease and cancer if allowed to persist.  

That’s why it’s a pleasure for me to publish this comprehensive (read: long and totally worth-it) post from my friend Matt Tullman, a guy whose obsessive, evidence-based approach to nutrition is one that really resonates with me. His ambitious vision is to help 30% of the population to become plant-based by 2030 — and as you might guess, that excites me (you know I’m all about big goals!).

Matt and I share the view that the best advertisement for this lifestyle is a whole lot of healthy, thriving vegans, and I sincerely hope this post helps to make that happen. (And if you haven’t heard it yet, be sure to listen to my interview with Matt on NMA Radio.)

I’m here with a message that, without a doubt, isn’t going to make me the most popular guy at the vegan potluck.

But it’s one I believe is absolutely critical to the long term health of our movement, and that’s why I’m committed to sharing it.

Here goes: We need more than just B12.

Sure, Vitamin B12 might be the only supplement required by vegans in order to survive. But if you’re anything like me, you’re interested in much more than survival — you want to thrive.

As it turns out, there is compelling evidence suggesting that certain nutrients that are not typically part of most plant-based diets can help ensure optimal wellness and maximum healthspan.

For the good of our movement — which depends on the health of every individual that’s a part of it — I hope you’ll take the time to consider whether you need to make the effort to ensure you get those nutrients.

A Cautionary Tale

I was lucky: I caught my deficiencies before they could do much lasting damage.

But if I hadn’t been so meticulous in monitoring how my body responded to adopting a plant-based diet, I might not have been so fortunate.

Two years into my plant-based transformation, motivated by the loss of two loved ones to chronic diseases, and driven by my obsessive nature to read nearly 200 books and twice as many peer-reviewed articles, I was shocked when my monthly blood draw prompted my doctor to diagnose me with “rheumatoid-like inflammation.”

That’s right. Despite feeling energetic, running faster than ever, and having lost 30 pounds of excess weight — all signs that the plant-based diet was the key to lasting health — my blood panel showed levels of inflammation on par with autoimmune disease.

I was no junk-food vegan. I ate pounds of fruits and vegetables every day. (I know because Whole Foods charges by weight.) And I made sure to get Vitamin B12.

Health, longevity, and nutrition were my obsessions.

How could I be “sick”!?

Why B12 Probably Isn’t Enough

The fact is that not all nutrients come from plants.

Or, to be more specific, there are essential nutrients not abundantly available from plants (Vitamin B12 and D); others that may not be adequately absorbed from plant-sources (zinc), and still others that may exist as part of certain plant foods, but are not commonly consumed as part of a Western plant-based diet (iodine, Vitamin K2, and certain Omega-3’s).

My hope is not to convince you to take a multivitamin. Rather, it’s to encourage you to be thoughtful about what nutrients you’re regularly consuming and which ones you might not be, and to convince you that complementing your plant-based diet with a handful of essential nutrients is critical for your health.

Why do I say “complement” rather than “supplement”?

A complement is defined as “a thing that completes or brings to perfection.” This is not about adding more of the nutrients that you already derive from plant-based foods (like protein, for example, or most of the vitamins and minerals in a typical multivitamin).

Instead, it’s about complementing your intake of plants with the essential nutrients that are not found in the most commonly consumed plants (or not adequately absorbed from those plant sources).

In Defense of Plants

Don’t get me wrong: plants are nutritional powerhouses, and a plant-based diet is the best way you can eat.

If you look at the nutritional profiles of the most common foods in a particular diet, the clear winner, across the board, is fruits and vegetables (including nuts, seeds, legumes, and the like). Optimal nutrition requires a daily intake of high-quality nutrients, and unprocessed plants provide the most nutrients on a per-calorie basis.

When you weigh the scientific evidence, the compelling fact becomes clear: focusing your diet on whole plants is the best way to ensure vibrant health and maximum longevity. And a big part of the reason is the nutrient-density of plant foods.

But some critical nutrients are not found in plants because they come from bacteria, the Earth’s surface, or the sun’s rays. And, yes, some of them are concentrated by the bodies of animals, so they can be found in animal-foods and not plants.

But the converse is even more true: many nutrients that are abundantly available in plants cannot be found in comparable amounts or quality in animal products.

And since eating animals is certainly not the only means of deriving these nutrients, there’s no reason to compromise your health by consuming these substances which are tied to a range of adverse health outcomes.

Which leads us to a good question: If optimal nutrition depends upon the proper intake of nutrients, what are nutrients?

Macro- and Micronutrients: a Primer

In this post, I’m focusing only on the vitamins and minerals deemed “essential” for human health — meaning evidence shows that without those nutrients, the prolonged deficiency will manifest in serious illness, at times irreversible damage, or even early death due to malnourishment.

What that means is I’m not addressing the many beneficial phytochemicals, known and unknown, that a plant-based diet provides. Perhaps at some point they’ll come to be considered “essential,” but for now, you can rest assured you’re getting tons of them if you eat a wide variety of whole plants.

But let’s narrow our focus even more. Nutrients can be categorized into two broad groups: “macronutrients,” including carbohydrates, fats, and protein, and “micronutrients,” which refers to vitamins and minerals. While many protein-fanatics “supplement” with macronutrients, the focus of this post (and the essence of “complementing”) relates to micronutrients.

Vitamins and minerals play critical roles in your body, often working synergistically to catalyze reactions, send signals, or regulate cellular growth.

Vitamins are organic compounds, the letter-names for which you’ve probably heard (A, C, D, E, K, and B’s), while minerals are inorganic substances that naturally occur in the Earth’s surface or water. Some of the most crucial include calcium, chloride, chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, sulfur, and zinc.   

To provide a final level of granularity, we can separate vitamins into “water-soluble” and “fat-soluble.” This simply means that certain vitamins are absorbed and stored in fat — like Vitamins E and A — while others dissolve in water and more quickly flush out of our system.  

Of these many essential nutrients, most can be readily found in and absorbed from plant sources, including vitamins A, C, E, K1, and most B vitamins (niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, B6, pantothenic acid, biotin, and folate).

There are, however, nutrients that are not abundantly found in plants, like Vitamin D and B12. There are others that may not be adequately absorbed from the typical plant-sources because the food also contains agents that block some level absorption; by way of example, many zinc-containing foods also come with phytates that considerably reduce absorption.

And there are still other nutrients that exist as part of plants — just not the plants typically consumed in the West. This is the case for K2, which is readily available from Japanese “natto,” a fermented soybean dish not generally enjoyed outside of certain Asian cultures.

While all this might seem complicated, the takeaway is simple: A plant-based, whole foods diet is a nutrient-dense way of eating, but a handful of nutrients are not consumed as part of a typical plant-based diet.

Let’s explore each of these “hard to find” nutrients to see why, and more importantly, what you should do about it:

Vitamin B12

The Story

As most people know, there are no adequate plant-sources of B12 — despite what you might have heard about eating “dirty” vegetables. Let’s start by exploring that idea to better understand why it’s critical to complement your plants with a B12 source.

We all know that human life relies on fertile soil. But we don’t often realize that we rely on the life in our soil.

One reason is that soil bacteria produce Vitamin B12. (The bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract manufacture B12 as well. But this occurs too low in your gut for you to absorb the vitamin into your bloodstream.) By eating vegetables straight from the family garden, or foraged from the wild, humans have historically ingested trace amounts of B12.

This is the root justification for not washing your vegetables in order to ingest the B12 that remains on the surface. But here’s the catch: Modern agriculture and other human behaviors decimate these bacterial colonies, so the amount of B12 available on the surface of your unwashed fruits and veggies is questionable at best.

Why It Matters for Vegans

Certain animal products, like red meat, contain B12 — those animals ingested the B12 as they grazed the land, consuming the soil along with their food. Thus, humans who eat other animals are essentially supplementing their B12 stores by ingesting the B12 and the bacteria in and on the meat. Of course, this does not apply to plant-based eaters.

How to Get It

While you may theoretically be able to derive B12 from dirty vegetables, when you recognize the critical importance of B12, you realize that method is quite risky. You are essentially rolling the dice with a nutrient that is critical for neurological function, for maintaining your immune system, and even for making blood cells and DNA. Vegans who remain B12 deficient for many years could ultimately develop anemia and neurological issues.

You can, alternatively, maintain adequate B12 stores by intentionally eating foods fortified with the vitamin — nutritional yeast is a great example, but many common breads and cereals are also fortified. This, of course, is just another form of supplementation, but one that some people prefer.

Personally, with a nutrient as critical as B12, I prefer to know that I’m getting a precise amount every day, so I take a B12 supplement.

How Much You Need

You don’t require large amounts of B12 in order to maintain optimal levels. That’s because your body secretes the vitamin in tiny amounts over long periods of time.

So long as you consume around 2.4 mcg (that’s micrograms) per day, you can rest assured that your body can utilize ample stores of B12 for the foreseeable future, even if you miss a couple of days or even weeks. (Don’t be alarmed if your supplement provides much more than 2.4 mcg. Because it’s water-soluble, there is little risk of overloading to the point of toxicity.)

Vitamin D

The Story

Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because our bodies, like those of other animals, activate D in reaction to sun exposure.

If you’re like me, you love being in nature, and you spend as much time outdoors as possible. But you also wear clothing and most of your work takes place indoors (although I do my best to hold meetings outside). That means our natural ability to soak up the sun’s rays is limited. As a result, many of us — regardless of dietary pattern — are deficient in Vitamin D. So why does D matter?

Scientific evidence suggests that being “D-ficient” may increase the risk of various chronic diseases, from osteoporosis to heart disease, some cancers, and even multiple sclerosis.

Vitamin D is a factor in the expression of more than a thousand genes throughout the body. If those genes are not expressed properly, any number of issues can ensue, hence the wide-ranging health implications. We have long known the importance of Vitamin D for bone health and immune function, but we’re just now realizing how impactful this vitamin really is.

For just one example, look at heart health. Studies have shown that low Vitamin D levels are associated with overall cardiovascular disease, including a higher risk of heart attack, sudden cardiac death, and strokes.

Why It Matters for Vegans

Just like humans, other animals activate Vitamin D from sun exposure. So people who consume animal products like eggs or fish are ingesting some amount of Vitamin D that way. Moreover, many dairy products are fortified with D, so those items are essentially “supplementing” Vitamin D intake as well.

How to Get It

Theoretically, you can activate all the Vitamin D you need just by exposing your skin to the sun. But, for the reasons mentioned above, you might not be getting that much sun.

Or you might have a genetic condition that limits your capacity to create Vitamin D; or another condition — like pale skin — that prevents you from enjoying the sun without burning. Or maybe you live in Chicago or Canada and can’t access the sun’s rays like someone living in Florida.

If you can’t ensure adequate (and safe) sun exposure, it’s best to supplement with some form of Vitamin D. There are many plant-based sources that provide an algae- or mushroom-derived form of Vitamin D. And many plant-based milks (made from everything from nuts to pea protein) are also fortified with Vitamin D.

I suggest looking for D3 (cholecalciferol), which is the type synthesized by the human body that’s more effective in raising blood levels.  

How Much You Need

It’s possible you’re already getting enough D from the sun; to find out, get a blood test and make sure that your doctor measures “25(OH)D” or “25-Hydroxy Vitamin D.” Most experts suggest that, for optimal health and even cancer prevention, blood levels of Vitamin D should be greater than 30 mg/dL.

If you, or your physician, is concerned about low Vitamin D levels, many experts, like Dr. Michael Greger, suggest a supplemental dose around 2,000 IU of Vitamin D3. Look for “Vitashine” on the label — that’s the only vegan form of D3.

DHA and EPA (The Other Omega-3’s)

The Story

We’ve all heard of the importance of Omega-3’s, but we don’t often hear that not all Omega-3’s are created equal.

Omega fatty acids from flax or chia seeds — the “ALA” kind — are an amazing addition to your plate, but vegans may not adequately consume other forms — namely DHA and EPA, which are critical for cardiovascular and brain health.

Omega-3’s play a key role in nearly every cell of your body. As such, a daily intake of these essential fatty acids is critical for optimal functioning — from regulating your cholesterol levels to powering your nervous system.

One of the most important functions — which we are just recently beginning to appreciate — is controlling the low-grade, systemic inflammation that is tied to many chronic diseases, like Alzheimer disease. Some of the strongest evidence, however, relates to the benefits in preventing and treating heart disease.

So where can you find these powerful compounds?

Your body can produce all of the necessary fatty acids required for daily function, except for linoleic acid (LA), an Omega-6 fatty acid, and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the Omega-3 referenced above. We need to consume those compounds as part of our diet. When we do, our body uses them to synthesize other fatty acids, like EPA and DHA.

The good news is that ALA is abundantly available from plant-based foods, especially flax, chia, and hemp seeds. Just remember to crush or grind the flax seeds because our GI tract is unable to breakdown the shell. If seeds aren’t your favorite food item, you can also find ALA in soybeans and walnuts, among other non-seed sources.

So if we can create DHA and EPA from ALA, why not just focus on eating tons of ALA? I’m glad you asked, because this is one of the most common misconceptions among vegans I talk to.

The challenge is that our body is extremely inefficient at deriving DHA or EPA from ALA. Research suggests that less than 1% of ALA is converted into “physiologically effective levels” of DHA or EPA. A blood test can diagnose how well you convert ALA into DHA and EPA; the vast majority of people cannot do so adequately.

Why They Matter for Vegans

Fish consume micro-algae and other marine plants, and these species of seaweed are the root source of high-quality EPA and DHA. Those compounds are then deposited in the fish’s fat deposits. That’s why folks looking for a supplemental source Omega-3’s take fish oil capsules. It’s not that fish uniquely produce DHA or EPA; it’s that fish eat Omega-3-rich seaweed.

So if you don’t eat fish, or tons of seaweed, you may not have an adequate source of EPA and DHA in your daily diet.

How to Get Them

Now you might be thinking, “Seaweed is a plant, so I’ll just eat that!” The problem with this idea relates to the actual quantity available to absorb.

Because seaweeds are so low in fat, they provide relatively low amounts of EPA and DHA on a per gram basis. So you would have to eat an extraordinary amount of seaweed every single day in order to reap a sufficient amount of Omega-3’s.

Is that a theoretically plausible way of consuming an adequate amount of DHA and EPA? Sure. You could make an argument for eating copious amounts of seaweed, every day, along with a variety of sources of ALA in large quantities. That would be a thoughtful, evidence-based approach.

But practically speaking, most people can’t or won’t do that. That’s why I strongly suggest considering ways to supplement your intake of DHA and EPA.

How Much You Need

If you don’t regularly consume sources of DHA and EPA, you won’t show signs of deficiency in the next year or two, at least not in the same palpable way as you could with B12. The damage is more subtle and corrosive, the sort that is imperceptible until it manifests in a chronic disease later in life.

But the potential benefits of increasing our intake of these compounds are considerable. For this reason, I complement my plant-based ALA with a purely produced, algae-derived source of DHA and EPA.

So how much should you consume?

The scientific community has not reached agreement in terms of a recommended daily intake for DHA and EPA. There have been numerous studies exploring specifically DHA supplementation in vegetarian populations. (That’s because retroconversion of DHA into EPA is possible, so supplementing DHA is an effective way to boost EPA levels as well.)

These investigations offer a sense for the optimal intake, leading some experts to suggest that adults should consume 300 mg of DHA per day. Other dietitians encourage us to aim for a larger intake, like a combined daily dose of EPA and DHA near 650 mg.

Reguardless, it’s recommended that most vegans take a DHA EPA supplement. Check out our B12, D3, and DHA EPA supplement for vegans here.


The Story

Your body relies on iodine in order to create essential thyroid hormones. Without those, you would be unable to properly regulate metabolism and other vital functions. This process is even more important for pregnant women and children because a growing human relies on thyroid hormones for skeletal and brain development.

Iodine is similar to the Omega-3’s in that this mineral does exist as part of certain plants — especially seaweeds — but may not be adequately consumed as part of a typical, Western plant-based diet.

Just ask yourself, do you eat a lot of kelp, hiziki, kombu, or wakame? Maybe at a sushi restaurant, but those are not daily staples for most of us.

Aside from these marine plants, there are land-grown iodine sources like cranberries and potatoes, but the iodine content largely depends on the cultivation practices, soil quality, and the iodine levels in that particular plot of land. It’s therefore a bit of a gamble to rely on these as your iodine sources, and most research suggests that these plant-foods are insufficient to meet your iodine needs.

Why It Matters for Vegans

Much of the table salt sold in grocery stores is fortified with iodine, hence the name “iodized salt.” But many vegans and other health-conscious eaters have upgraded to more natural forms of salt, like sea salt or himalayan rock (also referred to as “pink”) salt, which don’t have the added iodine.

Further, people who consume dairy get small amounts of iodine that’s left behind by the products used to clean dairy processing equipment — one iodine source I’m quite happy to miss out on.

How to Get It

If you decide to supplement your iodine intake, that doesn’t mean you have to ingest the mineral in pill form. You can simply make sure to eat one of those sea-plants, like kelp, on a daily basis.

Another easy way is adding a dash of iodized salt to your meal, but remember that many natural salts do not contain iodine. And keep in mind that relying on salt as your “supplement” comes with drawbacks– the serving of iodine could also increase your daily dose of sodium, which some experts warn could increase your risk for high blood pressure and other cardiovascular conditions.

If you worry about that, or just want to ensure an accurate daily dose, you might want to rely on a capsule or liquid form.

How Much You Need

Whatever your chosen form — seaweeds, iodized salt, or part of a multivitamin — try to reach the recommended daily intake of 150 mcg for adult men and women.

Vitamin K2

The Story

Most of us don’t realize is that Vitamin K, like the Omega-3’s, comes in multiple forms. One of those, K2, has only recently been understood to serve as a vital component of an optimal nutritional profile.

If you only take away one thing about K2, you should remember that it is critical to enable your body to properly manage calcium. That means moving calcium away from soft tissues, like your brain and your heart, and towards your bones and teeth.

The biological mechanisms by which K2 operates are the subject of many ongoing investigations, but the benefits and potential risks are already quite clear. K2 plays many diverse roles and recent studies suggest it helps prevent a variety of chronic diseases, like coronary artery disease. One way this is accomplished, similar to the Omega-3 fatty acids, is by combating chronic inflammation, which is linked to many of the leading killers worldwide.

But that’s not the only way K2 impacts our body. By ensuring calcium is properly managed, K2 is critical in everything from preventing calcification of arterial walls to promoting strong bone density.

Why It Matters for Vegans

The critical realization is that Vitamin K comes in different forms. Many of us fail to recognize this, and assume we’re covered because we consume lots of Vitamin K1 through a typical plant-based diet. Indeed, K1 is easily attainable through a variety of plants, especially green, leafy vegetables, but K2 is not. (K3 is a synthetic form, so I won’t address that further.)

Since vegans are not consuming butter, egg yolks, or other animal-based foods that contain K2, we need to pay extra attention to our dietary sources of K2. Yet, since K2 is only found in a few plant-foods, which are not usually consumed in large quantities in the West, a supplemental dietary source of may be necessary to ensure your body is functioning at the highest level — and protected from chronic disease in the long run.

How to Get It

The challenge is that there are only a few plant-based foods rich in K2. The notable examples are certain fermented foods, like the previously mentioned natto, a Japanese dish made from soybeans (which is a pungent and polarizing dish even in Japan).

You might be thinking, “Why can’t I just eat miso and tempeh, since those fermented foods are frequently consumed as part of a Western plant-based diet?”

Yes, those are fermented, but they are not high in K2. That’s the challenge with relying on foods for bacterially derived compounds: There’s no real way to know how much you might be consuming in any given bite, and you may go days or weeks without adequate intake. That’s why I strongly suggest considering supplemental sources of K2.

How Much You Need

While there are recommended intakes for Vitamin K generally (120mcg and 90mcg for adult men and women, respectively), there are not official recommendations for K2 specifically. Nonetheless, you can find experts offering advice, like Dr. Andrew Weil, who suggests 10 to 25 mcg of K2 is adequate to ensure bone health.

With regards to dosing in order to prevent chronic diseases, we’ll have to wait for the scientific community to amass more data.


The Story

Zinc is an important nutrient with a complicated story.

Our body utilizes zinc in a variety of ways. In fact, the mineral helps stimulate the activity of more than 100 enzymes. It also supports proper immune function, plays a role in ensuring normal growth, enables processes like gene regulation, and even helps neurons communicate, thereby enabling memory formation and learning.

Studies have even shown that zinc can help stave off age-related chronic illness by combating systemic inflammation.

Why It Matters for Vegans

Zinc can be a confusing topic. You probably know that many plants contain zinc, but you’ve likely also heard that vegetarians might not be getting enough. To understand why, the critical point to realize is that, just because you’re ingesting a nutrient, doesn’t mean that you’re absorbing it.

There are innumerable factors regulating how much of a substance actually enters your bloodstream: the amount of gut acid available to breakdown a food and pull out the active components; the specific chemical form of those nutrients; and even the other items consumed at the same time. There are also blocking agents that inhibit the uptake of specific nutrients, which brings us back to zinc.

Many vegan foods that are rich in zinc also contain phytates, which hinder our bodies’ ability to absorb zinc. Some medical researchers suggest that, as a result, vegans and vegetarians may need to increase their zinc intake by as much as 50% in order to compensate for the diminished absorption.

How to Get It

To reiterate, zinc is available from a wide range of plant-foods, including legumes, tempeh, and tofu, along with many nuts, seeds, and grains. It can also be derived from a variety of fortified products, like plant-based milks, many cereals, and even certain meat-substitutes.

Just keep in mind, if you consume zinc from the whole foods listed above, be sure to learn about how to enhance zinc absorption by reducing phytates — like roasting nuts and soaking or sprouting beans and grains.

How Much You Need

How can you tell if you’re consuming and absorbing sufficient amounts of zinc?

The easiest way to start is by looking for the symptoms. But be careful for false positives — “dry skin” is not necessarily a symptom of a zinc deficiency. But of course, a more accurate method is to simply ask your doctor to draw blood and check your serum zinc levels.

Before you jump off the couch to schedule an appointment with your doctor, though, keep in mind that research suggests vegans do not have much lower zinc status compared to the general population. A 2013 meta-analysis found that zinc levels in vegans were only slightly less than those of their non-vegetarian counterparts, and the difference was even less when comparing populations in developed nations.

That should be heartening news for us vegans. Nonetheless, given the importance of zinc in so many diverse bodily functions, and the potential complications with absorption, I try to be mindful of the amount I consume each day.

The recommended daily allowance for adults is 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women. When you look at plant-foods containing the most zinc per serving, you realize that your natural dietary habits may not allow you to reach the daily goal.

If you decide that you might be consuming too little — or are diagnosed with a deficiency — the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests taking a supplement of 150% of the RDA, though other experts suggest a more modest supplemental dose of 50% of the RDA. Since the upper tolerable limit is 40mg per day, either dose is unlikely to pose a threat over time.

Why Complementing is Key to the Plant-Based Movement

I wrote this guide because I want to ask for your help.

To ensure a thriving plant-based movement, it’s imperative that every vegan is a thriving vegan.

Whether you’re vegan for the animals, the environment, or your health, we need you to lead a long, vibrant life — that’s the best sort of advertisement for the plant-based brand. We know the remarkable benefits of this diet, and the best way to share them is through the vibrancy of our community.

This depends, in turn, on optimal health for every vegan. If a complementary set of nutrients will serve to support your vibrant health, I encourage you to seek it out.

The plant-based community’s dedication to whole foods leads many of us to reject the idea of “supplementing.” That certainly applied to me! I assumed that eating a diverse set of unprocessed plants would provide ample amounts of nutrients — and I still believe that to be mostly correct.

But now I’m more educated and intentional when it comes to identifying gaps in my plant-based nutrition. And I take proactive steps to complement those plants with the essential nutrients that might be missing.

Trust me: Feeling great is not a failsafe bellwether of long-term wellness and maximum healthspan. I spent years as a vegan, consuming a whole-foods, plant-based diet, not knowing that certain nutrients were vital for me and my family — and were entirely missing from our daily diet. The only way to truly know for sure is to work with a qualified health professional and pursue the necessary blood tests.

The great news is that a diet based on whole plants is packed with the vast majority of essential vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals — not to mention the ideal macronutrient profile — so you don’t need to worry, and calculate, and measure.

Just eat lots of whole plants, and be aware that there are a few nutrients — those explained above — that you might want to give extra consideration, to maximize your chances of living a long, healthy, vibrant life.

Jogger resting at beach

About the Author: Matt Tullman is determined to help the plant-based movement reach 30% of the population by 2030. To make that happen, he’s currently focused on starting, advising, and investing in plant-based companies.



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The Nutrients You Need (With Nothing You Don't)

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  1. So, is there a one supplement recommendation or am I going to need a handful of pills to take daily?

  2. Stacey Booth says:

    Thank you for the excellent thorough post! I’m curious about L-Lysine… I thought that it was the one amino acid unavailable in plants. Is this accurate and /or even significant enough to supplement?

  3. Buck Holzemer says:

    So did your blood tests improve from this program of supplements?

  4. Hi there! I found this episode and blog post incredibly helpful. Are there any brands you would recommend for the supplements you’ve outlined? Thank you!

    • Hey Maxine,

      That’s an interesting question…

      Matt Frazier and I have teamed up to create a supplement (we call it “Complement”) because there just wasn’t anything on the market that satisfied our needs. Plus, we wanted something that we could feel great about giving to our families, and something that didn’t include all the extra “stuff” that comes in many supplement.

      Check out – That would be my recommendation for a trustworthy brand 🙂 We’re pretty excited about it…

  5. I’m still confused as to how to get DHA and EPA into my diet. You seemed to dance around it without really giving a solid recommendation.

    • Dr furham has a vegan oil and is a trusted brand from what I know, doesn’t taste like much and super easy to take, I would recommend that one (also his multivitamin had all the vegan things in it, I’ve tried the pixie vites and they are pretty gross so going to get the normal capsules next time)

    • Elizabeth says:

      The author says “I complement my plant-based ALA with a purely produced, algae-derived source of DHA and EPA.” – I take Nordic Naturals Algae Omega which contains about 600 mg combined on EPA/DHA. Hope this helps

    • Hey Nic,

      Sorry for the confusion. My recommendation would be to supplement DHA/EPA because it’s just not feasible to consume sufficient amounts through algae/seaweed.

      You might enjoy this article – written by Dr. Pamela Fergusson:

      Another recommendation you might consider is checking out Matt Frazier and my new product – also on – which we hope will simplify this journey for all of us.

      Let me know if I can answer any other questions!

  6. Chantelle Johnson says:

    Super helpful article! Will be getting some additional supplements now!

    • Hey Chantelle,

      That’s great to hear! You might want to check out one called “Complement”.

      Matt Frazier and I teamed up to create it — there just wasn’t anything on the market that satisfied our needs. And we wanted something that we could feel great about giving to our families, and which didn’t include all the extra “stuff” that comes in many supplements.

      You can learn more at

      Thanks for reading!

  7. pippa grange says:

    This is super helpful, thanks so much. I have been transitioning from pescatarian, to vegetarian, to vegan over the last 12 months and it hasn’t always been easy to find the right energy balance, let alone a way to understand and manage these ‘hidden’ long term health considerations, so this description is just what I needed. Really appreciate your guidance, thanks a million 🙂

  8. Hi there! Thank you so much for this comprehensive post! I was wondering if you might be able to share your source of algae-derived DHA and EPA.

    • Hi Emily,

      I always struggled to find a reasonably-priced, algae-derived DHA/EPA, which didn’t have the contamination issues… Plus, it got really expensive when you add on the other nutrients. So Matt Frazier and I teamed up to create something that included everything we need.

      You can learn more at

  9. Mari Baldwin says:

    Do you have a recommendation for DHA/EHA supplementation?

    • Hi Mari,

      I’d offer you the same response as I gave above: I always struggled to find a reasonably-priced, algae-derived DHA/EPA, which didn’t have the contamination issues… So Matt Frazier and I teamed up to create something that included everything we need.

      You can learn more at

  10. Great article – thanks for the insight!

  11. Thanks for this wake up call! I have been vegetarian for 23 years, and vegan for 7 of those. It’s easy to slip into a pattern and forget to address one’s diet… especially when feeding 3 additional little humans 🙂
    We are living in Singapore at the moment (we move around a lot) and I MUST take advantage of all the fermented food here.
    And all noted about complimenting my diet…. THANKS!

  12. Any suggestions on liquid forms of these supplements in a few products as possible? I’m in a never-ending search for that perfect supplement that has all the basics I’m looking for conveniently in one bottle.

    • Hi Anne,

      I do have a suggestion — it’s a liquid and provides these nutrients in as few products as possible (one!) Seems like it was made for you 🙂

      We call it “Complement” — Matt Frazier and I teamed up to create it.

      You can learn more at

  13. I would love to PM with Matt Tullman and his dealing with the auto-immune disease markers he started to see and more specifically what he targeted to reverse them (if he did reverse them?). I am not entirely vegan, but close and am having similar concerns . Thank you so much for posting this! I am trying to deal with my inflammation through nutrition.

  14. Fantastic article! Very informative and helpful! I plan to start more intentionally incorporating some of these into my diet ASAP

  15. Great article! Is there some sort of vegan multi-vitamin that just has all of the RDA’s for these nutrients?.. Without having to take 4-6 separate supplemental pills per day, mixed with fats of some kind for absorption, while trying to remember creative ways to sprinkle dulse or kelp flakes on or into something once per day? That would make my brain happy and life easier personally… Speaking of DHA..

    • Hi Danny,

      I have a recommendation — which doesn’t include all of these (for a reason), but includes the most critical ones and the ones that are most difficult to source from plants… We call it “Complement” — Matt Frazier and I teamed up to create it.

      You can learn more at

      Would love your feedback!

  16. This was SUCH a great read! Every time I try to go vegetarian, I can’t seem to keep my supplements handled so that I stay healthy. Thank you for this. I recently started again, and I think I can easily follow the guidelines you presented here and be successful. THANK YOU!

    • Hi Christi,

      So glad you’re back on the vegan wagon! How’s it going this time?

      You mentioned struggling with supplementation, so I wanted to point you to our new company, Lightdrop, which Matt Frazier and I teamed up to create. We’re also working with an R.D./PhD (and frequent NMA poster) Dr. Pamela Fergusson. There’s a bunch of useful articles like this one.

      You can learn more at

      Hope this helps!

  17. Great information, thank you! Can the author please suggest specific, vegan safe brands for each of these supplements that he likes? Thanks!

    • Hi Colleen,

      Sorry for the delay responding… I have a recommendation — just one — it’s called “Complement” — Matt Frazier and I teamed up to create it.

      It doesn’t have all of these nutrients (for a reason). We’re working on versions that would include a larger set…

      You can learn more at

      Hope this helps!

  18. Hi! Any recommendations for a DHA/EHA supplement? Thanks!

  19. I have been transitioning into veganism and it can be daunting. A huge thanks to both Matts — condensing your experience, research, and wisdom into an easily accessible article will help save *at least* my life. Keep up the excellent work.

  20. Unfortunately I see you only ship Complement to the USA and Canada. Do you have an alternative suggestion for an Australian? Thanks.

  21. Hi, I just started taking Complement and am also giving a half does to my 2.5 year old. I am somewhat concerned with the amount of Vitamin B12 in it though and second guessing myself, isn’t 1000 mcg a pretty high dosage? Why is there that much in it versus say 500 or 250 mcg? I don’t know much at all about vitamins but I’m just curious and trying to learn as much as I can. Appreciate the help!

  22. What are your thoughts on the recent study on B12 – showed increased risk of lung cancer. This has got me freaked out. I guess until there’s more info we have to tread carefully. Wondering if a fortified drink like cashew milk or nutritional yeast or your medicinal compound are any different than taking a pill…

  23. Carolyn Casey says:

    Is complement suitable for babies? Specifically 1 year old toddler?

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