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Vitamins Necessary to Supplement a Vegetarian Diet

written by: Marina Hanes • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 6/28/2011

Are you a vegetarian? If so you might not be getting all of the essential nutrients from your diet. Although vegetarians have a strict diet, it's important that you learn about the vitamins needed when on a vegetarian diet. Vegetarian vitamins are availalbe and can make a big difference.

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    Do You Really Need to Supplement?

    A vegetarian diet is healthy, but you could be lacking basic vitamins and minerals without realizing it. Vegetables, beans and rice all have various vitamins, but it can be challenging to get in a daily dose of vitamin B12, which you would usually get from meat. Another issue is your Omega-3 fatty acids, which are present in fish. If you have chosen not to eat fish, this is definitely something that could be missing from your diet.

    Vegetarian diets are low in cholesterol, and it can encourage you to eat more vegetables and fruits. However, if you stick with processed vegetarian meals or skip out on your protein because you can't find anything on the menu, your body's probably not completely nourished. While you might not need to take supplemental vitamins everyday, you might consider doing so every once in a while when you notice that you haven't eaten an optimal diet.

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    What Can Happen if Your Body's Low on These Nutrients?

    When you're diet is lacking protein, you can suffer from fatigue, anemia, hair loss, weak nails and ashy skin color. Protein is what keeps your muscles strong and your body functioning properly, so if you don't get the daily amount, you will most likely feel low on energy. If you're not careful while on a vegetarian or even a vegan diet, these are some negative symptoms that you could experience from not eating properly.

    Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to your heart, and they are essential fatty acids (good fat). Omega-3s can prevent heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Neglecting to incorporate these fatty acids into your diet can make you more at risk for these chronic diseases.

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    Important Vitamins for a Vegetarian Diet

    The following are vitamins needed when on a vegetarian diet: vitamin B12, vitamin D and Omega-3 fatty acids. However, it's beneficial to take a multi-vitamin in case you don't realize that you're missing a certain vitamin or mineral. When you neglect to eat legumes or soy products on a certain day, you can supplement your diet with a B12 vitamin. However, you should always try to consume foods that contain the essential nutrients that feed your body.

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    Are There Vegetarian Vitamins?

    Even though vitamin B12 is usually found in meat products and Omega-3 fatty acids come from fish oils, you can still find vegetarian vitamins. You might have to visit a local health food store, but vitamins not made from animal by-products do exist. Just make sure you check the label to find out whether it's vegetarian or vegan. Also, for your vitamin D, purchase soy milk or another type of vegetarian milk that is fortified with this vitamin if you don't want to take an extra pill. You can also get a healthy dose of vitamin D from good old Mr. Sunshine!

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    Supplementing your diet when you're a vegetarian is important at any age. You want your body to be functioning at its best, and you obviously don't want your lack of vitamin or mineral intake to have long-term effects. If you're concerned about whether you should supplement and how often, consult a nutritionist so you can improve your diet and get your body back on track.

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