Getting the Nutrients You Need

How vegans (and everyone else) can get vitamins and minerals from food, fortification, and fun in the sun.

By Tonya Abari, adapted from an article in the African American Vegan Starter Guide.

Eating plant-based is a fantastic way to improve your overall health. But you might be wondering how vegans get all the vitamins and minerals needed to thrive. Even with a diet composed of mostly whole foods – fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains – deficiencies can leave you feeling tired and incomplete. 

Common nutrients of concern, especially for new vegans, are protein, B12, calcium, iron, and vitamin D. Here’s more info about these nutrients and how you can seamlessly include them in your diet:


One of the most common questions for new vegans is, “How do I get enough protein?” According to a study in The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vegans actually get 70% more protein than the recommended daily allowance. On average, most people need between 50-70 grams of protein daily. The Institute of Medicine recommends calculating protein intake based on multiplying your weight by 0.36 grams. So, if you’re 160 pounds, you need about 57 grams of protein each day. Or if you’re very physically active, you’ll need about 70 grams of protein per day. 

Some vegan sources that are high in protein include, but are not limited to: tempeh, tofu, lentils, pumpkin seeds, almonds, chickpeas, and quinoa. For more recommendations, read the “The Protein Question” in Ageless Vegan

Vitamin B12 

Vitamin B12 originates from bacteria, not plants or animals. It comes from tiny one-celled organisms or microbes that are in the air, earth, and water. In our bacteria-phobic, super hygienic world, neither meat-eaters or vegans typically get enough reliable vitamin B12 in their diets unless they’re eating ample B12-fortified food, such as plant-based milks, breakfast cereals, and nutritional yeast – or taking B12 supplements. 

That said, animals can harbor the bacteria, which can be ingested by meat-eaters. This is not the case with vegans. Based on the latest research findings for those eating plant-based foods, in Dr. Michael Greger’s How Not to Die, he recommends a B12 supplement (cyanocobalamin) of 2,500 mcg a week or 250 mcg a day for people under age 65. For people over age 65, the amount should be increased up to 1,000 mcg a day. 


We need about 1,000 mg of calcium each day. Just one cup of cooked collard greens or black-eyed peas has 350 mg each. The key is to eat a variety of plant-based food throughout the day and you’ll easily meet your daily calcium needs. 


Plant-based sources of iron include beans, lentils, nuts, whole grains, dried fruits and dark leafy greens. Eating them with fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamin C (such as strawberries and broccoli) will ensure that enough iron is obtained to meet the recommended daily allowance for women (18 mg for ages 19-50; 8 mg for ages 51 and older) and for men (8 mg for ages 19 and older). 

Vitamin D 

Vitamin D is made in skin that’s exposed to ultraviolet rays from the sun. To meet your daily vitamin D needs, you typically want to get at least 20 minutes of direct sunlight on your face, hands, arms or back two to three times a week. However, it does depend on where you live. Check out this infographic which displays the latest recommendations for vitamin D according to location.

If you’re indoors most of the time, some alternatives to sunlight include food fortified with vitamin D, like whole grain cereals and plant-based milks, including nut milks (almond, coconut, or macadamia), and  oat, rice or soy milks.

So that’s how vegans get those common vitamins and minerals — from food, fortification and fun in the sun.

Tonya Abari is a multigenre storyteller, editor, and reviewer. Her words have been published in USA Today, Publishers Weekly, ZORA, For the Culture, The Kitchn, Good Housekeeping, and many more! She enjoys discovering new vegan restaurants, collecting healing crystals, and unschooling with her inquisitive children. You can catch Tonya hanging out on Instagram @iamtabari.

Socializing While Vegan

By Tonya Abari, adapted from an article by Demetrius Bagley in the African American Vegan Starter Guide

When I first went vegan, socializing was a challenge. Attending family gatherings or going out to eat with omnivore friends and having little to no vegan options was stressful. And then there were the work events full of smoked meats and cheese platters. Not to mention the quizzical looks, barrage of questions, and the infamous “They have a salad.”

One too many of these instances made me question how I could ever make socializing while vegan sustainable. So what was a new vegan to do?

Well, I finally realized that it’s up to me to make sure I have vegan food available – and to be comfortable taking care of my needs in social situations with ease and grace. And once I changed my mindset, a lot of the stress went away. The reality is that some of your friends and family will understand your choice to go vegan – and some will not. But that certainly doesn’t mean you should stop socializing. It’s up to you to feel confident with your new vegan lifestyle and know that you can manage social situations just fine with some practice and consistency. So here are some practical ways to get the most out of socializing as a vegan:

  • Expand your network. If the village ain’t vegan, you’re going to have to build one. Get to know other vegans and vegan happenings through sites like Grazer and Meetup. It’s a great way to meet a variety of vegans—whether activists or foodies, newbies or veterans. Another added bonus of finding your people: eating vegan free from explanations and being on the defensive is so much more enjoyable and relaxing! Part of being vegan, after all, is living with a greater sense of peace.

  • Explore locally. A great place to meet other vegans and find vegan foods are at your community’s green or farmer’s markets. Along with buying fresh produce directly from the famers, you’ll often find small businesses selling a variety of vegan goodies. Also, think about attending vegan-friendly festivals. A few popular national festivals include Black Vegfest in Brooklyn, Vegan Soulfest in Baltimore and Vegan Street Fair in Los Angeles.

  • Suggest vegan establishments. Recommend vegan restaurants for your meetup or gathering. It’s an inclusive option because almost everyone eats plant-based foods, whether they’re vegans or omnivores. You can search for vegan restaurants in your area using HappyCow.

  • Eat before you go! Sure, breaking bread is part of the ultimate social experience. But if vegan options are questionable, it’s best to eat before you go. Showing up with a content belly makes it easier to turn down non-vegan offerings. And just remember, there can be many reasons why people choose not to eat at gatherings, so be comfortable with your choice.

  • BYOVF (Bring your own vegan foods). There’s no shame in bringing your own food to an event. Some might consider it rude, but remember, we’re all at different places when it comes to food, so be confident about meeting your own needs. If you know the event won’t have vegan options, pack a bag lunch (breakfast or dinner) full of your own vegan treats. Also, you can also bring vegan food to share with others. The key is to know your host and audience. Providing something sweet, like a fruit salad or a pan of homemade vegan brownies, is an easy and crowd-pleasing choice. Healthy drinks, like fresh smoothies, juices or lemonade, can also be refreshing to share.

Attending picnics, potlucks, cookouts or any other food-focused events with omnivores can feel tricky, but it doesn’t have to be. With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying your social life as a new vegan even more.

Tonya Abari is a multigenre storyteller, editor, and reviewer. Her words have been published in USA Today, Publishers Weekly, ZORA, For the Culture, The Kitchn, Good Housekeeping, and many more! She enjoys discovering new vegan restaurants, collecting healing crystals, and unschooling with her inquisitive children. You can catch Tonya hanging out on Instagram @iamtabari.
Demetrius Bagley is an award-winning producer of the documentary Vegucated. He’s also produced the public TV cooking show Vegan Mashup, and has been vegan since 1994.