3 Supplements You Need When You Follow a Plant-based Diet

If you’ve been wondering which supplements you need to take when you follow a whole food, plant-based diet, then this post should clear things up for you! 

woman making a meal plan

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Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional. You should do your own research before making any changes to your diet, lifestyle, and/or supplements especially if you have a health condition.

Around here, I talk a lot about the health benefits of a whole food, plant-based lifestyle.

Josh and I started eating mostly plant-based back in 2016, and it’s done some pretty impressive things for our health! I was able to reverse my irritable bowel syndrome, and Josh was able to heal his ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disease similar to Crohn’s.

We really can’t imagine eating any other way now that we’ve seen firsthand what a plant-based diet can do for our long-term health. And the more I research the topic, the more I’m convinced that this lifestyle is the best way to prevent, halt, and even reverse serious diseases.

When I read Dr. Colin Campbell’s book The China Study, I was blown away by the amount of evidence that supports this idea. Really, if you’re looking for optimal health, I highly recommend you check out his book!

But during the time that I’ve been learning about this new lifestyle, I’ve been questioning whether or not we’re taking the right vitamins and supplements.

We’ve always taken a multivitamin since just about every doctor recommends them. And over the years, I’ve gradually added more vitamins here and there based on research I’ve read. It got to the point that we were each taking a handful of supplements every morning, and I was spending a small fortune on them every month!

Between the two of us, we used to take a multivitamin, calcium, D3, krill oil, biotin, B12, iron, zinc, and iodine drops.

While those supplements all do good things, I just couldn’t justify the amount of money we were spending on supplements. Plus, on this mostly plant-based diet, we should get more than enough vitamins and minerals from our food, right?

So which supplements do we need on a plant-based diet?

I analyzed our diet to see where our vitamins were coming from and whether those sources could give us exactly what we need.

After some studying, I realized that we’re getting almost all of the vitamins and minerals we need just by consuming mostly plants. I was able to eliminate the multivitamin, calcium, krill oil, biotin, iron, and zinc!

These days, we only take vitamins D3 and B12, and iodine drops. Easy peasy! Instead of mindlessly taking supplements because they seem like a good idea, we have a specific reason for every supplement we take.

Vitamin D3

We each take one 5000 IU vitamin D3 softgel daily because most Americans don’t spend enough time in the sunshine to get it the old-fashioned way.

Hallelujah Diet has a fantastic article that explains the importance of vitamin D:

Vitamin D is Vital to Your Health – Are You Getting Enough?

Seriously, go read it right now! It also explains the relationship between vitamin D and the flu!

Vitamin B12

We each take one 5000 mcg sublingual (dissolves under the tongue) vitamin B12 tablet two or three times each week. We eat a minimal amount of animal products, which is where we would normally get this vitamin.

Sidenote: I recently learned that even animal products aren’t a reliable way to get this important vitamin!

Vitamin B12 is for brain and nervous system function, so we want to make sure we’re getting it!


I put about four drops of iodine in our morning smoothie almost every day. I no longer buy iodized table salt since table salt is highly processed and stripped of nutrients, and we don’t really eat a lot of iodine-rich sea vegetables.

Since iodine is important for thyroid function, and since we don’t get it in the food we eat, we take it in supplement form.

What about the rest?

All those other supplements we used to take? We’re getting plenty of vitamins and minerals from our mostly whole food, plant-based diet, so there’s no need for me to spend money on supplements that we don’t even need.

Instead, I specifically buy D3, B12, and iodine supplements because those are the ones we don’t get from food. And the best part is that those three supplements are super cheap compared to the ones we used to take!

Finding what’s right for you

Now, I don’t want you to ditch your supplements just because you read my blog post and like the idea of only taking three. I spent a lot of time determining exactly which ones we need based on our dietary and lifestyle factors.

Each person is different, so you may need different supplements than the ones we take. Make sure you do your research before you decide to add or remove any supplements.

Here are some general guidelines to help you get started:

If you already follow a whole food, plant-based diet

If you’re already following a whole food, plant-based diet, the only supplements you really need to take are D3, B12, and possibly iodine if you don’t eat sea vegetables. You’re getting all of your other vitamins and minerals just from your food!

If you don’t follow a whole food, plant-based diet yet

If you’re still on the fence and your diet looks more like the standard American diet than a whole food, plant-based diet, then you’ll definitely need different supplements than the ones we take.

Unless you eat an abundance of whole plant foods, your diet probably lacks some essential vitamins and minerals. So if you’re still in the process of transitioning over from your old eating habits, then it’s likely that you won’t get everything you need from your food alone.

I don’t know your specific situation, so I can’t advise you as to which vitamins you should take.

However, if you’d like to minimize the number of supplements you take by getting as many vitamins and minerals as possible from your food, then I highly recommend going fully or mostly plant-based.

Start by reading The China Study because that’s where Dr. Campbell explains in-depth how a whole food, plant-based diet gives us almost every vitamin, mineral, and nutrient we need. He also explains why getting our vitamins and minerals from food is far better for our long-term health than taking them in supplement form.

After you make the transition to a whole food, plant-based lifestyle, you can rest assured that you’ll be getting just about everything you need from your food alone. All you’ll need to take is D3 and B12, and maybe iodine.

Helping your health and your wallet!

You know, the more I learn about a whole food, plant-based lifestyle, the more I like it.

The best part is that this lifestyle fits perfectly with my money-saving nature. I was SO SURPRISED to find that we actually spend less money on food and supplements eating this way than we ever did when we ate the standard American diet!

Since we get almost all of the vitamins and minerals we need from food, we don’t have to spend a fortune on supplements anymore. And the ones we do take are super cheap.

Better health and more money in my wallet? I call that a double win!

Wrapping it Up

Eating a whole food, plant-based diet is an excellent way to make sure you’re getting almost all the vitamins and minerals you need from your food. You’ll get these nutrients in their natural form, which is the way our bodies were designed to use them.

And when you eat mostly plants, the only supplements you really need are D3, B12, and maybe iodine (unless you regularly eat sea vegetables).

Pretty easy, huh?

But before you toss out all of your other supplements, be sure to read The China Study for yourself so you can make an informed decision about which supplements you need for your particular situation.

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What about you? Which supplements do you take to complement your plant-based diet?

XO, Summer

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