“I heard that a good way to make sure you get all your vitamins is to eat fortified foods, but I also heard that a lot of fortified foods are fortified with animal products! I was wondering if there were any tips on how to eat vegan-friendly fortified foods.”
Yes, as a vegan it can be a good idea to eat fortified foods, though it’s not always necessary. Many vegans do not supplement their diets other than with vitamin B12, and that’s because B12 can be difficult to obtain in a purely plant-based diet.
However, picky eaters, children, pregnant or nursing women, athletes, and new vegans might be well served by including some fortified foods in their diets.
Before you begin to worry about the naturalness of a diet that requires fortification, remember that many nonvegan foods are fortified also. For example, cow’s milk is often fortified with vitamin D. So don’t assume that a nonvegan diet is more “natural” than a vegan diet.
And as a side note, most meat is produced by feeding animals fortified foods. Think about it: animals in factory farms who don’t have access to sunlight need to obtain vitamin D somehow. For more on that topic, please read A Brief History of Factory Farming and Factory Farming Facts. The latter source states:
The Evolution of Factory Farms
Factory farming began in the 1920s soon after the discovery of vitamins A and D; when these vitamins are added to feed, animals no longer require exercise and sunlight for growth. This allowed large numbers of animals to be raised indoors year-round. The greatest problem that was faced in raising these animals indoors was the spread of disease, which was combated in the 1940s with the development of antibiotics. Farmers found they could increase productivity and reduce the operating costs by using mechanization and assembly-line techniques.
But back to J’s question. J is right that “a lot of fortified foods are fortified with animal products.” For example vitamin D can be obtained through exposure to the sun, use of a sun light, from a vitamin pill, or in a fortified food. But in fortified foods you may want to look carefully: vitamin D3 is not vegan, vitamin D2 is vegan.
Here are some tips for meeting your nutritional needs through 100% vegan foods:
- Only buy fortified foods that bear the “vegan” label
- Use Animal Ingredients A to Z
- Shop online at vegan like Vegan Essentials, Food Fight, and Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe (or if the cost of shipping will undo you, look for those same items elsewhere)
- Learn which brand names are always vegan and stick to those brands, or
- Eat only unprocessed foods (shop mostly in the produce section) and fortify your diet with some vegan supplements
Here are some tips for meeting your nutritional needs if you are OK with being an imperfect vegan:
- Use the “essentially vegan” rule wherein you assume something that appears to be vegan is vegan unless or until you’re informed otherwise
- Watch other vegans and do what they do
- Don’t worry about trace ingredients at all and don’t care if the label says D3 or D2
It’s up to you if you want to be 99% vegan or 100% vegan.
Either way, you’ll be doing something terrific for animals, the planet, and your health!
For more information about vegan health, I recommend reading and bookmarking:
- Vegan Health, the website
- Vegan Food Pyramid
- The American Dietetic Association on Vegetarian/ Vegan Diets
- USDA guidelines for vegetarians and USDA Tips for Vegetarians
- Plant Based Nutrition