I really didn’t think supplementation would be that important when I became a vegetarian almost 7 months ago, but after almost a full month of making a food log on Cronometer, a site dedicated to helping people see the specifics of their food consumption, all the way down to their amino acid consumption, I saw that I was deficient on a few vitamins, including B5, D, and E.
So lately I have been taking a supplement, but not everyday. At the end of the day, if I look at the chart and see that I am lacking in some vitamins, I take a supplement. But only then do I take one. I know as a vegetarian or vegan that supplementation is required. It was less of an issue for me because I still consume milk products, but I was concerned because I was consistently missing out on a lot of vitamins D, E, and B5. I got enough B12 simply because milk, soymilk, and veggie meat substitutes, as well as many cereals, all are fortified with Vitamin B12.
The main issue I see is if you consume a ton of multivitamins or vitamin supplements, that can either be completely useless, as most vitamins just pass right through your system, making very expensive pee. Or it could simply be dangerous, such as a high dosage of Beta-Carotine in supplemental form has been seen to show a significantly higher risk for lung cancer in smokers than people who did not take these high-dose supplements. So supplements are great to prevent deficiency, but it should not be taken in high-doses.
Vegans for instance, can eat a diet that could be deficient in vitamin B12, D, Iron, Calcium, and Zinc. If you work your diet correctly, you can get Calcium, Zinc, Etc, but supplements are required for B12 and D3.
Many Vegan’s that I have heard about are quite complacent, and are wholly against supplementation in any form, because they believe that they just need to eat dirty fruit to get B12, and go out in the sun for D3. Sunlight alone can’t give you a full DRV of D3, and dirty fruit won’t give you B12. In fact, B12 is a deficiency even in animal foods, mainly due to lack of in-ground B-12 and Cobalt, etc. You’re not going to get it outside of fortified foods and supplements.
So if possible, consume fortified foods. Most breakfast cereals, meat replacements, and soymilk has B12 and D in it. And watch out for B5 as well, that seems to be an issue for me, despite me eating beans, seeds, nuts, greens, and fruit.
The main thing to look out for is non-vegan products in multivitamins, such as Gelatin, and Lanolin. Aside from that, you should definitely supplement. Even Vegetarian Society recommends supplementation. So as long as it is done in moderation, supplementation is great!