Vegetarian Vitamins: What You Need to Know

If you think you're taking vegetarian vitamins, think again. Not only do many supplements contain animal byproducts, sometimes it's the main ingredient.

What's hidden in those softgels?

Liquid supplements, like vitamin E, come in softgels. And the outer shell of those softgels is usually made with gelatin. For most vegetarians, that's a problem because animal bones are used to make gelatin.

To avoid gelatin look for softgels that are made from plant cellulose. Some will say "vegetarian" on the front label.

If it doesn't, look at the "Supplement Facts" on the back. On the bottom, there's a list of "Other ingredients." That's where you'll see if they used gelatin or cellulose.

You can also find specific brands of vegetarian softgels. The most popular are Vcaps® and vegetarian Licaps®. If they use Vcaps®, you'll see it printed on the front label.

Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3: Which one is the vegetarian vitamin?

Vitamin D and calcium work together to help build strong bones. And, thanks to Mother Nature, your body can make it when it's exposed to sunlight.

There are two types of vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D2 is vegetarian. It's made from fungi. But D3 is made with cod liver oil or an extract from lanolin (see how it's made in this video).

Vitamin D3 is the type you get naturally from the sun. It's also the one recommended by a lot of experts. That's why D3 is more common in fortified foods. If you want to avoid D3, check the fortified food labels. You'll find, though, that some labels don't specify which type of D they use.

Your best bet is to get enough natural sunlight. This is not possible for everyone, so you have a decision to make about health vs. sticking with a strict-plant-based diet. You can read more about the benefits of vitamin D and deficiency problems here.

Glucosamine vs. Vegetarian Glucosamine

Your body has a natural supply of glucosamine. Your joints use it to help your cartilage stay flexible and strong.

The outer skeletons of shellfish are used to make most glucosamine supplements. But vegetarian glucosamine products are available, too, and are made from fermented wheat or corn instead of shellfish.

Vegetarian diets are now more popular, so there are several vegetarian alternatives.

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