I’m no doctor, my last multivitamin was in gummy form, and I haven’t had a prune since all the Golden Girls were still alive, so take the following with a grain of salt:

Sometimes vegan diets are imbalanced. It seems the culprits are normally too much sugar, favoring grains over legumes, and going overboard with trendy foods like kale and quinoa (kale is the Jennifer Lawrence of cruciferous vegetables.

I like it just fine, but don’t really get why everyone’s crazy for it). Getting my daily protein requirement is easy; I’m told a good rule of thumb is the same amount in grams as your weight in kilos. Finding plastic-free, zero-waste supplements is another story.

I prefer whole foods for absorption, like Chaga mushroom for Vitamin A, hemp oil for Omega-3, pumpkin seeds for lysine, or one Brazil nut for selenium daily.

However, whole foods present a host of problems. For instance, biotin, choline, and chromium are not precisely measured in foods. The body can use only about 50 percent phosphorus from vegetable sources. Sea vegetables, which are rich sources of iodine, may contain far more than is safe for ingestion.

The nutrient content of fruits, nuts, and vegetables varies depending on the soil they’re grown on and irrigation and fertilization practices. Finally, absorption is affected by the way foods are prepared.

Everyone’s needs are different, but for me, getting plant-based nutrients from whole foods is the best option. I don’t seem to absorb supplements well, yet experienced a surge in energy and health when I started eating this way. It may be too early to tell if the effects of my vegan and gluten-free diet are sustainable (I feel I must emphasize that I’m genetically obliged to eat vegan and gluten-free. It’s not a choice). I do know my hair and nails are growing twice as fast now- my friends tease me about my Tony Montana pinky nail- and my skin cleared up.

That’s good enough for me!

The table below started out as only the stuff I actually eat, which is why whole grains don’t figure in much. I eventually added things like tempeh or soy.

Note: Some people need supplements no matter what they eat. Common examples include vitamin D2 from yeast or Vitamin D3 from lichen, fortified nut and seed milks, and phosphorus.

Zero Waste, Vegan, Plant-Based Nutrient Sources 

Nutrient  DRI Plant based vegan sources
Vitamin A 700 mcg Carrots, butternut squash, sweet potato. pumpkin, spinach, cantaloupe, mango, apricot, kale, broccoli 
Vitamin C 75 mg Cantaloupe, grapefruit, guava, mango, oranges, papayas, pineapple, strawberries, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, peppers, tomato, blackcurrant, dark leafy greens, some herbs 
Vitamin D 10 mcg Sunshine, chanterelles
Vitamin E 15 mg Nuts, seeds, avocado, broccoli, mango, tomatoes, kiwi, Swiss chard, olives, greens, asparagus, beet, and turnip greens
Vitamin K 90 mcg Brocoli, kale, spinach, collards, romaine, Swiss chard, sauerkraut, kombucha, natto
Thiamin 1.1 mg Pine nuts, Jerusalem artichoke, nutritional yeast, active yeast, hibiscus tea, watermelon, acorn squash, tahini, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, spirulina, men peas, beans, asparagus 
Riboflavin 1.8 mg Almonds, sesame seeds, spinach, beet greens, mushrooms, trios, prunes 
Niacin 14 mg Chili, spirulina, peanuts, peanut butter, rice bran, mushrooms, barley, durian fruit, potatoes, tomatoes, chia, wild rice, buckwheat, green peas, avocados, sunflower seeds, tahini 
Vitamin B6 1.5 mg Banana, watermelon, artichoke, palm hearts, plantains, pineapple, peas, Brussel sprouts, green beans, pistachio, figs and peanut butter, sweet potatoes, almonds, avocado, water chestnuts, squash and pumpkin, chickpeas, beans, spirulina, cilia seeds 
Folate 400 mcg Spinach, beans, lentils, asparagus, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, avocados, mangoes, oranges, nutritional yeast, basil, peanuts, artichokes, cantaloupe, walnuts, flat sesame, cauliflower, tahini, sunflower seeds, peas. okra, celery, hazelnuts, mint, leek, chestnuts
Vitamin B12 2.4 mcg Spirulina (the best source)
Pantothenic acid 5 mg Nutritional yeast, paprika, mushroom, sunflower seeds, avocado, tomato, sweet potato 
Calcium 1200 mg Bak choy, collars, almonds, navy beans, turnip greens, broccoli, tahini, mustard greens 
Copper 1156 mcg Sesame seeds, cashews, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, garbanzo beans, mushrooms, lentils, walnuts, lima beans 
Iron 8 mg Spinach, swiss chard, pumpkin, sea vegetables, Igiumes, tofu,  tahini, molasses, dark chocolate
Magnesium 320 mg Kelp, oats, almonds, cashews, cocoa, cacao, hemp / chia / pumpkin / sunflower seeds 
Manganese 1.8 mg Cloves, garbanzo beans, spinach, pineapple, pumpkin seeds, rye, tempeh, brown rice, oats 
Phosphorus 55 mcg Lentils, chickpeas, lupins, brazil nuts, beans pumpkin and sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts 
Zinc 8.6 mg Legumes (especially sprouted), nuts, sunflower seeds (especially toasted), oatmeal, tofu, tempeh, chia seeds, miso, broccoli, leafy greens
Potassium 4.7 g Beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beet green, swiss chard, sunflower seeds, edamame, acorn squash, orange juice, peanut butter, collard greens, tomatoes, beet, quinoa 
Iodine 150 mcg Seaweed, peas, apples, prunes, bananas, com, kombu, arame, hijiki 
Choline 425 mg Bananas, raisins. oranges, lettuce, grapeseed oil, Medjool dates, nuts, tofu, tomatoes, avocadoes, celery. carrot, seeds, potatoes, quinoa, soymilk. broccoli 
Betaine ? Quinoa, beet, spinach, sweet potatoes 
Biotin n/a Almonds, chia, peanuts, sweet potato, peanuts, onions, oats, tomatoes, carrots, walnuts 

Sources are Harvard (that’s why the daily values are for women), One Green Planet’s Plant-Based Nutrition series, Linus Pauling, and a bunch of Cleveland Clinic stuff from the nutritionist my doctor made me go to. 

According to my doctor, my blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels are all great. Apparently, your DHA levels will be good if you cook with lots of olive oil and eat avocadoes, flaxseed, seaweed, etc. 

Sample Meals: What I Eat

One whole roasted beet (skin on- I love the tail)Half an avocado. A roasted sweet potato- if my stepfather’s cooking, sweet potato hash cooked in olive or coconut oil. A handful of cherry tomatoes. Collard greens or spinach and mushrooms sautéed in olive oil.

A giant salad (225 grams) with carrots, hummus, probably avocado, and garbanzo beans. Homemade balsamic and olive oil vinaigretteAn appleGoji berriesAlmonds

A vegetable curry with squash, green beans, onions, garlic, peas, chili, lentils, and coconut milk. A pint of berries
An orange. Olives. Pistachios
Dinner. Two cabbage steaks. Beans sautéed with celery, mushrooms, and onions. Roasted cauliflower and potatoes. A chickpea burger with tomatoes on a bed of arugula with pesto.

Radishes. Blackberries

Homemade zero-waste vegan peanut butter cup, which is just melted chocolate, coconut oil, and natural peanut butter. Somehow I always make them as big as my hand so I can only eat one at a time

I don’t understand how girls can live on just a smoothie for breakfast. Smoothies are beverages, not breakfast! If my grandma is Vitamixing, it will have an avocado, two kiwis, an apple, a bag of spinach, and maybe cabbage or something random like that. If I’m going to the juice press down the street it usually has radish, pear, cucumber, fennel, and some other tasty things.

The nutritionist’s primary concern with me is that I eat too much, but I’ve gradually gained strength and muscle tone and my feet are no longer always freezing cold since adopting this diet. For the liver, milk thistle and mulberry work great for me, and white willow bark eliminates my pollution-related migraines. 

But this is my experience. Everyone is different, and I’d never want anyone to risk their health in the name of zero waste, so please consult a physician before discontinuing or adopting a new regimen. 

If there are any nutrients I missed, please let me know. I’ll try to find a vegan, unpackaged supplement alternative.