Animal Ingredients to Watch Out for in Supplements as a Vegan

5 min reading time

Animal Ingredients to Watch Out for in Supplements as a Vegan

The vegan diet has many benefits. However, vegans are susceptible to specific nutrient deficiencies, making supplements an important part of the diet for some. This is especially true for athletes and pregnant women. So, are vitamins vegan?


Unfortunately, there are many animal ingredients in supplements.  

When choosing a supplement, I suggest reading labels carefully, and always looking at the ingredients list. Unless you’re buying exclusively labelled vegan vitamins, you’ll more than likely see one of the following animal products in at least one of the supplements you’re taking.


This is the most common animal ingredient in supplements these days. 


Gelatin is usually the first ingredient listed right under the label and used as a coating ingredient or filler for capsules and gels. It helps create a thick, gel-like consistency in foods. 


Gelatin comes from boiling the hooves, stomach, skins, and other tissue linings of various animals (usually pork and beef).

Magnesium Stearate

Magnesium stearate comes from stearic acid, a fatty acid that is typically derived from fish, pork, beef, chicken, or milk. It is frequently used as an anti-adherent, lubricant, filler, or a mold-release agent in nutritional supplements. 


Stearic acid can be vegan if sourced from vegetable oils, grains, and cocoa. Just double check that the vegan supplement you buy is vegan magnesium stearate


Lanolin is a waxy substance derived from sheep. Lanolin is commonly used in vitamin D supplements. If you purchase vitamin D3, it is most likely in the form of calciferol or cholecalciferol, which means it’s from lanolin. 


Vegan vitamin D3 supplements are available. These are sourced from lichen. 


Vitamin D2 is always vegan, but research has shown that it is less effective at actually raising our blood vitamin D levels in comparison to vitamin D3.


When it comes to vitamin D supplementation, my number one suggestion is to go for a vegan vitamin D3 supplement (like this one, for example).


Collagen is all the rave these days. 


Are collagen supplements vegan? Most aren’t!


Collagen is a fibrous protein found in the connective tissues of animals, normally cows or fish. 


Scientists have discovered a way to make vegan collagen from genetically modified yeast and bacteria. However, vegan collagen is quite hard to come by. 


Instead, certain vegan supplements exist that can stimulate collagen production in the body. These are often referred to as collagen “boosters”. These boosters contain various vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C and zinc that the body needs to make collagen.



If you take birth control pills, these are likely not vegan. 


The estradiol, estrone, and estrogen used for most birth control pills comes from cow ovaries and pregnant mares’ urine. 

Bee pollen

Bee pollen is often included in many energy supplements, workout aids, or vegan “superfoods.” 


If you are an athlete, you might be familiar with bee pollen.

Depending on whether you consider bee products a part of your vegan diet or not, knowing that bee pollen is a common animal ingredient in supplements is worthwhile.


Questions I get asked frequently:

Is cellulose gel vegan?

Yes. Cellulose is only found in plants, which means cellulose gel is vegan


Cellulose gel is used in many foods, supplements, pharmaceuticals, and even simple hair-care products. It is generally made from wood-fibers and other fibrous plant matter.


Is dextrin vegan?

Yes. Dextrin is vegan


Dextrin is often derived from carbohydrates like cornstarch, tapioca, or rice. 


Is stearic acid vegan?

It depends. 


As mentioned above, stearic acid can be vegan if sourced from vegetable oils, grains, and cocoa. Otherwise, it is usually an animal product in supplements.


Are prenatal supplements vegan?

Prenatal vitamins are strongly recommended for all expecting mothers. Pregnant women should consider taking iron, zinc, iodine, vitamin B12, vitamin D, folate, and DHA (omega 3). 


Given that vegan women will often be deficient in some key nutrients, prenatal vitamins are especially important for pregnant women who follow vegan diets. It is important to carefully read nutrition labels to check for any animal ingredients in prenatal supplements.


Is creatine vegan?

For all you athletes out there, creatine is maybe the most popular ergogenic aid among bodybuilders and strength athletes. 


Creatine is only found in meat so vegans don’t naturally ingest it. However, most creatine supplements are vegan because they are synthetically produced. 


Animal products in supplements

When buying your supplements, be sure to always read the label. If in doubt, check online vegan forums and do not be afraid to contact a company to ask where the ingredients are from. 

If you have any questions about vegan supplements, a plant-based registered dietitian is a great place to start