Nutrient Intakes of Vegetarians and Vegans

by Jack Norris, RD • Last updated: May 2017

EPIC-Oxford (2016)

EPIC-Oxford is a cohort study of “generally health-conscious” British residents, and it follows large numbers of vegetarians (3). This assessment was conducted in 2010.

Tracking nutrient intakes can give us an idea of how vegans, on average, typically eat and if they're meeting nutrient requirements. However, there are some drawbacks to these reports:

Given all these potential problems, the studies should mainly be used to spot glaring problems or trends.

The table below notes the most interesting findings from this current report.

Calcium intakes for vegans were significantly higher than the previous EPIC-Oxford report from 2003 (see below).

Vitamin A and zinc are a little low according to this data. The DRI for vitamin A is 900 RAE for men and 700 RAE for women. The RDA for zinc is 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women. I also prefer to see vegan protein intakes higher than the .9 g/kg of body weight (for men). But given that the overall food intake reported for vegans was low, intakes of these nutrients were probably a bit higher than reported. Still, these are nutrients I consider to be important for vegans and if you don’t know much about them, please check out the VeganHealth.org articles, Vitamin A and Zinc.

The EPIC-Oxford report includes information on supplement intake, indicating that 50% of vegans were supplementing with vitamin B12.

EPIC-Oxford (2003)

The table below shows the nutrient intakes of participants in EPIC-Oxford (1). Notes on this data:

Adventist Health Study-2 (2013)

The table below also shows nutrient intakes from Adventist Health Study-2 (AHS-2) (2). Notes on this data:

These nutrient intakes were based on food frequency questionnaires (FFQ) which are the least accurate way of measuring nutrient intakes. FFQs involve asking someone how often they eat a long list of foods. Two better ways to measure nutrient intakes are to ask participants to keep a food diary, or to analyze duplicate portions in a laboratory. EPIC-Oxford has plans to report nutrient intakes by using food dairies among a sample of the population. The authors reported that:

Seven-day food diaries were completed by 31,000 participants and these will provide further information on energy intake. Preliminary analysis of a sample of 150 food diaries indicates that the FFQ does indeed underestimate intakes of energy, and therefore of most nutrients, among vegans (unpublished data).
Table 1. Nutrient Intakes
MenWomenMen & Women
Pesco Lacto-
Vegan Non-
Pesco Lacto-
Vegan Non-
Semi Pesco Lacto-
Carb (g)256264268262231236239233267281285285309
Carb %47505155485153565356575762
Protein (g)87746862836962567571737171
Protein %16141313171514141514151214
Fat (g)78747360686462527774727365
Fat %32313128323130283533333329
Sat Fat (g)26222211221919101917151611
Sat Fat %119951099598775
Fiber (g)19222328192222263035373746
n3 (g)  -    -    -    -    -    -    -    -
Vit A - retinol (mcg)7403373067465430827777  -    -    -    -    -  
beta-carotene (mcg)  -    -    -    -    -    -    -    -  5,5255,8617,4176,3038,474
Vit B1 - thiamin (mg)22222222  -    -    -    -    -  
Vit B2 - riboflavin (mg)22222222  -    -    -    -    -  
Vit B3 - niacin (mg)2522212423201821  -    -    -    -    -  
Vit B6 (mg)
Vit B12 (mcg)
Folate (mcg)329358367431321346350412672731766729723
Vit C (mg)119130123155138147147169250273308271293
Vit D (mcg)
Vit E (mg)11.813.013.716.110.711.411.614.
Calcium (mg)1,0571,0811,0876109891,0211,0125821,0721,1951,1251,145933
Iron (mg)13.414.013.915.312.612.812.614.120.021.722.422.122.2
Magnesium (mg)36639639644034135835239144849251914591
Phosphorus (mg)  -    -    -    -    -    -    -    -  1,3591,3601,3661,3481,370
Potassium (mg)3,9653,9404,0293,9373,8393,7593,9563,8173,4873,6273,8533,6674,120
Sodium (mg)  -    -    -    -    -    -    -    -  3,2723,3463,1013,4323,066
Zinc (mg)
Numbers listed are the average for EPIC-Oxford and the median for AHS-2.


1. Davey GK, Spencer EA, Appleby PN, Allen NE, Knox KH, Key TJ. EPIC-Oxford: lifestyle characteristics and nutrient intakes in a cohort of 33 883 meat-eaters and 31 546 non meat-eaters in the UK. Public Health Nutr. 2003 May;6(3):259-69. • link

2.Rizzo NS, Jaceldo-Siegl K, Sabate J, Fraser GE. Nutrient profiles of vegetarian and nonvegetarian dietary patterns. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013 Dec;113(12):1610-9. • link

3. Sobiecki JG, Appleby PN, Bradbury KE, Key TJ. High compliance with dietary recommendations in a cohort of meat eaters, fish eaters, vegetarians, and vegans: results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition-Oxford study. Nutr Res. 2016 May;36(5):464-77. • link