What Are Vegetarian Capsules?

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Vegetarian capsules are an easy way for those who do not eat meat to swallow nutritional supplements. They provide a person with all of the benefits without them having to consume any animal-based products. 

Often, capsules are made using gelatine which contains animal meat. This outer section is what encases the medication or supplement to make it easy to swallow in one go. They also break down quickly in the digestive system, compared to a regular tablet.

Both vegetarian and gelatine capsules are very similar. In this article, we shall take a look at what both the similarities and differences are. So, let’s go!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Choose Vegetarian Capsules?

Choosing to skip the meat and become either vegetarian or vegan is on the rise. Research states that in 2022, 1 in 10 Americans have ditched meat and consider themselves either vegetarian or vegan.
There are many reasons why somebody might choose to stop eating meat, from concerns about the environment or supporting animal rights, to issues around health or religious reasons.
These days, with more people aware of the world around them thanks to social media and modern research, more younger people are going full vegetarian or vegan than ever before.
Because of all of this, companies need to make plant-based versions that appeal to those who have eliminated animal products from their diet. Having vegetarian capsules available means people do not have to change their diet in order to swallow them.

What Are Vegetarian Capsules Made From?

More often than not, vegetarian capsules are made from something called vegetable cellulose. This is a fibrous plant-based by-product that is the go-to when making vegetarian capsules.
One cellulose type is hypromellose which can be taken from softwood trees such as spruce and pine. Most of the time, cellulose is taken from trees that are based in the Northern Hemisphere.
Generally, hypromellose is a common alternative to gelatine because it is often used in its place. For example, it is also used in tablets as both a coating and a binder.
This is because hypromellose helps active ingredients to be released slower in the body. This makes it a great alternative to gelatine capsules. 

What Are Gelatine Capsules?

When it comes to capsules, the gelatine is different from that found in the majority of the food. It has a pharmaceutical-grade quality to it as it hardens into a shell.
It is originally obtained by processing the collagen which is found in the areas of the bones and connective tissue in animals.
The collagen itself houses eighteen amino acids of different varieties. These amino acids are important because they help to synthesize protein, peptide hormones, creatine, and other compounds within the body. 
It is typical to find gelatine from sources such as pork (also known as porcine) and beef (also known as bovine) within food and pharmaceutical goods. 

Are There Differences Between Vegetarian And Gelatine Capsules?

There are disadvantages and advantages of both vegetarian and gelatine capsules. If you are not vegetarian yourself, then you have the option of trying them both.

So, let’s take a look at how the two capsules compare:

Advantages: Gelatine Capsules

It is true, that the majority of people prefer a capsule over a tablet because they are much easier to swallow. A capsule can either be colored or clear and if the consumer can see the ingredients inside, they often feel that it is more natural looking.

Gelatine works great alongside most, if not all, powdered ingredients. Not only is gelatine incredibly easy to work with at a manufacturing level, but it is cheaper to work with this type of ingredient too. This keeps overall costs down.

This means gelatine is the number one ingredient when it comes to making capsules, so do not be surprised if you cannot find vegetarian capsules anywhere – though they do exist, you just need to look for them!

Gelatine capsules can be made in several colors and sizes, making them not only cost-effective but the options to change them are varied too.

The gelatine is also safe to consume. The only reason you would not swallow a gelatine capsule is if you were either vegetarian or vegan. 

Disadvantages: Gelatine Capsules

Even though gelatine capsules can be made in a wide range of sizes, there is a limit to how big they can be compared to something like a tablet.

This can cause issues when only so much medication can fit into a capsule, so you might need two capsules to have the same dose as one tablet. 

Advantages: Vegetarian Capsules

If somebody put a capsule in front of you, it is highly likely that you would not be able to tell whether it is made from a plant-based substance or an animal product. 

The biggest advantage of a vegetarian capsule is that it can be consumed by somebody who does not eat meat, otherwise all the advantages are the exact same. 

Also, both vegetarian and gelatine capsules easily dissolve within the body. There is not one that is absorbed better than the other. 

Disadvantages: Vegetarian Capsules

The biggest disadvantage to vegetarian capsules is the cost. The cost of production is much higher compared to a gelatine capsule, making it less cost-effective in the long run.

For this reason, vegetarian capsules are not as widely created compared to gelatine capsules. More often than not, even as a vegetarian, it is likely you will be offered to swallow an animal-based capsule.


The main difference between both a vegetarian capsule and a gelatine capsule is where the ingredients come from. Other than that, they are practically the same. 

Both have an odorless and tasteless appeal to them and let the ingredients within do the talking. Both capsules are available for both supplement and medical use.

This means that if you have a specific dietary requirement, you will be able to stick to it, even if you are wanting to take some extra supplements alongside your healthy lifestyle.

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