A vegan diet contains only plants – such as vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits – and foods made from plants. Vegans don’t eat foods that come from animals, including dairy products and eggs.
Can you be healthy on a vegan diet?
Yes. The health service advises the following:
Healthy eating as a vegan
You should be able to get most of the nutrients you need from eating a varied and balanced vegan diet.
For a healthy vegan diet:
Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day.
Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates. Choose wholegrain where possible.
Have some dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks and yoghurts). Choose lower-fat and lower-sugar options.
Eat some beans, pulses and other proteins.
Choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat in small amounts.
Drink plenty of fluids – the government recommends 6-8 cups/glasses a day.
If you’re having foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt or sugar, have these less often and in small amounts.
But advise if you don’t plan your diet properly, you could miss out on essential nutrients, such as calcium, iron and vitamin B12.
The vegan society recommends the following for sources for B12
Very low B12 intakes can cause anemia and nervous system damage. The only reliable vegan sources of B12 are foods fortified with B12 (including some plant milks, some soy products and some breakfast cereals) and B12 supplements. Vitamin B12, whether in supplements, fortified foods, or animal products, comes from micro-organisms. Most vegans consume enough B12 to avoid anemia and nervous system damage, but many do not get enough to minimize potential risk of heart disease or pregnancy complications.
To get the full benefit of a vegan diet, vegans should do one of the following:
Eat fortified foods two or three times a day to get at least three micrograms (mcg or µg) of B12 a day
OR Take one B12 supplement daily providing at least 10 micrograms
OR Take a weekly B12 supplement providing at least 2000 micrograms.
If relying on fortified foods, check the labels carefully to make sure you are getting enough B12. For example, if a fortified plant milk contains 1 microgram of B12 per serving then consuming three servings a day will provide adequate vitamin B12. Others may find the use of B12 supplements more convenient and economical.
The less frequently you obtain B12 the more B12 you need to take, as B12 is best absorbed in small amounts. The recommendations above take full account of this. There is no harm in exceeding the recommended amounts or combining more than one option.
What are vegan sources of calcium?
Green leafy vegetables, including spring greens, cabbage, swede, rocket, watercress, kale, broccoli and parsley (remember that spinach is not a good source of calcium; the calcium is bound to oxalates and therefore poorly absorbed) Fortified foods such as soya milk, calcium-set tofu and white bread. Oranges.