Nutrition overview

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When people go vegan, they often eat more fruit and vegetables and enjoy meals higher in fibre and lower in saturated fat. We work with the British Dietetic Association to share the message that well-planned vegan diets can support healthy living in people of all ages. Our resources will help you to learn more about how to get the most out of your diet. They have been developed with the help of our Dietitian Heather

Key nutrients

Vitamin B12

This nutrient is needed to help speed up reactions in your body. Deficiency can cause anaemia and nervous system damage.

Vitamin B12 is made by micro-organisms and is not produced by plants.

Make sure that you are getting an adequate amount of vitamin B12 from fortified foods or supplementation.

Protein

Protein gives our muscles and bones structure. It is also used for fighting infection, speeding up reactions, making hormones, carrying oxygen and repair.

The key is to enjoy a varied and balanced diet containing adequate calories and ensure that all your meals contain sources of good quality protein.

Omega-3 fats

Omega-3 fats affect many aspects of our health, including our immune system, brain, nerves and eyes.

The are several steps that you can take, such as ensuring that your daily diet includes a really rich source of omega-3 fat.

Calcium

Calcium is involved in bone health, your nervous system, blood clotting and controlling your muscles.

Aim to consume two to three portions of calcium-rich foods on a daily basis.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps to keep our bones and muscles healthy.

In the UK there are concerns that we do not get enough of this ‘sunshine’ vitamin.

UK public health authorities recommend supplementation from October to March as a minimum.

Iodine

Your body uses iodine to make thyroid hormones, which control how fast your cells work.

Make sure that your diet contains a reliable source of iodine, such as a supplement containing potassium iodide/iodate or a good intake of an iodine-fortified plant milk.

Selenium

Selenium is part of many important enzymes, which speed up reactions in our bodies.

Vegans in Europe may have lower intakes than those living in countries with high soil selenium or extensive use of high-selenium imported produce.

Using a supplement containing selenium is a reliable way of guaranteeing an adequate intake.

Iron

Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world. If your body is running low on iron, you may become tired and anaemic.

It is important to choose iron-rich foods throughout the day and take steps to optimise absorption.

Zinc

Our bodies use zinc for a variety of functions, including speeding up reactions and fighting infection.

It is important to choose zinc-rich foods throughout the day.

Vitamin K

This vitamin plays a role in blood clotting, bone health and the functioning of our kidneys.

Leafy green vegetables are a rich source, so ensure that they feature in your daily diet.

Vitamin A

Our bodies turn carotenoids from plant foods into vitamin A, which is required for eye health and the normal functioning of our immune systems.

Make sure that your daily intake of fruit and vegetables includes rich sources of carotenoids.

Further resources 

  • Read our health summary for information about this aspect of going vegan.
  • Check out our Catering for Everyone resources for information relating to a range of settings, including hospitals.
  • Find out more about The Vegan Society’s VEG 1 supplement by taking a look at these frequently asked questions.
  • Visit the Vegan Health website for a range of recommendations from US Dietitians Reed Mangels, Virginia Messina, Jack Norris and Taylor Wolfram; and read Vegan for Life by Virginia and Jack for a comprehensive overview.
  • Becoming Vegan by US Dietitians Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina also provides a comprehensive overview of vegan diets.

These are general guidelines about nutrition. If you have concerns about your diet, please talk to your doctor about seeing a dietitian. Discussing the use of supplements with a health professional will help to ensure that they are suitable for you. 

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