A vegan diet is a strict vegetarian diet without any eggs or dairy products. A well-balanced vegan diet provides all the essential nutrients you require and has the same overall health advantages as a vegetarian diet. Nutritional guidelines for vegans are essentially similar to those for vegetarians, although vegans lack the option of gaining certain nutrients from dairy products and eggs.
Being more restricted than the more common lacto-ovo vegetarian
eating plans need to ensure adequate intake of certain nutrients by consuming adequate quantities of appropriate plant-foods.
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin). Certain studies have found vegans to have a low intake of vitamin B2. Good sources of vitamin B2 include: whole grains, mushrooms, almonds, leafy green vegetables and yeast extracts.
- Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is absent from plant-foods, being found mainly in meat products, dairy products and eggs. Fortunately, vegans may obtain B12 from a wide range of B12-fortified foods. Such B12-fortified foods include: yeast extracts, veggie-burger mixes, breakfast cereals, vegetable margarines and soy milk. There is widespread belief that (some) people can manufacture (some of) their own B12 in their gut, and that B12 occurs naturally on unwashed (organic) fruits and vegetables. This is still a subject of debate since the amount of B12 required by humans is almost too small to measure.
- Vitamin D. Vitamin D is found in oily fish, eggs and dairy products. It is not found in plant foods. Fortunately, as with vitamin B12, vegans can obtain vitamin D from vegetable margarines, soy milk and certain other foods which are fortified with vitamin D. In addition, our bodies make vitamin D when exposed to adequate sunshine, so vegans without access to sunshine should increase their vitamin D intake accordingly.
- Iodine. Some studies have indicated some vegans have a low iodine intake. Plant-sources of iodine include: seaweeds, vegetables and grains, although amounts of iodine in the last two sources will depend on the iodine content of the soil that they were grown in. Ordinary kitchen salt is often fortified with iodine.
- Calories. Many plant-foods in a vegan diet are high in bulk and may satisfy hunger without providing sufficient calories. Vegans should therefore watch their calorie-intake to ensure they have adequate energy levels. This is, however, not seen as a major problem.