Vegan Diet

Vegan Diet: Overview

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 diet, vegan 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.

A Vegan Diet

Information On This Page

Conditions that suggest Vegan Diet:

Nutrients

Zinc Requirement often suggests Vegan DietZinc Requirement
Vegetarians who consume a variety of legumes and nuts will probably meet their zinc requirement, but otherwise a vegetarian diet may be inadequate in zinc.  Since the zinc from plant sources is absorbed less readily, this increases the concern about zinc status in vegetarians who do not consume legumes and nuts.

Risk factors for Vegan Diet:

Medical Procedures

Counter-indicators:

Symptoms - Food - Preferences

Vegan Diet suggests the following may be present:

Parasites

Counter-indicators:

Vegan Diet can lead to:

Hormones

Vegan Diet often leads to HypothyroidismHypothyroidism
Sub-clinical hypothyroidism, with raised thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels but mild or absent overt symptoms, has been found to be more common among vegans than the general population.  Most vegans have low iodine intakes but a significant minority consume excessive amounts of iodine from seaweed, particularly kelp.  Both low and excessively high iodine intakes in vegans have been linked to elevated TSH levels.  The optimal range for TSH appears to be 1-2 mIU/l with values below 0.5 suggesting hyperthyroidism and values above 5 suggesting hypothyroidism.

Recommendations for Vegan Diet:

Animal-based

Not recommended:

Diet

Not recommended:

Lab Tests/Rule-Outs

Test for B12 Levels is highly recommended for Vegan DietTest for B12 Levels
For longer-term vegans who have not been too careful about consuming enough B12 (in the form of supplements or fortified foods), it would be wise to have B12 levels assessed and to commence dietary supplementation immediately.  Some 80% of people who have been vegan for over 2 years have a functional B12 deficiency, meaning their homocysteine is too high.

Mineral

Iodine is highly recommended for Vegan DietIodine
Vegans who don't eat sea vegetables or use iodized salt should consider supplementing their diet with iodine.  Using excess salt is not good for the bones, but if you do use table salt, use iodized salt.
Zinc may help with Vegan DietZinc
Vegetarians may need as much as 50% more zinc than non-vegetarians because of the lower absorption of zinc from plant foods, so it is very important for vegetarians to include good sources of zinc in their diet.

Vitamins

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamine) is highly recommended for Vegan DietVitamin B12 (Cobalamine)
B12 supplementation is highly recommended for those on a vegan diet.

KEY

Strong or generally accepted link: often suggests; often leads to
Strong or generally accepted link:
often suggests; often leads to
Definite or direct link: increases risk of
Definite or direct link:
increases risk of
Strong counter-indication: often decreases risk of; often reduces the likelihood of
Strong counter-indication:
often decreases risk of; often reduces the likelihood of
May be useful: may help with
May be useful:
may help with
Very useful: is highly recommended for
Very useful:
is highly recommended for
Should be avoided: is NOT recommended for
Should be avoided:
is NOT recommended for