The L-Plate Vegan
A balanced vegan diet is the healthiest diet on earth, and
yet some people still have a few concerns about whether they
will receive all the nutrients that they require. Let me put
your mind at rest. (Further information in Viva! Guide
1 – Nutrition in a Nutshell.)
Protein is essential for growth, repairing tissues and protecting
against infections. The eminent British Medical Association
states that the vegan diet provides all nutrient requirements,
including more than enough protein. According to leading nutritionists,
it really is almost impossible to suffer from protein deficiency
unless you go out of your way to do so – ie starve!
Protein can be found in pulses (peas, beans, lentils and soya
products, eg soya milk, soya burgers and tofu), wholegrains
(rice, wheat, oats, barley, buckwheat, pasta, bread), nuts
(brazils, hazels and almonds etc) and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin,
The human body only needs a tiny amount of vitamin B12 per
day (and B12 deficiency is very rare) but it is important to
ensure you get a daily dose of this vital B vitamin. It is
essential for the maintenance of a healthy nervous system,
normal blood formation and helps to keep the heart in tip top
condition. Vitamin B12 is found in many everyday foods that
have been fortified with it such as yeast extracts (eg Marmite),
many breakfast cereals, yeast-based spreads and patés,
soya milk and soya margarines. Foods containing soya protein
fortified with this vitamin such as TVP (textured vegetable protein), soya
sausages and soya burgers.
While the daily requirement is only 1.5 mcg, some experts
now believe that 3 mcg per day is a more healthy intake. This
can be provided by, for example, an average 250ml serving of
fortified soya milk plus an average 50g serving of fortified
cereal plus a couple of pieces of toast with a spread of B12
fortified margarine and B12 fortified yeast extract.
According to the British Medical Association, iron deficiency
problem that affects meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans equally,
particularly women in all three dietary groups. Iron can be found
in green leafy veg, tofu, wholegrains such as wholemeal bread and wholegrain
pasta, dried fruit, beans, lentils, molasses, many fortified breakfast cereals
and cocoa. Pass the (plain) chocolate!
Given that iron is so readily available, why is it that anyone
suffers a deficiency? It seems that the problem is more to
do with the absorption of this mineral, so it’s important
to eat a continued supply of vitamin C as this enhances absorption
by three to four times when eaten with iron-rich food. Good
sources of vitamin C include green leafy veg, broccoli, parsley,
frozen peas, green peppers, potatoes, tomatoes,
citrus fruits, mangoes and blackcurrants.
Finally, calcium. Did you know, for instance, that a serving
of broccoli contains as much calcium as 200ml of cow’s
milk? There are many other sources of calcium available to
vegans – green leafy veg
(watercress, spinach, fennel etc), leeks, pulses, nuts, seeds, tofu,
fortified soya milk, hummus and figs.
As a child, you were probably told to drink cow’s milk
for good strong bones, but studies into osteoporosis (brittle
bone disease) show that although we do need calcium for our
bones, we can lose it through our urine. People who eat diets
based on animal protein (including cow’s milk) are likely
to lose more calcium, and are therefore more at risk of osteoporosis
than those who only eat vegetable proteins. This is partly
because animal protein leaches calcium out of the bones, whereas
vegetable protein does not.
And take heart. It is completely unnatural to drink milk after
weaning. And bizarre to drink the milk of another species.
Cow’s milk is meant for calves; goat’s milk for
kids and sheep’s milk for lambs!
So, you see, the vegan diet really is the healthiest option!
little chance of a deficiency of calcium, or any other food group,
vitamin or mineral, as long as you eat a balanced diet.
If you want to know more about nutrition, read Viva!’s
Guides and the Vegetarian and Vegan Foundation’s
(VVF) Veggie Health for Kids booklet. If you’re
interested in vegan nutrition during pregnancy or for your
baby, Viva! also produces the Vegetarian
and Vegan Mother and Baby Guide. Get yourself a full list
of all the Guides available from: Viva!,
8 York Court, Wilder Street, Bristol BS2 8QH. T: 0117 944 1000)
and from the VVF at the same address.
Alternatively, you can view all our guides and plenty more
veggie info at www.viva.org.uk and www.vegetarian.org.uk.
The human body only needs approximately
one millionth of a gram of vitamin B12 per day. This means
that a whole lifetime’s requirement adds up to about
one seventh of the size of an aspirin tablet!
|We Love VVF!…
For lots of info on vegan nutrition, contact the health
charity The Vegetarian and Vegan Foundation. They have
fab free fact sheets on everything from iron to leather
and produce the best health mag – Veggie Health.
For free info call
0117 970 5190 (Mon-Fri).
Or log on to:
As a child, you were probably
told to drink cow’s
milk for good strong bones, but studies into osteoporosis
(brittle bone disease) show that although we do need
calcium for our bones, we can lose it through our urine.
People with diets based on animal protein (including
cow’s milk) lose more calcium, and are therefore
more at risk of osteoporosis, than those who only eat
This is because animal protein leaches calcium out of
the bones, whereas vegetable protein does not.