Vegan Nutrition In A Nutshell

It’s natural to think about nutrition when we decide to go vegan, perhaps in a way we didn’t before.

To put your mind at rest, we’ve pulled together some key vegan nutrition facts, focusing on the nutrients people typically have questions about, and suggesting some great plant-based sources.

A selection of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains
Image Credit: AdobeStock

Please note: one of the most common mistakes people make when transitioning to plant-based eating is not replacing what they’ve removed. Be sure to replace animal protein and fats with plant protein and fats. In short, you shouldn’t ONLY eat veg!

Protein

Protein is important for cell repair and maintaining or building strength, so it’s a vital part of our diet. And guess what? It doesn’t have to be animal-based. Protein can be found in almost every food – even vegetables and potatoes contain some. Some of the best vegan sources are:

  • Legumes – beans, peanuts, peas, lentils and soya (beans and soya products like tofu and tempeh)
  • Grains – brown/wild rice, wholewheat bread and pasta, amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa
  • Nuts – Brazils, peanuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios and walnuts

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is needed for production of DNA and the healthy function of our nervous systems. Some good B12 sources include:

  • Marmite/Vegemite and other fortified yeast extract spreads
  • Nutritional yeast flakes (check for ‘fortified with B12’ on the label)
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Fortified plant milks
  • A good quality vegan multivitamin/B12 supplement (25 – 100 mcg a day is ideal or one 2,500 mcg supplement each week).
Marmime pop art collage - B12 is key part of vegan nutrition
Marmite pop art by Chris Jones. Reproduced under Creative Commons Licence.

Find out more about B12 here.

Note: It is important to note that if you are concerned about your B12 levels, you should get them checked by a medical professional. If you are low in B12, you may have an issue with absorbing it. This is relevant to everyone, regardless of their current diet.

Omega 3 and 6

Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are two polyunsaturated fats that our bodies cannot make, and are therefore crucial in our diet, which is why they are known as essential fatty acids. Keep a check on your omega 6 intake. Too much omega 6 can reduce omega 3 conversion. The most recent advice is to not worry too much about ratios between the two but just make sure you get plenty of omega 3.

This can be boosted by taking 250mg (2-3 times per week) of long chain omega 3 directly.

Good dietary sources of omega 3 are:

  • Ground flaxseeds (linseeds)
  • Chia seeds
  • Walnuts (4 halves) and walnut oil

Sources of omega 6:

  • Sunflower oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Soya oil
  • Most nuts and seeds

Calcium

Calcium is key for strong teeth and bones, so it’s important to ensure your body is getting the amount it needs. You can find it in:

  • Kale, watercress, collard greens
  • Broccoli
  • Calcium-set tofu
  • Fortified plant milks
  • Soya yogurt
  • Tempeh
  • Tahini

It’s also important to combine calcium sources with lots of fruit and vegetables and protein-rich foods, to aid absorption.

Dr Michael Greger’s acclaimed book, ‘How Not To Die,’ offers some great suggestions for a healthy, balanced plant-based diet. In it he shares his Daily Dozen checklist to help you keep track of your nutrients each day. To make it even easier, simply print off the checklist and planner below and stick them on your fridge:

And that’s your vegan nutrition in a nutshell! Check out our nutritious vegan recipes.

PAGE UPDATED NOVEMBER 2020

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