The vegan diet (2024)

A vegan diet is based on plants (such as vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits)and foods made from plants.

Vegans do not eat foods that come from animals, including dairy products and eggs.

Healthy eating as a vegan

You can get the nutrients you need from eating a varied and balanced vegan diet including fortified foods and supplements.

For ahealthy vegan diet:

  • eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
  • base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates (choose wholegrain where possible)
  • have some fortified dairy alternatives, such as soya drinks and yoghurts (choose lower-fat and lower-sugar options)
  • eat some beans, pulses and other proteins
  • eat nuts and seeds rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as walnuts) every day
  • choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat in small amounts
  • have fortified foods or supplements containing nutrients that are more difficult to get through a vegan diet, including vitamin D, vitamin B12, iodine, selenium, calcium and iron
  • drink plenty of fluids (the government recommends 6 to 8 cups or glasses a day)

If you choose to include foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt or sugar, have them less often and in small amounts.

See The Eatwell Guide for more information about a healthy diet.

The Eatwell Guide applies to vegetarians, vegans, people of all ethnic origins andthose who are a healthy weight for their height, as well as those who are overweight.

The only group The Eatwell Guide is not suitable for is children under the age of 2, as they have different needs.

Getting the right nutrients from a vegan diet

With good planning and an understanding of whatmakes up a healthy, balanced vegan diet, you can get all the nutrients your body needs.

If you do not plan your diet properly, you could miss out on essential nutrients, such as calcium, iron,vitamin B12, iodine and selenium.

Vegans who are pregnant or breastfeeding

During pregnancy and when breastfeeding, if you follow a vegan diet you'll need to make sure you get enough vitamins and minerals for your child to develop healthily.

Find out more about a vegetarian and vegan diet while pregnant.

If you're bringing up your baby or child on a vegan diet,you need to ensure they get a wide variety of foods to provide the energy and vitamins they need for growth.

Vegan sources ofcalcium and vitamin D

Calcium is needed to maintain healthy bones and teeth.

Non-vegans get most of their calcium from dairy foods (milk, cheese and yoghurt), but vegans canget it from other foods.

Good sources of calcium for vegans include:

  • green, leafy vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and okra, but not spinach (spinach does contain high levels of calcium but the body cannot digest it all)
  • fortified unsweetenedsoya, pea and oat drinks
  • calcium-set tofu
  • sesame seeds and tahini
  • pulses
  • brown and white bread (in the UK, calcium is added to white and brown flour by law)
  • dried fruit, such as raisins, prunes, figsand dried apricots

A 30g portion of dried fruit counts as 1 of your 5 A Day, butshould be eaten at mealtimes, not as a snack between meals,to reduce the impact of sugar on teeth.

The body needs vitamin D to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients help keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.

Good sources of vitamin D for vegans include:

  • exposure to sunlight, particularly from late March/early April to the end of September – remember to cover up or protect your skin before it starts to turn red or burn
  • fortified fat spreads, breakfast cereals and unsweetenedsoya drinks (with vitamin D added)
  • vitamin D supplements – everyone should consider taking a daily supplement during autumn and winter, because it's difficult to get enough from food alone

Read the label to ensure the vitamin D used in a product is not of animal origin.

Vegan sources ofiron

Iron is essential for the production of red blood cells.

A vegan diet can be high in iron, although iron from plant-based food is absorbed by the body less wellthan iron from meat.

Good sources of iron for vegans are:

  • pulses
  • wholemeal bread and flour
  • breakfast cereals fortified with iron
  • dark green, leafy vegetables, such aswatercress, broccoli andspring greens
  • nuts
  • dried fruits, such as apricots, prunes and figs

Vegan sources ofvitamin B12

The body needs vitamin B12 to maintain healthy blood and a healthy nervous system.

Many people get vitamin B12 from animal sources, such as meat, fish and dairy products. Sources for vegans are limited and a vitamin B12 supplement may be needed.

Sources of vitamin B12 for vegans include:

  • breakfast cereals fortified with B12
  • unsweetened soyadrinks fortified with vitaminB12
  • yeast extract, such as Marmite, and nutritional yeast flakes which arefortified with vitamin B12

Vegan sources of omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, primarily those found in oily fish, can help maintain a healthy heart and reduce the risk of heart disease when eaten as part of a healthy diet.

Evidence suggests that plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids may not have the same benefits in reducing the risk of heart disease as those in oily fish. But you can help to ensure a balanced diet by eating rich plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Sources of omega-3 fatty acids suitable for vegans include:

  • ground linseed (flaxseed) oil
  • vegetable (rapeseed) oil
  • chia seeds
  • shelled hemp seeds
  • walnuts

You can also look after your heart by eating at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day, eating plenty of fibre, cutting down on food that's high in saturated fat, and watching how much salt you eat.

The vegan diet (2024)

FAQs

Is veganism really the healthiest diet? ›

Vegan diets can be a part of a healthy lifestyle when planned and implemented correctly. Like any eating plan to restrict specific food groups, vegan diets can come up short in essential nutrients such as protein, calcium, iron and vitamin B12.

Can vegans eat eggs? ›

While eggs are included in a standard vegetarian diet they are excluded from a vegan diet, along with all animal-derived foods, like honey.

What foods do vegans avoid? ›

Foods that vegans avoid

These include: Meat and fish: such as beef, chicken, duck, fish, and shellfish. Eggs: whole eggs and foods that contain them, such as bakery products. Dairy: milk, cheese, butter, and cream, as well as foods made using these ingredients.

Is there a downside to a vegan diet? ›

Potential Nutrient Deficiencies — A vegan diet may lack certain essential nutrients such as vitamin B12, iron, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein. It's crucial to carefully plan your diet to ensure you get all necessary nutrients.

What happens in your body when you go vegan? ›

Research has shown that a vegan diet can help do the following: Promote weight loss. Reduce your risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels. Lower your chances of getting certain types of cancer, such as colon cancer.

Is peanut butter vegan? ›

The bottom line. Most types of peanut butter are free of animal products and can be enjoyed as part of a vegan diet. However, some varieties are made in facilities that also process animal products or contain refined sugar that was produced using bone char or non-vegan ingredients like honey or fish oil.

Do vegans eat cheese? ›

On the other hand, vegans avoid all animal products or animal byproducts, including dairy and milk. Because most cheese is made from cow's or goat's milk, most types are not vegan-friendly. Most vegetarians avoid products that require the slaughter of an animal.

Can vegans eat bread? ›

The simple answer is yes; vegans can eat bread. However, not all bread is created equal, and it's essential to check the ingredients list or labelling to ensure the bread is vegan-friendly. Some bread contains animal-derived ingredients such as eggs, milk, or honey, which are unsuitable for vegans.

What fruit can vegans not eat? ›

You'll restrict grains and foods made with them, such as bread and pasta. You also limit starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn, as well as beans and legumes. And you'll cut high-sugar tropical fruits such as pineapple, mango, and bananas, as well as fruit juices and sweets.

Can vegans drink alcohol? ›

Yes, they absolutely can. To be clear, alcohol itself is 100% vegan-friendly. It's what gets added to it that can cause issues for those on a plant-based diet. And, unfortunately, these additional animal-derived ingredients always escape the labels, making it difficult to know what you're actually consuming.

Can vegans eat pizza? ›

Try barbecue with mushrooms and caramelized onions, or if you still consume dairy, try a white pizza with spinach, one of our favorites. A good sauce is a foundation for a tasty pizza, so try them all. If you're a vegetarian or vegan, you can still indulge in pizza; you don't have to miss out on a thing!

What snack foods can vegans eat? ›

52 vegan snacks
  • Vegan flapjacks. A star rating of 4.4 out of 5. ...
  • Curried cashew dip. A star rating of 4.2 out of 5. ...
  • Protein balls. A star rating of 5 out of 5. ...
  • Marinated tofu. A star rating of 0 out of 5. ...
  • Hummus snack packs. A star rating of 5 out of 5. ...
  • Chickpea panisse. ...
  • Spicy microwave popcorn. ...
  • Spicy sweet potato hummus.

How do vegans get protein? ›

Grains: Grains high in protein include cornmeal, kamut (wheat berries), teff, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta, wild rice, millet, couscous, oatmeal, and buckwheat. Non-dairy milk: Just one cup of soy milk can pack about 7-9 grams of protein.

Will I lose weight if I turn vegan? ›

Studies have shown that a vegan diet can reduce your weight by an average of 5.6 pounds in 18 weeks, or less or more than a third of a pound per week! In theory, you can lose up to 63 pounds in a year. However, the amount you lose depends on several factors.

Is a vegan diet really as healthy as we think? ›

With good planning and an understanding of what makes up a healthy, balanced vegan diet, you can get all the nutrients your body needs. If you do not plan your diet properly, you could miss out on essential nutrients, such as calcium, iron, vitamin B12, iodine and selenium.

Are vegans generally healthier than meat eaters? ›

Vegetarians and vegans typically have lower body mass index, serum low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and blood pressure than comparable regular meat-eaters, as well as lower bone mineral density.

Do cardiologists recommend a plant-based diet? ›

In fact, a plant-based diet is one of the dietary patterns recommended by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association to improve cardiovascular health.

Do vegans have a faster metabolism? ›

Did you know, that a vegan diet can significantly contribute to boosting your metabolic function? This is not only helpful for our physical and psychological health, but also influences weight loss goals.

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