A vegan diet has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity. As with any diet, it is important to ensure that the vegan diet is well balanced. This can be achieved by adhering to the following guidelines:
- 5-a-day: the UK Department of Health recommends a minimum five portions of fruit and vegetables should be eaten each day. Include a variety of different-coloured vegetables and fruit to ensure a range of health-giving vitamins and minerals.
- Limit the use of refined grains since much of the nutrient content is lost. Whole grains, on the other hand, are associated with many health benefits.
- Avoid hydrogenated fats, which are damaging to health. Good fats to provide are those containing omega 3, for example rapeseed oil, which has the additional benefit of being cheap and readily available.
- Limit the use of salt.
It is important to provide sources of:
Readily available in fortified foods such as yeast extract, soya milk, breakfast cereal and margarine. Alternatively a supplement can be provided. Daily amount: 3 micrograms.
Found in small amounts in green leafy vegetables and in larger amounts in seaweeds such as kelp. Daily amount: 150 micrograms.
Most D2 comes from sun exposure. If this is limited, fortified margarine or soya milk can provide some of the daily requirements. (Note: D3 is not usually suitable for vegans). Daily amount: 10 micrograms.
Daily amount: one heaped tablespoon of ground flaxseed or two tablespoons of rapeseed oil.
If you need to provide high-energy foods include the following: hummus, tahini; soya products including yoghurts; avocado, dried fruit and fruit juices.
Also add ground nuts, seeds, pulses and dried fruit to meals. Extra oil could be added, but stick to olive and rapeseed oil and a small amount of flaxseed or hemp seed oil to provide omega 3.
All main meal recipes in this guide supply at least 12g protein per serving. Relying on plants for protein makes it easy to meet protein needs for growth and repair while avoiding excessive intakes which may damage bone and kidney health.
The following foods are high in protein: lentils, chickpeas, red kidney beans, blackeye beans, tofu, peanuts, cashew nuts, sunflower seeds, quinoa, wholemeal flour and oats.