Healthy Eating questions
Question: Does cows milk contain harmful hormones?
Answer: Artificial growth hormones are illegal in the UK. However, much of the cows milk sold in the UK comes from pregnant cows, so will contain natural cow hormones.
Question: Don't we need milk to get calcium for healthy bones and teeth?
Answer: Calcium is a complicated subject! But there are good vegan sources of calcium, like spring greens, kale, almonds, and calcium-set tofu. We can also drink soya milk that is fortified with calcium. You can find out more from our free information sheet on Bone Health , which is based on Chapter 7 "Balancing calcium: a team game" in our nutrition manual, "Plant Based Nutrition and Health" by Stephen Walsh.
Question: Don't we need milk to get iodine?
Answer: Iodine in milk was added to processed cattle feed, as levels are low in most UK soils. The best iodine source for vegans is sea vegetables such as kelp. You can also take supplements, but remember that too much iodine is as harmful as too little. You can find out more from our free information sheet on Iodine , which is based our nutrition manual, "Plant Based Nutrition and Health" by Stephen Walsh.
Question: Don't we need to eat oily fish to get Omega 3?
Answer: Fish get their Omega 3 from microalgae. So can we. Ground flax seed (linseed) or flax oil is also an excellent source of Omega 3. The Omega 3 in plants is a different form to that in oily fish, but we can convert the plant form into the form we need. About 1 or 2 teaspoons of flax oil, or 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed, per day will meet most peoples needs.
Question: How can I find out more?
Answer: Please contact The Vegan Society Information Department for copies of our free advice leaflets, or see our nutrition manual, "Plant Based Nutrition and Health" by Stephen Walsh.
Question: How can I get complete proteins?
Answer: Some amino acids are essential in our diet. Foods which contain all the essential amino acids are called 'complete proteins'. Soya beans and quinoa are good plant-based examples. You can also get complete proteins by eating a range of nuts, seeds, pulses and grains each day.
Question: How can I get enough protein?
Answer: This isn't difficult for most people. If you are eating a balanced vegan diet, and getting enough calories, you are almost certainly getting enough protein. Most people only need 1 g of protein daily for each 1 kg of lean body weight (about 1.5 oz per 100 lb). Pulses are particularly good vegan sources of protein - lentils, split peas, beans, and foods made from them such as tofu and 'fake meats'.
Question: How can you get vitamin B12 if you don't eat meat?
Answer: All vitamin B12 is made by micro-organisms. The B12 in animal products comes from micro-organism which 'contaminate' the animals food. Good sources for vegans are yeast extract and fortified foods - like fortified soya milk, fortified margarine and fortified cereals. The B12 is made by fermentation using bacteria, a bit like beer making.
Question: How do vegans get enough iron in their diet?
Answer: Vegan diets easily exceed recommended intakes of iron. Good sources of iron are lentils, soya beans, pumpkin seeds and many beans and greens (Spinach is not a good source; the iron in it is not in a form that we can easily absorb). Meat eaters often have higher levels of stored iron, but vegans still have enough. All menstruating women should make sure they have good iron levels. A good intake of Vitamin C is important for iron absorption.
Question: I am planning to breast-feed my baby. What is the best vegan diet for me to eat?
Answer: Our dietician suggests a balanced vegan diet as a sound basis for health for parents and children. You can find out more from our free information sheet on nutrition for infants and children, and from our book, "Feeding your vegan infant - with confidence: A practical guide from pre-conception through to pre-school" by Sandra Hood.
Question: I have an illness. What is the best vegan diet for me to eat?
Answer: The Vegan Society cannot tell you that. You should always seek medical advice, for example from a qualified dietician. The Vegan Society does endorse a varied plant-based diet combined with adequate physical activity as a sound basis for a healthy lifestyle. A balanced wholefood vegan diet is naturally low in saturated fat, and high in fruit, vegetables and fibre.
Question: I'm worried about my weight. What is the best vegan diet for me to eat?
Answer: A varied plant-based diet, combined with adequate physical activity, is a sound basis for a healthy lifestyle. You may find it helpful change the balance in your diet between high fibre foods -like most fruit and vegetables - and low fibre, high fat, high carbohydrate foods - like nuts, bananas, plant oils and dried fruit. You should seek medical advice, for example from a qualified dietician.
Question: Is soya formula safe for infants?
Answer: Human breast milk is preferable to formula for infants, if possible - but there is no evidence that soya formula is inferior to cow's milk formula.
Question: Is soya safe?
Answer: In moderation, soya is a useful source of protein and other nutrients. The Japanese have traditionally consumed soya equivalent to 100g of tofu or half a pint of soya milk daily, and enjoyed better health and longer life than Westerners. TVP and fake meats are a recent Western invention - but there is no direct evidence that they are unsafe.
There is good evidence that eating lots of soya protein reduces blood cholesterol levels, and some evidence that soya can reduce menopausal symptoms and bone loss.
Question: Is the vegan diet very restricted?
Answer: Not at all! Vegans eat all fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains. Meals can vary from 'traditional British' - such as shepherds pie, made with lentils - to familiar 'world cuisine' - such a chili, made with beans - to meals with more unusual ingredients, such as tempeh and mushroom roulade, or Hijiki and tofu salad. There are lots of good vegan cookbooks available now.
Question: What is the best vegan diet for me to eat?
Answer: A varied plant-based diet, combined with adequate physical activity, is a sound basis for a healthy lifestyle.
Question: What is the best vegan diet for my children to eat?
Answer: A varied plant-based diet, combined with adequate physical activity, is a sound basis for a healthy lifestyle for people of all ages. Thousands of healthy children have been raised on a balanced vegan diet. This will include a reliable source of B12 - such as fortified soya milk or nutritional yeast. Low calorie fruits and vegetables can be insufficiently calorie-dense for a young child.
The Vegan Society publishes "Feeding Your Vegan Infant - With Confidence" by Sandra Hood, a state registered vegan dietitian, which offers comprehensive guidance on raising vegan children (from pre-conception to early school years).