A vegan diet consists of vegetables, grains, nuts, fruits and other foods made only from plants. We have a variety of recipes which are suitable for vegans on our website, but it’s important when following a vegan diet to plan meals properly – try and vary the food you eat as much as possible and be aware of any nutrients that may be missing from your diet.
A vegan diet consists of vegetables, grains, nuts, fruits and other foods made only from plants. We have a variety of recipes which are suitable for vegans on our website, but it’s important when following a vegan diet to plan meals properly – try and vary the food you eat as much as possible and be aware of any nutrients that may be missing from your diet.Vegan recipes
Here are the most common nutrients that people on a vegan diet risk missing out on:
Vegans can get enough protein from their food as long as they are eating a good variety of foods. Vegan food sources of protein include: beans and pulses, soya products (milk, yogurt, tofu), nuts, seeds and also in cereal foods like rice, bread, pasta etc.
Zinc is required for metabolism and immune health amongst other things. Phytates found in plant tissue make zinc less bioavailable, so making sure that you are getting foods rich in zinc on a regular basis is important. Vegan sources of zinc include beans and pulses, whole grains, wheat germ, tofu, seeds and nuts.
Vitamin B12 is important for metabolic and nervous system function. Vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in animal products and so the only vegan sources are fortified cereals and unsweetened soya milk, as well as in yeast extracts, such as marmite.
Vitamin D is required for many different functions in the body, including calcium absorption and bone health, so again making sure vitamin D is not limiting is especially important in young children. Vegan food sources of Vitamin D are limited, it is naturally found in shiitake mushrooms, and fortified in products such as dairy-free spreads, plant-based milk and breakfast cereals. Our bodies can make Vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight during the summer, however the recommendation for everyone in the UK is to take a 10 microgram supplement from October till March.
Our bodies need calcium for many different functions, including maintaining healthy bones and teeth. Calcium requirements are particularly high for young children, who would normally get this from cow’s milk, so it is important to make sure that if your child is following a vegan diet their calcium intake from non-dairy milk sources is sufficient. Calcium is found naturally in dried fruit (apricots, raisins, and figs), ground almonds, sesame seeds, tahini (sesame paste), tofu and pulses, as well as fortified products such as plant-based milks or drinks e.g. unsweetened soya or almond milk. Try and select a dairy alternative that is fortified.
Iron is important for many functions, such as red blood cell formation and for transporting oxygen around the body. Short term effects, also in adults, include impaired immunity, tiredness, appetite and vitality. Like Zinc, the iron found in plant sources is less bioavailable, so again making sure iron rich foods are eaten regularly is important, you can also enhance absorption by consuming foods high in Vitamin C. Vegan sources of iron include dark-green leafy vegetables, pulses, wholemeal bread and flour, fortified breakfast cereals, soya products, nuts and dried fruit (in particular, dates and apricots). Women require more iron than men, so they need to be aware of the amounts they’re consuming.
Iodine deficiency affects the thyroid gland, which regulates the body’s metabolism and homeostasis. In Children iodine deficiency can result in permanent brain damage so making sure iodine is sufficient in young children is especially important. Vegan sources of iodine include cereals and grains, such as rye, and sea vegetables such as nori, wakame and arame. It is important to note that excessive intake of iodine can also have negative health implications, some sea vegetables contain very high levels of iodine, these examples contain moderate, safe amounts.
Vitamin B2 is important for brain and nervous system development and maintenance. Vegan sources of Vitamin B2 include wheat germ, beans and pulses, almonds, avocados, mushrooms, dark green leafy vegetables and fortified unsweetened soya milk. Nutritional yeast is also a source of vitamin B2 (amongst other nutrients); a strain of yeast grown on molasses and can be added to savoury dishes as an extra source of nutrients. Most children get their vitamin B2 from cow’s milk so it is especially important to make sure your child is eating enough of the alternative sources to make up for this.
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential in the human diet as our bodies cannot make them. These fatty acids are important for brain development, heart function and for keeping our cholesterol levels healthy. Usually found in oily fish, vegan sources include nut and seed oils, such as linseed, walnut, rapeseed and soya bean oil. Using these oils when cooking is a great way to increase your omega 3 intake.
If you’re breastfeeding or feeding your child a vegan diet you should get advice from your doctor as to what supplements you or your child should be taking.
Vegans should also take care with ingredients such as gelatine, cochineal (E120 – a red food colouring), suet, milk powders, egg powders, if in doubt look for a vegan friendly logo. Also try and avoid artificial replacements for animal-based preservatives as these risk containing added preservatives, colours and flavours. Also make sure you are keeping an eye on the saturated fat, sugar and salt content of the foods you are buying.
Our vegan recipes exclude all products taken from animals. These include any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish, by-products of slaughter or any foods that come directly from killing an animal, such as fats and gelatine. This category also excludes recipes containing dairy products, eggs and honey.
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