A vegan diet is the most natural form of diet meant for human consumption, and provides all the vitamins, proteins and other nutrients (only exception being Vitamin B-12) required for the smooth functioning of our bodies. However, a vegan diet comprising primarily junk foods with a low consumption of vegetables & fruits is unlikely to lead to any major health benefits.
You need to ensure you follow a well balanced vegan diet, to adequate nutrient consumption & the significant health benefits of a vegan diet. A well balanced vegan diet essentially comprises an adequate intake of:
- Green leafy vegetables
Learn more about the nutritional and health benefits of these foods, and why they are healthier sources of both protein and calcium as compared to meat and dairy products by clicking on the links above.
A note on Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products and fortified foods, such as many breakfast cereals and soymilks. As such, most vegans are likely to be deficient in Vitamin B12.
To get the full benefit of a vegan diet, vegans should do one of the following:
- eat fortified foods two or three times a day to get at least three micrograms (μg or mcg) of B12 a day or
- take one B12 supplement daily providing at least 10 micrograms or
- take a weekly B12 supplement providing at least 2000 micrograms.
- If relying on fortified foods check the labels carefully to make sure you are getting enough B12. For example, if a fortified plant milk contains 1 microgram of B12 per serving then consuming three servings.
In adults typical deficiency symptoms include loss of energy, tingling, numbness, reduced sensitivity to pain or pressure, blurred vision, abnormal gait, sore tongue, poor memory, confusion, hallucinations and personality changes. Often these symptoms develop gradually over several months to a year before being recognised as being due to B12 deficiency and they are usually reversible on administration of B12.