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A vegan diet contains only plants – such as vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits – and foods made from plants.
Vegans don't eat foods that come from animals, including dairy products and eggs.
You should be able to get most of the nutrients you need from eating a varied and balanced vegan diet.
A healthy vegan diet contains:
See the eatwell plate for more information about a healthy diet. It applies to vegetarians, vegans, people of all ethnic origins and those who are a healthy weight for their height, as well as those who are overweight. The only group it is not suitable for is children under two years of age, because they have different needs.
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 don't plan your diet properly, you could miss out on essential nutrients, such as calcium, iron and vitamin B12.
During pregnancy and when breastfeeding, women who follow a vegan diet need to make sure they get enough vitamins and minerals for their child to develop healthily.
See vegetarian and vegan mums-to-be for more information.
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.
See vegetarian and vegan babies and children for more information.
Calcium is needed for strong and healthy bones and teeth. Non-vegans get most of their calcium from dairy foods (milk, cheese and yoghurt), but vegans can get it from other foods.
Good sources of calcium for vegans include:
The body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Vegan sources of vitamin D are:
Read the label to ensure the vitamin D used in a product is not of animal origin.
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 well than iron from meat.
Good sources of iron for vegans are:
The body needs vitamin B12 to maintain healthy blood and a healthy nervous system. Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in foods from animal sources. Sources for vegans are therefore limited and a vitamin B12 supplement may be needed.
Sources of vitamin B12 for vegans include:
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.
Sources of omega-3 fatty acids suitable for vegans include:
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.
However, if you follow a vegan diet you can still look after your heart by eating at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day, by cutting down on food that is high in saturated fat and watching how much salt you eat.
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