Nutrition and Health

Making the decision to change to a vegan diet is a good move for your health.  A vegan diet contains no cholesterol at all and is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

As a doctor I am very happy to endorse a vegan diet.  I believe that many people with lifestyle related health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, could see big improvements by switching to a plant based diet.  Below is a trailer for the movie "Forks over Knives" which examines this concept.


There are a few nutritional issues that you need to be aware of when switching to a plant based diet.  Some of these issues apply to omnivores and vegetarians also.  

Summary of the Top Vegan Nutritional Issues

1. Vitamin B12
This is by far the most important issue.  A natural vegan diet cannot supply sufficient B12.  However many commercially available products are B12 fortified.   For example many brands of soy milk, some cereals and marmite.  I also suggest taking a B12 supplement at least once per week.  
More info here: The Big One - B12

2. Iron
This is not such a big issue for males.  However menstruating females are vulnerable to low iron, even if they are meat eaters.  Females vegetarians and vegans need to pay particular attention to iron in their diet, or consider taking an iron supplement.  Iron can be difficult to absorb.  The good news is that vitamin C aids absorption.  So you can increase your iron absorption by combining foods that contain iron with foods that contain vitamin C.  
More info here: Iron Fact Sheet

3. Vitamin D
Most of our vitamin D is dependent on our sun exposure not our diet.  The risk of vitamin D deficiency has increased with the focus on protecting ourselves from skin cancer by avoiding sun exposure.  The only natural vegan-friendly source of vitamin D is the same as for B12 - ie mushrooms.  But this will not provide you with sufficient vitamin D so you will need to take a supplement or consume a lot of vitamin D fortified foods.  Some soy milks and vegan margarines are vitamin D fortified.

4. Calcium
Dairy is not the only source of dietary calcium - despite what the dairy industry would like you to believe.  Vegan calcium sources include "greens and beans", almonds, sesame seeds and figs.  Many soy milks are calcium fortified.

5. Protein
Daily requirements for protein have often been exaggerated.   A balanced vegan diet can easily provide you with sufficient protein.  Many foods have good levels of protein including grains, nuts and legumes.  Even the humble potato contains protein!

For more information on vegan nutrition check out these websites:

This web site is maintained by Jack Norris, a Registered Dietitian.  The information is well researched and reliable
 Vegan Society
The earliest Vegan organization.   Launched in 1944 and still going strong.  The founder, Donald Watson, probably coined the term vegan to refer to non-dairy vegetarians.
There is lots of reliable nutritional information on this web site.
Ok so some of the advice on this site is strictly speaking vegetarian not vegan, but most is vegan friendly.  I think it is definitely worth checking out.  The evidence that you can be a vibrant vegan and an athlete is mounting!