Keeping a vegan diet balanced

Senior dietitian Victoria Taylor explains how to keep your diet balanced and heart-healthy if you're vegan.  

Honey, cereal, dried fruit, broccoli and tofu 

Many meat-eaters could benefit from eating vegan meals now and then. This could help you cut down on red and processed meats and high-fat dairy products and increase the amount of fruit, vegetables and pulses in your diet.

Nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and wholegrains are all good plant sources of protein to add to a vegan diet.

Many meat-eaters could benefit from eating vegan meals now and then

If this a long-term change, you need to plan carefully to avoid missing out on iron, calcium, vitamin B12 and iodine. Green leafy veg, fortified cereals, pulses and dried fruits will provide iron. Choose non-dairy milk with added calcium.

Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in substantial amounts in foods from animal sources, so vegans should consume three portions a day of fortified foods, such as non-dairy milks and breakfast cereals (choose wholegrain versions without added sugar). Check the label to make sure they have B12 added. B12 is found in nutritional yeast powders. Yeast extracts such as Marmite also contain B12, but because of their salt content should be used sparingly. Otherwise, taking a B12 supplement is recommended.

Iodine is available in some plant foods such as bread, nuts, fruit and vegetables, but the amounts are smaller than in fish, shellfish and dairy products. An iodine supplement may be needed, but talk to your GP first, as too much iodine can cause problems. Seaweed supplements are best avoided as they can provide unreliable, sometimes excessive, amounts of iodine.

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