I’m 100 per cent in favour of plant-based diets but it’s indisputable that vegan diets – and some vegetarian ones – can lack essential nutrients including vitamin B12, omega-3 essential fatty acids, iodine, selenium, iron and also vitamin D (although most people, vegan or not, have sub-optimal levels during the winter).
The Vegan Society has a very useful ‘Nutrition Overview’ section here, with contributions from dietitians.
Cultures such as Indian Jains have consumed a completely vegetarian, non-animal diet for millennia, following their philosophy of non-violence. Jains also avoids root vegetables because of the potential for harming tiny creatures in the soil. It may seem very limited and boring but I had personal experience of this for some time with Jains’ friends and can vouch for its deliciousness and nutritional value. So it’s worth looking online for Jain blogs with recipes.
The Vegan Society offers its own VEG1 supplement. Alternatively, pharmacist Shabir Daya suggests taking BetterYou Vegan Health Daily Oral Spray, which has been formulated to deliver four essential nutrients (B12, D3, iodine and iron) straight into the blood stream, bypassing the gut where they might get lost. £14.95 for 25ml, dose four sprays daily.
Shabir also recommends taking an omega-3 supplement, but beware here as few plant sources provide an efficient means of converting their fatty acids into EPA and DHA, the key omega-3s. However echium seed oil gives vegans a source of Omega-3 that’s as efficient as fish oil. The product is called Echiomega by Igennus, £13.99 for 60 capsules, dose for adults and children over ten is 2-4 capsules daily.
Finally, a note for those who want to follow a gluten-free vegan diet. Many years ago, before I discovered I was sensitive to gluten, I became pretty ill following a vegan diet. Now there is much more knowledge about this problem and many more options, including recipes on BBC Good Food. We still eat a lot of veggie food so I’m off to try the lentil ragu with courgetti.
And the wonderful Jasmine Hemsley (jasminehemsley.com) has a whole section on Diving into Veganuary from last year. Winter Sunset Soup with ginger, cumin and rosemary, anyone?