Like with any diet, it’s important to get the right balance of nutrients as a vegan or vegetarian. Check out our guide to the most important ones to look out for & where to find them
More people than ever are choosing to make the switch to a diet that reduces or entirely cuts out animal products. With so many options available, vegan and vegetarian diets are an amazing way to discover delicious new flavours and food combinations. But it’s important to make sure you get all the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients needed to stay healthy and thrive. All it takes is a little know-how, so read on for our top tips.
Eating a healthy vegetarian diet
Vegetarians don't eat meat or fish (not to be confused with pescatarians who eat fish, but not meat). It’s fairly easy to get all the necessary protein, calcium and nutrients needed as a vegetarian by eating a balanced diet of vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, dairy, lentils, pulses and beans. But it’s important to pay particular attention to the following three:
Our bodies need vitamin B12 to help produce healthy red blood cells, release energy from food and support a healthy nervous system. You can find this vital vitamin in milk, cheese, eggs, fortified cereals and fortified yeast extracts.
Iron contributes to the formation of healthy red blood cells, with adequate levels of haemoglobin to help our blood carry oxygen around the body. This important nutrient can be found in pulses, dried fruit, dark green vegetables and wholemeal bread.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Although better known for being found in oily fish, you can also find omega-3 in flaxseed, linseed, rapeseed oil, chia seeds, walnuts and soy-based products like edamame beans.
We have a range of supplements at Boots to support a balanced vegetarian diet*:
Eating a healthy vegan diet
Vegans don't eat meat, fish, or other animal products such as eggs, dairy or honey. It takes a little bit more education, planning and creativity to incorporate all the nutrients needed for a balanced and healthy vegan diet. It’s important to look out for sources of protein, omega-3, iron, zinc, selenium and iodine, whilst also paying particular attention to your intake of the following three:
Our bodies need calcium to help build bones and keep teeth healthy. It can be found in fortified soy, oat, nut and rice milks, sesame seeds, pulses, bread and dried fruits.
Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphorus in the body, both important nutrients. It can be found in fortified fat spreads and breakfast cereals and is also made by the skin when exposed to sunlight (although it's important to follow the usual safety advice regarding sun exposure and wear sunscreen to protect against sunburn).
The government recommends adults take a daily supplement with 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter months. Though some vitamin D supplements are not suitable for vegans, so always read the pack information.
As well as being essential for a vegetarian diet, vitamin B12 is especially important for vegans since it can’t be found naturally in plant-based food. It’s advised to eat breakfast cereals, nut milks or yeast extracts such as Marmite, all fortified with vitamin B12, to ensure you’re getting enough of this essential nutrient.
You may want to consider taking a daily supplement to support a balanced vegan diet.*
When to seek help
If you experience any new tingling or numbness in your hands or feet, or visual disturbances, this may indicate you're deficient in vitamin B12 and you should see your GP. It's also a good idea to see your GP if you experience any of the following symptoms while following a vegetarian or vegan diet:
• Fatigue or feelings of lethargy
• Reduced tolerance to exercise
• Pale skin
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