At the end of last year, results of a study looking into the nutrient intake of Danish vegans were published. The study analysed the diets of 70 adult vegans and compared them with the dietary intake of the general population.
Vegans had a much healthier fat intake – less saturated and monounsaturated fats (non-essential fats), almost no trans fats and cholesterol (harmful fats) and a higher intake of polyunsaturated fats (the essential, good fats). Vegans also ate less added sugar, which is in line with general recommendations. They also had more fibre and whilst their protein intake was lower than in the general population, it was still high enough and within the recommended intake levels.
Demolishing the iron myth, vegans had a higher intake of iron than meat-eaters. Vitamin B12 intake was low among vegans so supplementation was recommended. Everyone, regardless of diet, had low intakes of vitamin D and selenium. Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin that your skin manufactures when exposed to sunlight but as we simply don’t get enough sunshine over the winter months so it is now recommended that everyone should supplement their diet during the winter. Selenium is found in foods such as Brazil nuts, wholegrains, seeds, mushrooms, pinto beans and broccoli.
Overall, vegans reached the recommended daily intake of every vitamin and mineral except vitamin D, selenium and iodine (take note – seaweed is the best source!) but their diets were very good compared to the general population. With just a few tweaks it can be perfect!
Kristensen et al., 2015. Intake of macro- and micronutrients in Danish vegans. Nutrition Journal. 14:115.