All things veganuary!

January is Veganuary, when lots of people take on a month of practising a vegan diet. So what's it all about, and what can we learn from veganism with nutrition and hydration in mind?

What is veganism?

Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products. The associated philosophy rejects all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. It helps to promote the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment.
An individual who follows the diet or philosophy is known as a vegan.

A vegan diet is based on plants (such as vegetables, grains, nuts, and fruits) and foods made from plants.

Vegans do not eat foods that come from animals, including dairy products, eggs and honey.

Vegan Eatwell guide

The Eatwell Guide is widely used and recognised and acknowledges the important nutritional roles of legumes and fortified dairy products but does not directly address the dietary requirements of vegans.

The Vegan Eatwell Guide is a pictorial representation of a balanced vegan diet. It includes the use of fortified foods and supplementary vitamins and minerals.

The vegan Eatwell Guide
Source: The Vegan Eatwell Guide,

Balancing food and nutrients

With a good understanding of what makes up a healthy balanced vegan diet and with careful planning you can get all the nutrients your body needs from a vegan diet.

Essential nutrients that might be missed unless the diet is carefully planned include calcium, iron, vitamin B12, iodine and selenium.


Vitamin and minerals

What it does?

Plant based sources

Daily recommended intake


Helps build bones and keep teeth healthy

Regulates muscle contractions, including your heartbeat

Makes sure blood clots normally

Kale, watercress, okra, tahini, dried figs, haricot beans, almonds

Calcium fortified plant milk

Bread and anything made with fortified flour



Component of red blood cells, which can carry oxygen around the body.

Vitamin C increases iron absorption.

Lentils, chickpeas, beans (kidney, edamame)

Cashew nuts, chia seeds, ground linseed, pumpkin seeds

Quinoa and fortified breakfast cereal


Dried apricots and figs, raisins

8.7mg for men over 18

14.8mg for women aged 19-50

8.7mg for women over 50

Vitamin B12

Deficiency can cause anaemia and nervous system damage.

It is essential that all vegan diets contain a reliable source of Vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 is made by micro-organisms and is not produced by plants. Fortified foods and supplements are the only proven reliable sources for vegans.

Vitamin B12 is added to some alternatives to milk products, nutritional yeast flakes, and breakfast cereals.

Aim for a daily intake of at least 3mcg (Vegan Society recommendations)


Your body uses iodine to make thyroid hormones. These hormones control how fast your cells work.


500ml plant-based milk with added iodine

1-2 sheets (4g) of nori (seaweed sheets)



Selenium is part of many important enzymes, which are substances that speed up reactions in our bodies.


Brazil nuts (content is variable, but tends to be high, 2-3 a day might meet your body’s need)

60mcg for women

75mcg for men

Vitamin D

Vitamin D keeps our bones healthy by helping to control the amount of calcium and phosphate in our bodies. It also appears to keep our muscles healthy too.

Exposing skin to sunlight

During Autumn and Winter everyone should take 10mcg of Vitamin D. Some people may need a supplement during the summer months as well such as those who do not expose their skin to sunlight regularly and people with a deeper skin tone.



The Vegan Society produce a supplement called the Veg1, that has been specifically designed for vegan diets to ensure you get all the essential nutrients.


In general, vegan diets are more sustainable. Growing food for direct human consumption is an efficient use of land and water and requires less energy to produce than meat. Vegan diets are associated with the lowest emissions of carbon dioxide.

Microbiome and the vegan diet

We know that the food you eat has a significant impact on your gut microbiome.

Eating a variety of different plants has been shown to promote the growth of beneficial microbial species in your gut. This is because plants provide prebiotics and polyphenols that serve as food for beneficial gut bugs.

A healthy gut microbiome provides benefits across the body. These include improving the immune system and digestive health, as well as reducing inflammation.

How to get started

Adopting a vegan lifestyle may not be for everyone, however, making small adjustments to your diet by experimenting with new plants is a good place to start.

Instead of changing your entire diet, pick a few plant-based swaps to implement each week. In addition to the health benefits, eating a more plant-based diet can have a positive impact on the environment and your wallet!