vegan for beginners
Medically reviewed by Sara Osman,RD,PT

Introduction

Vegan nutrition also plays a role in decreasing obesity risk as it’s less energy-dense than an omnivorous diet. Plant-based sources have fewer fats and cholesterol content, are less energy-dense, and are high in fibre and promotes satiety.

Hence, it’s not a surprise that vegans tend to be thinner, have a lower body mass index and are more effective in losing weight than non-vegans. [2]

Although vegan diets have less protein, fats,n-3 fats, Vitamin D and B12-, certain micronutrients (calcium, iron, zinc and iodine) than animal-based sources, it is high in fibre, carbs, and phytochemicals and antioxidants, which are known to reduce chronic diseases like certain cancers, type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. [1,2,3]

Certain high-performance vegan athletes might also have to consume supplements for creatine and beta-alanine. [3] However, poorly constructed vegan diets might lead to certain macro- and micro-nutrient deficiencies.

The 6 major food groups for individuals eating a plant-based diet are fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereal grains, nuts and seeds and vegetable fats and oils.

Vegan Nutrition and Chronic Disease Risk

Vitamins

Minerals

Macro Nutrients

The analysis below is first of a kind and highlights the average nutritional value in plant-based sources and animal-based sources for each nutrient.

VITAMINS ( i )

PLANT FOODS ( i )

ANIMAL FOODS ( i )

VITAMINS ( i )

Vitamin A

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
56.52mcg RAE
  • Found in coloured & leafy veggies. Cooked veggies provide more vitamin A than raw veggies. Higher intake of provitamin A in plant sources doesn’t cause adverse effects. [1,19]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
146.50mcg RAE
  • Found in liver, beef, fish, fish oils, and dairy products. Higher intake of pre-formed vitamin A in animal sources causes adverse effects, or even toxicity. [1,18,19]
VITAMINS ( i )

Vitamin C

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
18.83mg
  • Found abundantly in fruits and veggies. Raw fruits have 3 times more vitamin C than fruit juices. [1,20]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
1.00mg
  • Found in raw liver, tongue and heart of the lamb, and milk, but in very small quantities. [20]
VITAMINS ( i )

Vitamin D

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
0.11mcg
  • Only found in vitamin D fortified foods and mushrooms, especially UV light exposed mushrooms. [1,21]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
0.55mcg
  • Found in fish, meat, offal, egg and dairy only in the form of vitamin D3. [1,21]
VITAMINS ( i )

Vitamin E

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
1.53mg
  • Found abundantly in cooking and edible oils and, to a lesser extent, in nuts/seeds. [1,22]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
0.27mg
  • Found in mainly chicken thigh, chicken breast and pork shoulder and, to a lesser extent, in snails and some fish.
  • Vitamin E content is lower than in plant- based foods. [1,22]
VITAMINS ( i )

Vitamin K

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
24.22mcg
  • Found abundantly in leafy greens and certain cooking oils. [1,23]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
0.79mcg
  • Found in meat, dairy foods, and eggs in modest amounts. [1,23]
VITAMINS ( i )

Thiamine

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
0.17mg
  • Found in legumes, cereal grains, nuts and seeds. However, 1/3rd and 4/5th of the nutrient is lost in legumes & cereal grains respectively due to cooking. [1,24]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
0.15mg
  • Found in meat, fish, and pork and in small quantities in milk, which loses up to 20% of its content through pasteurisation. [1,24]
VITAMINS ( i )

Riboflavin

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
0.13mg
  • Found in legumes, cereal grains, nuts, seeds and veggies. However, 1/2 and 3/4 of the nutrient is lost from legumes and cereal grains respectively, due to cooking. [1,25]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
0.27mg
  • Found in eggs, organ meats (kidneys and liver), lean meats, and milk, which lose some of its content when exposed to heat. [1,25]
VITAMINS ( i )

Niacin

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
1.61mg
  • Found in legumes, cereal grains, nuts, seeds and veggies. However, 3/4 and 2/3 of the nutrient is lost from legumes and cereal grains respectively, due to cooking.
  • Niacin is found in the form of nicotinic acid that lowers high cholesterol levels. [1]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
5.18mg
  • Found in poultry, beef, and fish. One serving provides about 5-10 mg niacin in the form of nicotinamide that has no effect on cholesterol levels. [1,26]
VITAMINS ( i )

Pantothenic acid

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
0.43mg
  • Found in legumes, cereal grains, nuts, seeds and veggies. However, 1/2 and 3/4 of the nutrient is lost from legumes and cereal grains respectively, due to cooking. [1,27]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
0.74mg
  • Found in beef, chicken, and organ meats that lose about 20-80% of its vitamin B5 content during food processing. [1,27]
VITAMINS ( i )

Pyridoxine

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
0.18mg
  • Found in legumes, cereal grains, nuts, seeds and veggies. However, 1/2 and 3/4 of the nutrient is lost from legumes cereal grains, respectively due to cooking. [1]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
0.36mg
  • Found in fish, beef liver and other organ meats with the digestibility rate around 79%. [1,28]
VITAMINS ( i )

Biotin

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
  • Found in small quantities in certain fruits, veggies, nuts/seeds and cereal grains. Most grains have about a 20-40% bioavailability of biotin, while the biotin in corn is readily available. [1]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
  • Found in organ meats, eggs, fish, and meat. [1,29]
VITAMINS ( i )

Folate

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
55.39mcg
  • Found in legumes, nuts, seeds and veggies. Most of the folate content is lost during cooking to be found in the blanching water. Spinach loses around 40%, while broccoli loses around 68%. [1]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
12.29mcg
  • Found in seafood, eggs, dairy products, liver, meat, and poultry that could lose around 41% of its folate content by broiling, and around 50% by frying. [1,30]
VITAMINS ( i )

Cobalamin

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
0.00mcg
  • Absent in raw plant- based foods but present in fortified breakfast cereals and fortified nutritional yeasts with high bioavailability. [1]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
2.92mcg
  • Found in fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. [1,31]
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MINERALS ( i )

PLANT FOODS ( i )

ANIMAL FOODS ( i )

MINERALS ( i )

Calcium

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
53.16mg
  • Found in small quantities in certain nuts, seeds and veggies. Calcium-fortified foods are also a good source of the nutrient. [1,32]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
28.25mg
  • Found in milk, yogurt, and cheese. [1,32]
MINERALS ( i )

Iron

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
1.89mg
  • Found in legumes, cereal grains, nuts, seeds and veggies. However, 1/2 and 3/4 of the nutrient is lost from legumes and cereal grains respectively, due to cooking. [1,34]
  • Certain anti-nutrients like phytic acid and polyphenols found in plant-based foods can reduce absorption.[3]
  • Using iron cookware and consuming vitamin C rich foods or supplements along with non-heme iron foods can possibly increase absorption.[3,4]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
2.06mg
  • Found in lean meat, poultry, and seafood in the form of heme iron with high bioavailability. Cooking doesn’t affect the iron content. [1,34,35]
MINERALS ( i )

Magnesium

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
56.38mg
  • Found in legumes, cereal grains, nuts,and seeds, and green leafy vegetables. However, 1/2 and 3/4 of the nutrient is lost from legumes and cereal grains respectively, due to cooking. [1]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
22.44mg
  • Found in meat, eggs, and milk in intermediate amounts. [1,18]
MINERALS ( i )

Zinc

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
0.99mg
  • Found in legumes, cereal grains, nuts, and seeds. However, 1/2 and 2/3 of the nutrient is lost from legumes and cereal grains respectively, due to cooking. [1]
  • Like iron, zinc's bioavailability and absorption is less in plant-based foods as compared to an omnivorouses diet. [3]
  • However, certain cooking methods can possibly help increase absorption. [3]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
3.69mg
  • Found in seafood, red meat and poultry. [45]
MINERALS ( i )

Copper

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
0.29mg
  • Found in all plant-based foods except oils. However, 1/2 and 2/3 of the nutrient is lost from legumes and cereal grains respectively, due to cooking. [1]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
0.19mg
  • Found in shellfish and organ meats in high amounts, and in milk and chicken with small amounts. [1,18]
MINERALS ( i )

Potassium

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
383.54mg
  • Found in veggies, legumes, fruits, nuts and seeds. However, 1/2 of the nutrient is lost from legumes due to cooking. [1]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
289.62mg
  • Found in meats, poultry, fish, milk and yoghurt.
  • However, meat and milk do not contain enough bicarbonate precursors, to adequately balance their acid-forming precursors resulting in bone demineralisation. [1,18]
MINERALS ( i )

Selenium

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
5.02mg
  • Found in cereal grains, nuts and seeds, fruits, and vegetables. However, 2/3 of the nutrient is lost from cereal grains due to cooking.
  • Also, brazil nuts and chia seeds are excellent sources of the nutrient. [1,25]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
25.88mg
  • Found in seafoods, and organ meats in high amounts, then, to a lesser extent, in muscle meats, dairy products, poultry, and eggs. [1,18,36]
MINERALS ( i )

Manganese

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
0.73mg
  • Found in all plant-based foods except oils. However, 1/2 and 3/4 of the nutrient is lost from legumes and cereal grains respectively, due to cooking. [1]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
0.04mg
  • Found in crustaceans and molluscum including clams, oysters, mussels. [1,37,38]
MINERALS ( i )

Phosphorous

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
121.52mg
  • Found in legumes, cereal grains, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. However, 1/2 and 3/4 of the nutrient is lost from legumes and cereal grains respectively, due to cooking. [1,33]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
207.73mg
  • Found in dairy products, meats and poultry, fish, and eggs with a high absorption rate of 40%–70%. [1,33]
MINERALS ( i )

Choline

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
11.43mg
  • Found in very small quantities in veggies, legumes, nuts, and seeds. [1]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
51.83mg
  • Found in meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, and eggs. [1,39]
MINERALS ( i )

Chromium

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
  • Found in certain veggies, fruits, brewer’s yeast, nuts and cereal grains. Brazil nuts and black pepper are excellent sources of the nutrient. [1]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
  • Found in meats, poultry, and fish, and in small quantities in dairy products. [1,18,40]
MINERALS ( i )

Molybdenum

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
  • Found in certain legumes, cereal grains and nuts. [1,25]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
  • Found in beef liver, milk and, cheese in amounts lower than plant foods. [1,18,41].
MINERALS ( i )

Sodium

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
65.69g
  • Canned or processed plant-based foods tends to have the highest sodium content compared to unprocessed foods. [1]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
212.42g
  • Processed animal -based foods tends to have the highest sodium content compared to unprocessed foods. [1,42]
MINERALS ( i )

Fluoride

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
0.85
  • Found only in tea plants, fruits, and vegetables in small amounts, depending on the fluoride in the soil. [1,25].
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
0.96
  • Found in marine fish in small amounts. [1,18,43]
MINERALS ( i )

Iodine

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
  • Found in seaweed, ( such as kelp, nori, kombu, and wakame. ) [1,44]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
  • Found in seafood , and eggs. Milk contains iodine but the amount varies depending on the iodine fed to the cow. [1,44]
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MACRO NUTRIENTS ( i )

PLANT FOODS ( i )

ANIMAL FOODS ( i )

MACRO NUTRIENTS ( i )

Protein

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
5.85g
  • Found in legumes, cereal grains, nuts, seeds and veggies. Most plant-based protein sources are incomplete, missing important essential amino acids (EAA) and hence it is recommended to combine protein sources with different EAA composition throughout the day. [1,3]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
22.53g
  • Found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, and yoghurt. Called complete proteins. [1,18]
MACRO NUTRIENTS ( i )

Fibre

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
4.00g
  • Found in fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, seeds and cereal grains. [1]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
0.01g
  • Absent
MACRO NUTRIENTS ( i )

Carbohydrates

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
21.12g
  • Found in fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, seeds and cereal grains.
  • Fruits are rich in sugar, whereas other plant-based food groups are predominantly rich in starch. [1]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
0.64g
  • Milk dairy products. [1,18]
MACRO NUTRIENTS ( i )

Saturated Fats

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
2.61g
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
4.69g
MACRO NUTRIENTS ( i )

Polyunsaturated Fats

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
3.08
  • Found abundantly in oils and certain nuts and seeds. [1]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
1.26
  • Found in a higher amount in fatty fish as omega-3, and in small amounts in meat, poultry, and eggs as omega-6. [1,18]
MACRO NUTRIENTS ( i )

Monounsaturated Fats

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
3.79
  • Found abundantly in oils and certain nuts and seeds. [1]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
5.10
  • Found primarily in meat fat. Fish may contain significant amounts. [1,18]
MACRO NUTRIENTS ( i )

Trans Fats

what do these number mean?
PLANT FOODS ( i )
0.14
  • Found only in processed foods due to the use of hydrogenated industrial oils. [1]
ANIMAL FOODS ( i )
0.18
  • Found in milk, butter, and meats. [1,18]
Medically reviewed by Sara Osman,RD,PT

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