How to Be a Vegan

Vegan Plate

Veg­an Plate by PCRM (vis­it for more info.)

What do Bill Clin­ton, Ali­cia Sil­ver­stone and Fiona Apple have in com­mon?  They’re all veg­ans.  It took Mr. Clin­ton a quadru­ple bypass surgery plus, a few years lat­er, an addi­tion­al vis­it to the heart sur­geon before he decid­ed his well-known runs to McDonald’s need­ed to change.

There are many ways to eat a healthy diet, veg­an­ism can be one of them, if planned cor­rect­ly.

Why go veg­an?  Peo­ple become veg­an for var­i­ous rea­sons.  I list­ed three of the most com­mon rea­sons here.

1.  Health: A well planned and bal­anced veg­an diet can result in:

  • low­er BMI
  • low­er risk of heart dis­ease
  • low­er risk of high blood pres­sure
  • decreased rates of type 2 dia­betes
  • low­er risk of cer­tain types of can­cer
  • low­er cho­les­terol lev­els
  • low­er risk of gall­stones and intesti­nal prob­lems
  • reduced symp­toms of rheuma­toid arthri­tis

2.  Envi­ron­men­tal:  Indus­tri­al Agri­cul­ture uses unsus­tain­able amounts of fos­sil fuel, water and soil, adds to pol­lu­tion and results in declin­ing bio­di­ver­si­ty and fish.  To pro­duce one pound of beef requires 2400 gal­lons of water and 7 pounds of grain.

3. Eth­i­cal:  Fac­to­ry farms try to pro­duce inex­pen­sive meat, egg and dairy prod­ucts which results in con­fined cages, pens, restric­tive stalls and many oth­er forms of ani­mal cru­el­ty. 

How to become veg­an?

What foods to avoid:

1.    All red meats and prod­ucts such as broth made from them.

2.    All poul­try and fish and prod­ucts such as broth made from them.

3.    Dairy prod­ucts: milk, cheese, cream cheese, yogurt

4.    Ani­mal-based fats: but­ter, lard

5.    Eggs and egg prod­ucts

6.    Hon­ey

What foods to include:

1.    Choose pro­teins sources from beans, legumes, nuts and nut but­ters, non-dairy milk sources such as soy milk, soy yogurt, tofu, tem­peh, sei­tan and egg sub­sti­tutes

2.    Fruits and veg­eta­bles, veg­etable broth:  Choose a vari­ety of col­ors and prefer­ably local and in sea­son

3.    Car­bo­hy­drates: Aim for whole grains such as bar­ley, oats, quinoa, mil­let, whole wheat pas­ta

4.    Fats: Choose veg­etable oils, nuts and seeds

Make sure you get enough of these nutri­ents:

Pro­tein: Plant-based pro­teins are absorbed dif­fer­ent­ly than ani­mal based pro­teins, so it’s rec­om­mend­ed that veg­ans get slight­ly high­er amounts than non-veg­ans. The rec­om­mend­ed amount for veg­e­tar­i­ans and veg­ans is 1.0g of pro­tein per kg body weight or 0.45 g per pound of body weight.

Good sources of plant-based pro­teins are: beans, legumes, nuts and nut but­ters, soy or rice or almond milk, soy yogurt, tofu, tem­peh, sei­tan, egg sub­sti­tute, Red Star nutri­tion­al yeast

Iron: Plant-based iron, or non-heme iron is not absorbed as well as ani­mal, or heme iron. As a result, the rec­om­mend­ed amounts of iron for veg­e­tar­i­ans is 1.8 times the reg­u­lar DRI, which is 32.4 g for adult women ages 19–50 and 14.4 mg for adult men ages 19+. This prac­tice is some­what con­tro­ver­sial and not all experts agree. Rec­om­men­da­tions were based on only one study and did not reflect veg­e­tar­i­ans actu­al diets. Also, stud­ies show that the body adapts over time to low­er intakes of iron and becomes more effi­cient at tak­ing in iron. For bet­ter absorp­tion, con­sume iron-rich foods with vit­a­min C.

Good sources of iron: soy­beans, lentils, black­strap molasses, kid­ney beans, chick­peas, bok choy. The use of cast-iron skil­lets also con­tributes to iron intake. In addi­tion, soak­ing and sprout­ing beans, grains and seeds helps enhance iron absorp­tion.

Zinc: Rec­om­mend­ed amounts of zinc is 8 mg for women and 11 mg for men. Empha­size whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and for­ti­fied cere­als. Choose fer­ment­ed soy foods such as tem­peh or miso for bet­ter absorp­tion and include foods high in pro­tein. Take cal­ci­um sup­ple­ments sep­a­rate from zinc sources since iron and cal­ci­um decreas­es zinc absorp­tion. When large dos­es of iron are tak­en, as dur­ing preg­nan­cy, also take zinc sup­ple­ments.

Cal­ci­um: Rec­om­mend­ed amounts for adult men and women ages 19–50 is 1000 mg a day and 1200 mg for women ages 51–70. Good cal­ci­um sources are in dark leafy green veg­eta­bles, tofu made with cal­ci­um sul­fate, cal­ci­um for­ti­fied soy milk, nut and nut but­ters, black­strap molasses, seeds and seed prod­ucts such as tahi­ni.

Vit­a­min D: Rec­om­mend­ed amounts are 600 IU a day for peo­ple ages 1–70 (see post on Vit­a­min D). Vit­a­min D sources are for­ti­fied soymilk, rice milk and soy prod­ucts.

B12: Rec­om­mend­ed amount for men and women is 2.4 mcg. Vit­a­min B12 is gen­er­al­ly not found in plant foods, choose vit­a­min B12 sup­ple­ments or foods for­ti­fied with B12 such as Red Star nutri­tion­al yeast, for­ti­fied soy or rice milk, meat analogs, for­ti­fied break­fast cere­als. One cup of rice or soy milk can have from 1–3 mcg per cup.

Omega 3 fats:  There are 3 omega 3 fat­ty acids: Alpha-linolenic acid(ALA), Docosa­hexaenoic Acid (DHA) and Eicos­apen­taenoic acid (EPA). The body can con­vert ALA to EPA and DHA but not very effi­cient­ly. As a result it’s rec­om­mend­ed that veg­an men aim for 2.2–5.3g of ALA and veg­an women aim for 1.8–4.4g, or 1–2% of total calo­ries. Active, heav­ier and preg­nant peo­ple should aim for the high­er end range and small­er, less active peo­ple should aim for the low­er end range. To increase pro­duc­tion of EPA and DHA reg­u­lar­ly con­sume good sources of ALA. It’s also impor­tant to pay atten­tion to the omega 6 fats you eat, since they inter­fere with the pro­duc­tion of EPA and DHA. Omega 6 fats can be found in sun­flower, saf­flower, corn and sesame oil.

Good sources of ALA are: flaxseed (ground), flaxseed oil, canola oil, tofu, soy­beans, hemp prod­ucts and wal­nuts. If you are sup­ple­ment­ing with DHA or EPA, aim for the rec­om­mend­ed amount for non-veg­ans which is 1.6 g for men and 1.1 g for women.

Also see video of Dr Hibbeln researcher of the NIH, talk­ing about Omega 3’s and Veg­ans.  Click: HERE


Also see post on How to be a Veg­e­tar­i­an. Nutri­ents to Con­sid­er

For veg­an recipes go to: Recipes


Rec­om­mend­ed Veg­an Resources:
Veg­e­tar­i­an Nutri­tion:

Physi­cians Com­mit­tee for Respon­si­ble Med­i­cine:  a project of Veg­an Out­reach:

The Veg­e­tar­i­an Resource Group:  Nutri­tion infor­ma­tion and recipes.

Veg­e­tar­i­an Nutri­tion Info:

Veg­web:  Veg­e­tar­i­an and Veg­an recipes.  Recipes, tons of infor­ma­tion and restau­rant guide.



1. World Resources Insti­tute. World Resources 2000–2001: Peo­ple and Ecosys­tems: The Fray­ing Web of Life. Wash­ing­ton, DC:World Resources Insti­tute, 2000. 2. Posi­tion of the Amer­i­can Dietet­ic Asso­ci­a­tion: Veg­e­tar­i­an Diets. Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Dietet­ic Asso­ci­a­tion. 2009; 109: 1266–1282.

3. Dietary Ref­er­ence Intakes: Macronu­tri­ents. Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences. Insti­tute of Med­i­cine. Food and Nutri­tion Board. DRI table for car­bo­hy­drate, fiber, fat, fat­ty acids and pro­tein.

4. Food and Nutri­tion Board, Insti­tute of Med­i­cine. Dietary Ref­er­ence Intakes for Vit­a­min A, Vit­a­min K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromi­um, Cop­per, Iodine, Iron, Man­ganese, Molyb­de­num, Nick­el, Sil­i­con, Vana­di­um, and Zinc. Wash­ing­ton, DC: Nation­al Acad­e­my Press, 2001.

5. Man­gels R. “Update on the New DRI’s” Veg­e­tar­i­an Nutri­tion Update Sum 2001;10(4):1–7.

6. Physi­cians Com­mit­tee for Respon­si­ble Med­i­cine.


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