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What is a vegan diet?

A vegan diet is a type of vegetarian diet that avoids all foods of animal origin and is comprised of plant-based foods instead, such as vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds and fruit.

Is a vegan diet healthy?

According to the American Dietetic Association, a well-planned vegan diet can be healthy, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.

What are the risks of a vegan diet?

A well-planned vegan diet that includes plenty of legumes, tofu, nuts, seeds and whole grains should provide enough protein as well as iron and zinc. Calcium sources for vegans include calcium-fortified soy products, green leafy vegetables and dried figs.

However, vegans risk a deficiency of vitamin B12 as significant amounts are only found in animal foods. Although your body only requires small amounts of vitamin B12, a deficiency can have serious effects such as memory loss and hallucinations. But vegans can get sufficient B12 by including foods fortified with B12 in their diet or by taking a vitamin B12 supplement.

Vegans also risk being low in omega-3 fats found predominantly in fish. However, there are plant sources of omega-3 fats (eg linseed, walnuts, canola oil, omega-3-enriched foods and some leafy greens) as well as supplements based on plant-derived omega-3 fats.

You should check with your doctor or accredited practising dietitian before changing or starting an eating plan such as a vegan diet.

Further information

The Dietitians Association of Australia


American Dietetic Association (ADA). Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Jul 2009; 109(7): 1266–1282.

Better Health Channel. Vegetarian eating. [online] Melbourne, VIC: State Government of Victoria. c1999-2010 [updated May 2010, accessed 2 Aug 2010] Available from:

Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA). Vegetarian diets. [online] Deakin, ACT: DAA. [updated 27 Aug 2008, accessed 2 Aug 2010] Available from:

Key TJ, Davey GK, Appleby PN. Health benefits of a vegetarian diet. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 1999; 58(2): 271–275.

Mann JI. Optimizing the plant-based diet. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2000; 9(Suppl): S60–64.

This information has been developed and reviewed for Bupa by health professionals. To the best of their knowledge it is current and based on reputable sources of medical research. It should be used as a guide only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical or other health professional advice.

Bupa Australia Pty Ltd makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. Bupa Australia is not liable for any loss or damage you suffer arising out of the use of or reliance on the information. Except that which cannot be excluded by law. We recommend that you consult your doctor or other qualified health professional if you have questions or concerns about your health. For more details on how we produce our health content, visit the About our health information page.

Last published 31 October 2010

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