The vegan diet excludes all foods produced from animals or their bodily outputs. Does this result in deficiencies or can all the important nutrients be provided by vegan diet ingredients alone?
I have created a free web app (https://www.veebe.app/) that can help us answer this question. It takes a list of ingredients from a vegan recipe and outputs the amount of each vitamin and mineral as well as carbohydrate, fat, protein and calories. Now we can see straight away if a recipe is low on any nutrient.
Let's consider an example dinner recipe for a vegan diet. Here's Jamie Oliver's Aubergine penne arrabbiata:
So what does Jamie's recipe give us in terms of nutritional content? Let's pop the ingredients into Veebe and see (note that we also set portions to 4 as stated in the recipe):
When we click on "Update" the first thing we see is that each ingredient was matched with one in the USDA Food Data Central database:
You can click the links to visit FDC for all the detail on each ingredient.
It is important to scan through the matched ingredients and check they are correct as all the nutrition data is based on them. If there is an error, try editing your ingredient list and clicking "Update" again.
In our case, everything is good and we can proceed to see what, if anything, might be lacking from this vegan diet example. Let's first look at the calories and macros:
This looks pretty good - there's a decent proportion of protein. 334 calories seems a bit low for a dinner meal so we might want to split it between fewer portions. This is what we get by changing portions to 3:
That looks better. Let's move on to the micro-nutrients. First, vitamins:
We're rather low on:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
We could amend the recipe to include sources of these vitamins, take supplement pills or make sure to include them in other meals during the day. Let's add 1 tbsp of nutritional yeast:
That looks much better - just a bit low on Vitamin D. How about minerals?
Calcium is a bit low but otherwise looking good. Note that sodium should be kept fairly low - the RDA is a maximum value.
We've seen how easy it is to check the nutritional content of a vegan diet recipe so we can fill in the gaps of nutrients that tend to be less abundant in the vegan diet and make sure each meal is nutritionally complete.