What else can we learn from vegetarians and vegans?

Long-term studies have shown that chronic illnesses occur much less frequently in vegans and vegetarians (Leitzmann/Hahn, 1996). By regularly consuming large amounts of fiber and increasing physical activity, they are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes II and certain types of cancer. Vegetarians and vegans are, on average, healthier not by avoiding meat, but rather by increasing their intake of plant-based foods. The vegan diet provides bioactive substances, including fiber, substances in lactic fermented foods and secondary plant substances, all of which have a preventative effect on cardiovascular and cancer diseases. (Leitzmann; Keller; Hahn, 1999)

Vegan diet and its risks

As promising as the vegan diet sounds, it brings with it many difficulties. Vitamin deficiencies are inevitable for vegans. The absorption of vitamin B12 is a particular problem, as it is hardly or not sufficiently present in plant-based foods. “The potentially critical nutrients in a vegan diet also include protein or essential amino acids and long-chain n3 fatty acids as well as other vitamins (riboflavin, vitamin D) and minerals (calcium, iron, iodine, zinc, selenium). Therefore, “for Pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, infants, children and young people... a vegan diet is not recommended by the DGE. (see DGE, 2016)

Top 10 vegan foods

Which nutrients and how much of them does the body actually need to function optimally? The following top 10 vegan foods provide information about what your daily requirement is and how you can get the essential nutrients without fish, meat, eggs and dairy products.

Top 1: Better B12 absorption through sauerkraut

Daily requirement for vitamin B12: a total of 3 μg (DA-CH reference values, 2008)

For a vegan diet: take a vitamin B12 dietary supplement with at least 10 μg of vitamin B12 once a day or take a vitamin B12 dietary supplement with 2,000 μg of vitamin B12 once a week. (Vebu, 2016)

When it comes to plant-based foods, vitamin B12 is also found in fermented foods such as sauerkraut. However, the quantities are too small to ensure sufficient supply. However, sauerkraut supports intestinal function and improves intestinal flora. Optimal intestinal function is necessary in order to absorb the vitamin B12, for example through dietary supplements or breakfast cereals, juices or soy milk containing B12.

Top 2: Iodine through carrots and broccoli

Daily requirement for iodine: 180-200µg for adults (Kofrányi; Wirths, 2008)

Carrots and broccoli contain approximately equal amounts of iodine. For example, if you eat a broccoli (approx. 500g) and half a packet of carrots (approx. 500g) a day, you have already covered your daily requirement of 180µg. Carrots are nutrient-rich and inexpensive foods that can be served wonderfully as a side dish or in the form of soups. If there isn't enough time for a large portion of vegetables, ordinary iodized salt can also be used to absorb the essential nutrient.

Top 3: Calcium, magnesium and iron from sea vegetables

Daily requirement: calcium 1000mg, magnesium 350-400mg and iron 10-15mg (Kofrányi; Wirths, 2008).

In Asia, algae is served on the table every day, while Europeans still view it critically. But algae with the names nori, kombu, wakamé, hijiki and dulse can already be found on the market in Germany and can be prepared tasty and used, for example, as a substitute for salad or spinach. A portion of algae (approx. 100g) already contains more than the daily requirement for magnesium (770mg) and iron (21.4mg) and more than half of the daily requirement for calcium (625mg). Who doesn't

Top 4: A package full of vital substances from almonds

Almonds contain almost all of the nutrients that are particularly important in a vegan diet. In addition to vitamin B1, B2 (riboflavin) and B6, they are rich in calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc.

A handful of almonds (approx. 30g) already contains 3.5g of the important fiber and also provides the optimal ratio of unsaturated (approx. 7g) and saturated (approx. 1g) fatty acids.

Top 5: Omega-3 power from linseed oil

Consumption recommendation for fat: Max 30% of the daily energy intake in the form of fat (at 2500 kcal/day this is around 80g fat), of which around 25 are saturated fatty acids.

The absolute must for vegans is unsaturated alpha-linolenic acid, which is particularly rich in linseed oil. It is a precursor for the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have a beneficial effect on physical health (see article Omega-3). One tablespoon (approx. 10g) already contains 6.8g of the good alpha-linolenic acid. That's already 10% of the recommended daily amount of fats.

Top 6: Valuable source of protein: lentils and sprouted lentils

Daily protein requirement: 0.8-2g/kg body weight max. 120g/day for women and max. 140g/day for men.

To cover your protein needs without meat, fish and eggs, you quickly end up with legumes, as they are particularly rich in protein. A portion of lentils (100g) contains approx. 25g and covers a quarter of your daily requirement. When sprouted, lentils also provide all essential amino acids and are richer in fiber. A delicious lentil salad also supplies the body with valuable vitamins and minerals.

Top 7: A plus in amino acids through quinoa

Quinoa not only contains large amounts of fiber (10-16g/100g) but also essential amino acids. In particular, the amino acid lysine, which is only found in a few foods, is sufficiently present in quinoa. With a tasty quinoa salad or quinoa as a side dish, you support your tissue and the regeneration of body cells through lysine.

Top 8: Great for the intestines: fiber from sprouts

Recommended consumption: At least 30g of fiber per day. (DA-CH reference values, 2008)

Fiber fills you up and supports digestion. They are rich in seedlings. Seedlings are sprouted seeds and are therefore also referred to as “sprouts”. During the transformation process, the nutritional value of the seedlings increases significantly compared to seeds. “The content of vitamins and fiber increases, as does the availability of minerals. Substances that reduce value are partly broken down. The energy content decreases, not least due to the high water absorption of the plant.” (Kofrányi; Wirths, 2008, p. 291)

Top 9: Optimal selenium power through Brussels sprouts

Reference values: for adult men 70 µg per day, women 60 µg per day (DGE, 2015)

Selenium is an important trace element that is found in 30 different proteins. It has antioxidant effects and when deficient, thyroid diseases and viral infections are more common. A portion of Brussels sprouts (250g) already contains 45 µg of selenium.

Top 10: Supplied with zinc from pumpkin seeds and oats

Recommended intake: 7-10mg per day for adults (Kofrányi; Wirths, 2008)

In addition to selenium, zinc is an important trace element, as a zinc deficiency can affect the skin and nervous system as well as the immune system. A portion of oat flakes (4mg per 100g) with two tablespoons of pumpkin puree (2mg per 25g) can cover almost your daily requirement with 6mg of zinc.


Ernst Kofrányi and Willi Wirths: Introduction to nutrition. Neustadt an der Weinstrasse 2008.

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