. . .A healthy base to build on. . .

Plant Based Diet Healthy Pyramid by Dietitian Lena Gießwein BSc
Vegan Food Pyramid by Lena G. Nutrition

A balanced plant based diet can provide you with all the nutrients* your body needs.


Balanced means a little bit of everything - in the picture above, I tried to include an extract of all the ingredients your diet needs in order to fuel your muscles, your brain and your soul so you can face any challenge coming your way.

The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (A.N.D.), formerly American Dietetic Association (ADA) approves the health benefits (at any life stage) in their position paper of 2009 [10].

Protein - No worries!

Many people tend to think, protein is something rare in our food. Protein is something, everybody who dealt with nutrition at any point of his or her life has thought about. There are companies and health coaches, fitness trainers or magazines that want you to believe it is hard to yield enough of this macro nutrient through "normal" nutrition. Unless your "normal" is doing without whole grains, potatos, pulses, soy products, nuts or seeds you should have sufficient protein for your daily needs. No supplement needed.

What does your body need protein for? Protein is, other than the two other major nutrients (carbohydrates and fats), foremost a building substance for your body and not mainly a source of energy. This might be one reason, many people think protein is THE nutrient to nourish on, which will never make you gain weight. It will make you magically grow muscles. Unfortunately most human bodies don't function by magic and only grow muscle substance when they exercise. Yes, your body will need protein to build up muscle tissue, but around 1 gramme per kilogramme body weight should be enough for this. If you intend to build up extensive amounts of muscle or are an athlete seeking information, personalized advice from health professionals who deal with sports nutrition is highly recommended. Otherwise, you don't have to worry about your muscles fading away just because of a plant based diet - if your work them regularly and nourish on a mix of pulses, soy products, seeds, nuts, whole grains and potatos during every meal, your body will thank you!

* Vitamin B12

Who has already done a bit of research on the plant based / vegan diet, will for sure have read about this micro nutrient (micros are the health-essential little nutrients like vitamins, minerals and phyto chemicals).

This is why: The vegan diet would (without fortified products like plant drinks, cereal or specific supplements from the pharmacy) lack in Vitamin B12 (aka [Methyl-]Cobalamin). Many health professionals or "coaches" propagate, that only animal products provide us humans with this precious, essential substance but have they ever wondered why?

Where do animals, who mainly eat plants, get this vitamin from, then?!

Easy answer: Farming means that farmers are feeding the animals with the substances they choose or get from their supplier. To ensure their growing to be as fast and trouble-free as possible, there are fortified products, which provide the animals with their daily dose of vitamin B 12 and other essential substances.


Vit.B12 requirements of different age groups
Vitamin B12 requirements according to the German Society of Nutrition

Our ancestors probably used to take up Vitamin B12 by eating from the soil without washing everything accurately since Vitamin B12 is produced by micro-organisms. Methylcobalamin is necessary for several functions in our body, as an essential co-factor, involved in cell development. Without it, severe damage is forseeable. Lack in Vitamin B12 results in nerve damage, anaemia, problems within the circulation and nervous system. Pregnant women have to ensure their supply of this nutrient to provide their little passenger with Vitamin B12 as well, so it can develop well [1,2]. Although the absorption of Vitamin B12 takes place in the first part of the small intestine (the intrinsic factor of the stomach cells is needed to absorb it), there is the option to support the uptake with a special, fortified toothpaste. This is possible, because B 12 is bound by proteins in the saliva, so the firt step of digestion, as so often, already happens in the mouth [3].




Other nutrients of concern might be iron, selenium, zinc and iodine. Essential unsaturated fatty acids, for which fish is the most popular but rather the least environmentally friendly source, can be found in nuts, especially walnuts, in seeds, especially linseeds, and their oils and in olives and extra virgin olive oil [4].





  • which is most easily available from red meat and black pudding (a sausage made from blood) is often a lacking nutrient for young women, due to their period. Nutrition societies around the world suggest 10 to 12mg of iron for adults and a bit more, 15mg for women who have their menstruation. People who are not eating any meat train their intestine after some time on a better absorption of plant iron, which has a slightly different structure than the iron in animals (also humans) and has to be processed in the liver before the body can use it.
  • Good sources are dried fruits, whole grains (which have about  2/3 more mineral content than refined grains) as porridge, whole rice, wholemeal bread or other grain products, especially millet and oats are mineral bombs amongst the grains, nuts, dark green leafy vegetables, seeds and pulses like lentils or beans. Other iron rich foods, usually eaten in smaller amounts are soy, herbs like parsley or cress, dark chocolate, molasse and seaweeds. To foster the uptake, Vitamin C (aka. ascorbic acid) in the form of fresh vegetables or fruits should be combined with iron-rich meals and coffee, cocoa and tea have the opposing effect and hinder the absorption of iron, due to their phytates [3, 5].


  • is highly dependent on the soil where crops are grown, European wheat for example has approximately 2µg per 100g while American wheat has about 100µg in the same amount.
  • The daily selenium requirement of about 55µg can be easily taken up with 2-3 brazil nuts, because they are grown in South America, where the soil is rich in selenium. Other locally grown sources would be again pulses and whole grains [3, 6, 7]. 


  • can also be found in whole grains, in seeds and pulses, especially when they are sprouting, in tofu, tempeh, whole grains, nuts and mushrooms which are the easiest "meat-substitute" anyway. The human body needs about 10mg of zinc per day, which is best taken up with protein rich meals like oven dishes, stews or other combinations of pulses and different whole grains or potatos. Again, fruit acid can help the zinc being absorbed [3, 8].


  • can be found in everything, unfortunately only maritime products can provide amounts which are appropriate to support the daily dietary requirements of 150 to 200µg. While fish would be suggested in the omnivore diet as iodine source, the vegan alternative is what fish are eating: Algae and sea weed.
  • In regions, far away from the sea, the iodine uptake is not ensured without fortified products like iodinated table salt, if this is not consumed the goitre is forming, due to a hypertrophic thyroid gland [3, 9].

General Mineral and Vitamin Deficiency Indicators

"Dead" hair, hair loss, dry and brittle nails, dry and sensitive skin, slow healing of wounds, stains on the nails and different nervous symptoms like headaches, fatigue, tingling sensations are signs, that your body is missing something.

This can either be either some dietary requirements which you can get right with a variety or different grains like amaranth, millet, oats, barley, rice etc. in their whole grain version, colourful veg'n'fruit plus pulses like lentils, chick peas, peas and all kinds of beans in your diet.

On the other hand, stress and unpleasant life circumstances are another reason, why your body can show you these indicators. 

If you don't feel balanced and find some of these or other symptoms, take them to your health care professional and they will ideally advise you on dietary/psychological means and supplements to treat them.

During pregnancy, the requirements of most nutrients rise a certain amount, since women have to care for more than one person during these 40 weeks, regular attention from a medical specialist is best to ensure the best possible development.


A commonly critical nutrient: Vitamin D (Cholecalciferol)

  • The "sunshine" vitamin, lacking particularty in the winter in sun deprived regions or in people (no matter the diet) who do not expose their face and arms to sunlight regularly for several minutes a day. Also persons with impaired liver and kidney function have problems, due to the complex process the vitamin has to undergo in these organs to be activated.
  • Vitamin D is necessary to build up bone structure from calcium. Calcium, despite the renouncement of dairy which was thought to be the best source for this mineral, is NOT a problem in a plant based diet. Calium is found in large amounts in sesame and poppy seed, also in herbs, whole grain and pulses [3].



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1 https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/nutrition-and-health/vitamins-minerals-and-nutrients/vitamin-b12-your-key-facts

2 https://www.ernaehrungs-umschau.de/fileadmin/Ernaehrungs-Umschau/pdfs/pdf_2007/10_07/EU10_594_601.qxd.pdf

3 Taschenatlas der Ernährung (6th edition) HK Biesalski, P Grimm. S Nowitzki-Grimm. 2015. Thieme, Stuttgart (D)

4 http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs394/en/

5 http://www.vegansociety.com/sites/default/files/2015-Iron-tips-The-Vegan-Society.pdf

6 https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/nutrition-and-health/vitamins-minerals-and-nutrients/selenium

7 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrQT248wt1U&t=1s

8 http://www.vegansociety.com/sites/default/files/Zinc.pdf

9 https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/Iodine.pdf

10  Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2009 July. Position of the ADA: Vegetarian Diets. W Craig, AR Mangels; (109(7):1266-82.)  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19562864