Vegans avoid all animal foods because of ethical, environmental, or health reasons. Unfortunately, depending solely on plant-based foods can increase the danger of nutrient deficiencies and other problems. Therefore, vegans should be extremely careful to avoid such problems.
It is important for vegans to plan their diet to ensure that they acquire all the essential nutrients. They should include a wide variety of plant-based foods in their everyday diet like whole and fortified foods. There is a large number of nutrient-rich plant-based foods for vegans to add to their meal plans. The following are some of such foods that are an essential part of healthy vegan diets:
As vegans avoid traditional sources of protein and iron including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, etc., they need alternative sources to attain these important nutrients. Fortunately, there is an enormous number of plant-based foods that are high in protein and iron which are suitable for vegans to include in their diet. One of the best foods among them is legumes.
Various legumes including lentils, beans, peas, etc. are excellent sources of protein. They contain almost 10-20 grams of protein per cup.
Additionally, legumes are an excellent source of fiber, iron, zinc, manganese, folate, slowly digested carbs, antioxidants, and an enormous number of other health-promoting plant compounds.
However, legumes also contain high amounts of antinutrients, which are compounds that might restrict the absorption of essential nutrients by your body. But you can reduce the levels of such compounds by fermenting, cooking, or sprouting these plant-based foods. This will help to reduce the amounts of antinutrients in legumes thereby increasing the absorption of important nutrients.
Also, it is important to keep in mind that calcium-rich foods can reduce the absorption of minerals like iron and zinc. Therefore, try to avoid the consumption of such foods along with your iron sources.
If you want to improve the absorption of iron, you can take foods that contain vitamin C with your iron-rich foods. This can help to maximize the absorption of iron.
Seeds, Nuts, And Nut Butters
They create healthy snacking options for vegans. Seeds, nuts, and different products made from them are very nutrient-rich, and including them in your vegan meal plans can help to get different health benefits.
Just one ounce of seeds or nuts contain 5-12gms of protein. Additionally, they also contain iron, magnesium, fiber, selenium, zinc, and vitamin E. They are also a great source of powerful antioxidants and many other health-promoting plant compounds.
Some of the best nuts to include in your diet are almonds, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, chestnuts, etc.
Also, there is a large number of healthy seeds you can consume including chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, etc.
You can also get the benefits provided by nuts and seeds from their butters too. However, make sure to avoid butters with added sugar and other artificial ingredients.
Tofu And Other Meat Substitutes That Are ProcessedMinimally
Meat substitutes made from soybeans including tofu, tempeh, etc. are other healthy foods to include in your vegan diet. They are good sources of protein, iron, and calcium.
Tofu, which is made from soybean curds, is a great replacement for meat products. It can be included in a wide variety of recipes. Tempeh is another popular product that is made from fermented soybeans. The distinctive flavor of tempeh makes it a great alternative for fish. It can be used in a large number of other recipes too.
The fermentation process can be beneficial for reducing the levels of antinutrients that are present in soybeansnaturally. This can increase the absorption of nutrients present in tempeh. Additionally, the fermentation process might result in the production of small levels of vitamin B12 in tempeh. This vitamin is not naturally present in soybeans or any other plant-based foods for that matter. Therefore, tempeh can help vegans to get this important vitamin.
However, the levels of vitamin B12 will be very low in tempeh and the amount of this vitamin can vary from one brand to another. Hence, when following a vegan diet, make sure not to solely rely on tempeh for vitamin B12.
Fortified Plant-Based Milks
There is a wide range of plant-based milks that are suitable for vegans. Most of them are fortified with nutrients like calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin D, etc. so that vegans can derive various nutrients present in dairy products from plant-based milks.
Some of the popular non-dairy milks include soymilk, rice milk, almond milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, etc. Including different plant-based milk and their by-products in your vegan diet can help to derive a large number of nutrients.
If you are following a vegan diet, it is crucial for you to include various nutrient-rich foods in your everyday meals for acquiring all the essential nutrients that are necessary for your body. The foods listed above are some of the healthy options to add to your vegan diet, as they are rich in nutrients and provide a wide array of health benefits.