Many people give up early on healthy eating due to the constant distraction of daily living, while others find it too hard to forge ahead with veganism because of lack of options. However, healthy eating doesn’t have to be hard at all. You can add these 9 healthy vegan foods to your diet without making any sacrifices…

In fact, you won’t have to give up your favorite snack! Making a few changes each day can add up to surprising results. The biggest change is from processed foods and take-out meals to home cooking.

Going vegan can be a smart move towards healthy eating, and one of the first tips we suggest is adding a new vegetable to your diet every week. And remember, just because it’s a vegetable, doesn’t mean you should deep-fry it!

What Is A Vegan?

A vegan is a type of vegetarian diet that excludes all animal products including meat, dairy products, eggs and all forms of processed foods using animal products like refined white sugar and specific types of wines. Some vegans extend their definition of veganism to include doing away with household products made from animal products like leather, wool or fur.

What Do Vegans Eat, Exactly?

Many times you will hear people ask what vegans actually eat. In short, any vegan diet includes all grains, vegetables, beans, fruits, and legumes and many other kinds of food that aren’t animal byproducts. While these types of diets may be gaining popularity among many people across the world, if not well planned, it may result in various risks associated with nutrient deficiency.

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Other vegan versions of foods available include ice cream, non-dairy yogurt, veggie burgers, cheese, meat substitute products, and vegan hot dogs among others. As earlier mentioned, you do not have to do away with all your favorite foods to be vegan. Familiar everyday foods like spaghetti, sandwiches, peanut butter, chips, and salad form part of the vegan diet.

The 9 Healthy Vegan Foods That Should Be In Everybody’s Diet

Legumes

Vegans avoid taking any form of animal product such as meat, fish, eggs, and poultry which are mainly known as the traditional sources of protein and iron.

This being the case, it is critical that these products from animals are replaced with plant products which are rich in proteins and iron. The best alternative is by including legumes in your diet.

Beans, peas, and lentils can be great replacements for animal proteins since they contain up to 20gms of protein/cooked cup. They also provide the body with zinc, fiber, antioxidants, iron, manganese, carbs that are slowly digested and other compounds that are crucial for healthy living and well being.

Vegan diets are however said to lower the mineral-absorption. For instance, they reduce the absorption of iron by 50% and zinc by 35% in comparison with the intake of the same elements from meat. To increase zinc and iron absorption found in legumes and other vegan foods, it is advisable to avoid taking them together with foods rich in calcium since calcium hinders their absorption. Instead, you should combine legumes with foods rich in vitamin C such as fruits and veggies to help increase the absorption rate of zinc and iron.

Hemp, Chia, & Flax Seeds

These are some of the most nutritious grains you always need to consider. They contain a significant amount of protein compared to other types of seeds (9grams of protein per 28grams of hemp seeds). The protein is also easily digestible.

The seeds also contain a perfect ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which is optimal for the health of human beings. Other researchers indicate that hemp seeds contain essential fats that may help in the treatment of PMS symptoms.

Flax and chia seeds, on the other hand, have high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids (ALA) which is easily converted into EPA and DHA in the body. The two are then used in developing the nerves, treatment of depression, anxiety and inflammation. Since EPA is found in plenty of fish, vegans have to get these nutrients from such seeds.

Nuts & Nut Butters

No vegan diet goes without nuts and seeds only because the two contain sufficient amount of protein to replace protein-rich animal products.

Nuts also provide sufficient amount of iron, magnesium, zinc, vitamin E and fiber as well as antioxidants that are beneficial to the body. While choosing nuts and seeds, it is good to consider the unprocessed or unroasted to ensure nutrients are not lost in the processes.

Tofu & Other Unprocessed (Or Partially Processed Meat Substitutes)

Soybeans are known to help in making Tofu and tempeh which are partially processed substitutes for meat. They contain a right amount of proteins (16-19gms/100gm portion). They also supply the body with sufficient amount of iron and calcium.

Another good meat substitute is Seitan which provides close to 25gms of protein/100gms. It also has small traces of iron, phosphorus, and calcium.

Plant Yogurts & Plant Milks Fortified with Calcium

Due to a low intake of calcium by vegans, the consequences may be affected bone health especially if the consumption of calcium falls below 525mg per day.

Seaweed

This is among the few plants that contain a right amount of DHA which is an essential fatty acid providing numerous health benefits. Seaweed contains other essential elements such as magnesium, manganese, iodine, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B-12 and antioxidants besides the needed protein.

Nutritional Yeast

This is commonly found in supermarkets in the form of a yellow powder or flakes. It is manufactured from a deactivated strain of yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and is highly rich in protein and fiber. This type of fungus is also fortified with magnesium, zinc, manganese, copper and vitamins B like B12among other essential elements.

However, you may not rely on non-fortified yeast as a source of vitamin B12, and since the vitamin is sensitive to light, the yeast should not be stored in transparent plastic bags to avoid its degradation.

Fermented & Sprouted Plant Foods

Majority of plant foods are highly nutritious, however, due to the number of anti-nutrients in them, mineral absorption by the body is hindered.

Fermentation and sprouting have been proved to help in reducing the number of anti-nutrients in various plant foods and increasing the absorption of essential nutrients from the foods and boosting the quality of the proteins.

Whole Grains & Cereals

These are perfect sources of fiber, iron, complex carbs, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium and B vitamins among others. They also contain varying amounts of proteins to replace animal protein. Teff is an excellent example of the ancient grains containing 10-11 gms of protein and quinoa which contains about nine gms of protein.

These grains and cereals, however, contain anti-nutrients that may hinder absorption of crucial nutrients. They, therefore, need sprouting to help reduce the anti-nutrients and boost the incorporation of the essential nutrients.

Conclusion

Vegans are known to entirely avoid all foods whose nutrients are of the animal origin including eggs, meat, and other animal processed products. Though many people believe that vegan diet is the best healthy diet, if not appropriately combined, it may lead to a deficiency in specific nutrients.

Making sure you have a perfect diet plan is what you need to maintain sufficient supply of the necessary nutrients that may be lacking after doing away with animal products. As a vegan, you can stay healthy without having to worry about nutrient deficiencies provided you include the various foods discussed above – without forgetting plenty of fruits and water.

If you are a vegan and find it difficult to eat the various foods discussed above in sufficient quantities, you may consider some well-known supplements for backup.

Post submitted by: Margaux Diaz

Written by Chief Health

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