Veganism isn’t uncommon these days, so most people probably know that vegans avoid any form of meat or products derived from animals. While there are various reasons for this, including environmental, health factors, and ethical reasons, this choice comes with a host of benefits and consequences.
A major consequence attached to switching to a vegan lifestyle is a reduction in protein intake. Without the right dietary plans, this could be extremely harmful to your health and general wellbeing as its tough to regulate your meals to make up for the reduction in protein.
Here are 10 food sources vegan diets should consist of:
Legumes generally are an excellent source of fiber, zinc, iron, folate, and other health-promoting plant compounds. It should be noted though, that legumes contain a good amount of anti-nutrients, which can reduce the rate of mineral absorption.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts, seeds, and their byproducts are a great replacement for animal protein. On average, 28 grams of nuts contains between 5 to 12 grams of protein depending on the type. They are very versatile and can be eaten alone as a snack or worked into recipes.
Nuts contain a host of useful plant compounds, including iron fiber, zinc, selenium, and others. They are also known to contain antioxidants, useful to the body. Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts, and pistachios are good examples of easily available nuts.
Fruits are essential both for vegans and non-vegans. Vegans can take their fruit consumption a step further by deliberately using fruit as meat and animal product substitutes.
Mashed bananas, for example, can be used as replacements for eggs in baking recipes. Jackfruit makes a great stand-in for meat in savory dishes due to its unique texture. The versatility of fruits makes them viable options for replacing animal products.
Lentils are legumes that are particularly high in protein, having up to 18 grams of protein per cup. They are also valuable for their fiber.
Seaweed is not as common, but it is known to contain DHA, which is an essential fatty acid with many health benefits. Seaweeds are blessed with iodine, magnesium, manganese, potassium, riboflavin, and good amounts of antioxidants.
Some seaweed such as spirulina and chlorella are good sources of complete protein, while kelp contains a high amount of iodine, which should be limited in its intake. Seaweed can be found in most grocery stores and is becoming a popular, nutritious snack.
Nutritional yeast comes in yellow powder or flakes and is derived from a deactivated strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast. Nutritional yeast contains zinc, copper, magnesium, manganese, and B vitamins, including vitamin B12.
Keep in mind that vitamin B12 is light sensitive. Nutritional yeast should not be kept in clear plastic bags. Although it looks unappetizing, it has a savory, cheese-like flavor and therefore is a great option for sprinkling over snacks (like popcorn) or using as a “cheese” in sauces and soups.
Tofu and Tempeh
Tofu and tempeh are both products made up of soybeans. Soybeans are also considered a vegan option with complete protein. While tempeh is made by cooking and slightly fermenting mature soybeans before pressing them into paste or patty, tofu is made from bean curds pressed together in a process similar to cheese making.
Tofu is high in protein and fat; tempeh is more varied, with high protein, fat, carbs, iron, calcium, and more.
Sprouted and Fermented plant food
Sprouted nuts and grains are becoming more and more popular these days, and for good reason. They provide a good source of nutrients and protein, and cut down on the anti-nutrients contained in their un-sprouted, original forms.
Fermented products include kimchi, miso, and the previously mentioned tempeh. Aside from the protein content, fermented foods boost digestion health and have a great impact on your immune system.
Chia seeds are the edible form of a seed from a flowering plant in the mint family. They are quite fascinating, being small seeds with an impressive amount of protein and other nutrients such as calcium, zinc, and iron. Chia seeds are easy to add into snacks, smoothies, and meals for an added boost.
Calcium-fortified plant milk and Yogurts
Many people, not only vegans, have begun to move away from animal dairy products for various reasons. These dairy products have been replaced by plant milks such as almond, soy, and coconut milk. These plant-based substitutes can be fortified by calcium and other vitamins and minerals.
Although lower in protein than animal dairy products, it does still contain protein and is better for your digestive health.
Going vegan is an honorable choice, and a hard one once you realize that maintaining a balanced diet gets harder. But a little bit of research shows that it’s possible to find protein, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients across a wide variety of plant-based products.
To keep your body and health functioning in top shape, pay attention to what you’re consuming and keep it varied!