A plant-based diet lacks quite a few essential nutrients. For a vegan to not develop a deficiency, they must ensure that they nourish themselves with available plant-based foods and fill the void left by animal-based food. Adding fortified and whole foods to the daily diet can also help make up for the deficiencies.
Foods and food groups
Here are 8 food groups that every vegan should try to include in their diet plan.
Replacing animal products that are rich in protein and iron with plant-based alternatives should not be very difficult since there is a wide variety that we can incorporate into our diet. Legumes, beans, lentils, green leafy vegetables, and peas are some of the plant-based alternatives, containing protein(about 10-20 grams) and iron. Adopting processes like soaking, fermenting and proper cooking could help in better absorption of nutrients.
- Nuts, nut butter, and seeds
Nuts and seeds are said to be rich in proteins and healthy fats, hence incorporating them in different ways in your diet could be worthwhile. A 1-ounce (28 grams) serving of nuts or seeds could provide your body with 5-12 grams of protein. The cherry on the cake would be, that if you love to eat nuts and seeds, they could satisfy your cravings too.
- Hemp, flax, and chia seeds
1 ounce (28 grams) of hemp seeds contains 9 grams of complete, easily digestible protein. It has also been found through research that hemp seeds may help in mitigating symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and menopause, reduce inflammation and improve certain skin conditions.
High amounts of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and omega-3 fatty acids are found in chia seeds and flax seeds, Of which omega-3 fatty acid is partly converted to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which play an important part in wear and tear of the nervous system, and are beneficial for inflammation, depression, and anxiety.
- Tofu and other minimally processed meat substitutes
Tofu and tempeh contain 9-20 grams of protein per portion (100 grams), made from soybeans. They are also good sources of iron and calcium. Tofu, a popular replacement for meats, is made by pressing soybean curds while tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. Its characteristic flavour makes it a preferred replacement for fish. Tempeh also contains Vitamin B12, but it remains unclear whether it is active in humans.
Seaweed is one of the rare plant-based foods that contain docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an essential fatty acid with many benefits. It provides us with 8 grams of protein per 30 ml of serving.
Magnesium, riboflavin, manganese, potassium, and antioxidants are some other nutrients that seaweed is a good source of.
- Nutritional yeast
Nutritional yeast is made from a deactivated strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (type of yeast). It can be found in the form of yellow powder or flakes. 16 grams of protein and 6 grams of fibre are found in 1 ounce (28 grams) of nutritional yeast.
Additionally, it is fortified with B vitamins, including vitamin B12 hence, it can be a feasible way for vegans to meet their daily vitamin B12 needs.
- Whole grains, cereals, and pseudocereals
Whole grains, cereals and pseudocereals are excellent sources of nutrients such as complex carbohydrates, fibre, and iron as well as Vitamin-B, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium.
Nonetheless, some varieties can be more nutritious than others, notably when it comes to protein.
- Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are excellent substitutes for vitamins and minerals that are obtained from animal-based foods. Vegans, instead of relying on mock meats, can try out several ways to inculcate fruits and vegetables into their daily dietary routine. For example:
- Eggs can be replaced by mashed bananas in baking recipes.
- Fruit smoothies can have banana or coconut milk rather than dairy-originated milk, along with a dash of a few selected seeds can also be an option.
- Jackfruit is a great stand-in for meat in savoury dishes such as stir-fries and barbecue sandwiches.
- Cauliflower is a versatile addition to many recipes, including pizza crust in place of dairy-based items like cottage cheese.
Newly turned vegans have various options that can replace their favourite animal-based foods and products that can give their diet the much-required versatility. The inclusion of different food groups can help them achieve their daily nutrient requirements and can keep them away from several nutrient deficiencies.
Microgreens are called superfoods by some people because they are dense in vitamins and minerals. Hence, the consumption of microgreens along with foods and food groups mentioned above can significantly help them achieve dietary diversity.