Are you ready for a diet that is super nutritious? This is the diet plan you need to follow if you want to feel the healthiest you ever have in your life. It is no surprise that more and more people are looking at plant based diets as the go to lifestyle if you want to maximize your nutrient intake.
No other diet stresses the importance of getting so many vegetables into your meals.
Most people will agree that veggies are good for you and highly processed foods are not. It may seem like starting a plant based diet is difficult and there is too much information you need to learn in order to get the nutrients you need to succeed and stay healthy.
Really it is as simple as eat8ing the main food groups: vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts and seeds, healthy vegetable based fats, and legumes.
Here we are going to go over vegan nutrition basics so you can easily jump into a vegan lifestyle.
What is a vegan diet?
It is a diet that consists of only plant based sources of food and eliminates animal products completely. You will not see dairy, eggs, or meat on a vegan diet. Usually if you are on a vegan diet you are for health or ethical reasons. The healthiest vegan diet is a plant based vegan diet. In this type of diet, you don’t rely on heavily processed foods such as faux meats and cheeses or processed convenience foods.
The nutrition basics of a plant based vegan diet
A healthy plant based vegan diet will consist of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
You will want to eat a varied diet every day. Try to get as many different colors into your meals as possible. One of the main reason why our diets are not nutritionally sound is because most people eat a very limited diet. This isn’t a problem just for vegans, but even more so for meat eaters who don’t eat many veggies and fruits.
Vegetables are the staple of a good vegan diet. Getting enough veggies into your meals is easy on a vegan diet. Your meal should be one half to two-thirds vegetables.
In order to get the most from your veggies, avoid over cooking and limit the amount of condiments you are using. If having some vegan ranch with your carrots will get you to eat more, then by all means go ahead, but don’t overdo it and it shouldn’t be at every meal.
You are going to want to include a lot of leafy greens like salad (romaine, green leaf, butter), kale, spinach, swiss chard, mustard greens, and collard greens.
Cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower should be part of your weekly food plan.
Make sure you are getting a lot of different colors by including carrots, eggplant, tomatoes, green beans and peas, bell peppers, corn, mushrooms, asparagus, onions, garlic, potatoes of every color, cabbage, and any other nutritious vegetable you can think of.
Fruits are going to give you those much needed antioxidants. What I like best about fruit is that it comes in every color I can think of. Adding fruit into your diet is a great way to add color and make sure you are getting the right nutrients.
So why are antioxidants important? They are your bodies defense against cell damage and free radicals. Basically, they prevent your body from getting sick, protect against cancer, heart diseases, and many other diseases.
They also keep your skin and body young by preventing and slowing the breakdown of cells from free radicals. If you want that youthful glow, add more fruits into your diet.
Fruit also keeps our digestive tract healthy. Fruit is nutrient dense packing a ton of good for you vitamins and minerals into each piece. It is also high in fiber and has high water content. This is all important to maintain a healthy gut.
Incorporating whole grains into your diet will increase the amount of nutrition you get out of a vegan diet.
You will want to stay away from heavily processed foods and go for grains as close to their whole form as possible. Most processed grain products like cereal, instant oatmeal, and packaged meals contain a lot of sugar, salt, and artificial ingredients.
Some of the best ways to get whole grains that are minimally processed is by eating brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet, buckwheat, oats, barley, and teff. If you eat your grains sprouted, it can be even better for your digestion.
Foods that you can include occasionally are whole wheat pastas and bread. When buying these items, makes sure that it is 100% whole grain. Whole wheat and contains 8 grains don’t necessarily mean it is whole grain.
Getting protein into our diets is necessary for optimal health. As a vegan, the number one question we are all asked is where we get our protein.
There are a number of sources that vegans can get adequate amounts of protein from. Vegetables do have protein in them, 1 cup of spinach has 7 grams.
Legumes will have a higher quantity of protein in each cup though. You will get between 1-15 grams depending on the type of bean. Just one cup of lentils contains 18 grams of protein.
Nut butter, non dairy milk, quinoa, rice, hemp, and chia are all great sources of protein.
Check out this post on getting enough protein on a plant based diet.
Fats and Oils
Healthy fats are important for overall health. You no longer need to be afraid of getting fats into your diet as long as they are the right kinds. You want to stay far away from trans fats and saturated fats.
Some really good vegan fats to include in your diet are avocados, nuts, nut butters, hemp seeds, tahini, cold pressed olive oil, and flaxseeds.
Fats are important for the formation of cells, regulating blood pressure and hormones, absorbing fat soluble vitamins, and eliminating waste from cells.
Vitamins and Minerals
Getting enough vitamins and minerals on a vegan diet is a lot easier than you will think. Most whole foods are very nutricous and contain more than enough vitamins and minerals. You will probably get more vitamins and minerals into your diet than when you were still eating animal products.
The majority of diets centered around animal products are largely deficient in vitamins and minerals.
I wrote a detailed post on the common essential minerals that vegans need. You can find it here.
If you are eating a varied diet of plant based foods, then you don’t need to worry about getting adequate amounts of nutrients on a plant based vegan diet. If you are at all concerned, you can get blood tests done at your doctor’s office and address any areas you are deficient in. There are plenty of multi vitamins that are vegan safe. You can include one daily to be sure you are covered.