What do vegans eat?
When you adopt a vegan lifestyle, you need to consider where you’ll be getting the key vitamins and minerals that you’d normally get from meat or dairy. You’ll be able to find it all in a well-balanced vegan diet, but you need to make sure you’re eating a variety of foods to cover everything.
It’s particularly important to make sure you have enough protein and calcium-rich foods in your diet to support healthy muscles and bones.
Here’s an overview on what you should have in your diet as part of a well-balanced vegan diet:
1) Vegetables: Let’s start with an obvious one. Vegetables make up a very large proportion of a vegan diet. There’s a huge variety to choose from, and they lend themselves to all kinds of cooking styles. They’re also a great source of dietary fibre, providing a range of essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
2) Fruits: Another obvious one, fruit has many health benefits. It can offer large amounts of vitamin C and antioxidants, which help in maintaining a healthy immune system. Whole fruits are also a good source of fibre, though it’s important to remember that fruit juices and smoothies can provide a lot of sugar without the added nutritional benefits that come from eating the whole fruit.
Jackfruit has also become popular with vegans as an alternative to meat. Its appearance and texture make it an ideal replica for pulled pork or chicken in certain recipes.
3) Whole grains: The wholegrains in bread, dried pasta and rice provide key carbohydrates. Their natural sugars are released into the body slowly, which keeps you going without dramatic spikes in your blood sugar. White bread, rice and pasta are also suitable for vegans but they’ve been stripped of most of their nutritional benefits, so whole grains are better.
4) Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds are great sources of protein and omegas (healthy fats), which support heart health. They’re also full of vitamins and minerals, including iron, potassium and zinc. They tend to be fairly high in calories, so portion size is important, but they’re ideal as a snack or as an addition to a salad, stir fry or breakfast mix. According to the British Heart Foundation, peanuts and pistachio nuts are lower calorie options compared to other nuts, while hazelnuts and almonds are lowest in saturated fat.4
5) Legumes: Legumes are vital for vegans. They include lentils, chickpeas, beans, soybeans, peas and (technically) peanuts. This food group is often the key source of protein in a vegan diet. They’re also a great source of fibre and essential vitamins. Raw legumes, however, can be bad for our digestion, so it’s important to prep them properly by soaking, boiling or cooking them.
6) Leafy greens: Some nutrients are harder to get into a meat, dairy and fish-free diet. But leafy greens, including kale, spinach and Swiss chard, are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Kale, for example, is a great source of calcium.