Squashing the Myths
The vegan nutrition guidelines really are not too different than the standard American diet guidelines. The biggest difference is the elimination of animal products. Many people think that when animal products are taken out of the diet it is hard to get enough protein, calcium, and other nutrients and this couldn’t be further from the truth! The trick is to eat a wide variety of plant based foods in order to ensure optimal nutrition.
There are multiple sources for protein in a vegan diet that are tasty, filling, and which offer a number of other nutritional benefits as well. Beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and even green leafy vegetables provide enough protein in a healthy diet. Two servings of grains or beans and a huge salad will offer all the protein you need in a day.
Fiber cannot be found in animal products, therefore, it’s extremely easy to get enough when eating a vegetarian or vegan diet. You’ll find plenty of fiber in whole grains, beans, legumes, and vegetables of all kinds. Some awesome choices are black beans, kidney beans, oatmeal, brown rice, romaine lettuce, spinach and carrots.
Did you know that plant based foods provide just as much if not more calcium than dairy products do? For example, three-fourths of a cup of collard greens provide just as much calcium as a cup of milk. Other foods rich in calcium are tofu, soybeans, broccoli, bok choy, kale, and mustard greens. Just two to three servings of these foods daily provide you with all the calcium you need.
All healthy diets require a small amount of heart healthy fats in order to thrive. Vegan diets are cholesterol free and have relatively low saturated fat but provide plenty of healthy monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega 3 fats. Olive and canola oil, avocados, coconuts, and almost all vegetables provide the health mono and poly unsaturated fats. Flax seed oil, ground flax seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, and walnuts are great sources of omega 3 fatty acids.
Vitamins and Minerals
You don’t have to worry about getting your daily intake or vitamins and minerals when eating a vegan diet. You will get plenty of vitamins A, C, K and E, and minerals like magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, and zinc by eating green veggies, legumes, and grains.
There is only one particular nutrient that vegans need to worry about supplementing, which is vitamin B-12. This is because it’s no longer found in plant foods as they are washed before being consumed, and the soil they are grown in are usually depleted of this important nutrient. We need only a small amount of B-12 in our diets, and it can be obtained through various means including fortified soy milks, vegan cheeses, vegetables and fruit drinks, and through a daily multi-vitamin.
The Bottom Line
In order to get the nutrients needed on a daily basis, the following vegan nutrition guidelines should be followed:
Whole Grains- 6 to 11 servings
Examples: brown rice, quinoa, couscous, spelt, buckwheat, oats, corn, millet, barley
Fruit- 3 servings or more (the more the merrier)
Examples: oranges, apples, bananas, cherries, berries, kiwi, pineapple, melons, grapes
Vegetables- 3 servings or more (more is always better)
Examples: lettuce, spinach, kale, broccoli, carrots, celery, potatoes, green beans, peppers
Nuts/Seeds/Legumes- 2 or more servings
Examples: walnuts, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, lentils, beans
Mangels, Reed Ph.D, RD: “Calcium in the vegan diet” https://www.vrg.org/nutrition/calcium.htm#tofu
No Author: “Vegan food pyramid” https://www.chooseveg.com/vegan-food-pyramid.asp