The vegan diet is very similar to the vegetarian one, but it’s still a bit more restrictive. Unlike the vegetarians who only reject meat but do eat dairy products and eggs, the vegans also took these foods off their menu and eat solely plant products.
Although vegans have a higher risk of developing a lack of nutrients like calcium and iron which are mainly found in animal products, the vegan diet certainly has also numerous health benefits which should not be neglected. It can, for example, be a great option for people with high cholesterol levels, since vegetable fats have much less impact on our cholesterol than animal fats. And if you eat right, it can provide your body with all the nutrients it needs.
The secret of a healthy vegan diet lies mainly in a wide variety of foods. The more different foods you eat over the course of the week, the less likely you are to develop nutrient deficiencies.
A healthy vegan diet should be based on the following four food groups:
- grains and grain products
- legumes, nuts and seeds
- fresh fruit or fruit juices
Grains and grain products This food group consists of wheat, rye, rice, corn, barley, oat products, buckwheat and millet. Any foods made out of these grains, like pasta, bread or muesli, are termed as grain products.
Grains and grain products are high in complex carbohydrates. These are absorbed and metabolized slower than simple carbohydrates, which makes them a much greater energy source. They give you lasting energy but don’t make your blood sugar level fluctuate badly.
When you buy grain products, you should preferably choose whole grain products like whole grain bread or pasta, not refined ones (e.g. white bread, pasta or flour). The whole grain versions, just like the original grains, are rich in complex carbohydrates and fibre which is important to keep your digestive system working well.
Legumes, nuts and seeds
Peas, chickpeas, beans, lentils, soybeans and peanuts are legumes. They are one of the most important sources of protein for vegans. Unfortunately, they contain only some essential amino acids. But combined with grains which contain other amino acids, they can provide you with all the necessary proteins.
Nuts (pecans, hazel or walnuts, cashews, almonds) and seeds (sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds) are another essential protein provider for vegans. They are great in muesli or salads and make excellent snacks. Combine them with grains or legumes, since they also just contain some amino acids.
These are one of our most important sources of vitamins and minerals. A wide variety will give you all the nutrients you need. Most vegetables are high in fibre but low in calories, and they contain mainly complex carbohydrates. So you can eat large amounts of vegetables without having to worry about calories.
Fresh fruit or fruit juices
Fresh fruit is another excellent source of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Many fruits contain simple carbohydrates, but this type of sugar affects your blood sugar level not as bad as refined sugar. Fresh fruits are great snacks, and especially if you need a fast energy boost they are a much healthier option than sweets.
Whole fruits should always be preferred to fruit juice because they contain fibre and thus are more filling, but fruit juice (especially homemade) is still a very healthy drink.
Vegan cooking is a very healthy way of eating if you do it right. Variety is the key. The more different foods you eat the better. Make sure you got plenty of grains, legumes and vegetables on your menu, and eat fruit regularly. Preferably buy fruit and vegetables fresh and don’t store them for long since they lose nutrients fairly quickly. Try to combine two or three food groups in every meal you eat to ensure you get the maximum nutrients. If you follow these simple guidelines, you can enjoy your vegan diet without worries.