A vegan diet excludes intake of any animal product including eggs, dairy, and meats. A well-balanced and varied vegan diet can be healthy, but it needs careful consideration. Since a vegan diet is quite restrictive, it is imperative to ensure that all vital nutrients are provided.
A vegan diet should include an adequate intake of fiber, proteins, carbohydrates, and vitamins by choosing a wide selection of foods such as cereals, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. A vegan diet should include different combinations of foods and recipes to ensure that the diet doesn’t become boring and nutrient deficient.
Proteins must be provided in the vegan diet by consumption of seeds (sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds), soy products (tofu, tempeh), nuts (almonds, walnuts), and legumes (lentils, beans). There is usually no need to add protein supplements to meet the RDA or recommended dietary allowance if one eats one to two good sources of protein with each meal.
A vegan diet is generally low in saturated fats and cholesterol. However, a healthy vegan diet must add heart friendly fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acid. Restricted intake of refined and processed foods, margarine, coconut oil, and seed butter helps to maintain the required level of fat in the body.
To ensure optimum intake of calcium, a vegan diet should include green leafy vegetables, soy products, and fortified fruit juices and cereals.
Exposure to sunlight for 15 to 20 minutes a day helps a vegan get the required vitamin D that is usually deficient in a vegan diet.
Dried beans, sprouts, dark green vegetables such as collard greens, kale, broccoli, turnip greens, and blackstrap molasses, are good sources of iron and must be included in a healthy vegan diet.
Another diet tip for vegans would be to substitute popular recipe ingredients with vegan ingredients. Cottage cheese or processed cheese can be replaced by crumbled tofu, and a cup of milk by rice milk, soy milk, or almond milk.
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