Vegans avoid eating animal foods for environmental, ethical, or health reasons.
While a diet based exclusively on plants may have some health benefits, it may put some people at a higher risk of nutrient deficiencies.
This is especially true when vegan diets are not well planned.
For vegans who want to stay healthy, consuming a nutrient-rich diet with whole and fortified foods is very important.
Here are 11 foods and food groups you should try to include in your vegan diet plan.
Vegans avoid animal-based sources of protein and iron, such as meat, poultry, fish, and eggs.
Therefore, it’s important to replace these animal products with protein- and iron-rich plant-based alternatives such as legumes.
Beans, lentils, and peas are great options that contain 10–20 grams of protein per cooked cup.
They’re also excellent sources of fiber, slowly digested carbs, iron, folate, calcium, potassium, zinc, antioxidants, and other health-promoting plant compounds (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
However, legumes also contain a fair amount of antinutrients, which can reduce the absorption of minerals (3).
For instance, iron absorption from plants is lower than that from animal sources. Similarly, vegetarian diets seem to reduce zinc absorption by about 35% compared with those containing meat (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6).
It’s advantageous to soak, ferment, or cook legumes well, because these processes can decrease the amounts of antinutrients (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
To increase your absorption of iron and zinc from legumes, you may also want to avoid consuming them at the same time as calcium-rich foods. Calcium can hinder the absorption of these nutrients if you consume it at the same time (9Trusted Source).
In contrast, eating legumes in combination with vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables can increase your absorption of iron (10Trusted Source).
2. Nuts, nut butters, and seeds
Nuts and seeds are great additions to any vegan refrigerator or pantry. That’s in part because a 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of nuts or seeds contains 5–12 grams of protein.
This makes them a good alternative to protein-rich animal products.
In addition, nuts and seeds are great sources of iron, fiber, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and vitamin E. They also contain a good amount of antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds (11Trusted Source).
Nuts and seeds are extremely versatile. You can eat them on their own or work them into interesting recipes such as sauces, desserts, and vegan cheeses.
Try to choose unblanched and unroasted varieties whenever possible, since nutrients can be lost during processing (12Trusted Source).
Favor nut butters that are natural rather than heavily processed. These are usually free of the oil, sugar, and salt often added to some popular varieties.