Nutrition

16 Foods Every Vegan Should Eat to Stay Healthy

Evidence Based Article 📄
This article has been based on relevant and up-to-date scientific studies. Our writers are unbiased and objective and present the facts as they are known. Numbers in brackets within the article refer to sources included in the reference list at the end of the article.

Whether you’re considering transitioning into the vegan world or you’ve been eating a plant-based diet for a long while, be sure to check if your meal plan includes these super healthy foods. It’s not a secret that people on a vegetarian and vegan diet suffer from different nutrient deficiencies and thus are prone to a diversity of diseases. You can fix the situation by enjoying the following wholesome foods for optimal health.

1.Alternative milks

With all the jokes around alternative milks, you should still have them at least several times per week.  Technically not milk, coconut, almond, hemp, rice, and soy milks are all healthy alternatives to cow’s milk. Almond milk is rich in calcium, low in sugar, and is an excellent source of fiber. Coconut milk is plentiful in calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, iron, vitamin C, and protein – just to name a few. While it’s best to make your own alternative milk – almond milk is fast and easy to make – if you have no time, make sure you read the labels. Some milks contain added flavors and sugars that your body doesn’t need.

2.Avocado

Of course, you’ve expected to see avocado on this list and no wonder why. The green and versatile fruit, avocado is overflowing with nutrients, supplying your body with over 20 vitamins and minerals along with other compounds needed for optimal health. Let’s not forget about the healthy fats avocados contain. 75 percent of the fats in avocado is unsaturated (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats), making is a healthy swap for unhealthy fatty foods.

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Despite being high in calories, a moderate and regular consumption of avocados will help you reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Avocado is also fortified with potent antioxidants that help to protect your eyes and delay aging.

3.Quinoa

Maybe it’s slightly overrated, but quinoa knows its job when it comes to maintaining optimal health. When compared to most whole grains, quinoa boasts unique nutritional benefits. It contains more healthy fats and twice the amount of calcium as, for instance, whole wheat. One cup of cooked quinoa provides your body with 5 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein, 58% of recommended daily intake of manganese, 28% of phosphorus, 30% of magnesium, 9% of potassium, 13% of zinc, 15% of iron, 18% of copper, 19% of folate, and 10% of vitamins B1, B2, B6.

Moreover, quinoa is a great source of kaempferol and quercetin, plant antioxidants, which are renowned for its abundant health benefits. Studies show that these two flavonoids possess anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, anti-cancer, and anti-viral effects, warding off numerous diseases and conditions.

4.Chia seeds

One of the healthiest foods on the planet, chia seeds are a superfood packed with nutrients that have powerful benefits for your mental and physical health. First of all, these tiny black seeds deliver a whopping amount of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Their powerful nutritional punch includes protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, calcium, vitamin B2, thiamine (vitamin B1), potassium, niacin, (vitamin B3), and zinc. Plus, chia seeds contain high amounts of antioxidants that fight premature aging and reduce the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.

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Most importantly, chia seeds are around 14% quality protein, making it a must-eat food for vegetarians and vegans. Chia seeds also have a higher content of omega-3 fatty acids than salmon. Aim to have at least 2 teaspoons of chia per day to keep your bones, heart, and brain healthy.

Related: 8 Most Powerful Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

5.Hemp seeds

Technically nuts, hemp seeds are little nutritional powerhouses. Also known as hemp hearts, hemp seeds boast a mild and nutty flavor and contain more than 30% fat. They are also a good source of two essential fatty acids – omega 3 and omega 6, as well as a gamma-linolenic acid, which all have been proven to have potent health benefits. These seeds are also rich in high-quality protein with over 25% of their total calories being from it. Thus, hemp seeds are incredibly beneficial to vegans. They provide the amount of protein similar to lamb and beef. 2-3 tablespoons of hemp seeds, or30 grams, provide around 11 grams of plant-based protein.

Moreover, hemp seeds are fortified with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, sulfur, calcium, zinc, and iron. A regular intake of hemp seeds has been proven to boost heart health, fight skin disorders, relieve the symptoms of PMS, keep your digestive system healthy, relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, aid weight loss, and reduce the cancer risk.

6.Soy

The lean source of plant-based protein, soy offers an abundance of health benefits, such as fighting menopausal symptoms, controlling cholesterol, preventing fiber deficiency, and supplying lots of essential nutrients like calcium, folate, magnesium, vitamin K, and zinc. Most importantly, organic soy is proven to be a “complete” plant protein. This means that soy delivers all nine amino acids that your body needs to function properly. That’s one of the major reasons soy must be a staple food item for vegans and vegetarians alike. Tempeh, edamame, and tofu are some of the most popular soy products to include in your meal plan.

read more: 15 Most Awesome Edamame Health Benefits

7.Seaweed

One of the rare plant foods that contain an essential fatty acid called DHA, seaweed also contains riboflavin, magnesium, manganese, iodine, potassium, and numerous antioxidants. Iodine found in seaweed plays an important role in in the function of your thyroid gland and your metabolism. It’s recommended to consume 150 micrograms of seaweed per day. Since some kinds of seaweed, particularly kelp, are overloaded with iodine, it’s vital to eat them in moderation. Chlorella and spirulina contain little amounts of the mineral. As a vegan, you can meet your daily iodine requirements by eating 2 to 3 servings of seaweed each week.

8.Legumes

Since you strive to avoid traditional sources of iron and protein like poultry, meat, eggs, and fish, legumes are your new best friends. Peas, lentils, and beans are excellent options that contain about 20 grams of high-quality plant-based protein in one cup. Legumes are also plentiful in slowly digested carbs, zinc, fiber, folate, iron, manganese, antioxidants and numerous plant compounds that promote health.

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As a perfect source of fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates, legumes are satiating, which means they help to fight food cravings that new vegans tend to experience.  Consuming legumes on a weekly basis can help you keep your cholesterol level at bay, strengthen your heart health, manage your glucose levels, improve digestion, prevent constipation, combat allergies, and reduce PMS symptoms.

9.Nuts

Nuts are high in palatable protein along with essential healthy fats. Peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans, cashews, Brazil nuts, and macadamias are overflowing with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin, E, and zinc, while almonds supply the body with a great amount of calcium. Every nut provides certain nutrients, which is why it’s critical to consume a mix of different nuts. For instance, walnuts and pecans are the richest sources of magnesium, potassium, calcium, and zinc among other nuts. Cashews contain around twice as much zinc and iron as almost all other nuts. Almonds have around 4 times as much fiber as cashews.

10.Nutritional yeast

Available in the form of yellow flakes or powder, nutritional yeast contains about 7 grams of fiber and 14 grams of protein in one ounce. Plus, it’s usually fortified with magnesium, zinc, copper, B vitamins and manganese. There’s also nutritional yeast fortified with vitamin B12, helping vegans meet their daily recommendations. One tablespoon contains 30% to 180% of the recommended daily intake of B vitamins.

Nutritional yeast is brimming with the powerful antioxidants like selenomethionine and glutathione, which protect the cells from damage caused by heavy metals and free radicals and help the body fight environmental toxins. Some of the best health benefits of nutritional yeast are a strong immune system, reduced cholesterol, and lowered cancer risk. You can use nutritional yeast as a thickener or a “cheese” flavoring for sauces and soups or sprinkled over pasta or popcorn for extra nutrients.

11.Fermented and sprouted foods

Fermented and sprouted foods contain fewer antinutrients and more essential nutrients that vegans need to consume. Both fermenting and sprouting techniques boost the amounts of beneficial vitamins and minerals absorbed from plant foods and increase the quality of protein. Sprouting also slightly reduces the amounts of gluten in most grains.

Fermented foods are rich in probiotic bacteria that help to boost the immune function and improve digestive health. Vitamin K2 found in fermented foods promotes dental and bone health and help to reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, and certain cancers.

Read more: 14 Best Probiotic Rich Foods You Should Be Eating More

12.Whole grains

Whole grains contain fiber to help fill you and move you. The soluble fibers found in oats help deliciously reduce the cholesterol levels. But some grains are different, so read the labels to ensure “whole grain” tops the ingredient list.  Whole grains, including 100% whole wheat, quinoa, barley, brown rice, rye, and millet, contain the whole grain kernel that supplies a variety of vitamins and minerals, fiber, and heart-healthy fats, keeping your heart healthy.

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If you’re gluten intolerant, opt for gluten-free whole grains, such as buckwheat, amaranth, millet, corn, wild rice, and gluten-free oats (be sure to read the label). Try to avoid eating multigrain, even if they’re whole grains, as they tend to be refined and less nutritious.

13.Flaxseeds

Known for their health-protective properties, vegans often add flaxseeds to salads and yogurt bowls and for a good reason. One tablespoon of flaxseeds (one serving) provides 1,597 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, 1.9 grams of fiber, 2 grams of carbs, 1.3 grams of protein, 2% of RDI of potassium, iron, calcium, folate, and vitamin B6, 4% of RDI of phosphorus, 7% of RDI of magnesium, and 8% of RDI of vitamin B1.

Flaxseeds help to improve brain health, ward off cardiovascular diseases, reduce the risk of breast cancer, ensure regular bowel movements, lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and control blood sugar. You can add flaxseeds to almost all your favorite meals.

14.Herbs and spices

Visit any vegan’s kitchen and you’ll find tons of herbs and spices there. Although vegans use them to add flavor and taste to meatless meals, they also know how beneficial each herb or spice can be. For instance, cinnamon helps to maintain healthy blood glucose levels, turmeric has anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting properties, while oregano is a well-known anti-bacterial agent. The next time you go grocery shopping, load your card with turmeric, star anise, saffron, red pepper flakes, peppercorns, paprika, nutmeg, mustard, ginger, garlic powder, fennel, cumin, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, cardamom, caraway, allspice, and any other herbs and spices you like.

15.Fruit and veggies

Even though it goes without saying, a little reminder won’t hurt. Aim to eat 2 to 3 servings of fruit and 5 to 6 servings of veggies per day. This literally means loading your breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks with fruit and veggies. Munch on greens, in particular, to provide your body with a diversity of vitamins and minerals.

16.Cacao

Cacao helps to combat sugar cravings, prevent mood swings, and is chock-full of the hormone-boosting abilities. Moreover, it’s one of the richest sources of iron and fiber along with antioxidants in a small serving. Look for organic and raw cacao powder to reap more health benefits from it.

Going vegan is definitely rewarding and it’s actually cheaper than many people think. Most importantly, you give those little creatures a chance to live. Vegan diet also has many perks with longevity being the biggest one. However, you should always keep track of your nutrient intake and make sure you are eating these 15 foods on a daily or weekly basis. If you’re new to veganism, you might also need some supplements so talk to your doctor first.

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