The key to a nutritionally sound vegan diet is variety. A healthy and varied vegan diet includes fruits, vegetables, plenty of leafy greens, whole grain products, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
It is very easy for a vegan diet to meet the recommendations for protein as long as calorie intake is adequate. Strict protein planning or combining is not necessary. The key is to eat a varied diet.
Almost all foods except for alcohol, sugar, and fats provide some protein. Vegan sources include: lentils, chickpeas, tofu, peas, peanut butter, soy milk, almonds, spinach, rice, whole wheat bread, potatoes, broccoli, kale…
|Here Are Some Sample Menus Showing How Easy It Is To Meet Protein Needs|
|Breakfast:||1 cup Oatmeal||6|
|1 cup Soy Milk||7|
|1 medium Bagel||10|
|Lunch:||2 slices Whole Wheat Bread||7|
|1 cup Vegetarian Baked Beans||12|
|Dinner:||5 oz firm Tofu||12|
|1 cup cooked Broccoli||4|
|1 cup cooked Brown Rice||5|
|2 Tbsp Almonds||4|
|Snack:||2 Tbsp Peanut Butter||8|
|Protein Recommendation for Male Vegan||63 grams|
|[based on 0.9 gram of protein per kilogram body weight for 70 kilogram (154 pound) male]|
|Breakfast:||2 slices Whole Wheat Toast||7|
|2 Tbsp Peanut Butter||8|
|Lunch:||6 oz Soy Yogurt||6|
|2 Tbsp Almonds||4|
|1 medium Baked Potato||3|
|Dinner:||1 cup cooked Lentils||18|
|1 cup cooked Bulgur||6|
|Snack:||1 cup Soy Milk||7|
|Protein Recommendation for Female Vegan||52 grams|
|[based on 0.9 gram of protein per kilogram body weight for 57.5 kilogram (126 pound) female]|
|Additional food should be added to these menus to provide adequate calories and to meet requirements for nutrients besides protein.|
Vegan diets are free of cholesterol and are generally low in saturated fat. Thus eating a vegan diet makes it easy to conform to recommendations given to reduce the risk of major chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. High-fat foods, which should be used sparingly, include oils, margarine, nuts, nut butters, seed butters, avocado, and coconut.
Vitamin D is not found in the vegan diet but can be made by humans following exposure to sunlight. At least ten to fifteen minutes of summer sun on hands and face two to three times a week is recommended for adults so that vitamin D production can occur. Food sources of vitamin D include vitamin D-fortified soy milk and rice milk. (For more information about vitamin D, see FAQs About Vitamin D)
Calcium, needed for strong bones, is found in dark green vegetables, tofu made with calcium sulfate, calcium-fortified soy milk and orange juice, and many other foods commonly eaten by vegans. Although lower animal protein intake may reduce calcium losses, there is currently not enough evidence to suggest that vegans have lower calcium needs. Vegans should eat foods that are high in calcium and/or use a calcium supplement.
CALCIUM CONTENT OF SELECTED FOODS
Following are some good sources of calcium:
|Soy or rice milk,
commercial, calcium-fortified, plain
|8 oz||200-300 mg|
|Collard greens, cooked||1 cup||357 mg|
|Blackstrap molasses||2 TB||400 mg|
|Tofu, processed with calcium sulfate||4 oz||200-330 mg|
|Calcium-fortified orange juice||8 oz||300 mg|
|Tofu, processed with nigari||4 oz||80-230 mg|
|Kale, cooked||1 cup||179 mg|
|Tahini||2 TB||128 mg|
|Almonds||¼ cup||89 mg|
Other good sources of calcium include: okra, turnip greens, soybeans, tempeh, almond butter, broccoli, bok choy, commercial soy yogurt…
The recommended intake for calcium for adults 19 through 50 years is 1000 milligrams/day.
Note: It appears that oxalic acid, which is found in spinach, rhubarb, chard, and beet greens, binds with calcium and reduces calcium absorption. Calcium is well absorbed from other dark green vegetables.
Vegan diets can provide zinc at levels close to or even higher than the RDA. Zinc is found in grains, legumes, and nuts.
Dried beans and dark green leafy vegetables are especially good sources of iron, better on a per calorie basis than meat. Iron absorption is increased markedly by eating foods containing vitamin C along with foods containing iron.
Sources of Iron
Soybeans, lentils, blackstrap molasses, kidney beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, Swiss chard, tempeh, black beans, prune juice, beet greens, tahini, peas, bulghur, bok choy, raisins, watermelon, millet, kale….
Comparison of Iron Sources
Here are the iron contents of selected foods:
______________________________________________ FOOD IRON (MG) ______________________________________________ 1 cup cooked soybeans 8.8 2 Tbsp blackstrap molasses 7.0 1 cup cooked lentils 6.6 1 cup cooked kidney beans 5.2 1 cup cooked chickpeas 4.7 1 cup cooked lima beans 4.5 1 cup cooked Swiss chard 4.0 1/8 medium watermelon 1.0 ______________________________________________
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
In order to maximize production of DHA and EPA (omega-3 fatty acids), vegans should include good sources of alpha-linolenic acid in their diets such as flaxseed, flaxseed oil, canola oil, tofu, soybeans, and walnuts.
The requirement for vitamin B12 is very low. Non-animal sources include Red Star nutritional yeast T6635 also known as Vegetarian Support Formula (around 2 teaspoons supplies the adult RDA). It is especially important for pregnant and lactating women, infants, and children to have reliable sources of vitamin B12 in their diets. Numerous foods are fortified with B12, but sometimes companies change what they do. So always read labels carefully or write the companies.
Tempeh, miso, and seaweed are often labeled as having large amounts of vitamin B12. However, these products are not reliable sources of the vitamin because the amount of vitamin B12 present depends on the type of processing the food undergoes. Other sources of vitamin B12 are fortified soy milk (check the label as this is rarely available in the U.S.), vitamin B12-fortified meat analogues, and vitamin B12 supplements. There are supplements which do not contain animal products. Vegetarians who are not vegan can also obtain vitamin B12 from dairy products and eggs.
Common Vegan Foods
Oatmeal, stir-fried vegetables, cereal, toast, orange juice, peanut butter on whole wheat bread, frozen fruit desserts, lentil soup, salad bar items like chickpeas and three bean salad, dates, apples, macaroni, fruit smoothies, popcorn, spaghetti, vegetarian baked beans, guacamole, chili…
Vegans Also Eat…
Tofu lasagna, homemade pancakes without eggs, hummus, eggless cookies, soy ice cream, tempeh, corn chowder, soy yogurt, rice pudding, fava beans, banana muffins, spinach pies, oat nut burgers, falafel, corn fritters, French toast made with soy milk, soy hot dogs, vegetable burgers, pumpkin casserole, scrambled tofu, seitan.
When Eating Out Try These Foods
Pizza without cheese, Chinese moo shu vegetables, Indian curries and dal, eggplant dishes without the cheese, bean tacos without the lard and cheese (available from Taco Bell and other Mexican restaurants), Middle Eastern hummus and tabouli, Ethiopian injera (flat bread) and lentil stew, Thai vegetable curries…
Egg and Dairy Replacers
As a binder, substitute for each egg:
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces) soft tofu blended with the liquid ingredients of the recipe, or
- 1 small banana, mashed, or
- 1/4 cup applesauce, or
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot starch, or Ener-G Egg Replacer or another commercial mix found in health food stores.
The following substitutions can be made for dairy products:
- Soy milk, rice milk, potato milk, nut milk, or water (in some recipes) may be used.
- Buttermilk can be replaced with soured soy or rice milk. For each Cup of buttermilk, use 1 cup soymilk plus 1 tablespoon of vinegar.
- Soy cheese available in health food stores. (Be aware that many soy cheeses contain casein, which is a dairy product.)
- Crumbled tofu can be substituted for cottage cheese or ricotta cheese in lasagna and similar dishes.
- Several brands of nondairy cream cheese are available in some supermarkets and kosher stores.