What Do Vegans Eat And Avoid?

  • Evidence based
  • Fact checked
A woman is preparing a vegan meal to eat.

What to eat | Reasons to go vegan | Foods to avoid | Important nutrients | Portion sizes

Veganism is generally looked upon as a highly restrictive diet that can be difficult to stick to in the long run.

The many doubts, confusions, and misconceptions around what to eat and what not to eat on a vegan diet only make matters worse for vegans.

Here is a comprehensive list of vegan foods that includes everything from fruits and vegetables to grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

What do vegans eat?

A vegan diet can be extremely versatile, varied, and nutritious. Here is the comprehensive list of vegan foods categorized according to food groups:

1. Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables make up the foundation of a vegan diet. Eating an abundance of fruits and vegetables is essential for vegans, as these are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients.

Here is a list of fruits and vegetables you can add to your vegan diet:

  • Fruits: Apples, bananas, oranges, mangoes, kiwis, and grapes.
  • Vegetables: Broccoli, spinach, kale, peppers, carrots, beets, and potatoes.

2. Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are a great source of protein, healthy fats, and essential vitamins and minerals.

Studies on the consumption of nuts [1]National Library of Medicine: Health Benefits of Nut Consumption and seeds [2]National Library of Medicine: Consumption of Plant Seeds and Cardiovascular Health: Epidemiologic and Clinical Trial Evidence suggest that eating them regularly reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, gallstones, and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Another study [3]PubMed: Nut and seed consumption and inflammatory markers in the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis on nuts and seeds indicates they are suitable for reducing inflammation.

Here is a list of some nuts and seeds:

  • Nuts: Almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachio, and hazelnuts.
  • Seeds: Chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.

3. Legumes

Legumes are one of the richest sources of protein for people on a vegan diet. They are also rich in vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and antioxidants.

Here is a list of some vegan-friendly legumes:

  • Lentils: Red, brown, and green lentils
  • Beans: Black beans, kidney beans, dry beans, garbanzo beans, and pinto beans
  • Peas: Chickpeas, split peas, and green peas

4. Whole grains

Whole grains are a great source of complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals.

Here is a list of whole grains you can eat on your plant-based diet.

  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Millet
  • Sorghum

5. Vegan dairy alternatives

Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are an important part of many people’s diets. But vegans do not eat dairy products, so they have to look for plant-based alternatives.

  • Vegan milks: Almond milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, soy milk, rice milk, and oat milk.
  • Vegan yogurt: Almond yogurt, cashew yogurt, coconut yogurt, and soy yogurt.
  • Vegan butter: Almond butter and peanut butter.

6. Condiments, spices, and seasonings 

Condiments and spices are rich in antioxidant, antibiotic, and antiviral properties. Here is a list of some vegan-friendly condiments, spices, and seasonings:

  • Condiments: Salt, olive oil, mustard oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, peanut oil, peanut sauce, tomato ketchup, tamari or rice-based soy sauce, vinegar, tomato sauce, maple syrup, and cashew cream.
  • Spices: Turmeric, cumin, garlic, chili powder, cinnamon, ginger, paprika, pepper, thyme, and ground ginger.

7. Bread and pasta

While bread is the most versatile staple food, pasta is one of the most loved Italian dishes. While you are on a vegan diet, you can still enjoy bread and pasta.

Here are some vegan-friendly options:

  • Bread: Ezekiel bread, whole wheat bread, rye bread, pita bread, and zucchini bread.
  • Pasta: Whole wheat pasta, quinoa pasta, brown rice pasta, and spelt pasta.

8. Soy products

Due to their high protein content, soy products are a great option for vegans. Here is a list of some vegan-friendly soy products:

  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Soy milk
  • Soy yogurt

Why do people become vegan?

People choose to go vegan for many reasons. Here are some of the most common reasons why people adopt a vegan lifestyle:

  1. To reduce animal suffering and promote animal welfare.
  2. To help protect the environment by reducing their carbon footprint.
  3. To benefit from the potential health benefits associated with consuming a plant-based diet, like reducing the risk of developing chronic health conditions such as heart disease [4]National Library of Medicine: Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets and type 2 diabetes [5]National Library of Medicine: A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes.
  4. To support sustainable agriculture and promote food justice.

List of foods you should avoid on a vegan diet

Here is a list of foods you should avoid when following a vegan lifestyle:

  • Eggs
  • Honey
  • Refined white sugar
  • Fish and fish oil
  • Seafood
  • Meat: All types of meats, including beef, pork, lamb, and chicken
  • Animal-derived proteins: Casein, whey, collagen, gelatin
  • Animal-derived additives: Carmine, lecithin, glycerol, mono and diglycerides, bone phosphate, disodium inosinate, rennet, and shellac
  • Dairy: Including milk, cheese, yogurt, cream, mayonnaise, butter, and ice cream

Must-have nutrients for vegans

A study [6]PubMed: Intake and adequacy of the vegan diet. A systematic review of the evidence on intake and adequacy of vegan diets claims that a vegan diet is associated with a risk of deficiencies in micronutrients. Here is a list of essential nutrients vegans should ensure to get enough of:

  • Vitamin B12
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D
  • Iodine
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Omega 3 fatty acids

Perfect portion Sizes for vegan food

In order to get the most out of your vegan diet, it’s important to ensure that your portions are correct. Here is a guide to portion sizes for vegan foods:

1. Nuts and seeds

  • Portion size: 1 handful
  • How to add to your diet: Sprinkle on your salads and meals or eat them as a snack.

2. Protein foods like tofu, beans, and pulses

  • Portion size: Palm of your hand
  • How to add to your diet: Incorporate these foods into salads, sandwiches, stir-fries, and other dishes at least in one meal a day.

3. Carbs like cereal, rice, and pasta

  • Portion size: One fistful
  • How to add to your diet: Have a fist-sized portion of these foods in at least one meal every day.

4. Fruits and vegetables

  • Portion size: 2 cups of fruit, 2.5-3 cups of vegetables
  • How to add to your diet: Have at least one serving of fruit and three to four servings of vegetables in every meal.

Conclusion

Vegan diets are becoming increasingly popular and are associated with numerous health benefits. The right way to start your vegan diet is to consult your nutritionist or dietician to help you plan a balanced diet. 

The key to a successful transition into a vegan diet is to ensure that you consume enough nutrient-dense foods. With enough information and careful planning, you can enjoy all the benefits of a healthy vegan diet.

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