People who follow a vegan diet avoid consuming all types of animal-based food products and byproducts. This eating pattern is gaining popularity because of the many health benefits associated with it. For instance, most plant-based foods have lower calorie content than meat. This is because the former has monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, while the latter has saturated fats, which is bad for health. However, vegans have a higher risk of developing deficiency diseases because of the absence or low bioavailability of certain nutrients. The purpose of this article is to help vegans to eat a balanced vegan diet.
The Balanced Vegan Diet
The vegan eating pattern is popular among people as it reduces the risk of developing health issues like high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. That said, you will develop deficiency diseases if you do not carefully plan your vegan meal. This can be avoided by following a balanced vegan diet.
In a balanced vegan diet, you eat different types of foods in various proportions so that you get adequate amounts of all essential nutrients. For example, you must eat a minimum of five portions of fruits and vegetables in a day. The balanced diet promoted by the vegan society also emphasizes the importance of pulses, beans, nuts, and seeds. Besides, it encourages vegans to eat plant-based foods rich in calcium. Finally, it focuses on getting enough of vitamin D, vitamin B12, iodine, and omega 3 fats in your vegan diet.
Since vegans do not eat eggs, they cannot get choline, which is found in egg yolk. This nutrient is essential for synthesizing the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. It is required for functions like proper liver function, sharpening memory, cholesterol management, and muscle development. Vegans can get choline by eating food like peanuts, soya beans, quinoa, beans, nuts, and vegetables like brussels sprouts and broccoli.
Foods That Vegans Must Avoid
Vegans avoid consuming all types of animal-derived foods as well as products like honey. Also, they exclude animal byproducts like whey, rennet, red food dye cochineal (E120), and gelatin in desserts. Due to this, you must check the ingredient list when you buy food products that have a vegan tag.
Shopping Tips For Vegans
- When shopping packaged vegan products used in cooking, check their labels. This is especially important for products like stock cubes, bouillon powder, spreads, and sauces. You should look for ingredients like lactose, whey, and casein.
- Remember that pastries and bread usually contain butter and other milk derivatives.
- In desserts, you can use soft or silken tofu instead of dairy products.
- Agar-agar or Vege-gel can be used instead of gelatin in puddings and desserts.
Reference Intakes (RI)
The nutritional requirement of individuals varies according to age, gender, activity levels, and size of a person. Shared below are the recommended daily intake of nutrients for a healthy and moderately active adult. When carefully planning a vegan meal, you must remember the RI to ensure that you are eating a balanced diet.
Reference Intakes (RI) For Men
- Energy: 22500 kcal
- Carbohydrates: 300g
- Fat: 95g
- Saturates: 30g
- Protein: 55g
- Sugar: 120g
- Salt: 6g
Reference Intakes (RI) For Women
- Energy: 2000 kcal
- Carbohydrates: 260g
- Fat: 70g
- Saturates: 20g
- Protein: 50g
- Sugar: 90g
- Salt: 6g
Ideal Portions Size In A Vegan Meal
Carbohydrates from food like cereal, pasta, rice, and potato are the important sources of energy in a vegan meal. Their ideal portion size can be equivalent to your clenched fist. You must include 1 portion of this plant-based food at each main meal. Besides, you must ensure that this is not more than 1/4th of your plate.
Food like beans, pulses, and tofu are good sources of protein. Their ideal portion size is equivalent to that of the palm of your hand. You must try to include a portion of this at each meal.
Nuts and seeds are a good source of healthy fats and antioxidants. Their ideal portion size is almost equal to one of your cupped hands, and you can eat them as a snack or part of a vegan meal. Furthermore, spreads like nut butter have higher amounts of fat, and their ideal portion size is equivalent to the tip of your thumb. Also, ensure that you do not consume them more than 2 or 3 times a day.
Savories like crisps and popcorn can be enjoyed as a treat or snack, and their ideal portion size is equal to two of your cupped hands. Finally, you can enjoy vegan pastries occasionally, and their portion size is almost equal to two of your fingers.
Food For Balanced Vegan Diet
You can get complete proteins from grains like quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth. Another essential nutrient is omega-3 fats, and it is found in flax seeds, canola oil, tofu, soybean, and walnuts. Calcium and iron are obtained from fortified foods as well as from cooked vegetables like leafy greens. Furthermore, vegans are prone to vitamin B12 deficiency because it is not found in plant-based foods. This nutrient can be obtained by consuming fortified foods.
We hope that this article will help you in planning and following a balanced vegan diet that helps to avoid nutrient deficiency.