Vegan Food Pyramid

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The question we get asked most when we meet family and friends is whether we are getting the right minerals and vitamins needed for our body. Honestly, we don’t really have a big chart or plan stating what we should eat daily So we decided it was time we research all the essential key component to lead a healthy and balanced vegan diet as we are committed to do this for life. We are going to print this out in our kitchen before we do our grocery shopping from now on.

From this useful site, we found our answers and was thrilled to know there are many options we can get daily without much fuss. We also know vegetarian friends who take supplements to compensate on the lack of nutrients. Reason being they might be allergic to a certain kind of plant, nut or fruit or they do not cook and eat out too often to included fortified vitamin B12 into their diet for example.

Vegan Nutrition

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.

Protein (We have no problem getting this daily)

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…

For example, if part of a day’s menu included the following foods, you would meet the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein for an adult male:

  • 1 cup oatmeal, 1 cup soy milk
  • 2 slices whole wheat bread, 1 bagel
  • 2 Tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 cup vegetarian baked beans
  • 5 ounces tofu, 2 Tablespoons of almonds
  • 1 cup broccoli, and 1 cup brown rice.

Fat (We have no problems getting this daily too)

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 (Extra effort to source soy milk with fortified Vitamin D or just more sunlight which is not a big problem)

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, seeĀ FAQs About Vitamin D)

Calcium (Another item we have no problem getting daily)

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.

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                                 1/4 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.

Zinc (We have no problems getting this daily)

Vegan diets can provide zinc at levels close to or even higher than the RDA. Zinc is found in grains, legumes, and nuts.

Iron (We have no problems getting this daily)

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 includes 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….

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 (More excuses to do baking by using flaxseed)

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.

Vitamin B12 (An item we need more effort to get and we found that nutritional yeast contains vitamin B12!)

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. (On our end, if we do not consume any nutritional yeast, we might take an egg or two every 3 months to compensate on this lack of vitamin in our body.)

In conclusion, it is really easy sticking to a vegan diet and still be healthy, energetic and happy at the same time. All we need is some extra care in selecting the kind of food we want to take and making that conscious effort to JUST DO IT!

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