Have a Plant-based Diet? Here's What you Need to Complete Your Nutrition Requirements
Vegan diets have been gaining popularity over time. They are enriched with the goodness of plant-based foods like whole grains, nuts and oilseeds, legumes, pulses, vegetables, and fruits. However, getting all the nutrients with no animal-based foods (dairy, meat, poultry, fish, etc.) on the plate is one of the major challenges for vegans.
As per recent research, Vegans are also prone to develop protein and other nutritional (Vitamin B12, Iron, Zinc, Calcium, Vitamin D, Iodine) deficiencies (1). The only trick to reduce these shortfalls is having well-balanced vegan meals, including various plant-based food products.
Hence, to ease your struggle, here is the list of a variety of nutritious foodstuffs that can go into your vegan meals. Have a look!
A. Protein-rich foods
Proteins that we consume from food gets digested in our body and goes forward to perform many functions as follows:
- Creating and maintaining the cells
- Repairing our tissues (especially muscles)
- Formulating enzymes and hormones
- Supporting our immune system (2)
Know about 'The Best Protein Sources for a Plant-based Diet.' However, listed below are some of the best plant-based diet food ingredients rich in protein that can help you add enough protein to your diet:
Tofu, popularly known as the low-fat plant-based food alternative to paneer, is a product from the curdling of soybeans. Apart from being a rich source of protein, it is also packed with Vitamins (A, C, D, E, K, B-complex, etc.) and minerals (calcium, iron, zinc, etc.) (3).
Tempeh is a product of fermented beans (mainly soybeans). It contains more protein as compared to tofu and is also rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals (Vitamin B-complex, zinc, calcium, etc.). Apart from this, tempeh is also known to lower blood cholesterol levels, inflammation, and blood pressure (4).
Quinoa, unlike other grains, contains higher amounts of proteins and fibers. One cup of cooked quinoa can give you up to 8 grams of protein (5). It can go well with plant-based recipes like cakes, bread, brownies, one-pot meals, and salads.
Lentils have been an integral part of the Indian diet. They are rich in proteins along with fibers and many other nutrients. A cup of cooked lentils can provide you with approximately 18-20g of protein.
B. Whole Grains
Whole grains are packed with complex carbs along with many vitamins and minerals. They are a rich source of prebiotics that serve as a source of nutrition for our gut microbiota. Here is the detailed plant-based food list for the same:
1. Brown Rice
Brown rice with its high fibers, vitamins, and mineral content is a healthier choice than white rice. It is also known to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Oats are rich in antioxidants that help eliminate toxins from the body. They encompass some essential proteins. Oats' high soluble fiber content might also help you reduce the bad cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of developing CVDs, diabetes, and even cancer.
Pro-tip: For better results use old-fashioned, gluten-free, steel-cut, rolled oats after soaking them in water or plant-based milk/yogurt overnight. You can also roast them and add them to plant-based recipes like bread, cakes, etc.
Millets are rich in antioxidants as well as dietary fibers. They also act as “prebiotics” to enhance your digestive health. Incorporating millets in your diet is easier when you add them to your doughs, batters, or prepare broken millets one-pot dishes.
5. Whole-grain bread
Whole-grain bread with the goodness of grains like millets, quinoa, oats, etc. can be a healthy plant-based food alternative over the conventional refined flour bread.
C. Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds add healthy fats to our diet. Moreover, they also contain significantly higher amounts of proteins.
Almonds and Almond butter
Almonds and almond butter are plant-based products rich in healthy fats, proteins, magnesium, Vitamin E, and Vitamin A. They might help you with weight loss or maintenance, lower bad cholesterol levels, and blood pressure (7).
Pro-tip: Always consume overnight (or 4-5 hours) soaked almonds after peeling off their skin for better protein absorption.
2. Peanuts And Peanut Butter
Consuming peanuts as well as peanut butter can add to the protein and healthy fat content of your diet. Peanuts are also known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. They are also a rich source of one of the powerful antioxidants i.e., Coenzyme Q10 that can help you boost your energy levels and also increase exercise performance (8).
Consuming one walnut (overnight soaked) every day can help you meet approximately 30-40% of your healthy fat requirements. This plant-based food product can enhance gut health and help in diabetes as well as blood pressure management.
These kidney-shaped nuts are rich in vitamin E that is known to have anti-aging properties. Cashews also contain dietary fibers and promote bone health through their magnesium and calcium content.
5. Macadamia Nuts
6. Pumpkin Seeds
Rich in antioxidants, pumpkin seeds might play a significant role in improving your prostate and bladder health. They are high in dietary fibers, proteins, healthy fats, and many essential vitamins and minerals. Roasting the pumpkins and adding them to plant-based recipes like granola bars, breakfast cereals, and even ice-creams can add some spice to your vegan diet.
7. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are one of the rich sources of Vitamin E and zinc that play a role in hair and skin health. These seeds can be consumed raw after removing the shell.
D. Fruits And Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables, an essential component in the list of plant-based food products add a variety of antioxidants and dietary fibers to your diet. Consuming 1-1.5 servings (100-150g) of fruits and 3-4 servings (300-400g) of vegetables is good for optimum health.
Apples enhance gut health with all the prebiotics that it adds to your diet. They are easy to digest and might also help in relieving gut issues like constipation.
Avocadoes, the plant-based foods rich in healthy fats and dietary fibers might lower bad cholesterol levels in the body. Additionally, they are also rich in vitamin C, K, B, E, and A.
Eating a banana pre-workout can keep your muscles working throughout the session. This low-calorie fruit is rich in potassium that can lower your blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disorders.
Berries like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, gooseberries, raspberries, etc. are filled with antioxidants (Vitamin C, K, Folate, flavonoids, etc.). Consuming them regularly can improve your gut health, enhance your skin, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Carrots are one of the richest sources of Vitamin A, K1, and many such antioxidants. They can enhance your skin health, vision, as well as immunity. You can add carrots to many plant-based recipes like cakes, salads, vegetable and rice preparations, smoothies, and even pancakes.
6. Bagged Greens And Salads
One of the quickest selling salads in the supermarkets is bagged greens. They can be chopped romaine lettuce, mixed microgreens, or any green salad kits. These salads are rich in antioxidants and high in dietary fibers. For example, a bag with a cup of baby spinach can give you 1.5-2g of dietary fibers that add up to 6-7% of your daily fiber intake (if you are on a 2000kcal diet).
7. Dry Fruits
Dried fruits like dried dates, berries, raisins, apricots, prunes, figs, etc. are rich in antioxidants that can boost your immune system, increase your energy levels, and enhance your heart health. They also contain dietary fibers that can feed your gut microbiota.
Tip: Avoid consuming sugar-coated dried fruits (mostly found in dried pineapples, strawberries, mangoes, bananas, etc.)
Kiwi is a tart fruit known to improve immunity, heart as well as digestive health, and skin. This plant-based food ingredient is rich in vitamin C and dietary fibers, making it suitable for fighting certain infections.
Grapes are one of the best foods for a healthy heart. They also help in reducing blood sugar levels. Packed with antioxidants like vitamin C and K, grapes can boost your energy levels and purify your blood flow.
10. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens like spinach, kale, microgreens, cabbage, beet greens, amaranth leaves, etc. are low in calories and high in dietary fibers. Thus, they contribute to weight loss and enhance gut health.
E. Plant-Based Dairy
Plant-based dairy food products can provide you with protein, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D. Here is a list of some of them:
1. Cottage Cheese Alternatives
Cottage cheese plant-based food alternatives include tofu, especially the silken tofu can give the best texture that can mimic cottage cheese. This again is rich in protein and antioxidants.
Nut milk (made from almonds, cashews, peanuts), soy milk, and oat milk are some of the common plant-based milk alternatives. They are free from lactose. Plant-based milk is also low in cholesterol.
3. Greek Yogurt
Plant-based yogurts are prepared by fermentation of plant-based milk. A cup of plant-based curd can give you around 6-8g of protein.
Legumes are plant-based food products rich in proteins and antioxidants that enhance muscle strength and slow down aging.
Apart from the high protein content, beans are also rich in dietary fibers. Thus, they aid in weight loss and appetite control. Beans are also rich in nutrients like folate that play a significant role in boosting our immunity.
Hummus is a plant-based recipe prepared from chickpeas. Half a cup of hummus can add 8-9g protein to your diet. It is also known to reduce inflammation and increase energy levels (10).
A cup of edamame can help you meet 100% of RDA for folate. Apart from this, it is also rich in vitamin K and several other vitamins and minerals required for optimum health.
The creamy and nutty taste of chickpeas or garbanzo beans makes them compatible with many dishes. They can help you with weight management, and controlling blood sugar levels.
Peas are rich in vitamin C, E, zinc, and other antioxidants. Consuming peas can lower your risk of developing heart diseases, arthritis, and other chronic conditions.
People on plant-based diets can also enjoy treats like desserts, ice creams, pizza, burgers, and much more.
Sugar-Free Natural Ice-Cream
Sugar-free ice-creams made from plant-based milk contain lower amounts of fats. They are rich in protein and taste almost similar to dairy ice cream.
2. Dairy-Free Chocolates
Dairy-free chocolates contain less sugar and are rich in antioxidants that boost your immunity and energy. These chocolates are available in a variety of flavors. You can have them with your shakes, ice creams, or even pancakes.
About The Author
Disha Doshi is an expert nutritionist with a post-graduation degree, specializing in nutrigenomics along with nutrition and dietetics. She has worked with multiple organizations in her career and has a diverse background in life sciences and healthcare. With an additional flair for writing, Ms Disha comprises a perfect mix for an ideal healthcare marketing professional. While having worked on weight loss, endocrine disorders, cardiac disorders, and other lifestyle issues, she also has steady experience in biochemistry and molecular biology disciplines. Apart from that, she has also worked on balancing the human gut microbiome with diet, nutrigenomic dietary practices, and corporate nutrition. With a keen interest in Ayurveda, she is also engaged in linking the age-old Ayurvedic practices with modern dietary practices.
Hope this extensive list gave you a holistic idea of what you need to add to your vegan diet. It doesn’t seem daunting now, does it? Knowing there’s plant alternative for most nutrients.