A vegan is someone who consumes no animal products or by-products whatsoever. Not only do vegans avoid meat, they also forgo eggs, dairy products, and even gelatin, which is made from animal bones and hooves. While the majority of vegans choose the diet because they oppose cruelty to animals, some are also motivated by environmentalism and health concerns. A vegan diet can be a healthy diet if you follow the vegan food pyramid.
At the top of the pyramid are nuts and seeds, with one to two servings recommended per day. Although they are high in fat, they are a good source of fiber, iron, and protein, and they also boost immune function. Nuts and seeds are rich in a variety of nutrients. Seeds like flax and chia, for example, are high in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Almonds are high in calcium and magnesium, walnuts are believed to boost cognitive function, and pecans can lower cholesterol.
The next food group is fruits, with three to four servings recommended per day. Fruits are full of vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants that keep the body healthy. Some of the most often recommended fruits are blueberries and other berries; pineapples, which contain a natural anti-inflammatory; and citrus fruits, like oranges and grapefruits.
Beans and lentils are the next group. A minimum of three servings per day is recommended. Beans and lentils, like seeds, are high in protein, iron, and fiber, but they are fat free. Tofu, which is one of the most common meat substitutes, falls in this category because it is made from soy beans.
The pyramid recommends a minimum of four servings per day of vegetables. Servings should include every color, as each is associated with particular health benefits. For example, red veggies, like red peppers and tomatoes, contain nutrients that lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, and high cholesterol. Dark green vegetables, like kale and spinach, are high in calcium, boost immune function, and lower the risk of heart disease and cancer.
The largest food group in the vegan pyramid is grains and starchy vegetables. They are a big source of fiber and many other nutrients, and a minimum of five servings is recommended. Grains are used to make bread and other baked goods. Hampton Creek is a company that makes vegan baked goods, including cookies, cookie dough and other baking mixes.