Five foods every vegan should include in their shopping basket
While adopting a vegan diet has a positive impact on the environment and animal welfare it doesn’t automatically make it healthy or balanced for the person eating it. There are many vegans whose diet is mainly junk food while others fail to eat a variety of foods to meet their nutritional needs.
Include our top five favourite plant-based foods in your diet each week is a sure-fire way to help keep you properly nourished. Choosing nutrient-rich diet with whole and fortified foods is an important part of this.
This groups of foods include beans, lentils and peas and can offer more than 10g protein per serving. Legumes are also rich in the minerals zinc and iron which can be tricky to get in absence of meat. Minerals are not as easily absorbed from legumes as they contain compounds that can prevent their absorption, but you can overcome this by sprouting, fermenting or cooking a little more. You increase iron absorption by eating with a source of vitamin C (peppers, cauliflower, citrus juices, broccoli).
Nuts and nut butters
These foods are also a useful source of protein and can be sprinkled over most dishes. Nuts are also a good source of iron, selenium, zinc and vitamin E. You can use nuts such as cashew to make your own ‘milk’ or ‘cream’ alternative using different amounts of water. Nut butters are a great way to ensure nutritious calories and can be used to make great vegan snacks such as serving with sliced apple or spreading over rice cakes.
Tofu and vegan Quorn
These are great protein sources and alternatives to meat. Tofu is also a good source of calcium, iron and magnesium as well as containing a little zinc. This soy product can be scrambled like eggs but also works well in other dishes such as stir-fries and curries. A fermented variety of soy similar to tofu is tempeh which can be used in the same way and is also a source of probiotics which help to promote gut health. Vegan Quorn can also be used in a similar way to tofu and is a particularly rich source of zinc.
Fortified plant drinks
These milk alternatives are an essential part of a vegan diet as they are used on a daily basis in hot drinks, smoothies, shakes and to serve with breakfast cereals. There are lots of different varieties including soy, oat, nut and coconut. Try to choose those that are fortified as they can help to maintain adequate intake of micronutrients including calcium, vitamin B12 and D. One of the biggest differences between them is their protein content with soy containing twice as much as other varieties.
Wholegrains and psuedograins
Wholegrains contain a better source of fibre compared to their white counterparts as well as more zinc and magnesium. This doesn’t mean white varieties are all bad as wheat products such as pasta and bread are fortified with calcium and iron as well as offering a useful source of protein. Psuedograins are technically seeds and include quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat. These foods can be used in the same way as grains such as rice but have the added benefit of being higher in protein, iron, magnesium and zinc. They also contain all of the essential amino acids.
Alongside these foods, it’s still important to include plenty of fruits and vegetables in a vegan diet. This group of foods supply a key source of many vitamins and minerals as well as phytonutrients that help to protect the body from disease. This advice may seem slightly strange given the nature of the vegan diet, but the increased availability of ready-prepared meals and highly processed snacks has made it easier to become an unhealthy vegan. Such foods are often high in calories, fat, sugar and salt.