Vegan foods are healthy, delicious, and as nutritious as their animal-based counterparts. And thanks to an increased demand, a variety of these foods are available in most supermarkets. Now it's only a question of picking up the right ones.
Most vegan foods can be put into three categories: foods that add nutrients to vegan meals, foods that replace animal-based products, and foods that boost vegan meals. As a rule, each vegan dish should contain foods from at least two of these categories.
If you are new to veganism, making the right food choices might be tricky. To give you some guidance, here’s a list of vegan foods that can enhance your plant-based diet.
Look for Alternative Dairy Products
Contrary to popular belief, cows and goats are not the only things that produce milk.
Plants like soy, hemp, coconut, and rice are great sources of alternative dairy products. Alternatively, almonds produce a creamy milk that has an excellent nutty flavor. You can add almond milk to your coffee, and it's also a great supplement for any vegan smoothie.
Moving to other dairy products, there are more than a few options of vegan butter and cheese. These dairy products usually have a soy or almond milk base. If you want to avoid soy for the risk of genetic modification, you can always make almond or coconut-based butter at home.
No list of vegan foods would be complete without grains. Grains are the staple of the vegan diet, and you should look for whole grains to get the most nutrition.
There are many grains that can make a great addition to your vegan menu, but Quinoa, brown rice, and steel-cut oats stand out because of their additional beneficial properties. Quinoa, for example, is an excellent source of protein and comes with an abundance of antioxidants.
Brown rice is more nutritious compared to the white variant. What’s more, it is also a great source of minerals and dietary fiber. You can cook any of these grains or mix them with plant-based milk for a delicious breakfast or snack.
Good Fats and Oils
Fat might be one of the big no-no words in the vegan world, but in reality there are many oils and fats that do not come from animals.
Grapeseed, macadamia nuts, sesame seeds, and almonds are the best sources of cold-pressed oils you can find. The cold-press process keeps all the flavors and nutrients in the oil. Coconut, on the other hand, provides both oil and fat.
Coconut oil and butter are a great source of lauric acid, which has excellent antibacterial and antiviral properties. Besides the medicinal characteristics, coconut oil and butter can make a tasty addition to your vegan salads, soups, or sweets.
Experiment with Spices and Herbs
Many veteran vegans consider spices and herbs the secret weapon for making flavorful plant-based dishes. Herbs and spices make vegan dishes extra tasty and provide additional health benefits besides.
You should always keep chives, basil, and garlic close by. These plants are great because they can be consumed raw or dried and ground. Chives and basil are a great source of dietary fiber and potassium, while garlic is rich in vitamin C.
But it's the taste that sets these plants apart. They add a rich flavor to vegan dishes, regardless of whether you use them raw or ground. If you want to go for a more exotic taste, feel free to add cinnamon, nutmeg, or oregano to your meals.
Got a Sweet Tooth?
Being a vegan doesn’t mean you should deprive yourself of sweets. There are a couple of sweeteners that are vegan-approved.
You can’t go wrong with brown rice, date, or maple syrup. Syrups from these plants are natural sweeteners that go really well in vegan cookies. You can also add them to your breakfast cereal or smoothies for an extra sugar rush in the morning.
Generally, you should steer clear of conventional sugars, but raw cane, beet, and palm sugars pass muster for your vegan diet. If you are looking for a sweetener that is 200 times more potent than sugar, add stevia to your list of vegan foods.
All-You-Can-Eat Fruits and Vegetables
It goes without saying that fruits and vegetables are an absolute must on your shopping list. There shouldn’t be any limitation to the amount or type of fruits and vegetables you consume. However, some fruits and veggies add more nutritious elements than others.
When it comes to fruits, you can consume berries, dried fruits, and citrus fruits to your heart’s content. They are a great source of fibers, antioxidants, and vitamins needed for a healthy vegan diet. Jackfruit, for example, can be an excellent substitute for meat.
On the other hand, starchy vegetables like beets, corn, and yam provide antioxidants, minerals and a tasty crunch to your vegan meals. Leafy greens are full of vitamins A and C, potassium, and iron. Just remember what happens to Popeye when he eats a can of spinach.
Many people mistakenly believe that it is hard to get sufficient amount of protein on a plant-based diet. This is of course far from true. Vegan foods like beans, soy products, and nuts and seeds are packed with protein.
For example, black beans contain 21g of protein per 100 grams. They are also rich in calcium and iron to give you an extra punch during the day. On the other hand, pumpkin and sesame seeds have 18 and 19g of protein per 100 grams respectively, and these seeds contain plenty of iron and potassium as well.
Tempeh is a soy product that you should add to your list of vegan foods. This fermented soybean cake contains the highest amount of protein compared to other soy-based products. What’s more, the fermentation process makes tempeh rich in probiotics. Among other benefits, these probiotics can reduce bloating if consumed regularly.
Being a vegan doesn’t mean you should prepare bland dishes and deprive yourself of the joy of cooking. Hopefully, this list of vegan foods gives you an idea or two of how to select products that are both healthy and tasty. Don’t hesitate to experiment and mix and match different foods until you nail down your preferred taste.
You know you're on the right track when you can get a non-vegan to complement a vegan dish or snack of yours.
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