What is a Vegan Diet?

Vegan diets exclude all foods produced by or derived from animals: meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, and honey. Alternately, another way to look at veganism is that it’s a manner of eating that is based entirely on plants, according to vegan.com

Going vegan has been more mainstream these days. Veganism is steadily becoming one of the most popular diets around the world. Generated by the lengthy list of celebrities such as Joaquin Phoenix, Ellen Degeneres, Natalie Portman, Alicia Silverstone, Samuel L. Jackson, and many more!

More and more establishments are providing vegan meal options. In 2019 there were 600,000 vegans of the population; 276,000 in 2016; and 150,000 in 2014, according to the Vegan Society.



Many people still believe that protein is only available from meat and animal sources, you will be able to get enough protein from vegan sources with some planning.

All beans, lentils, and legumes are a excellent vegan source of protein. Black beans, kidney beans, falafel patties,red lentil patties,and chickpea hummus are all great options. Let’s start with beans and legumes, which offer 14 to 22 grams of protein per cup. Beans are one of the most common protein rich foods for vegans and are very inexpensive!

Pea based products is another alternative. Pea protein is protein extracted from peas, it is made by grinding up dried yellow split-peas into a fine powder and isolating the protein from most of the fiber and starch. This is why it is often called pea protein isolate. You can find now easily find pea based yogurt that offers between 10- 13 grams of protein per serving.

Tofu can basically take on ANY flavor that you’ll never get bored with it. Despite its reputation as a bland meat alternative, tofu is a versatile ingredient that enhances many dishes.

Tofu and other soy products such as soy milk are common, but other soy products include edamame, soy ice cream, soy yogurt, soy nuts, or soy cheese. Many brands of tofu and soy milk are fortified with other nutrients that vegans need, such as calcium, iron, and vitamin B12. A half cup of tofu contains 10 grams of protein and soy milk contains 7 grams of protein per cup. Add tofu to just about anything you cook, including tofu stir-fries, sesame crusted tofu, crispy tofu, pineapple vegan fried rice, or butternut squash lasagna.

Additionally, tempeh is popular protein rich soy foods. Tempeh made from fermented soybeans can be formed into patties. Like tofu and seitan, it’s quite high in protein and can be prepared in a multiple ways, making it perfect for vegans. The protein content varies by brand, but as a guideline, one serving of tempeh provides about 18 grams of protein. Try tempeh burger with vegan pesto.

Nuts, including cashews, almonds, and walnuts, all contain protein, as do seeds such as sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Because most nuts and seeds are high in fat, you don’t want to make them your primary source of protein. Nuts, seeds and nut butters are great as a post-workout or a snack. Try almond butter or cashew nut butter for a little variety if you’re bored of peanut butter. Two tablespoons of peanut butter contain about 8 grams of protein.

Whole grains, such as quinoa and other whole grains are a great source of protein. Quinoa is the protein powerhouse of whole grains, as it contains all essential amino acids. Just one cup of cooked quinoa contains 18 grams of protein, as well as 9 grams of fiber. Quinoa and other whole grains, including whole grain bread, brown rice, barley are all healthy protein-rich foods.

Protein Powders are also a good option. The powders easy to include in shakes or smoothies. If you are buying protein powders, read labels and watch out for cheap fillers. It’s better to invest in high-quality vegan protein powders.


Many people perceive the vegan diet as being expensive, but the difference in price usually comes down to the protein you choose to eat in your meals. Tofu and legumes are common substitutes for protein and tend to be much more inexpensive. In fact, the cost of chicken breast is roughly double the cost of lentils–$4 vs $2 per pound according to the latest prices per the USDA.

Beans, tofu, and lentils are inexpensive, but mock meats such as veggie dogs, patties, and nuggets do cost more, running from $6 to $9 at an average grocery store.

Eating inexpensive plant-based sources does not mean eliminating succulent dishes from your diet. For example, while dairy is a common ingredient in cooking and baking, there are plenty of plant-based options to choose from, depending on your taste. Plant-based milks, such as almond milk, oat milk, and soy milk cost (price check on freshdirect.com) anywhere from $3 and $6 based on how many ounces you get. Typical staples in the vegan diet include sweet potatoes for carbs, avocado, nuts/seeds for fats, and legumes for protein. A pound of dried beans typically costs $1.99; a 3-pound bag of yams runs between $2 and $3; avocados are about $1.25 each.You don’t need a lot of extra money to eat plant-based!


Although vegans wipe out an entire section of the food pyramid from their diets, it does not mean that they are deprived of vital nutrients. This will inevitably lead you to rely more heavily on other foods. In the case of a vegan diet, this includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds.

There are tremendous health benefits to switching to a vegan diet, some of which include a lower risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. In fact, vegan diets are generally rich in fiber, protein, and antioxidants. Fiber promotes gut health by fueling the good bacteria in the colon; protein from plant-based sources ensures a lower intake of saturated fat, and thereby decreasing the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases; antioxidants from fruits and vegetables can protect cells against certain types of cancer. Several studies have reported that vegan diets tend to provide more fiber, antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds. They also appear to be richer in potassium, magnesium, folate and vitamins A, C and E.

When people think calcium, the first thing that comes to mind is milk. But plant-based foods also provide sufficient calcium. For example legumes: The highest levels of this mineral per cooked cup include:

  • white beans: 13% of the RDI
  • navy beans: 13% of the RDI
  •  black beans: 11% of the RDI
  • chickpeas: 9% of the RDI
  • kidney beans: 7% of the RDI
  • lentils: 4% of the RDI

Soybeans are naturally rich in calcium. One cup of cooked soybeans provides 18.5% of the RDI, whereas the same quantity of immature soybeans — known as edamame — offers around 27.6%.

Foods made from soybeans, such as tofu and tempeh, are also rich in calcium. Tofu made with calcium contains 350 mg per 3.5 oz. Tempeh made from fermented soybeans — provide good amounts as well. One 3.5 oz serving of tempeh is roughly 11% of the RDI.

Iron, specifically heme-iron is readily absorbed by the body, which is found in animal foods. Nonheme iron, on the other hand, can be found in tofu, spinach, legumes, and a variety of nuts and seeds. However, because nonheme iron is absorbed less efficiently than heme iron, it is important to consume larger quantities of iron-rich plant foods to prevent the risk of iron-deficiency anemia.

Vegans may rely on vitamin B-12 fortified foods, such as:

  • breakfast cereals
  • nutritional yeast
  • fortified non-dairy milk

B12 plays an important role in red blood cell formation, DNA production, and nerve function. Since Plant foods do not produce vitamin B-12, so it is vital that vegans find alternative sources of vitamin B12 to remain in the best health. I highly recommend that vegans take B12 supplements.


Yes of course vegans eat salads, but they also eat tacos, pasta, chocolate, tasty desserts, falafels and pizza. Did you know that you can make cheese out of cashew? Or that you can make cookies out a can of chickpeas!? How about a decadent chocolate mousse made with ripe avocados or roasted sweet potatoes? Eating vegan is anything but boring, unless you’re eating salads all day long, thats is boring and not healthy.

Four reasons to go vegan:

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1. All the health benefits

There’s is an abundance of evidence that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables contribute to a healthy body and brain. Research studies suggests that vegans,generally have better health markers than omnivores. Many health experts recommend plant-based diets to people who have heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes and other health conditions. According to a recent study the vegan gut profile appears to be unique in several characteristics, including a reduced abundance of pathobionts and a greater abundance of protective species. Reduced levels of inflammation may be the key feature linking the vegan gut microbiota with protective health effects.

2. Productivity

Studies have demonstrated that going vegan helps with productivity! In a four-month-long study from the American Journal of Health Promotion, researchers found that eating a vegan diet not only helped workers with weight loss, but it also increased their productivity, allowing them to get more done and excel at their jobs.

3. Keeps you looking youthful

Unfortunately, there’s still no Fountain of Youth! One way to help you age graceful is by eating a vegan diet. If you’re after an anti-aging effect, a vegan diet is your best bet. There tend to be more antioxidants present in vegan food, as well as more minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients, all of which support radiant skin, hair, and eyes.

4. You’ll save animals

A vegan lifestyle prevents a tremendous amount of animal slaughter and suffering. “Many chickens, cows, pigs, and turkeys spend their lives on massive factory farms where they’re kept in crowded, filthy sheds or cages. They’re denied everything natural to them,” according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals-PETA.

Carol Aguirre MS, RD/LDN