The Vegan Food Pyramid | A Complete Guide to meet your nutrition requirements
Many of you may be wondering why do we need a Vegan food pyramid and how does it help?
The Vegan food pyramid is designed to serve as a guide for those who are looking to shift to a plant-based diet. It helps in choosing the foods needed to create a well-balanced diet. This diet is beneficial for those who are looking to lose weight and reverse their illnesses.
Do we need to follow the vegan food pyramid closely?
Well, the answer is yes and no!
For too long we have been made to believe that the food products marketed on television, newspapers, and magazines are healthy. We buy them frequently as they are readily available and end up spoiling our health. These products are highly processed and so addictive that it has become difficult to stay away from it. We have become victims of these companies, who do not care for our health. While our health deteriorates, these companies enjoy good profits selling their products.
Further, we have been made to believe that dairy products, and animal products are necessary for good health. This is not true. It is important to note that a whole food plant-based vegan diet can meet all the nutritional requirements needed for optimum health.
When most of us decide to go vegan, we hardly have any clue about how to transition to the vegan diet in the right manner. We broadly know that we have to substitute milk, milk products, and animal products with plant-based products. You may be wondering how to get the nutrients that were available in meat, eggs, and dairy?
With little knowledge, I too embarked on my journey to become a vegan. Initially, things went on fine for a couple of months but soon realized I felt a little tired. This is where the Vegan food pyramid served as a guide to modify my eating habits.
Soon I began to study this diet in detail and the Vegan food pyramid helped me clear my confusion. For example, I was not eating ANY beans or legumes, which is a major source of energy. Here knowing the Vegan food pyramid helped, as it enabled me to identify which food group was missing in my nutrition requirements.
Hence, we will discuss what food groups appear in the Vegan food pyramid and how to make use of the recommendations. This will help you kick start your vegan journey
The Vegan Food Pyramid
The vegan food pyramid is very similar to the conventional food pyramid. The only difference being the animal foods are replaced with plant foods. Plant foods contain key nutrients similar to animal foods without a smudge of cholesterol.
Further, would like to mention that you don’t need to stress over eating a perfect diet following those recommendations all the time. What matters the most is what food you choose to eat. If you don’t feel hungry or don’t feel like eating the recommended servings, it is perfectly fine. Most likely, you will develop an eating pattern over some time.
If you are new to veganism, this article will guide you on how much food you need to take on your plate. If you are a vegan for a while, you can still read this article and find where you are going wrong?
Why is a vegan diet smart and safe?
Many of you may think that following a vegan diet is tough, complicated and involves a lot of challenges. Let us understand why it is not.
In 2009, the American Dietetic Association published a position paper which stated that
“Appropriately planned vegetarian diets including vegan diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may help in the prevention and treatment of various illnesses. Well planned vegetarian diets are recommended for people across all age groups including pregnant and lactating women, infants, kids, adults and also athletes.”
Most vegetarians tend to have low cholesterol levels, low blood pressure and type 2 diabetes compared to non-vegetarians. They generally have a low body mass index. The vegetarian diet helps in reducing the risk of chronic illnesses like heart diseases and cancer due to lower intake of saturated fats and cholesterol and increased intake of fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds. Hence, more and more nutrition experts and health organizations are recommending people to adopt a vegan diet.
What exactly does a vegan diet look like?
A vegan diet is all about eating WHOLE foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber and eliminating dairy and animal products. Whole foods keep you full and don’t just fill you up with empty calories like processed and junk foods. This doesn’t mean you need to stay away from your favorite food like ice-creams, cakes, and pastries. You can indulge in them occasionally.
We would also like to mention that moving to a vegan diet not only helps improve your health but also helps save the environment and our planet. Ocean dead zones, extinction of animals, climate change are a few examples of how nature is getting affected due to man’s greed.
How did we come up with the Vegan food pyramid?
We are not dieticians ourselves. However, we looked at what experts and people at PCRM are recommending.
While many may think that eating a lot of fruits and vegetables is ideal, people may find it difficult to eat them at all mealtimes. Though they are rich in all nutrients, you may not find it satisfying and sustainable. It may become difficult to survive by just eating salads, fruits, and seeds all the time. Hence you will find GRAINS at the bottom of our pyramid.
Understanding the Vegan food pyramid
Grains – Eat food made from whole and unprocessed grains like brown rice, quinoa, millets, whole wheat, buckwheat. They are healthier and keep you full for a long time. You can increase or decrease the servings based on your requirements.
Vegetables – Both RAW and COOKED vegetables are healthy and should be included in your daily diet. Do not forget to include leafy vegetables as they are rich in nutrients. You can also juice the vegetables as they become easier to digest.
Fruits – Fruits can be had 3-4 times a day and you can include a variety of fruits. Choose to eat whole fruits than juicing as it kills the fiber from the fruit. Fruits should be had on an empty stomach as they provide maximum nutrition.
Legumes – The common ones in this category include beans like chickpeas, kidney beans, soybeans peas, peanuts. You can increase or decrease the servings depending on your requirements.
Nuts and seeds – You can eat around 10 almonds/cashews in a day. You can get enough essential fats by including 1 tbsp of chia seeds/flax seeds or walnuts in your diet. This will provide you sufficient energy.
Meeting nutritional needs as a Vegan
Most vegans are deficient in Vit.B3 and Vit.B12. But that doesn’t mean that veganism is complicated and difficult to follow. Diets that contain animal products are high in saturated fat, cholesterol and trans-fat and lack fiber, Folate, Magnesium, Vitamin C and Vitamin E.
We have listed below the Daily Recommended Intake (DRI) of some nutrients we need daily.
CALCIUM – The daily recommended intake of Calcium is 1000mg for most adults. It may be slightly more for elderly people and teenagers. This mineral is important for good bone health and the functioning of muscles and nerves.
It is also important to note that your body doesn’t absorb calcium if it is deficient in Vitamin D. Foods that contain high amounts of Calcium are
a) Vegetable like Spinach, Kale, Broccoli,
b) Fruits – Oranges
c) Nuts and seeds – Almonds, Tahini
d) Legumes – Soy milk, Tofu, Chickpeas
IRON – The daily requirement intake of Iron is 8mg for males and 18mg for females. It is slightly higher in females due to the monthly blood loss during the reproductive years. Iron is necessary for the transportation of oxygen throughout the body. Our body can store iron and increase absorption when the levels deplete. We can enhance iron absorption by adding Vitamin C to iron sources.
Foods that contain iron are
Grains – Oatmeal
Vegetables – Spinach
Fruits – Dried figs
Legumes – Kidney beans, chickpeas, green peas
Nuts and seeds – Almonds and Tahini
ZINC – The DRI is 8mg for females and 11mg for males. It is a very important mineral as it plays a role in building up the immune system
Foods that contain high amounts of zinc are:
Grains – Oatmeal, Brown rice
Legumes – Kidney beans, chickpeas, green peas
Nuts and seeds – Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, almonds
IODINE – The DRI is 150 mcg for adults and it is very important for pregnant women and lactating mothers. It is important for the production of thyroid hormones and metabolism. The sources of iodine include vegetables and the Himalayan pink salt.
PROTEINS – Let us tackle the myths around protein here. Proteins help in maintaining the muscle and bone mass. The source of essential amino acids (which combine to form proteins) come from plant sources. The DRI of protein for an average adult is 0.8gms per kg of body weight which is around 50 gms for a person with a healthy weight. We can easily get our proteins from our whole food vegan diet.
Some high protein vegan foods include –
Grains – Amaranth, Quinoa
Legumes – Peanuts, Tofu, lentils, Soymilk, and beans
Nuts and seeds – Almonds and pumpkin seeds
OMEGA 3 – is mainly found in fatty fish. Worry not. We can also get them from plant sources. The essential fatty acid ALA that comes from plants gets converted to Omega 3 in our body. It is important for brain development, heart and eye health, and many others. Omega 3 can fight against depression and anxiety, inflammation in the body and also autoimmune disorders. The DRI for ALA is 1.1 gm for females and 1.6gms for males. Foods that contain ALA are Hemp seeds, Chia seeds, flax seeds, and Walnuts.
VITAMIN D – Vitamins are necessary for our body to grow naturally. It helps our body absorb calcium. Calcium is one of the building blocks of bone. Lack of Vitamin D can lead to bone illnesses like osteoporosis. It also has a role in the functioning of your nerve, muscle and immune system. The DRI of Vitamin D is 15mcg or 600 international units for adults. Sources of Vitamin D include
a) Exposure to Sun
c) Mushrooms, plant-based milk, cereals, orange juice.
VITAMIN B12 – is a water-soluble vitamin. It is necessary to keep our nerves healthy, support the production of DNA and red blood cells. It also helps in the normal functioning of the brain. Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that our body cannot make on its own. So, you need to get it from your diet or supplements. This is the only nutrient that we cannot get from plant sources. Some products are fortified, making it a source of Vitamin B12. Sources of Vitamin B12 include –
a) Fortified Nutritional yeast
b) Fortified non-dairy milk
How much should I eat on a vegan diet?
This is one question that tends to bother many people. The most important thing that you need to understand is the calorie density. For example: If you have to choose between a burger and a salad, you should know that you will be consuming more calories in a burger than a salad. This is just one meal and you have to consider the other meals that you will have on that day.
When you go on a vegan diet, most people are not sure whether they are eating enough calories. Sometimes you eat less and at other times you tend to overeat even when you are consuming healthy food. Eating excess of healthy items is bad too. While eating whole foods helps to cut back calories, it is important to ensure that you are eating enough calories required for the day. Hence It is best to listen to your body signals on how much food is required than what others say.
Rather than staying hungry for long and reaching out for junk food, it is better to eat food when you feel hungry. This will help you stay fit and healthy, improve your energy levels, your mood swings and stop your food cravings. If you eat less than what your body requires, you will feel tired, lazy and have a crappy mood.
Remember to stay away from oils and sugar and this itself will lead you to good health and a healthy weight. The recommendations given on the vegan food pyramid are broad ones. Therefore, you can modify it to suit your requirements accordingly.
Do read our article “How to lose weight at home” for more insights on losing weight the vegan way.
Please share your thoughts and comments with us below. Do share this article with your friends and family who is looking to get healthy and reverse their illnesses.
Looking to lose weight at home|Vegan Weight loss
If you are looking to lose weight at home you’ve come to the right place. Who doesn’t wish to look nice and flaunt their toned body?
This quest often takes us to the internet. There are tons of information available online to lose weight at home. But it can get too overwhelming to find the right piece of information suiting your requirements.
You may find various diet options online for weight loss like the Keto diet, Atkins diet, GM diet and many more. I am sure, you might have tried some of these. But the real question is, whether these diets are sustainable over a long period of time?
They may help you lose weight in the short term. But the moment you discontinue this diet, you tend to regain all the weight lost. These diets should be strictly followed under a nutritionist’s guidance as it can affect your health adversely by depriving your body of some essential nutrients.
Rather than obsessing about losing weight, your primary goal should be to become a fit and healthy person. You can achieve this by changing your existing lifestyle practices.
Diets alone will not help you lose weight; it has to be coupled with exercises on a regular basis. Many people are reluctant to spend money on fitness classes as they are unsure of getting positive results. But that doesn’t mean you can stay away from exercising. Exercises, like walking, swimming or cycling for at least 30 minutes to an hour daily, can help you achieve results quickly.
Many people focus on eating healthy and exercising. But still, they are unable to lose weight. Do you know why? Because a major aspect of weight control also involves understanding and managing the thoughts and behaviors that can interfere with weight loss. Hence to lose weight you need to look at four verticals namely balanced nutrition, adequate exercise, quality sleep, and good emotional health.
You can start your journey to lose weight at home by making some simple changes in your lifestyle. Not sure how to do it the right way? We can help you kickstart your journey to a healthy lifestyle.
How to lose weight the vegan way?
You might have heard about many people losing weight successfully following A VEGAN diet. Yes, you heard it right; a VEGAN diet! According to a study published in the Journal of General Internal medicine, people who followed a vegan diet for 18 weeks shed around 4 pounds than others who did not.
Now you may have some questions lingering in your mind like
- What’s a vegan diet?
A vegan diet is a diet made from plants (such as fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts). Vegans do not eat any food from animals including dairy products, egg, and honey.
- Why should you follow a vegan diet?
Many people lose weight when they go on a vegan diet because they eat only whole foods rich in FIBRE. It helps in cleaning up the intestines. On the other hand, people find it extremely difficult to lose weight when they eat animal products, as they have zero fiber in them.
Becoming a vegan, you can enjoy plenty of health benefits like reverse your illnesses including diabetes, thyroid, blood pressure, obesity, and many others.
- Will it work for the long term?
To follow a vegan diet over the long term is quite easy and sustainable. You can do this by eliminating animal products, honey, milk, and milk products from your diet and substituting them with plant-based products which are extremely good for health
- Will it help to shed weight and maintain it as well?
Yes, A Vegan diet will help you shed weight as you will consume whole foods rich in all the essential nutrients. This will help you stay full for a long time thereby reducing your calorie intake.
- What are the challenges in following this diet?
Many people transition easily to become a vegan and enjoy good health. You can replace your milk with plant-based milk products like almond milk, coconut milk, and many others. You can replace cottage cheese or paneer with tofu which is made of soya milk and dairy cheese can be replaced with cheese made from cashews and almonds.
Following a vegan diet, you might get deficient in Vitamin D3 and Vitamin B12. But ensure to get your medical tests done and take supplements as per your doctor’s advice as a deficiency in these vitamins may hamper your weight loss efforts.
Methods to shed weight the vegan way:
- Understand the vegan food pyramid – If you are just starting out to become a vegan, you need to understand THE VEGAN FOOD PYRAMID as it helps you know the various food groups you should be eating.
You should also learn about the serving size as it is made for both groups of people; people who want to lose weight and gain weight. Those who are looking to lose weight should prefer LOWER serving amounts listed in most of the categories. You can make changes in the serving size depending on your hunger and metabolism.
2) Eat a balanced diet including plenty of greens – To lose weight, one should eat a balanced diet rich in proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, fats, and minerals. You can increase your protein intake as per body type and reduce your carbohydrates as they keep you full for a longer period of time.
A healthy diet consists of fruits, low starchy vegetables, whole grains, millets, oats, nuts seeds. Low starchy vegetables include beans, cauliflower, cabbage, avocado, and broccoli. One should also include green leafy vegetables, vegetable juices/ smoothies as they contain lots of fiber, vitamins, and minerals which help in losing weight.
Try including fermented vegetables and probiotics in your diet as they are important for healthy weight loss and optimal health. They help in improving your gut health by increasing the good bacteria and getting rid of the bad bacteria that cause various illnesses.
Do you know how much protein does our body need per day?
The amount of protein we need depends on our body type and weight. On average, we need around 0.8 grams per kg on a daily basis; which means a 50 Kg lady needs around 50 gms of protein. This requirement can be easily met from a proper Indian diet. But if one does regular weight training, then the protein requirement will go up because the muscles need proteins for recovery.
3) Avoid processed food and eat whole grain foods – Processed foods are high in sugar, salt, calories, and preservatives. Because of this, you cannot stop eating and they create an addictive feeling compared to the unprocessed foods.
One of the best things to become healthier; is to switch your diet to whole grain foods. By doing this you will be eliminating added sugar and fat from the processed foods.
Don’t be afraid of eating whole grains. Some FAD diets do advise us to eliminate whole grains, but they are filled with important nutrients such as Vitamin B.
There’s a big difference between eating refined grains and whole grains. Refined grains like white rice and white pasta are simple carbohydrates that digest faster. Whole grains like brown rice and whole-wheat pasta are complex carbohydrates that your bodies use for energy. They digest very slowly offering the body enough glucose in an even manner. This also helps in managing the blood sugar levels which encourages healthy weight loss.
4) Limit your intake of added sugar – Sugar is not good for health and the more you eat, the harder it will be for you to lose weight as it leads to fat accumulation. Eating a lot of sugar is linked with diseases including heart disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
Since sugar can be found with different names in the ingredient list, it becomes difficult to figure out the amount of sugar a product contains. Hence it is better to eliminate sugar from the diet and replace it with dates.
5) Avoid fruit juice and increase your water consumption– You need to avoid drinking fresh fruit juice with added sugar and tetra pack fruit juices as they contain loads of sugar. Juicing fruit removes all the fiber and nutrients from it. Hence, it is better to eat the fruit as a whole and juice vegetables as it helps in easy digestion.
Drinking water helps in losing weight. Often, people don’t understand the difference between hunger and thirst and end up snacking or eating food when they are thirsty. This leads to overeating. To avoid this situation
We should drink enough water throughout the day. Drinking water helps you stay hydrated and eat less.
Maintain a detailed tracker of what you eat through the day as it helps you track the number of calories consumed.
People often tend to eat more when they are depressed or bored. Try drinking water instead of consuming food and distract your mind away from food in other activities.
6) Eliminate dairy products completely– Vegans eliminate milk and milk products completely from their diet. This enables them to improve their health and get rid of many illnesses. Also, people turn vegan to show compassion and stop cruelty towards animals and care for the environment.
Did you know that milk and milk products are not healthy?
Milk and milk products contain pus, bacteria, antibiotics, pesticides, and urea which are extremely harmful to health. This causes illnesses like diabetes, obesity, heart diseases, kidney ailments, and obesity. Hence it is advisable to stop having milk and milk products and substitute them with plant-based products like almond milk etc.
7) Eliminate oil from your diet – Many of us love eating fried foods and many still continue to do so. I am sure when you read “Eliminate oil from your diet”; many questions must have cropped in your mind like:
- a) Why should we eliminate oil from our diet? Isn’t it good? Isn’t it natural?
- b) How can I cook without oil?
- c) How will the food taste good without oil?
Oil is a refined product extracted from olives, peanuts, coconut, and other sources. When we consume oil; we are actually removing the nutrients and fiber from them and consuming only the fat. This thickens the blood, increases the blood pressure and clogs the artery walls. It hampers the blood supply to all parts of the body resulting in various illnesses. Instead, add healthy fats like coconut shreds and olives to your meal while cooking.
By eliminating oil from our food, we can still enjoy good food by changing the way we cook. This will enable us to gain good health.
8) Overtraining, Sleep, and recovery – You have to closely monitor your activity levels. Apart from your regular exercise, you need to track how active you are through the day. This can be done with the help of a pedometer which records the number of steps taken through the day.
Many people think that when you can train heavily, you can burn fat easily. When you train excessively, your body starts producing cortisol, a stress hormone which stores fat in your abdominal region. Hence it is advisable to do high interval training like burpees, squats, push-ups and pull-ups that are more natural for not more than 30 minutes.
Sleep and recovery are two extremely important factors for people who train heavily and for people who are looking to lose weight. Studies have shown that people who sleep less are more likely to gain weight than others who sleep well. This happens because sleep deprivation causes fluctuations in appetite hormones leading to poor appetite regulation. Also, while resting, your body repairs the worn-out muscles and helps it recover faster.
9) Practice Mindful eating – Many people think that skipping meals may help them lose weight easily. But they forget the fact that skipping meals actually slows down your metabolism and make you eat more later.
Mindful eating is eating with awareness so that you are well aware of your body needs. This means allowing yourself to eat when you are hungry and knowing to stop when you feel full and satisfied.
Mindful eating is good for your health and wellbeing and has shown significant effects on weight, eating behavior and stress. You often overeat when you are stressed, depressed or due to boredom. You can avoid overeating if you practice mindful eating.
Avoid reading books, watching television or doing things simultaneously while eating food, as your brain is unable to comprehend when your stomach is full and you end up eating more.
By making conscious and healthy food choices, increasing awareness and listening to your body, weight loss is natural and can easily be achieved.
10) Reduce your stress levels – People tend to eat more when they are stressed. Secondly, they crave for products which are high in fat and sugar and this causes weight gain.
Stress increases the production of cortisol, that promotes body fat and makes it difficult to lose weight. This further leads people to sleep less. Less sleep and tiredness cause the hormone ghrelin to rise. This hormone causes someone to feel hungry even when they don’t need to eat.
Hence it is always advisable to reduce your stress by engaging in hobbies like music dance etc. This helps in keeping your stress under control.
11)Keep a check on Vitamin D3 and B12 levels – If you are low on Vitamin D3 and B12, you will not be able to lose weight. You can consult your doctor and take the necessary supplements to
12) Go organic – Organic foods are better for health because they contain lower cadmium concentrations, higher amounts of antioxidants and little to no pesticide residue compared to conventional foods.
A good diet coupled with adequate exercise, quality sleep, and good emotional health are the key elements to become fit and healthy.
Hope the above video will help you kickstart your journey to lose weight at home and become healthy. Love your body and take the necessary steps immediately to avoid obesity and other illnesses. Remember the famous saying” Health is wealth”. We need to take good care of our health else our wealth can erode due to bad health.
Do share this article with your friends and family if they too are looking to lose weight.