It’s a bit of an oversimplification to say that there’s one definitive Vegan Food Pyramid. Doctors, dietitians, and even Universities have all produced their own Vegan Food Pyramids. Although most Vegan Pyramids are on the right track, they don’t always reflect the most current information about Vegan Diets and health. This is why we want to present a more updated version of The Vegan Food Pyramid, see details below.
However, before we delve into The Vegan Food Pyramid, we should discuss some of the health benefits of following a diet consistent with The Vegan Pyramid, as well as the most common questions regarding the Vegan Pyramid.
Although following this vegan food pyramid will minimize the need for supplementation, deficiencies are still possible. Here are some supplements to consider if you’re following the vegan diet:
You will notice that there is a serving range for each food group. That’s because people’s caloric needs vary. If you need more calories, opt for the high end of the range. If you’re trying to lose weight, opt for the lower end of the range. Serving sizes for various food groups are listed below.
Ready to begin? Here is an updated version of the Vegan Food Pyramid.
½ Base: Starchy Vegetables and Whole Grains (4-8 servings per day)
Whole grains and starchy vegetables are superb sources of carbohydrates, antioxidants, and fiber. Therefore, in order to make sure one gets enough of these vital nutrients, a large part of the vegan diet should be made up of these foods.
Most vegan food pyramids don’t distinguish between vegetables and grain types. It’s important to note that the difference between starchy vegetables, regular vegetables, refined grains, and whole grains is significant, thus their placement in separate categories.
Whole Grains (Serving=1 slice bread or ½ cup raw grain)
Starchy Vegetables (Serving=1/2 cup)
½ Base: Lentils, Beans, Legumes (3-4 servings per day)
Many vegan pyramids place legumes towards the top -ignoring the fact that beans are a critical protein source for vegans. Protein, along with select B vitamins found in legumes, are sorely lacking in many vegan’s diets. In fact, low protein diets have been linked with weight gain, muscle loss, and immune system suppression.
Legumes (Serving=1/2 cup)
Second Level: Fruits and Non- Starchy Vegetables (5-9 servings per day)
Fruits and vegetables are one of the most important parts of any diet – not just vegan. Besides being packed with essential nutrients, fresh produce is full of potent antioxidants that ward off chronic disease.
Fruits (1/2 cup)
Non-Starchy Vegetables (Serving=1 cup)
½ Third Level: Soy-Based Foods (2-3 servings per day)
Although you’ll be getting the majority of your protein from beans and nuts, soy-based foods like tofu and soymilk are one of the few vegan sources of complete protein. Not only that, but they contain highly bio-available calcium, making sure you absorb this important mineral for strong bones.
Soy-Based Foods (Serving=1 cup liquid, ½ cup solid)
½ Third Level: Healthy Fats (2-3 servings per day)
Healthy Fats (tbsp. liquid oil, ¼ cup solid)
Most vegan food pyramids ignore the crucial distinction between healthy and unhealthy fats. Although most of the fats found in vegan foods are healthy, there are certainly exceptions to this rule: especially in the case of margarine and coconut oils. Therefore, the vegan diet should contain plenty of nuts, seeds, and extra virgin olive oil to make sure one gets enough healthy fats in the diet.
Tip of the Pyramid: Processed Food, Candy, Soda (eat sparingly)
It’s best to steer clear of processed food and stick to the fresh and natural foods that are found in the rest of the pyramid. Many foods like Oreos and Coke, are widely considered unhealthy.
Processed Foods (serving size varies)
Although the vegan pyramid is a great tool, keeping these points in mind should help you follow it.
Despite its shortcomings, the vegan pyramid remains a powerful tool for reaping the benefits of a vegan diet.
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