A vegan diet is a much healthier alternative to a non-vegan diet but it can result in deficiencies in certain essential nutrients like vitamins and proteins. This however happens only due to poor diet planning and a lack of pertinent information to help with such planning. Vegan diets are healthier than meat diets but due to their restrictive nature, extra care needs to be taken when considering what should be eaten in what proportions and what needs to be taken either in the form of supplements or specially fortified vegan food.
Listed below are some of the vegan sources for key nutrients like protein, carbohydrates, fats (essential fatty acids), minerals, and vitamins. A lot of vegan foods are good sources of fiber, phytochemicals, and other micro-nutrients.
Vegan Protein Sources
Wheat sources include: whole wheat flour, bread and pasta, brown rice, oats, and rye.
Nuts: hazels, cashews, Brazilian, almonds
Seeds: sunflower, sesame, pumpkin
Legumes/pulses: peas, beans, lentils
Soy products: flour, soy milk, tofu, and tempeh
Vegan Vitamin Sources
Vitamin A: Carrots, spinach, pumpkins, tomatoes, dark greens, and vegan margarine
Vitamin B: Nuts, whole grains, oats, muesli, pulses (peas, beans, lentils), yeast extracts, green leafy vegetables, potatoes, mushrooms, and dried fruit; B12 supplements, fortified yeast extracts, soy milk, TVP products, some breakfast cereals. Note that Seaweed and fermented products like tamari, miso, and tempeh may contain some B12 but they are not reliable sources.
Vitamin C: Red and black currants, berries, citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, grapefruit, green vegetables, and potatoes.
Vitamin D: Action of sunlight on the skin, vitamin D-fortified foods like vegan margarine, some soy milk, and supplements.
Vitamin E: Nuts, seeds, whole grains and flours, and vegetable oils
Vegan Minerals Sources
Calcium: Nuts, seeds, pulses like soybeans, tofu, fermented soybean curd, molasses, carob, parsley, dried figs, sea vegetables, grains like oatmeal, and fortified soy milk.
Iron: Nuts, seeds, pulses, grains, dried fruit, sea vegetables, parsley, green leafy vegetables, and molasses.
Zinc: Wheatgerm, whole grains like whole wheat bread, rice, oats, nuts, pulses, tofu, soy protein, peas, parsley, and bean sprouts.
Vegan Carbohydrate Sources
Whole grains: wheat, oats, barley, rice; Whole-wheat bread, pasta, and other flour products; Lentils, beans, potatoes, dried and fresh fruit
Vegan Fat Sources: Nuts and seeds; Nut and seed oils; Vegan margarine; Avocados
Vegan Essential Fatty Acids Sources
The human body does not make two polyunsaturated fatty acids: linoleic acid (Omega 6 group) and alpha-linolenic acid (Omega 3 group).
Linoleic Acid (Omega 6): 1 Safflower, sunflower, corn, evening primrose & soy oils
Alpha-linolenic Acid (Omega 3): Flaxseed, pumpkin seed, walnut, soy & rapeseed (canola) oils
Note: The correct balance for omega-6:omega-3 intake is roughly 3:1
Folic Acid for Vegans
Wheatgerm, raw/lightly-cooked green leafy vegetables like broccoli and spinach, yeast, yeast extracts, nuts, peas, green ‘runner beans’, oranges, dates, avocados, and whole grains.