The vegan food pyramid displays the foods found in a typical vegan diet depending on their importance. More than that, this pyramid provides indications on the beneficial foods, and on the products that can be harmful to your health. It is important that you acknowledge what foods are found in this pyramid so you know what foods to emphasize in your diet.
Fruits and Vegetables
There are several versions of the vegan food pyramid, and the main difference between these is found in the two first levels. In one version, for instance, vegetables and fruits represent the base of the diet, while in another whole grains are considered more important. However, both of these are essential to your diet.
From 3 to 5 servings of vegetables and from 2 to 4 servings of fruits should be eaten each day. These will provide the necessary vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. All types of fruits and vegetables should be eaten liberally, as there are no side effects that they could cause.
Whole grains are rich in antioxidants, such as vitamin E, and also represent an important source of magnesium, iron, fiber, and B vitamins. As vitamin B12 is mostly obtained from animal products, vegans must supplement their diet with fortified cereals. In addition, other typical whole grain foods found in a vegan food pyramid are:
- Cooked grain or cereal
- Ready-to-eat cereal
- Calcium-fortified breakfast cereal
- Rice and paste
Vegans are recommended to include 6 to 11 servings per day in their diet.
Fortified Dairy Substitutes and Seeds
Fortunately for the vegans, there are plenty of replacements for dairy products. Most of these products are based on soy and include:
- Fortified soy milk
- Calcium-rich tempeh or tofu
Besides these, seeds and beans, as well as products based on these, are important:
- Cooked beans
- Peas or lentils
- Peanut butter
This level of the food pyramid assures that your diet meets the protein requirements of your body. Plants, such as quinoa, and products, such as seitan, represent vegan foods that can also provide the necessary amount of protein. Between 2 and 3 servings per day from all these foods should suffice.
Vegetable Oils, Fats, Salt and Spices
The top of the vegan food pyramid includes vegetable oils, fats, salt, and spices. These should be used with great care, as they can represent a threat to your health. Salt is rich in sodium, a mineral that is needed by your body, but which becomes dangerous when consumed in high amounts. Sodium can cause hypertension and even some heart diseases.
Olive oil does not contain cholesterol and should be used for replacing:
- Palm oil
- Coconut oil
- Palm kernel oil
- Hard margarine
- Vegetable shortening
Even though at a first glance some of the aforementioned oils may seem to comply with the vegan food pyramid, you need to avoid them at all costs. These oils include high amounts of cholesterol and saturated fats. Other good alternatives include:
- Canola oil
- Corn oil
- Flax seed oil
- Sunflower oil
- Safflower oil
- Peanut oil
- Non-hydrogenated soft margarine
The vegan food pyramid will show you how to have a balanced diet, rich in proteins, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. In addition, by following the directions provided in such a pyramid, you make sure that cholesterol and other dangerous substances are avoided. You can use all the products recommended above to substitute animal products in vegan recipes. More than that, these are also suitable if you have a vegetarian lifestyle.