Vegan Diet

The Basics

People who eat a vegan diet avoid all foods derived from animals, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, and usually honey. Many vegans also avoid things made with fur, leather, wool, silk, and down, as well as cosmetics and chemicals tested on animals. People who choose a vegan diet and lifestyle often do so out of concern for animal welfare and a commitment to compassion and nonviolence toward animals, but may also have environmental, economic, and health reasons.

Vegans build their diets around a wide variety of plant foods:

  • Grains: Rice, oats, barley, wheat, quinoa, millet, amaranth, and others. These may be eaten as whole cooked grains, milled into flour and made into grain products like bread, crackers, and pasta, made into puffed or flaked cereals, or sprouted.
  • Legumes: Beans, lentils, peanuts, and soy foods. Many soy foods are made through fermentation or culturing. Other legumes are generally eaten cooked, sprouted, or, in the case of peanuts, raw or toasted.
  • Nuts and seeds: Examples include almonds, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, pistachios, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, and hemp seeds (or "hearts"). These are generally eaten raw or toasted, but may be sprouted in the case of seeds.
  • Vegetables and fruits: Both raw and cooked vegetables and fruits are part of a vegan diet. Fermented vegetables may also have a place in a vegan diet

A vegan diet can be highly nutritious. Limiting the amount of animal food you eat may lead to health gains even if you don’t choose a fully vegan diet.

Ready to explore vegan cuisine? Basing your diet on whole grains, legumes, soy products, and nuts and seeds will provide you with healthful protein, mono- and polyunsaturated fats, and complex carbohydrates to help you feel satisfied. Some vegans use soy-based meat substitutes like tofu and tempeh, as well as milk, yogurt and cheese substitutes made from soy, rice, almonds, hemp seeds, and coconut. Remember to include five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2017.