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What Is the Vegan Food Pyramid?

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  • Written By: K.C. Bruning
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  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2016
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The vegan food pyramid consists of five basic categories: grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts, and fats. It recommends eating a variety of fresh foods in different colors and textures in order to get complete nutrition. Vegans should generally be sure to eat plenty of carbohydrates and ensure that their calcium and protein needs are met. Foods fortified with vitamin B12 and vitamin D may be necessary supplements to the foods recommended on the pyramid.

Whole grains form the largest portion of the vegan food pyramid. As they are rich in carbohydrates, they are an important part of the energy requirements in a vegan diet. It is recommended to eat six to 11 servings of whole grains a day. Cereal, bread, and cooked grains are all good choices.

The next level of the vegan food pyramid is fruits and vegetables. Recommendations vary as to what amount to eat, but at least two to four servings of each are suggested per day. In order to benefit from a wide array of nutritional possibilities, it is best to eat several different colors of fruits, such as berries, citrus, bananas, and apples. Dark greens such as bok choy, collards, broccoli, and kale can provide much needed calcium for a vegan diet, as well as being rich in antioxidants.

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At least two to three servings of beans, legumes, and other plant-based protein sources are recommended by the vegan food pyramid. Soy products such as tempeh and tofu are excellent replacements for meat and dairy protein. Lentils and different varieties of peas and beans are also healthy choices. Nuts and nut butters — such as peanut butter, almond butter, and hazelnut butter — are good sources of protein as well. There are also several meat substitute products available which are often made of varying combinations of soy, nuts, and grains.

Though the vegan food pyramid recommends that fats, sweets, and oils be consumed in moderation, they can be a part of a healthy diet. Walnut, flaxseed, and olive oils provide essential omega-3 fatty acids. Dairy and trans fat-free margarine and sweets are also acceptable if consumed in moderation.

There are several processed foods which are supplemented with the vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium that can be difficult to eat in sufficient quantity on a vegan diet. Milk replacement beverages made of soy, almonds, hazelnuts, and hemp are often supplemented with several different vitamins and minerals. Many meat substitutes, cereals, and breads are also fortified.

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browncoat
Post 3

@KoiwiGal - I'm not sure that it is as big a deal as that, as long as vegans are prepared to take a vitamin supplement regularly. Many people, maybe even most people, in the world aren't getting exactly the right kind of nutrition for whatever reason and they survive just fine. Ideally we would all follow a healthy food pyramid rigidly but in practice that's not going to happen for everyone.

KoiwiGal
Post 2

@irontoenail - Eating vegan food in general is a balancing act and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who wasn't prepared to put in the time needed to ensure they are eating healthy and getting all the nutrients that they need.

The human body has evolved to respond best to an omnivorous diet, and it's extra work to make sure you give it everything it needs on any other kind of diet. That work might be worth it to you, but it still has to be done. If you can't manage it, then vegetarian might be a better option, as that includes milk and eggs, both of which are relatively packed with the nutrients that are difficult to get on a vegan diet.

irontoenail
Post 1

While fats are recommended in moderation, you do have to remember what moderation actually means in this case. Most people only have to reduce the fat in their diets because there is so much in processed food and meat-based products that it's difficult to get away from it.

When you switch to a diet that is based on plants then you might find that you have to struggle to eat enough fat. That's not the case for everyone, but I've had a couple of vegan friends who basically had to start measuring how many nuts and things they ate each week to make sure they were getting enough calories and fat in particular. It is actually an essential part of the diet, so make sure you're getting enough.

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