The most extreme form of vegetarianism is a vegan diet. This diet consists of not eating any form of animal-based products or their derivatives such as eggs, cheese or honey.
Those who are vegan only eat plant-based foods, and classify them into what has been called, “the new four food groups”: fruits, legumes, vegetables and whole grains.
While this is a very healthy and environmentally-friendly diet, if it is not handled property, it can lead to deficiencies of some nutrients and proteins that are key to the body functioning well. For example, the protein that is found in animal products is difficult to replace or find in the same amount in other types of vegetable-based products as they have very low biological values, which is why it is important to seek out foods that are rich in this type of nutrient. (Read also: Essential proteins: What you should know)
The most recent document that states the official position of the U.S. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics on vegetarian and vegan diets sustains that they, “…are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” It emphasizes that the requirements for protein consumption can be met by combining different sources of protein throughout the day.
The following are some of the foods they recommend eating:
- Quinoa: Because it contains protein levels near to those found in animal products, quinoa is considered a supergrain.
- Beans: Together with lentils and garbanzo beans, these legumes are great sources of protein for the body.
- Peanut butter: In addition to being a great source of protein, the healthy fats found in nuts and seeds in general help control cholesterol levels.
- Greek yogurt: Greek yogurt is rich in proteins and healthy fats. Make sure that this yogurt does not contain too much added sugar.
- Tofu: Tofu is bean curd, which is made from processing soy milk and contains high levels of the protein found in soybeans.
People who do not get enough protein can use supplements or special shakes that serve as complements to nutritional requirements. This should be done under the advice of a medical professional.
Related articles: Vegetarians must balance their diet