While the reasons people take on vegan diets can be as individual as the vegans themselves, they all share one common interest -- foregoing the consumption of animal products. Vegan diets exclude meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products as well as foods that contain these products. However, vegans still include a range of foods to allow for variety in the kitchen.
Fruits vegetables -- whether fresh, frozen, dried and canned -- are all vegan. They are high in fiber, natural sugar, water content, carbohydrates and vitamins. A diet rich in vegetables and fruits lowers blood pressure, reduces risk of heart disease, stroke, some cancers, lowers risk of eye and digestive problems and has a mellowing effect on blood sugar that can help keep appetite in check, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
Nuts and seeds are vegan foods that are high in mono- and polyunsaturated fat, protein and fiber. They also have a high amount of calories, but don't let that stop you from eating them. Nuts contain the essential fatty acids, linoleic and linolenic acids, which are vital for growth, healthy skin and hair, blood pressure control, immune response and blood clotting. Reach for almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds as healthful snacks.
All forms of whole grains and the products that they produce are vegan friendly foods. They are also high in fiber and complex carbs, low in fat and have moderate amounts of protein. Oatmeal, oat bran, millet, barley, pasta, cereal, bread and bagels all contribute to your grain intake. Quinoa also counts as part of the grain group, although it is technically a seed. Opt for whole grains over processed grains -- such as white pasta -- for optimal health benefits.
Beans, along with peas and peanuts, are vegan legumes that are high in fiber, complex carbs, iron and protein. They are also low in fat and provide beneficial protein. Kidney beans, white beans, lima beans, pinto beans, lentils and chick peas are other examples. Soy beans -- and products made with soy beans, such as soy milk -- also make up staples in many vegan diets.
Vegan cooking doesn't have to be bland -- herbs and spices don't contain animal products, so they fit into a vegan diet. Use dried herbs and spices in your soups and casseroles, and use fresh herbs in salads, sandwiches and wraps.
Numerous alternatives exist that are vegan friendly, such as faux, or in other words, fake, lunch meat, milk, cheese, yogurt, sausage and pepperoni. They are typically made from soy products, but might also be made up of mushrooms, lentils, vegetables or other plant-based foods. However, many foods marketed as meat alternatives come highly processed, and can contain high levels of sodium. Eat pre-packaged vegan foods in moderation.
- vegetables image by cherie from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.