Some people are concerned that a vegan or plant-based diet won’t provide all of the nutrients they need to stay healthy. While this could be true if you rely on white flour pastries, potato chips, and soft drinks, with a little planning, even an entirely plant-based diet can meet — and surpass — your nutrient needs.
Many people fear that critical nutrients like protein, calcium, and iron are only in animal products. But meat, eggs, fish, and dairy are far from the only — or the best — sources of these nutrients. On the contrary, rest assured that plants can indeed provide all of these nutrients and more! In fact, whole plant foods are chock full of the vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that are strongly linked to better health outcomes.
While packed with nutrients, plants are less calorically-dense than animal products, meaning they contain fewer calories in a similar serving size. Therefore, you’ll need to eat more of them in order to get the same amount of calories. (That’s one of the important reasons plant-based diets are so good for weight loss: you can eat until you’re full without consuming too many calories.) By focusing on nutrient-rich plant foods, however, you’ll have no problem meeting your vitamin and mineral requirements.
A good place to start is to incorporate some of the most nutritious, health-promoting plant foods on the planet. We like Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s acronym G-BOMBS, which stands for:
- Greens: Leafy greens like spinach, kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, and other cruciferous veggies like broccoli and Brussels sprouts are full of anticancer compounds, vision-promoting antioxidant carotenoids, phytochemicals, folate, calcium, and fiber.
- Beans: Legumes like beans, peas, and lentils are an excellent source of fiber and resistant starch, which are healthy carbs that can help lower high cholesterol, manage blood sugar, keep intestines clean, and reduce the risk for colon and digestive cancers.
- Onions: The Allium family — made up of onions, leeks, garlic, chives, shallots, and scallions — contain powerful organosulfur compounds, which may help boost immunity, promote heart health, and have anticancer, antimicrobial, and anti-diabetic effects.
- Mushrooms: All mushroom varieties, including white button, cremini, Portobello, oyster, shiitake, maitake, and reishi, contain anti-inflammatory, immune-stimulating compounds that appear to protect against cancer, prevent DNA damage, and trigger cancerous cells to self-destruct for the good of the entire organism.
- Berries: Blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are among the most antioxidant-rich foods on the planet. Regular berry consumption promotes heart health, reduces cancer risk, lowers inflammation, and is protective against cognitive decline.
- Seeds: Nuts and seeds are full of vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, and calcium. And they can boost absorption of other nutrients, protect heart health, help prevent diabetes, and have anticancer properties.
Focusing on plant-based foods is a great way to enjoy a nutritionally-adequate and delicious palate that can benefit both your waistline and longevity.