Your guide to being a healthy vegan  
or a healthy vegetarian! 
 
Health Guide:  
 Exercise
 Fruits & Vegetables
 Legumes / Beans
 Oils & Fats
 Vitamins & Minerals
 Whole Grains
Additional Info:  
 Caffeine
 Herbs & Spices
 Nuts & Seeds
 Organic Produce
 Salt & Sodium
 Soy & Tofu
 Sugar & Sweeteners

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CarrotsFruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are a significant part of the New Four Food Groups. A healthy vegan or vegetarian diet relies on fruits and vegetables to provide much of the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients needed every day.

Quick Page Summary: It's important to eat plenty of fruits (at least 3 servings) and vegetables (at least 4 servings) every day. Fresh, raw produce is usually the best choice, but there's benefits to cooked, canned, and frozen, too. When you can afford to do so, buy organic produce, as it has the best flavor and the most nutrients; if you're on a tight budget, purchase organic produce if the conventional alternative is typically high in pesticides—like peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce, and potatoes.

Daily Recommendations

According to the Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), the following are the daily recommendations for fruits and vegetables.

  • Fruits – Three (3) or more servings a day.
    Be sure to include at least one (1) serving each day of fruits that are high in vitamin C—citrus fruits, melons, and strawberries are all good choices. Choose whole fruit over fruit juices, which do not contain very much fiber.
    Serving size: 1 medium piece of fruit • 1/2 cup cooked fruit • 4 ounces juice

  • Vegetables – Four (4) or more servings a day.
    Vegetables are packed with nutrients; they provide . Dark green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, collards, kale, mustard and turnip greens, chicory, or cabbage, are especially good sources of vitamin C, beta-carotene, riboflavin, iron, calcium, fiber, and other nutrients. Dark yellow and orange vegetables such as carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin provide extra beta-carotene. Include generous portions of a variety of vegetables in your diet.
    Serving size: 1 cup raw vegetables • 1/2 cup cooked vegetables

Fruits and VegetablesEach fruit and vegetable is unique. To learn about each type of fruit and vegetable, try visiting the World's Healthiest Foods List by the George Mateljan Foundation or the Fruit & Veggie Database by Fruits & Veggies More Matters™ site.

Healthy Choices

High fruit and vegetable consumption has been associated with a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, several common cancers, and other chronic diseases (such as macular degeneration and cataracts).

For the best results, try to eat a wide variety every day. Deeply colored vegetables and fruits contain the most vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This includes all dark green, deep red, purple, and bright orange or yellow plant foods. Eat more dark-green veggies like broccoli, spinach, and other dark leafy greens.

Tip: If you're trying to lose weight, avoid starchy vegetables (corn, green lima beans, potatoes, and green peas) in favor of non-starchy vegetables whenever possible.

The world's healthiest* fruits and vegetables include the following. Tip: Items in bold are the fruits and vegetables that commonly typically have the most pesticides (and therefore make the best choices for buying organic).

Vegetables:

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Beets
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Collard greens
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Fennel bulb
  • Garlic
  • Green beans
  • Green peas
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms, Crimini
  • Mushrooms, Shiitake
  • Mustard greens
  • Olives
  • Onions
  • Parsley
  • Potato
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Sea vegetables
  • Spinach
  • Squash, summer
  • Squash, winter
  • Sweet potato, with skin
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomato, fresh
  • Turnip Greens
  • Yam

Vegan / Vegetarian Vegetables

Fruits:

  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Banana
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cranberries
  • Fig
  • Grapefruit
  • Grapes
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Lemons and limes
  • Orange
  • Papaya
  • Pear, Bartlett
  • Pineapple
  • Plum
  • Prune
  • Raisins
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon

Vegan / Vegetarian Fruit

*According to the George Mateljan Foundation. See the "World's Healthiest Foods" web site for more information.

Bell PeppersOrganic Choices

Eating organic produce can reduce the amount of toxic chemicals ingested and increase the amount of beneficial vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids (like omega 3 and omega 6) consumed. Organic produce also has other benefits. Organic produce has also been found to taste better!

Ideally, you'd eat nothing but organic produce; unfortunately, organic produce is more expensive than conventional foods, and not all of us can afford an all-organic diet. For this reason, you may want to limit your organic purchases to those items that are typically highest in pesticides when bought conventionally (non-organic).

Below are the fruits and vegetables that have the highest amount of pesticides.* (In other words, if you can only afford to buy a few organic items--these are the ones that are the most important.) For a complete list of vegetables and fruits, an explanation of the rankings, and to download a pocket guide for shopping, please visit FoodNews.com.

Worst Produce (most pesticide contamination)
1 Peaches 100 (highest pesticide load)
2 Apples 89
3 Sweet Bell Peppers 86
4 Celery 85
5 Nectarines 84
6 Strawberries 82
7 Cherries 75
8 Pears 65
9 Grapes - Imported 65
10 Spinach 60
11 Lettuce 59
12 Potatoes 58

Best Produce (least pesticide contamination)
1 Onions 1 (lowest pesticide load)
2 Avocados 1
3 Sweet Corn - Frozen 2
4 Pineapples 7
5 Mangoes 9
6 Asparagus 11
7 Sweet Peas - Frozen 11
8 Kiwi 14
9 Bananas 16
10 Cabbage 17
11 Broccoli 18
12 Papaya 21

*These lists are based on information and studies by USDA, Consumer Reports, and the Environmental Working Group.
 

For more information about organic produce, see our Organic Produce page.

Raw, Cooked, Frozen or Canned?

Whether you eat raw, cooked, frozen, or canned produce may affect the nutritional value of your produce. All fruits and vegetables, regardless of how they are stored or prepared are healthy and nutritious; however, for most fruits and vegetables, eating them raw may give you the maximum nutritional value possible.

If you boil your veggies, you'll lose their nutrients in the water. When cooking them, the best way to retain water-soluble nutrients is to steam them in a little water in the microwave. If you do boil your veggies, save the water to use as stock for soups and broths.

Some fruits and vegetables may actually be healthier when eaten frozen or cooked:

  • TomatoesCarrots, squash, tomatoes, and a variety of orange, green, and red vegetables are full of carotenoids, which may help prevent types of cancer, keep eyes healthy, preserve memory, and stimulate DNA-repairing enzymes. These fruits and vegetables are good for you when eaten raw, but may be even better for you when they're cooked or frozen. "Beta-carotene is tightly bound to the protein in a plant, but cooking breaks that binding apart, making the chemical more bioavailable in the human body," says Luke Howard, Ph.D. Additionally, "freezing breaks down the cellular structures, which may release carotenoids and make them more available," says Wilhelmina Kalt, Ph.D. For even more nutrients, be sure to eat their peels.

  • Spinach has a lot of calcium and antioxidants, but it's also rich in oxilic acid, which can interfere with calcium absorption. Heating (or lightly steaming) appears to nullify the acid, helping you to absorb more calcium.

  • Buckwheat greens are toxic when raw, particularly if juiced or eaten in large quantities by fair-skinned individuals. The chemical component fagopyrum is known to cause severe photosensitivity and other dermatological complaints.

  • Kidney beans, including its sprouts, are toxic when raw.

  • Rhubarb leaves can be toxic if eaten raw in sufficient quantity.

  • PotatoesPotatoes contain toxic compounds, of which the most prevalent are solanine and chaconine. Cooking at high temperatures (over 170 °C or 340 °F) partly destroys these. Cooking also breaks down the starch and makes them easier to eat. Tip: Potatoes produce the toxic alkaloid solanine when they turn green. Solanine can be reduced by cooking.

  • Common white mushrooms may contain potential toxic substances. If you're worried about this, cooking might reduce the risk, but the amount of danger to humans is considered negligible; however, raw mushrooms might harbor bacteria--cleaning them thoroughly or cooking them reduces the risk of consuming bacteria.

Raw Choices

Raw foodism is a movement promoting the consumption of uncooked, unprocessed, and often organic foods (primarily consisting of fruits and vegetables), as a large percentage of the diet. A raw food diet consists fully of foods which have not been heated above a certain temperature (typically 92ºF to 118ºF [33°C to 48°C]).

Raw, Living FoodsRaw foodism promotes the ideas that the greater the percentage of raw food in the diet, the greater the health benefits, and that raw foods can prevent and/or heal many forms of sickness and chronic diseases.

If you're interested in adopting a primarily (or all) raw food diet, or want to incorporate more raw foods into your meals, visit the following sites to learn more.

General Resources

Where can I buy healthy vegan alternatives?
Our sister site, Vegan and Vegetarian Products Guide, lists hundreds of tasty alternatives to dairy, eggs, meat, pet food, supplements, and more that can be found in many grocery stores.

Disclaimer
This web site is intended for information purposes only and is not intended to be professional medical advice. This site is provided by health-minded volunteers, not professionals. Always confirm the information you read with verified medical journals and articles before using the information. Always seek the advice of your physician, dietician, or other qualified health provider before changing your diet or taking supplements.

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Please email any suggestions or corrections to info[at]veghealthguide.com
The information above is for informational purposes only.
Always remember to talk to your physician if you have questions or plan on changing your diet.


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