After 30 years of advising patients of the health benefits of a plant-based diet, I still worry that they may choose a junk food route that may leave them lacking essential nutrients. There are a variety of foods that carry the vegan label but are unlikely to promote health, and many people may start with these on their vegan journey. For example, both Taco Bell and White Castle are promoting plant-based options that may be better than the industrial meats they serve but are a long way from a bean and avocado salad topped with sprouts. And while some processed vegan meals may work in a pinch or as a splurge, the mainstay of a healthy vegan eating pattern must be whole foods with single ingredients. The focus on staples like fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds is an awesome path to preventing and even reversing many disease processes.
In addition to eating processed junk food too often, another dietary trap vegans can fall into is ignoring the need to supplement their meals. This is important to gain all of the benefits of a diet free of animal products. The status of modern farming and the subsequent creation of soil depleted of nutrients may result in low vitamin intake. Most of the adults I see in my clinic, whether they are eating a diet that is vegan or otherwise, lack important nutrients on the advanced testing I perform. The following list is what I suggest to my patients following a plant-based diet to maximize health and vitality: