ARC (Awakening Respect and Compassion for all Sentient Beings) 

Diet and Nutrition 

The illnesses which affect Americans the most are the so called “Diseases of Affluence.” These Include Heart Disease, Cancer, Diabetes 2, Obesity, Alzheimer’s, High Blood Pressure, Stroke, Auto-Immune Diseases and others.  Every one of us has either experiences one or more of these personally, or we know someone who has. Many of these diseases can be prevented and even reversed by eating a whole foods plant-based diet. 

Research shows a high correlation between consuming animal protein and rates of these diseases. But there is good reason for hope, as an increasing body of nutrition science shows that a high percentage of these diseases can be prevented or even reversed by consuming a plant-based diet. 

We can achieve optimal personal health and acquire all of the nutrients we need from plants without the toxic compounds found in animal based products.  According to Dr. T. Colin Campbell, PhD, and author of the widely acclaimed The China Study, besides the antibiotics, steroids, and hormones which we ingest when we consume the bulk of animal products on the market, “the real danger of animal products is the nutrient imbalances, regardless of the presence or absence of those nasty chemicals. Long before modern chemicals were introduced into our food, people still began to experience more cancer and more heart disease when they started to eat more animal-based foods.”

In fact, the more animal protein we consume, the higher our rates of the diseases of affluence. In The China Study, Dr. Campbell makes a compelling case for giving up animal products. The New York Times called Campbell’s China Study the “Grand Prix of epidemiology” and the “most comprehensive large study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease.”  

“A low-fat plant-based diet would not only lower the heart attack rate about 85 percent, but would lower the cancer rate 60 percent.” 
-William Castelli, M.D., Director, Framingham Health Study; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

“A plant-based diet is a powerful tool for preventing, managing, and even reversing type 2 diabetes. Not only is this the most delicious ‘prescription’ you can imagine, but it’s also easy to follow. Unlike other diets, there’s no calorie counting, no skimpy portions, and no carb counting. Plus, all the ‘side effects’ are good ones. ”

-Neal Barnard, M.D., F.A.C.C., President, Physicians Committee

In the the third world, people die of malnutrition related disorders. Americans die of over nutrition. We eat too much animal protein, too much fat and too much sugar. Plus, the average American does not get enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which are full of protective nutrients that help us fight disease and optimize our health. The vegan food pyramid below gives us a general guide for how to eat for optimal health. 

The Basics of Plant-Based Nutrition:

Protein: The first question everyone has about a vegan diet is "Where do you get your protein?" Especially in today's protein obsessed society, many people fear they won't be able to get enough protein on a vegan diet. Fortunately, that fear is entirely unfounded. We get our protein the same way gorillas, elephants, and rhinoceroses do, from plants! Plants are an abundant and complete source of protein, even for people with higher than usual protein requirements such as athletes, body-builders, pregnant women and children. 

The average American consumes 70-100 g of protein a day. In the US, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 50-60g, and in many countries the recommendations are much lower. Vegans can get plenty of protein in their diet by consuming a variety of beans, seeds, nuts, whole grains, and vegetables. We can get all the nutrients we need from plants without the toxic byproducts that come from animal products.

Fiber and Complex Carbs: Fiber is essential to good health. It binds to toxins in the body and helps eliminate them.  It keeps digestion moving. Without it, we are susceptible to the constipation based diseases such as colo-rectal cancer and large bowel cancer.  

High fiber consumption reduces the risk of these and other cancers, reduces blood cholesterol, and is associated with healthy weight.

Dietary fiber is ONLY found in plants, not in animal based foods.  

Complex carbs, i.e., whole grains, are high in fiber and other nutrients. These are the good carbs. Refined or processed carbs such as white flour, processed breads and sweets are the “empty calories” which lead to weight gain and exacerbate diseases like Type 2 Diabetes. Not all carbs are created equally!


Both the Institute of Medicine (the government agency that establishes the RDAs) and the World Health Organization recommend 1,000 mg of calcium per day for adults (or 1200 for those over 50).

What really matters is how much calcium we absorb, though, not how much you eat. People generally absorb about 25 to 30 percent of the calcium in their diets. 

Vegans should have no trouble meeting calcium needs if consuming at least 2 cups per day (or for those over 50, 3 cups a day) of foods that are rich in well-absorbed calcium. These include:

Cooked Chinese cabbage, 

turnip greens,

mustard greens,


Calcium-set tofu

Fortified plant milks

Fortified juices.

Other good sources of calcium that we want to include into our diets include: 

beans, almond butter, soaked almonds, broccoli, kale, okra, sweet potatoes, figs, navel oranges, corn tortillas, and blackstrap molasses.

Getting calcium from fruits and vegetables might have some advantages since diets rich in these foods are linked to improved bone health. This may be because plant sources of calcium are often high in potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin K, all of which may be important for keeping bones strong. 

For more information about calcium, see


Getting plenty of iron on a vegan diet is easy. Vegans are no more likely to be iron-deficient than meat eaters. In fact, plant-based foods are some of the best sources of iron available. For example, ½ cup of cooked lentils has nearly twice the iron as four ounces of beef—a food generally thought of as an iron superstar. 

Adding vitamin C-rich foods to a meals increases absorption of iron.  So adding some leafy greens or a 1/2 glass of orange to your meal can help with absorption. 

Some great plant-based sources of iron include: 

Legumes: lentils, soybeans, tofu, tempeh, lima beans

Grains: quinoa, fortified cereals, brown rice, oatmeal

Nuts and seeds: pumpkin, squash, pine, pistachio, sunflower, cashews, unhulled sesame

Vegetables: tomato sauce, swiss chard, collard greens,

Other: blackstrap molasses, prune juice

For more information about vegan iron, visit

Anti-Oxidants: Anti-oxidants prevent oxidation and damage of free radicals at the cellular level. They protect us from cancer, boost immunity, and prevent the destruction of cells. Plants are full of them. All the pigments we see in plants are visual cues to the anti-oxidants they contain.  Animals do not have anti-oxidants, so we must eat plants to get them.


There are a few supplements all vegans should be taking. 

Vitamin B-12 is probably the most important because there are no natural sources of B-12 in the vegan diet. B-12 is a microorganism found in the soil and in some sea plants. If we didn't wash our vegetables so well, or if we ate animals who grazed, we could obtain plenty B-12. However, it's not just vegans who are at risk of B-12 deficiency. 

With over 98% of all farmed animals being raised on factory farms and feedlots, the animals aren't getting their B-12 either. Which means people eating animals aren't assured of adequate amounts of B-12 either. B-12 deficiency serious. According to Ginny Messina, The Vegan RD, two symptoms of B12 deficiency are:

-Megaloblastic anemia, in which red blood cells become abnormally large because they can’t divide.

-Nerve damage, which can result in a host of problems—everything from depression and mental confusion to tingling and numbness in extremities to a loss of balance and even paralysis.

In order to ensure you're getting adequate amounts of this important nutrient, Messina says there are three ways to meet vitamin B12 needs:

-Eat two servings per day of foods fortified with at least 2 to 3.5 mcg of vitamin B12 each. You’ll need to eat these servings at least 4 hours apart to allow for optimal absorption; 

-Take a daily supplement providing 25 to 100 mcg of vitamin B12, or

-Take a supplement providing 1,000 mcg of vitamin B12 twice per week

Vitamin D3:

Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because our bodies make Vitamin D out of sunlight.

In theory, if we spend enough time outdoors with our arms and legs exposed (about 30 minutes a day), we can make plenty of our own sunshine vitamin. However, most of us don’t get enough sunshine. Vitamin D deficiency is the most common vitamin deficiency in the world today with an estimated 40% to 60% of the world’s adult population being deficient.

It’s hard to get Vitamin D from food sources, (vegan or not), unless they're fortified, like many orange juices and plant-based milks are.

Vitamin D performs many functions in our bodies, and its importance can hardly be overstated.

A recent study published in the Journal of Neurology showed a 53% greater risk of dementia and a 70% higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease among subjects who had a moderate vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D also:

Helps your body absorb calcium and other minerals, including phosphorous

Is crucial for the healthy functioning of your muscles, your heart, your brain, your pancreas, and your thyroid

Plays a critical role in your immune system


Because Vitamin D is so important, if you're not spending enough time in the sun (which is almost impossible anywhere in North America during the winter months), supplementing may be a good idea. D3 seems more readily absorbed than D2, and there are now several good vegan D3 supplements on the market. 


People 12 months and older who don’t receive the above level of sun exposure should supplement with 600 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D per day.

Everyone over the age of 65, regardless of sun exposure, should supplement with 600 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D per day.

For more information on Vitamin D, see



Omega 3s are important for lowering our risk of heart disease, improving cognitive functioning, and reducing inflammation. Maintaining a good ration between Omega 3s and the less healthy omega 6s is also important. But it's a bit complicated as there are three Omega 3s (ALA, EPA, DHA) and questions about our bodies' ability to convert one into a another. 

It’s difficult for vegans to get adequate omega-3 fatty acids from their diets, since the two essential omega-3 fatty acids, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are most available in fish oil. Vegetarian sources of omega-3s provide only ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), a precursor form that the body cannot convert efficiently to the DHA and EPA it needs.

Therefore, in order to ensure adequate amounts of these important nutrients, vegans should probably include a variety of ALA food sources, as well as taking a DHA supplement. 

Good sources of vegan Omega 3s include:

Chia Seeds. 

Brussels Sprouts

Algal Oil

Hemp Seed



Perilla Oil

In addition to incorporating these foods into our diet, it is recommended to supplement 200-300mg of DHA daily. 

For an in-depth discussion, see

General Nutritional Recommendations:

Eat whole foods. That is, foods that are unprocessed and in the state they grew in. This doesn't mean foods have to be raw. Oftentimes, cooking foods can make them healthier and easier to digest. Whether we eat cooked or raw foods is largely a matter of preference and digestive capacity. 

Make sure the bulk of what you eat is recognizable and try to avoid buying pacakged foods, especially packaged food containing ingredients you can't pronounce, or that have long lists of ingredients. A good rule of thumb is five ingredients or less. 

Eat a variety of foods. All foods have a different nutritional profile. The greater the variety of foods we're eating, the greater the variety of nutrients we are consuming. 

Eat the rainbow everyday. Try to eat foods from all the colors of the rainbow. This ensures a wide variety of anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals. 

Examples of whole foods include: 

Whole grains:

Whole grain bread (made with whole grain flour, not enriched flour)

Brown rice

Unprocessed cereals (oats, granola, muesli)







Legumes, Nuts, Soy, and Other Protein Sources

Cooked peas, beans, or lentils

Nuts or nut butters

Soy products such as tofu, tempeh, soy milk, soy yogurt

Fortified nut milks


Meat analogs (vegan meat substitute, such as the delicious beyond Beef Burger now widely available) 



The vegetable group includes fresh, canned, or frozen veggies.  Some highly nutritious suggestions for vegetable choices include:




Collard Greens

Swiss chard




Butternut Squash

Sweet Potatoes




Two or more servings of fruit are recommended each day. There are a number of easy ways to get your fruit servings in, including:

Fresh fruits (apples, oranges, berries, etc.)

Canned or frozen fruit

Dried fruit

Fruit juice or smoothies (but avoid the smoothies filled with syrups, ice cream and milk, and stick with homemade smoothies made with fresh or frozen fruit, juice, nut milks, baby spinach leaves, ground flax…)

Fats and Oils

Although you do want to avoid saturated fats (such as those coming from animal products), and other added fats in foods, many naturally occurring fats such as the Omega 3 fatty acids found in walnuts, flax and avocados are beneficial to your health. Two servings of these good plant-based fats are recommended daily. Good fats and oils can be found in:

Olive or canola oils

Walnuts and other nuts and nut butters

Green or black olives


Flax seeds and flax seed oil

Further Reading: 
For more information on vegan nutrition and optimal health, visit these highly informative resources: