Plant-based eating is increasingly gaining traction with health-conscious consumers, whether they’re trying to cut back on meat, eat more whole foods, reduce animal cruelty, or lessen their environmental footprint. Plant-based diets are sustainable, healthy, and packed full of nutrients that are often missing in the standard American diet.
If you’re curious about a plant-based diet or are looking to make the switch, you’re likely already familiar with the basics: whole grains and complex carbohydrates, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition to these staples, there are some less well-known ingredients that can pack a powerful nutritional boost.
Here is your ultimate plant based diet grocery list
Whole Grains and Complex Carbohydrates
Whole grains and complex carbohydrates are a nourishing, satisfying component of a plant-based diet. Be sure to steer clear of processed grains and flours and focus instead on whole grain, nutrient-rich alternatives.
While often classified as a grain, teff is actually, technically speaking, a seed. It is native to Ethiopia and Eritrea, and is believed to be one of the earliest domesticated plants. Teff is often referred to alongside other ancient grains, which are thought to be less harmful and more nutritious than modern-day processed grains. Teff is gluten-free, and may reduce symptoms among people with celiac disease. Teff is also high in fiber and protein, and studies show that it can help to improve iron levels among athletes.
Finger millet is native to Ethiopia and Uganda, and is now grown in many countries throughout Africa and Asia. Finger millet has been cultivated for hundreds of years, and has a variety of health benefits. This grain is high in dietary fibers and beneficial polyphenols, and can be used to help manage diabetes, lower cholesterol, and protect against other diet-related diseases.
Sometimes also known as “great millet,” sorghum originated in Africa and is now cultivated in tropical regions all over the world. Sorghum has a wealth of health benefits that make it a great addition to a plant-based diet. This grain has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels, manage diabetes, and even ward off certain types of cancer. Sorghum is safe for people with celiac disease to consume, making it a safe alternative to other types of grains.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds make great snacks or additions to main dishes in a plant-based diet. They’re packed with healthy fats and other benefits.
Flax is a seed that can be consumed on its own, ground into meal, or consumed as a supplement. Flax is also the plant used to make linen, and has been cultivated for hundreds of years. Flax has a wide variety of health benefits, making it a nutritious addition to a plant-based diet. This seed has been shown to improve heart health thanks to its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, helping to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and strokes. Flax may also help to lower cholesterol, balance energy levels, and increase satiety.
Chia seeds are native to Mexico and the southwestern United States, and are thought to have been cultivated by the Aztecs. The seeds are small and oval, with white and black markings, and can be ground, sprinkled on top of other foods, or added to smoothies, granola, or yogurt. Chia seeds have a variety of health benefits and are incredibly rich in nutrients. They are high in antioxidants, which can help to promote cellular health and ward off degenerative disease. Chia seeds are also high in fiber, and can help to promote satiety and manage appetite. They have also been shown to help stabilize blood sugar and reduce inflammation.
Pumpkin seeds are tasty, healthful seeds that are native to North America. While you may be most familiar with pumpkin seeds in the context of pumpkin carving and Halloween, these seeds can be enjoyed all year long as a satisfying and nutritious snack. Pumpkins seeds are also sometimes known as pepitas. They are extremely high in antioxidants, which can help to reduce harmful free radicals and protect against degenerative diseases. Pumpkins seeds are also high in magnesium, iron, and fiber.
Other Nuts and Seeds
Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes are a great way to boost your protein intake on a plant-based diet. Try swapping beans or legumes in place of meat in your favorite soup, sauce, or curry.
Chickpeas, also sometimes called garbanzo beans, are one of the earliest domesticated legumes, with evidence suggesting that they were cultivated over 7,500 years ago in the Middle East. Chickpeas are a common ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine, and boast a wealth of health benefits. Chickpeas are a great source of protein and fiber, and can help to increase satiety and prevent mindless snacking. Chickpeas have also been shown to help prevent or manage chronic diseases like diabetes and improve overall dietary health.
Lentils are small, fibrous legumes that can be used in a wide variety of different cuisines. They come in several different types, including brown, green, yellow, red, puy, and beluga lentils. While the nutritional makeup of each of these types of lentils is slightly different, they do share some common health benefits. Lentils are high in fiber, protein, and iron, and are also rich in polyphenols, beneficial compounds that can help to reduce inflammation and promote heart health. Lentils are a staple of Indian cuisine and are a great addition to soups, salads, curries, and more.
Horse gram (Macrotyloma uniflorum) is a type of bean used in Ayurvedic cuisine. It is grown in countries including India, Sri Lanka, and the West Indies, and is sometimes also called kulthi bean or hurali. Like lentils and other types of legumes, horse gram is high in protein and comes with a variety of health benefits. It is high in antioxidants and fiber, and has the potential to help prevent inflammation and degenerative and autoimmune diseases.
Other Beans and Lentils
- White beans
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are one of the key components of a healthy plant-based lifestyle, and should make up a large portion of your plate each meal. With so many varieties to choose from, getting your fruits and veggies doesn’t have to be boring. Feel free to switch it up, experiment, and find the recipes that work for you!
Native to Southeast Asia, wax gourd is a melon with a mild, sweet taste. Wax gourd is sometimes also called ash gourd, white gourd, or winter gourd. This gourd can be eaten on its own or used as an ingredient in other dishes. In Asian cuisine, wax gourd is often added to stews and stir-fries or candied. Wax gourd is rich in antioxidants and also high in fiber, which can help to increase feelings of satiety and reduce overeating.
Kale is frequently touted as a superfood, and for good reason. This leafy green is one of the most nutrient-dense foods around, and is a great addition to a plant-based diet. Kale is extremely high in Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, copper, potassium, and magnesium. It’s also full of beneficial antioxidants. If you’re not a fan of the taste of raw kale, not to worry - kale can be massaged with dressing to create a salad base, added to soups and stir-fries, or wilted with oil and spices for a delicious and nourishing side.
Pineapple is a sweet, tart fruit native to South America. These fruits are high in flavonoids and phenolic acids, special types of antioxidants that help to promote cellular health and ward off degenerative diseases. Pineapples also contain bromelain, which can help boost your immune system and reduce inflammation. Pineapple can be enjoyed on its own as a sweet treat, or added to drinks, smoothies, fruit salads, and more.
Other Healthy Plant-Based Foods
Some of these less known ingredients are packed with nutrients that make them a great addition to a plant-based lifestyle.
Lion’s mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus) are white, round-shaped fungi that have long, shaggy spines. They can be eaten or taken in the form of supplements. Research suggests that they may offer a range of health benefits, including reduced inflammation and improved cognitive functioning. A 2012 study evaluating the medicinal potential of 14 types of mushroom found that lions mane had the fourth-highest antioxidant activity, which researchers classify as “moderate to high.”
Psilocybe montana, also sometimes called deconica montana, is a small brown mushroom that grows in mossy areas. Contrary to what its name suggests, this mushroom does not contain hallucinogenic properties, although it is a cousin to other psilocybin-containing mushrooms. This mushroom is commonly found growing at higher elevations.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a medicinal herb used in Ayurvedic medicine. It is sometimes also called Indian ginseng, poison gooseberry, and winter cherry. The plant grows in countries including India, China, Nepal, and Yemen. While studies concerning ashwagandha are still ongoing, research suggests that ashwagandha may be able to ward off certain types of cancer. Ashwagandha may also help reduce stress and anxiety.
Jaggery sugar is a type of traditional sugar that combines cane juice and date or palm sap. It is used in a variety of both sweet and savory dishes in Asian and South American cuisine. Jaggery is less refined than regular sugar, and can act as a healthier replacement for sugar in many recipes that call for sweetener. While more nutritious than refined white sugar, however, jaggery is still calorically dense, so you should be sure to consume it in moderation.
MCT oil is a nutritional supplement that can be added to bullet coffee, salads, and more. The acronym stands for medium-chain triglyceride, nutritious chains of fat commonly found in coconut oil and some dairy products. MCT oil has a variety of health benefits backed by scientific research. Some studies suggest that MCT oil can help to treat conditions including epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. MCT oil can also help to improve metabolic health.
Drinks and Desserts
A plant-based diet doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy healthy, flavorful drinks and desserts! Tea, herbs, chocolate, and more are all nutrient-rich ways to indulge your sweet tooth.
Matcha is a drink made from green tea leaves that are stone-ground into a fine powder. Matcha has a variety of health benefits, and is extremely high in antioxidants. Because matcha is so concentrated, it contains elevated levels of many of the beneficial compounds present in green tea. Matcha is high in both caffeine and a unique compound called l-theanine, which is known for reducing stress and anxiety. Together, caffeine and l-theanine produce a state of calm, meditative focus, without the high and low sometimes associated with other caffeinated beverages.
Rooibos is an herbal tea native to South Africa. Rooibos is also extremely high in antioxidants, and packs a powerful punch when it comes to health benefits. Rooibos has a full body similar to that of a black tea, but is naturally caffeine-free, making it a great alternative for those looking to reduce or eliminate caffeine in their diet. Rooibos can be consumed on its own, but is also available in a variety of flavored sweet, fruity, and floral blends.
Not to worry - you can still indulge your sweet tooth on a plant-based diet. Not only is dark chocolate a rich and satisfying dessert, but it’s also packed with health benefits. Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants, and is a great way to treat yourself without indulging in harmful amounts of sugar or dairy.
Other Drinks and Desserts
Beginning a Plant-Based Diet
While embarking on the journey of a plant-based lifestyle can seem overwhelming at first, there are so many healthful and delicious ways to incorporate more plants into your diet. Not sure where to start? Our meal planners can help you to discover delicious meals, plan your week, shop and cook all on the same platform.