Scientific and epidemiological evidence clearly shows that those who follow a primarily plant-based diet have a dramatically lower incidence of heart disease, cancer, and stroke--the major killers of Americans. Back in 1991, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) developed The New Four Food Groups (whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and legumes -- now also known as The Power Plate) as the healthy alternative to the USDA Food Guide Pyramid and the very old Basic Four. This plan promotes a low-fat, 100% vegetarian (vegan) diet, and it supplies all of an average adult's daily requirements. If you don't already follow The New Four Food Groups plan, give it a try today!

Whole Grains: 5 or more servings a day

This group includes bread, rice, pasta, hot or cold cereal, corn, millet, barley, bulgur, buckwheat groats, and tortillas. Build each of your meals around a hearty grain dish--grains are rich in fiber and other complex carbohydrates, as well as protein, B vitamins and zinc. Serving size: 1/2 cup hot cereal; 1 ounce dry cereal; 1 slice bread

courtesy of PCRM photo: Lisa Masson

Vegetables: 4 or more servings a day

Vegetables are packed with nutrients; they provide vitamin C, beta-carotene, riboflavin, iron, calcium, fiber, and other vitamins. Dark green, leafy vegetables such as broccoli, collards, kale, mustard and turnip greens, chicory, or bok choy are especially good sources of these important 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

courtesy of PCRM photo: Lisa Masson

Fruit: 3 or more servings a day

Fruits are rich in fiber, vitamin C, and beta-carotene. Be sure to include at least one 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; 1/2 cup juice

courtesy of PCRM photo: Lisa Masson

Legumes: 2 or more servings a day

Legumes -- which is another name for beans, peas, and lentils -- are all good sources of fiber, protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and B vitamins. This group also includes chickpeas, baked and refried beans, soy milk, tempeh, and texturized vegetable protein. Serving size: 1/2 cup cooked beans; 4 ounces tofu or tempeh; 8 ounces soy milk

courtesy of PCRM photo: Lisa Masson


What about nuts and seeds? PCRM does not include nuts & seeds as one of their main food groups. However, they do allow for consumption of a daily serving (up to one ounce) of nuts or seeds that are rich in Omega3 essential fatty acids, such as walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, or chia seeds. There are also traces of natural oils in vegetables, beans, whole grains, and fruits. PCRM recommends a low-fat diet, but not a fat-free diet.

Be sure to include a good source of vitamin B12. This vitamin is not produced by plants or animals, but rather by bacteria and other one-celled organisms. Bacteria in the soil may contribute traces of B12 to root vegetables (and Asian foods such as miso, laver, and tempeh may contain some amount). However, improved hygiene, washing, and modern processing destroy the bacteria which make B12 (Barnard, Food For Life, 1993). You should consume at least one serving of food that is well-fortified with B12 each day. These foods include many breakfast cereals, some meat substitute products, some brands of soy milk, and other vegetarian foods such as nutritional yeast. Check the ingredient label for cyanocobalamin or methylcobalamin, the best absorbed forms of B12. Vitamin B12 is also found in virtually all standard multivitamin tablets.

Reproduced with permission from PCRM