The surprising arithmetic of Vegan Variety.

People worry about lack of variety if they go vegan. What do the numbers say, if you were cooking a meal with veggies?

For this illustration we'll be skilling all the many delicious dishes possible from a huge variety of fruit, skipping raw salad type vegetables (lettuce etc) and even under-counting in other ways in our lists from the narrowed categories:

We list 48 vegetables (Appendix A, which omits many common veggies, counts "mushrooms" as only 1 type when there are many types, etc), then 12 grains (Appendix B, which also under-counts, with 8 gluten free), 19 legumes (Appendix C), and an also very partial listing in Appendix D of 14 nuts and seeds.

Suppose now that:

1. You're only willing to try 20 of the "48" (in reality, far more) veggies, and that the recipe you'll make will include only 5 vegetables.

The arithmetic of combinations tells us that there are, in math-speak or calculator-speak, "C(20,5)" or "20C5" such possible combinations. That's the number of ways to choose different "Combos" of 5 veggies, out of your narrowed down list of 20.

What's the math say? There are 15,504 such combinations. Let's (very!) conservatively and generously say that only 1 in 10 such combinations is pleasing to you - that 90% of them are not enjoyable...a VERY conservative assumption..maybe you hate the idea of celery EVER being mixed in the same dish as, oh, we don't know, swiss chard and onions, for some reason) We still get at least 1,550 such combinations.

2. Next, you're only willing to try 6 of the 12-plus grains

There are many combinations of two grains at a time but let's be conservative and assume that your recipe will use just one of them. So there are 6 possible choices you have for the grain to use to include with the vegetables.

So multiply our previous 1,550 veggie-combos by 6 to get: 9,300 such veggies-and-grain combinations.

3. Third, are the 19 legumes (Appendix C). Many different types of lentils exist, not to mention common beans varieties, soybeans and more. We'll conservatively assume you only like (or can only easily buy) 9 of them - less than half. That's 9 choices for us.

Take our 9,300 veggies-and-grain combos and for each one of those possibilities, we are free to combine it with any one of these 9 legumes, giving us:

9300 times 9 or 83,700 veggie-grain-legume possible dishes for you to make.

4. And now, what about those 14 possible nuts and seeds? Let's say you only like a mere 1-in-3 of them, so that only 5 nuts or seeds are the kind you enjoy combining in your dish, how many possible dishes are there?

1550*6*9*5 or 418,500 different dishes!

To put this into perspective, if you live to be 90 years old, you'll be alive for about 33,000 days.

So starting even in your infancy, those 418,500 possible food combinations give you more than 10 different meal combinations each day, for every day of the rest of your life!

This vastly under-counts since each of the "418,500" could be flavored in completely different ways depending on how you spice it..we didn't include a list of spices and herbs (let alone dressings and sauces) in varieties and combinations that are sweet, or spicy, or tangy...salty, and so on.

In fact there are far, far more than 418,500 actual differently tasting dishes when we consider the vast variety of different ways to flavor each of the "veggies and one grain, one legume, one nut/seed" combinations, when spices, herbs, sauces and so on are considered.

We even skipped many vegetables, under-counted many different ones (like mushrooms) as just "one", assumed you don't like many vegetables, assumed you don't like many grains, assumed you don't like many seeds, even assumed that a whopping 90% of the time you don't like the veggies-combo in question...and STILL got more than TEN **DIFFERENT** dishes for each DAY of your life, for the rest of your life, from birth until age 90!

And even though vegans typically eat more than 3 meals a day, your plant-based diet isn't going to have *ten* meals a day (usually!) and when we like a dish we DO want to repeat it, and to have it again, so we don't needs and in fact don't WANT to have a "different dish every meal for the rest of our lives"...

And this is just for mostly cooked savory vegan dishes - we skipped a huge variety of raw salads, fruit, blended and smoothie drinks, baked goods and much more.

Postscript: By the way, what if you're down with 6 vegetable combos (not 5) out of 22 (not 20) vegetables from that list of 48? Now even if you hate 90% of the combos, you're up to 7,461 (not 1,550) veggie combos.

Suppose 7 (not 6) are grains out of the 12 you like and 10 (not 9) legumes out of the 19, and that you're wanting to try a combination of three of them (either two grains and one legume or one grain and two legume) grabbing 3 such grain-or-legume choices from the combined collection of 17 of "grains or legumes I like"?

Then each of your 7,461 veggie combos that you like, can be wedded to any one of "17C3" or 680 "pick 3 grains-or-legumes to simmer in the pot" for a variety equaling 7,460*680 which is 5,072,800 combination. Let's say you still want to be "boring" and pick just one (not a combination of two) from the nuts and seeds list, and that you still only like 5 out of the 14, so multiply the preceding by 5 to get:

7,460 x 680 x 5 = 25,364,000 combinations. Let's say each one can be flavored in only 2 ways with spices and so on, giving over 50 MILLION dishes (again not counting raw salads, fruit, avoiding most of the vegetables on our very partial list!).


That still gives over 500,000 dishes that you like...

Again to put this into perspective, if you start your Quest for Variety at birth and live to 90 you've got about 33,000 days, and at even 5 meals a day, you'll still only eat 5 times 33,000 or 165,000 meals...but your "top most delicious 1%" would have over 500,000 could eat a different one, each day, every day, for the rest of your life without ever repeating a dish...and still not cover that entire of your "1% favorite" of the combinations of the cooked meals, let alone the raw, salad, fruit, baked goods (vegan cookies! vegan cookie monster! ;-) smoothies and shakes and vegan chocolate ...etc!!

(I think next to cartoons gently poking fun at the "Vegan? But where do you get your protein?" questions we need ones with a gentle parody of "Vegan? But where do you get your variety?")

But we're not here to poke fun at your, we're here to invite you to a life-changing health-improving energizing plant-based whole-food diet with a HUGE variety...join us! ;-)

Appendix A: 48 vegetables

Acorn Squash
Belgian Endive
Bell Peppers
Bermuda/Red onion
Bok Choy
Brussels Spouts
Butternut Squash
Celeriac (Celery Root)
Chayote Squash 
Collard Greens
Green Cabbage
Green beans	
Mushrooms (MANY types counted as if only 1)
Mustard Greens
Red Cabbage
Snow Peas
Spaghetti Squash
Swiss Chard
Vidalia Onions
Water chesnut
White potatoes
Yams OR sweet potatoes (let's count as "one")
Yucca Root

(we're skipping a lot, like olives and asparagus and okra for example....not to
mention delicious sea vegetables)

Appendix B: Grains include these 12 and many others..

Barley (not GF)
Brown rice (MANY types, counted as 1)
Buckwheat groats (which ARE GF)
Oats (might not be GF)
Rye (not GF)
Wheat (not GF)
Wild rice (MANY types, counted as 1)

Appendix C: Beans and legumes: these 19 and many others..

Broad Beans (Fava Beans)
Butter Beans
Calico Beans
Cannellini Beans
Chickpeas (Garbanzo)
Great Northern Beans
Italian Beans
Kidney Beans
Lima Beans
Mung Beans
Navy Beans
Pinto Beans
Soy Beans (whole)
White Beans
Green lentils
Red lentils (are very different)
French lentil
Beluga lentils (black on color)

Appendix D: Partial list: Nuts and seeds, include these 14:

Almonds (whole, slices, slivered...raw or roasted, etc counted as "one" choice!)
Macadamia Nuts
Pine Nuts
Pistachio nuts

Caraway seeds
Chia seeds
Flax seeds
Poppy seeds
Sesame Seeds

(we're skipping peanuts and coconuts many others!)