Want to be a healthy vegan or vegetarian? Make sure these goodies are store-cupboard staples in your diet.
Hummus is a vegan’s best friend. Just half a cup of hummus contains 2.3mg of Zinc, a mineral that is absolutely essential for a proper functioning immune system, and is involved in over 300 enzyme reactions in the body. A lack of Zinc can result in hair loss, dermatitis, weight loss, delayed wound healing and mental fatigue.
The RDA for Zinc is 11mg daily for men and 8mg daily for women, so with 2.3mg, a half cup of hummus is providing a good chunk of that. However, health experts suggest that the Zinc requirements of those following a veggie diet should go up by 50%. This is due to phytates, a compound found in legumes, wholegrains, nuts and seeds which bind to Zinc in the digestive system and prevent absorption.
Unfortunately there is no single plant food that is exceptionally high in Zinc, so vegans must ensure they eat a wide variety of whole foods to meet their needs.
True, tofu is the king of soya foods in the veggie protein world. However tofu is slightly more processed than its soya cousin tempeh – which is actually made from the whole bean. This means it offers up more hefty amounts of nutrients, including protein, fibre, minerals and antioxidants. In addition, unlike tofu, tempeh is fermented and provides tons of enzymes which means it’s much easier to digest.
Tempeh has a nice chewiness to it – and like tofu, it takes up whatever flavour surrounds it. The key to enjoy tempeh is to get creative in the kitchen and experiment with various marinades. Try this nutritional heavyweight in sandwiches, stir-fries, curries and salads.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Leafy greens, especially of the cruciferous variety such as cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, kale, spinach, and Brussels sprouts, are powerhouses of nutrition. They’re rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin K and the minerals Iron and Calcium, fibre and folate. They also contain lots of carotenoids, antioxidants and phytochemicals which are good for our immune system and help protect us from disease.
A diet rich in leafy greens lowers risk of obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease.
They’re easy to add to your smoothies but also try gently frying cauliflower and mixing it with pasta in a white sauce, using Kale as a base for your salads, and rather than boiling your Brussels sprouts try roasting them – delicious!
Despite it’s rather unappealing name and appearance (it kind of resembles fish food), nutritional yeast should not be underestimated as a delicious seasoning for foods. It has a somewhat similar pungent taste as cheese, so it’s great for newbie vegans who miss that bold flavour that cheese can offer.
It is also an impressive powerhouse of nutrition. Just 1 heaped tablespoon of nutritional yeast contains well over a couple of days’ worth of B Vitamins, including the ever-elusive nutrient in vegan diets, Vitamin B12. It also packs a decent amount of fibre and protein into a pretty small, low-calorie package.
To really get your faux-cheese on, sprinkle nutritional yeast on roasted veggies, pasta, pesto and pizza – or use it to make delicious cheesy sauces. Oh, and it’s also delicious sprinkled on popcorn! In short, nutritional yeast = game changer.
Flaxseeds provide the highly anti-inflammatory fat Omega 3, which is an extremely important nutrient for vegans. Omega 3 fats are essential for the proper functioning of every system in the body, particularly the nervous system and brain, hormonal system, the heart and the skin.
Unfortunately however, studies show that vegans tend to have lower blood levels of these fats than those who eat oily fish, which may cause them health problems in the long run. Therefore, vegans should be sure to include ground flaxseeds daily, sprinkled onto porridge, in smoothies or in baked goods.
It may also be important to also take a vegan Omega 3 supplement in the form of algae.
Tahini (aka sesame butter) is incredibly good for you. This thick nutty-tasting paste contains more protein and calcium than cow’s milk, and is loaded with other essential minerals such as magnesium and iron, earning it a permanent place in the vegan larder. Tahini has an intense nutty taste but is also extremely versatile. Try mixing a dessertspoon with water, lemon juice and a touch of garlic for a lip-smacking dressing for salads, veggies and falafels.
By Rose Glover, RoseGlover Nutrition