10 Vegan Superfoods (Not Junk Foods) You Need

superfoods-market

Whilst the rest of the vegan world is getting giddy about vegan junk food, I thought I would go in the opposite direction and discuss vegan superfoods. 

 

Nutrition

One of my favourite aspects of going vegan has been the boost in my knowledge of food nutrition. When I was eating meat I had very little clue about what was actually in my food or what those foods were doing to my body. I ate what I wanted with little concern about what my body actually required to be healthy.

You may hear new vegans say things like ‘I feel better than I ever have’. Well, this is mainly down to the fact they are now giving their body the nutrients it actually requires to function properly. The result is a myriad of benefits like better sleep, more energy, feeling lighter and being more focused. 

It’s amazing how little we actually know about nutrition. We as a society suffer from nutritional illiteracy. The result is our ever-worsening bad health.

 

Vegan Junk Food

The vegan junk food industry is getting a lot of attention right now. However, it’s important that we remember to eat a healthy and varied diet if we wish to be a healthy vegan.
 
Going vegan and eating nothing but junk food is not healthy. It’s not a great way to start your vegan lifestyle either.
 
Vegan junk food makes the transition to a vegan diet easier but it misses an important point. Vegans have to be very meticulous with their food. We cannot afford to miss out on certain nutrients and so junk food is not the answer.

The same people that are now going vegan because of the availability of vegan junk food will be the same people in a few months that write about how they stopped being vegan because it made them sick. 

For now, here is a quick and simple guide to my top 10 vegan superfoods that are practical and affordable:

 

Vegan Superfoods

 

1. Blueberries

blueberries-close-up

Antioxidant Overload

What

Those beautiful little berries with a deep blue colour. 

Why

Fibre, vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese and highest concentration of antioxidants amongst all the common fruits available.

Protects the body from free radicals that lead to cancer and age-related diseases, reduce DNA damage, protects cholesterol from damage, lowers blood pressure, helps prevent heart disease, maintain brain function, improve memory and reduces muscle damage. [1]

How

Eat straight out the packet or add to your daily smoothie. 

Tip

Blueberries are great frozen too. If you buy a large amount you can store in the freezer and throw straight into the blender for smoothies. 

 

2. Chia & Flax Seed

chia-seeds

Great Source of Omega-3

What

Chia seeds are the edible seed of the flowering plant Salvia hispanica.

Flax seeds are a member of the genus Linum in the family Linaceae.

Why

Chia seeds

Omega-3 and omega-6, protein, vitamin B complex, biotin calcium, potassium and fibre.

Can help reverse inflammation, regulate cholesterol, lower blood pressure, improve digestion, antioxidants fight ageing, improve skin, boosts energy, boosts metabolism, stronger bones, builds muscle and aids weight loss. [2]

Flax Seeds

Omega-3, fibre and lignans.

Helps regulate bowel movements, improves bowel health, reduces cholesterol, regulates blood sugar, reduce inflammation and anti-cancer. [3]

How

Throw chia seeds in your smoothies. Flax seeds can be put in wraps, on salads, in smoothies and are used in baking recipes.

Tip

Soaking chia seeds before eating makes them more digestible. Flax seeds ground up are more nutritious.

 

3. Spinach

spinach-leaves

Plant Compounds Galore

What

That dark leafy green stuff Popeye was always eating (for good reason too).

Why

Fibre, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B9, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, folic acid, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium. Also packed full of antioxidants and plant compounds such as lutein, kaempferol, nitrates, quercetin and zeaxanthin. 

Decreases oxidative stress, protects eyes, helps cancer prevention and controls blood pressure. [4

How

You can eat raw or cooked. Put it in sandwiches, wraps, salads, stews, stir fry and even your smoothies. 

Tip

Watch out for adverse effects. Some people do not agree with spinach and eating too much of it can cause kidney stones and blood clotting. 

 

4. Quinoa

quinoa-meal

Ancient Miracle Grain

What

A flowering plant in the amaranth family, mostly sourced in South America.

Why

Gluten-free, high in protein, high in fibre, magnesium, B vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E and various beneficial antioxidants. Also includes plant compounds quercetin and kaempferol.

Extremely nutritious, naturally gluten-free, controls blood sugar, improves metabolic health, high in antioxidants that neutralize free radicals, fights ageing and disease. [5]

Tip

Make sure you soak the quinoa before cooking to reduce the phytic acid which helps the nutrients found in quinoa more bioavailable for the body. Add veggie stock during the cooking process for extra taste.

Buy

 

5. Pumpkin Seeds

pumpkin-seeds

Packed Full of Protein

What

The seeds from a pumpkin.

Why

Fibre, protein, omega-6, Vitamin K, phosphorous, manganese, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium, vitamin B2, folate and antioxidants.

Anti-inflammatory, reduce the risk of cancers, improve prostate health, improve bladder health, controls blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, maintains healthy bones, regulates blood sugar, reduces cholesterol, promotes good digestion, improves sperm quality and improves sleep. [6]

How

Fry some up with salt as a snack, add to salads, inside wraps or add to smoothies

Tip

As with the quinoa, make sure you soak to help reduce phytic acid.

Buy

 

6. Turmeric

turmeric-powder-glass

Disease and Aging Fighter

What

Turmeric is a plant in the same botanical family as ginger.

Why

Many studies have proven it has huge benefits for your body and brain.

A powerful anti-inflammatory, neutralizes free radicals, linked to improved brain function, lower risk of brain diseases, lowers risk of heart disease, helps prevent and treat cancer, helps treat Alzheimer’s disease, helps symptoms of arthritis, can fight depression, delays ageing and age-related diseases. [7]

How

The most common form of turmeric is the powder we cook with. However, this does not have enough curcumin to help us realise all the benefits above. A supplement can be bought from most health shops.

Tip

Make sure you buy a supplement which includes black pepper. The pepper increases the absorption of curcumin by 2000%

Buy

7. Broccoli

broccoli

Rich in Antioxidants

What

That lovely green vegetable.

Why

Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, vitamin K, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, potassium, fibre, folate and zinc. Rich in anti-oxidants such as sulforaphane, indole-3-carbinol, carotenoids, kaempferol and quercetin.

Protects against cancer, lowers cholesterol and reduces the risk of age-related eye diseases. [8]

How

I eat broccoli as a snack but you can eat it in salads, rice dishes, noodles etc..

Tip

To get the full benefits of broccoli’s nutrition, eat raw or steamed.

 

8. Beetroot

beetroot

Good for Blood

What

Bright purple root vegetable.

Why

Fiber, vitamin C, folate, vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, manganese and iron. Also contains inorganic nitrates and pigments.

Regulates blood pressure, enhance athletic performance, fight inflammation, improve digestive health, supports brain health, has anti-cancer properties and aids weight loss [9]

How

Put in salads or drink as a juice. Beetroot hummus is also very tasty. 

Tip

The beetroot leaves are also great for you and can be eaten just like spinach. 

 

9. Spirulina

Spirulina-powder-mound

Powerful Antioxidants

What

Microalgae

Why

Protein (4g), B1, B2, B3, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium and manganese. Powerful antioxidants.

Anti-inflammatory, reduces cholesterol, anti-cancer properties, reduces blood pressure, improves symptoms of allergic rhinitis, effective against anaemia, helps blood sugar control and improves muscle strength and endurance.[10]

How

Teaspoon in your smoothie.

Tip

Be careful when buying spirulina, many companies now make an inferior product so they can jump on the recent popularity Spirulina has had. Here is a little guide to buying Spirulina.

Buy

 

10. Cacao Powder

cacao-powder

The Amazonian antioxidant king

What

Seeds from cacao tree. All chocolate is derived from these seeds, not to be cofused with cocoa. Cocoa is a product of cacao seeds.

Why

Protein, high level of iron, calcium, carotene, thiamin, riboflavin, magnesium, sulfur, flavonoids, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids. 40 times the antioxidants found in blueberries. 

Lowers LDL cholesterol, improves heart function, reduces cancer risk, anti-depressant, relieves stress, increased alertness and focus. [11]

How

I put a teaspoon in my protein shake sometimes and make chocolate brownies with it. You could also make hot chocolate.  

Tip

Buy raw organic fairly traded cacao or you risk missing out on a lot of the nutritional value. Be warned: it’s addictive. 

 

Eat Well

The vegan diet is about more than just abstaining from animal products, it’s about learning what your body requires to thrive. Learning about all the different nutrients and how each one works with your body is fascinating and helps you build your own diet.

Once you understand what your body requires to feel good you can tailor make your own meals, eating times and routines.

I will be writing more on this subject in the near future.