One of the biggest benefits of consuming a plant based diet is that it’s rich in anti-inflammatory foods. Anti-inflammatory foods help to promote longevity, regulate the immune system, contain high amounts of fibre which feeds the beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract, improves bowel motions and can leave you feeling satisfied for longer.
However, consuming a plant based diet, in particular a vegan or vegetarian diet which is free of meat, poultry, seafood, fish and dairy, means that getting adequate amounts of protein, quality fats, zinc, B Vitamins, iodine, zinc, essential fatty acids, calcium and haem-iron (only found in meat, poultry and seafood) can be a bit challenging and may take a bit of planning.
Here are 12 foods you can begin to incorporate into your diet to help improve your optimal well being, while still consuming plant based foods
- Sea Vegetables
Consuming sea vegetables is a great way to supply your body with plant based vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants and amino acids in a convenient manner. They are easily digested, absorbed and utilised by your body. Sea vegetables have many benefits as they are easily digested, absorbed and used by the body as well as helping to drive out toxins and heavy metals from the body. There are many different types of seaweed to choose from, such as; spirulina, dulse, kombu, kelp, wakame and Hijiki. Spirulina contains 880% of Vitamin A requirements in just 1 tsp. Kelp is rich in magnesium, fibre, iodine and can be a great substitute for grain-based noodles. Wakame is rich in protein, magnesium, iron, zinc and calcium. Adding seaweed into your diet is a must if you consume a plant based diet as it helps to prevent anemia, fatigue, alkalises the blood, cleanses the digestive tract, prevents sugar cravings and provides critical minerals for thyroid health. Add some dulse flakes into your next omelette, frittata, soup or slow cooked meal.
Radishes are incredible for helping to detoxify the body, as it helps to cleanse the blood of toxins and waste products. Radishes also contains B Vitamins, zinc, phosphorous, potassium and Vitamin C which is great for skin health, preventing infection, reducing inflammation, oxidative stress and osteoarthritis relief. Radishes are an immune system replenisher, as the sulphur contained in them helps to expel pathogens and acts as a wormicide to kill off intestinal worms and parasites. Try adding radish to your next juice, slice it thinly and add it a salad or your next batch of fermented vegetables. Also, don’t throw away the green tops of the radish as they are an incredibly healing food too. The green tops are a pre-biotic, they contain anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties and have a high enzymatic profile too. You can eat radish greens cooked or raw, treat them like other greens and add them to a salad or sprinkle them finely chopped onto a soup or omelette.
Mangoes are one of the most wildly consumed fruits in the world and they are also nutritional powerhouses. Mangoes provide; fibre, potassium, Vitamin K, C, E, B6 and A, copper, folate, iron, magnesium and antioxidants. Since mangoes are rich in magnesium and potassium, they aid with managing blood pressure, boost brain health, lower the risk of heart disease, aid in alleviating anemia because of their iron content, increase immunity and relieve constipation. There are many ways to enjoy mangoes, in salads, panna cotta, ice-blocks, smoothie bowls, salads, smoothies, jelly, but perhaps one of the best ways to have it is fresh – all by itself, it’s a blissful treat.
- Kiwi Fruit
Kiwi fruits are one of the most nutritious foods around. Kiwi fruits contain over 40 trace minerals, high amounts of Vitamin C, they’re rich in antioxidants, aids digestion and helps to strengthen the digestive system, produces anti-inflammatory results, contains anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, boosts memory and mood as well as helping with depression. Try adding them to your next smoothie, chia puddings, ice-block or have them fresh as they are.
- aids digestive disorders
- supports immunity
- provides the body with medium chain fats that provide instant energy
- improves a sluggish metabolism
- great for the health of skin, hair and nails
- fights candida
- natural source of dietary fibre and plant based saturated fat
- helps in managing sugar cravings
- can be heated to high temperatures
Coconut also contains protein, zinc, iron, manganese, selenium and copper. If you’re buying any coconut product make sure you read the ingredients list. Avoid products that contain added sugar, preservatives, flavours and citric acids. Here are some of our favourite coconut recipes Chia Coconut Porridge, Choc Coconut Smoothy Bowl, Choc Cinnamon Coconut Bars, Easy Turmeric Chicken Curry, and Cultured Coriander Garlic Dip. There are plenty of other recipes on our website too.
Dates are very nutritious and naturally contain 70 bioactive minerals such as calcium, cobalt, copper, fluorine, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorous, sodium and zinc. They also contain loads of fibre, are incredibly rich in amino acids and are amazing for the digestive system because they help to remove yeast, mould, heavy metals, unproductive bacteria and viruses. Some of our favourite recipes that showcase the simple date are; Paleo Carrot Coconut Cake, Chocolate, Peppermint Nutty Squares and GF Sticky Date Pudding with Caramel Sauce, or simply enjoy a date or two with a few Changing Habits Cacao Melts or nuts.
Broccoli probably isn’t the first food you think of when you’re searching for healthy plant based protein option, but it does contain roughly 3g per cup. The health benefits of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts are extensive. Their bioactive compounds are implicated in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, reducing the risk of various cancers, immune regulation and nervous system protection. Try our Broccoli Pizza, Cauliflower & Herb Detox Soup, Broccoli Rice, or our Mexican Mince Bowl with Broccoli.
- Inca Inchi
Remember that healthy fats and proteins are an incredibly important part of a balanced diet. If you notice that you’re feeling tired, frequently hungry and craving carbs, it’s a good idea to increase your protein and fat intake in your meals as this can be a sign of blood sugar fluctuations and can also help you to feel satiated and satisfied for longer. For a high protein, non-meat natural alternative, we recommend Inca Inchi powder, oil and salted seeds, as they all contain healthy fats, proteins and numerous other health benefits.
Inca Inchi Oil is considered the single richest vegetable source of essential fatty acids as it contains the perfect balance of Omega 3-6-9. Inca Inchi Oil is highly digestible, rich in antioxidants, reduces inflammation, improves immune function and is a wonderful vegan/ vegetarian alternative to fish oils. This oil should not be heated and the best way to use it, is in salad dressings, dips, pesto, mayonnaise, smoothies or as a body oil.
Inca Inchi Protein Powder is a natural, gluten-free, chemical-free source of protein, essential and non-essential amino acids, Omega’s, vitamins and minerals. It’s a great option for vegans and vegetarians who need the plant protein. It’s fantastic for families who are ‘on the run’ to supplement their daily diet; a ‘must have’ for gym junkies and body builders to replace the chemical-based whey proteins. Inca Inchi Protein Powder has a high concentration of protein as it contains 60g of protein per 100g. Add Inca Inchi Protein Powder to smoothies, Snickers Slice, pancakes or bliss balls.
Avocados are a great source of Vitamins A, D, E, K and B6, along with fibre, potassium and 18 essential amino acids which are all necessary for the body to form complete protein. They are very versatile as they can be used in desserts like raw cheesecakes, chocolate mousse, guacamole, dips, salads, sushi or simply enjoyed plain with salt and pepper on top.
- Nuts & Seeds
Nuts such as almonds are a great snack and roughly 25 almonds contain 6g of protein. They are also a great source of calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, niacin, manganese, riboflavin and Vitamin E which is great for the skin. Another protein packed nut is the Brazil nut. 100g of Brazil nuts contain 15g of protein, plus they are a great source of the mineral selenium, which we need to produce the active thyroid hormone. Selenium also supports immunity and helps wounds to heal faster.
- Homemade Coconut Kefir
Kefir is typically made with dairy milk, however for those who are extremely sensitive to dairy or who are vegan, coconut kefir is a great alternative. Coconut Kefir has some incredible health benefits such as boosting the immune system, helping to fight candida, speeds wound healing, aids digestion, contains cancer fighting properties and is rich in potassium. Kefir also contains highly beneficial bacteria and has been found to protect against gastrointestinal diseases. Kefir is a rich source of minerals, vitamins and essential amino acids that promote healing and repair as well as general health maintenance. Kefir contains high levels of Vitamin B12, K2, thiamin, biotin, folates, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. You can make a creamy kefir using coconut milk or cream or a coconut water kefir and enjoy it as a drink.
- Blackstrap Molasses
Surprisingly blackstrap molasses is one of the richest sources of iron and is a great option for those who are on a plant based diet. Blackstrap molasses is rich in B Vitamins, calcium, magnesium and each of these play a role in combatting stress and anxiety. Blackstrap molasses also improves bone health as it contains a high source of calcium. Try my Paleo Liquorice recipe or mix ½ Tbsp of organic blackstrap molasses into a cup of warm coconut or almond milk with some cinnamon to make a deliciously warming drink.
If you would like to learn more about some healthy plant based protein options, read my blog ’10 Vegetarian Protein Options That Won’t Destroy Your Gut’.
Happy changing habits
Changing Habits Nutritionists & GAPS Practitioner
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