Veganuary has now become the ‘buzz’ word for January! Going vegan or flexi vegan for January – or even longer – is increasingly popular as we continue to recognise its benefits to health.
However, with the greater availability of pre-packed vegan and vegetarian meals in the supermarkets, it’s not surprising that people become confused about what’s healthy and what’s not.
Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top five vegan foods to make choices so much easier.
Quinoa is increasingly becoming one of the world’s heathiest foods and not just with vegans. Quinoa is high in protein, containing all nine essential amino acids, is gluten-free and contains a wealth of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
One of the biggest watchpoints for vegans is ensuring you eat sufficient protein, and this means including all nine essential amino acids. These can’t be produced in the body, therefore need to be eaten daily. Quinoa ticks this box, although, as with all plant proteins, it’s slightly low in a few of the amino acids, hence the need for variety. That said, it contains a very respectable 8 grams of protein per 185 grams of cooked quinoa.
Its impressive nutrient profile, especially of bone loving magnesium and phosphorus, plus its high antioxidant content, more that warrants its title of ‘superfood’.
Soy can be very confusing as not all products are created equal! You might see soya lecithin or soya protein isolate in a number of products, especially protein powders. Whilst foods containing these do provide protein, they don’t have the fabulous health benefits of fermented soy.
Tofu, tempeh, miso, natto, tamari, and kombucha are where it’s at for the real health benefits. This is because fermented soy has a very positive effect on the gut bacteria (also known as the gut microbiome), which is so essential for overall health.
Whilst other soy products do provide some health benefits, try to include fermented soy as much as possible. Tofu and tempeh make great additions to any stir fry dishes.
You may have heard the word but what exactly are they? Beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas is the answer. These foods are great sources of protein, contain plenty of bone-loving calcium, and fibre as well as energising B-vitamins and iron. And if you’re looking to lose a few kilos during January, legumes can really help as they’re great for blood sugar balance, being low on the glycaemic index.
We know from much research that vegan diets are very heart-healthy which is partly down to the quantity of legumes frequently consumed. It seems they help lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol and general inflammation, all risk factors for heart disease.
Great recipes to try are Hearty Lentil Soup, Chickpea Salad, Black Bean Burgers or Pasta with Chickpeas – all totally delicious and super-healthy too!
Want to give your heart some further love during Veganuary? Then sprinkle a tablespoon of flaxseeds onto your porridge, overnight oats or yoghurt. Flaxseeds are a great source of the heart-healthy omega-3 fats which are essential and must be taken into the diet very regularly. The omega-3s are also needed for hormone balance, and eye, brain, skin, and joint health.
It’s always best to use the ground flaxseeds rather than whole ones (often referred to as linseeds) as they need to be chewed to release the lignan content. Whole linseeds tend to go in and come out whole which means the body isn’t gaining all their health benefits.
It might not sound very appetising but if you think of nutritional yeast as a healthy substitute for Parmesan cheese, you’ve got a great alternative. Nutritional yeast has a slightly cheesy, nutty flavour, is generally found in powdered or flaked form, and is therefore very easy to incorporate into loads of dishes.
Importantly, nutritional yeast is rich in vitamin B12, often deficient in vegan diets as it is generally only found in animal produce. Plus, it’s loaded with other B-vitamins so your energy levels will be getting a great boost too!
So why not make this Veganuary the healthiest yet and also continue to add these top vegan food to your diet throughout the year.
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