10 nutritious vegan staples for your pantry

Is an empty pantry your trigger for ordering some quick but unhealthy vegan fast food?

Do your staples include all the important nutrients?

Don’t worry, we came up with a list of 10 nutritious vegan staples that will nourish your body, and bring you amazing flavours!

Of course, 10 is no way near the variety we should be having. Fresh veggies, leafy greens and fruits should always be in your house, so we are not including them here. Instead, this list is for you to check if any of them is a surprise to you!

You will see “… of all colours” a lot in the list because some of the most amazing foods such as quinoa come in more than one colour. We often get questions like which colour is the best nutritionally and the recommendation we give is – Mix it up and eat them all!

Here we go!

Oats

vegan oats

Oats are not boring – they are probably one of the most versatile foods! You can make oatmeal, overnight oats, pancakes, cookies and even pizza crust with it. My view of oats was completely transformed after finding the ‘Oat Queen’ Maddie on Youtube. She cooks anything and everything with oats – soak, cook, bake, blend! You need to check out her recipes page and ebook “ALWAYS OATS”.

You might also ask which type of oat is the best? Steel cut oats are the least processed and most nutritious one, but take longer to cook. Rolled oats are softer and easy to make oatmeals with, also a good choice. Try to avoid instant oats if you can as they are the most processed. Here is an article that explains the different processing of these oats.

Sweet potatoes of all colours

vegan sweet potato

Purple, yellow, red, white, have you tried all of them? My personal favorite is yellow sweet potato, they taste the softest and sweetest to me. But of course, different colours indicate different nutritional profiles and you should definitely mix them up. Sweet potatoes are so easy to make yummy – chuck in the oven and come back when you smell them! Sadly they have gotten a bad rep because of the false information on carbs and weight gain, which couldn’t be further from the truth! Sweet potatoes are high in water and very filling, which actually makes them perfect for weight loss.

Give yourself a 5 minute Sweet potato facts 101 and you’ll be surprised by how nutritious and beneficial they are! Sweet potatoes even show anti-cancer potential as Dr. Michael Greger explains it here. Check out this amazing recipe on vegan stuffed sweet potatoes!

Berries of all colours

vegan berries

If you don’t have some fresh or frozen berries in your kitchen, you definitely need to stack them up. Their anti-oxidant levels are through the roof. Berries are also amazing brain foods, counteract the toxicity of pesticides, inhibit platelet aggregation, and reduce muscle soreness! Blueberries are especially beneficial for lowering cholesterol and heart health. When fresh berries are not in season, simply keep some frozen berries in the freezer. You can make healthy smoothies and berry jam with them!

Beans of all colours

vegan beans

Most people don’t eat enough beans and legumes, missing out on their amazing benefits for heart health, and a longer lifespanBeans are highly filling foods, full of complex carbs, fibre, and protein. You might not have much time to soak and slow cook beans, but you can always easily get canned beans with BPA-free lining! Through your beans generously to salads, stews, and Buddha bowls. The best thing about beans? They make the most amazing sauce: Vegan hummus!

So many recipes with beans, so many!!

Quinoa of all colours

vegan quinoa

Did you know that the UN named 2013 ‘International Quinoa Year’ to highlight quinoa’s high nutrient content? It has twice the protein content of rice or barley and is an amazing source of calcium, magnesium, manganese, B vitamins, vitamin E and fibre. Quinoa is one of the least allergenic  ‘grains’, a good wheat alternative. Quinoa also has an excellent amino acid profile with all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source. So many more benefits of quinoa are listed here. Don’t know how to cook them? Check out these 17 vegan quinoa recipes!

Plant milk of all kinds

vegan plant milk

Before I went vegan, I only ever drank cow’s milk or cow’s milk powder. I never knew this whole new world of soymilk, rice milk, almond milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, oat milk, flax milk, hazelnut milk and pea milk! It’s a crazy discovery! You can even learn to make your own plant-based milk – healthy, cruelty-free and inflammation-free.

Brazil nut

vegan brazil nut

Just like the eye-opening variety of plant-based milk, Brazil nut is another discovery after veganism. It is the richest known food source of Selenium and has many other benefitsan essential mineral for a healthy immune system and nervous system! If you are experiencing any sort of inflammation, get a brazil nut a day. Be aware not to consume more than that though as too much Selenium is not good either.

Garlic

vegan garlic

Garlic is used a lot in Asian cooking for good reasons – they bring out amazing flavours and also have many health benefits. Garlic and flavonoid phytonutrients found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains can counteract the mutagenic chemicals found in cooked meat.  Interestingly, consumption of small amounts of garlic or raisins may even lower the risk of premature birth. Garlic is also a natural food against lead poisoning and platelet activation. Small amounts of garlic are already powerful, why not just put a few gloves in your stew or stirfry? Check out these 12 Vegan garlic recipes.

Veggie pasta

vegan pasta

What?! Veggie pasta? Yes you heard me right.

Did you know there is pasta made from black beans, chickpeas, edamame, peas? Most of the pasta that you buy off the shelf used processed flour, which is nowhere near as good as using plant-based alternative ingredients! You might want to go to a local farmer’s market or organic health food store to find these pastas though. Here are some vegan pasta recipes for you 🙂

Edamame

vegan edamame

The last one may seem odd – edamame? What even is it?

Edamame are basically just young soybeans harvested before ripe that you can buy shelled or in the pod, often in the frozen section of Asian supermarkets. They are gluten-free, low in calories, contain no cholesterol, added sugar and lots of protein, iron and calcium. You might be surprised that tofu is not in this list as a protein staple, guess what, edamame is more nutritious than tofu! So easy to make to, you only need to steam them with a few minutes and there you have them.

When in doubt, start with this beautiful edamame quinoa salad!

 

 

You’ll love these

Have you checked out our comprehensive Vegan Health & Nutrition Resources page? We have a bunch of support materials waiting for you including a dietitian guidebook, lifestyle checklists and assessments, and the best vegan websites we recommend, all for you for FREE.

 

About the author
healthy vegan palette writer Rainie

Rainie is a health, fitness and nutrition enthusiastic. She studied a bachelor of Biomedical Sciences degree to learn all about the human body and continued to pursue higher research training in a neuroscience laboratory to investigate how the brain develops. Rainie is now using the research skills she learned in the science degree to bring evidence-based nutrition practice to more health-conscious people.

The simple act of eating healthy plant based holds promise to depression prevention

Said not me, but a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.

. . .

Last month I went to a career networking event – nothing about the event itself changed, but I did.

I’ve always liked going to events for the extra perk of getting free food. I didn’t care about whether they are junk food because free = good.

But over the last year, I have become a lot more mindful about the food I put into my body, after reading research articles on the health implications of the standard American diet, processed food, meat, and dairy…

I was constantly in shock of how much misinformation we hold regarding health. I mean, just look at the number of fad diets out there if you don’t believe me!

I got to the networking event. Everyone was having a great time with alcohol and free food. In the past, I would too. But I wasn’t so happy looking at the food options — all sorts of deep fried finger foods: spring rolls, chicken wings, beef pies, pork dim sims, chicken nuggets, fries …

fried-chicken

Everyone else looked so happy, voluntarily ingesting one piece after another, while sipping some delicious alcohol.

But … are we really happy?

According to the World Health Organization, 300 million people around the world have depression. Nearly 50% of all people diagnosed with depression also experience an anxiety disorder. It’s estimated that 15% of the adult population will experience depression at some point in life.

I am not saying that bad eating habits and unhealthy food cause depression (although likely true), but it is a common practice for depressed people to indulge in some addictively yummy junk food — ice cream, chips, soft drinks etc. Once it becomes a habit, the occasional cheat meals naturally become the default, even when we are not feeling depressed.

And what does that lead to?

Unhealthy diet contributes to approximately 678,000 deaths each year in the U.S. due to nutrition- and obesity-related diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. 1 In the last 30 years, obesity rates have doubled in adults, tripled in children, and quadrupled in adolescents.

Does what we put into our body affect how we feel, physically and mentally? Of course it does! When you don’t treat your car nicely by giving it the cheapest, crappiest fuel, will you expect it to run far?

broken car analogy to food

One day, the car will break down because of all the crap it was fed. You will have to dump in a lot of money to fix it, just like fixing depression and anxiety with a bunch of drugs that don’t always work.

But…why didn’t you just put in some good fuel in the first place?

The effects of healthy diets on mood have been known for some time but many people (including doctors) will rather turn to the “safer” option of medications to treat disorders like depression. This is often simply because the impact of dietary modification as a treatment or intervention strategy is not straightforward to quantify and the evidence seems to be “up in the air”.

But, a new Australian study has looked at 16 randomized control trials with outcome data for 45,826 participants and come back with a simple, clear message:

“If you want to feel better, eat less junk.”

What we call “comfort food”, high in sugar and fat, activate our brain’s reward center. This is just similar to smoking and drug addiction — while we may feel some temporary pleasure, it doesn’t benefit us in the long run.

Instead, eating nutrient-dense foods that are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, while reducing processed foods with refined sugars are truly beneficial, in the short and long term. Health-promoting whole foods should be consumed daily, in great variety and abundantly.

How should your plate look like?

A variety of plant-based whole foods: vegetables, leafy greens, fruits, legumes, grains making up a colorful palette.

vegan palette food plate

While further research is always required to understand the specific mechanisms underlying the effect, we are slowly getting a more comprehensive picture of how food affects the whole body, one that includes our massive gut microbiome. Changing what we eat firstly affects the plethora of bacteria living in our bellies.

While the finding that “Junk food is bad, plants are good” isn’t so new, this meta-analysis is still a significant step forward in really implementing dietary interventions for mood disorders such as depression.

If you are already eating plant-based, amazing! If you are considering and need more evidence, there are plenty:

The best diet for depression“, “Improving mood through diet” by Nutritionfacts.org

Foods that fight depression” by Physicians committee for responsible medicine

Knowing something works is one matter, but using it for real is another

Health practitioners usually have a heavy influence on what approaches patients take to improve their health. Doctors, dietitians, psychologists, therapists, coaches, and the plant-based community should take up the responsibility to be early adopters of lifestyle changes as disease intervention and treatment.

With this new study, health practitioners should be more confident in prescribing dietary interventions alongside other treatment options.

Of course, health is yours. No matter what the doctor, or the dietitian, or the internet says, you hold the ultimate choice of what to put in your body.

You may not be able to decide what kinds of food appear in an event you have to attend, but you can choose to avoid eating them and seek healthier alternatives.

When depression and anxiety kick in, you may feel like you don’t have control over your mind. But don’t just give up taking the control back and indulge in fast food for temporary pleasure.

Seek professional help, learn some nutrition from credible sources, and make small changes every day! Of course, exercise is another key element for improving your mood and overall health 🙂

healthy vegan

References

https://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Abstract/publishahead/The_effects_of_dietary_improvement_on_symptoms_of.98656.aspx

https://cspinet.org/eating-healthy/why-good-nutrition-important

https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/health-and-wellness/the-simple-change-we-can-make-to-reduce-the-risk-of-depression-20190204-p50vmu.html

You’ll love these

Have you checked out our comprehensive Vegan Health & Nutrition Resources page? We have a bunch of support materials waiting for you including a dietitian guidebook, lifestyle checklists and assessments, and the best vegan websites we recommend, all for you for FREE.

 

About the author
healthy vegan palette writer Rainie

Rainie is a health, fitness and nutrition enthusiastic. She studied a bachelor of Biomedical Sciences degree to learn all about the human body and continued to pursue higher research training in a neuroscience laboratory to investigate how the brain develops. Rainie is now using the research skills she learned in the science degree to bring evidence-based nutrition practice to more health-conscious people.

 


Disease-fighting phytonutrients – power of real plant foods

vegetables vegan diet

 

When it comes to nutrition, I bet what you hear most often are carbs, proteins and fats. These are the macronutrients, but…are they all we need?

 

You might also have heard of micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. For many people, Micronutrients are not a big deal considering how easily accessible multi-vitamin supplements are nowadays.

 

So…If you are getting all you macros, plus taking those all-in-one vitamin supplementations, you have everything you need, right?

 

Well. Technically that’s what you need to live. Nutrients include carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, all of which are essential to life. These are the basic requirements.

 

But… to live a healthy, disease-free life? Not quite enough.

 

Today’s topic is all about the powerful, under-appreciated phytonutrients.

  • What are they?
  • What can they do?
  • Where to get them?

 

There are also some important pointers and gifts at the end, make sure you go there and check them out!

 

What are phytonutrients?

 

“Phyto” comes from the Greek word for “plant”. Natural phytonutrients give plant foods their rich colour, tastes and smells.

 

Phytonutrients are technically not “nutrients”, but there is strong evidence that they play a crucial role in maintaining health and preventing diseases, including cancers. Discovering and utilising phytonutrients are part of a growing area of health and nutrition.

 

In my opinion (and perhaps some other health professionals), phytonutrients should be added to the definition of essential nutrients for healthy living. 

 

More than 900 phytonutrient compounds have been discovered and scientists are still uncovering more from the powerful plant kingdom. Some well-known phytonutrients are isoflavones in soy, lignans in flaxseed, beta-carotene in carrots, flavonoids in berries.

 

Benefits of phytonutrients

 

Long before phytonutrients were discovered, people began to notice that those who eat mostly plant foods are less likely to experience chronic diseases than those who consumed meat and processed foods.

 

In addition to the well-known benefits of plant foods including high fibre, low saturated fat, low sugar and salt, what else could be preventing diseases?

 

Phytonutrients – That’s right!

 

Phytonutrients can protect against diseases in a number of ways such as

  • Improving immune function
  • Stimulating enzymes that protect against toxins and carcinogens
  • Neutralising the free radicals that could damage DNA
  • Decreasing blood cholesterol level
  • Regulating blood glucose level

 

Some phytonutrients are extremely powerful because of their anti-oxidant and anti-diabetic properties. Flavonoids are one such example. Berries are rich in flavonoids and are highly recommended for healthy aging, diabetes control, fighting cancer and fat burning. 

 

We encourage you to check out Dr. Michael Greger‘s videos on flavonoids!

 

How do you get lots of phytonutrients?

 

It’s so simple –  The different colours reflect phytonutrients present in different plant foods. To ensure you get more phytonutrients, you simply need to eat a colourful plate of fruits, veggies and whole grains.

 

Is it really that simple? Yes, it is all about diversity and real plant foods. Nature has loaded so many health-promoting compounds into plant foods, we just need to appreciate them in the original form and minimise processing that may damage the structures of these compounds.

 

If you don’t believe me, here is a table released by Harvard Medical School.

 

Phytonutrients, Their Sources And Potential Benefits

Source: Harvard Medical School

 

Is there a magic phytonutrient pill?

 

Phytonutrients are great, and you have to get them the RIGHT way – eating a variety of plant foods. A pill just simply can’t do what real foods can.

 

A plant food may contain in itself more than 100 types of phytonutrients and they only provide the optimal benefits when consumed all together – a phenomenon known as synergy. When you are consuming a variety of plant foods, complex synergistic interactions are going in your body.

 

Attempting to take out particular elements is just not going to work. In fact, research has shown that for some people, taking beta-carotene supplementation can actually be harmful!

 

Remember – “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts“. This always holds true in the debate between supplementation or real foods.

 

A few more pointers

  • Eat at least 6 servings of fruits and vegetables a day!
  • Variety does not just apply to fruits and vegetables. Don’t just stick to one type of grain and miss out on the phytonutrients in different whole grains! Alternate between whole wheat, rice, oatmeal, whole-wheat couscous, triticale, spelt, buckwheat etc.
  • Eat phytonutrient-rich foods throughout the day to keep blood levels of these components constant. This way you get the most benefits.
  • It is so important to keep track of your lifestyle habits, you can download my lifestyle checklist and Food, symptom & mood diary on my Comprehensive Resources Page.

You’ll love these

Have you checked out our comprehensive Vegan Health & Nutrition Resources page? I’ve compiled my gifts, knowledge and tips regarding thriving on a vegan lifestyle in this page, including a dietitian guidebook, grocery shopping list, lifestyle checklists, and the best vegan websites I recommend, all for you for FREE.

 

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References

Disease fighting phytonutrients, Harvard Medical School 

Phytonutrients for fall, Harvard Medical School

NutritionFacts.org

Phenomenal phytonutrients: the reason we need real food

 

About the author


Raymond_dietitian_from_Vegan_Palette_with_food_plate

Raymond Setiadi is an Australian Accredited Practising Dietitian and is the founder of Vegan Palette,  a Brisbane-based dietitian practice.

As an expert in whole food plant-based nutrition and fat loss strategies, Raymond has a comprehensive understanding of the interplay between food,  human physiology, goal-directed psychology, and how they all play a pivotal role in one’s pursuit of optimal health.