I recently celebrated 42 years as an unwavering vegan (beyond diet), and I've learned a thing or two about foods with scientifically-verified health benefits. Food can be our medicine and keep us healthy. I include these foods in my diet and try to avoid doctors. (Being a strict vegan, I avoid pharmaceuticals because they're tested on animals; only taking them when absolutely necessary and there's no alternative vegan food or nutraceutical remedy.) Here are 10 foods to help keep us vegans healthy:
1) Apples. Everyone's heard the old adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. It has some scientific merit. The pectin in apples helps lower bad cholesterol, and thus reduces your risk for cardiovascular disease. Eating sweet apples as an evening snack (after dinner) helps create an alkaline environment in the stomach, and works well to relieve symptoms of acid reflux.
2) Tempeh is high in complete protein, more easily digested than other soy products, has prebiotics, may help lower bad cholesterol, and is rich in minerals and vitamins. L-carnitine is a non-essential nutrient because we make it in our bodies from 2 amino acids. It is primarily found in meat products, and may be a difficult nutrient for vegans to source from food. Tempeh is the best vegan source of L-carnitine. (Avocados also have L-carnitine, but in much lesser quantities.)
3) Broccoli sprouts have been scientifically shown to have health benefits. They're a staple in my diet. I sprout them myself at home. Eating a daily portion of broccoli sprouts can help tame the H. pylori bacteria, linked to stomach ulcers and cancer. A very large number of people are hosts to this bad bacteria. Broccoli sprouts are very rich in sulforaphane, a dietary component shown to suppress the ability of breast cancer stem cells to form tumors. Broccoli sprouts have been shown to protect skin cells from sun damage, boost liver detoxification, and improve survival rates of bladder cancer patients.
4) Carrot juice has many health benefits, but first and foremost, one cup is packed with 250% of the DV (daily value) for Vitamin A; in the form of beta carotene; which turns into Vitamin A in our body. This highly nutritious beverage can help with eyesight, may boost immunity, may provide anticancer effects, may improve skin health, aid heart health, and protect your liver.
5) Unpasteurized sauerkraut (or vegan Kombucha) contain live lactobacilli and beneficial microbes, and is also rich in enzymes. It improves digestion and promotes the growth of healthy bowel flora, protecting against many diseases of the digestive tract. Sauerkraut contains Vitamin K2 which contributes to stronger and healthier bones. Vitamin K2 helps prevent the loss of calcium from bones, and many people are deficient in Vitamin K2. It is advised not to consume sauerkraut or kombucha in excess.
6) Bok Choy / Broccoli. We're told that green vegetables are healthy and we should eat them. Most green (and other) vegetables have oxalic acid or oxalates, which can lead to kidney stones. I will eat some kale and arugula, but I prefer broccoli and bok choy which are low in oxalates. I rarely eat spinach or swiss chard because they're high in oxalates.
7) Food-sourced vegan Vitamin D. The only vegan food source of Vitamin D is some mushrooms that have been exposed to sunlight. We make Vitamin D3 from sunshine exposure on our skin. Most all the vegan foods that contain Vitamin D are from a supplement; not food-sourced. However, as vegan living advances, we are now finding a few marketed vegan products that contain food-sourced Vitamin D (from shiitake mushrooms). One of these marketed products is the very healthy and delicious MadeGood Granola snacks - and also snacks under the brand name of Good Health. Monterey Mushrooms offer a mushroom that is high in Vitamin D. It should be noted that there is widespread deficiency of Vitamin D; which not only helps strong bones, but is very important for immunity. Reportedly, 80% of people who contracted Covid-19 were Vitamin D deficient.
8) Quinoa: Rice is tasty and full of B-Vitamins, however it takes a lot of water to grow it, and it is not as nutritious as other grains. I prefer to eat Quinoa which has complete protein; containing all the essential amino acids. Quinoa is a good source of antioxidants and minerals; providing more magnesium, iron, fiber, and zinc than many grains. It is also gluten-free.
9) Nutritional yeast (powder or flakes) has a delicious, nutty, cheesy flavor that I sprinkle on my food. There are many brands that are fortified with Vitamin B12; making it the most fun and tasty way to get some B12 in our diet. Please note that Vitamin B12 is not naturally occurring in nutritional yeast (nooch), so check labels for brands that are fortified.
10) Butternut Squash is a phenomenal source of Vitamin A, and contains other vitamins and minerals. One cup of baked squash will provide about 340mg of omega-3 fats in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA); a short chain fatty acid that (slowly) turns into long-chain fatty acids in our body. A well-planned vegan diet should include ample sources of omega-3 fats, as we don't consume foods with long-chain fatty acids; like fish. Good plant sources of ALA omega-3 fats are: hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, purslane, and walnuts. There are algae-derived vegan supplements of long-chain fatty acids DHA/EPA for those who feel it might benefit their cardiovascular health.
*Please note there are several nutrients that are generally found in animal "foods" and not in plant foods. However, most of them can be made in our own body from other nutrients. Rather than killing animals for nutrients that we can make in our own body, vegans do their homework and educate themselves as to how they can obtain nutrients without causing other species to endure torture and persecution.
*In celebration of my 42nd Veganniversary, I was asked to do a live interview for Jane Unchained News. Check it out by clicking HERE