Walnuts – There are just a few good sources of essential omega 3 fatty acids in the vegan diet. The walnut is one of the most appealing and healthy of the choices. Walnuts have been called “brain-food” and it’s interesting that they even look like a brain. Their high concentration of omega-3 essential fat is just what is needed to keep your brain cells functioning properly. It is commonly known now that lack of omega-3 fats has conclusively been linked to depression. But studies also show that a lack of omega-3 fats is linked to learning disorders, behavioral problems, temper tantrums, and sleep disorders. Walnuts have been found to contain a bio-available form of ‘melatonin’; a hormone produced by the pineal gland, which induces and regulates sleep; and sleep is very important to healing. Studies have linked eating a handful of walnuts to a reduction in bone-loss. Studies also point out that our body turns the ALA (alpha linolenic acid) provided by walnuts into EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) which is a long-chain fatty acid. Vegan diets, typically, do not contain any DHA (another long-chain fatty acid). Some studies say that we can make EPA long-chain fatty acid from walnuts or flax, but not DHA, therefore some vegans will supplement with a vegan DHA from microalgae. There is little evidence of adverse health or cognitive effects caused by a deficiency in DHA, in adult vegans. However, vegan medical doctors strongly advise pregnant and lactating vegan mothers to supplement with DHA made from ethical and non-toxic micro-algae. Walnuts are a good source of manganese and a and copper. They also contain an antioxidant compound called ‘ellagic acid’, which helps in cancer protection. I’m off for a handful (that's all we need) of walnuts!
Broccoli is a superfood from the Brassica family. It contains a high amount of potassium, as well as magnesium and calcium. The calcium and Vitamin K found in broccoli support bone health and osteoporosis prevention. Broccoli contains glucoraphanin which helps the skin to repair itself from sun damage. The body processes the glucoraphanin into an anti-cancer compound. The American Cancer Society recommends eating broccoli because it contains phytochemicals with their anti-cancer properties. One cup of broccoli bolsters the immune system with a large dose of beta-carotene. And the trace minerals such as zinc and selenium in the broccoli further help to strengthen the immune system. It’s a powerhouse of iron, protein, calcium, chromium, carbohydrates, Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Also found in this nutrient-dense food is Vitamin B6 and folate. Broccoli contains carotenoid lutein which helps fight against heart disease, hardening of the arteries, and stroke. The chromium is known to help regulate insulin and control diabetes. The best ways to eat broccoli are raw, lightly steamed, or added to soups.
Avocado is becoming more popular and grown in many countries, globally. Sometimes it takes acquiring a taste for it if you have never eaten this creamy rich fruit, but then it becomes a staple in the diet of most vegans. The avocado’s dense nutrient composition includes vitamin K, Vitamin E, B vitamins especially vitamin B6 and folic acid, vitamin C, calcium, copper, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and dietary fiber. Avocados have 60% more potassium than bananas. Many people think that because avocado has more fat than most other fruits and vegetables, it somehow contains cholesterol or bad fats that can raise cholesterol levels. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Avocados are high in beta-sitosterol, a compound that has been shown to lower cholesterol levels. Avocados do not contain any cholesterol. No plant foods contain cholesterol. As for the fat in avocado, it’s heart-friendly and can actually improve the cholesterol profile. The monounsaturated fatty acids of avocado have recently been shown to offer significant protection against breast cancer and have been shown to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer. Avocados have more of ‘carotenoid lutein’ than any other commonly consumed fruit. Lutein protects against macular degeneration and cataracts. A few slices of avocado in salad will not only add a rich, creamy flavor, but will greatly increase your body's ability to absorb the health-promoting carotenoids that vegetables provide. Research has found that certain nutrients are absorbed better when eaten with avocado. In one study, when participants ate a salad containing avocados, they absorbed five times the amount of carotenoids (a group of nutrients that includes lycopene and beta carotene) than those who didn't include avocados. An avocado a day can help keep the doctor away!
|Note where it says "fortified"|
Leafy dark greens – Dark green leafy vegetables are perhaps the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food. They are a rich source of minerals; including iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. They also contain vitamins K1, C, E, and many of the B vitamins, especially folate. They also provide a variety of phytonutrients including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which protect our cells from damage, etc. Dark green leaves even contain small amounts of Omega-3 fats. Studies show that vegans are at more risk of fractures because of less calcium intake, but if they consume 525 mg of calcium per day, by eating high-calcium greens, they are are not at risk. Collards contain the most calcium. Vegan nutritionists recommend a daily dose of leafy dark greens. After steaming (on high heat to retain nutrients and color), or eating the leaves raw and finely chopped or in a green drink - adding oil such as organic canola, hemp oil, olive oil, flax oil, or salad dressing, helps to better absorb the nutrients. Kale can be marinated, allowing the oil to soften the leaves and enhance the nutritional value. Arugula (Rocket) has a peppery taste and is rich in vitamins A, C, and calcium. Arugula has tender leaves, especially when young (also milder), and is enjoyed uncooked. Collard Greens have a mild flavor and are rich in vitamins A, C and K, folate, fiber, and calcium. Collard greens are not generally eaten raw. Steam them at a high temperature; add oil and nutritional yeast and salt/tamari - at the end of cooking. Kale (curly leaf or Lacanato: dark green flat leaf) is rich in vitamins A, C and K. Eat raw (marinated and chopped finely) in a green drink, steamed or in a stir-fry. Bok Choy – high in Vitamin A and C, also in beta-carotene, calcium, potassium, Vitamin B-6, and dietary fiber. Eat raw or cooked. Mustard Greens have a spicy flavor and are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, folate, and calcium. Eat them raw or in stir-fry’s. Spinach is rich in vitamins A and K, folate, and iron. Members of the spinach family are high in oxalates, therefore eating it raw on a regular basis is not recommended. Chard is rich in vitamins A, C, and K, potassium, and iron. Chard is also an oxalate-rich plant; making it a less desirable. The oxalic acid binds with the calcium and reduces its absorption, therefore making chard (and spinach and beet greens) not good sources of calcium. If you don’t like leafy dark greens, I suggest you change your taste buds. Healthy vegans eat their greens!
Tahini is a ground sesame seed butter and a key ingredient in hummus. Tahini is a nutritional powerhouse, being high in vitamins E, F and T, as well as vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B15, biotin, and choline. It is also a source of vitamin A. Tahini is also 20 percent complete protein. A serving (100 grams) of tahini contains at least one third of your necessary daily dose of calcium, and it is easy for the body to digest. Tahini is one of the highest sources of methionine, an essential amino acid, and also contains lecithin, which reduces the levels of fat in the blood and also protects against environmental toxins. Tahini is also high in minerals such as magnesium, potassium, iron, and phosphorus, as well as being a good source of calcium. Tahini may be made from hulled or unhulled sesame seeds. The tahini made with unhulled seeds is richer in vitamins and minerals but it is darker and has a stronger flavor, so it may not compliment some recipes. Raw food vegans use raw tahini. The reason tahini keeps very well and does not go rancid, even when unrefrigerated, is because sesame seeds contain natural preservatives, which stabilize it. Many vegans include tahini salad dressing as a staple in the diet. Simply blend tahini, water, and salty flavor. Optional; add lemon and seasonings of choice. Once mixed with water, the tahini dressing only lasts 2-3 days in the refrigerator.
- There are a wide variety of health supporting phytonutrients found in blueberries. Blueberries also contain lutein, which is important for healthy vision. In just one serving of these low calorie and low fat fruit, you can get 14 mg of Vitamin C – almost 25% of your daily requirement. Blueberries are high fiber and potassium, too. Researchers have found that blueberries rank #1 in antioxidant activity when compared to 40 other fresh fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants neutralize free-radicals which lead to cancer and other age-related diseases. Anthocyanin is the pigment that makes blueberries blue, and blue you want them to be! Slightly reddish colour indicates that they are not fully ripened and will be less sweet. Researchers have identified a compound in blueberries that promotes urinary tract health. Another study found that blueberries may reduce the build up of “bad” cholesterol which contributes to cardiovascular disease and stroke. Blueberries may help age-related mental capacity. Blueberries should be eaten when they are dry, firm, ripened to sweetness, and well-shaped as opposed to squishy. And remember, blueberries that are really blue are really, really good for you!
Red Lentils are included here because they are an unprocessed, whole food, source of protein that cooks in just 10-20 minutes. (More complete protein sources are buckwheat, quinoa, tempeh, and hempseed.) Lentils are one of the first foods to have ever been cultivated. Lentil seeds dating back 8000 years have been found at archaeological sites in the Middle East. Small red lentils don’t need to be pre-soaked and will turn golden when cooked; best used in stews, soups and dal. They are easily found in grocery stores or organically-grown from health food stores. They are a dietary fiber all-star and that fiber helps in cholesterol lowering, managing blood sugar disorders, and preventing digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulitis. International studies have shown that legumes are associated with a significant lower risk of heart disease. Lentils have a considerable amount of folate, which helps to lower levels of homocystiene. (Elevated homocysteine levels can occur if vegans don’t supplement with B12 – thereby taking away from the otherwise heart-healthiness of a vegan diet - raised homocysteine levels lead to heart disease.) Magnesium, readily found in lentils, is also beneficial to cardiovascular health. If you want to keep your heart healthy – eat lentils. Lentils are a good vegan source of iron. People who suffer from gout or kidney stones, however, should limit their intake of lentils because they are high in purines, which can break down to form uric acid, and these disorders are uric-acid related. Lentils are also an excellent source of phosphorus, copper, potassium, and molybdenum. Lentils are rich in many additional vitamins and minerals. A one cup serving meets 40% of your daily recommended value of protein with only 230 calories. Lentils are one of the highest sources of antioxidants found in winter growing legumes.
|the highest vegan source of K2|
Sauerkraut (raw fermented), Kombucha (unpasteurized), Kimchi, Natto, and Kefir (with plant milk) are particularly important. These fermented foods or drinks are not only sources of beneficial probiotics, and possibly a rare vegan food source of Vitamin B12, they are one of the few sources of Vitamin K2 in a vegan's diet. Vitamin K2, unlike K1 which regulates blood clotting, is extremely important to long-term health. It's falling short in not only a vegan's diet's - but the general mainstream, new research is revealing. We can and do convert Vitamin K1 into Vitamin K2 in our bodies, but some very important benefits of K2 apparently only come when it is sourced straight from food, studies confirm. Like herbivorous animals, vegans make many nutrients in their own bodies - instead of eating the flesh of animals that made those nutrients in their bodies. Since we are unsure of the conversion rate of K1 to K2 in our vegan bodies, it's recommended to include one of the above foods/drinks in your diet, regularly. An example of raw fermented foods is cultured vegetables that are left in airtight jars at room temperature for several days; and cabbage is most commonly used for this.