Superfoods are everywhere these days. But the choices don’t seem so plentiful to those who’ve chosen the vegan path. Celebrities like Beyonce and Alicia Silverstone may be leading the vegan charge, but how do you get your nutrients on a no-meat-eggs-or-dairy diet? We list down seven vegan superfoods that deserve A-lister status. Consumed regularly, they can decrease the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and overall mortality and ensure a healthier you.
Vegan foods have zero saturated fats, which makes them extremely healthy. Far from missing out on their quota of protein, people who are on a vegan diet tend to be extremely conscious about their intake. They also aid in weight loss, which is why they’re becoming extremely popular. Try these vegan superfoods today:
It may sound Indian but this gluten-free grain originates from Central America and has been a staple in Aztec diets for almost 8,000 years now. With a higher content of calcium, iron, phosphorous and carotenoids than most vegetables, this grain packs in a punch of protein: 28.1 gm per cup as against 26.3 gm in oats and 13.1 gm in rice. Amaranth is one of the few grains to offer lysine, an important amino acid, and contains vitamin C. Research shows that this superfood can help lower incidences of cancer, hypertension and cut the risk of cardiovascular disease.
First cultivated in the Andes Mountains almost 5,000 years ago, quinoa is remarkable because it is one of the few plant-based sources of “complete protein”. Called the “mother grain” by Bolivians, this gluten-free, vegan “pseudo-cereal” is also high in iron, calcium and fiber, and is a good source of magnesium, copper and manganese. Consuming whole grains like quinoa can cut the risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. It’s easy to cook and makes for excellent salads and breakfast items such as poha.
Long eaten in northern India every winter, sarson ka saag – aka mustard greens – is extremely beneficial. Low in calories and high in fiber, mustard greens have an unusually high vitamin K content. Dr. Joel Fuhrman, in his book Eat to Live, reveals that in Icaria, Greece, 1 in 3 people lives to the age of 90, which makes the Greek island a “blue zone”, an area where people enjoy superior longevity. One of the most popular foods on this island is mustard greens. These leafy greens offer numerous anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, along with cardiovascular support.
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Everyone loves potatoes, but not many appreciate their cousins, the sweet potatoes. For starters, it’s full of vitamin B6, which reduces homocysteine levels that can cause heart disease, high blood pressure, hip and other bone fractures, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and other serious chronic diseases. These tubers also contain vitamins C and D, potassium, magnesium and beta carotene. One medium-sized spud contains over 400% of the daily needs for vitamin A. They’re also a good vegan source of iron. Low on the glycemic index scale, they may be helpful for diabetes patients. They can also help cut the risk for hypertension and cancer. The fiber content ensures a healthy digestive system.
This ruby red fruit is a powerhouse of nutrients. The presence of punicalagin, the most abundant antioxidant in pomegranate, makes it a veritable treasure, ensuring that pomegranate juice offers greater antioxidant capacity than red wine, cranberry juice, green tea, grape juice or acai juice. The antioxidant power provides protection against heart disease, cancer and cognitive impairment. It also helps preserve the skin’s collagen and promotes healthy skin.
Be it Madonna or Miranda Kerr, there are plenty of celebrities who swear by the nutritional benefits of this Chinese fruit. Extremely rich in antioxidants and vitamin A, these berries boost the immune system, enhance brain activity, protect against heart disease and cancer, and improve life expectancy. Some studies suggest that they can help stave off Alzheimer’s. They’re available in dried form in health stores and special outlets.
We all know that a square of dark chocolate may be the healthiest dessert you can have but there’s something chocolate-related that’s even healthier. Cacao, the fruit and bean from which chocolate is made! This South American food is high in antioxidants, fiber, iron and magnesium. Cacao nibs – about a third the size of a raisin – may not be snackable on their own but add them to shakes, smoothies or cereals for a nutritional boost.
Mix things up by including other vegan superfoods such as turmeric, flax and chia seeds, kiwis, mushrooms and spirulina in your diet.
Need recommendations for a balanced vegan diet? A HealthifyMe nutritionist can help.