When following a vegan or plant-based diet, it's essential to include nutrient-dense foods to assist you in meeting your nutrient requirements. These plant-based superfoods not only taste great but also offer an abundance of essential nutrients for optimal health. Let's dive into the top 10 plant-based foods to be including on your shopping list and the nutrients they provide:
Tofu is an excellent complete protein. It is also high in calcium and iron. With all the different varieties available on the market it is a very versatile option from both sweet to savoury. Use it in stir-fries, curries, tofu scrambles, soups and puddings.
2. Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts are an excellent source of Selenium. Selenium is an essential micronutrient. While we only need small amounts of it, it is a very important mineral we need to consume daily, as our body cannot produce it. Selenium works as an antioxidant in the body. It can help to keep tissues healthy by preventing cell damage. (1)
Functions of Selenium: (1)
Keeping your immune system functioning properly
Maintain healthy thyroid function
Helps to keep your tissues healthy by preventing cell damage, as it is an antioxidant
Protective against the development of some types of cancers.
Key role in reproduction and foetal development
By simply consuming just 2 brazil nuts per day, you are meeting you Selenium requirements.
To learn more about Selenium, click here for a previous blog post.
3. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is fortified with essential B vitamins such as B12. It's also high in protein and contains zinc. A favorite among vegans for its cheesy flavor, it is a simple and easy addition to any meal to boost its nutritional content. Add to pasta, soups, salads or even popcorn.
4. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are an excellent source of key nutrients such as:
Omega 3 is essential on a plant based diet. It is important for brain, eye, joint, skin and heart health as well as having anti-inflammatory properties. While omega-3s are typically more abundant in fish and other animal-based foods, incorporating these plant-based sources into a well-rounded diet can help meet the body's omega-3 requirements and promote optimal health on a plant-based lifestyle. For those concerned about DHA specifically, algae-based supplements offer a vegan-friendly alternative to traditional fish oil supplements, providing a direct source of this essential fatty acid.
5. Textured Vegetable Protein
Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) is made from soy beans. It is defatted soy bean which is a by product of soy bean oil production.
TVP is rich in protein, iron, zinc and calcium. It's great for adding texture and protein to chili, tacos, and Bolognese sauce.
A gluten-free grain that's a complete protein, containing all essential amino acids. It's also high in iron (5.2mg/cup) , magnesium, and phosphorus. Use it as a base for grain bowls or as a porridge alternative. You can typically find this at health food stores.
7. Pumpkin seeds
These crunchy seeds are a fantastic source of zinc, iron, magnesium, and healthy fats. Sprinkle them on salads, soups, or enjoy them as a nutrient-rich snack.
A fermented soy product that provides a wealth of probiotics for gut health. It's high in protein, calcium, and iron, making it an excellent alternative to meat in various dishes. It is also low FODMAP!
9. Tinned beans/legumes
Cheap, nutritious, versatile. I highly recommend having some tinned legumes on hand at all times. Rich in protein, iron, zinc and fibre they are an essential component to healthy, balanced meals. Add to pasta, soups, salads, use in dips (eg hummus).
10. Iodised Salt
Iodine is a crucial nutrient essential for thyroid health, and while it is commonly found in fish and dairy products, plant-based diets may require careful consideration to ensure adequate intake. Thankfully, iodised salt is an easy and convenient way to meet this nutritional need. By fortifying salt with iodine, it becomes an accessible source of this vital mineral for those following a plant-based lifestyle.
The thyroid gland relies on iodine to produce thyroid hormones, which play a central role in regulating metabolism and supporting overall health. Insufficient iodine intake may lead to thyroid-related issues.
By using iodised salt in your cooking and meal preparation, you can help ensure you're meeting your iodine requirements. Additionally, incorporating other plant-based sources of iodine, such as seaweed and commercially-made bread (in Australia), further diversifies your iodine intake and promotes thyroid health.
Seaweed, especially varieties like nori, dulse, and kelp, are good sources of iodine. In some countries, including Australia, commercial bread manufacturers are required to use iodised salt in the bread-making process. This regulation provides an additional source of iodine for plant-based individuals, making it easier to maintain adequate intake without the need for supplementation.
While plant-based diets offer numerous health benefits, being mindful of iodine intake is essential for thyroid function. By including iodised salt, seaweed, and iodine-rich bread in your plant-based meal plans, you can ensure that your thyroid receives the support it needs to keep you feeling vibrant and energized on your journey to optimal well-being.
By incorporating these nutrient-dense plant-based foods into your diet, you'll help to ensure that you're meeting key nutrients while enjoying a delicious array of flavors and textures. Remember to pair them with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to create well-rounded and balanced vegan meals.
Author: This blog post was written by Melissa D'Elia (APD)
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Disclaimer: The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult with your Dietitian or GP for individualised advice.
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