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My Vegan Superfood Staples

Ever since turning 100% plant-based, I have become fascinated with all of natures sources of beautiful and beneficial nutrients. What many of us are unaware of is how every nutrient we need comes from the sun (vitamin D), or the earth (everything else). Therefore, in terms of optimal absorption and utilisation, it makes sense to consume them from the primary source. Here is a list of my vegan staples, all of which are brimming with nutrition and make me feel energised and satisfied, not to mention I feel they have helped my skin, hair and nails become smoother, stronger and healthier overall. I actually manage to incorporate most of these in one single meal – my superfood lunch salads. It might seem like a lot, but they each add so much flavour and texture that you begin to crave them! I hope you find them intriguing, try them out and feel the difference in your own body 🙂

Nutritional yeast – brimming with key vitamins and minerals it is also a complete protein (with 18 amino acids), containing 71% protein by weight! Stress and poor diet deplete B vitamins so we could all do with a little dietary boost. Nutritional yeast is a great source of B’s, which offer us assistance with energy levels, brain health, fat metabolism, sleep quality, and hair growth. Note, unless fortified with B12, nutritional yeast is not a reliable source. As a guide, 3 tbsp of nutritional yeast = 9g protein! I often sprinkle this amount on a big green salad, soup, or in a veggie mash.

Sea vegetables – dulse and nori are my go-to’s, but I occasionally also enjoy other varieties such as wakame or kelp (particularly high in iodine). Sea vegetables are full of trace minerals that we don’t usually have access to, specifically iodine. Iodine ensures healthy thyroid function, which is important for metabolism, energy levels and hormonal balance. Sea veggies are a great way to replace salt in a meal, as they are naturally salty and arguably, more nutritious. Another hair-loving nutritious source, they also contain vitamins A, E, B6 and B12, iron, zinc, calcium, potassium and magnesium! Powerful stuff!

Saurkraut/kim-chi – fermented veggies are living foods! This means they contain active enzymes which help digest our food, as well as good bacteria called probiotics that ensure healthy gut function, and B vitamins. All this assists immunity and digestive health for optimal wellbeing. I try have about 2-3 tbsp at least once a day.

Chia/flax – just 1 tbsp a day can ensure you meet your omega-3 quota! Omega-3 is important for many things including hormonal balance, brain health and nerve function. These two seeds also provide you with healthy doses of insoluble AND soluble fibre which helps with blood sugar/appetite control, steady energy levels, and healthy colon function. Flax also provides us with lignans, cancer-protective and important for heart health. Try 1 tbsp of either in bircher/porridge, flax on top of a stir-fry, or sip on a few tsp chia in your water throughout the day (you won’t even taste it!).

Hemp seeds – 3 tbsp = 11g easily assimilated protein for long, lean muscles! This is one of natures most concentrated sources of essential fatty acids, particularly GLA. I don’t have this every day, but try to have it on a particularly active day. When I do I sprinkle it on my oats or enjoy it in/on top of a smoothie.

Quinoa/brown rice/oats/millet – I try to rotate the grains I use as much as possible to ensure a broad spectrum of different nutrients, as each grain has a different nutrient profile. One of the best thing that has come out of me going vegan is my new-found appreciation for quality carbohydrates, ridding myself of any trace of “Carbophobia” I definitely once had. The truth is, we are designed to eat carbohydrates as a mainstay in our diet (we produce the digestive enzyme amylase, which break down carbs, whilst some other animals don’t), and thus carbs are required for optimal muscle and brain function. These grains are gluten-free (oats contain trace amounts of gluten in Australia due to crop rotation, but they seem to be fine with most people, and if not, you can source gluten-free oats usually from abroad). Fantastic for amino acids (protein), B vitamins and fibre, these either go in my breakfast (oat or quinoa porridge), in my lunch-time salads, or with a stir-fry/curry for dinner. Complex carbohydrates like these keep me full, energised, non-irritable, and focused.

Parsley – a great vegan source of antioxidants and loads of vitamins and minerals like iron, try my tabbouleh for a healthy hit! You can also throw a bit of parsley into a green smoothie, juice or salad regularly to up your dose. As a powerful natural detoxifier and diuretic that prevents bloating, water retention and cellulite, it’s a goodie.

Miso – think of it it as vegan bone broth! This is a great gut-loving, plant-based alternative, that is soothing and provides enzymes and probiotics to promote healthy digestive function. Note, you must choose unpasturised miso, in order to reap these benefits. Alkalising, anti-viral, immune-boosting, cancer-preventative, antioxidant-rich and great for digestion… perfect as a snack with some sea veg (bonus points!) or used in salad dressings, try to incorporate it regularly.

Sprouts / Microgreens – the most powerful foods for cellular regeneration and health, sprouts are up to 50 x more nutritious than their mature counterparts!! They provide antioxidants, protein, enzymes and minerals that are easy to absorb and utilise.

Non-negotiable Green Drink – this one isn’t so much a food as a meal/snack, but it definitely is part of my everyday routine and something I source an abundant amount of nutrition from. Brimming with greens, I make sure I have one of these each day to slot in a huge amount of dietary fibre (it is usually a smoothie with over 3 servings of greens, but if I am out and about, it might be a juice), antioxidants and vitamins and minerals. A power-packed green drink is really the best energiser, I feel cleansed and incredibly vibrant after mine!

Everyday hero’s – 9 Staples for Good Health!

I’ve written about my favourite superfoods here. But what about the everyday hero’s that are commonplace in supermarkets and in our kitchens? While some of us love to try a variety of exotic plant-based foods from different cultures and traditions, we don’t always have to be all fancy and complicated when it comes to good health. These 9 wondrous food staples are easy, accessible and crucial to a healthy diet. If you’re not eating ’em, now is the time to start! Keep on reading for why, and how I like to include them in my day.

1. Walnuts

A brain healthy food, they even look like the brain! They contain neuro-protective compounds such as omega-3 fats, vitamin E, folate, melatonin and antioxidants. They are also contain heart healthy amino acids and fats that significantly assist cardiovascular function. Don’t be scared of fats! A small handful of nuts a day, has been proven to assist weight control as they are incredibly satiating.

Include: crushed over salads, fruit salads, as a snack, smoothie or porridge topping, in your homemade granola, breads, muffins or muesli slices! Try my creamy walnut Caesar dressing here.

2. Almonds

As above, if you are looking for a satisfying snack, a handful of almonds is a much better choice than a complex carbohydrate rich snack such as wholegrain toast. Naturally rich in monounsaturated fats, magnesium, vitamin E, selenium, calcium, protein and fibre, almonds are not only filling but also good for skin and bone health, as well as a prebiotic foods – meaning they promote the growth of good bacteria in the intestines. We want this!

Include: same as above, however I personally love a few almonds in 1 stuffed date for a sweet treat, or ground down to almond butter. Try making almond milk! Almonds are also delicious in stir fries or cauliflower rice and my pizza pops.

3. Pumpkin seeds / Pepita’s

Are a great vegan source of one of my favourite minerals, zinc. Unfortunately, it is a nutrient that a lot of people lack. Zinc is critical for cell growth, glowing skin, immunity, metabolism, blood sugar and reproductive health. Pepita’s are high in protein and omega-3 and they make great additions to snacks, smoothies or salads. Boasting healthy amounts of magnesium and potassium they are also great for our bones.

Include: same as walnuts, however I also like to include 1 tbsp blended into my smoothie, or lightly roasted in lime such as here.

4. Broccoli

An excellent source of antioxidants, vitamins E, C, K as well as dietary minerals such as iron, zinc and selenium and of course, our beloved fibre. Broccoli has a good variety of nutrients and phytochemicals that may work synergistically to help prevent cancer. Many of the benefits of broccoli are reduced if the vegetable is boiled so opt to lightly steam it or better still, chop it up finely raw in a salad.

Include: raw in salads, stir-fried, broccoli rice (same as cauliflower rice), or pureed for broccoli pancakes.

5. Blueberries

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capacity of blueberries is among the highest of fruits and vegetables, containing anthocyanins, reservatrol and pterostilbene.Blueberry consumption has been linked to improved brain function with research indicating their capacity to reverse age-related declines in neural and behavioural functions such as dementia. Studies have shown that the consumption of anthocyanins improve vision through protecting the retina from damage. Bluebs also contain high amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K and managanese.

Include: frozen or fresh in a smoothie, in porridge or bircher muesli, as a snack, or in homemade muffins or pancakes!

6. Avocado

Avocados are a good source of dietary fibre, potassium, vitamin E, folate and monounsaturated (healthy) fats. They are actually a fruit, but are very low sugar. Their fibre and healthy fat content has been shown to increase satiety and satisfaction from a meal, keeping you fuller for longer and supporting weight management. Clinical studies also show avocados role in lowering cholesterol, assisting cardiovascular health. The healthy fat present in avocado also facilitates carotenoid absorption (antioxidant compounds associated with cellular protection and growth). Avocados are a superfood because they not only offer so much nutrition but can make a meal taste amazing, from sweet to savoury! Personally, I have at least half most days!

Include: in any salad to add satiety, in smoothies, in chocolate mousse, in salad dressings and cake frostings.

7. Lemons

High in vitamin C and enzymes, lemon is a liver-loving, alkalising, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that boosts immunity, assists skin repair, balances your bodies pH (it may taste acidic and contain organic acid but it is in fact alkaline once digested) and stimulates digestion. This is is why adopting a daily habit of morning lemon water is so good for you – it wakes up your metabolism, re-hydrates you and boosts liver function to assist with the removal of toxins from the system. Lemon juice also contains citric acid. Evidence suggests that the presence of organic acids like citric increases the availability of calcium from vegetable foods. So squeeze it over your veggies to obtain the most calcium! Adding lemon juice to cut foods like apples or avocados can also prevent browning.

include: Daily lemon warm (not boiling hot) water! Salad dressings, or squeezed on top of smashed avocado on toast.

8. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is actually a bark, traditionally used as a stomachic and carminative for gastrointestinal issues. It has also been used to treat toothaches and bad breath! It has powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuro-protective and antimicrobial benefits and has been shown to have an effect on managing conditions such as diabetes due to its blood sugar stabilising properties.

Include: always in a smoothie! Or an almond milk chai tea, turmeric latte, chia pudding, cauliflower rice and stir-fries, or muffins.

9. Garlic

Another prebiotic food! Garlic has antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory properties and is known to assist detoxification and support cell health. Traditionally garlic has been used as a warming and blood cleansing herb to prevent and treat colds and flus, menstrual pain and expel worms and other parasites. Heat is thought to inhibit its antimicrobial properties however allowing crushed/chopped garlic to stand for 10 minutes before cooking may prevent this from occurring.

Include: in most warm meals – stir-fries, cauliflower rice, soups, marinades, dips, sauces, and salad dressings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Superfoods I Love & Why

Superfoods certainly received their fair share of attention, and then it seemed everyone started rolling their eyes, deeming each one a “fad”. My opinion is that they are great additions to a healthy diet, and can add variety and colour to your plate. I think there are a lot of healthy “regular” foods that can be classed as superfoods, but below are some more exotic bits and pieces to jazz up your meals and enhance nutrition.

There is definitely no harm in adding them, and there is plenty of good! Most are extremely high in antioxidants. Why does everyone go on about antioxidants? They are our protectors… Exposure to the sun, pollution and toxins as well as an unhealthy diet and stress can all release free radicals in the body. Antioxidants reverse the effects of these aggressive agents! Protecting our cells so that we can fight infection and reduce the effects of ageing.

Some of these superfoods, like chia and cacao, are great natural replacements for things a clean diet cuts out – like chocolate and pudding! So they certainly have their place and are worthy additions. Here are just a few of my favourites that I use regularly. If you haven’t tried one of them, give it a go this week!

  1. Chia seeds

Rich in soluble fibre, chia seeds lubricate the colon and assist with bowel movements and can provide relief for IBS symptoms. They are also full of essential fatty acids, protein, B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus and potassium. They have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and calming effects on the body. It can be difficult for the body to digest the seeds, so it is recommended that seeds be soaked prior for several hours. 3 tbsp to 1 glass of liquid works well.

Use: Make a delicious chia pudding or chia jam, add to your bircher muesli or smoothies, or sprinkle in your water and drink throughout the day.

  1. Ground flaxseeds

Also known as linseeds, they are high in Alpha-Linolenic Acid, fibre and lignans. Lignans are phytoestrogens that adapt to what our body needs i.e. if we are low in estrogen they boost it, whereas if we have excessive estrogen they reduce it! They also have powerful antioxidant effects. Note, ground as  opposed to whole flax are more digestible.

Use: Stirred into porridge, bircher, in baking, on top of salads, yoghurt or in smoothies.

  1. Cacao

Raw cacao powder contains nearly four times the antioxidant power of blueberries! It has long been used as an aphrodisiac and is rich in a plethora of vitamins and minerals – protein, calcium, carotene, B vitamins, sulfur and magnesium. Studies indicate it boosts serotonin, elevating mood and inducing feelings of contentment and relaxation, as well as having a cholesterol lowering effect. It is much more beneficial than its processed sugar-laden cousin, cacoa, but be sure to get it RAW.

Use: in place of cocoa powder – make a delicious hot choccy, a chocolate smoothie, chocolate mouse, raw chocolate, baking, breakfast oats or bliss balls. Cacao nibs make great choc chip replacements.

  1. Spirulina

Spirulina is an alkalizing, nutrient dense, protein rich powder containing a broad sprucrtum of vitamins and minerals. It is rich in vitamin E, iron, magnesium, chlorophyll and Gamma-Lenolenic Acid. It should be noted that although spirulina is often advertised as containing vitamin B12, the bioavailability of its B12 is limited and it should not be relied upon as a rich source. It has antioxidant, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and probiotic effects.

Use: in smoothies, on its own in water or with fresh juice, in raw desserts or bliss balls.

  1. 
Psyllium husk

Fibre, Fibre, fibre! It contains both soluble and insoluble fibre to help keep you regular and assist your body with eliminating toxins. Adequate fibre intake is essential for not only digestion and excretion however blood sugar control, cardiovascular health, weight loss and maintenance, skin health and appetite control. Additionally, it acts as a prebiotic to help nourish beneficial bacteria in the gut, which assists you further with digestion and absorption of food.

Use: in smoothies, seed crackers, baking, oats or bircher muesli. It soaks up water similar to chia so keep this in mind; it can be a great bulking agent/vegan egg substitute!

  1. Maca

Dried maca root powder is from Peru and has an impressive nutrient content: it is full of protein, fibre, calcium, magnesium, iron, iodine and potassium. It has historically been used to enhance libido and create an aphrodisiac effect! It is also associated with improved hormone regulation, menopausal symptoms and fertility, reduced fatigue and strengthened endurance and energy levels.

Use: in bliss balls, baking or in smoothies.

 

Try my Choc Mousse Supercharge Smoothie to incorporate them all, plus some everyday heros (avocado, nuts!)!!

¼ avocado

¼ banana

Vanilla or chocolate protein powder (grass-fed whey isolate or vegan pea/brown rice protein)

2 tbsp cacao

1 tbsp chia seeds

1 tbsp ground flaxseeds

1 tbsp psylium husk

1 tsp spirulina

1 tsp maca powder

1 tbsp stevia

1 cup coconut water or almond milk

½ cup ice

Optional: ½ raw zucchini and/or handful spinach

Blend!!

**Approx 28-36g of protein in this delicious shake and over 12 grams of fiber!

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