Every January, many people embark on a month of following a vegan or more plant-based diet and 2022 is going to be no exception. For some people, it may just be a continuation of the vegan diet or, for others, it’s the start of a new regime. Some may also want to be flexible having a few vegan eating days each week. However, whilst vegetables are clearly going to feature highly in every vegan diet, some can certainly play a more starring role. Read on ……..
Sweet potatoes are often one of the mainstay vegetables of a vegan diet. In short, they are fabulously nutritious and versatile vegetables. Sweet potatoes are often misunderstood and categorised as ‘another type of potato’ but they are from different plant families. Whilst both types of potatoes have plenty of health benefits, sweet potatoes are better for balancing blood sugar levels as are lower on the glycaemic index. This means they’re also more favourable if you’re watching the waistline.
However, where sweet potatoes really score is in their high beta-carotene content. This is turned into immune-supportive vitamin A, as needed in the body, and is especially helpful at this time of year. Roasted, in their jackets, in curries, stews and soups, there are plenty of easy ways to incorporate them into the vegan diet.
The vegetable that keeps on giving! As a member of the amazing cruciferous vegetable family, broccoli’s health benefits are far-reaching. Not just in terms of its nutrient content, delivering high levels of vitamin C, folate, iron, beta-carotene and potassium, but also with what broccoli provides in terms of powerful antioxidants.
Antioxidants that scavenge free radicals and help protect us from disease, come in different guises and there are many different types. However, broccoli contains an especially health-giving compound called indole, which has been found to protect DNA from damage, very important for the prevention of serious degenerative diseases. What’s more, broccoli is so easy to include in the diet just as a side or in stir-fries, roasted with a little soya sauce, lightly steamed or included into an array of veggie dishes.
Often called sweet (they are ripened for longer than green peppers) or bell peppers, many people don’t realise red peppers contain three times as much immune-boosting vitamin C as oranges. Plus, as with other red and brightly coloured vegetables, they are high in beta-carotene, so your immune system is really going to benefit.
Red peppers are incredibly versatile and can be simply grilled, stuffed with savoury rice or other grains, used in stir-fries, chopped in salads or grilled, skinned and pureed and made into a delicious fat-free sauce as a perfect topping to wholemeal pasta.
Often referred to as curly kale for obvious reasons, it’s another green vegetable with superfood status. Interestingly, there are many different varieties of kale and some are not curly but smooth-leaved.
Just like broccoli and brussels sprouts, kale is packed with indoles, but it is the richest source of calcium of all vegetables, so is great for building strong bones and teeth. Calcium is also a calming mineral so is much needed during these stressful times. A great January vegetable, kale helps cleanse the liver and break down and eliminate ‘old’ hormones’ therefore helping create feelings of balance and peace. Kale does have a slightly bitter taste so is great lightly steamed and tossed in a little olive oil, sea salt and lemon juice or grilled to create kale crisps with paprika, salt and olive oil.
Another super-healthy green vegetable, spinach is probably best eaten raw in salads as a substitute for lettuce. It’s also very tasty in wraps with falafel or avocado and hummus. Spinach can of course be included in cooking or as a vegetable side, but you just need to use a good number of leaves. However, it’s super-delicious very slightly ‘sweated’ with garlic. Spinach doesn’t actually have the highest iron levels (contrary to popular myth) but it certainly scores brilliantly with its carotenoid content. This includes both beta carotene and lutein which are excellent for eyesight. Indeed, all carotenoids have powerful antioxidant effects so are also very protective of overall health.