Essential Plant-Based Foods For Balanced Nutrition
From a healthy planet, to sustainability, nurturing a vital body and promoting a healthy mind, the health benefits of plant-based eating are absolutely clear.
Whether you choose to go entirely plant-based or not, it's wise to increase the proportion of plants in your diet if your goal is robust health, vitality and longevity.
For balanced nutrition, let's dissect the six big categories of plant-based foods for an all round healthy diet.
Fruit is an astringent, meaning it is a 'cleansing food' that not only provides vital phyto-nutrients, but also detoxifies your body's channels of elimination.
Fruit is chock full of the vitamins and minerals that your body needs, like vitamin C, potassium, and folate (which is a natural form of vitamin B9 of which many people don’t get enough).
They’re also high in essential fibres, which your body needs for a healthy, well-functioning digestive system and which keeps you feeling full and satisfied (long after refined carbs would have sent you packing for the nearest convenience food).
Fruit is packed with antioxidants that fight free radicals to help prevent diseases and premature ageing.
The best part about fruits is that when ripe and in season, they taste super sweet and refreshing.
Avoid the false propaganda that encourages people to avoid fruit with the belief that 'fruit is just sugar'.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Fruit is crystallised sunshine. Botanically, every fruit comes of a 5-pointed star which mirrors the shape of how we stand as humans with arms outstretched. Not only that, fruit mirrors the shapes of the anatomical structure of many parts of the human body e.g. an avocado looks like a swollen seed inside a womb and cervix just like a woman who is pregnant. Citrus fruits mirror the anatomical structure of the female mammary glands etc.
And and are incredibly versatile: pack your salad full of colourful fruits, throw them in a delicious smoothie, create a tart compote to drizzle over oatmeal, yogurt, or whole grain pancakes, or even drink them in healthy beverages like RA-W Juice Powders for a powerful and refreshing blend of minerals and vitamins.
Learn more in Fruit & Vegetable Juicing: What You Should Know.
The easy way to get a wide variety of dried fruits, nuts and seeds into your diet straight is by snacking on Pulse Sacred Meal. This ancient blend is a complete source of sweet tasting and delicious whole food that detoxes, strengthens and nourishes your body and brain.
Learn more in Pulse: the Ancient Sacred ‘Meal of Hercules’.
If you’re working on a plant-based diet, vegetables are about to become your new best friend.
Vegetables are the 'builders' of the body. They build the blood and they strengthen the body (particularly anything GREEN).
Vegetables also share the signature (sign-of-nature) pattern of many parts of the body to reflect that mother nature has put them there for us by design.
They're healthy and nutritious, and come in many textures, tastes, and options. And fear not: a plant-based diet isn’t synonymous with a lifetime of gnawing on celery and carrot sticks; use vegetables to create a huge variety of dishes like delicious leafy green salads, delightful soups, tasty flatbreads, pastas using zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash, stir-fries, tacos and so much more!
The options are endless, you just need to get a little creative with your substitutions. Add variety, taste and extra nutrients by combining your vegetables with a form of plant-based protein, like organic tofu, lentils, quinoa, tempeh or nuts.
3. Whole Grains
Essential plant-based diet foods include whole grains, which means unrefined grains, that are still in their whole form or that have been ground into a flour while keeping each part of the seed.
White rice, white flour and white bread are not whole grains - they've been processed to a shadow of their original form and should be avoided.
Whole grains are the healthiest form of grains and will lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other major health concerns.
Whole grains can be everything from brown rice to organic whole wheat, quinoa to amaranth to buckwheat, so you can still enjoy a varied meal including complex carbohydrates while eating a balanced, plant-based diet.
If you're concerned about intolerances to grains, it's important to realise that gut reactions are typically due to the chemicals that grains have been stored and processed in, rather than the wholegrain itself.
By doing a colon cleanse and perhaps a few days of fasting, you'll help to re-set the gut which often then allows you to return to enjoying unprocessed whole grains without any intolerances or reactions.
Look for ingredients like barley, bulgur, millet, oatmeal, and whole-wheat flour. Avoid enriched wheat flour. The Ground Wholefood Farinas are the perfect way to consume whole foods in an easy-to-digest powder form that can be mixed with water and eaten as a meal replacement.
Legumes isn’t just a fancy French word for vegetables.
They most commonly refer to "beans" and are an important part of a plant-based diet. The most common types of beans are black beans, lentils, chickpeas, fava beans, kidney beans, and lima beans..
Legumes are essential for a balanced diet because they’re full of plant-based protein, complex carbohydrates (to maintain blood sugar balance) and fibre but low in fat, while being affordable and widely available so anyone can incorporate them into their diet.
Unfortunately, most people simply don’t know what to do with them, which is a shame because they have immense culinary range and are easy to cook with.
Here are some easy, new ways to incorporate more legumes into your diet:
- Prepare a Hummus dip from chickpeas by mixing with lemon juice, olive oil and salt in a blender
- Use mashed black beans as a base in your tacos and burritos
- Add a variety of beans to soups, stews, and vegetarian chilli for a hearty meal
- Add them to pasta dishes for a boost in the nutritional value
- Try a cold 3-bean salad with fresh herbs, olive oil and lime
- Prepare a bean-based veggie burger
- Roast small beans like chickpeas with chilli flakes and salt for on-the-go snacks
5. Root Vegetables
We already mentioned vegetables as essential plant-based diet foods, but it’s worthwhile to specifically mention root vegetables.
These include vegetables that grow underground, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, fennel, beets, carrots, parsnip, and yucca.
Root vegetables are fresh, whole foods that are teeming with nutritional value. For example, the skin of a medium baked sweet potato has just 103 calories but enough vitamin A to meet your recommended intake for the entire day.
A cup of mashed turnips is 51 calories but 76 mg of calcium, which is as much calcium that’s in half a slice of cheddar cheese. Root vegetables can be high in starches (some less than others, like carrots and onions) so it’s important to avoid consuming too many each day or else your body could store them as fat, so prepare them as a side dish or as part of the main dish. Luckily, root vegetables are incredibly easy to cook: try mashing them, boiling them, roasting them, BBQing them, or throwing them into soups or stews.
6. Good Fats
The low-fat diet trend of the 1990's is thankfully a thing of the past.
While trans fats from foods like margarines, refrigerated dough products, vegetable shortenings, coffee creamers, and a whole host of junk food and fast food should be limited or avoided altogether, every healthy, balanced diet includes some good fats.
Healthy fats are essential for your body, specifically, foods with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats have heart health benefits, they’re anti-inflammatory and are replete with nutrients. The best sources of healthy fats for a plant-based diet include avocado, nuts, nut and seed butters, extra virgin olive oil, cold pressed coconut oil and organic flaxseed.
In addition to trans fats, you should try to limit or avoid animal saturated fats, which can be found in foods like lard and high-fat dairy products.
Learn more in Good Fats Versus Bad Fats.
With these six essential plant-based diet foods, you’ll feel healthier and stronger than ever. A mix of these foods will ensure you’re not missing any nutrients and can thrive off a healthy, plant-based diet. Give it a chance.
A plant-based diet is anything but boring, so keep exploring different recipes and cooking methods to keep your plate exciting and fresh.
Learn more in Top 7 Reasons To Embrace A Plant-Based Diet
Tolman Self Care.