As a long time vegan and naturopathic doctor, I have plant-based foods as fuel down to a science. If you are new to a plant-based diet these foods are delicious and easy to incorporate. Here are my top 10 favorite vegan foods that will keep you full, provide tons of nutrients, and allow you to thrive!
Avocados are high in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid shown in studies to have the ability to lower total and LDL cholesterol. Avocados are also a good source of fiber, vitamins K, B5, B6, C, E, folate and potassium. This is a great diabetic-friendly snack because it is low in carbohydrates, nutrient dense and satiating. Try adding ¼ of an avocado to smoothies to give them a creamy consistency and the good fats you need.
2. Coconut Oil
It wasn’t very long ago that coconut oil was considered a “bad fat,” but in recent years it has shed its bad reputation, and has been revered for its numerous health benefits. Coconut oil is about 90% saturated fat, the reason why it was initially thought as “evil”. Coconut oil differs from other saturated fats in that it has a higher percentage of the medium-chain fatty acids known as lauric acid. Lauric acid is beneficial because in the body it can convert to monolaurin, a monoglyceride compound that is antimicrobial. Coconut oil is a healthy fat that can keep you satisfied and reduce hunger. You can cook in coconut oil, add it to salads, smoothies or even in your morning cup of coffee. It is so versatile that it is also used in many beauty products as a natural moisturizer. One of my favorite coconut oils is Dr. Bronner’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil.
3. Coconut water
We all know the importance of staying hydrated but in a hot state like Texas it is also essential that we replace the electrolytes that we sweat out back into our bodies. Coconut water is the perfect summer drink that contains electrolytes like magnesium and potassium as well as B vitamins and trace minerals. Add coconut water to your smoothies or drink a cold can of coconut water instead of a sports drink, which contain high fructose corn syrup. Choose a coconut water with no added sugar, like Harvest Bay Coconut Water.
4. Goji berries
Goji berries, also known as wolfberries, have been used in Chinese medicine for over 3,000 years. This delicious bright red-orange fruit is considered a superfood because of its numerous health benefits. It is a good source of antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E and contains 500 times more vitamin C per weight than oranges. Goji berries can be helpful in preventing vision loss because it contains zeaxanthin, an antioxidant that helps preserve eyesight. Try adding goji berries like ones by Dragon Herbs, to oatmeal, smoothies, granola or trail mix!
5. Raw Cacao
Chocolate, the easiest health food to love! Cacao is essentially chocolate in its unprocessed and unadulterated form. Raw cacao in the form of nibs or powder is the perfect treat. Cacao is high in antioxidants, improves mood, increases libido, provides protein and magnesium and can lower LDL, improve heart function and reduce cancer risk. I prefer to use raw cacao powder by Navitas in a smoothie with organic peanut butter, hemp seeds and frozen bananas. You can also add cacao nibs to trail mixes or oatmeal.
Spirulina is a blue-green algae that is a great source of protein, which is why I think vegans and vegetarians should add this to their daily routine. Spirulina provides B vitamins, iodine, calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, manganese and 18 different amino acids. This algae is my secret weapon and I can always rely on it help me feel amazing! I add spirulina powder by HealthForce to my smoothies with bananas, pineapples, spinach, and peaches.
7. Hemp seeds
If you are always looking to get more clean protein into your diet, hemp seeds, also known as hemp hearts, are the answer. Hemp seeds are creamy and nutty flavored, which makes them the perfect addition to smoothies, salads, toast and cereals. They contain healthy fats, omega-3s, vitamin E, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc. Three tablespoons of hemp seeds contains about 10 grams of protein. One of my favorite hemp seed brands is Nativas.
8. Organic berries
Berries make a great snack because they are high in antioxidants and fiber but lower in fructose than other fruits. If you want to protect your heart, improve your vision and age more slowly, organic berries should be in your diet. For convenience, you can purchase a mix of organic frozen berries to add to your oatmeal or smoothies. Berries are also good tossed in a summer salad or alone as a snack.
This spice is a must in everyone’s kitchen either in the form of juice, powder, tea or whole root. Ginger is anti-inflammatory, can ease nausea and improve digestion. Add the spice to your stir-fry or drink the tea throughout the day for better digestion or upset stomach. You can add small pieces of ginger root to your smoothie for a zing or juice the root into your green juices for an added anti-inflammatory benefit.
10. Nut butters
There are several organic nut butter options on the market these days. Nuts are a great source of fat and protein and when trying to stay satiated and resist sugary temptation, nut butters save the day. Add organic nut butters to oatmeal, smoothies, toast or even stir-fry. Try almond butter on gluten-free flax crackers with organic berries on top. This is a great snack for the whole family that even kids will love. Another good nut butter is Blue Organics Pumpkin Seed Butter, which is raw, organic, and high in phosphorus, magnesium and zinc, as well as protein!
For more idea on healthy foods and going vegan, come to my seminar, “How to Go Vegan!” at Peoples South on Thursday, September 13. Find more info and RVSP for this free event here!
Lauren Sanchez, ND received her Naturopathic Doctorate at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, AZ. Her natural approach to medicine facilitates healing by respecting the mind, body and spirit connection. She also specializes in helping individuals reach optimal wellness through a plant-based regimen.