- Twice as much potassium as bananas
- Very high protein for a fruit (4 g)
- Good for hair and skin
- Can replace butter in some recipes - use it as a sandwich spread!
Avocados are one of my favorite ingredients. I put them in smoothies, salads, sandwiches, and use them as a garnish on a variety of southwest style recipes. I eat them peeled and chopped with a dash of salt and lime juice. They are filling and healthy! This article fromt the Huff Post lists six more reasons why avocados are a wonderful vegan food and more specifically, a delicious fruit, including...
By substituting healthy vegetable fats – such as olive and canola oils, nuts, seeds and avocados – for animal fats and carbohydrates, men with the disease had a markedly lower risk of developing lethal prostate cancer and dying from other causes, according to the study. Source
According to the study of 4,600 men by researchers at the UC San Francisco, healthy vegetable fat "increases plasma antioxidants and reduces insulin and inflammation" which may slow the growth of cancer in the prostate. Prostate cancer afflicts one in six men during their lifetime.
An interesting observation from the study was that among the participants with prostate illness, more men actually died of cardiovascular disease instead of complications from prostate cancer during the period of the research. This finding suggests that a healthy diet is important for all health issues, and not just a specific illness.
Unsaturated vegetable fats can come from a variety of ingredients including avocados, nuts and groundnuts, olives, and seeds among others. The study indicated that by replacing a portion of carbohydrates with vegetable fat was key to the health effect. Avocados in particular are easy to add to salads, spread onto sandwiches, and blend into smoothies. A great vegan ingredient, avocados are also filling and have a number of other health benefits.
This is good news for those at risk for or already fighting prostate cancer. Leading a healthy lifestyle enhanced by a plant-based diet is a good way to help the body defend itself against chronic illness and adding healthy vegetable fats to one's diet can be done quickly and easily with common vegan ingredients!
Listen to an informative interview with the lead researcher, Erin L. Richman, on JAMA's website.
Low potassium intake has been associated with a number of NCDs (non-communicable diseases), including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney stone formation and low bone-mineral density. An increased potassium intake may reduce blood pressure, decrease risk of cardiovascular disease, have beneficial effects on bone-mineral density, and mitigate the negative consequences of high sodium consumption. Source: World Health Organization
Potassium is an essential nutrient for the body, but it is often overlooked or forgotten when nutrition is discussed as more commercialized food components attract attention such as sodium, fiber, sugars, protein, calories, carbs, and fatty acids. Yet, potassium plays a major role in the regulation of the body. Reduced potassium consumption may exacerbate hypertension and heart disease among other ailments.
The NIH states that potassium has these additional functions for the body:
Potassium can also help balance the negative impact of too much sodium, since sodium may increase blood pressure while potassium counteracts this bio-effect. Paying attention to potassium-to-sodium ratios in one's food is useful for this purpose. While it's not clear what the optimum potassium to sodium ratio is, we can take an example from nature. Fresh coconut water, considered a very healthy beverage, has a ratio of about 4 to 1, so trying to aim for that mix is a good place to start.
Vegan ingredients help meet daily requirements for potassium and cooking fresh food at home makes it easier to control the sodium side of the equation. Dates and dried apricots have more potassium than bananas while excellent vegetable sources of potassium include chard, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, spinach, and the ubiquitous kale!
The team from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle warned: ‘There is really no evidence that taking dietary supplements is beneficial to health, and there is increasing evidence that taking high doses is harmful.’
Fish-oil supplements are a huge market and are touted as having beneficial nutrients such as Omega-3 fatty acids. However, current research suggests that the high doses of Omega-3 in these supplements may trigger prostate cancer per this article. Although more research is needed to find direct correlations, many researchers haven't proved links between taking supplements like these and prolonged health.
In addition, over-fishing to provide the oils for the supplements is posing environments hazards especially for shark populations which are sourced for the key ingredients. A diets rich in vegetables, fruit, and grains is still a great way to get one's nutritional needs without having to risk possible side affects from ingesting highly processed nutritional aids.
Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient since it supports brain function and the nervous system. Most dietitians recommend that vegans take supplements to get the daily dosage since it is not readily supplied by plant-based ingredients. Nutritional yeast is a source of the vitamin and it's easy to add to smoothies or other meals. It has a kind of cereal taste to it and blends easily into most dishes.
The most creative use of B12 I've encountered is at a movie theater in a small town. They had a large salt shaker filled with nutritional yeast and people would sprinkle it on top of the popcorn they bought! Most grocery stores carry this product in packaged or bulk form. So if you are worried about your levels of B12, give it a try. I put a tablespoon in my smoothies in the morning and enjoy the boost of nutrients!
Antioxidants in strawberries pack a powerful punch. Earlier this year, Harvard University researchers found eating three or more servings of strawberries (and blueberries) per week – versus one serving per month or less – cut the risk of heart attack in women by one-third. Antioxidants in strawberries called anthocyanins may help dilate arteries and prevent the build-up of fatty plaque. Source
The summer months are typically when strawberries are in season and at their prime, but eating them year round is a good practice. They have a large antioxidant capacity and high levels of Vitamin C (1 cup provides the total daily value), fiber, and potassium. They are also a good brain food, per this article, because they have anthocyanins which protect brains cells. I usually add them to smoothies - the flavor combination of watermelon or papaya with strawberries is a nice one!
Studies over the last 15 years, The Times reported, reveal that much of our produce is low in phytonutrients, the compounds that are supposed to reduce the risk of the four diseases that plague modern life: cancer, heart disease, diabetes and dementia. And the decline in the health benefits of our food is not a recent development. Source
While proponents of veganism, including myself, tout the benefits of plant-based foods, we don't have a way to guarantee that the vegetables and fruits we see in the grocery store are the most nutritious forms of those ingredients. Every dietary regimen has its pitfalls.
The mass production of vegetables and fruit will gravitate to the best tasting, hardiest, cheapest, and easiest to grow versions of the product. It comes down to profits over nutritional value. This may have several consequences.
First, variety may be jeopardized. Rather than having six or seven types of tomatoes, we may only see two or three. Second, the lowest cost, highest volume version of a particular vegetable may not be the most nutritious type. For example, blue or purple corn has more anti-oxidant capacity than white corn, but white corn is the type we see most often in stores. Third, over time, studies have shown that the strain of a specific type of vegetable may lose its phytonutrient potency sacrificed for stronger, more robust strains that are easier to grow. For example, the original cabbage the grew in the wild before it was cultivated probably had a different nutritional profile than the cabbage we buy for $0.59 / lb in the stores today. Fourth, which is a more well know controversy, pesticides are a common ingredient in our non-organic produce which may or may not cause health problems, though proponents of pesticides will argue that there is no cause for alarm.
An example given in the article is that research on native peoples of the Americas who first foraged and then cultivated some of the original vegetables had fewer of the health problems and lower instances of the allergies that we experience today.
There are a few things that can be done to optimize your selection of good produce. Go to a farmers market once in a while and check out the different varieties of squash, potatoes, melons, peppers, tomatoes, kale, and mushrooms so that your ingredients stay dynamic and not stuck on the typical vegetables at the big box grocery stores. Try to buy local ingredients when possible, to minimize degradation during transportation. Buy organic if the price is manageable. And lastly, if you have the time, resources, and space, try planting your own garden and make 'farm to table' a reality!
Many medical reports categorize colon cancer as a diet related cancer. This study done in Italy and published in the International Journal of Cancer indicates that diets rich in fiber may lower the risk of colon cancer.
Researchers found that total antioxidant capacity was inversely correlated with colorectal cancer risk. Those who were in the lowest quintile of total antioxidant capacity were about 30% more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer , compared to those in the highest quintile.
Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of dietary fiber and are easy to add to meals and simple to cook! Make a fruit smoothie in the morning and have a bowl of lentil soup in the afternoon and you'll be on the path to a healthy fiber rich diet!
I snack a lot in between meals. In the past, it wasn't very good stuff. But that has changed! I usually grab fresh fruit, especially watermelon if I have it, nuts, roasted seaweed, marinated artichoke hearts, and, best of all, dried fruit!
The grocery store where I shop has several dried fruit options in bulk. My favorites are dried apricots, figs, dates, and mango slices. All of them help give me my sugar fix along with fiber and nutrients. Most of all it's good for weight control.
This article lists several great dried fruits and their nutritional benefits and discuss which ones to avoid. Some dried fruit is processed with sugar and other flavoring. Try to find ones with no additives. If you can find your favorite dried fruit on sale, it makes the shopping trip even better!
Lastly, travel vegan can be difficult at times. However, if you pack plenty of dried fruit for the trip, it makes life much easier!
If there is one type of ingredient that powered my transition to a vegan diet and helped me enjoy and sustain it, it has been legumes. I cook them every week in a variety of recipes and always find new ways to use them. Legumes are plants that grow its fruit or seed inside a pod - like a pea pod. My three favorites are lentils (especially red lentils), yellow split peas, and garbanzo beans.
What makes these ones so great is that they have large amounts of protein and fiber along with low fat levels. For example, in 3.5oz or 100g they have:
It's hard to beat this nutritional combination. They are good for energy, digestive health, and weight control. Try them out in soups, added to salads, and made into stews or dahl type meals. Red lentils will cook in 10 minutes making them convenient for quick meals. If you are considering a vegan diet or looking to try new plant-based proteins, try them out with various spices and see if they have the potential to become a regular addition to your diet!
Make Simple Vegan Meals