It’s taken me a while to realise this, but the secret to a healthy, balanced diet is simple.
Eat real food.
In the words of Michael Pollon:
“If it came from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t…”
I’ve been eating a plant-based diet for the past few months now and I feel much healthier and have a lot more energy. So here are some of my go-to foods, in the form of a plant-based A-Z (Part 1!)
A great source of ‘good fats’, vitamin E and vitamin B6. Not just for salads; you can add them to smoothies, make vegan chocolate puddings with them (yes, really!!) and they’re great mashed on toast with black pepper and a squeeze of lime.
Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries… They’re all packed full of good stuff! You can just snack on them, but if you have a food processor, the world is your oyster! For example, you can blitz berries with frozen banana to make a vegan ‘ice-cream’. Eat whatever berries are in season to get the best value for money!
High in water, potassium and silica, cucumber is a natural diuretic. Like avocado, it’s not just limited to salad territory. Obviously, it’s great as a snack with houmous, but you can also add it to smoothies!
Full of nutrients, including potassium, iron and calcium, dates are a healthy and natural sweet treat. Again, these form the basis of a lot of vegan desserts, but apparently they’re also good as a snack with peanut butter (though I haven’t tried that yet!)
Okay, aubergine! But I already had something for ‘A’! Baba Ganoush is one of my favourite dips, but aubergine is also great roasted and added to salads. You can also finely chop aubergine and mushrooms to use instead of mince in dishes like Bolognese and Chilli (Non) Carne!
Fig fact! The pink inside of a fig is a tightly packed cluster of flowers and seeds. They’re high in calcium, fibre, iron, magnesium, potassium, B vitamins and vitamin K and they’re full of antioxidants too.
The health benefits of garlic are thought to be down to a healthy chemical it releases called allicin, but garlic is also packed with vitamins and minerals. It is also thought to have antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral properties. So, yes, it makes your breath smell. But it’s worth it!
Full of protein and iron, houmous is great as a healthy snack and can also be used as a spread to replace things like cream cheese and mayonnaise. What’s more, it’s so easy to make your own. All you need is a can of chickpeas, a garlic clove, some olive oil, tahini and lemon juice (and a food processor!). Just throw all the ingredients in together and blitz until smooth!
I… also like butternut squash!
There isn’t much that begins with the letter ‘I’, you know! So I’m going to talk about squashes instead! Squashes like butternut squash and pumpkin are nutrient-rich, full of beta-carotene, vitamin C, fibre and antioxidants. Homemade butternut squash or pumpkin soup is my favourite, but they’re also great roasted. And don’t forget the seeds! Clean the seeds with water, then toast them for a few minutes in the oven with a little salt, pepper and rosemary.
Jalapenos contain a compound called capsaicin, which is thought to have a number of health benefits, including anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
I’ve got to be honest, kale is not my favourite… But it is very, very good for you! It’s full of antioxidants, plus it’s high in fibre, iron, vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium and is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties. If, like me, you’re not wild about the taste, you could disguise some of the flavour by blitzing it in a food processor with herbs, cashews, olive oil and seasoning to make a pesto!
Lemons and Limes
Lemons and limes are packed full of vitamin C and antioxidants. So get squeezing!
Melon is high in vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium, plus it contains a lot of water, to help with hydration.