You do not need to go vegetarian for plant-based foods to play a central role in a healthy diet, say nutrition experts. It is quite straightforward to pair vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds with other components of a balanced diet to ensure optimal health. This is a healthy choice for you, but also a great choice for the environment.
Here are five great foods that deserve a starring role in your daily meal planning.
This leafy green is a powerhouse of good nutrition. Fans say it not only increases energy levels but is good for overall vitality. It is likely this is because of its high levels of iron which helps your red blood cells function effectively. Spinach is cheap and easy to prepare. It is a tasty addition to eggs for breakfast or sautéed for a simple side order for dinner. One portion of this versatile plant will be packed full of vitamins A, K and C, as well as folic acid and magnesium. It is extra helpful for pregnant women or those with a history of anaemia.
These knobbly nuts are an excellent source of vitamin E which may have a positive impact on male cardiovascular health. Research also suggests they have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is possible they may even protect against metabolic syndromes and type 2 diabetes. Pre-prepared packets of chopped or whole walnuts are readily available in most supermarkets. They make an excellent addition to nutritious salads, or as a snack with quality cheeses.
The humble avocado is bursting with health benefits. One fruit has more soluble fibre than any of its neighbours on the fresh produce shelf, It also contains good amounts of iron, copper and potassium. The avocado is highly fatty – about 15g of fat per 100g portion. Most of this fat is the monounsaturated type which we believe is good for heart health. They may also lower blood pressure and prevent high cholesterol. Try it spread on toast for a nutrient-rich breakfast, or paired with prawns or lean bacon for a filling lunch.
Garlic adds lots of flavour to any dish but also ups its nutritional value. This cousin of the onion contains lots of useful vitamins and other antioxidants. Recent scientific research also suggests garlic may work to combat high blood pressure and cholesterol. There are bolder claims that it may have an effect on cancers. You can cook with garlic by slicing, pureeing or roasting it before adding it to sauces, stir-frys, soups – basically any recipe which needs a flavour kick!
Artichokes are a hardy vegetable with one of the widest sets of health claims. They may strengthen the immune system, bring down cholesterol, and help prevent heart attacks and stroke when eaten regularly. They are also thought to be good for sufferers of digestive issues. Artichokes are prepared by peeling the rough exterior then being boiled or roasted. They are eaten hot or cold in salads or as a side order.
Plant-based products are far more than a lack-lustre salad. They are simple to cook and can add massive nutritional punch to your diet for little effort. Next time you are in the supermarket explore the fresh fruit and vegetable aisle. There may be far more there than you think!