A lot of people can’t imagine giving up their favorite animal proteins in order to live a plant based lifestyle. Luckily you can reap the health benefits of plant based foods by making a slight shifts with the foods you eat everyday. Instead of making animal protein the star of a meal, place a greater emphasis on plant-based foods like vegetables, legumes (if tolerated, they’re great for getting proteins), grains (opt for sprouted grains), herbs, spices, nuts and seeds. Moving meat into a supporting role and giving greens the lead allows you to access greater health benefits offered by plant based foods. In addition to being the most nutrient dense food category, plants are packed with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Our team has partnered with Aligned Modern Health tobring you the facts on phytonutrients and why you should be eating more plants.
Why We Love Phytonutrients
Each day, we are exposed to free radicals, or unstable molecules, which can come from almost anywhere: our bodies processes and systems, the environment, pesticides on our foods even air pollution. Free radicals are known to be responsible for a host of health issues. Unfortunately, it’s practically impossible to avoid them, so how do you defend yourself against free radicals? Flood your diet with plant-based foods and eat the rainbow!
Phytonutrients are responsible for a plant’s bright color and distinctive taste and smell, so including a rainbow of color on your plate throughout the day is key. Here are a few other ways you can ensure you are eating enough plant-based foods and phytonutrients:
Eat bright colored foods.
Bright colored vegetables like pumpkin, purple cabbage, tomatoes, broccoli, bell peppers and beets all have phytonutrients written all over them, so load up! Foods like pumpkin and carrots are both great sources of antioxidants, like beta carotene, which supports immunity and eye health.
Stock up on nuts and seeds.
Nuts and seeds provide an ample source of fats and fiber, but they also contain a significant source of health promoting phytochemicals. One of our favorite nuts are almonds, perfect for on the go snacking. Sunflower seeds are also one of the best whole food sources as they contain the powerful antioxidant, Vitamin E. (Just one ounce of sunflower seeds provides 76% of the recommended dietary allowance for Vitamin E!)
Cook with herbs and spices.
Herbs and spices pack a punch and are powerhouses of phytonutrients. Take oregano for instance, one teaspoon of oregano has as much antioxidants as one cup of sweet potatoes. Talk about small, but mighty! Cacao is also an incredible source of flavonoid antioxidants. Research has found the flavonoids in chocolate also have many beneficial health properties, but one of our favorites is that chocolate just makes us happy! Any reason to eat more chocolate, right? Just be sure to select cacao that contains 80% cacao or higher to ensure you are consuming a high quality form of cacao. Cinnamon is also another powerful spice and can even curb sugar cravings. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon to your morning breakfast bowl or add to your afternoon apple slices.
Fill up on fiber.
Foods like asparagus, coconut, tigernuts, onions, konjac, arrowroot, apples nuts and seeds act as prebiotics and provide fuel for the bacteria within our digestive tract. Adequate amounts of prebiotics are also associated with a strong immune system.
If you don’t want to completely ditch animal protein and pile your plate with strictly greens, ease into it instead! Try to fill your plate with plant based foods by aiming for colorful options and try to have at least three brightly colored foods on your plate each time you eat a meal. Here are some of our favorite meal and snack ideas:
- Herb grilled chicken with a side of roasted Brussel sprouts topped with pomegranate seeds and almond slices
- Vegetable and bean soup with sunflower seed pesto and a side of almond flour crackers
- Purple cabbage salad with avocado slices, fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice and olive oil packed sardines. Don’t forget sprouted seed crackers for scooping!
- Any type of whole fruit, veggies, single serve pouches of nuts and seeds or plant-based protein bars like Goji berry and cashew
From fiber to phytonutrients, plant based foods never fail to amaze us. Between their various vitamins and minerals, immune support and let’s not forget delicious taste, eating more plant based foods are essential to optimal health. Remember to focus on color, choose foods with ingredients you can recognize and adjust your plate to include more plant focused ingredients. Simple shifts like these can bring you one step closer to simply nourished living!