CATHER­INE SAXELBY’S HEALTHY HABITS

The five best foods for health­ier ve­gan eat­ing

Healthy Food Guide (Australia) - - CONTENTS -

Have you thought about go­ing ve­gan? Google searches for ‘ve­gan’ have jumped more than 220 per cent over the past three years as polls show that ve­gan-style eat­ing has now moved be­yond its fo­cus on an­i­mal rights and en­vi­ron­men­tal emis­sions to en­com­pass health and weight-loss is­sues.

Two re­cent stud­ies found those on a ve­gan diet lost more weight in the short term (2.5kg more than their non-vego coun­ter­parts) and at a six-month fol­low-up, thanks to the diet’s am­ple fi­bre.

Here are five vi­tal foods to in­clude when on a ve­gan diet:

1CHIA SEEDS Loaded with the plant form of omega-3, these oilseeds from Cen­tral Amer­ica are im­por­tant for brain and eye devel­op­ment. They’re also a good source of pro­tein, cal­cium and sol­u­ble fi­bre — which makes them a nu­tri­tional pow­er­house. But you’ll need to grind or soak them to ac­cess these nu­tri­ents. Blitz a ta­ble­spoon of seeds into your smoothie — or make a chia pud­ding and top with fruit for break­fast or dessert.

2 FOR­TI­FIED SOY MILK Soy milk is a good source of ev­ery­day plant pro­tein, but to en­sure you don’t miss out on valu­able nu­tri­ents, make sure you are buy­ing it for­ti­fied with cal­cium and vi­ta­min B12.

Vi­ta­min B12 is the main at-risk nu­tri­ent for ve­g­ans be­cause there are no re­li­able plant

sources of its ac­tive form — in fact not even from mush­rooms, un­less you eat over 20 cups a day!

Your body needs B12 for healthy blood cells and nerves: a de­fi­ciency can re­sult in a type of anaemia and nerve dam­age. If your B12 lev­els are low, your doc­tor might rec­om­mend a sup­ple­ment.

5 TOFU This ver­sa­tile Ja­panese soy­bean curd ar­rives laden with high-qual­ity plant pro­tein and zinc to boost your im­mune sys­tem and aid heal­ing.

When the curd is set firm with cal­cium chlo­ride, tofu is also a rich source of cal­cium, so be sure to choose a brand that lists it in the in­gre­di­ents (keep a look-out for code 511).

Tofu tastes neu­tral in flavour and comes in a va­ri­ety of tex­tures, which makes it an in­cred­i­bly ver­sa­tile in­gre­di­ent to cook with. Slice and dice firm tofu and add to soup or a stir-fry; scram­ble smooth and silky va­ri­eties as an al­ter­na­tive to eggs, or whip them into ve­gan ice cream.

4 TAHINI Around four ta­ble­spoons of this Mid­dle East­ern sesame seed paste has the cal­cium equiv­a­lent found in a stan­dard glass of milk. It’s also rich in heart-healthy un­sat­u­rated fats and pro­tein — rea­son enough to in­clude a jar of tahini as a stan­dard item on your weekly shop­ping list.

Stir tahini through your morn­ing por­ridge, spread it on bread or crack­ers, add it to dips (think of houm­mos), shake it into a salad dress­ing, or make your own ‘sa­tay’ dip­ping or stir-fry sauce.

3 BLUE­BER­RIES Plant sources of iron are harder to ab­sorb than an­i­mal sources, which is why some ve­g­ans can be­come iron­d­e­fi­cient and even ex­pe­ri­ence anaemia or find them­selves feel­ing tired.

Good news: adding vi­ta­min C-rich blue­ber­ries to a meal in­creases the iron you ab­sorb. You could also add lemon or lime juice, or­ange, man­darin, broc­coli or toma­toes.

There’s even bet­ter news: blue­ber­ries’ red-blue pig­ments, known as an­tho­cyanins, can boost mem­ory and eye­sight.

The bot­tom line

It is 100 per cent pos­si­ble to en­joy all of the health ben­e­fits of eat­ing a bal­anced ve­gan diet, es­pe­cially if you boost your daily in­take with these five nu­tri­tious su­per-heroes. This is es­pe­cially im­por­tant dur­ing preg­nancy, when breast­feed­ing, or cook­ing for fussy eaters who may need sup­port to meet their ex­tra daily needs. If in doubt, speak with your doc­tor and ask for a re­fer­ral to see an Ac­cred­ited Prac­tis­ing Di­eti­tian.

Vi­ta­min C-rich blue­ber­ries help your body aborb more iron from a meal

Chia seeds add healthy fats & pro­tein to smooth­ies

Tofu can add bone-build­ing cal­cium to a ve­gan diet

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