We all know that the key to good health is to reduce stress, look after your emotional and physical wellbeing, and have a balanced diet, but what are we meant to eat?
There is a mountain of conflicting advice available; it's easy to feel like you're drowning in a pool of health experts, eeeek.
Simply put, a balanced diet is one comprised of whole and unprocessed foods, with adequate protein, fibre, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and water.
Sound more enjoyable than cutting out every food group that you've ever loved? It is!
Whether you're a vegan veteran, vegetarian, flexitarian or keto fan, we can all agree that there's one level on the old food pyramid that has stood the test of time; and that my friend is the good old vegetable category.
Eating whole, real, nutrient-rich and unprocessed vegetables is the ultimate way to supercharge your health. This falls into a category we call ‘plant-based’. Let's be clear: I'm talking about plant-based eating where the majority of your meals are plants, not processed fake meats, hot chips and sodium sky high seitan.
I'm not going to convince you to eat eight bananas, a whole kilo of rice and bread in one sitting; that's not what plant-based eating is and not a sustainable way to live. When it comes right down to it, a plant-based diet is one of the simplest ways to eat; all you have to do is include more vegetables in your day!.
So, if you're ready to get aboard the plant-based train (frozen corn schnitzel burgers and spaghetti with tomato sauce not included), get your ticket and let's get into it.
A plant-based diet is what it sounds like - mostly plants – but that doesn't mean you can't consume animal-based foods. Being "plant-based" allows individuals to consciously reduce their animal-consumption, without the strict parameters of being "vegan" or "vegetarian". I believe this mindset is a lot healthier and more maintainable than one based on taking foods away. It gives us room to breathe without any guilt.
So, what are the benefits of having a predominantly plant-based diet?
Vegetables and legumes are full of soluble and insoluble fibre, which is essential for getting the digestive system moving. Eating a diet rich in veggies assists in our pathways of elimination, speeding up the passage of food. Speeding up this elimination process can help decrease our absorption of toxins!
Not only is fibre best friends with our digestive system, but a diet rich in fibre can also lower our low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, known as our "bad" cholesterol.
Honestly, name me something fibre can't do. For a fibre-rich snack, try my cheesy kale chips!
Want glowing skin? Antioxidant-rich veggies are the answer! Vegetables are rich in antioxidants, which help fight against oxidative damage and stress. My favourite antioxidant falls under a group calling carotenoids and is found in sweet potatoes, kale, carrots, pumpkin and oranges. You can read more about how and why I carrot live without carotenoids here.
Antioxidants protect against damage from UV rays and reduce our overall inflammation.
If you’re looking to up the antioxidants in your diet, vegan Fulvic Humic Concentrate will provide your body with antioxidant-rich minerals, and is beneficial for IBS, food sensitivities, diarrhoea, constipation, inflammatory bowel disease and more! Find out more here.
Weight a Minute…
It's not all about our weight but let's be real, a diet high in processed and junk foods isn't going to do any favours. Staying at a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do for your health and wellbeing.
Vegetables are relatively low in kilojoules, making them fantastic for anyone trying to slim down or maintain a healthy weight. A diet full of seasonal vegetables is always a good idea!
If you're struggling with the idea of going predominantly plant-based, here are my three main (organic zoodles with slow-cooked lentil ragu) takeaways.
- Focus more on including plants rather than reducing your intake of animal-based foods - this means making vegetables, legumes and whole grains the focus of your plate, which naturally takes the spotlight off of animal-based foods.
- When I say plant-based, I don't mean fake meat and vegan junk food! While it's great that these alternatives exist, becoming plant-based means focusing on plants, not preservative-laden and nutrient-free foods.
- A transition to being plant-based doesn't need to happen overnight. I recommend introducing more vegetables and legumes into your diet slowly to allow your body to adapt to the increase in fibre. Going plant-based should be sustainable and enjoyable, rather than stressful and overwhelming.
I believe moderation is essential, and supercharging your life means you're not into extremes. Plant-based eating is a no rules approach to eating. While there are many obvious benefits to being vegan or vegetarian, plant-based is my middle ground. I eat mostly plants and these days and complement them with the occasional amount of animal products and by-products.
While the idea of going plant-based is lovely, I know that not everyone loves vegetables as much as I do. If your heart and taste buds are in a different place, allow me to introduce you to my Mushroom, Broccoli and Sunflower Seed Quinoa Pilaf.
It's a simple, super recipe that will get you excited about plant-based eating. Quinoa contains all of the essential amino acids your body needs to build muscle. It's also rich in B vitamins, magnesium and zinc. Similarly, sunflower seeds contain nutrients great for our bones, including calcium, magnesium and copper. This pilaf will go down as a vegetable-packed treat.
Mushroom, Broccoli and Sunflower Seed Quinoa Pilaf
Mushrooms are a natural food, providing maximum deliciousness with minimal calories. Their addictive flavour comes from a protein called glutamic acid, the same amino acid found in monosodium glutamate (MSG), but mushrooms will satisfy your tastebuds without any unpleasant side effects. You can learn more about mushrooms at Natures Rise.
- 3 tablespoons uncooked quinoa
- 180 g mushrooms, sliced
- 200 g (7 oz/about 1/2 head) broccoli, cut into florets
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 250 ml (8 fl oz/1 cup) filtered water, plus extra as needed
- Celtic sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- a handful of mint leaves, chopped
- a squeeze of lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
- Nutritional yeast flakes (optional) to top it off!
Rinse the quinoa under cold water in a fine sieve, then drain.
Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat, then add the mushrooms and broccoli with a little extra water and cook, frequently stirring, for 5 minutes.
Add the cinnamon, cumin and turmeric, then reduce heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.
Add the water then cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 12–15 minutes, or until the quinoa is cooked through.
Season to taste.
Serve the pilaf topped with mint, with a squeeze of lemon and the sunflower seeds sprinkled over.