Today’s post courtesy of the wonderfully talented L Matthews, aka The Tasty Vegan
Not all foods are created equal… some are Superfoods! And, guess what? Most foods classed as superfoods are vegan, so your animal-saving, policy-changing, laser beam-shooting superhero antics can all be done using the power of vegan superfoods. What makes a food super? Read on, dear vegan, read on.
We don’t know if good old Perry at the Daily Planet would hold the front page to crown carrots the new superfoods, or boast berries’ merits but most newspaper editors love a good hyperbolic headline. Many superfoods are declared such after a new study shows an association with some significant health benefit or when it is realised that they contain a huge amount of a specific nutrient known to be healthy.
It might seem that some superfoods are added to the list because they’re oddly named and make those in the know sound smarter than everyone else (yeah, I’m looking at you quinoa and açaí). Not all superfoods are tongue-twisters, though, so to keep all you vegan superheroes effervescing with good health, we’ve rounded up a few of those near and dear to the Vegan Prom organisers. We’ll start with the Superman of superfoods…
Kale, kale, kale. If there was ever a food that captured popular vegan attention it is the mighty Captain Kale. Juice it, steam it, eat it straight from the plant (like I do, nom). Kale is all the kinds of awesome and all nutritionists agree (see references below. BAM!).
In a study by Prior, et al (2000), kale was found to have a higher antioxidant capacity (at least on the measure used) than all the other vegetables vying for the superfood crown. Why do we love kale so? This leafy green (or purple) plant is a great source of vitamin C, calcium, potassium, carotenoids, bioflavonoids and fibre, making it healthy for the heart, the bones, the brain, the nervous system and for creating fine silk-like threads to shoot from your hands at skyscrapers on the daily commute (Oh, you still take the Skytrain?).
Looking for a little proteinaceous, oil-rich addition to your vegan salad? Walnuts are where it’s at. These nuts are one of many classed as superfoods but we vegans love them because they are an especially great source of omega 3 that helps reduce inflammation, encourages good brain function and keeps the immune system in top nick.
With a powerful punch of protein in just a handful of walnuts, and a decent amount of calcium and magnesium, walnuts are the perfect versatile store cupboard nut. Grind them up with some nooch for homemade vegan Parmesan (and make kale chips!), chop them up and mix with avocado for a rich and tasty vegan sandwich topping, bake them into vegan banana bread or cookies, or just snack on them for a healthy hit of omega 3.
A superfood you can make muffins with? Yes please. Blueberries outperform almost every other fruit when it comes to antioxidant capacity, meaning that these little berries are the perfect addition to your morning smoothie (aim for around half a cup a day). Choose darker coloured, organic fruit for a higher concentration of proanthocyanidins and other healthy compounds.
The fabulous purply-blue colour of blueberries is a result of the plant pigments called carotenoids. We might think of carrots when we think of carotenoids but these compounds are found all over the plant kingdom turning foods orange, purple, red, blue and a host of other colours when combined with other pigments and substances like chlorophyll. Carotenoids protect cells from free radical damage and promote healthy immune system function, allowing vegans to fight off invading bacteria and viruses. Pow!
Oh, how I long for cherry season. If you’re lucky enough to travel the Okanagan in summer, take a cooler and pile high those boxes of fresh cherries (then bring them to me, please). Cherries have long been espoused as a natural remedy for gout and arthritis and are generally great for health as they can lower inflammation in the body and help protect cells against oxidation. Montmorency cherries have been studied more than most and appear to offer a little extra Kapow! when it comes to relieving joint pain. Again, choose organic, darker coloured fruit a these tend to be higher in protective nutrients.
And a Nice Cup of Tea to Finish
If you’re anything like me, tea is a staple food. Good old black tea is high in polyphenols and mood-enhancing theobromine and has been associated with a cholesterol-reducing effect. Fact: “Everything’s better after a nice cup of tea.” While black tea can block absorption of a few nutrients, such as iron and zinc, due to its tannin levels, this healthy beverage can still be enjoyed several times a day away from meals rich in these minerals. Rich in antioxidants for cellular protection, tea may have an unwanted (for some) caffeine boost but you can always choose green tea for less caffeine and added health benefits of epigallocatechin gallate (ECGC) which can fight sepsis and lower inflammation.
Vegan superfoods like these can help temper your risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and even put you in a good mood with a (blueberry smoothie) smile on your face. Use your superpowered eyeballs to play ‘spot the superfood’ at Vegan Prom this year and win the extraordinary prize of being a healthy vegan superhero fighting the good fight everywhere.
Zhang Y, Neogi T, Chen C, Chaisson C, Hunter DJ, Choi HK., Cherry consumption and decreased risk of recurrent gout attacks, Arthritis Rheum. 2012 Dec;64(12):4004-11. doi: 10.1002/art.34677.
Prior RL, Cao G, Prior RL, Cao G., Analysis of botanicals and dietary supplements for antioxidant capacity: a review, J AOAC Int. 2000 Jul-Aug;83(4):950-6.
Kim A, Chiu A, Barone MK, Avino D, Wang F, Coleman CI, Phung OJ., Green tea catechins decrease total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol: a systematic review and meta-analysis, J Am Diet Assoc. 2011 Nov;111(11):1720-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2011.08.009.
L Matthews is a vegan nutritionist, blogger and copywriter who drinks lots of tea while witnessing the incredible super-powers of the Vegan Prom organising committee.