By Zel Allen
Delicious flavors, improved health, and a surprising boost in energy are nature’s marvels of feasting from the vast array of nutrient-rich foods of the plant kingdom. While it may seem impossible to make the switch from an animal-based diet to a vegan lifestyle overnight, gradually introducing new fruits and vegetables is a step in the can-do direction.
Plant-based foods are packed with energizing nutrients that boost vitality, raise the spirits, improve digestion, lower cholesterol, and invigorate your life. Weight drops quickly on a well-planned vegan diet, making it easier to continue on the path to better health.
By focusing on plant foods, you’ll be treating your body to plenty of fiber and added water, two features missing in animal-based foods. Fiber-rich foods help to fill you up and keep you satisfied until the next meal by stabilizing the blood sugar. The added fluids help with elimination and keep you well hydrated. You’ll also be eliminating excess fat and calories because they begin to burn off in the process of digesting the fiber-rich foods.
Protein and calcium are never a concern on a vegan diet because there are many excellent sources from legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and even fruits and vegetables. The bonus is that plant foods are voluptuously packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that protect us from the typical chronic ailments like heart disease, diabetes, digestive conditions, acid reflux, and even some cancers.
Vegans enjoy a healthy diet and find it an ideal pathway to weight loss. It’s easy to take off pounds and keep them off because plant foods are so low in calories and fat, yet high in needed nutrients. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds are the staples of the diet.
Plant foods are naturally cholesterol-free. By adopting a vegan lifestyle you’ll easily and quickly be able to lower high cholesterol, especially the LDL or bad cholesterol. By shedding excess pounds and cholesterol, energy just naturally blooms.
Begin with your next shopping trip to the market. Spend a few extra moments in the produce department and choose just one new vegetable you plan to eat that day or the next. Chop, slice, or dice it into your salad. It’s as easy as that.
For breakfast, choose old-fashioned rolled oats that take only five minutes to cook. Oats are packed with soluble fiber that helps to lower cholesterol. Turn your bowl of hot oatmeal into a delectable sundae with toppings of raisins, chopped fresh fruits, and a tablespoon of chopped walnuts. Moisten the sundae with vanilla flavored soymilk, rice milk, or perhaps an almond milk.
Treat yourself to the delightful sweetness of a piece of fruit with every breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Fruits are powerhouses of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and high water content. Fruits come in nature’s most convenient packages–just wash and eat.
Starting with one dinner per week, enjoy beans as your protein replacement for the meat, chicken, or fish you might usually have. Use the same favorite herbs and spices you would for other dishes to enhance flavor. Beans make delicious veggie chili, homey sloppy Joes, and thick and hearty soups.
Instead of white rice, choose brown rice with its richer flavor, pleasant chewy texture, and higher fiber content. Leftover brown rice combined with chopped raw vegetables make a tasty and satisfying lunch salad.
Replace white bread and refined grains foods with whole grain products. Read the ingredient labels carefully to look for the words “whole grain” instead of enriched wheat. Whole-grain breads make better tasting sandwiches.
Enjoy a delicious lentil soup made from vegetable broth or water instead of with chicken or beef broth. Lentils deliver delicious flavor along with high fiber, protein, and minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, and selenium.
Lower your cholesterol naturally with a just handful of delicious raw nuts a day. Numerous studies show the beneficial monounsaturated fats and antioxidants in nuts like walnuts, almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes by reducing total and LDL cholesterol. Enjoy a light sprinkle of chopped nuts over salads and cereals.
Treat yourself to an antioxidant boost with dark green leafy vegetables. Kale, collard greens, mustard greens, bok choy, turnip greens, watercress, and broccoli register off the charts with vitamin A, vitamin K,, lutein and zeazanthin, beta carotene, and omega 3 fatty acids, along with vitamins and minerals. Make friends with those green veggies and you’ll be protecting the delicate cells that line your arteries and protect you from a heart attack. These magical leafy vegetables are the secret to a power-packed salad.
Eat a fresh salad every day. Make sure to heap the salad bowl with veggies of every color. Eat the rainbow! Every color offers a different blend of antioxidants and phytochemicals, the plant soldiers that protect your health.
Most vegetables can be eaten raw, but it’s fun to include some lightly steamed vegetables in the salad for diversity. Don’t worry about eating too many vegetables. It’s impossible to overeat them because you’ll become full before overeating. Choose from this rainbow garden of health:
Bell peppers, tomatoes, radishes, beets, red leaf lettuces
Carrots, bell peppers, winter squashes like butternut and kabocha, rutabaga
Squashes like Hubbard and spaghetti squash, summer squash, yellow peppers
Lettuce, cabbage, green beans, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach, chard
Cabbage, purple onions, purple potatoes
Cauliflower, potatoes, icicle radishes, jicama, and turnip
Every step you take to feast from the garden of health will bring life-changing results. You’ll notice the difference quickly. Within days you’ll feel lighter and more energetic. That feel-good vitality will encourage you to continue exploring more plant foods. It’s that easy!
About the Author
Zel Allen is the author of The Nut Gourmet, a cookbook that touts the benefits of nuts with over 150 delicious recipes. She also co-publishes Vegetarians in Paradise, an online monthly vegetarian magazine that features recipes, book reviews, and vegan nutrition basics.