Posted by: A Part of the Solution | November 4, 2010

Vegan Pantry, Part 7: Veggies

If you’re eating vegan to prevent cruelty to animals, please remember that you yourself are an animal–and malnutrition is an inexcusable cruelty to oneself in the developed world. If you’re eating vegan for health reasons, get on the stick, get with the program, get your veggies into your body. Even if you’re eating vegan just to annoy your family/bf/gf/housemates, you’ll have better energy for the endeavor if you’re in top form.

Don’t get sidetracked into fulfilling the American obsession with protein. You only need about 60-80 grams of protein a day for optimal health. A regulation serving of broccoli has five grams, so does a medium baked potato (and those portions don’t look big, believe me). A bowl of oatmeal has more protein than that. Add a few chopped nuts and you’re at 10 right there. A couple slices of whole grain bread have between 5 and 7. Make the bread yourself, and you can bring that number up significantly. My point being, I’ve talked about lots of places to acquire protein without even mentioning beans or soy products. Eat a couple servings of beans and legumes a day in a diverse, well-rounded, seasonal diet and you just won’t have to worry about where your protein is coming from. Period.

For more specific information, click here: World’s Healthiest Foods

Vegetables:

Alliums: Relatives of the lily, these are onions, garlic, leeks, chives, shallots, cippolini, ramps, and garlic scapes. They add great flavor, some protein, and have an anti-bacterial property which really does help keep you well or bring on wellness when you’re sick.

Curcurbitaceae: Don’t panic, this is the squash/cucumber/pumpkin family. The winter squash–Hubbard, acorn, pumpkin, delicata, kuri &tc. are some of those vaunted dark red/orange vegetables with loads of vitamin A and C precursors. They’re also high in fiber and a selection of trace minerals. The summer squash–crooknecks, yellow, zucchini and the like aren’t quite the nutritional powerhouses of their cold-weather brethren, but they’re still good sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Cucumbers ditto.

Dark Leafy Greens: These guys are The Hulk nutritionally speaking. Besides having a substantial protein content, they carry quantities of necessary trace minerals and a wide spectrum of B vitamins. They’re high in fiber too. Generally, they fall into two main categories: brassicas and chenopodiums. The first family includes broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, tat soi, cabbage, collards, mizuna and cauliflower. The second includes spinach,chard and beets. With all dark leafy greens (so not the cauliflower, or the cabbage), you want to put some cooking on them–otherwise (and this is ironic), the oxalic acid in the greens blocks the absorption of calcium in your body which in turn leaves your body stripping calcium from your bones to process the protein in the veggies. Just say ‘No’ to spinach salads, OK?

Herbs: In quantity, these innocuous little leaves can really bring on fits of health and well-being. Serve parsley pesto, and cilantro pesto as often as you do basil pesto. Make big tabbouleh salads and eat them regularly. Mince handfuls of herbs and sprinkle them on your cooked veggies, stews and stir-fries for brighter flavor and valuable nutritional content. The vitamin K in a sprinkling of parsley, basil or thyme is astounding. Cilantro and dill bring the minerals, as do fennel and oregano. Rosemary, sage and mint are high in the phenols and other anti-inflammatory flavonoids. All of these are more meaningful in a fresh rather than a dried context. Get your window box growing, stat!

Mushrooms: not just flavorful, but also immune supporting, like their soul mates the Alliums. Put these into your food raw or cooked and enjoy better health as well as better tasting food. Not only do they provide mass quantities of selenium when consumed raw, but they have a wide variety of B vitamins and trace minerals in significant volume.

Nightshades: Again, no reason to panic. What we have here are tomatoes, potatoes, chilis, peppers, eggplant and okra. You’ll find fiber here across the board. There’s capsaicin in the chilis, and amazing volume of  A, C and folic acid in the bell peppers. You’ll find lycopene in your cooked tomatoes, and that’s key for men’s health. These guys are one of the reasons salsa (especially fresh, homemade) is so good for everybody. Try it on your veggies where you used to put butter.

Potatoes get an undeserved bad rap since they’re high in C, B6 and trace minerals as well as having unique properties which help to lower blood pressure naturally. Just don’t default to french fries and chips with these, and you’ll be pleased with their contribution to your ongoing health.

Root veg: Turnips, Rutabagas and Kolrabi are rightfully members of the brassica family. Beets are part of the chenopodium tribe. Fennel bulb and celeriac are siblings to celery. Parsnips and carrots belong to a veg group which includes parsley. This is a diverse crowd, no question. But their fiber, their minerals and their vitamins are fantastic. Most of these fulfill the dark red/orange veggie requirement, so hit them up often. Fennel and celeriac have reputations (like celery itself) as being blood purifiers–they help the liver perform more effectively, and who doesn’t want an effective liver?

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Responses

  1. Great info! I’ll be sure to use what you’re saying here in my daily practice. Thanks!


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