At my early days of being vegan, I wanted to make sure, that I get all the vitamins and minerals that my body needs. I’ve done a lot of research, and found a few things about superfoods, and dark leafy greens, different nuts and seeds and so on. At first, I couldn’t figure out what to try first, so I tried too much at once. Maybe more than once…
I can confidently say, now I know it’s best to keep my meals simple, with only 3-5 ingredients.
Here I collected my staple foods, that I use on a daily basis to give my body the optimal nutrients it needs, and for create yummy foods really quickly. Of course, there is a lot more food that I use daily, but I wanted include my most essential ones. I also included a few recipes for inspiration…
If you haven’t seen part 1 of My top 11 Vegan Food Essentials, you can
check it out here.
7. Sweet potatoes
Potatoes have a really bad reputation in general. A lot of people thinks that they are bad carbs and will make you fat. However, they improve digestion, reduce bad cholesterol, boost heart health, prevent cancer, manage diabetes, strengthen the immune system, reduce signs of aging, protect the skin, increase circulation, reduce blood pressure, maintain fluid balance, reduce insomnia, and boost eye health (Resource: http://www.organicfacts.net).
Sweet potatoes are a great slow-digesting fuel, are rich sources of vitamin A, B, and C, manganese, copper, and pantothenic acid. They are also rich in fibre, and fibre is essential for helping to control appetite, burn fat, maintain healthy digestion and build muscle.
I try to eat sweet potatoes as often as possible. They taste really lovely, I especially love them baked, or if I’m in a hurry, just slice them up, and put on the George Forman grill. They are also good mashed (maybe, I’ll make mashed potatoes today for dinner, yumm!), or you can use them in brownies. Yes, it may sounds surprising, but they can be a base for brownies.
Sweet Potato Brownies
See the full recipe at chocolatecoveredkatie.com
- 3/4 cup sweet potato puree
- 1 cup peanut or almond butter OR allergy-friendly sub
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp flour (Oat, white, or spelt flour all work, and readers have reported success with almond flour)
- 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips + more for the top, optional
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar of choice or xylitol
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/8 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line an 8-inch pan with parchment paper or grease well. Gently heat your nut butter until easily stir-able. Then whisk it together with the sweet potato and vanilla extract in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, stir together all remaining ingredients – make sure that baking soda is evenly incorporated! Pour dry into wet (not the other way around), and smooth into the prepared pan, scooping out all traces of batter and using a second sheet of parchment to really smooth it down evenly. Bake on the center oven rack 20 minutes. It will look a little underdone, but it firms up as it cools. (If, for some reason, yours is still too gooey after cooling, loosely cover and let it sit in the fridge a few hours.)
I like to keep canned and dried legumes at home, because when I’m in a hurry, or not so keen on cooking, I just grab a can of beans, or lentil, or chickpeas and throw together a Buddha bowl, but I make sure to buy organic, and rinse them thoroughly. The dried ones are also good, especially on Sundays, when I like to cook a bigger amount, then put some of them in the fridge, some of them in the freezer, and some of them I use for a bigger meal for half of the week.
They are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, protein and fibre, and are highly satiating food, like potatoes. This means that for a relatively low amount of calories legumes make you feel fuller longer. Legumes also contain high amounts of insoluble and soluble fibre, these can help with better bowel movements, and with keeping the blood sugar levels in an optimal level. They are also a good source of quality protein. Legumes and whole grains considered as complimentary protein sources, as they individually don’t have all the essential amino acids, but consumed together they form a complete protein source.
They are also good sources of antioxidants, the more colourful the legume is, the more antioxidant it contains.
9. Brown rice
There area lot of arguments all over the Internet about white or brown rice are better for us? In my opinion, both of them are good, in different dishes. Brown rice has more fibre, and more nutrients, and is also less processed than withe rice, however I like and eat both of them.
I always make sure to have rice at home, because it is easy to make, it is really versatile, can be used in sweet and in savory dishes as well. When chickpea curry is on the menu, I use white rice. For Buddha bowls, for bean chili and for a quick and filling side I normally cook brown rice. There are more details and nutritional benefits about rice on this website.
The next plan is to try to make a veggie burger with added rice. They say it is really tasty.
- 1 cup (155 g) cooked brown rice*
- 1 cup (120 g) raw walnuts (or sub bread crumbs)
- 1/2 Tbsp grape seed or avocado oil, plus more for cooking
- 1/2 white onion (~55 g | 3/4 cup), finely diced
- 1 Tbsp (~8 g) each chili powder, cumin powder, and smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp each sea salt and black pepper, plus more for coating burgers
- 1 Tbsp (12 g) coconut sugar (or sub organic brown or muscovado sugar)
- 1 1/2 cups (227 g) cooked black beans*, well rinsed, drained and patted dry
- 1/3 cup (22 g) panko bread crumbs (if gluten-free, use gluten-free bread crumbs)
- 3-4 Tbsp (51-68 g) vegan BBQ sauce
For the full recipe, visit minimalistbaker.com
I could literally write a completely separate post about avocados. They are just good in every way. A fun fact is that three years ago I haven’t even tried avocado. And for almost a year now, I eat it almost every day.
Another fun fact is, that avocado is a fruit. If you eat only 30 grams for a meal, it would help to reduce blood sugar spike and it can also help to reduce inflammation. The list of benefits is really long.
I eat only a half per day. One quarter for my lunch and one quarter for dinner. But avocado can be used in baking, in sauces (like guacamole), in smoothies or just on their own. Avo on toast is what you definitely need to try! With a pinch of salt and pepper, it is miraculous.
Canned and fresh, either way they are in my kitchen every day. The canned version is really convenient for quick meals, and if I have, I add fresh ones too. The ultimate quick meal for me is avocado on toast with sliced tomatoes on top and the other one is split red lentils and mushrooms with canned tomatoes, herbs and spices, served with quinoa or couscous. Basically I throw everything in a saucepan and cook them. Split lentils take around 20 minutes to cook, in the meantime the quinoa cooks as well, and if I choose couscous, it is even quicker, as it only needs to be soaked in hot water for like 5-8 minutes.
Besides tomatoes are versatile and delicious, they have numerous health benefits as well. They contain vitamins A, C, K and B6, also folate, thiamine, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, magnesium and copper. They also have a lot of antioxidants, they good for your skin, for your eye health, digestive health, and for your heart’s health.
These were my top 11 vegan food essentials. Honestly these foods are so convenient, delicious, versatile and full of nutrients, you couldn’t go wrong with them, but most of the plants are like this. Make sure to eat a variety of them, and eat until you feel full and satiated. Do not fear food, because food is fuel that we need to thrive on.
Do your research, choose wisely, live life, love food and the most important is: love yourself!