So here we are in the midst of summer in Perth, although some days you wouldn’t know that with the crazy weather. But overall, the weather is warm/hot and sunny and there is an abundance of wonderful foods at the markets and shops. I would like to inspire you to make the most of the season produce available, and to eat a wide variety of plant based foods.
Fruits and vegetables are the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, and most people, even those who consider themselves healthy eaters, simply do not eat enough fruit and vegetables. The government recommends 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit a day, and they are very conservative, so you can be sure that is the absolute bare minimum you need. My opinion is that for optimal health it needs to be more than that.
Many people do not find vegetables appealing, and they often grew up in an era where boiled vegetables was the norm, or they have trained their taste buds to eat highly flavoured take-away foods. So the crisp taste of asparagus or an Asian salad or stirfry broccolini, seems boring. To a large degree, it is a case of broadening your horizons, trying new foods, being open to learning to enjoy them, and being creative in trying new recipes. It may take some time, but it is worth it. The alternative is likely to be a descent into chronically poor health.
Legumes, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats like olive oil are also important plant-based foods to keep in mind, and include in your daily diet. Then there are specialty and superfoods such as seaweeds, chia and hemp seeds, and herbs and spices, which add important elements to a rounded diet. Although I am focusing on plant-foods, I am not saying that is all you should eat. For many people, meat and even dairy can feel important for them, and that is fine, but still, plant based foods should be the mainstay of the diet. That doesn’t however include the white flour or fried potato based plant foods most people eat too much of already.
The benefits of more whole, plant-based foods are more fibre so a healthier gut, less inflammation, and a lowering of diseases such as heart disease, obesity, some cancers. Also, reduced blood pressure, healthy cholesterol levels and improved control of type 2 diabetes. There are so many more benefits but these have plenty of solid science behind them.
So how to add more plant-based foods?
Baked veggies: you can bake a batch of vegetables such as potatoes, pumpkin, beetroot, carrots, sweet potato, caulifower….that can then be eaten hot or added cold to salads or reheated. Plain baked potatoes can also hold a lot of healthy filling. Here is a good guide.
Chia puddings; check out the many chia pudding recipes available….you may have found your new fast food super healthy and delicious breakfast.
Smoothies are another way to add fruit and superfoods like chia, or spirulina, and if you are brave add a decent handful of baby spinach or cos lettuce- you won’t even taste it, I promise! It is a great way to get a decent serve of nutiritous leafy greens, and helps balance the fruit with healthy minerals and more fibre.
Snacks: a piece of fresh fruit at this time of year is so easy…a nectarine, a mango, a handful of cherries. Another great snack high in protein and quite sustaining, is a small handful of nuts. Nuts are high in energy density- i.e calories- but a little goes a long way. Other snacks include hummous with carrot and celery sticks.
Its a great time to do some juicing as well, and I tend to only recommend vegetables juices such as celery and cucumber, with a little apple to sweeten. Here is a good green juice recipe. They are so hydrating and balancing for our bodies at this time of year. Fruit juices are ok occasionally but are too concentrated in fruit sugar without the balancing effects of the fibre, so I much prefer to recommend fruit whole. Green vegetable juices can be very beneficial though.
Asian greens. These are a great way to add more leafy greens to your diet, such as in stirfries and soups. Don’t be put off by how big a bunch of Asian greens is- it shrinks down to a fraction of its size when cooked, and they only need cooking for a couple of minutes. Also spinach and baby spinach are great, and you can add these to mashed potato or pumpkin as well.
Salads are of course perfect for this season, but often people run out of imagination and eat the same salad all the time. Here is one webpage with some awesome recipes you can make ahead. I make my salads for days ahead, and when I feel inspired in the kitchen I might make 3 types of salads and keep them in containers in the fridge for our lunches. This week I have made a version of carrot /date (or raisin) salad, a Mediterranean tomato salad and an Asian salad. I also made a batch of peanut sauce to go over veggies during the week.
I hope this has given you some ideas to widen your repertoire of plant-based foods, especially those suited to this time of year, when we often only want to eat raw or lightly cooked foods. Enjoy all the wonderful fruit, and enjoy nourishing your body with healthy, wholesome plant-based foods.
Here is a recipe I love and make frequently. I originally got it off the Medical Medium site as I love spinach. Don’t be scared- it is actually delicious and sweet and so easy and filling and a great way to increase your iron intake and absorption. :
Raw Spinach Soup.
1 bunch of spinach or 1 bag of baby spinach, well washed and drained.
1-2 tomatoes or punnet of baby tomatoes
1 stalk celery (optional)
1 orange, juiced, or just peeled and chopped (2 if you want to make sure you really like it the first time).
1 clove of garlic and 1 small piece of ginger (optional)
herbs such as cilantro or basil
Pinch of salt
Blend and enjoy at room temperature.