We all know we’re supposed to eat our peas and carrots, but do we really know why? Yes, plant-based foods are great for our bodies. Yes, we’ve heard that they are linked to lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and chronic inflammation, to name just a few. So, what’s it all about?
Plant-based foods are rich in nutrients including dietary fiber, protein, healthy fat, vitamins, and a slew of antioxidants. Of course, the true beauty of plant-based foods is the diverse smorgasbord of minerals. Minerals, especially those essential minerals — calcium, chromium, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, potassium, sodium, zinc, and, of course, copper — are the unsung heroes of the nutrient world! They are “needed to activate enzymes — molecules with important jobs in the body,” and they also play roles in hundreds of other bodily functions. Instead of focusing on all at once, let’s just start with one. How about one that maybe you might now know anything about?
Copper is an essential trace mineral, meaning you need it for survival, but not necessarily in large amounts (such as calcium.) This forgotten about mineral is a cofactor — which means it’s a component of processes — for “several enzymes (known as ‘cuproenzymes’) involved in energy production, iron metabolism, neuropeptide activation, connective tissue synthesis, and neurotransmitter synthesis.” Copper is also a player in physiological processes such as immune system functioning, making red blood cells and maintaining nerve cells, pigmentation, brain development, and gene expression, to name a few.
Luckily, as plant-based foods are naturally rich in many minerals, most of us don’t have to worry about supplements when it comes to copper. Simply, eat your veggies! If you’re looking to make sure you’re getting copper-rich foods in your diet, focus on those with the highest content of copper including spirulina, shiitake mushrooms, most nuts and seeds, those lovely leafy greens, and dark chocolate! Here are 15 ways to get these copper-rich foods into your diet on a regular basis!
We also highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest plant-based recipe resource to help you get healthy! And, don’t forget to check out our Whole Foods Archives!
1. Ocean Blue Smoothie
Source: Ocean Blue Smoothie
Spirulina — a “powdered food supplement made from cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae” — is not only a great natural, nutrient-dense food coloring (if you’re looking to go blue, that is), but it’s also a rich source of copper. A single tablespoon of spirulina contains about 44 percent of your recommended daily intake of copper. This Ocean Blue Smoothie recipe by Kennedy Kitchings is incredibly simple — three ingredients including frozen bananas, spirulina, and water — yet backs a supercharged load of nutrients and, yes, lovely copper!
2. Shiitake Mushroom Soft Tacos
Source: Shiitake Mushroom Soft Tacos
Shiitake mushrooms are another great source of copper! They are naturally imbued with a strong umami flavor and pack in about 89 percent of your recommended daily intake of copper per 15 grams. This Shiitake Mushroom Soft Tacos recipe by Shanna Laychuk is the perfect mid-week, easy meal that the entire family will enjoy! All you need are some soft taco shells, shiitake mushrooms, coconut oil, and your choice of fillings. Laychuk recommends tomatillos, avocado, onion, garlic, jalapenos, and coconut yogurt for garnish!
3. Cinnamon Almond Cookies
Source: Cinnamon Almond Cookies
Nuts really should be labeled a superfood because they pop up on almost any list of “get more nutrients” foods! One of the best nut-based sources of copper are almonds, which offer 33 percent of your recommended daily intake per ounce. With that said, just because you’re looking to get more nutrients doesn’t mean you can’t splurge a little. Give these Cinnamon Almond Cookies recipe by Julie Zimmer a try! They’re loaded with almond, — flour and meal — yet rely mostly on apple sauce for that sweet flavor, even though they do have a bit o’ sugar! Try swapping out the sugar for maple syrup or monk fruit sweetener.
4. Sesame Seed Milk
Source: Sesame Seed Milk
Next to nuts, seeds are also a plant-based ingredient that should definitely be added to the superfood list, yet somehow don’t make the grade. They’re one of the best plant-based sources of healthy fat, protein, and fiber, while also offering a healthy dose of copper. Sesame seeds are by far one of the best copper-content seed options as they offer 44 percent of the recommended daily intake per tablespoon. This Sesame Seed Milk recipe by Larice Feuerstein is not only super simple, nut-free, dairy-free, and vegan, but it’s also a great way to load your body with sesame seed-sourced copper!
5. Baked Kale Chips
Source: Baked Kale Chips
If you’re looking for that one plant-based ingredient to increase in your diet, it should probably be leafy greens! They’re loaded with vitamins, minerals, and inflammation-fighting antioxidants. Plus, they’re also a great source of copper. All leafy greens offer a bit of copper, yet there are few that stand out, such as kale, which offers about 14 percent of your daily value per 100 grams. Kale can be one of the more difficult greens to incorporate, yet this Baked Kale Chips recipe by Lindsay S. Nixon makes it easy, fun, and delicious!
6. Chocolate Pumpkin Seed Bark
Source: Chocolate Pumpkin Seed Bark
While sesame seeds are a great source of copper, pumpkin seeds are one of the best sources of healthy fats and copper! In fact, one cup of roasted pumpkin seeds equates to 22 percent of your daily value of copper. This Chocolate Pumpkin Seed Bark recipe by Holly Bertone offers a double-dose of plant-based copper sourced from pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate — which has a whopping “200 [percent] of the recommended daily intake for copper” per 100-gram bar.
7. Raw Cauliflower ‘Popcorn’
Source: Raw Cauliflower ‘Popcorn’
Looking for a super unique way to incorporate copper-rich spirulina into your diet? This Raw Cauliflower ‘Popcorn’ recipe by Jodi Burke uses some of the healthiest plant-based ingredients to recreate a formerly unhealthy treat. Instead of popcorn, you’ve got cauliflower. Instead of butter, you’ve got coconut oil. Plus, to add that additional layer of nutrients, Burke calls for spirulina, Himalayan salt, and nutritional yeast.
8. Coconut Carrot Soup With Shiitake and Spring Onion
While your go-to instinct may be to grill, sautee, or stir-fry up your shiitake mushrooms, they’re also incredibly versatile in gentler concoctions such as soups! Plus, by cooking them slowly and at a low heat you’ll retain a bit more of those nutrients including copper. This Coconut Carrot Soup With Shiitake and Spring Onion recipe by Ida Hemmingsson-Holl is a comingling of rich, natural, and powerful flavors including shiitake, coconut, carrot, onion, garlic, and ginger.
9. Sweet and Savory Spiced Spiced Nuts
Getting your copper-rich ingredients doesn’t mean you have to spend an hour in the kitchen! Go simple and make a big batch of this Sweet and Savory Spiced Spiced Nuts recipe by Holly Bertone. It uses almonds, as well as copper-rich cashews — which “offer 67 percent of your recommended daily intake per ounce” — and, if you’re really looking to get creative, feel free to include your choice of seeds to amp up that copper content.
10. Simple Homemade Pumpkin Seed Butter
Another easy way to integrate seeds into your diet on a regular basis is by making a seed-based butter. Just like nuts, seeds are rife with healthy fat and oils, making them a wonderful ingredient to break down into a creamy paste that works just the same as a nut or peanut butter. This Simple Homemade Pumpkin Seed Butter recipe by Nikki Stokes calls for one ingredient — pumpkin seeds — and two steps — blend and store!
11. Swiss Chard Enchiladas With Avocado Cream
Even though chard happens to be one of my favorite leafy greens, it definitely doesn’t top most people’s list. With a bitter bite, these huge, yet beautiful leaves of green can be difficult to subdue. With that said, swiss chard is an excellent source of copper, offering “33 [percent] of the [recommended daily intake] for copper in a single cup.” Make this tough leafy green a bit more palatable with this Swiss Chard Enchiladas With Avocado Cream recipe by Meghna Purandare! By cooking the chard, you’ll break down its tough design and smooth out that bitter taste with a slew of wonderful flavors including avocado cream, coconut, cinnamon, oregano, cumin, garlic, and paprika!
12. Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake
Get your copper-rich dark chocolate in the kitchen with this Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake recipe by Gabrielle St. Claire! Instead of relying on sugar, this recipe calls for healthy fats — such as coconut oil, unsalted peanuts, and full-fat coconut milk — and naturally sweet dates. Plus, you’ll get a healthy dose of copper from that dark chocolate, just make sure to choose a variety that is dairy-free and at least 70 percent cacao!
If you’ve gone plant-based but you’re missing those exotic cheeses, give this Gorgonzola recipe by Vegan Cheese. This particular recipe relies on copper-rich spirulina for that moldy, blue element, along with protein-rich tofu, gut-friendly miso, and healthy fat-rilled coconut oil.
14. Rutabaga Carbonara With Shiitake Mushroom Bacon
Take a chance on rutabaga for dinner this week with this Rutabaga Carbonara with Shiitake Mushroom Bacon recipe by Phoebe Douglas. Rutabaga is a naturally sweet veggie and paired with copper-rich shiitake mushroom, makes this dish rife with umami!
15. Spinach and Artichoke Soufflé
Source: Spinach and Artichoke Soufflé
The cream of the crop when it comes to dark leafy greens, spinach is also an excellent source of copper. One cup of spinach — around 180 grams — offers “33 [percent] of the [recommended daily intake] of copper.” This Spinach and Artichoke Soufflé recipe by Jennifer Rose Rossano takes it up a notch from your normal simple dinner menu, yet is stuffed with a variety of plant-based flavors and nutrients!
Learn How to Cook Plant-Based Meals at Home!
Source: Smoky Southern Collard Greens
Reducing your meat intake and eating more plant-based foods is known to help with chronic inflammation, heart health, mental wellbeing, fitness goals, nutritional needs, allergies, gut health, and more! Dairy consumption also has been linked to many health problems, including acne, hormonal imbalance, cancer, prostate cancer and has many side effects.
For those of you interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest plant-based recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! And, while you are at it, we encourage you to also learn about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.
Here are some great resources to get you started:
- Weekly Vegan Meal Plans
- Plant-Based Health Resources
- Plant-Based Food & Recipes
- Plant-Based Nutrition Resources
- The Ultimate Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition
- Budget-Friendly Plant-Based Recipes
- High Protein Plant-Based Recipes
- Plant-Based Meal Prep
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