Alright Green Monsters, like the rest of us, you are bombarded with news everyday telling you what is healthy and what isn’t. Even for those of us that believe wholeheartedly in plant-based nutrition and know the health benefits, it can be a bit overwhelming when the health “noise” of the world seems to never stop. No matter what health advice you hear, there are certain foods that are some of the best foods you can put in your grocery carts. We call these our “Everyday Superfoods” because they’re packed with an incredible amount of nutrients in a small serving, and can be found at most any supermarket nationwide. If not, you can find them at specialty health food stores at a fairly low cost.
While not an exclusive list, here are 20 foods to give your body an incredible amount of whole food, plant-based nutrition:
Containing the nutritious fiber known as pectin, apples are an incredible food for your brain and body. They have been linked to a lower body weight, lower cholesterol, an improved mood, and improved heart health. A fun fact you might enjoy is that the tarter the apple, the more antioxidant it contains, so go with those Granny Smiths a little more often! All apples are great source of Vitamin C, potassium, and help keep you full longer than sugary drinks and processed foods. Just try to choose organic since they’re the number one item on The Dirty Dozen list for foods highest in pesticides.
Not only are avocados low in pesticides, but they’re absolutely full in nutritious benefits. From B vitamins to Vitamin E, protein, fiber, and potassium, avocados improve your health in more ways than one. They can help prevent sugar cravings, lower stress, add satiety to meals, and reduce inflammation in the arteries and digestive tract. Choose ripe avocados which will digest easier. They should be very giving with a gentle squeeze. To test out if an avocado is bad at the store before bring it home, peel off the little brown stone on the end of the fruit. If you can see a little green, then it’s a healthy fruit. If you see a little brown, it’s past its prime and you should choose another.
3. Sweet Potatoes
This babies don’t just fill you up; they also satisfy your sweet tooth, they’re cheap, they’re packed with all of your Vitamin A and C content for the day, and they’re one of the best sources of easy to digest fiber. Sweet potatoes are also good source of magnesium and Vitamin B6, along with manganese and certain antioxidants that have been shown to fight cancer. Sweet potatoes are also safer to buy in conventional form than white potatoes. Try out all types, from purple Japanese sweet potatoes to red Garnet sweet potatoes and any other variety you come across. They all taste incredible!
Broccoli packs calcium, protein, chlorophyll, magnesium, Vitamin C, fiber, and nutrients that have been shown to fight cancer. It’s also a good source of B vitamins and can curb your cravings for unhealthy foods. Though it seems boring, pick yourself up some frozen or fresh broccoli, and add it to at least three or four of your entrees per week. Give some of our best broccoli recipes a try; these greens help keep you strong and healthy!
5. Wild Rice
Wild rice is higher in antioxidants, fiber, protein, magnesium and B vitamins than brown rice. It’s also easier to digest than most grains (since it is a grass by nature) and is packed with a nuttier, slightly sweeter flavor. Wild rice is affordable, is filled with antioxidants and helps lower your cravings for sugary, processed foods like refined grain products (chips, crackers, etc.). It’s also easy to add to soups, entrees, as a side or a base for roasted veggies, or you can cook it with some non-dairy milk and cinnamon as a sweet breakfast porridge.
6. Romaine Lettuce
Romaine lettuce is affordable, easy to find, and one of the best sources of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Omega 3 fatty acids, potassium, and magnesium. It also adds a nice punch of dietary fiber and is one of the more filling greens of all. Romaine is a sweeter green, which can be helpful if you’re new to eating healthy and aren’t fond of more bitter greens just yet. Shred it and use it as a base for salads, use it as a grain-free wrap, make a smoothie with it, juice with it, or just use it anywhere you would use kale or spinach. (Just keep in mind it doesn’t cook up as well as those greens do because of its high water content.)
7. Almonds or Almond Butter
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Almonds and almond butter are two great sources of protein, magnesium, fiber, zinc, iron, and B vitamins. They’re also very easy to find, but do try to choose organic since almonds are one of the more heavily sprayed crops in the nut and seed kingdom. One of the main benefits of almonds is that they’re a high source of calcium, which is a common concern to most plant-based eaters.
8. Dark Greens
All dark greens will give you high amounts of chlorophyll to promote an alkaline body, Vitamin A, C, and K, along with magnesium, fiber, iron, and potassium. Spinach, kale, collards, arugula, Swiss chard, beet greens, turnip greens, and mustard greens are all great choices. These can be used in entrees, soups, wraps, smoothies, sandwiches, tacos, juiced with, or however else you want. Dark greens are easy to find, but should be bought in organic form since they’re subject to high pesticide exposure in conventional form. If you’re watching your budget and don’t have a lot of time to cook, you can also buy them frozen too.
9. Green Beans
Green beans are one of the most overlooked healthy veggies when it comes to their nutritional benefits. They’re one of the highest sources of Vitamin C of all beans, they’re a good source of protein and fiber, and they’re easier to digest than most any bean out there. Green beans are also low in starch unlike most beans and a good source of B vitamins. Enjoy them frozen or fresh, and be sure to choose BPA-free cans if you buy them canned.
Not just for snacking, carrots are a great source of beta-carotene (Vitamin A), Vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and other antioxidants that keep your immune system functioning at top notch. Enjoy them raw or cooked; you’ll still reap tons of benefits either way you go. They’re cheap in organic form (a major plus), will store well in your crisper drawer for at least a month, and they go with just about anything savory or sweet. Whether you add them to oatmeal, muffins, eat them raw, add them to salad, puree them into soup, or roast them as a side or snack, carrots are a win!
11. Dried Figs
Dried figs have more calcium than milk per serving (!!!), they’re lower in sugar than most dried fruits, they have more potassium and magnesium than most fresh fruits, and are one of the best foods for your hormones. They help aid in regularity just like prunes but don’t contain the natural sugar sorbitol like prunes that can cause some gas and bloating. Plus, figs are one of the best foods for your libido, overall hormone production, and they help prevent headaches. They’re easy to use in raw desserts, such as energy bites or bars, where dates or raisins are used, or you can use them in addition to other dried fruits. Just be sure to soak them for 20-30 minutes to soften before using them. Also keep in mind that unsulphured dried figs will taste better and are more nutritious since they’re free of preservatives.
12. Coconut (Shreds, Meat, Flour, Butter, etc.)
Raw coconut (preferably organic) is one of the best sources of essential fatty acids. Saturated fats get a bad reputation but when it comes to coconut, these fats are a win! Coconut is an anti-microbial food, natural hormone booster, and its fats are used by the liver for energy production instead of stored as excess weight (in moderate portions, obviously). It’s best to choose whole forms of coconut that contain the fiber (a.k.a. the meat) instead of processed foods made with coconut. This includes raw coconut shreds (unsweetened), raw coconut butter (also called coconut manna), coconut flour, or fresh coconut meat. Though the water and oil of coconut are also beneficial, they’re nothing compared to the benefits of the whole food that retains the fiber, fats and raw enzymes. Here are some ways to use coconut flour, butter, and shreds if you need ideas!
13. Hemp Seed
A plant-based eater’s dream source of protein is undoubtedly hemp seeds! They’re easy to digest, high in fiber, Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin E, magnesium and have more iron than beef per serving! They’re easy to add to porridge, baked goods, or in raw form as a smoothie, raw energy bar, or over a salad. You can also cream them to make hemp seed butter or use plain hemp protein instead of other protein powders. If you can’t find hemp seeds at your local supermarket, they’re easy to find online or at any natural health food store. See all of our hemp recipes for delicious ways to use them.
Celery is one of the best foods for lowering your blood pressure, aiding in digestion, alkalizing the body, and providing Vitamin K for healthy blood flow. It’s also easy to find anywhere, though it should be bought in organic form however possible. Celery can be chopped and diced into salads, soups, used in smoothies or juices and used as a “boat” for a snack with nut butter, hummus, or salsa. The great part about this veggie is that it also lasts longer in your fridge than some others, almost up to a month when washed and wrapped in barely damp paper towels.
15. Flax (or Chia)
Both flax and chia are full of Omega 3 fatty acids, are fairly inexpensive, and they help keep you full much longer than most any cereal you’ll ever find. Flax and chia both contain soluble and insoluble fibers that help soak up water in the digestive tract to regulate your blood sugar, remove wastes, and lower cholesterol as a result. They’re especially easy to add to all your meals and snacks, and can be used in raw or cooked dishes.
Oats are one of the best grains to choose if you’re looking for the most nutrients per calories and per cost. They’re not just cheap, but also lower in starch than some other grains, are higher in protein (aside from quinoa), and packed with iron, magnesium, B vitamins, zinc and potassium. Oats, either cooked or raw, can also be used in everything from breakfast, to lunch and dinner or even desserts. If you’re a smoothie nut, be sure you also try adding oats to your smoothie as a natural form of filling protein and fiber.
Oranges are a great source of Vitamin C as we already know, which can help us plant-based eater absorb our iron-rich foods more easily. Oranges are also low in fructose, a type of sugar some people don’t tolerate well (such as those with IBS or those following a FODMAPS diet). Another benefit of oranges is that they’re a good source of B vitamins and soluble fiber. They can help remove cholesterol, keep the digestive system regular, and even boost your mood and mental outlook.
18. Cacao (or Cocoa)
What some might call a trendy superfood, is really just a bean that most have us have loved all of our life. Cacao is so commonly used these days that it’s sold everywhere you go in the form of raw cacao powder or organic cocoa powder. The raw forms are healthier (known as cacao powder), though dark organic cocoa powder is also full of antioxidants too. Cacao can help fight sugar cravings, beat a sour mood, is full of hormone-boosting properties and is one of the best sources of fiber and iron in such a small serving. Try all our raw cacao recipes if you’d like some new ways to use this incredible food!
19. Winter Squash
Pumpkin, acorn, delicata, kabocha, butternut, buttercup, or any other type of winter squash should be in your grocery carts (even in the summer!). They’re one of the most antioxidant-rich foods you can eat, full of beta-carotene (Vitamin A), Vitamin C, potassium, and they help lower your blood pressure. Since they’re high in water and fiber, they’ll also benefit your blood sugar. See tips on how to choose the best type of squash varieties here, and see all of our squash recipes for cooking ideas.
We can’t make a list of the ultimate everyday superfoods without listing berries. Berries are some of the healthiest foods for the overall mind and body. Try to buy organic when possible since they’re naturally prone to pesticide exposure. If they’re not in season, buy them frozen which will last months and ensure your fruits contain the most nutrients. Frozen fruits are normally cheaper and flash frozen right after harvest to preserve their nutrition. Try out this easy way to work fresh or frozen berries into your breakfast to start your day off on the right foot!
Other superfoods you should put in your carts include: lemons, garlic, ginger, cucumbers, zucchini, onions, quinoa, lentils, beans, walnuts, any green vegetable, cauliflower, bananas, pineapple, tahini, pumpkin seeds, and relatively any whole food, plant-based food you enjoy. The 20 foods above will give you a great head start, but of course, they’re not the only foods you should or can choose.
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