There are many opinions about what a perfectly healthy diet consists of but most people seem to agree that vegetables are an important component. Vegetables are low in calories yet rich in nutrients, making them perfect for vegan diets.
A healthy vegan diet is one in which vegetables are the main source of protein.
A vegan diet mainly consists of vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds and nuts. As with any diet, there are some vegetables that are better than others for vegans to eat.
A vegan diet consisting of vegetables can provide many benefits but it’s important to be aware that vegetables do contain carbohydrates that may affect blood sugar levels and insulin resistance if they are not carefully monitored on a vegan diet.
In this article, we will discuss the health benefits of vegetarian diets and look at the best vegetables for vegan and a plant-based diet.
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Health Benefits of Vegetables
A diet high in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some kinds of cancer, lessen the incidence of eye and digestive problems, and have a beneficial impact on blood sugar. Eating non-starchy veggies and fruits like apples, pears, and green leafy vegetables may help you lose weight. Their low glycemic loads keep blood sugar levels stable, which helps to minimize appetite.
Nutrition Content of Vegetables
Vegetables contain many essential vitamins and minerals for a healthy lifestyle including:
- Vitamin A (formally know as Beta carotene) – which is necessary for eyesight;
- Vitamin B1 (Folate) – required by pregnant women who want to avoid birth defects such as spina bifida. B1 is needed for the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It also participates in some brain-related functions, assists in making healthy hair, skin, and nails. Additionally, it may help regulate sugar levels.
- vitamin B12 – one main function is that it assists in the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It also participates in some brain-related functions, assists in making healthy skin, hair and nails. In addition, it may help regulate sugar levels as well as break down certain chemicals that might be toxic to your system.
- Vitamin C – is needed for healthy skin, teeth, blood vessels and gums. It assists in iron absorption and helps wounds heal faster. (major class of antioxidants**)
- Vitamin D – The body needs vitamin D to release calcium from bones so that it can build healthy teeth, strong bones and muscles. Bones need calcium for strength. The body releases calcium from the bones to build other parts of the body when vitamin D is not available. Lack of this important mineral causes thin, fragile or misshapen bone structures or rickets in children.
- Vitamin E for a number of reasons because it’s a potent antioxidant, which helps protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. It also protects individuals from developing cardiovascular disease and cancers.
- Vitamin K – is a fat-soluble vitamin found in vegetables, which aids in blood clotting and bone development.
- Potassium, needed daily by adults over 40 years old with heart disease risk factors–which helps regulate blood pressure
- Calcium – plays an important role in bone growth, and it helps regulate the release of hormones. It assists with everyday tasks like keeping your heart rate steady, contraction and relaxation of muscles, blood clotting, nerve transmission, enzyme activation and many other processes which are vital to life.
- Magnesium – helps regulate insulin levels, activates enzymes, maintain DNA stability and is important in nerve functioning.
- Zinc – an important mineral for all bodily functions, including the immune system. It’s also necessary to keep your skin healthy and vibrant, maintain a balanced mood, produce nerve impulses for proper brain function.
** An antioxidant is a chemical that can intercept and cancel out the effect of free radicals. Antioxidants may be naturally occurring or man-made. In many vegetables, antioxidants are created by the plant’s interaction with sunlight during photosynthesis.
Best Vegetables to Include on a Vegan Diet
If you are fortunate enough to have your own vegetable garden then the choice of what to eat is made easier
Here are a few of our favourite vegetables:
Broccoli is a vegetable that is classified as an edible green plant in the cabbage family. It’s also known by the name Brassica oleracea and is a key ingredient in vegan diets.
The taste of Broccoli can range from “bitter” to “sweet” depending on how it was cooked. Broccoli is a great source of dietary fibre, protein and vitamin C. It contains many essential minerals such as calcium (which vegetables like Broccoli and other green vegetables help the body absorb), potassium, magnesium and phosphorus.
Broccoli also has antioxidant effects- similar to those found in fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C which protects cells from damage caused by free radicals. This helps reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. The sulforaphane present in broccoli may boost immunity against harmful bacteria that cause food poisonings like salmonella or E Coli infections.
Brussels Sprouts are vegetables that are grown in the form of small, green cabbages.
These vegetables are not only good for your health but can also provide you with an opportunity to eat vegetables in season simply by preparing them in the simplest way possible- by steaming or microwaving them. Brussels sprouts are high in vitamin C, beta carotene and vitamin K.
Brussels sprouts are believed to have anti-cancer properties which may be related to their ability to stimulate enzymes that protect cells from carcinogens.
Sweet potatoes are vegetables with yellowish-brown or pale orange flesh.
They are best eaten when they are cooked, not raw because cooking sweet potatoes increases their sweetness dramatically. Sweet potatoes are also known for being rich in dietary fibre, vitamin C and beta carotene. They also have antioxidant effects which help prevent free radical damage to cells.
Spinach is vegetables with dark green leaves.
It’s a good source of vitamin K, omega-three fatty acids and manganese as well as containing many other dietary minerals such as calcium, magnesium, vitamin A and potassium. Just one single cup of spinach can give you 56% of your daily vitamin A.
It also contains iron so it can help anaemia sufferers to improve their condition by controlling the build-up of red blood cells in the body. Spinach has antioxidant effects which may be related to its ability to lower your risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer because they contain flavonoids that stop free radicals from causing cell damage.
Garlic is a vegetable that has a distinctive, pungent flavour.
It’s best used in small quantities to add flavour and nutrition without overpowering the taste of foods being cooked with it. Garlic contains manganese, Vitamin B-complex groups such as riboflavin, niacin and thiamine, iron phosphorus and calcium. It also has antioxidant effects which may be related to its ability to lower your risk for cardiovascular disease by reducing bad cholesterol levels whilst increasing good cholesterol levels in the blood.
The anti-cancer properties found in garlic are phenomenal. Dangerous cancer cells have been killed in studies performed on feeding garlic to rats in recent studies, too.
Kale is a vegetable with dark green leaves and a firm stem.
It’s rich in many vitamins such as vitamin A, Vitamin C (which vegetables like Broccoli and other green vegetables help the body absorb), potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. Kale can be eaten raw or cooked but cooking kale increases its nutritional value because it softens the cell walls allowing more of the nutrients to enter your bloodstream when you eat them. It has antioxidant effects which may be related to its ability to lower your risk for cardiovascular disease by reducing bad cholesterol levels whilst increasing good cholesterol levels in the blood.
As if that was not enough, some studies have also shown evidence suggesting that those who regularly eat foods high in oxalic acid such as kale are less likely to develop kidney stones.
Asparagus vegetables with long, fleshy green stalks and small, compact heads of flowers.
They are best eaten when they’re fresh because asparagus has a short shelf life after it’s been picked and will become limp and discoloured within only a few days if kept in the refrigerator for too long before cooking. Asparagus is rich in dietary fibre which helps prevent constipation by stimulating the digestive system to move food through your body faster; Vitamin K; folate (which can help you maintain healthy red blood cells); potassium (which regulates heart rate) vitamin A, iron phosphorus and manganese. It also contains antioxidants such as glutathione peroxidase that have anti-cancer properties so eating vegetables like asparagus can help prevent the growth of cancerous cells in your body.
Asparagus is one vegetable that is heavily promoted for its anti-cancer properties and it’s also very low in calories so you don’t have to feel guilty about including them on your plate when you eat out at restaurants or cook yourself a meal at home.
Peppers vegetables are actually berries belonging to the Solanaceae plant family.
They can be eaten raw or cooked and have a distinctive, sweet flavour so they’re great in salads but equally delicious when stuffed with meat/vegetable mixtures to make vegetarian dishes such as Mexican-style chilli Con Carne; curries; casseroles etc. Peppers contain multiple nutrients that support your health by reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease by lowering cholesterol levels along with supporting healthy immune function thanks to their antioxidant content like vitamin A (which is good for eyesight), vitamins C and E (great anti-ageing properties); potassium (good for heart health) magnesium; manganese; folate B group vitamins like thiamin niacin and riboflavin; iron.
Peppers are vegetables rich in carotenoids which is a group of naturally occurring pigments that help protect against cancer by neutralizing free radicals (unstable molecules) that might otherwise damage DNA or cell membranes, cause mutations to cells’ genes and contribute to the development of cancers like breast, ovarian prostate etc.
Because red peppers contain more beta-carotene than green ones they also have huge anti-oxidant properties too so don’t be afraid if you see them turning red when you cook them because it’s actually very good for your health!
Carrots vegetables are a type of root vegetable belonging to the family Umbelliferae.
They have a distinct orange colour and sweet flavour which means they’re great for adding to salads, stir-fries or even roasted vegetables but can also be eaten raw as well if you prefer them that way. Carrots contain high levels of vitamin A (which helps protect eyesight), Vitamin K, potassium; beta-carotene (a pigment that converts into Vitamin A in your body); dietary fibre; manganese and folate so eating carrots regularly will improve many different aspects of your health while reducing your risk for developing serious diseases such as cardiovascular disease by lowering cholesterol levels throughout the body along with supporting healthy immune function thanks to their antioxidant content like vitamins C and E.
In fact, the beta-carotene found in vegetables like carrots can actually help reduce your risk for developing cancer too which makes them a great choice to include on your plate.
How to Include More Vegetables into your Vegan Diet
You don’t have to be vegan to get the most out of eating more vegetables, so here are some of our top suggestions for how to increase your vegetable intake in a healthy way.
- Boiling vegetables can remove their flavour try reducing the cooking time to retain more flavour. Stir-frying, sautéing, roasting, air frying, stewing, grilling, and/or pickling veggies are alternative cooking methods that may help to enhance veggie taste without dulling them.
- Fill your wraps with vegetables – most of us enjoy eating sandwiches, so why not give it a go?
- For those who want to lose weight, there are plenty of smoothie recipes on the internet. – Blend is a great moisturizer for people with sensitive skin.
- Make a Tasty Salad
- Keep Frozen Vegetables on Hand – Frozen vegetables are a fantastic way to add some healthiness to your diet, and they’re a lot easier than you may think. Frozen veggies go great in stir-fries, soups, stews, and curries.
- Buy Ready-to-Go Vegetable Options – If you’re on a budget, purchasing vegetables that have been washed and/or cut might save you time and make incorporating veggies into your diet easier.
- Set aside time to prepare your vegetables
- Buy a realistic amount to avoid waste and include it in your vegan recipes
Vegetables are an essential part of any diet, but vegetables in a vegan diet or vegetarian diet might be even more important because they provide you with many or all the nutrients that your body needs.