A lot of times, people are deficient in vitamins. Being vegetarian or vegan can make it harder to get some of these vitamins through the food you eat. We will discuss the most vitamin rich plant based foods and then go into the major vitamins we need for a healthy composition.
Kale - Guess what? Our favorite vegetable is the King of vitamins! At only 50 calories per 100 gram serving, it’s packed with more than your daily recommendation of vitamins. Kale is extremely high in Vitamin C at 200% daily intake. Vitamin C is key to a healthy immune system and can fight against viruses and illness in the body. Kale is also very high in Vitamin A, K1 and B6. Kale has become a little more popular now a days with hundreds of great recipes to incorporate it into your diet.
Eating it raw is ideal. We definitely recommend “massaging” the kale before eating. Yes, massaging. Just drizzle a little olive oil, or if you prefer to not use oil, lemon juice works. Then, with your hands, massage the kale by rubbing it together for a few minutes. The kale will become a darker green. This allows the super veggie to be more easily digested. It also gives it a softer, more appealing texture, and we think it makes it more delicious. See how you prefer to eat kale!
Garlic - Another staple in our kitchen! Garlic is used in most of our recipes because it adds great flavor to any dish. It is also high in vitamin C, B1 and B6. Garlic is another food that helps fight against disease and boosts your immune system. Eating garlic raw is a little tough to do as it can be quite pungent and spicy. We like to lightly cook it in our recipes allowing the most nutrients to be absorbed in the body after eating. If you can eat it raw, go for it! It’s extremely good for you! You can also roast garlic, which allows the flavor to take on a sweeter taste.
Potatoes - Believe it or not, potatoes are one of the most healthy vegetables you can eat! They get a bad rap in the health world because we mostly see them fried or lathered in butter and sour cream. While those preparations are delicious, they will not give you the health benefits we are looking for. Potatoes are loaded with Vitamin C and most B Vitamins. There are 8 different B Vitamins which all have its own property and use. We will discuss these more in detail below. These healthy spuds contain a little bit of every nutrient you need! People have lived and survived on a diet solely of potatoes. Try eating potatoes baked with very little toppings. If you want to add some flavor, spices like garlic powder, chili powder, chives, onions, parsley can all help! You can also boost the nutritional value by topping your potatoes with roasted broccoli or cauliflower!
Vitamins Needed for Overall Health
Vitamin A - Vitamin A comes in two forms, preformed Vitamin A and provitamin A carotenoids. We will focus on the provitamin A as it comes from plants. Alpha and beta carotene are converted in the body from Vitamin A. This vitamin is essential in protecting your eyesight. Age can deteriorate your eyes, beta carotene helps with this aging process. Plant based sources of Vitamin A have been linked to reducing chances of cancers such as lung, bladder, and cervical. Foods rich in Vitamin A include: dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, and chard, orange colored sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, pumpkin, yellow corn, mango, and papayas.
Vitamin B - So, like we said earlier, Vitamin B actually has 8 different types. All B Vitamins are water soluble which means it goes through the bloodstream and whatever is not absorbed in the body is passed through urine. B1 is Thiamine. Thiamine enables the body to use carbohydrates as energy and is key to healthy nerve, muscle and heart function. B2 is Riboflavin. Riboflavin breaks down proteins, fats and carbs and turns them into energy. Energy levels are stored in the muscles. B3 is Niacin. Niacin is found to lower cholesterol and has antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties. B5 is Pantonthenic Acid. Pantonthenic Acid also breaks down fats and carbs in the body. It helps produce healthy hair, skin, eyes and liver. The name is derived from the Greek word “Pantou” meaning everywhere. It is believed this acid is found a little in most plant foods.
Vitamin B6 is a big one. Found in chickpeas, bananas, and tofu, it benefits the central nervous system. B6 produces serotonin in the brain which helps its functionality and memory. B6 has also been shown to protect your body from free radicals in your environment. B7 is Biotin. Biotin creates fatty acids, lowers blood glucose, helps with a healthy pregnancy and can also benefit your hair and nails. B9 is known as Folate. Folate is found in legumes and different fruits. It makes red and white blood cells in the bone marrow, converts carbs to energy and produces DNA and RNA. Vitamin B12 is another big one! The human body does not make Vitamin B12 so it is needed through food or supplements. B12 supports healthy nerve and brain function, and the production of DNA and red blood cells. Unfortunately, vegans and vegetarians have a harder time finding this vitamin because it is not found in most plant sources. It can be found in fortified cereals or plant based milks.
Vitamin C - Vitamin C is needed for a strong immune system. It is another water soluble vitamin and protects our bodies from disease and free radicals. It acts as an antioxidant and may reduce your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Foods rich in Vitamin C are our old friend kale, broccoli, bell peppers, oranges, cantaloupe, strawberries and papayas.
Vitamin D - So, Vitamin D was one we really wanted to talk about. Vitamin D comes from the sun. Our body uses it to feel better and fight depression and mood disorders. When the sun isn’t present, which it really hasn't been lately, (April showers bring May flowers), we have to get it from supplements or food. Again, vegans and vegetarians will have a hard time getting their dosage of Vitamin D since most sources come from animals. There really is only one known plant source of Vitamin D, and it’s found in mushrooms. The mushrooms need to be grown outdoors or with an ultraviolet light. We recommend taking a supplement during colder months when the sun is not out as much. It is also important to mention that if you are supplementing Vitamin D, it should always be taken along with Magnesium, as the body does not absorb Vitamin D without the aid of Magnesium. Once it gets warmer, try and make it a point to get outside for at least 15 minutes a day. It will greatly help your mood.
Vitamin E - This is the last vitamin we will get into today. Vitamin E is fat soluble and helps protect body tissue from damage from free radicals. Free radicals can harm cells, tissues and organs. Vitamin E has also been linked to being anti aging. Food sources of Vitamin E include green leafy veggies, almonds, peanuts, vegetable oils and sunflower seeds.
Carrot, Apple and Ginger Soup
Makes about 4-6 servings
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion Diced
2 Cloves Garlic Crushed
1 lb Carrots Washed or Peeled cut into rounds
2 Gala Apples Roughly chopped (or another type of apple, maybe not Granny Smith)
1 Inch Fresh Ginger Grated
4 Cups Veggie Broth
½ Cup Non Dairy Milk
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Toppings- Olive Oil, Sunflower Seeds, Vegan Sour Cream (optional)
Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven or pot over medium heat.
Add the onions to the pot and let cook for about 4-5 minutes to become translucent.
Next, add the crushed garlic and let this cook for a few minutes until it’s fragrant.
Add the carrots. Let carrots cook for about 10 minutes before adding the apples. Stirring to prevent sticking to the pot.
Since the carrots are raw, they will take a little while to become soft.
Add the apples and ginger and let cook for another 5 minutes to let all flavors melt together.
Be careful the ginger does not burn.
Then add the veggie broth. Bring to a boil, then cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
Add soup to a blender or you can use an immersion blender if you have one.
Blend soup until very smooth and creamy. Add back to the pot with the heat off.
Pour in non dairy milk and adjust seasonings.
Serve warm and top with sunflower seed or olive oil.
***(No need to peel apples, it’s going in the blender anyways).