Plant-based former pro athlete, Brendan Brazier, recommends these 10 nutrient-dense foods for your pantry.
You’ll find nutrient-dense, high net gain fruits and vegetables at the foundation of every healthy diet. I get my fresh ingredients from the farmers’ market regularly, and store them in my fridge and on the counter. But there are many other wholesome ingredients that that don’t need to be bought regularly and can be stored for convenience. Spring is the perfect time to tidy the cupboards and the pantry and stock up on these nutrient-dense essentials.
While beans aren’t the only protein-rich foods that you will be including in your plant-based diet (grains and vegetables contain protein too), they are a pantry staple. I recommend buying dry beans in bulk, soaking them overnight (to improve digestibility), and cooking them in large batches. Try adzuki, garbanzo, fava, kidney and navy beans as well as lentils and split peas.
Multisource Plant-based Protein
In today’s busy world, we’re lucky to not have to sacrifice convenience or nutritious foods. Vega One is an all-in-one nutritional shake that not only contains 20 grams of complete, premium plant-based protein, but also has 6 servings of greens, 50%DV vitamins and minerals, Omega-3s, fiber, antioxidants, and probiotics—all made from real, whole foods. Plus it’s Non-GMO Project verified, gluten-free and made without diary, soy, artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners.
Hemp is a superfood by any definition. A complete protein, rich in fiber and omega-3s, hemp is a great addition to any diet. Look for cold-pressed hemp seed oil for salad dressing, a plant-based protein that contains hemp for smoothies (such as Vega One), and hemp seeds to toss onto salads and into smoothies.
If you’re already eating plenty of land vegetables, it’s time to head to the sea. Sea vegetables like arame, wakame, nori, kombu, dulse, and kelp are a nutrient-dense addition to your diet. They are rich in calcium, iron, iodine, and electrolytes; are easily digestible; and are chlorophyll-rich and alkaline-forming.
Unrefined coconut oil is my favorite cooking oil with surprising health benefits. Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are digested in the body like carbohydrates. The liver easily converts them into energy, rather than storing them as visceral fat. Use coconut oil in your next stir-fry, since it’s stable at high heats.
Don’t be fooled by the name, buckwheat is actually a gluten-free grain. It’s actually more closely related to rhubarb than to whole wheat. This whole grain is high in vitamins B and E, calcium and fiber. You can sprout unroasted buckwheat, or cook roasted buckwheat (sometimes called kasha), as a side dish. You can also make porridge, similar to oatmeal, for breakfast.
One of the most easily digested grains, gluten-free millet makes a creamy breakfast base. Cook like rice, with a 1-to-3 millet-to-water ratio, for 35 minutes and top with unsweetened non-dairy milk, hemp seeds and fresh fruit.
Apple Cider Vinegar
A favorite of mine, not only for the flavor it provides to vinaigrette. Apple cider vinegar helps with digestion because it contains prebiotics—food for the healthy bacteria in your gut.
A complete protein and a rich source of all B vitamins (including the elusive vitamin B12), nutritional yeast adds a savory flavor to any plant-based meal. You can sprinkle it on salads, cooked or raw entrees, or even on non-GMO popcorn whenever you are craving cheese.
Spices add flavor and antioxidants to all meals, without salt or calories. I always have black pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, nutmeg and turmeric on my shelf.
For recipes that include these pantry essentials and more, visit the Vega Recipe Center.
Photo credit: Flickr/cookbookman17
Brendan Brazier is a former professional Ironman triathlete and two-time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion. He is now a successful performance nutrition consultant, bestselling author of the Thrive book series, formulator of the award-winning line of plant-based Vega nutritional products and creator of Thrive Forward, an online video series designed to inspire and educate people about plant-based nutrition. For more information, please visit www.brendanbrazier.com and follow Brendan on Twitter.