Plant-based diets get a lot of hype - and for good reason. A predominantly plant-based diet is high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats, and dietary fibre, all of which are important for maintaining good health. In fact, there is ample research supporting that plant-based diets may increase longevity, improve gut health, reduce risk of various chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and even reduce risk for certain types of cancer!
One reason that plant-based diets are so healthy is because they contain high amounts of nuts, seeds, and whole grains. These plant foods are nutrient powerhouses, with healthy fats helping to lower cholesterol levels and improve cardiovascular health, and high fibre content helping to promote regular bowel movements, keep us full, and promote good gut health.
Altogether, including a variety of nutritious plant foods including whole grains, nuts, and seeds is ideal to nourish both your body and your mind. Here are some to include in your diet that pack in heaps of nutrients!
Not only are almonds delicious, but a small handful of almonds contains nearly 6g of protein and over 8mg of vitamin E which is 80% of the daily adequate intake for men and over 100% for women! Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant, meaning that it helps protect our cells from damage and may help lower inflammation. Since almonds are high in healthy fats, they may also help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of high blood pressure.
Per 30g serving: 752kJ, 5.8g protein, 16.4g fat, 1.4g carbs, 2.6g fibre
Fun fact: Did you know that almonds are grown on trees and come from the prunus family? This is the same family as peaches, cherries & apricots! The nuts we know and love are actually the seed of the fruit. Unlike its fruity family members though, you can’t actually eat the fleshy part of the almond.
Oats are a whole grain and are an excellent source of a particular type of fibre called resistant starch. Our gut bugs absolutely love this type of fibre! Lucky for us that they do, because when they feed on it, they produce a compound which may reduce our risk of colon cancer and help with digestion (among many other benefits). Including oats in your diet may also assist with blood sugar control and improve heart health.
Per 1/3 cup (30g) serving: 476kJ, 4g protein, 2.7g fat, 16.5g carbs, 3.4g fibre
Fun fact: Hunter-gatherers from the Stone Age consumed wild oats as far back as 32,000 years ago! They ground the oats up and used them as a form of flour for flatbreads amongst other things. This is the earliest known human consumption of oats, well before conventional farming took over around 10,000 years ago.
3. Chia seeds
Chia seeds are edible seeds from the flowering plant Salvia hispanica. They are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which are a type of unsaturated fat that our body cannot make, and so we must get them from our diet. Omega-3s are super important to include in our diets due to their cardio-protective and anti-inflammatory effects, and there is also growing research that they support brain health and protect against certain mental illnesses!
Per 30g (2 tbsp) serving: 534kJ, 4.2g protein, 9.2g fat, 2.4g carbs, 10.4g fibre
Fun fact: In Mayan culture, ‘chia’ means ‘strength’ which may be due of the relatively large amount of energy they provide based on such a tiny seed. Pre-historically, they were the second main crop after beans in Columbian societies!
4. Sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds are full of benefits with the variety of nutrients and vitamins they contain, as well as their heart-healthy fat content. Like almonds, sunflower seeds offer the benefits of high vitamin E content, as well as 111 mg of magnesium which is over 25% of the recommended intake for men and 35% for women. Magnesium helps maintain immune function, support brain function, and helps your muscles work properly.
Per 30g (2 tbsp) serving: 709 kilojoules, 7.4g protein, 14.5g fat, 1g carbs, 3.9g fibre
Fun fact: Each sunflower contains as many as 1,000 to 2,000 seeds! The middle section of the flower is called the ovary and this is where the seeds develop. Sunflowers vary in size from the dwarf to the tall varieties - the tallest ever recorded sunflower was grown in Germany, coming in at almost 10 metres!
5. Quinoa flakes
Quinoa flakes are simply “pressed” quinoa seeds and offer all the same amazing nutritional benefits as quinoa. In addition to being a whole grain, these little seeds are also a complete protein, meaning they contain all essential amino acids that our bodies need to build and repair our muscles (among many other functions)!
Per 30g (2 tbsp) serving: 484 kilojoules, 4.3g protein, 1.8g fat, 19.2g carbs, 2.1g fibre
Fun fact: The United Nations proclaimed 2013 as 'The International Year of Quinoa'. This was a form of recognition to the quinoa grains which are perceived to be an “ancestral gift from the Andes to the world”. In addition to the amazing nutritional content,the small crop is widely adaptable, thriving in temperatures ranging from -8 degrees Celsius to 38 degrees Celsius, at sea level or 4,000 meters above, and is not impacted by low moisture.
All the above nuts, seeds, and whole grains contain important vitamins and minerals to promote good health and wellbeing. Overall, following a whole food plant-based diet can be incredibly beneficial to your physical and mental wellbeing, especially when a variety is included. Interestingly, individuals who include 30 different plant foods throughout the week have been shown to have higher gut bug diversity (which is a marker of good gut health).
Products which contain a variety of nuts, seeds, and whole grains are an excellent way to help you reach your 30! These include products such as the Stone Age Staples Gluten Free Original Loaf which contains 10 different nuts & seeds including Quinoa Flakes, Almonds & Chia seeds, or the Stone Age Staples Coco-Berry Granola, which includes Rolled Oats, Almonds & Chia seeds (among many other healthy plant-based ingredients!).
Sarah Marko, APD
Sarah is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and works as a freelance media dietitian providing consultancy services to professionals and food companies. As a long-term vegan herself, she is passionate about helping others optimise their nutrition and health with plant foods. Sarah holds a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetic practice along with an honours bachelor’s degree in neuroscience.
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