Throughout the year, we have journeyed across continents in search of plant-based foods to try, broadening our diet as well as our horizons. From the humble to the exotic, the goal was to expand the range of plant-based foods to consume, whether for more variety in a vegan diet or to experience the health benefits plant-based foods have to offer. We discovered fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds, gluten-free grains, types of mushrooms and a different preparation method of soybeans.
You can go back through our previous blogs to read about the range of foods we found during our armchair travels, including:
- Amaranth, Sacha Inchi and Lima Beans from South America
- Teff, Sorghum and Baobab found in Africa.
- Kakadu and Davidson Plums, Wattleseed, Macadamias, Tasmanian Seaweed and Quinoa homegrown in Australia
- Shitake, Natto and Lotus Root native to Asia
- Mung beans, Millet and Jackfruit harvested on the Indian Subcontinent.
- Carob, Sumac and Pomegranate utilised in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, there has been one crucial element missing that is a vital component in any diet – green vegetables! This month we are wrapping up our plant-based blog series (perhaps revisiting Europe, Oceania and North America in the New Year!) with the best of the greens.
Regardless of their origins, these plants are readily found in many parts of the world and are worthy additions to any meal.
Watercress is usually found close to water, and as a member of the Brassicaceae plant family, it is related to broccoli, cabbage, kale, radish and mustard. Served in soups and salads, watercress has been used as a medicinal and food crop for over 2000 years with a growing number of studies suggesting that watercress has chemopreventive, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. (1) With its long history of use, it was considered to be one of the most important herbal medicines used in traditional treatment of some diseases such as diabetes and asthma. (2) Those velvety dark green leaves contain pigments such as carotenoids and chlorophyll, which have significant potential for antioxidant activity. (3)
Another member of the Brassicaceae (mustard) family, Kohlrabi is a vegetable that produces a bulb-like stem at the base of the plant. These stems may be green or purple-red though the flesh is always white. Generally consumed as a cooked vegetable, or grated raw into winter salads, it is also consumed as a curried or pickled vegetable in Korea. With high amounts of vitamin C and protective phytochemicals which the Brassicaceae family plants are renowned for, including isothiocyanates, sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, it may be a useful dietary agent to protect against colon and prostate cancer. (4)
Medicinally, Alfalfa has long been used as traditional herbal medicine in China, Iraq, Turkey, India and America for the treatment of a variety of ailments. (5) Alfalfa leaves and sprouts contain flavonoids and oestrogenic isoflavonoids, phytosterols and vitamins including Vitamin K.(5,6) Therapeutically, it is used as a hypocholesterolemic and hypolipidemic in the treatment of atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke, an antioxidant for cancer and its oestrogenic properties may help to combat menopausal symptoms in women. (5)
Alfalfa is typically well-tolerated and is “generally recognised as safe” as a food by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (6) Food is certainly medicine and alfalfa is no exception. Enjoy in salads, wraps and toast toppers or toss through a stir fry at the end of cooking to warm through and wilt.
Eat the Rainbow with a side of greens.
Move over broccoli and kale and make room for the new greens on the plate! Whether you are vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian or have started a ‘meatless Monday’ tradition, increasing the variety of plant-based foods in your diet is always a good idea.
We hope this blog series has helped you to feel inspired to try new foods and cuisines. Variety is the spice of life and aiming for at least 30 different food types per week just got easier. Bon voyage for your trip to your local farmers market, health food store or speciality store and happy cooking!
We have a wonderful “best of the greens” Wellness Recipe for you. You can click to read and print it HERE.