Nutrient Nuggets - Why More Plant-Based Meals Can Help You Feel Better!

Just a couple of weeks ago we were able to meet up with Kim Concra of Cape Cod Cooperative Extention to talk about the benefits of adding a few more meatless meals to our weekly rotation!


Keeping in mind the uncertain year that most of us have been navigating through, Kim gave us some tips and tricks to stocking a “pandemic pantry” that can help keep at-home meals quick, easy, flavorful, and of course healthy!


Why eat more plants?

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1. Fiber - Incorporating more plant-based meals throughout the week can improve internal gut health - this means that you’ll be better able to absorb nutrients from food. Better absorption of nutrients helps to support your immune system and reduce inflammation. Fiber can also help lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar and of course, it's great for good bowel management too!


2. Polyphenols - eat the rainbow! Polyphenols are a category of compounds naturally found in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices, and have also been found in some tea, dark chocolate, and - thank goodness - wine. Polyphenols can act like antioxidants - meaning they can neutralize harmful free radicals that would otherwise damage your cells and increase. Additionally, they are thought to aid in reducing inflammation.


3. Variety is key - to get the most out of plant-based meals, we should be aiming to incorporate a variety of different options. This ensures that we are getting a well-rounded intake of essential vitamins and other nutrients! And really, aren’t we ALL tired of the dino nuggets and eggo waffles yet?


4. Health - In addition to added nutrients and fiber benefits, plant based meals tend to be lower in cholesterol and saturated fats! Caloric density of most plants and veggies is lower than that of traditional animal proteins, too, meaning that you can eat more and feel less sluggish after a meal - ready to tackle that at-home workout or a nature trail!


 


Yes you CAN - The Pandemic Pantry

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A few good staples with an extended shelf life can act as a savior during a hectic weeknight!

  • Beans: add to soups for more protein, mash or puree and add spices for a dip, add to pasta or grain salad, make veggie burgers.

  • Tuna: a great protein boost to pair with veggies or crackers for a snack, or add as a topping to boost a salad!

  • Veggies: canned or frozen! Mix into stir-fry dishes, add to a soup, or spice it up and have as a side dish.

  • Soups: a quick, simple, no-fuss weeknight savior - boost it by adding beans or canned veggies!


 

Mighty Micronutrients


Plant-based foods offer a great many micronutrients - but what do they really do for us and how can we be sure to work them into our daily lives?


Vitamin B12

  • Important for creating red blood cells + DNA; maintaing healthy nerve function

  • Aabsorption lessens as we get older

  • Sources: animal-based foods, nutritional yeast - many vegetarians or vegans take supplements in order to keep their B12 levels up!

Magnesium

  • Immune strength, healthy hear and strong bones - plus constupation relief!

  • Sources: Broccoli, bananas, walnuts, almonds, oatmeal, beets.

Fiber

  • Promotoes healthy digestion

  • Feeding the good bacteria in our microbiomes

  • Sources: whole grains, beans, fruits & veggies

Omega - 3 Fatty Acids

  • Research ongoing regarding sympton reduction for rheumatoid arthritis & vision issues, as well as reducing risks of alzheimers & aid in long- lasting brain function.

  • Sources: Salmon, mackerel, sardines, fish oil, walnuts, flax seed oil, oysters

Vitamin C

  • Immune boosting antioxidant, protects vision, skin & heart

  • Sources: citrus, red/green peppers, strawberries, kiwi, broccoli, brussels sprouts

Vitamin D

  • Helps with absorption of Calcium, can help in disease prevention & blood pressure stabilization.

  • Sources: seafood & fish oils, wild mushrooms, egg yolks, fortified milk, soymilk, orange juice, cereals, instant oatmeal.

Potassium

  • Vital for cell function

  • Sources: bananas, mango, potatoes, avocado, kidney beans, leafy greens, spinach, tomatoes, fish

Quinoa: Grain, seed, superfood.

  • Contains 9 essential amino acids to help the body thrive

  • Zinc, iron, potassium, vitamin E

  • Tip: rinse before cooking to remove bitter saponins


Adding even a couple plant-based meals into the weeknight rotation can have such a great improvement on everyone! Packed with benefits and essential vitamins and nutrients, plants can help to power us through whatever the day throws at us!


What are some plant-based meals that we may not have tried yet? Has anything worked for your family during this crazy year to help with being omre mindful of fruit and vegetable or nutrient consumption? We’d love to hear your successes! Email us today: capecodhealthyconnections@gmail.com and let us know your thoughts!




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