When people discover that I live by a vegan diet they are always quite curious. Not so much in terms of the ideology behind this, more in terms of the health and nutrition side related to this diet/lifestyle.
The most common questions that I am asked, either from my friends that knew me prior as a omnivore or other people that I encounter today (that are not vegetarian or vegan) are; “what do you eat and do you cook?”, “where do you get your protein from?”, and “do you eat enough?”. Firstly, I actually find that I eat a lot more than I did before and immensely enjoy cooking. I have developed a keen sense for cooking and experimenting to create my own recipes utilising only clean ingredients taking into account their nutritional value and how this will aid my body.
I found that as I slowly moved away from eating meat last year, and then adopting a vegan diet earlier this year in March, that I developed more of an appetite for food. My tastes buds changed quite significantly as well ,craving more fresh fruit and vegetables. My energy levels and mood increased, partially because I started to enjoy the food more that I was feeding my body which I thrived on showing from inside out.
As stated by Dr. Norton, J, “anytime we ingest food, our body releases digestive enzymes to break the food down or digest the food. Because animal protein (meat) is a more complex food, our body expends a much larger amount of digestive enzymes to digest it. The longer the meat takes to digest, the more digestive enzymes are exhausted. ” (Dr. Norton, J, 2012). Furthermore, in an article by Dr. Mercola, “the more raw foods you eat, the lower the burden on your body to produce the enzymes it needs, not only for digestion, but for practically everything. Whatever enzymes are not used up in digestion are then available to help with other important physiological processes” (Dr. Mercola, 2011). Just purely from reading these two statements and other articles on the benefits of a plant based diet, I know for myself that I rather my body’s enzymes and energy to be used to their fullest potential for the rest of my biological processes instead of breaking down meat. Enzymes are essential for creating more energy, absorbing and transporting more oxygen through our cells, fighting all those nasty infections floating around, breaking down fats in the body which can lead to cholesterol issues, and also slow down the aging process (anything to help my asian gene out and remain looking/feeling youthful) (Dr. Mercola, 2011).
I was excited to educate myself on plant based sources of food that contained higher levels of iron, protein, zinc, magnesium, and all the other essential vitamins and minerals which are necessary to sustain a healthy mind and body. No longer could I, or did I want to just consume a piece of steak for my iron and protein as many people recommend. Through eating a plant based diet I started to feel a lot lighter, balanced in both my body and mind, and more vibrant as my body was not expending as much energy and digestive enzymes to break down the meat.
One of the other main questions that people asked me, as mentioned above, is “where do I get my protein from?”. This especially comes from those who know me as being a highly active individual alternating between running, yoga, weight training, amongst other exercises on a daily basis. As you can see from above, this is a quick and easy guide to vegan sources of protein, however, this takes time to really learn how to create a vast range of meals where you are mindfully of incorporating these sources. However, you do not have to incorporate all of them into each and every meal because I can just imagine this would be quite interesting.
In this recipe of Kale & Basil Pesto Quinoa with Sweet Potato, I utilised my Vegan Kale & Basil Pesto to create a simple and quick main meal that is packed full of protein and yummy goodness. The guide above only shows a few good sources of protein out there, and as you can see in the below recipe and the use of the Vegan Kale & Basil Pesto, that quinoa and kale are present in a significant portion. However, I would like to give a special mention to nutritional yeast and sweet potato.
Before turning vegan I loved my cheese, especially goats milk cheese. Nutritional yeast has since become my saviour as an alternative adding this to my pasta and also to my Vegan Kale & Basil Pesto. Not only is this delicious with a nutty, cheesy taste, but with the added bonus of being high in vitamin B, and of course a great source of protein. See who needs actual cheese when you have this healthy and clean source grown solely for its nutritional benefit?!
Inactive dry yeast, vitamin B3, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12
|Nutrients||Per 1 heaping tablespoon|
|Total Fat||1 gram|
|Vitamin B1 (thiamin)||640% Daily Value (DV)|
|Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)||560% DV|
|Vitamin B3 (niacin)||280% DV|
|Vitamin B6||480% DV|
|Folic Acid||60% DV|
|Vitamin B12||130% DV|
Source: Best Natural Foods
Sweet potatoes are one of my favourite vegetables. I will happily eat these fresh out of the oven without any seasoning on it, just enjoying the natural sweetness. The nutritionists at the Center for Science in the Public Interest “ranked the sweet potato number one in nutrition of all vegetables. With a score of 184, the sweet potato outscored the next highest vegetable by more than 100 points. Points were given for content of dietary fiber, naturally occurring sugars and complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium” (Ehler, J, 2015).
Sweet Potato Nutrition Facts (for one medium size sweet potato)
- Calories 130
- Fat 0.39 g
- Protein 2.15 g
- Net Carbs 31.56 g
- Dietary Fiber 3.9 g
- Calcium 28.6 mg
- Sodium 16.9 mg
- Potassium 265.2 mg
- Folate 18.2 mcg
- Vitamin C 29.51 mg
- Vitamin A 26081.9 IU
Source: US Department of Agriculture
Now start preparing this wholesome Kale & Basil Pesto Quinoa with Sweet Potato so that you have the right fuel to hit the yoga mat, gym, trails, or weights tomorrow. Don’t forget to make extra so that you can easily store this either in the fridge or freezer ready to heat up for another meal when you are short on time and have the urge to buy take away or eat out. Nothing beats a home cooked meal that only contains clean ingredients without any hidden unhealthy ingredients.
This recipe makes 4 servings
Vegan, Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Wheat Free, Refined Sugar Free
Preparation & Total Time
Vegan Kale & Basil Pesto – 7 Minutes
Additional Prep Time – 12 minutes
Cooking Time – 20 minutes
- 1 medium sized sweet potato
- 1 medium red onion diced
- 1 ½ cup of dried quinoa
- 1 ¼ cup of Vegan Kale & Basil Pesto (see recipe)
- 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
- celtic salt and pepper to taste
- 1 x Small skillet
- 1 x measuring cup
- 1 x measuring spoon
- 1 x chopping board
- 1 x chopping knife
- Food Processor
- Baking Tray
- 1 x large Pan
- Pre soak the Quinoa overnight. If time sensitive, soak the quinoa for 10 minute in lukewarm water
- Make the Vegan Kale and Basil Pesto
- Preheat the oven to 180 degree
- Cut the sweet potato into small chunks, keeping the skin on for more fiber and roast for 10-15 minutes in foil so that the pieces are soft but not falling apart
- While the sweet potato is roasting, dice the red onion
- Pace the onion and coconut oil into the pan, sauteing for a few minutes until it is soft
- Add in the quinoa and toast for a few minutes
- Add in the Basil/Kale Pesto and mix well for a few minutes until fully combined and the quinoa is cooked thoroughly.
- Add in celtic sea salt and black pepper for taste
- Toss in the sweet potato and serve this while still hot. Bon A Petit!
- For extra nutrition and crunch add in some toasted pinenuts and chopped steamed asparagus at the end tossed in with the sweet potato
- One Green Planet, 2015, “The Ultimate Healthy and Clean Vegan Protein Cheat Sheet (Infographic)“. Available from: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/a-green-monsters-guide-to-healthy-and-clean-protein-sources-infographic/
- Ehler, J, 2015, “Sweet Potato Nutrition“, FoodReference.com. Available from: http://www.foodreference.com/html/sweet-pot-nutrition.html
- Dr. Mercola, J, 2015 “The Type of Food that Will Slow Nearly EVERY Inflammatory Disease...”, Available from: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/08/21/enzymes-special-report.aspx
- Dr. Norton, J, 2015, “Digesting Animal Protein“, The Norton Norton Center, Eating Disorder Pro. Available from: http://www.eatingdisorderpro.com/2012/05/30/digesting-animal-protein/
- Best Natural Foods, 2015, “Nutritional Yeast“. Available from: http://bestnaturalfoods.com/nutritional_yeast.html