Top 10 Pantry Essentials for a Plant-Based Diet
By BRENDAN BRAZIER
The foundation of my diet is whole fruits and vegetables, bought from farmers markets and stored on my counter or in my fridge. Nutrient-dense, high-net-gain fruits and vegetables are the foundation of every healthy diet.
But there are many other supporting, wholesome ingredients that don't need to be bought weekly and can be stored in your pantry for convenience. By stocking your cupboards with nutrient-dense essentials, whole-food meals will come together more quickly.
While beans aren't the only protein-rich foods that you'll 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.
[Read More: Top Myths About Plant-Based Diets]
2. Multisource Plant-Based Protein Powder
If you find you're often missing meals or having a harder time fitting protein-rich foods in your diet, a minimally processed protein powder can be part of a whole-food diet. Hemp, pea and SaviSeed proteins are my personal choices. When looking for a protein powder, make sure it is made from whole foods, is non-GMO, vegan and doesn't contain common allergens or artificial ingredients.
A combination of more than one type of protein powder is beneficial to get a complete amino acid profile. (Vega One is an all-in-one nutritional shake that not only contains 20 grams of complete, premium plant-based protein, but also has six servings of greens, 50 percent of the daily requirement of vitamins and minerals and more -- all made from real, whole foods).
3. Hemp Seeds
Hemp is a superfood by any definition. A complete protein that's rich in fiber and omega-3s, hemp is a great addition to any diet. Look for cold-pressed hempseed oil for salad dressing, a plant-based protein that contains hemp for smoothies and hempseeds to toss on 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 nutrient-dense additions to your diet. They are rich in calcium, iron, iodine and electrolytes, easily digestible, chlorophyll-rich and alkaline-forming.
5. Coconut Oil
Unrefined coconut oil is my favorite cooking oil. 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 nondairy milk, hemp seeds and fresh fruit.
8. Apple Cider Vinegar
A favorite of mine, and not only for the flavor it provides in a vinaigrette, apple cider vinegar helps with digestion because it contains prebiotics -- food for the healthy bacteria in your gut.
[Read More: 8 Reasons to Love Apple Cider Vinegar]
9. Nutritional Yeast
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 crave 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.
Readers -- Do you follow a plant-based diet? What are some must-have foods that you always have on hand? Do you have any quick and easy plant-based recipes? Leave a comment below and let us know.
For recipes that include these pantry essentials and more, visit the Vega Recipe Center.
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.