What do you eat when you're striving for a healthy diet while avoiding so many of the foods present in a standard diet? Here's a list of plant-based allergy-friendly nutritional categories to help you plan your menus.
With the help of The China Study Cookbook we've compiled this list of 8 nutritional categories needed for a healthy, allergy-free lifestyle. This list omits not only the top 8 allergens - fish, shellfish, nuts, peanuts, wheat, soy, eggs, and dairy - but also corn, gluten and meat.
You can think of these categories like sections on a food pyramid or divisions of a dietary plate. It's a challenge to find a food pyramid that doesn't reflect the accepted Standard American Diet or a vegetarian equivalent that manages to exclude processed soy products, so we've decided to build our own. Keep a look-out for updates on this post when we add an allergy-friendly plant-based whole foods pyramid!
8 Allergy-Friendly Plant-Based Nutritional Categories for a Whole Foods Diet
1. Leaves -
Definition: also called greens or potherbs, leaves are the edible leaves or flattened structure attached to the stem or stalk of a plant and eaten as a vegetable; they are the main organs of photosynthesis and transpiration.
Nutrients: Low in calories and fat, leaves contain complex carbohydrates, and are high in protein, fiber, antioxidants, carotenoids, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, manganese and folate
Include: alfalfa, aloe vera, artichoke, arugula/rocket, asparagus, basil, beet greens, bok choi, Brussels sprout, cabbage, celery, chard, chicory/radicchio, cilantro/coriander, collard greens, cumin, dill, endive, fennel, kale, all lettuces (batavia, butterhead, green leaf, mesclun, oak leaf, red leaf, romaine, salad bowl), lovage, mibuna, mint, mizuna, mustard greens, oregano, parsley, rapini/broccoli rabe, rhubarb, rosemary, sage, seaweed (blue-green algae/spirulina, green algae/sea lettuce, red algae/nori/dulse, brown algae or kelp, arame, kombu, hijiki, wakame, bladderwrack), spinach, sorrel, thyme, turnip greens, watercress
2. Roots -
Definition: The fleshy, enlarged root of a plant consumed as food; parts of plants that grow below the ground; also called bulbs or tubers.
Nutrients: Generally organs enlarged to store energy in the form of carbohydrates; many roots are starchy and some provide carotenoids
Include: beet, carrot, fennel bulb, garlic, ginger, ginseng, jerusalem artichoke/sunchoke/sunroot (not the same as artichoke), jicama root, leek, onion, parsnip, all potatoes, radish, rutabaga, shallot, taro root, turmeric, turnip, yam (not the same as sweet potato), yuca/cassava
3. Flowers -
Definition: plants of which the flowers or florets or heads of the vegetable are used as food
Nutrients: Rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals
Includes: broccoli, cauliflower, chamomile, chervil, chive, chicory, dandelion, lavender, lilac, rose, saffron
4. Fruit -
Definition: Product of a tree or other food plant that contains seed(s)
Nutrients: Packed with vitamin C and phytochemicals
Include: apple, apricot, avocado, banana, berries, cherry, clementine, coconut (a stonefruit, not a nut), currant, cucumber, date, eggplant/aubergine, grapefruit, grape, kiwi, mango, nectarine, okra, olive, orange, papaya, peach, pear, peppers (bell, banana, chile, jalapeno), persimmon, plum, pomegranate, squash (including pumpkin and zucchini), tomato, watermelon
5. Grains -
Definition: A small hard seed of a food plant
Nutrients: carbohydrates, fiber, minerals and B-complex vitamins
Include: amaranth, millet, oat, quinoa, rice (white, brown, red, black, wild), sorghum, teff
6. Legumes -
Definition: a family of plants that bear edible seeds in pods
Nutrients: protein, fiber, carbohydrates, folate, manganese, iron; legumes contain no cholesterol and little fat or sodium and are starchy vegetables
Include: beans (adzuki, black, black-eyed pea, cannellini, chickpea/garbanzo, kidney, lima/butter, pinto, white), lentils (black, brown, green, red, yellow), peas (green, yellow, snow pea, sugar snap pea), green/french/string/snap/haricot beans
7. Seeds -
Definition: a flowering plant’s unit of reproduction, capable of developing into another plant
Nutrients: omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and protein, amino acids, B-complex vitamins, manganese, iron, magnesium
Include: chia, cacao/cocoa (nibs or beans, as in chocolate), flax, hemp, poppy, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower
8. Fungi -
Definition: any diverse group of single-celled organisms that live by decomposing and absorbing the organic material in which they grow
Nutrients: Selenium and other antioxidants, B-complex vitamins
Include: mushrooms (baby bella, cremini, oyster, porcini, portabella, shiitake, white button), yeast (active, nutritional)
Keep in mind of course that a healthy diet involves processed foods that are kept to a minimum, water as your frequent liquid of choice, and exercise as a daily practice.
And you thought you couldn't get all of your nutrients with a whole foods, plant-based allergy-friendly diet? Think again!
Keep your eyes open for an upcoming post detailing the necessary vitamins and nutrients for a healthy diet.