Plant based diet

Plant based diet

A plant-based diet is based on foods derived from plants such as vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds and fruits, with decreased consumption of meat, eggs and dairy products 1). Plant-based diets which are rich in beans, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables, wholegrains such as oats, rice, and cereal based foods such as breads, and pasta can provide all the nutrients needed for good health. This includes essential fats, protein, vitamins, minerals and plenty of fiber too. Well-planned plant-based diets can support healthy living at every age and life-stage. Include a wide variety of healthy whole foods to ensure your diet is balanced and sustainable.

In the US, it is estimated that well-planned completely plant-based, or vegan diets need just one third of the fertile land, fresh water and energy of the typical American ‘meat-and-dairy’ based diet. With meat and dairy being the leading contributor to greenhouse emissions, reducing animal based foods and choosing a wide range of plant foods can be beneficial to the planet and your health.

People choose a plant-based diet for a variety of reasons including concern about the treatment of animals, health reasons, environmental concerns or because of taste and social pressure. Plant-based diets are becoming more popular and if they are well planned, can support healthy living at every age and life-stage.

Well balanced plant-based diets, that are also low in saturated fat, can help you manage your weight and may reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. However, as with any diet, plant-based nutrition needs to be planned.

A well-balanced, plant-based diet is composed of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, herbs, spices, and a small amount of nuts and seeds. Half of the plate should consist of vegetables and fruits in accordance with the US Department of Agriculture, American Cancer Society, and American Heart Association, because they are filled with fiber, potassium, magnesium, iron, folate, and vitamins C and A—almost all of the nutrients that tend to run low in the American population, according to the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee 2). Legumes are excellent sources of lysine (an amino acid that may fall short in a plant-based diet), fiber, calcium, iron, zinc, and selenium. It is ideal to consume one to one-and-a-half cups of legumes per day. Substantiating meals with whole grains aids with satiety, energy, and versatility in cuisine. Nuts are nutritional nuggets, brimming with essential fats, protein, fiber, vitamin E, and plant sterols, and have been shown to promote cardiovascular health 3) and protect against type 2 diabetes and obesity 4), macular degeneration 5), and gall stones (cholelithiasis) 6). One oz to 2 oz (or 30 g to 60 g) of nuts per day is recommended. Seeds, too, are special in that their essential fat ratios are well-balanced, and they contain multiple trace minerals and phytochemicals. One or 2 tablespoons per day will boost overall nutrition. Opting for whole food sources of fats, as opposed to extracted fats as found in oils, is optimal to decrease caloric density and increase nutrient and fiber consumption. Herbs and spices also contain phytochemicals and help make food delicious, varied, and exciting, and should be used according to preference.

Types of plant-based diets include:

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians – eat dairy foods and eggs but not meat, poultry or seafood.
  • Ovo-vegetarians – include eggs but avoid all other animal foods, including dairy.
  • Lacto-vegetarians – eat dairy foods but exclude eggs, meat, poultry and seafood.
  • Vegans – don’t eat any animal products at all, including honey, dairy and eggs. Many shop bought ready-made products may contain animal ingredients so the labels of all manufactured products do need to be read carefully.

Variations of plant-based diets include:

  • Pescetarians – eat fish and/or shellfish.
  • Semi-vegetarians (or flexitarians) – occasionally eat meat or poultry.

Most nutrients are abundantly available in plant-based diets, but if you are avoiding all or minimizing your consumption of animal-derived foods there are a few nutrients that you need to pay attention to:

  • Calcium – Calcium is essential for bone health, along with weightbearing exercise and a healthy diet. An adult requires approximately 700 mg per day. Dairy foods are rich in calcium but if you are not eating these make sure you obtain calcium from other sources like fortified plant-based dairy alternatives, dried fruit e.g. figs, nuts such as almonds, leafy green vegetables, red kidney beans, sesame seeds, tahini and tofu to lower your risk of bone fractures. Phytates, compounds found in whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts, and wheat bran, can bind with calcium as well as with other minerals and inhibit absorption. Soaking, sprouting, leavening, and fermenting improve absorption.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – Omega-3 fats have been shown to be important for health and are commonly found in oily fish. However if you are not eating fish, plant sources of omega-3 include walnuts, flax (linseed), hemp seeds, chia seeds and soya beans. Oils such as hemp, rapeseed and flaxseed oil provide essential omega-3 fats and are preferable to corn/sunflower oils.
  • Vitamin D – Vitamin D is needed to keep your bones, teeth and muscles healthy and is made in your body when your skin is exposed to appropriate sunlight. In the US this is usually between April and September. During the winter months, you need to get vitamin D from your diet because the sun isn’t strong enough for your body to make it. Plant-based sources of vitamin D include sun-exposed mushrooms and fortified foods such as vegetable spreads, breakfast cereals and plant-based dairy alternatives. Since it’s difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everyone should consider taking a daily supplement of vitamin D during the autumn and winter months. The United States Endocrine Society states that to maintain serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [also known as calcidiol or 25(OH)D], levels above 75 nmol/L (30 ng/mL), adults might need at least 37.5 to 50 mcg (1,500–2,000 IU)/day of supplemental vitamin D, and children and adolescents might need at least 25 mcg (1,000 IU)/day 7). In contrast, the United Kingdom government recommends intakes of 10 mcg (400 IU)/day for its citizens aged 4 years and older 8). Some vitamin D supplements are not suitable for vegans. Vitamin D2 and lichen-derived vitamin D3 are suitable.
  • Iodine – Iodine is a trace element and is an essential component of the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Thyroid hormones regulate many important biochemical reactions, including protein synthesis and enzymatic activity, and are critical determinants of metabolic activity 9). They are also required for proper skeletal and central nervous system development in fetuses and infants 10). The major sources of iodine in your diet are dairy products and fish. The iodine content of plant foods depends on the iodine content of the soil which is variable. Foods grown closer to the ocean tend to be higher in iodine. Where soils are iodine deficient, iodized salt and seaweed provide iodine which is needed in moderation. One half-teaspoon of iodized salt provides the daily recommended 150-µg dose. Also the iodine content of seaweed is variable, with some (especially dulse and nori) containing safe amounts and sometimes too high such as kelp which harbors toxic doses, guidance is not to consume sea vegetables more than once a week. Hijiki, also spelled hiziki, should be avoided owing to its excessive arsenic levels. A preexisting iodine deficiency, a selenium deficiency, or high intake of goitrogens (antinutrients found in cruciferous vegetables, soy products, flaxseeds, millet, peanuts, peaches, pears, pine nuts, spinach, sweet potatoes, and strawberries) can interfere with iodine absorption. There is no need to avoid goitrogenic foods as long as iodine intake is sufficient. If you do not enjoy sea vegetables or is minimizing intake of salt, an iodine supplement may be warranted. An excess of iodine is also unhealthy so if you are taking a supplement, discuss this with your dietitian.
  • Vitamin B12 is also known as cobalamin or cyanocobalamin (man-made form of vitamin B12) – You need vitamin B12 for many reasons. Too little can result in fatigue, anemia and nerve damage and increase homocysteine levels leading to cardiovascular disease. Most people get vitamin B12 by eating animal products. If you are eliminating all animal derived foods, the only reliable sources of vitamin B12 are fortified foods and supplements. Suitable B12-fortified foods include some breakfast cereals, yeast extracts, soya yogurts and non-dairy milks. To make sure you get enough vitamin B12, either eat fortified foods at least twice a day, aiming for 3mcg of vitamin B12 a day, or take a supplement, 10mcg daily or at least 2000mcg weekly. If you are worried whether you are obtaining sufficient vitamin B12, a dietitian can calculate your intake from food/supplements or a doctor can check your blood homocysteine levels.
  • Iron – Iron is a mineral that your body needs for growth and development. Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body, and myoglobin, a protein that provides oxygen to muscles. Your body also needs iron to make some hormones 11). Plant sources of iron include dried fruits, wholegrains, nuts, green leafy vegetables, seeds and pulses. The form of iron in plant foods is absorbed far less efficiently compared to iron from animal derived sources such as meat and eggs. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C to help the iron to be absorbed e.g. citrus fruits, strawberries, green leafy vegetables and peppers. Iron absorption may be diminished in the presence of phytates, tannic acids from tea, calcium in dairy, fiber, polyphenols in coffee and cocoa, and certain spices (eg, turmeric, coriander, chilies, and tamarind). To minimize this, separate iron-rich foods from these nutrients as much as possible. An example is to drink coffee or tea separately from meals or to mix up meal combinations. One of the best tips for optimizing iron absorption is to eat iron-rich foods in combination with foods high in vitamin C and organic acids. This improves solubility, thereby facilitating absorption. Examples of such optimizing food combinations are a green smoothie with leafy greens (iron) and fruit (vitamin C) or salad greens (iron) with tomatoes (vitamin C).
  • Zinc – Zinc is involved in numerous aspects of cellular metabolism. Zinc is required for the catalytic activity of approximately 100 enzymes 12) and it plays a role in immune function 13), protein synthesis 14), wound healing 15), DNA synthesis 16) and cell division 17). Zinc also supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence 18) and is required for proper sense of taste and smell 19). A daily intake of zinc is required to maintain a steady state because the body has no specialized zinc storage system 20). Zinc deficiency may be difficult to detect in blood tests but can show up clinically as delayed wound healing, growth retardation, hair loss, diminished immunity, suppressed appetite, taste abnormalities, or skin or eye lesions. Phytates found in plant foods such as wholegrains and beans reduce zinc absorption, so it’s important to eat good sources of zinc-containing foods. Eat fermented soya such as tempeh and miso, beans (soak dried beans then rinse before cooking to increase zinc absorption), wholegrains, nuts, seeds and some fortified breakfast cereals.
  • Selenium – Selenium is important for reproduction, thyroid gland function, DNA production, and protecting the body from damage caused by free radicals and from infection 21). Plant sources of selenium include grains, seeds and nuts. Just two brazil nuts daily will provide you with your daily requirement of selenium. Although selenium content varies depending on the source, an average ounce (approximately 6 to 8 Brazil nuts) can provide 777% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is the average daily level of intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97%-98%) healthy people. When accessible, one Brazil nut a day is an ideal way of meeting selenium recommendations. Other plant sources include whole grains, legumes, vegetables, seeds, and other nuts.
  • Protein – Plant based sources of protein include lentils, beans, chickpeas, seeds, nuts and nut butters (e.g. peanut butter), and tofu. Eggs, and dairy are also good sources if you are eating these. Meat substitutes like vegetarian burgers, soya sausages, and other meat alternatives can be useful for those adapting to a plant-based diet and can provide a source of protein. However as with any processed foods, these can often be high in salt and fat so should be used in moderation. These products may contain animal ingredients such as eggs, milk derivatives and honey so careful label reading is necessary if you wish to follow a vegan diet.

It is crucial to note that all whole foods contain all three macronutrients. It is a pervasive misunderstanding to identify a food as a “carb,” “protein,” or “fat.” Instead, these are all nutrients within a complex of other myriad constituents that are beyond the oversimplification perpetuated by the media and trendy diet fads.

Ideally, a healthful diet is loaded with wholesome carbohydrates, moderate in fat, and temperate in protein. The emphasis must be on the quality of the totality of foods coming from whole plant sources as opposed to calculations and perfect ratios.

All calories (kcals) come from some combination of carbohydrates (4 kcals/g), proteins (4 kcals/g), and fats (9 kcals/g).

Carbohydrates

The Institute of Medicine’s adequate intake of carbohydrates is 130 g/day for everyone (except during pregnancy and lactation) beginning at age 1 year 22). Optimal sources of carbohydrates, such as wholesome vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, are high in fiber and nutrients. Refined carbohydrates from sugars, flours, and other processed foods can lead to malnourishment and promote illness.

Protein

Adequate intake of protein is based on weight and is estimated at 1.5 g/kg/day for infants, 1.1 g/kg/day for 1 to 3 year olds, 0.95 g/kg/day for 4 to 13 year olds, 0.85 g/kg/day for 14 to 18 year olds, 0.8 g/kg/day for adults, and 1.1 g/kg/day for pregnant (using prepregnancy weight) and lactating women 23). Protein is readily available throughout the plant kingdom, but those foods that are particularly rich in protein include legumes, nuts and nut butters, seeds and seed butters, soy foods, and intact whole grains.

Fats

Fats or fatty acids are more complicated because there are several different chemical varieties based on level and type of saturation. Each category of fatty acid performs different functions and acts uniquely in your body 24).

The essential fatty acids are polyunsaturated and include both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats are found in their shorter chain form as alpha linolenic acid and are used as energy. They are also converted by the body to the longer-chain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and then docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Because this conversion process can be inefficient, some people may require a direct source of these longer-chain EPA and DHA in the form of a microalgae supplement. Alpha linolenic acid can be found in flaxseeds, hemp-seeds, chia seeds, leafy green vegetables (both terrestrial and marine), soybeans and soy products, walnuts, and wheat germ, as well as in their respective oils. A direct plant source of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is microalgae, through which fish acquire them. Plant sources may be superior because they do not contain the contaminants that fish contain, including heavy metals, such as mercury, lead, and cadmium, as well as industrial pollutants. Also, plant sources are more sustainable than fish sources 25).

Monounsaturated fats are not essential but have been found to impart either a neutral or slightly beneficial effect on serum cholesterol levels, depending on which nutrient they are replacing. When swapped for saturated fats, trans fats, or refined carbohydrates, monounsaturated fats may lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad cholesterol”) and raise high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL or “good cholesterol”). These fatty acids are found in olives, avocados, macadamia nuts, hazel-nuts, pecans, peanuts, and their respective oils, as well as in canola, sunflower, and safflower oils.

Saturated fats, as mentioned above, are not essential in the diet and can promote cardiovascular disease. They are found primarily in animal products but are available in some plant foods, mostly in tropical fats and oils, such as palm and coconut, and also in other high-fat foods, including avocados, olives, nuts, and seeds. If a vegan diet contains an average of 5% to 6% of calories from saturated fat, which is what the American Heart Organization recommends for a heart-healthy diet 26), any added serving of animal products will significantly increase the total intake.

Trans fatty acids are laboratory-made via hydrogenation and are found in processed, fried, and fast foods. Although they were originally developed to be a healthy alternative to butter and lard, trans fatty acids were found to significantly increase cardiovascular disease risk. In 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a notice that trans fatty acids were no longer considered safe 27) and is now trying to eliminate artificially produced trans fatty acids (there are small amounts found naturally in meat and dairy products) from the food supply. Be aware that a nutritional label can state a food product contains “0 g trans fats” even if it contains up to 0.5 g per serving. Thus, you need to focus on the ingredient list on food products and to avoid anything with the words “partially hydrogenated.”

Dietary cholesterol is a sterol that is found primarily in animal products. Although cholesterol is required for the production of hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids, the liver produces enough cholesterol on its own. Excessive intake of dietary cholesterol is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Phytosterols, which are similar to cholesterol, are plant-based sterols found in all plant foods (especially wheat germ, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, and unrefined plant oils). Phytosterols reduce cholesterol absorption in the gut, thereby optimizing lipid profiles. Together with viscous fibers, soy proteins, and almonds, phytosterols have been found to be as effective as statins in some studies in lowering low-density lipoprotein cholesterol 28).

Plant based diet health benefits

Plant-based nutrition has exploded in popularity, and many advantages have been well documented over the past several decades 29). Plant-based diets have been associated with lowering overall and ischemic heart disease mortality 30); supporting sustainable weight management 31); reducing medication needs 32); lowering the risk for most chronic diseases 33); decreasing the incidence and severity of high-risk conditions, including obesity 34), hypertension 35), hyperlipidemia and hyperglycemia 36) and even possibly reversing advanced coronary artery disease 37) and type 2 diabetes 38).

The reason for these outcomes is two-fold. First, there are inherent benefits to eating a wide variety of health-promoting plants. Second, there is additional benefit from crowding out and thereby avoiding—the injurious constituents found in animal products, including the following:

  • Saturated fats: Saturated fats are a group of fatty acids found primarily in animal products (but also in the plant kingdom—mostly in tropical oils, such as coconut and palm) that are well established in the literature as promoting cardiovascular disease 39). The American Heart Association lowered its recommendations 40) for a heart-healthy diet to include no more than 5% to 6% of total calories from saturated fat, which is just the amount found naturally in a vegan diet (one consisting of no animal products).
  • Dietary cholesterol: Human bodies produce enough cholesterol for adequate functioning. Although evidence suggests that dietary cholesterol may only be a minor player in elevated serum cholesterol levels, high intakes are linked to increased susceptibility to low-density lipoprotein oxidation, both of which are associated with the promotion of cardiovascular disease 41). Dietary cholesterol is found almost exclusively in animal products.
  • Antibiotics: The vast majority (70% to 80%) of antibiotics used in the US are given to healthy livestock animals to avoid infections inherent in the types of environments in which they are kept 42). This is, therefore, the number one contributor to the increasingly virulent antibiotic-resistant infections of the type that sickened 2 million and killed 23,000 Americans in 2013 43).
  • Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) also called somatomedin C: Insulin-like growth factor-1 is a hormone naturally found in animals, including humans. This hormone promotes growth. When insulin-like growth factor-1 is consumed, not only is the added exogenous dose itself taken in, but because the amino acid profile typical of animal protein stimulates the body’s production of insulin-like growth factor-1, more is generated endogenously 44). Fostering growth as a full-grown adult can promote cancer proliferation.
  • Heme iron: Although heme iron, found in animal products, is absorbed at a higher rate than nonheme iron, found in plant-based and fortified foods, absorption of nonheme iron can be increased by pairing plant-based protein sources with foods high in vitamin C 45). Additionally, research suggests that excess iron is pro-oxidative 46) and may increase colorectal cancer risk 47) and promote atherosclerosis 48) and reduced insulin sensitivity 49).
  • Chemical contaminants formed from high temperature cooking of cooked animal products: When flesh is cooked, compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons 50), heterocyclic amines 51) and advanced glycation end products 52) are formed. These compounds are carcinogenic, pro-inflammatory, prooxidative, and contributive to chronic disease.
  • Carnitine: Carnitine, found primarily in meat, may be converted in the body by the gut bacteria to produce trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). High levels of trimethylamine n-oxide are associated with inflammation, atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke, and death 53).
  • N-Glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc): This compound is found in meat and promotes chronic inflammation 54).

On the other hand, there are advantages to the vast array of nutrients found in plant based foods. Phytochemicals and fibers are the two categories of nutrients that are possibly the most health promoting and disease fighting. Plants are the only source of these nutrients; they are completely absent in animals. Plants contain thousands of phytochemicals, such as carotenoids, glucosinolates, and flavonoids, which perform a multitude of beneficial functions, including:

  • Antioxidation, neutralizing free radicals 55)
  • Anti-inflammation 56)
  • Cancer activity reduction via several mechanisms, including inhibiting tumor growth, detoxifying carcinogens, retarding cell growth, and preventing cancer formation 57)
  • Immunity enhancement 58)
  • Protection against certain diseases, such as osteoporosis, some cancers, cardiovascular disease, macular degeneration, and cataracts 59)
  • Optimization of serum cholesterol 60)

Fibers found in whole plant foods support the gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and immune systems through multiple mechanisms. Yet more than 90% of adults and children in the US do not get the minimum recommended dietary fiber 61).

Thus, it can be advantageous for physicians to recommend and support plant-based eating to achieve optimal health outcomes and possibly minimize the need for procedures, medications, and other treatments. Aiming for lifestyle changes as primary prevention has been estimated to save upwards of 70% to 80% of health care costs because 75% of health care spending in the US goes to treat people with chronic conditions 62).

Plant based foods

Plant based foods recommended servings per day are shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Plant based foods group recommended servings per day

Food groupRecommended servings per day
Vegetables, all types, including starchyAd libitum, with a variety of colors represented
Fruits, all types2–4 servings (1 serving = 1 medium piece or 1/2 cup)
Whole grains (eg, quinoa, brown rice, oats)6–11 servings (1 serving = 1/2 cup cooked or 1 slice whole grain bread)
Legumes (beans, peas, lentils, soy foods)2–3 servings (1 serving = 1/2 cup cooked)
Leafy green vegetables (eg, kale, lettuce, broccoli)At least 2–3 servings (1 serving = 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked)
Nuts (eg, walnuts, almonds, pistachios)1–2 ounces
Seeds (eg, chia, hemp, and flax seeds)1–3 tablespoons
Fortified plant milks (eg, soy, almond, cashew)Optional, 2–3 cups
Fresh herbs and spicesOptional, ad libitum

Table 2. Plant based foods sources of nutrients

NutrientFood sources
Proteinlegumes (beans, lentils, peas, peanuts), nuts, seeds, soy foods (tempeh, tofu)
Omega-3 fatsseeds (chia, hemp, flax), leafy green vegetables, microalgae, soybeans and soy foods, walnuts, wheat germ
Fibervegetables, fruits (berries, pears, papaya, dried fruits), avocado, legumes (beans, lentils, peas), nuts, seeds, whole grains
Calciumlow-oxalate leafy greens (broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, collard, dandelion, kale, watercress), calcium-set tofu, almonds, almond butter, fortified plant milks, sesame seeds, tahini, figs, blackstrap molasses
Iodinesea vegetables (arame, dulse, nori, wakame), iodized salt
Ironlegumes (beans, lentils, peas, peanuts), leafy greens, soybeans and soy foods, quinoa, potatoes, dried fruit, dark chocolate, tahini, seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower), sea vegetables (dulse, nori)
Zinclegumes (beans, lentils, peas, peanuts), soy foods, nuts, seeds, oats
Cholinelegumes (beans, lentils, peas, peanuts), bananas, broccoli, oats, oranges, quinoa, soy foods
Folateleafy green vegetables, almonds, asparagus, avocado, beets, enriched grains (breads, pasta, rice), oranges, quinoa, nutritional yeast
Vitamin B12fortified foods (nutritional yeast, plant milks), supplement (2500 μg per week)
Vitamin Cfruits (especially berries, citrus, cantaloupe, kiwifruit, mango, papaya, pineapple), leafy green vegetables, potatoes, peas, bell peppers, chili peppers, tomatoes
Vitamin Dsun, fortified plant milks, supplement if deficient
Vitamin Kleafy green vegetables, sea vegetables, asparagus, avocado, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, lentils, peas, nattō (a traditional Japanese food made from soybeans fermented with Bacillus subtilis var nattō)

Plant based diet recipes

Spaghetti Bolognese

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 medium onion, finely diced
    • 1 medium carrot, finely diced
    • 1 stick celery, finely diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
    • 150g mushrooms, sliced
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
    • 300ml low-sodium vegetable stock
    • 30g sundried tomato puree
    • 1 tbsp dried mixed hebrs
    • 300g Quorn mince
    • 300g dried spaghetti
    • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Method:
    1. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic, and cook over a moderate heat for about 5 minutes until the vegetables have softened. Add the mushrooms and continue to fry for 2-3 minutes.
    2. Pour the chopped tomatoes into the pan along with the vegetable stock, tomato puree and mixed herbs. Stir well, cover the pan with a lid then simmer gently for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are cooked and the sauce has thickened.
    3. Stir the Quorn mince into the sauce and continue to cook for about 15 minutes. Season to taste.
    4. Meanwhile cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling water as per the pack instructions, drain then stir through the sauce. Serve the spaghetti bolognese in warm bowls.

Vegan Tofu Rogan Josh with Chilli Rice

  • Ingredients:
    • for the marinade
      • 1 pack Cauldron Organic Tofu
      • 1 onion, roughly chopped
      • 1 inch of ginger, grated
      • 2 cloves of garlic
      • 2 red chilli
      • 2 tbsp tomato purée
      • ½ tbsp ground cumin
      • ½ tbsp ground coriander
      • ½ tbsp ground turmeric
      • 50ml water
    • for the curry
      • 2 tbsp oil
      • 4 cardamom pods, crushed and ground
      • 1 cinnamon stick
      • 2 bay leaves
      • ¼ tsp salt
      • ¼ tsp black pepper
      • 100ml vegetable stock
      • 150g passata
    • for the rice
      • 400g brown basmati rice, cooked
      • 20g coriander
      • 1 red chilli
      • 1 tbsp lime juice
      • ¼ tsp salt
    • for garnish
      • 2 tbsp vegan yoghurt
      • 10g fresh coriander, chopped
      • 1 red chilli, finely sliced
  • Method
    1. Drain the tofu for 20 minutes by placing it in-between two chopping boards lined with a clean tea towel or kitchen roll. Put something heavy on top, e.g. food cans, to apply pressure. Once the tofu has been pressed, chop into 2.5cm cubes. Set aside.
    2. To make the marinade for the tofu, combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Place the tofu in the marinade and transfer to the fridge for at least two hours before cooking.
    3. To make the sauce, place a large saucepan on a high heat and add the oil. Add the tofu with all the remaining marinade and fry for 3-4 minutes.
    4. To make the curry, add the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, salt and pepper – fry for a further 2 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and passata and continue to cook on a lower heat for 10 minutes.
    5. To make the coriander and chilli rice, place the coriander, red chilli, lime juice and salt into a small chopper or food processor. Blitz until smooth and stir into the cooked rice.
    6. To serve, plate the rice with the curry and garnish with a drizzle of vegan yoghurt, chopped coriander and sliced red chilli.

Warming Bean Chilli

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 large onion, diced
    • 3 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
    • 2 medium peppers of any colour, cut into roughly 1cm pieces
    • 1 stick celery, sliced thinly
    • 1 medium courgette/zucchini, cut into roughly 1cm cubes
    • 2 410ml tins of beans use your favorite – kidney, black, pinto and great northern beans (approx. 3 cups)
    • 1 796ml tin crushed tomatoes (approx. just over 3 cups)
    • 1 vegetable stock cube dissolved in ¼ cup boiling water
    • 2 tsp cumin
    • 2 tsp coriander
    • 1 tbsp chili powder
    • 1 tsp smoked paprika (regular will work if you don’t have smoked)
    • ½-1 tbsp Braggs Soy Seasoning or soy sauce/tamari
  • Method
    1. Prepare all ingredients as instructed above.
    2. Add the onion to a large cooking pot, along with approx. 2 tbsp water. Using a medium stovetop heat, steam sauté the onion for 10 minutes with the lid on the pan, stirring regularly to prevent sticking.
    3. After 10 minutes, when the onion is just starting to soften add all other ingredients to the pot, stirring them to combine.
    4. Increasing the heat, bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat to low/medium and cover the pot with a lid (continuing to stir regularly).
    5. If the chili looks thick at this stage, don’t be tempted to add liquid! As the vegetables cook they will release water and the chili will naturally become more liquid.
    6. Simmer the chili for approximately 15-20 minutes, until the zucchini/courgette is tender.
    7. Remove from the heat, and serve with brown rice, avocado slices, lime wedges, chopped cilantro and tortilla chips.

Vegetarian Meatball and Tomato Soup with Lentil and Basil

  • Ingredients
    • For the soup
      • 1 tbsp olive oil
      • 1 large onion, finely chopped
      • 1 red pepper, deseeded and diced
      • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
      • 1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
      • 800ml vegtable stock, made with 1 low-salt vegetable stock cube
      • 150g dried red lentils
      • 2 tbsp tomato purée
      • 300g Quorn Swedish-style meatballs
      • 20g fresh basil
      • Black pepper, to taste
  • Method
    1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
    2. In a large saucepan, heat the oil and fry the onion gently for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the pepper and fry for a further 3 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for 1 minute.
    3. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and stock, followed by the lentils and tomato purée. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and simmer gently for 25 minutes, until the lentils are tender.
    4. Place the Quorn meatballs on a lightly oiled baking tray. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until browned and heated through.
    5. Roughly chop ¾ of the basil. When the soup is ready, remove from the heat, season with black pepper and process with a hand blender for a few seconds to roughly blend the soup, but retain some texture. Stir through the Quorn meatballs and chopped basil.
    6. Serve the soup in warm bowls with the remaining whole basil leaves, a chunk of seeded bread and an optional sprinkling of Italian-style hard cheese.

Mushroom and Vegetable Quinoa Salad

  • Ingredients:
    • 50g dried wild mushrooms
    • 100g quinoa
    • 175g broccoli, sliced
    • 1 tbsp capers
    • 1 red pepper, chopped
    • 2 tbsp frozen garden peas
    • 1 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 tbsp tamari
    • 500ml vegetable stock water
  • To garnish
    • Basil, to taste
    • Hempseed oil, to taste
    • Smoked paprika, to taste
  • Method
    1. In a large heavy saucepan with a tight fitting lid, bring the vegetable stock to the boil then add the dried mushrooms and simmer. Add the quinoa and continue to simmer gently with the lid on for 5 minutes.
    2. Add the remaining ingredients, stir and replace the lid and continue to simmer for a further 10 minutes. The quinoa should have soaked up all the water and become light and fluffy, if not stir and allow to stand with the saucepan lid tightly closed for a further five minutes.
    3. Serve with green salad or red cabbage. Sprinkle some smoked paprika and chopped basil on top and drizzle with extra tamari and hemp seed oil.

Zesty Pesto Tofu with Mediterranean Salad

  • Ingredients:
    • 250g tofu
    • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
    • 1 tsp olive oil
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 80g fresh basil
    • 1 lemon, finely grated zest and 3 tbsp juice
    • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
    • 25g pine nuts
    • 2-3 tsp vegetable stock powder
    • Pinch of caster sugar
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 6-8 tbsp low-fat natural yogurt
  • For the mixed Mediterranean sald
    • A selection such as frissee, strips of red and yellow pepper, halved cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced fennel
  • Method
    1. Drain tofu. Wrap securely, like a parcel, in several layers of kitchen paper and place on a board. Press gently to extract as much liquid as possible without crumbling the tofu. Repeat this process until there is only a little moisture coming through the paper. Carefully cut tofu in half horizontally and then in each direction 4 times to make small cubes. Place in large bowl.
    2. Put 6 cloves of crushed garlic in a small bowl with oil and salt and mix well. Dot the mixture over the tofu cubes and, taking care not to break the cubes, coat them with the garlic paste. Cover tightly and marinate in fridge for between 1 and 12 hours.
    3. Preheat oven to 180 °C/350 °F. Line baking tray with baking parchment/non-stick baking paper.
    4. Place tofu on lined baking tray and cook for 30 minutes, stirring after 20 minutes.
    5. Put basil leaves, lemon zest and juice, garlic and pine nuts into a processor and blend until a paste is formed. Add stock powder, sugar, salt and pepper and process again briefly.
    6. When the tofu is cooked turn off oven. Put half the pesto into a large bowl. Add cooked tofu and gently turn it over to cover all cubes. Put tofu back onto baking tray and return to oven for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and leave to cool.
    7. Mix yogurt with 6–8 tsp of remaining pesto. Arrange the salad on individual plates, scatter with tofu cubes and dress with a little of the yogurt. Serve the remaining dressing separately.

Tahini, Nut and Vegetable Rice Salad

  • Ingredients:
    • 450g cooked long grain brown rice
    • 100g red cabbage, grated
    • 1 small green pepper, thinly sliced
    • 1 small carrot, grated
    • 25g sultanas
    • 25g cashew nut pieces
    • 50ml tahini
    • 50ml yogurt or soya yogurt
    • 1 tbsp lemon juice
    • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Method
    1. Combine the rice with the red cabbage, green pepper, carrot, sultanas and cashew nuts.
    2. Combine the tahini, yoghurt and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
    3. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well.

Almond Stuffed Courgettes (Zucchinis)

  • Ingredients:
    • 2 courgettes or zucchinis
    • 10ml olive oil
    • 1 onion finely chopped
    • 30g ground almonds
    • 50ml vegan cream
    • 60g breadcrumbs from dried ciabatta bread
    • 1tsp salt
    • 1tsp yeast flakes
    • 5g parsley finely chopped
      10ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Method
    1. Par cook the courgettes. Plunge the courgettes in cold water for a few minutes and cut in half.
    2. Scoop out the center flesh, set aside.
    3. Sauté the onions and add half of the scooped courgette pulp and simmer for 3 minutes.
    4. Remove from heat and add almonds, vegan cream, breadcrumbs, salt, yeast flakes and parsley and mix well.
    5. Pack the mixture into the courgette hollows and bake in a preheated oven 200 °C for 12 minutes.
    6. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

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