Make the most of the nutritional benefits of vegetables and greens, the stars of these dishes.
Advisor: Ana María Yepes, Nutritionist Doctor
Recipes: Amalia Villegas, on Instagram @amalia.cocinacotidiana
When we refer to a plant-based diet, we mean a preference for food of natural and not animal origin. However, a vegetarian diet cannot necessarily be defined in this way. “If it’s plant based, between 80% and 90% of the ingredients come from the earth, and the rest are processed or minimally processed”, explains the nutritionist Ana María Yepes.
Along these same lines, there are some distinctions to be made. Lacto-ovo vegetarians, for example, consume eggs and dairy products, while strict vegetarians (or vegans) remove any kind of food or product that comes from animals from their diet. What is known as ‘flexitarianism’, in turn, involves the consumption of meat once or twice a week, with the remaining meals being vegetarian.
While there are no contraindications for following a vegetarian or vegan diet, Yepes suggests checking with a specialist in the subject at the time of making the transition. If the aim is to reduce the consumption of animal protein, the recommendation is to keep the required amount of protein in mind. “A person with a healthy weight needs around a gram of protein for each kilogram”, she points out.
In order for any kind of diet to be balanced, it must contain essential nutrients that are not necessarily obtained from animals. Protein can be found in pulses such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, soy and peanut, and in whole grains like brown rice, quinoa and whole wheat. Iron is present in green leafy vegetables, and can be better absorbed in combination with sources of vitamin C like bell peppers, strawberries and kiwi fruits. Nuts, sesame seeds, oranges and mandarins contain calcium, and omega-3 fats can be found in seaweed, chia and flax seeds and walnuts. Between five and 15 minutes of sunlight (before 10am and after 4pm) are ideal for gaining vitamin D. Vitamin B12, for its part, is obtained from animal protein and supplements might be needed in some cases.
There’s no doubt that a vegetarian or vegan diet is a long way from being a boring idea. Amalia Villegas, a specialist in conscious cooking and educational project leader with over 30 years of professional experience in the kitchen, says that many alternatives exist. “I’ve been witness to how eating habits are a gateway to awakening consciousness: when the method changes, so does the backdrop. Food opens a door for us towards an infinite universe of creativity and connection with life”, Villegas adds.
Option 1. Kale and chickpea stew
1 tablespoon Ghee
1g Root ginger (peeled and diced)
1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
1 teaspoon Turmeric
1 teaspoon Cilantro
1 teaspoon Ground cardamom
2 ripe Tomatoes (peeled and diced)
1 bunch Kale or spinach
1 cup Chickpeas (cooked)
1 cup Vegetable stock
1 cup Thick coconut milk
1 clove Garlic
Fresh cilantro, to taste
1/4 cup Grated coconut
- Heat the ghee, add the onion and leave on a medium heat until it browns. Turn up the heat and add the ginger and spices. When it gives off an aroma, mix in the tomatoes and stir for two minutes.
- Remove and chop the kale leaves and add them to the pan with the cooked chickpeas, vegetable stock and coconut milk. Reduce to a medium heat, cover with a lid and leave for 10 minutes until the kale softens. Season with salt and pepper.
- Separately, cook the garlic with a tablespoon of ghee, cilantro and coconut, and brown on a low heat. Serve over the chickpeas and garnish with a touch of fresh cilantro.
Lactose-free. Rich in spices.
Option 2. Cream of zucchini soup with cilantro and coconut
1 bunch Cilantro
2 cups Light coconut milk
- Chop the zucchini in slices half a centimeter thick. Steam for five minutes or until the zucchini appears bright green. Then, blend it with the cilantro and coconut milk and add salt to taste.
- This preparation can be used as a base to experiment with different vegetables and replace the cilantro with other herbs or spices, such as squash and basil, cauliflower and cumin, and carrot and fennel.
- Chickpeas are high in soluble and insoluble fiber and an excellent source of vegetable protein.
Zucchini (or courgette) contains vitamin A and minerals like magnesium and potassium. Free from sugar and sweeteners.
Option 3. Passion fruit, cardamom and ginger cake
100 ml Sunflower oil
275 g Wheat flower
150 g Powdered raw cane sugar
1 teaspoon Baking powder
1 tablespoon Ground ginger
2 teaspoons Ground cardamom
170 ml Passion fruit juice
For the decoration
4 tablespoons Oats
2 tablespoons Raw cane sugar
1 tablespoon Ground ginger
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Grease and flour a cake tin.
- Mix together the flour, raw cane sugar, baking powder and spices. Add the passion fruit juice and sunflower oil and blend in all the ingredients.
- Put the mixture in the cake tin and bake for 30 minutes, then use the knife test to check if it is cooked through. Leave to cool for 10 minutes and remove from the tin.
- Blend the ingredients for the decoration and sprinkle the cake with the mixture.
Ginger is a root vegetable that is considered to have anti-inflammatory properties. Cardamom is a spice that provides flavor and freshness, and contains vitamin C.