Superfoods: Two Vegan Ingredients So Hot Right Now
These vegan seasonings are popping up on menus, food blogs and in health food stores everywhere. Here’s why they’re suddenly on the radar.
Move over kale, chia seeds and coconut oil – nutritional yeast and coconut aminos are the new hipster superfoods on the nutrition scene. Both of them are vegan, flavour-packed, have some impressive nutritional “pros” and an array of uses in cooking.
Read on for what you need to know about them.
1. It sounds quirky but tastes great
Nutritional yeast is made from a species of yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae that’s grown on a sugar-rich medium such as molasses, then deactivated through a heating and drying process. With a cheesy, nutty flavour, it’s sold in the form of flakes or as a powder.
2. It packs a nutrient punch
“It’s really high in B vitamins, which are important for supporting energy levels, DNA synthesis, fertility and a healthy mood,” says Amber Sewell-Green, a plant-based accredited practising dietitian at Newtown Nutrition. “It’s also high in zinc, iron, protein, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus, which in general are good for people with active lifestyles, as well as being beneficial for periods of growth – for instance during childhood or pregnancy – and for immune support.”
3. Pick a fortified product
There are two types of nutritional yeast: unfortified and fortified. You want the latter, because it contains added vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B12. “You can typically tell if a product is fortified from the nutrition information panel,” adds Sewell-Green about the new superfoods.
4. Vegans can’t get enough of it
Because it’s dairy-free but adds a cheesy flavour hit to food, it’s popular with vegans as well as the lactose intolerant. That said, we could all benefit from it. “Because it’s loaded with nutrients for energy levels, sports training and lean muscle growth, immune support and mood, everyone can benefit,” says Sewell-Green.
5. Sprinkle it with abandon
One of the easiest ways to use nutritional yeast is to sprinkle a few tablespoons into any dish that requires a cheesy flavour, from pasta sauce, lasagne and Mexican dishes to soups, risottos, savoury scones and scrambled eggs.
6. Get saucy in the kitchen
“There’s all sorts of plant-based sauce alternatives you can make with nutritional yeast, from mayo to creamy cheese sauce, caesar dressing and nacho style sauce, with plenty of recipes online,” says Sewell-Green. “My favourite way to use it is to create a ‘parmesan’ where I blend it with nuts and a bit of garlic or onion powder.”
1. It’s a bit like soy sauce
Coconut aminos is a savoury seasoning sauce made from the sap of coconut flower blossoms. The sap is left to ferment and blended with sea salt, creating a salty, slightly sweet sauce that looks a bit like soy sauce, but has a milder flavour than it’s original superfoods counterpart.
2. It’s great for people with dietary sensitivities
“It doesn’t have any chemicals or preservatives, which is helpful for people with sensitivities to additives,” says Sewell-Green. “It’s also naturally gluten-free, whereas a lot of soy sauces are gluten based, so if you have coeliac disease it can be a good alternative.” Just be aware that some coconut aminos products have a soybean base, so if you have a soybean sensitivity, it may be a trigger.
3. It can help you curb your sodium intake
Coconut aminos still has a fair amount of sodium, but is a healthier choice than soy sauce and other superfoods, with around 300mg less sodium per tablespoon. “It helps people change their tastebuds and get used to something a bit less salty,” says Sewell-Green, adding that moderation is still key.
4. Enjoy a dash of good health
“It has a combination of some of the essential amino acids we need to get from food, which are helpful for building muscle, cell signalling and immune function,” says Sewell-Green. “Plus, it has a little bit of iodine, which is important for metabolism and thyroid function.”
5. Use it for dips, sauces and dressings
Coconut aminos makes a tasty dipping sauce for sushi and rice paper rolls. You can also add it to homemade stir-fry sauce (mix with a little honey and sesame oil) or a salad dressing (combine with olive oil and some apple cider vinegar, or tahini for a creamier version).
6. Add a “umami” kick to dishes
With a moreish savoury flavour profile that foodies describe as “umami”, a dash of coconut aminos can add depth of flavour to soups, stews, curries, roast vegetables and tofu, and it makes a good marinade for seafood or meat. You can also make a tamari nut mix by drizzling coconut aminos and olive oil over nuts and seeds, then oven roasting.
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