How to be a Vegan: Super Foods & Seeds

After a health scare that put on me on the path to veganism, there was a lot in my diet to rework. One question was: what’s all the talk about super foods and the power of semillas? Coming from Santo Domingo, seeds are underappreciated, and often non-existent in local diets. They’re sold dressed with oil and salt as a snack, but you’d be surprised at how good they can be on their own – simply raw. 

In the Caribbean, we are surrounded by so much beauty and rawness that we almost take it for granted. We have some of the most exclusive fruits in the world such as guanabananoni, and nisperos. Try incorporating them in your day-to-day shakes or salads. You can also source the fruit’s leaf to steep in tea. It’ll do wonders on your health and will help sustain your vegan diet as they’re filled with nutrients. Here’s what I have learned about some super foods and seeds so far:

Guanabana – mi abuela jura por esto. In Latin America, it's thought to cure diseases and colds. Scientifically, it is abundant with vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin, calcium, and some iron. Dry leaves and use in tea.

Noni or mulberry–  Sweet and delicious, its proven to help alleviate pain or boost your immune system. In the U.S., you find the dry kind, which you can eat as a snack or have on top of granola.

Nispero – One of my favorite fruits of all time, nisperos are surprisingly good for you. Leaves help your body release antioxidants, which have the ability to neutralize harmful toxins.

Chia seeds – This gluten-free, raw, and vegan seed can be put in your smoothies or thickened in water to make mermeladaor vegan puddings. These seeds expand up to 3 times their original size when wet and they contain minerals, omega 3 fats, antioxidants, fiber and are a complete source of protein. They have more potassium than bananas, more iron than spinach, more selenium than flax seeds, more calcium than milk, more omega-3’s than salmon and more magnesium than broccoli. 

Flax (linaza) seeds – Exploding in fiber and omega-3’s, these are also gluten-free, and much lighter on the body than nuts. They are also abundant in antioxidant qualities. You can use ground flax to replace flour. Why not try home made flax bread con pasas?

Hemp (cáñamo) seeds – Known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers, hemp seeds help build strong hair, nails, muscle, and skin. They're packed with protein, carry all 10 amino acids as well as omega 3, omega 6 and omega 9 fatty acids. Toss them in salads, make milk or mix them with nutritional yeast and ground almonds to make a great salad topper.

Sesame (ajonjolí ) seeds – Among all the main nuts and seeds, sesame seeds have been found to contain the highest amount of lignans (a class of phytoestrogen), known to lower bad cholesterol in the body. Not only are they a good source of manganese and copper (shown to combat diabetes), but they’re also a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, and fiber. This is where tahini comes from to make hummus. You can also crush dates and mix them together to make sweet sesame crackers.