Food

6 Vegan Superfoods to Eat Now

Start 2014 off right by ditching the vegan junk food and raiding the produce section.

One of the most exciting things about entering a new year is the unfulfilled potential, promise, and mystery to come in the next 365 days. While the future may be uncertain, there is one thing about New Year's that never changes: committing to resolutions. Some, like running ten miles a day, are obviously unrealistic, while others, like learning French, seem more plausible goals. While dedicating more time to exercise and self-improvement will surely make 2014 a more vibrant year, the decision to fuel your body with healthier foods will leave you happier and rejuvenated all year long. To get started, stock kitchen shelves with these six essential superfoods.

Avocados
The oleic acid in this good-fat-filled fruit works to improve cholesterol levels, while potassium and folate lower the risk of stroke and heart attacks. Avocados are the perfect choice to satisfy a savory fix. Slice an avocado and sprinkle with a dash of sea salt for the perfect afternoon snack, or dice it into cubes and toss into a delicious, calcium-rich kale salad.

Blueberries
Ever wonder why this superfood has such a deep blue coloring? The culprit is flavanoids, antioxidants that fight free radicals contributing to heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer's. Blueberries can liven up a morning routine by simply being stirred into soy yogurt or oatmeal, and they offer the perfect healthy snack time treat when eaten straight from the container. Adding blueberries to muffin and pancake batters is one way to sneak these nutritional powerhouses into a diet, but a healthier and equally sugary alternative is to use them in homemade popsicles!

Garlic
This immune system cleanser has at least two health perks worth bragging about: since garlic is rich in sulfur compounds, it can help ward off infection, heart disease, and high cholesterol. Its other health benefit is that it is delicious. The super healthy bacteria-fighting properties in garlic ensure that illness will stay at bay, especially if eaten raw. For those not garlic-obsessed enough to chew on raw cloves, try incorporating diced garlic into pastas, marinades and sauces, soups, and just about anything else.

Beans
Adults and teens who consume beans are 23 percent less likely to have large waists compared to people who never eat beans, according to a study by The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, so stock up on this magical fruit! Soluble fiber promotes digestive health and keeps cholesterol levels in check. Potassium promises to lower blood pressure, and folic acid supports heart health. Purée garbanzo beans to create a creamy texture for soups, throw a handful of black beans in a southwest salad, or stick with the classic, unbeatable combination of rice and beans.

Sweet Potatoes
If you thought sweet potatoes were a member of the nightshade family, you thought wrong. These super healthy veggies actually have much more in common with carrots than russets. The bright orange color of sweet potatoes promises high levels of betacarotene, which is known to promote healthy skin, eyes, and cardio health. Sweet potatoes are a great vegetable choice anytime of year, whether served in a purée to accompany tofu dishes or served piping hot in sweet potato lentil chili.

Walnuts
Loaded with alpha-linoleic acid, an Omega-3, to keep your heart and brain functioning optimally, walnuts are essetial. Walnuts also offer Omega-6s for the perfect fatty-acid ratio and are easy to incorporate into a daily diet, whether added to soy yogurt or cereal during breakfast or caramelized and mixed into a fresh salad at lunchtime. If walnuts seem unappealing to appetites, try using them to make homemade vegan Parmesan, where the taste it largely masked by other ingredients and seasonings. This is a guaranteed way to get those essential Omega-3s-and a tasty topping for pretty much everything.

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