Brendan Brazier is an ultramarathon champion, an Ironman triathlete and the founder of Vega, a potent line of nutritional products. He’s also a vegan. His belief in the power of animal-free foods led him to write the Thrive book series; to become a nutrition consultant for athletes who compete in the NFL, MLB, NHL and the Olympics; and to address Congress about the many benefits, personal and societal, of a plant-based diet. We asked this powerhouse of a person to share his wealth by letting us in on his top 5 vegan power foods. These are his recommendations:
Quinoa is classified as a seed, Brazier explains, but cooks like a grain, even though it’s gluten-free. “This nutrient-dense food,” he said, “is packed with protein, fiber, essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.” Brazier recommends it as a high-protein alternative to rice or pasta, or as a base for homemade veggie burgers. It can also be served cold, with almond or coconut milk and berries, to make a delicious breakfast cereal.
Brazier reminds us that turmeric is known not only for its flavor and bright color, but also for its ability to reduce inflammation, especially in joint tissue, so this antioxidant-rich spice can play a key role in protecting your body from free-radical damage. Curcumin, turmeric’s active compound, is found in both fresh and dried turmeric root, and can be blended into smoothies, sauces, dips, curries or post-workout recovery drinks.
According to Brazier, “Dates are the perfect snack while being active.” He explains why: “They are primarily glucose, an easily digested form of carbohydrate, which is great for immediate energy.” Dates are high in potassium, to help regulate the nervous system, and are good sources of iron, calcium, manganese and copper, so they’re great for producing red blood cells and keeping muscles functioning. Whole dates, or date-based endurance bars, are perfect for sustaining long-duration workouts, Brazier said.
A root vegetable that grows in the mineral-rich volcanic soil of the Peruvian highlands up at 15,000 feet, maca thrives where few plants can. Because of that, it gets the mineral-rich soil all to itself. “As with any plant,” Brazier said, “maca is simply a median for the nutrients found in the soil, passing them on to the eater of the plant.” And since low mineral content can kick hormones out of whack, maca has the power to bring hormones back to where they should be.
Yup, Brazier pretty much lumps all greens into one power-packed category: “Spinach, kale, spirulina, broccoli, wheatgrass and salad mixes are mineral-packed, and therefore are essential foods to be consumed daily for peak health,” he said. Minerals, he reminds us, are lacking in most North Americans’ diets, a deficiency that results in inflammation and fatigue. Brazier’s prescription: Blend greens into a Vega One smoothie.