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Vegan Foods to Boost Your Immune System

Vegan Foods to Boost Your Immune System
Maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet is always important. It is especially important in the midst of the Covid-19 epidemic. In this blog, we highlight the importance of nutrition for maintaining a healthy immune system and some of the best immune-boosting vegan foods you can add to your diet today.

The immune system and nutrition

The immune system consists of the organs, cells, tissues and proteins that carry out the processes that fight off pathogens, which are the viruses, bacteria, and foreign bodies that cause infection or disease. [1] 
Optimal nutrition supports the functions of immune cells allowing them to initiate effective responses against pathogens and to avoid any underlying chronic inflammation. [2]
Some micronutrients and dietary components have very specific roles in the development and maintenance of an effective immune system throughout the life course or in reducing chronic inflammation. For example:
  • The amino acid arginine is essential for the generation of nitric oxide by macrophages. [2]
  • Vitamin A and zinc regulate cell division and so are essential for a successful proliferative response within the immune system. [2]
  • Several cells of the immune system can accumulate vitamin C and need the vitamin to perform their task, especially phagocytes and t-cells (immune cells). [3]
  • Vitamin E has been shown to enhance immune responses and to confer protection against several infectious diseases by reducing inflammation and improving the response of the body's immune cells.

    Foods to boost your immune system

    The following foods are high in the micronutrients and macronutrients that support the immune system.

    Citrus Fruits

    Citrus fruits are a great source of vitamin C, which plays an important role in improving the strength of our immune system. It’s been shown to help boost the number of white blood cells in the body while also improve white blood cell function.
    All citrus fruits are good sources of vitamin C, but oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and pomelos contain especially high concentrations of it.
    Immune Boosting Foods - Citrus

    Dark Leafy Greens

    Dark leafy greens contain essential nutrients like magnesium and vitamin K, which our bodies need to function optimally and fight off infections. They also contain antioxidants, which can help to reduce inflammation and cellular damage caused by free radicals.
    Greens like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are all great options to include in a vegan diet on a regular basis.
    Immune Boosting Foods - Leafy Greens

    Nuts and Seeds

    Nuts and seeds are good sources of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that boost the immune system.
    Sunflower seeds, for example, contain magnesium, vitamin B6, and vitamin E. Sesame seeds are good sources of vitamin E, too, as well as iron and zinc, both of which play important roles in keeping our immune systems functioning. Almonds also have high levels of immune-boosting Vitamin E.
    Vegan foods to boost your immune system - nuts and seeds

    Carrots, Turmeric and Sweet Potatoes

    Carrots, sweet potatoes (kumara), turmeric and other plants with a deep orange colour contain beta carotene. Studies have concluded that beta carotene can enhance cell-mediated immune responses, particularly in the elderly. [4]
    There is strong epidemiologic evidence that diets rich in carotenoids such as beta-carotene are associated with a reduced incidence of cancer. [5]
    You can read more about the many benefits of turmeric in our blog 'Tooting the Turmeric Trumpet'.
    Vegan Foods to Boost Immune System - Carrots

    Prebiotic & Probiotic Foods

    The majority of immune cells within the human body are found within the gut-associated lymphoid tissue, reflecting the importance of this immune tissue in maintaining host health.  [2]
    The composition of the gut microbiome can be improved by consuming prebiotic and probiotic foods. You can read more about the importance of prebiotics and probiotics for gut health in our blog 'Prebiotics or Probiotics - What is Your Gut Feeling'
    Prebiotics are the fermentable dietary fibres present in fruits, vegetables, legumes and seeds which selectively feed beneficial bacteria in the intestinal microbiota, to maintain a healthy microbiome environment. At Amino Mantra we focus strongly on prebiotics. We use minimally processed certified organic vegetables combined with legumes and seeds provide good carbohydrates & dietary fibres for gut health and overall wellbeing.
    Probiotics contain live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host. Fermented foods and drinks such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha contain probiotics and should be part of your diet if you want to stay healthy year-round. These foods contain probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that help to promote a healthy gut.
    Prebiotics and probiotic foods work best together, which is why we've teamed up with our friends at zeLi! Saurcraut to offer the $45 gut health pack, which contains 2 packs of Amino Mantra patties and 2 packs of  zeLi! Saurcraut.
    Immune Boosting Vegan Foods - Probiotics
     

    Quinoa

    Many vegans love quinoa due to its high protein content (as well as the fact that it’s a complete protein). In addition to being a good protein source, quinoa is very beneficial to the immune system.
    Quinoa contains minerals like iron and magnesium to keep the immune system functioning well. It also is a good source of fibre, which is beneficial for promoting good digestion and keeping the gut healthy. 
    Immune-boosting-food-quinoa

    Lentils

    Another good plant-based protein and fibre source, lentils have plenty more to bring to the table when it comes to strengthening one’s immune system.
    Their selenium content, in particular, makes them an excellent immune-boosting food. There is some research that suggests selenium can increase the body’s production of t-cells. T-cells help to fight off invaders and kill disease before it can spread throughout the body.
    Immune Boosting Foods -Lentils

    Improve Your Body’s Natural Defenses Today

    Choosing a vegan diet for starters goes a long way towards creating a healthy immune system, by removing some of the common causes of inflammation. By adding more of the foods that contain the micro and macronutrients that assist immune health, you'll give yourself the best chance of remaining health in the current environment. 
    If you need help fitting in more healthy foods and want to simplify the meal prep process, we’re here for you at Amino Mantra. Our plant-based patties are loaded with nutrient-dense ingredients and are free from preservatives, common allergens, and artificial additives. Order yours today.
    Image sources: Unsplash and Pexels

    Covid-19 Update - Our Commitment and Processes

    Covid-19 Update - Our Commitment and Processes

    With the spread of Covid-19, come uncertain times not only at home here in NZ but around the world. As our valued customer, we would like to update you that Amino Mantra team is going an extra mile to make sure that our nutritious products are not only healthy but also safe for consumption for you and your loved ones.

    OUR ALLERGEN-CONTROLLED FACILITY  AND ONLINE STORE ARE FULLY FUNCTIONING

    Our operations will continue to run, and we will continue to stock supermarkets and deliver our plant-patties from our online stores, for as long as this remains possible. 

    We have strict existing protocols around hygiene and allergens in our production facility. With the current situation, we have added extra measures to ensure that our team, our suppliers and our customers can rely on us for their safety. The following protocols are in place:

    • Correct handwashing procedures are followed upon arrival, at frequent intervals during the shift and upon finishing the work. Handwashing before and after changing gloves frequently. 
    • Wearing clean PPE, hairnets, face masks and clean aprons at every shift. Shoes worn in the production facility are specifically for the site and do not leave our premise. 
    • We are regularly wiping down and sanitising surfaces and machinery.
    • Our staff have been briefed that they must stay home if they feel unwell and to contact Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for support and advice. 
    • Our staff have been briefed to let us know if they plan to go overseas or have come into contact with someone who has come back from overseas.
    • Absolutely NO  animal or seafood products, allergens (gluten, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, mustard, lupin, sulphites, pea protein isolates, egg, dairy, shellfish) any preservatives and artificial additives enter our premises. Other than our products, we do not process anything else in our facility.
    • Flexible vinyl curtains are installed & used when our facility door is opened to receive/send deliveries. Receiving table is set up behind the door, preventing entry of unauthorized personnel. Delivery partners drop off/pick up goods from the table which is wiped & sanitised immediately. Gloves are worn to carry the goods and discarded immediately followed by handwash and new gloves. No contact is made with the delivery partners at all times.

    HYGIENE AROUND ONLINE ORDER DELIVERIES

    Our courier partners - Courier Post have released the following information on their website:

    1. Couriers will knock on the door as usual and step back two metres (or as far back as possible).
    2. They will ask for the recipient’s name (to record proof of delivery) and leave the parcel on the ground in front of the receiver. The person receiving the parcel will not sign for the delivery directly.
    3. If no one comes to the door and there is no Authority to Leave service in place, the courier will follow the standard process which is to leave a card to call and return the parcel to our depot.
      • We recommend washing your hands immediately after opening a parcel as these do pass many hands.
      • Please put our products in your fridge (or freezer if you choose to) immediately.
      • Amino Mantra has an authority to leave service in place, so no one comes to the door, the courier will leave the parcel at the front door. If your parcel has not arrived, please check around your house in case they have left it somewhere that is not the front door by mistake (e.g. another entrance to the house). If you cannot locate the parcel, please let us know so we can investigate by emailing hello@aminomantra.co.nz.

     

    PRODUCT SHELF LIFE AND BULK BUYING

    For customers who are choosing to avoid crowded supermarkets, please remember we deliver nation-wide to all urban areas when you buy from our website.

    • All our plant patties last for 3-4 weeks in the fridge or up to 2 months in the freezer. Each pack has 2 individual packs of 2 patties, designed in a way that if you cannot finish the second pack, you can freeze them too. Please follow the correct cooking temperatures before consuming our products.
    • Please be patient and expect minor delays during this time as like many other food manufacturers, we are working our way through overwhelming demand.

    SUPPORTING US AT YOUR LOCAL SUPERMARKET

    For customers choosing to shop in stores, please help us ensure that our products are not out of stock.

    • If you notice that any of our products are out of stock in your local store, PLEASE take a photo and message us on Instagram or on Facebook with the details - date, time and name of the store. We will make contact with the store buyer to order more.
    • Please be mindful of others’ needs too and remember to keep calm and informed when making plans for your household.

    At Amino Mantra, we have always focused on health & nutrition along with allergen-awareness and sustainability. With Covid-19, we have just become extra vigilant on the safety of our team, our suppliers and our customers. Whilst these times are difficult & chaotic, we are navigating our way through them with planning and positivity. We appreciate you supporting us and we wish you & your loved ones best of health and happiness.

     

    Regards,

    Trang and Pritesh

     

    Vegan foods high in iron

    Vegan foods high in iron

    Iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world. Although there are plenty of vegan foods high in iron, the type of iron found in plants is not as easily absorbed as the type found in meat. For this reason, it is important for people on a vegan or vegetarian diet to be aware of foods that are high in iron and techniques that can promote iron absorption.

    Why iron is an important micronutrient

    The main functions of iron are to help supply oxygen to the blood, to help the body resist disease, to promote red blood cell formation, and to maintain proper metabolism. The Symptoms of a lack of iron include tiredness, lack of stamina, breathlessness, depression, dim vision and poor memory, all of which are associated with decreased oxygen supply to tissues and organs. Iron deficiency in infants can result in impaired learning ability and behavioural problems. [1]

    Heme vs. Non-Heme Iron

    Before we share the top plant sources of iron, it's important for you to understand that the two forms of iron that are available through food - heme and non-heme.
    In our blog 'What you need to know about protein when on a plant-based or vegan diet', we described how there are 'complete proteins', which contain all essential amino acids, and incomplete proteins which do not. It's a similar situation with iron - not all iron is the same. There are two forms, heme and non-heme. When on a plant-based diet, there are extra considerations to make sure you are absorbing enough iron. Here's why:
    Heme iron is found only in animal flesh like meat, poultry, and seafood. Non-heme iron is found in plant foods like whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and leafy greens. Non-heme iron is also found in animal flesh (as animals consume plant foods with non-heme iron) and fortified foods. [2]
    Heme iron is easier to absorb compared to non-heme iron. This is the primary reason why vegans and vegetarians are more at risk for iron deficiency.
    There are actions that you can take to increase the absorption of non-heme iron:
    1. Eat foods high in Vitamin C at the same time as eating foods high in Iron. Vitamin C is known to promote iron absorption helps to facilitate the drawbacks of non-heme iron. Try including citrus fruits, such as oranges or squeezed lemon with your iron-rich meals.
    2. Coffee and tea are known to prohibit iron absorption. It's recommended that you drink tea and coffee in between meals, rather than at the same time.  

      Best iron sources for vegans

      The average recommended dietary allowances of iron is 8 mg/day for men and 18 mg/day for women older than 19 (the recommended intake varies based on age and situation). [3]
      Here are some of the best iron-rich foods for people on a vegan or vegetarian diet. By including these in your diet, you should be able to meet your daily iron requirements easily and maintain your vegan/vegetarian lifestyle with ease.

      1. Vegetables

      Vegetables have a higher iron content than most meat and eggs, however, the type of iron is the non-heme iron which isn’t easily absorbed. However, vegetables are also a rich source of Vitamin C which in turn helps with iron absorption. Vegetables are among the most common and easy to integrate sources of iron.
      Leafy green vegetables are a rich source of iron. Vegetables like spinach and kale contain roughly 2.5–6.4 mg of iron per cooked cup. Leafy greens are best consumed in their cooked form in order to gain the required iron. Other vegetables like potatoes are a great source of iron as well. One large potato can contain around 3.2 mg of iron. Things are a bit tricky when it comes to vegetables like tomatoes. While raw tomatoes contain an insignificant amount of iron, dried and concentrated ones have a higher amount of iron. Half a cup (118 ml) of tomato paste offers 3.9 mg of iron, or 22% of the RDI.

       

      spinach, a good source of iron for a vegan diet

       

      2. Whole Grains

      Grains are one of the best sources for most of the essential nutrients, including iron. However, the same benefit gets lost when they’re processed. For this reason, whole grains are an excellent source of many essential nutrients like iron, antioxidants, fibre, etc.
      Amaranth is one of the most iron-rich whole grains out there as it consists of 5.2 mg of iron per cup cooked. It is also rich in fibre, carbs, magnesium and other nutrients. Quinoa is a popular grain for a reason and there’s plenty of reasons why. Not only does it contain 2.8 mg of iron per cup cooked, but it is also linked to being an anti-oxidant and contains valuable nutrients like complete protein, carbs, fibre, etc.

       

      Whole grains are a good source of iron for vegan diet

      3. Fruits

      While fruits aren’t necessarily well-known as iron sources, there are certainly some that make the cut. One such fruit is olives, yes olives are a type of fruit. Olives have 3.3 mg of iron per 3.5 ounces (100 grams) making them one of the highest sources of iron among fruits. Other fruits like prune juice and mulberries are good iron sources as well. Dried fruits are also a good option, as the nutrients are concentrated in the dehydration process. The sugar is too mind you, so don't overdo the dried fruit if you're watching your sugar intake.
       

      Olives good source of iron for vegan diet

      4. Blackstrap Molasses

      Blackstrap molasses is a byproduct of sugar cane’s refining process. Unlike refined sugars, which have no nutritional value, blackstrap molasses contains vitamin and minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, potassium and selenium. [3]. One tablespoon of Blackstrap Molasses contains around contains 3 mg of iron. When buying blackstrap molasses, look for products that are organic and unsulphered.

       

      5. Dark Chocolate

      You might be pleased to hear that dark chocolate is a good source of iron, along with other benefits such as antioxidants and prebiotic fibre. You can read more about the benefits of prebiotics in our blog 'Prebiotics or Probiotics - what's your gut feeling?'.
      100g of dark chocolate contains around 3.6mg of iron. [4] The darker the chocolate the better, so go for at least 60% dark chocolate (above 80% is even better).
      dark chocolate, a source of iron for vegan and vegetarian diet

      6. Nuts And Seeds

      Pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds have high iron levels. Nut and nut butter are also a good source of iron, particularly for a snack. 
      Here's a list of the iron levels of the top seeds and nuts in terms of iron content:
      Pumpkin seeds (dried) - 15mg per 100g
      Sesame seeds - 9mg per 100g (1.3mg per tbsp)
      Pine nuts - 5.5mg per 100g
      Pistachio nuts - 4.2mg per 100g
      Almonds - 3.7mg per 100g
      nuts and seeds high in iron for vegan diet

      Conclusion

      When on a vegan diet, it's important to make sure you are (a) eating enough food sources high in iron and (b) eating them in a way that increases their level of absorption. Eating foods high in vitamin C at the same time as foods high in iron and avoiding drinking tea and coffee at mealtime, will help to ensure you are getting enough iron on a vegan diet. 

      If you are experiencing symptoms of being low in iron, you can take a blood test to find out confirm your iron levels.