Roasted vegetables

The health benefits of reducing meat-based meals

6 November 2023
A plant-based approach to nutrition with roasted vegetable salad
For a substantial proportion of the population, a meal without meat may not quite feel like a meal at all. However, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences show that meat consumption in Australia surpasses recommended daily amounts by 1.5 - 2 times.

Blog for Life is a series of blogs and opinion pieces from the team at CPC RPA Health for Life Program, our clinical, research, culinary and education experts developing resources for healthy longevity.  Here, adding flavour bombs to your daily seven portion intake with roasted vegetable salad.

Over-consumption of meat and meat products is associated with cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and colon cancer. Studies reveal that reducing animal protein and fat intake while incorporating plant-based alternatives can markedly reduce cardiometabolic risk and enhance the immune system's ability to fight malignant cells.

For those hesitant about eliminating red meat altogether from their diet, even a minor reduction can result in numerous health benefits, including decreasing the risk of colon cancer, stroke and cardiovascular disease.

Well before scientists uncovered the research verifying the synergy of legumes and whole grains as a potent source of complete proteins, these food groups had long been fundamental to many culinary traditions around the globe.

Legumes and whole grains complement each other, offering all nine essential amino acids and more. Legumes are high in lysine and low in methionine, while grains are low in lysine and high in methionine. Together, they form a complete, plant-based protein, low in the atherogenic saturated fatty acids and choline. 

Roasted vegetable salad

In the video recipe from our team for roasted vegetable salad, the addition of farro and lentils provides an additional source of protein, fibre, and healthy carbohydrates. Furthermore, the diverse variety of vegetables transforms this dish into a nutrient-rich powerhouse, delivering a load of carotenoids, essential B, C, and K vitamins, along with iron, selenium, magnesium and ferulic acid.

Roasted vegetable salad

Ingredients and tips

Farro: Farro was selected for its matching cooking time with the puy lentils we used, simplifying the process by requiring only one pot of boiling water for the dish. It is important to note that different farro varieties may have different cooking times, as illustrated below (both are farro, but with significant size differences). If you opt for alternatives like pearl barley, wheat berries, brown rice, or quinoa, be sure to verify their respective cooking times, if you wish to cook them with a legume.

Lentils: Any legume can be used as a substitute. Soaking dry legumes overnight and draining them before cooking helps eliminate antinutrients and reduces cooking time. For convenience, consider using canned lentils. Ensure the can is BPA-free and check for salt content and harmful preservatives in the ingredients.

Spices: Spices are subjective to personal taste. For this recipe, we leaned towards a Mexican flavour profile, but feel free to experiment. You may choose a pre-mix without additives (for example, anti-caking and bulking agents, or flavour enhancers) just pure spices, if you want to minimize your spice jar collection.

Feta: While we like the salty, tangy, and juicy nuggets of feta in this salad, grated pecorino, salted ricotta, or even labneh can also be used.

The veggies: Choose vegetables that roast well and remember that changing the vegetables will affect cooking times, so timing is crucial.

The dressing: For robust roast flavours, opt for robust vinegars like black vinegar, balsamic, malt, or red wine, as white wine and rice vinegar may not yield the same results.

The garnish: While not essential, parsley, basil and cashews provide texture, nuttiness and flavour to the dish. Feel free to substitute with any available nut or soft herb.

  • Invest in a digital kitchen timer for recipes like this one; it is a valuable tool that will save you time and effort in preparing meals.
  • This preparation is incredibly versatile. If you want to prepare in advance for different dishes throughout the week, keep the farro-lentil mix and the vegetables separate. Only dress what you will eat immediately. You can chop or leave the components as they are, then sauté and reheat for use in frittatas, stir-fries, salads and soups.

The CPC RPA Health for Life Program is a partnership between the University of Sydney Charles Perkins Centre and Sydney Local Health District.

Mr Marzio Lanzini

CPC RPA Health for Life Program
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