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Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category

Macrominerals

Continuing with educating the masses on how a vegan diet can give you everything you need (see previous vitamin post), here’s the Macrominerals: what they do for you, and what foods and recipes you can find them in! Aptly named macrominerals are those which are found in the body in larger amounts than microminerals. Macrominerals are also consumed in larger quantities and provide bulk energy.

Mineral; Dietary Sources; Major Functions; Recipes it can be found

Calcium: Soybeans, kale, spinach, watercress, parsley, seaweed, nuts/seeds, molasses, dried fruits, figs. Necessary for proper bone structure, normal heart action, blood clotting, muscle contraction, excitability, nerve synapses, mental activity, buffer systems, glycogen metabolism. Chickpea Cauliflower and Kale Curry, Fruit Salad, Vegan Pizza w spinach, Blueberry Bran Muffins/Loaves, Gingerbread Oatmeal Cookies
Chloride: All foods, table salt. Principle anion of extra-cellular fluid, necessary for acid-base balance, osmotic equilibrium, helps with muscle cramps. No special dish since we salt nearly everything these days..but beware of excess salt intake.
Magnesium: Green veggies, nuts, whole grains, molasses, yeast extracts, apples, figs. Necessary for proper bone structure, regulation of nerve and muscle action, catalyst for intracellular enzymatic reactions, especially those related to carbohydrate metabolism, prevent retinopathy. Clementine-n-Mango Juice, Dulce de Bourbon Chews, Fruit Salad, Blueberry Bran Loaves
Phosphorus: Beans, grains, fruits. Combine with coenzymes in various metabolic processes; necessary for proper bone structure, intermediary metabolism, buffers, membranes, phosphate bonds essential for energy production (ATP), nucleic acids. Clementine-n-Mango Juice, Classic 3-bean salad, Fruit Salad, Breakfast Burritos, Chickpea Cauliflower and Kale Curry
Potassium: Avocados, banana, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, dates, prunes, raisins, potatoes (with skins), cantaloupes. Major component of intracellular fluid, necessary for buffering, muscle contraction, nerve impulse transmission. Clementine-n-Mango Juice, Dulce de Bourbon Chews, Moroccan Veg with Spiced Orzo
Sodium: Most processed & packaged foods, table salt, breads. Major component of extracellular fluid, necessary for ionic equilibrium, osmotic gradients, nerve impulse conduction, buffer systems, helps with dehydration, muscle cramps, and kidney failure. Peachy Blue Monster, Pita bread, Chickpea Noodle Soup
Sulfur: Cabbage, garlic, onions, wheat germ . Structural, as amino acids are made into proteins. Banana Bread, Peachy Blue Monster, Red Beans & Rice Soup, Potato Gratin

Happy and Healthy Eating!

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Kale

Kale seems to be one of those vegetables that scare people off, maybe because of its strong flavor or because it’s denser (and therefore chewier) than spinach, I don’t know. But I’d like to encourage everyone to give it a try. It’s chock full of beta carotene, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin and calcium; and is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (so it’d be great to pair with pasta if, like us, wheat makes you a little feverish). It is chewier than other greens, because it’s unusually high in fiber for a leaf. That has the benefit of making it very filling. Plus, I’m on a never ending quest to increase the number of plant species I consume, so if you’re new to kale, this can be another notch in the old cutting board for you. 🙂

When choosing your kale, you want the leaves to be very crisp and dark green. Then:

1. Give each leaf a rinsing, and pat down with a towel to remove the excess water.

kale1

2. You’ll want to remove the thick vein in the middle of each leaf. Just pinch both sides of the leaf while pulling the vein away from the back.

kale2kale3

3. Especially if you’re new to kale, you’ll want to cut it into thin strips, so you don’t get overwhelmed.

kale54. More kale recipes will be forthcoming, but now give it a try in my Chickpea, Cauliflower and Kale Curry.


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Vitamins: Aisle 3…

..no wait, Produce Section! 🙂 As promised, here’s the latest in our health posts…all you’ve ever wanted to know (and possibly more) about vitamins. Remember in elementary school in language arts we had to start each paper with a thesis statement… well, since I believe we all learn of these nutrients at some point but as we age we tend to forget..let’s go back to the basics and start with a theme.
“Vegetables provide the broadest range of nutrients of any food class: sources of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and protein.”

The little fat they contain is in the form of essential fatty acids. Protein, carbs, and fats can be found in greater discussion here, but this post is where I want to talk about vitamins, with a future one focusing on minerals.

Water-soluble vitamins: Those which dissolve in water and are readily excreted from the body.

Major Dietary Sources; Major Functions/Effects of deficiency; Recipes
B1 (Thiamine): Whole grain wheat & rye, brewers yeast, nuts, molasses, chickpeas, kidney beans, rice bran, sunflower seeds, soybeans, wheatgerm. Helps regulate carbohydrate metabolism, aids in production of HCl, needed for energy production; Deficiency = Impaired carbohydrate metabolism, peripheral nerve changes, edema, heart failure, mental disturbance, paralysis, constipation, anorexia. Peachy Blue Monster, Orzo with Peas Red Peppers and Onions, Red Beans and Rice, Three-Bean Chili, Naan
B2 (Riboflavin): Whole grains/cereals, wheatgerm, spinach, brewers yeast, molasses, beets, almonds. Aids cellular respiration, releases energy to cells, good for healthy skin & mucous membranes, needed for optimal nerve function; Deficiency = Sensitivity to light, eye lesions, cataracts, vomiting, diarrhea, muscular spasticity. Peachy Blue Monster, Orzo-Almond Salad, Cranberry-Almond Green Bean Salad, Blueberry-Almond Icing
B3 (Niacin): Whole grains, brewers yeast, peanuts, dried beans & legumes, potatoes, pulses, sunflower seeds. Aids carbohydrate metabolism, production of sex hormones, reduces cholesterol, needed for healthy nervous & digestive systems & skin; Deficiency = Skin & gastrointestinal (GI) lesions, mental disorders, digestive disturbances, mucous membrane inflammation. Fresh Fruit Salad, Butternut Squash-Potato Soup
B5 (Pantothenic acid): Yeast, corn, dried fruit, lentils, peas, seeds & nuts, green veg, wheatgerm, whole grain products, synthesis by intestinal bacteria. Promotes proper growth, vitamin utilization, energy utilization, healthy response to stress; Deficiency = Fatigue, sleep disorders, neuromoter disorders, cardiovascular disorders, gastrointestinal distress, eczema. Fresh Fruit Salad, Orzo with Green Tomatoes Onions and Corn, Three-Bean Chili, Baked Rice Casserole
B6 (Pyridoxine): Whole grains/flours, brown rice, oat bran/germ, avocados, nuts, molasses, leafy greens, bananas, yeast, tomatoes, corn, carrots. Needed for energy production, healthy nervous system, brain & mental state, transport of amino acids across the plasma membrane; Deficiency = Dermatitis, nervous disorders, learning disabilities, anemia, kidney stones, fatty liver. Peachy Blue Monster, Chickpeas Romesco, Orzo with Green Tomatoes Onions and Corn, Oat Surprise Muffins, Cinnamon Rolls
B7 and B8 (Biotin): Yeast, brown rice, cashews, lentils, oats, peanuts, peas, sunflower seeds, walnuts, veg, synthesis by intestinal bacteria. Coenzyme concerned with nucleic acid synthesis, CO2 fixation, N metabolism, aids cell growth, fatty acid production, helps body process sugars, carbs, proteins & vitamins for healthy skin, hair, nails; Deficiency = Scaly dermatitis, muscle pains, weakness, insomnia, depression, fatigue. Peachy Blue Monster, Oat Surprise Muffins, Walnut Shortbread, Cashew Raspberry Icing
B9 (Folic acid, Folacin, Folate): Leafy greens, yeast, barley, fruit, chickpeas, lentils, peas, rice, wheatgerm, soybeans, synthesis by intestinal bacteria. Needed for red blood cell formation, aids growth, reproduction, digestion, important for healthy nerve growth (particularly in developing fetus); Deficiency = Failure of red blood cells to mature, anemia, GI disturbances, & diarrhea. Peachy Blue Monster, Fresh Fruit Salad, Chickpea Fritters, Naan, Shepherdess’ Pie, Stuffed Bell Peppers
B11 (Choline): Leafy veg, soybeans, peanuts, potatoes, cauliflower, flax & sesame seeds, oats, lentils. Part of phospholipids, precursor of acetylcholine; Deficiency is unlikely. Sweet & Spicy Nuts, Papas Refritas, Saffron Taters, Vegetable Curry
B12: Yeast, synthesis by intestinal bacteria, veg burger mixes, TVP, soy milks, fortified cereals. Important for health of brain & nervous system, coenzyme needed for RNA synthesis & for erythrocyte formation to prevent anemia; Deficiency = Pernicious anemia, nervous disorders (demyelination), malformed red blood cells, general weakness. Veggie Sushi (Nori Rolls), Vegan Cinnamon Rolls *to be on the safe side, take a B12 or B complex vitamin
C (Ascorbic Acid): Citrus, tomatoes, green peppers, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, blackcurrants, guava, kiwi, papaya, spinach, strawberries, apples, watercress, cauliflower. Necessary for oxidation reactions, synthesis and maintenance of collagen, aids bone & tooth formation, healing, promotes healthy blood capillaries & gums, healthy skin, aids absorption of iron & production of hemoglobin, protects against cancer, heart disease, allergies, infections, cold, stress; Deficiency = Scurvy, failure to form normal connective tissue fibers, anemia, low resistance to infection, bruises. Clementine-n-Mango Juice, Cranberry-Coconut Cookies, Chickpeas Romesco, Fresh Fruit Salad, Butternut Squash-Potato Soup
Inositol (B family complement): Bananas, brown rice, oat flakes, molasses, nuts, vegetables, yeast, wheatgerm. Aids metabolism, reduces cholesterol concentration, slows hardening of arteries; Deficiency = Fatty liver, constipation, hair loss, eczema. Banana Bread, Red Beans & Rice, Sweet & Spicy Nuts

Fat-soluble vitamins: Those which are absorbed through the intestinal tract with the assistance of lipids.

Major Dietary Sources; Major Functions/Effects of deficiency; Recipes
A (carotene): Technically it’s the provitamin form that’s found in foods: apples, grapes, papaya, cantaloupe, apricots, watermelon), oils, yellow orange & green veg (broccoli, kale, spinach, carrot, pumpkin, sweet potato, watercress, & parsley). Needed for growth differential & structural maintenance of epithelium, formation of visual pigments, important antioxidant, protects skin, keeps vision healthy; Deficiency = Night blindness, xerophthalmia, skin lesions, allergies, dry hair, fatigue, failure of skeletal growth, reproductive disorders. Clementine-n-Mango Juice, Peachy Blue Monster, Shepherdess’ Pie, Veggie Fried Rice, Spicy Noodles, Veg Curry, Orzo w Peas Red Peppers and Onions, Fruit Salad, Butternut Squash-Potato Soup
D: Fortified cereals/grains, synthesis of D3 results from UV radiation (sunlight) of 7-dehydrocholesterol found in the skin. Increases calcium & phosphorus absorption from digestive tract, helps control calcium deposition in bones & teeth, promotes proper heart action; Deficiency = Rickets in children, osteomalacia in adults, diarrhea, insomnia, nervousness. 10-15 minutes a day in the sun (without sunscreen) should do it!
E: Leafy green veg, wheatgerm oil, peanuts, whole grains, corn oil, almond, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds & oil, walnuts, whole wheat flour, apples, oranges, grapes. Helps red blood cells resist hemolysis, aids in muscle and nerve maintenance, acts as antioxidant to prevent cell membrane damage of unsaturated fats in cells; Deficiency = Increased fragility of red blood cells, dry hair, hemolytic anemia in newborns. Clementine-n-Mango Juice, Fruit Salad, Orzo w Green Tomatoes Onions & Corn, Three-Bean Chili, Walnut Shortbread
K: Molasses, safflower oil, leafy green veg, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, green tea, oats, cauliflower, soybeans, synthesis by intestinal bacteria. Aids in prothrombin synthesis (clotting factors) in liver; Deficiency = Failure of blood to clot, severe bleeding, hemorrhages. Oat Surprise Muffins, Vegan Pizza Verde, Chocolate Chip Cookies (with oats)

Oh, and something else we were taught in elementary school: Eat your veggies!

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I think one reason that when someone “tries” to go vegan (whether it’s for health, ethical, or environmental reasons), a big factor in the failure of most is a lack of information and education into what a vegan should be consuming to make sure they are getting everything they need to be the best vegan they can be! So to kick off IDA‘s ‘World Go Vegan Days‘ (Oct 25-31), I would like to give a crash course into what every vegan (or human in general) should and shouldn’t be eating (for those going vegan, and those who occasionally cook for or even just know a vegan, or if you’re a human being concerned about general health)…and I would like to dedicate this post to all those who don’t have time to read every vegan health book/resource out there but want to know how to be successful in getting all the nutrients one needs to have a healthy body while working their way through the information that’s out there. Jo and I do recommend a variety of books on our Links page, as well as discuss vegan health aspects here, which are good references for vegan nutrition and general information. I’ve also included links to some of our recipes that will help you eat from each food group, and as you’ll notice..a lot of them overlap in one recipe). This is a rather long post (by no means an exhaustive list), but I tried to make it as easily referenceable as possible – future post: I’m working on a cross-reference page of all the vitamins and minerals that I’ll randomly throw out in a post associated with specific foods! So I give you the Ins, the Outs, and the What-have-you’s of eating vegan!

(Side note from Jo here: a lot of people pass along information that is woefully inaccurate because they lack the most basic understanding of how the body works. For example, “milk builds strong bones.” That idea, like many of the erroneous beliefs about how bad veganism is for you, stems from the hugely successful marketing of the dairy industry. In fact, studies have shown that higher consumption of dairy products correlates with higher incidents of osteoporosis. Regular people, of course, don’t read scientific journals, but they do watch TV, so which piece of (mis)information do you think they believe? Sara is working on her PhD in physiology, so she knows a lot about how the body works and what it needs. I’m just saying that companies trying to sell you something are probably not a great source of reliable information, but scientists whose expertise allows them to sift the fact from fiction might have say something worth listening to.)

The Ins:

Vegans, as do all people, need to consume fats – good fats..not bad fats. Lipids (fats) are the body’s most concentrated source of food energy. However, lipids are only fully utilized if they are oxidized along with sugar. Without sufficient sugar, the body if forced to burn stored fat for energy. Sounds good in theory, but when only lipids are being metabolized, there is an excessive accumulation of the breakdown products (ketone bodies). Ketosis occurs frequently when a diet is low in carbohydrates, during starvation, and in uncontrolled diabetes mellitus. If ketones continue to build-up in the blood and interstitial fluids, blood pH can drop causing acidosis, leading to depression of the nervous system possibly causing serious brain damage, coma and death. Some lipids supply/aid the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K), while others promote and maintain healthy skin, normal growth, and reproductive ability. Quantity of fats also play as integral a role as the type of fats. Fats being less than 30% of total calorie intake in one day is recommended for optimal health. Eating 50% of your total calories as good fats is still bad for you – portion control people. Good fats include the following:

*Extra-Virgin Olive oil (obviously, sauté in Olive Oil over another oil is a good way to get this oil, as well as using it as a base for salad dressings and marinades)
*Coconut oil (good for baking and/or light fry – but watch the fried food intake)
*Safflower oil (also good for sauté in things like Vegetable Curry)

Veg curry

Vegetable curry

*Canola oil (excellent for baking and cooking alike, including as a base for marinades)
*Flaxseed oil is a rich source of vital omega-3 essential fatty acids (excellent for base as salad dressings; you can also add freshly ground flax to baked goods to get all the omega’s from the flax thereby getting it’s oils into things like banana bread)
*The best fats are from whole vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds that are unprocessed, polyunsaturated, and nonoxidized.

Bad fats include, besides the obvious animal fats, those from vegetable sources that are hydrogenated and found in most margarines, many brands of peanut butters (so look for the more natural nut butters), and hydrogenated cooking fats

Another thing vegans, and all people, need to consume is protein. However, people don’t need nearly as much protein as commonly believed (only about 0.8 kcal per kilogram of weight for adults). With a varied diet and adequate calorie intake, I don’t think vegans (or anyone) should really worry about protein deficiencies. And stop the presses…all plant food DOES contain protein! You don’t need to consume animal products to attain dietary protein. Just like animals, plants require protein for their basic molecular structure…so of course plants have protein! Dietary protein is most beneficial when it is balanced with many types of food to provide all the necessary amino acids. Excess protein is either used for energy or converted into saturated fat, so eating proper portions of the following foods, with variable combinations on a daily basis, will provide adequate amino acid requirements for the body to keep working like the machine it is:

*Beans and Peas (Check out these protein packed dishes: Baked Rice Casserole, Millet ‘Pea’laf, and Spicy Noodles)
*Whole Grains, cereals/breads/pastas (quinoa is a complete protein, i.e. it contains ALL 22 essential amino acids) – source of dietary fiber, minerals, and B-vitamins (Black bean Quinoa Salad, Red Beans and Rice, and Mexican Quinoa)
*Nuts and nut butters (but watch intake, as you could cross-over into excess fat consumption)
*Fruits (easily blended in fruit salads as well as various juices – blue, red)
*Meat-alternatives (though Jo and I aren’t personal fans; which just goes to show that you can be a healthy vegan without ever consuming a ounce of tofu or tempeh – and Jo and I both have the blood work to prove it)

One also needs to consume dietary carbohydrates, as they are another building block in that which we call life. Just like fats and proteins, there are good sources and bad sources of carbohydrates. Oh, and carbs aren’t the enemy – our good friend quantity is usually the enemy when it comes to carbs. All carbohydrates required for dietary health come from plant sources, with the exception of glycogen (which is made by our own liver). And by dietary carbohydrates, I’m referring to biological carbs, including starches, sugars, and fibers. Carbohydrates provide the most readily available energy source. Good sources of healthy carbs include:

*Vegetables which provide starch and some sugars
*Nectars, syrups, and ordinary table sugar provide glucose, fructose, maltose, and sucrose
*Grains and legumes are excellent sources of healthy starches (it’s the processed starches that become unhealthy)
*Plants also provide indigestible polysaccharides (aka dietary fiber), which assist in the passage of food through the large intestine and may help reduce the risk of colon cancer
*Some good recipes to experiment with using nectars are in fruit and nut-based icings and frosting instead of butter and sugar-based, as well as high-fiber fruit muffins/breads

Vitamins are another major topic of discussion amongst those who are concerned with a healthy dietary lifestyle. To keep this post as brief as possible, I will discuss vitamins in their own individual post for easy referencing of which vitamins do what, and where can you get them…

The Outs:

Obviously, the major out is animal products. This includes the fleshes of ALL animals (land, air, and sea), as well as the byproducts of those animals. Byproducts include:

*honey
*milk
*cheese
*sour cream
*butter
*whey
*eggs
*gelatin

Excessive calorie consumption is also out! Being aware of what you’re putting into your body by making sure it’s animal-free is a good step to being aware of how much you’re putting into your body. Obesity is a major problem these days, leading to issues like diabetes – so let’s stop blaming scapegoats and look at what you’re eating as well as how much of what you’re eating. A handful of nuts will give one an excellent source of good fats and proteins, but a jar of nuts is defeating the health benefits they provide. A vegan blueberry bran muffin will provide fiber and other nutrients, but 4 muffins in one day will overdose you with gluten and calories that are counterproductive to the goodness of the muffin.

The What-have-you’s:

Vegans avoid animal products not just in their food, but also in regular daily life – such as body products (lotions, soaps, etc) and clothing. Aside from the ethcial reasons to avoid products which contain animal products and those which test on animals, slathering animal products on the outside of your body while making sure that no animal products are going into your body is really only doing 50% of the animal-free job!

One thing you have to realize, for healthy eating in general (vegan or otherwise) – healthy portions are a must. If you’re eating 4 vegan cupcakes a day, everyday..that’s not healthy regardless of how much veg you stuff in your pie-hole (or cupcake-hole, as it were). Just because a vegan cupcake is vegan doesn’t make it automatically healthy. I know here at the Primate, we love our sweets – but it’s called moderation. Also, you need to be getting your share of veg everyday. You can’t live on pasta with marinara without veg and call yourself a vegan – well, I suppose technically if your pasta is eggless then you can, but you’re not going to be very healthy. Incorporating a variety of colors is the easiest way to ensure you’re getting a wide variety of nutrients. You don’t want to fill yourself with white and brown food without any color…that makes for very boring and malnourishing meals. If you notice, most of the dishes that Jo and I post (desserts included), they are 90% of the time extremely colorful! This ensures we get all our nutrients while having an aesthetically pleasing plate of food – it’s easy, you can do it too! Without meaning to sound like I just did a bunch of drugs, eat like a rainbow everyday… The colors in food are a good indication of what they can provide you. Those in the red/orange/yellow family (carrots, red bell pepper, yellow corn, cherries) provide goodies like beta-carotene. Those in the blue/purple family (blueberries, blue corn) provide antioxidants and calcium. Greens (do I really need to give examples) provide iron and calcium, as well as vitamin C. Browns/blacks (beans, whole grains) give that all important fiber and protein, among various vitamins and minerals. Making sure you get something of every color every day is a good way to make sure you are getting a wide range of nutrients that, in combination, will make for a healthy human being at the end of the day.

Another obvious is exercise! Just because someone is thin and eats vegan doesn’t mean their body is a lean, mean, healthy machine. Exercise has many more benefits than the size of your jeans….

Happy and Healthy Eating!

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I am just tickled blue that July is the month of the blueberry! I can’t wait to make my ever-popular blueberry tart, a blueberry smoothie, blueberry bran muffins/loaves, blueberry-almond icing on lemon cake, oh the list goes on and on… I realize we’re at the middle of the month, but it’s never to late to discuss the health benefits of noshing on the tiny blue fruit!

Historically, blueberry juice was used to treat coughs, as a relaxant during childbirth, and diarrhea (treated by the anthocyanins combating the intestinal bacteria). We’ve all heard about the antioxidant properties of blueberries, and for those of you fighting cholesterol, blueberries contain large amounts of pectin which has been shown to help reduce blood cholesterol.

Blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) are high in Vitamins A, C, E and beta-carotene – but studies have shown that most of the C is lost upon freezing or canning, so get them fresh if you can!

But it’s still good to eat them even if they’re frozen or canned.. Blueberries are also high in potassium, manganese, and magnesium.

Let’s take a look at a few of the individual molecular components:

Anthocyanins create the blue color in blueberries. Anthocyanins are antioxidants, known to reduce heart disease and cancer in humans – remember, we’ve also seen these in cherries. They are found throughout the plant world, but blueberries are the highest of any fruit or vegetable. This substance is believed to combat E. coli.

Chlorogenic acid is another antioxidant which may also slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream after a meal – this could help to alleviate that hyperglycemic rush after a large and engourging meal, as well as help prevent the hypoglycemic crash destined to follow; helps keep things at an even keel. Chlorogenic acid’s antioxidant properties may also help fight damaging free radicals.

Catechins’ (also found in green tea) antioxidant effect is believed to diminish the formation of plaque in the arteries. And with less plaque in the arteries, the more room for your blood to flow happily through your circulatory system, ergo reducing blood pressure. Further research is being done to see if they combat and/or suppress cancerous tumors and cell proliferation, but to date no evidence is solid.

Resveratrol is a substance that is produced by several plants (also found in the skins of red grapes, which are used to make wine). A number of beneficial health effects, such as anti-cancer, anti-viral, neuroprotective, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory and life-prolonging effects have been reported for this substance. Resveratrol is also found in peanuts, and other berries of Vaccinium species including bilberries and cranberries.

Oxalates are the one possible negative aspect of blueberries. Oxalates should not be eaten in high concentration as they can crystallize and cause kidney or gallbladder problems, and slow the absorption of calcium into the system. But that’s no reason to have a handful of blueberries as a snack!

There are current studies world-wide to determine further effects on health and many believe that blueberries help the eyes, prevent urinary tract infections, lower cholesterol, protect against macular degeneration, and aid the cardiovascular system. Many of these studies have not arrived at a conclusion, and no single food is a cure-all, but looking at the list of phytochemicals in the blueberry, I am eager to eat them for health as well as pleasure.

Check this link for further nutritional info on blueberries in the raw!

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Ooh, Cherry baby…

The cherry recipes have been quite popular (Cherry No-Pie Juice, Cherry-Almond Scones) so just for kicks, let’s have a little cherry health education, shall we?

Cherries are chock-full of antioxidants, helping us fight those nasty bastards: free radicals. The flavonoids, anthocyanins, which give cherries their red pigment possess anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and anti-carcinogenic properties. Of the 150 different flavonoids found in plants, anthocyanins appear to have the greatest antioxidant capacity. Cherries are one of the richest sources of anthocyanins, containing more than sweet cherries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. There is also research supporting the belief that cherry juice helps relieve arthritis symptoms.

For you world travelers out there, cherries are one of the few known food sources of melatonin, a potent antioxidant produced naturally by the body’s pineal gland that helps regulate biorhythm and natural sleep patterns. “Scientists have found melatonin-rich tart cherries (commonly enjoyed as dried, frozen, juice or concentrate) contain more of this powerful antioxidant than what is normally produced by the body. Eating cherries can be a natural way to boost your body’s melatonin levels to hasten sleep and ease jet lag.” According to Russel J. Reiter, PhD (University of Texas Health and Science Center), one of the world’s leading authorities on melatonin, “try eating dried cherries one hour before desired sleep time on the plane. After arrival, consume cherries one hour before desired sleep each night for at least three consecutive evenings.” And since I’m about to board a plane today, I’ll be sure to pack my cherries – even though I’m crossing a time-change of only 2 hours.. 😉

And lastly, but certainly not least, cherries (the anthocyanins) have been shown to lower blood lipids, thus reducing heart disease risk. The latest research presented by University of Michigan researchers shows tart cherries may help reduce inflammation, a key risk factor for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Yummy ways to get your cherries are by Cherry-Almond scones or drinking it in a delicious juice form! Other good recipes would include yummies like Cherry Pie, Cherry-Cranberry Crumble, Cherry-Coconut vegan Ice Cream, Cherry Breakfast muffins…among others. And hopefully I can get another batch of cherries as good as before and do some experimental runs on these recipes for you!!

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I wanted to do a little blurb about gluten-free information and living for all my GF buddies out there. It seems like more and more people are trying to reduce or eliminate gluten from their diet. So lets educate ourselves a bit, shall we?

Ok, so what it means to be gluten-free: completely free of ingredients derived from gluten-containing cereals: wheat (including kamut and spelt), barley, rye, oats and triticale, as well as the use of gluten as a food additive in the form of a flavoring, stabilizing or thickening agent. Now regarding those with serious celiac disease, that’s who should be avoiding even the remotest possibility of wheat products. Controversy exists about the consumption of oats. Some say those who should be GF should avoid oat products, however, others say oat products are ok. It’s been generally accepted that spelt is safe for gluten-free followers, however, according to recent studies and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, those with celiac disease should also avoid spelt. It contains gluten, but not to the extent that’s found in wheat. When a celiac eats gluten their intestine thinks it’s under attack from a foreign body and initiates an immune response to the invader. The lining of the intestine becomes inflamed and the villi flatten. The flattening of the villi means that their surface area is reduced and the nutrients vital to health therefore aren’t absorbed, which over time leads to weight loss, wasting and malnutrition.

Aside from those with diagnosed Celiac Disease, who else benefits from a low-gluten/gluten-free diet? Some medical practitioners have seen improvements in persons with multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune disorders, as well as autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, and some behavioral problems. There are mixed beliefs in the benefit of gluten-free, dairy(casein)-free diets for those with autism – with data in support, and data suggesting no change or benefit. However, as a vegan, I would argue for the dairy-free side of things regardless…

Just like a vegan, what does a celiac eat?

Grains and starches also come up when discussing GF foods. The most frequently used grains and starches in GF foods are the following:

  • Rice
  • Corn
  • Soy
  • Potato
  • Tapioca
  • Beans
  • Garfava
  • Sorghum
  • Quinoa
  • Millet
  • Buckwheat
  • Arrowroot
  • Amaranth
  • Maize
  • Nut Flours

Another good flour that is gluten-free is chickpea (garbanzo) flour (see Pakoras!).

Odd places that gluten can be found is in ice creams and condiments such as ketchup – so read labels – as well as cosmetics such as lipstick, lip balms, and lip gloss.

As always, read the labels..and unless otherwise specified please make sure items are specifically marked gluten- or wheat-free if your life depends on it!

For more information check out the following sites:

Celiac.com: Provides info for gluten-free living, recipes, forums, online shops, etc. Also has various articles regarding research and other information about gluten- and wheat-intolerance.

Wheat-free.org: which has both wheat- and gluten-free information, recipes, etc.

Gluten Intolerance Group of North America: Non-profit group that provides support to persons with gluten intolerances, including celiac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis, and other gluten sensitivities, in order to live healthy lives.

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The UN has dubbed 2008 as The Year of the Potato. The intent of the declaration was to raise awareness of the potato as a means to fight existing poverty and hunger throughout the world. Because the humble spud ranks as the fourth major food crop in the world after corn, wheat, and rice, it seems perfectly logical using it as a weapon against world hunger. I say lets fight world hunger and educate ourselves on one of my favorite vegetables. And who doesn’t love potatoes? Nobody I know…

Lets start with the stats of this powerhouse tuber:

One medium sized potato has 110 calories, is fat-, cholesterol- and sodium-free.

Potatoes rank highest in potassium when eaten with the skin (620 mg; comparable to spinach, broccoli, and bananas) among the top 20 most frequently consumed raw vegetables and the 20 top most frequently consumed raw fruits. Potassium is essential to the body because of its role in attaining optimal muscle performance and improving the nerves’ response to stimulation.

Iron, essential in helping the body convert food to energy as well as resist infection, is also present in trace amounts.

One medium (5.3 ounce) potato is an excellent source of the antioxidant vitamin C (45% of the Daily Value). Vitamin C is essential to help maintain healthy connective tissue and heal wounds.

The many varieties of Washington potatoes are good sources of B vitamins, helping the body make healthy red blood cells and amino acids.

Potato skins are chock-full of natural fiber (3 grams per serving)! This amount of fiber equals or exceeds that of many “whole” grain products-whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta and many cereals.

And a 6 oz. potato contains 3 grams of highly digestible protein (almost as much as half a glass of milk; making the potato is a tastier, more filling, and more compassionate choice) making it a great foundation for a whole meal.

Potatoes contain trace amounts of thiamine, riboflavin, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.

Jo has already kicked us off with her Mashed Potato and Favorite Potato recipes. And lets not forget the Vegetable Curry, which wouldn’t be the same without potatoes. So look for many more potato recipes to come! And eat those potatoes!!!

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