Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category

Natural Immune Boosters

Ok, with all the talk of the swine flu going around..let’s review some of the immune boosting recipes here. Don’t forget my #1 go-to herb, Elderberry! I felt the onset of a flu, drank 2 C and my fever broke..drank 2 more cups and within about 36 hours I was feeling back to normal – with only minor residual congestion! Hot water and lemon is helping with the leftover scratchy throat and congestion..

Some herbal teas that can get the job done:

Sage– can relieve a sore throat and reduce sweat, and helps to balance our hormones.
Yarrow– ease the symptoms of colds and flu, and aids digestion and circulation.
Ginger tea– settles the stomach and deactivates inflammatory hormones.
Thyme– eases congestion (1 oz in 1 C water)
Eucalyptus– eases congestion (1 oz in 1 C water)

Herbs for a sore throat:

Raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus): It has astringent properties that justify itā€™s use as a mouthwash and gargle for mouth or throat inflammation
Mullein (Verbascum densiflorum): Relieves upper respiratory congestion in two ways. 1) its mucilage soothes injured areas of the mouth and throat; 2) contains compounds that act on the CNS to move phlegm out of the body. Mullein stimulates the cough reflex, but not hte fine hairs lining the respiratory passages, thus minimizing the risk of reinfection by cold or flu viruses lodged in the nose and throat. This herb tones the mucous membranes of the respiratory system and reduces inflammation while promoting expectoration if there is a hard cough with soreness.
Ginger, thyme, or rosemary tea and gargle, cayenne pepper gargle.

Foods known to help with cold and flu: apricots, broccoli, carrots, citrus, garlic, ginger, kale (check out the Chickpea Cauliflower and Kale Curry), kiwi fruit, mango, melon, nectarines, red bell pepper, strawberries, watercress, watermelon

Another plan of attack is garlic! Garlic is known to fight off colds. So don’t worry about garlic breath and add in an extra spoonful into your dishes, at least you can keep vampires at bay and stay healthy at the same time! šŸ™‚

Plus, check out the smoothies I’ve already posted as a fun way to get your vitamins and minerals that are going to keep you in tip-top shape!

Cherry No-Pie Juice (antioxidants, anti-inflammatory)
Clementine-n-Mango Juice (immune system, healthy skin)
Eveā€™s Pink Peach (energy, immune system, healthy skin)
Pango Mango (energy, immune system, digestion, healthy skin)
Peachy Blue Monster Juice (energy, immune system)
Pineapple-Cherry Pick-Me-Up (energy, immune system)
Ruby Red Raspberry Reviver (antioxidants, energy, immune system)

You can also spritz the air with a dilution of water and eucalyptus essential oil to help purify the air – this will help prevent those air-borne nasties from attacking your healthy system!

Stay healthy!!

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Hot Peppers 101

Primate readers will know Jo and I have a healthy obsession with hot peppers – though some could argue an unhealthy obsession..but as any South Texan can attest..it’s totally healthy! I was asked some questions by David over at FoodNearSnellville about handling hot peppers, and how to test or judge the level of ‘heat’ of a previously untasted pepper – and it was suggested I do a post discussing this very topic, Genius Idea! While Jo and I are fans of the habaƱero for heat and lovely flavor, they are definitely not for everyone. For some, the heat of a jalapeƱo can be a bit on the ‘hot’ side (right Dad? šŸ˜‰ ). So everyone’s palate is different when it comes to flavor preference as well as heat tolerance. So here’s a little lesson in hot peppers!

Peppers are rated in Scoville Heat Units (SHU), as a scale for their piquancy, which I’ll include here. Zero (0) being no heat, and the hottest pepper on record, the Naga, coming in at 1,050,000 SHU. Peppers that are grown in hot, dry climates tend to be hotter to the taste. Also, as the pepper matures, the capsaicin levels peak causing a greater intensity in heat.

Let’s start with those deemed hot chilies:

Capsicum chinense: HabaƱero, Scotch Bonnet, Naga (hottest in the world, remember), and Datil.

onion and tiny pepperHabaƱero (Red Savina) – My favorite hot pepper that I’ve tasted! I love adding it to my various salsas, enchilada sauces, even sometimes to Chana masala when I’m in the mood. When I opt for a hot pepper, this is my go-to. What I often suggest to others when I use this bad boy, is to sub a serrano or jalapeno because they are on the hotter side of mild – sort of medium. Because the habbie is so hot, a little does go a long way..so if you know you love the flavor but can’t take the heat..omit the seeds, where most of the heat lives. 350,000- 580,000 SHU

Scotch Bonnet – Another hot hot hot pepper, can sometimes be called a habaƱero chili. Other peppers that fall in this same range include the Datil. 100,000-300,000 SHU

Capsicum annum: Serrano Chilies, Cayenne peppers

Cayenne peppers – The peppers are usually dried, ground, and baked into ‘cakes’ which are further ground and sifted into what you buy as powdered cayenne. It’s also popular as red pepper flakes. 30,000-50,000 SHU

Serrano chili peppers – These are hot peppers, though not as hot as those found in C. chinense. Serranos are very fleshy, therefore don’t dry very well, and come in a variety of colors – green, red, brown, yellow, or orange. 10,000-23,000 SHU

Moving on to medium and milder chilies:

Capsicum annum: JalapeƱos, Cayenne, Cherry Pepper, Poblano Chili – to name a few. This group contains both hot (see above), medium, and sweet peppers (see below).

Chickpea Chili Flatbread1JalapeƱos – Perhaps the most commonly known chili in use in the southern region of the US, this is a medium heat chili. JalapeƱos are typically sold while still green, but can mature on the plant to a bright red. The red jalapenos, considered inferior to the green, are smoke-dried and become known as chipotle peppers. Chipotles are slightly hotter than their immature, plump jalapeƱo counterparts. Chipotles rank at 30,000-50,000 SHUs, whereas the JalapeƱo itself ranks at only 2,500-8,000 SHUs.

Poblano Chili – It also goes by the names Pasilla, and when dried is called Ancho chilies. It tends to have a low/mild heat. You mostly see them green, but can mature into a deep, almost-black red color. This would be a good chili for roasting and turning into a sauce for Mexican dishes or for a mild salsa. 500-2,500 SHU

Lastly, the sweet side of peppers:

purple bell peppersCapsicum annum: Bell peppers – A sweet pepper, meaning less pungent, the bell pepper can come in a variety of colors: red, yellow, orange, green, purple, white, brown. And the color indicates when the pepper was picked – as they are all the same pepper. Green tends to be more bitter and less sweet (though not hot) than red, yellow, or orange. I’m personally quite fond of the red..but when it’s price is high I will opt for a yellow or orange, whatever’s on sale. I thoroughly enjoyed my purple bells from the Farmer’s Market last summer. When sweet bells are dried and ground, the result is paprika! 100-500 SHU

When working with peppers, be cautious. The seeds contain capsaicin, which can burn horribly if you get it in your eyes or mouth, even on your lips – it’s what they use to make mace and pepper spray. So unless you have a desire to mace yourself, be careful! I like to wash my hands immediately following the chopping of pepper; then rubbing my hands with lime or lemon juice, rubbing alcohol or booze, or canola/vegetable oil; then washing my hands again. I also wash my cutting board and knife, so as not to recontaminate my hands when I move on to other veggies. Let air dry, the towel you wipe your hands and utensils off with could pick up any residual capsiacin, which could end up kicking your butt the next time you use it (or wash it immediately). Some would tell you to wear latex gloves, but I personally don’t. I would worry my food would pick up the flavor of the gloves I was wearing – sometimes latex has that something…I’m not a fan. Soap and canola oil work perfectly fine for me..and you get a little extra moisturizer by giving your hands an oil rub-down..so double-bonus!

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The third post in the Vitamins and Minerals trilogy. I’ve given you Vitamins and Macrominerals, so to conclude we’ll discuss the Microminerals. These are otherwise known as trace elements. Though they are found in very small amounts in the body, they do play a critical role in nutrition. People usually only need about 100 micrograms a day. Micronutrient malnutrition is typically found in underdeveloped countries, since those in developed countries have easy access to readily available foods and supplements. Micronutrients enable the body to produce enzymes, hormones and other substances essential for proper growth and development – thus the small amounts that are required can have big impacts on overall health.

Mineral; Food sources; Major Functions; Recipes in which to find it

Chromium: Vegetables,yeast, beer, unrefined wheat flour, corn oil. Necessary for glucose metabolism, formation of insulin for proper blood glucose concentration. Peachy Blue Monster, Naan, various Steamed Vegetables, Pasta Primavera, just about any vegetable recipe on this site šŸ˜‰
Cobalt: Broccoli, spinach, oats. Necessary for formation of red blood cells. Moroccan Veg, Scape Bake, Green Enchiladas, Oat Surprise Muffins
Copper: Wheat products, barley, cocoa, lentils, molasses, mushrooms, nuts, oats, seeds, wheatgerm. Necessary for hemoglobin formation, maintenance of certain copper-containing enzymes, proper intestinal absorption of iron. Dulce de Bourbon Chews, Sweet and Spicy Nuts, Oat Surprise Muffins
Fluorine: Fluoridated water, toothpastes, tea. Hardens bones & teeth, suppresses bacterial action in mouth. Herbal teas, Green teas, Black teas
Iodine: Iodized table salt, seaweed (nori). Necessary for synthesis of thyroxin, which is essential for maintenance of normal cellular respiration. Nori Rolls, and any dish you salt… šŸ™‚
Iron: Beans, raisins, molasses, dried spirulina, pepita, sesame/sunflower seeds, quinoa, soy flour, endive, pistachios, tomato paste, miso, apricots, oats, lima beans, wheat, barley, lentils, peaches, spinach, wheatgerm, potatoes, peas, gingerroot, tahini, beets, thyme, nuts/nut butters. Component of hemoglobin, myoglobin; necessary for transport of oxygen to tissues, cellular oxidation. Peachy Blue Monster, Fruit Salad, Black Bean Quinoa Salad, Roasted Thyme Potatoes, PB Cups, Refashioned PB Cookies
Manganese: Bananas, bran, beans, leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts. Necessary for formation of hemoglobin, activation of enzymes; Important for tissue respiration, growth, healthy nervous system. Dulce de Bourbon Chews, Breakfast Burritos, Blueberry Bran Muffins, Green Enchiladas
Molybdenum: Legumes, green leafy vegetables, peas. Component of several enzymes. Lime-Saffron Millet ‘Pea’laf, Italian Herb Veg & Quinoa, Chickpea Cauliflower and Kale curry
Selenium: Whole grains (especially the bran and germ), onions, celery, cabbage, broccoli. Enzymes, lipid metabolism, antioxidant (protects plasma membranes from breaking down). Dulce de Bourbon Chews, Fresh Fruit Salad, Red Beans & Rice Soup, Cornbread stuffing
Zinc: Legumes, green vegetables, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, pepitas, brewer’s yeast. Part of many enzymes, important in wound healing, cell growth, and cell repair. Chickpeas Romesco, Fresh Fruit Salad, Sweet & Spicy Nuts, Green Enchiladas

Happy and Healthy Eating!

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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 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. šŸ™‚

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.


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.


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! šŸ™‚ 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, sautƩ 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 sautƩ 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:

*sour cream

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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