This is default featured slide 1 title
This is default featured slide 2 title
This is default featured slide 3 title
This is default featured slide 4 title
This is default featured slide 5 title
 

Monthly Archives: January 2017

Tips to Turn Your Favorite Foods Vegetarian

There are lots of logical reasons to eat vegetarian, and there are also lots of evolutionary reasons why we humans crave meat. However, there are creative and tasty ways to staunch your meat cravings and get the protein your body needs without actually eating meat. For those who have recently turned to vegetarianism, or have been vegetarian for a while and are looking for new cooking ideas, here is a run-down of six tasty and easy to prepare meat substitutes that will help turn your favorite foods vegetarian.

Meat Substitute #1 – Jackfruit

This amazing and relatively unknown fruit from India is high in protein, potassium and vitamin B, making it not only a convincing doppelganger for meat, but providing some of the same nutritional value.

How to use it: Pulled pork has been a hot trend in the professional culinary scene for a few years now because, well, it tastes amazing. Vegetarians can get in on the action (without clogging their arteries) by using jackfruit as a substitute in pulled pork dishes.

How to prepare it: The most important part of the preparation is finding green jackfruit. It is often sold in cans, a much better option than lugging home the giant, bulbous fruit itself. Go for the jackfruit in water or brine, not syrup.

  • Once you have some green jackfruit rinsed and cut into bite sized pieces, season it with barbecue spices.
  • Saute some onion and jalapeños if you like it spicy, and add the jackfruit to the pan.
  • Add about a cup of vegetable broth, cover, and simmer until the liquid has been absorbed.
  • Remove the jackfruit from the saute pan and spread on a baking sheet, breaking up the fibers with a spatula so that it resembles pulled pork.
  • Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes.
  • Remove and toss with vegan barbecue sauce.
  • Add it to a bun with a slaw of your choice and BAM! You’ve got yourself some vegetarian pulled jackfruit.

Where to find it: Asian or Caribbean stores, and some large supermarkets.

Meat Substitute #2 – Lentils

Lentils are part of the legume family, which also includes beans and peas. Legumes often mimic meat in their protein levels, texture and tastiness. Lentils, in particular, are a great sub-in for dishes that call for minced meat, and are incredibly low in fat yet high in fiber, iron and protein.

How to use it: Lentil burgers (grilled or pan-fried) make a quick, easy and nutritious dinner for the conscious diner.

How to prepare it: There are a few different ways to make a veggie burger with legumes, but here’s our favorite:

  • Cook lentils in vegetable broth, with 2 cups broth to every cup of lentils.
  • Stir fry some onion and spinach and season with cumin, salt and pepper.
  • Add to the lentils along with about a cup of breadcrumbs and an egg.
  • For a gluten free option, use cornmeal instead of breadcrumbs.
  • If you are going vegan, you can skip the egg, which just helps to bind the mixture a bit better.
  • Let the mixture cool and then form into patties.

Where to find it: Lentils are a common staple and found in most grocery stores.

Meat Substitute #3 – Marinated Mushrooms

Mushrooms have a meat-like texture when cooked and take on a lovely umami flavor when marinated in soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. They are packed with vitamin D, fiber, potassium, and selenium, a mineral rarely found in fruits and vegetables, but which is essential to healthy liver function. Shiitake mushrooms, in particular, are known for their meaty texture and savory flavor.

How to use it: Next time you need to put a little pizazz in your salad, try adding these marinated mushrooms. They are a great stand-in for chicken or other forms of protein typically found in a Cobb, Caesar, or Asian chicken salad.

How to prepare it: Mushrooms can be marinated in any combination of oil, vinegar, herbs and spices. Here’s our suggestion for Asian-style mushrooms, which use soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, minced garlic and salt.

  • About 2 lbs. of mushrooms will take about a cup of rice wine, 4 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons oil and 3 cloves garlic.
  • Mix the marinade first and then add to a container with the mushrooms.
  • The mushrooms can be sliced or, if they are small enough, put whole into the container.
  • It is best to let these marinate over night. Due to the vinegar, these can be stored in the refrigerator for about two weeks (if they don’t get gobbled up first!)

Where to find it:Though button and crimini mushrooms are easily found, have fun experimenting with different types of mushrooms found in Asian supermarkets and health food stores. Try chaneterelles (known for their golden color) or porcini mushrooms, the smaller cousin to the portabello.

Meat/Cheese Substitute – Nuts

Nuts are incredibly versatile, and can add that extra zing of protein and healthy fat that you need to make a vegetarian dish a complete meal. Cashews, almonds and walnuts are perhaps the easiest to find nuts with the most versatility. Almonds have 6 grams of protein per ounce, and are also high in fiber, vitamin E and iron. Cashews are a particularly good source of essential minerals, such as zinc, potassium, manganese and iron.

How to use it: Cashew cheese in your vegan lasagna.

How to prepare it: Not only vegetarian, but vegan too, cashew “cheese” makes for a creamy, delicious substitute in savory dishes that usually call for copious amounts of dairy. Enter: vegan lasagna! Cashew cheese is ridiculously easy to make.

  • Soak raw cashews for a few hours in water (make sure the cashews are totally covered) and then drain.
  • Place in a food processor with a little lemon juice, salt and pepper, to taste, and puree until smooth.
  • You may need to add water depending on how thick you would like your “cheese”.
  • Layer in between sheets of lasagna and meatless tomato sauce, and you’ve got yourself a quick and easy vegan lasagna.

Where to find it: Raw cashews can be found in most health food stores and some grocery stores. Note: You can make cashew cheese with roasted cashews, but they work better (and are more nutritious) in raw form.

Broth Substitute – Miso

For a long time, taste was put into four narrow categories: sweet, salt, sour and bitter. It was only about a century ago that a Japanese chemistry professor discovered a fifth taste: Umami. Umami is a pleasant, savory flavor that results from a type of amino acid commonly found in, you guessed it, meat and fish. But, lucky for vegetarians, it is also found in miso, a Japanese paste made of fermented soybeans. Used as a seasoning for a multitude of dishes, miso is also packed with protein, vitamin B2, vitamin E, vitamin K, iron and calcium.

How to use it: Miso provides just the right seasoning for folks wanting that savory taste in their meatless broth.

How to prepare it: Miso broth is easy to prepare and oh-so easy to customize to your palate.

  • Bring a cup of water to a boil, then add green onion and a handful of vegetables of your choice.
  • Simmer until the vegetables are cooked through, then add a heaping spoonful of miso paste.
  • Try the various kinds of miso paste (red, green or white) to see which kind you prefer best for your broth.

Where to find it: In the health food or Asian food section of most large grocery stores.

Flavor Substitute – Smoke Flavoring

If there is one food that could likely to break a vegetarian’s meat-less streak, it’s probably bacon. It is the smoky flavor (and smell!) found in bacon and other barbecue foods that brings vegetarians running. But, never fear, there is a way to add that smokey flavor to a wide variety of food — and we’re not just talking about vegan bacon. Grilling vegetables on a charcoal grill is a surefire way to get some of that smokey flavor in your life. But, try experimenting with ingredients such as smoked salt, smoked maple syrup (yes, it exists), and smoked paprika. Liquid smoke, essentially condensation from the steam of smoked wood, is another option, however it does contain carcinogens, so it is best to use sparingly.

How to use it: Smoked maple syrup baked beans.

How to prepare it: You can use any kind of beans you want with this recipe, but Great Northern beans or Navy beans work well. Add the beans to a pot, along with:

  • 2 tablespoons of smoked maple syrup
  • A third a cup of beer
  • A chunk of onion (about a quarter of the onion would suffice)

Simmer until the onion is softened and enjoy!

Where to find it: Smoked maple syrup is most successfully found online. Smoked salt can be found in specialty food stores, while smoked paprika can be found in most grocery stores.

The Health Benefits of Garlic

Garlic (Allium sativum) is a plant used in cooking and medicine, best known for its distinctive flavor and aroma. While frequently used as a seasoning, garlic is technically a vegetable. A member of the Allium family, it’s a close relative of onions, shallots, leeks, and chives. The benefits of garlic don’t end with adding flavor to food, it’s a legitimate superfood that has been used for an astounding variety of medical applications for thousands of years.

History of Garlic

Humans have consumed garlic as both cuisine and cure for over 7,000 years. The plant is native to central Asia, but its use and cultivation has spread around the world. Ancient Egyptians gave garlic to the laborers building the pyramids to boost stamina and prevent disease. In Ancient Greece, Olympic athletes would chew garlic before participating in the games. References to garlic can be found in Homer’s Odyssey, 5,000-year-old Indian medical texts, and the Bible. Garlic was used as food and medicine in the cultures of the ancient Romans, Chinese, Vikings, Phoenicians, Israelites, and Persians.

Now, garlic remains a popular food and flavoring. It’s a staple of Mediterranean, Indian, Middle Eastern, Chinese, and Southeast Asian cuisine. The potential medical applications of garlic are even receiving renewed interest from researchers.

Garlic’s Nutritional Profile

At first glance, the nutritional capabilities of garlic may seem puzzling. If you look at the official nutrition facts for garlic, a typical serving of garlic (3-9 grams), provides no significant amount of the typically listed essential nutrients. It provides no noteworthy amount of fiber, protein, iron, potassium or vitamins A, D, E, or most of the B vitamins.

It’s a good source of selenium and contains small amounts of calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and vitamins C and B6, but there are better sources of these nutrients. You’d have to eat a lot of raw garlic to receive a substantial amount of these nutrients, and even though it’s delicious, I think very few of us are up to that challenge.

So what exactly is in garlic that makes it such a prized health-supporting tool in so many different cultures? Garlic owes its healing properties to the presence of several sulfurous phytochemical compounds. Fresh garlic contains a sulfoxide compound called alliin. When fresh garlic is chopped, crushed, or damaged, alliin is converted into allicin by an enzyme called alliinase. Allicin is responsible for much of the pungent scent of garlic. Its actual purpose is to act as a defense mechanism, protecting the plant from pests.

Allicin is unstable and further breaks down into other sulfurous compounds including diallyl disulfide, diallyl trisulfide, and diallyl tetrasulfide. Inside the human body, diallyl disulfide breaks down into allyl methyl sulfide, the chief cause of garlic breath. (Sidenote: for a natural way to reduce garlic breath, try sucking a lemon wedge, drinking green tea, or eating spinach or an apple. These foods all contain substances that mask or break down the garlicky odor.)

It’s these sulfurous compounds that give garlic its healing abilities. The pest-resistant properties of allicin still work when the compound is in the human body. This makes garlic a surprisingly good defense against harmful organisms like bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungus.

Diallyl disulfide also possesses antimicrobial abilities, as well as anti-cancer and heart healthy properties. The exact mechanisms behind the health benefits of garlic are not yet fully understood, but research is ongoing. We do know that garlic can be a powerful tool for supporting a healthy lifestyle. Here are a few ways garlic can help.

Health Benefits of Garlic

1. Garlic Supports Cardiovascular Health

Garlic is among the best foods for heart health. Studies have found that garlic reduces cholesterol and lowers lipid content in the blood. Experimental and clinical studies on the cardiovascular benefits of garlic have found it to have a positive effect on atherosclerosis, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and thrombosis.[1] Garlic also seems to possess the ability to prevent blood clots. Tests are currently underway to examine the mechanism of this effect.

2. Garlic May Help with Hypertension

Researchers have found that oral administration of garlic can lower blood pressure in both human and animal studies. Amazingly, there was a measurable response after just a single dose. Chronic oral administration of garlic has a long-term positive effect. Allicin seems to have a relaxing effect on the smooth muscle cells of the pulmonary artery, allowing the artery to open more fully.[1] This doesn’t mean that you can switch to an all-bacon diet and expect to “garlic away” the consequences, but when combined with a balanced diet, garlic can substantially improve blood pressure.

3. Garlic Is Nutritional Support Against Cancer

Around the world, studies have found a correlation between a high intake of garlic and a lowered cancer risk. An increased consumption of garlic is associated with a reduction in cancers of the stomach, colon, esophagus, pancreas, prostate, and breast.[2] The United States National Cancer Institute has said that garlic may be the most effective food for cancer prevention.[3]

4. Garlic and Diabetes

Garlic may also provide significant benefits to those suffering from diabetes. Experimental studies have shown that garlic lowers blood glucose levels and this hypoglycemic effect has been replicated in animal studies. Treatment for humans is less studied but looks promising. Garlic has been reported to lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce insulin resistance. However, further study is needed to fully understand the effect garlic has on human blood glucose levels.[3]

5. Garlic Offers Liver Protection

Garlic is one of the best foods to help cleanse your liver. It can help mitigate the effects of fatty liver disease[4] and provides hepatoprotective effects from certain toxic agents. Studies have found that garlic can protect liver cells from acetaminophen, gentamycin, and nitrates.[3]

6. Antimicrobial Properties of Garlic

For centuries, traditional medicine has used garlic for its antimicrobial properties. Modern studies have found that the antibacterial properties of garlic are effective on salmonella, staph infections, clostridium (the cause of botulism), proteus, mycobacterium, and H. pylori. Garlic has even been suggested as a treatment for drug-resistant tuberculosis.[3]

Garlic’s action against harmful organisms doesn’t stop with bacteria. It’s antiprotozoal, antifungal, and even antiviral. In vitro studies have found that garlic is effective against influenza, cytomegalovirus, rhinovirus (the cause of the common cold), viral pneumonia, rotavirus, herpes simplex 1 and 2, and even HIV.[3] Unfortunately, these results are only confirmed in test tube studies. How the active substances of garlic react to viruses inside the human system remains to be seen.

Studies of cold sufferers have found that those who consumed garlic extract experienced milder symptoms and shorter illness duration than placebo groups, but the exact mechanism behind this phenomena is still unclear.[5] Further research is necessary to more fully understand the healing power of garlic.

7. Garlic Is a Powerful Antioxidant

Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage DNA and lead to poor health. Garlic contains potent antioxidants that fight these free radicals. When allicin breaks down, it produces an acid that reacts with and traps the free radicals. Researchers at Queens University in Ontario believe this may be the most powerful dietary antioxidant ever discovered.[6]

What Is the Microbiome?

The human body is a complex, interconnected ecosystem and the gut is where your body interacts the most with the outside world. Your gut acts acts as the frontline of your immune system, as it is constantly exposed to new microbes and molecules that come from the things you eat and drink. The processes that take place in the gut are involved in the central nervous system, brain, and even influence your mood. But you can’t begin a discussion about the gut’s importance without discussing the organisms that live there.

So, What Is the Microbiome?

The collection of microbes that live in and on the human body is known as the microbiota.[1] The microbiome refers to the complete set of genes within these microbes. Microbial genes significantly influence how the body operates and even outnumber human genes by a ratio of 100:1.[2] Each of us has a unique microbiota and a unique microbiome. The microbes that live in your body are determined by what you’re exposed to and these colonies are constantly in flux. Geography, health status, stress, diet, age, gender, and everything you touch all affect the composition of your microbiota.[3]

Public Health, Germ Theory, and the Microbiome

Scientists have known about microorganisms for hundreds of years. In 1673, Antony van Leeuwenhoek wrote to the Royal Society of London about his discovery of tiny “animalcules” with the use of his “microscopes.” Leeuwenhoek found microbes almost everywhere he looked,[4] but the discovery was largely ignored until the 1870s when their role in the cause and spread of disease was observed. Previously, doctors believed that bad air caused disease. Robert Koch proved that tiny microorganisms were responsible. His discovery solidified the validity of germ theory—the idea that certain microbes cause specific diseases.[5]

Germ theory created a scientific rationale for cleanliness that became the precursor to it becoming a moral and social imperative. People began bathing daily. Soap, once considered a luxury, became a basic household necessity. Doctors and surgeons started washing their hands and sanitizing their instruments.[6] New laws led to public health initiatives that limited the spread of disease and saved lives.[6]

Until recently, scientists focused almost solely on how pathogenic microbes negatively affect humans. There has since been a realization that some microorganisms are actually beneficial to human health.[7] More attention is now given to the microbiome and its role in health and immunity.[8] Launched in 2008, The Human Microbiome Project (HMP) was created to better understand the relationship between health, disease, and the microbiome.[9]

The Makeup of the Microbiome

The microbiota is comprised of a dizzying number of microorganisms. Bacteria make up the bulk—about 30-50 trillion cells.[10] The human body itself contains about 37 trillion human cells.[11] It may be disconcerting to think of yourself as mostly microbial cells, but, by weight, you’re definitely mostly human as microbial cells are significantly smaller than human cells. Bacterial cells range from 0.2-10 microns (micrometers) across; human cells range from 10-100 microns.[12] For reference, the average dust mite, which is microscopic, is 200-300 microns wide.

If you’ve seen the oft-quoted 10:1 ratio (10 microbes to 1 human cell), you might be surprised to learn that it was actually just an estimate that circulated throughout academic and scientific resources as fact. It is now regarded as academic urban legend.[13]

It’s believed that humans carry about three pounds of bacteria in their intestines.[14]Everyone’s individual microbiome is as unique as their fingerprint and comprised of hundreds of different types of bacteria.[15] The specific number of bacteria cells varies throughout the day and is always turning over.[16]

Although bacteria account for most of the mass of the microbiota, viruses are actually the most abundant inhabitants.[8, 17] We tend to think of viruses as harmful, but that’s not always the case. The viruses found in the gut are primarily bacteriophages, meaning that they infect gut bacteria cells but they don’t necessarily harm them. Rather, they have a symbiotic relationship. Viruses can quickly transfer genes—beneficial genes. So, if new bacteria are introduced to your gut, either through diet or probiotics, the viral cells can help the bacteria thrive by transferring the genetic code.[18]

The Role of the Human Microbiota

The role of the microbiome is so central to the body’s operations that it essentially acts as an organ.[18] The microbiome impacts aging, digestion, the immune system, mood, and cognitive function.

Some of the bacteria in the gut produce enzymes that support digestion, especially the digestion of polysaccharides—healthy and complex sugars found in plant foods.[19] These bacteria also provide B vitamins, vitamin K, and short chain fatty acids. The microbiota also influences metabolic rate.[20]

A strong microbiome is the foundation of your immune system. When you were born, your gut was a clean slate, ready to learn.[21] Exposure to microbes provides the education that trains the immune system how to respond to different organisms. In this way, the immune system mediates the relationship between the body and the microbes it hosts.[21] Harmful organisms are dealt with, helpful organisms exist in harmony and contribute to good health overall.[22]

Research has also revealed the important role the microbiome has on mental health. There is a complex relationship between the gut and brain, called the gut-brain axis (GBA). The microbiota interacts with the central nervous system to regulate brain chemistry and mediate stress response, anxiety, and memory.[23]

How Is the Human Microbiota Formed?

It’s generally agreed that the human body is first exposed to microbes during birth.[18, 24] The makeup of the mother’s vaginal microbiota changes during pregnancy and is extremely influential.[25] Babies born vaginally are colonized primarily by the Lactobacillus genus of bacteria. Newborns delivered by Caesarean section are exposed to skin microbes such asStaphylococcus, Corynebacterium, and Propionibacterium.[26] Whether the baby was born at home or the hospital can also affect the composition of the baby’s microbiota.[3]

As babies grow, their microbiome will change. In the first few months of life, the body is colonized by relatively few species of microbes—only about 100. By the age of 3, a child’s microbiota possesses closer to 1000 species of microbes and begins to resemble the microbiota of an adult. Puberty and, much later, menopause are two other life events that can significantly change the composition of the microbiota.[3]

The Bacteria in Your Gut Microbiome

Microbiome composition may vary throughout the intestines; most are concentrated in the large intestine. The bacteria in the average adult gut include Bifidobacterium,Lactobacillus, Bacteroides, Clostridium, Escherichia, Streptococcus, and Ruminococcus. Not only will diet influence the microbial composition of the microbiota, the microbiota influences the nutritional value of food.[27] Though specific bacteria vary, they share many of the same genes.[28]

Humans do not have the ability to produce the enzymes required to break down complicated nutrients. However, gut bacteria do have that ability and it’s absolutely essential for proper digestion. Bacteria enable us to eat a diverse diet and receive a broad range of micronutrients and phytonutrients.[29]

Supporting the Microbiome

Your microbiome is constantly changing.[1] You rely on your microbiome for many processes, including digestion and immune system function; the stronger it is, the better off you’ll be. To positively shape your microbiome, eat a diverse diet rich in complex carbohydrates and fiber.[30] Probiotic supplements can also help strengthen the microbiota. Choosing the best probiotic supplement is a whole other subject but, bottom line, the best probiotic supplements contain an assortment of probiotic strains andprebiotics. Prebiotics are food that help probiotics flourish.

Tips To Make Healthy, Natural Sunflower Seed Butter

Sunflower seed butter is creamy, versatile, delicious, and it’s an awesome substitute for nut butter. This recipe from Oh She Glows is more than just plain ground sunflower seeds—it also features cinnamon, coconut sugar, and coconut oil. It tastes amazing!

As a great source of fiber, essential vitamins, and minerals, sunflower seeds are one of the healthiest seeds. Half a cup provides vitamin E,[1] B6, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and zinc.[2] Some research suggests sunflower seeds are a heart healthy functional food because they contain phytosterols, phytonutrients that promote normal cholesterol levels.[3]

Sunflower Seed Butter Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 16 ounces

Equipment

  • Baking sheet
  • Parchment paper (optional)
  • Food processor or blender
  • Spatula

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of organic, raw, unsalted, shelled sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup organic coconut (palm) sugar
  • 1 tbsp organic unrefined coconut oil
  • Pinch of Himalayan crystal salt
  • 1/2 tsp organic cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Spread sunflower seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper) and place in the oven. Seeds are ready once they have a golden hue, about 10-15 minutes depending on your oven. Watch closely so they don’t burn.
  3. Allow roasted seeds to cool a few minutes, then pour into food processor. Discard any burnt seeds.
  4. Process seeds on high until they have a loose, grainy consistency, about 2 minutes. Use a spatula to push the powder down. Add coconut oil in dollops and process until fully combined, about 2 minutes.
  5. Scrape the bowl down with a spatula. Evenly add remaining ingredients to the food processor. Process for 2-4 minutes. The sunflower seed butter will look chunky at first but will get smoother the longer it’s processed. Process the mixture until you reach the desired consistency.
  6. Use a spatula to scrape butter into an airtight container and refrigerate for about 2 hours before using (it will remain spreadable). The sunflower seed butter will stay fresh for about two months in the refrigerator.