Tag Archives: iron

Humane Meat

I was recently introduced to yet another an article about the dangers of veganism by a friend. After looking at the piece I had a few remarks: first that there is a body of peer reviewed scientific literature that explains that vegan diets are appropriate for adolescents and infants alike; second that the author of the article in question, while well meaning, is still merely a journalist and anyone can publish an article, blog, or whatever other sort of publication you prefer; and third, that the New York Times’ journalist favored the writing of an acupuncturist (whose understanding of biochemistry was lacking, to say the least) among others and makes unfounded assertions (about the methionine content of soy based infant formula, for example) to bolster her point – so much for journalistic integrity.

One of the more vocal contributors to our discussion about veganism and growing bodies was an individual who felt that veganism was ‘too extreme’ and found a happy medium in ‘humane meat’. They asked me if I felt that sustainable meat was ‘a step in the right direction’. I can’t say that I do. Even though ‘humanely’ raised animals boast a better, more sustainable way of farming and arguably happier livestock; it’s certainly not sustainable for the animal, still pollutes the environment, is an inefficient use of land, grain, water and labor and neglects to acknowledge that there’s nothing humane about killing an animal for something as trivial as taste. It also still promotes the exploitation of the voiceless, which doesn’t say anything good about our species.

I understand that buzz words like “sustainable”, “ethically farmed”, “free range”, “organic”, “no BGH”, etc. reflect the horror we feel at the mistreatment of animals by CAFOs and small scale farms alike. People like animals; we keep them as pets, we like to observe them, they populate our books, movies and art, we like to commune with them – wild or domesticated. When people don’t like animals or routinely hurt them, we consider it to be a warning sign for psychosis and other dangerous antisocial behaviors. This is why these buzz words gain momentum in a world where we can afford to buy almond milk over heavily subsidized dairy milk.

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I’ll take us back to the question of ‘humane meat’ being a happy medium versus veganism. This will sound like a slippery slope argument and in part it is so bear with me. Veganism, being too extreme, opens the door for something arguably less extreme like ‘humane meat’. Now consider that the vast majority of meat in America today is produced on CAFOs and that the cost of producing humane animal products can be prohibitively expensive. Avoiding inhumane animal products sounds like a full time job for anyone with considerable disposable income. So how is ‘happy meat’ not extreme in and of itself?

This is food for thought, I suppose. I’d love to hear about people you know who think that animal products are more humane, sustainable, healthier or efficient than their vegetable counterparts. Suggested reading is also welcome, just know I prefer peer reviewed scientific articles to editorials and will consider accordingly.

This is Christie, signing off!

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Let’s Talk About Menstrual Cramps

I apologize to all the fellas out there, but this post will be about menstrual cramps. Why in the world do I want to talk about cramps? Because I had the worst cramps ever just this morning, that’s why! This post might be a little TMI and I do feel some embarrassment and shame in sharing this with you, but it was a learning experience for me that I wanted to share.

Before changing my diet, I would have a bad day here and there with my period. After the change in my diet, I didn’t have anything beyond minor discomfort and annoyance. Oh, nature, you scamp! Today, though, I thought I was going to die. I was brushing my teeth when all of a sudden, I broke out in a cold sweat, my legs started to ache, my hands got numb, and let’s not even talk about my uterus. Now, I suppose it’s possible that something else was going on with my body, but I’m 99% sure that this was a total menstrual issue.

I managed to get into bed and thought weird things like, “Ugh, this is punishment for eating non-vegan holiday desserts!” and “Maybe I need a steak!” and “Am I hungover? But I’m never hungover…” and “I wish I would just pass out.” and “I’m glad I’m at Mom’s house and I hope she gets home soon because I need my mommy!” Mostly, I was moaning in pain and whispering, “Help me!” but only the dog was home so I was out of luck for awhile. Mom finally did come to the rescue. She put a hot water bottle on my abdomen and I was relieved and resting almost instantly.

After more snooze time and some buttered toast, I hopped on the computer and quickly googled “vegan menstrual cramps” thinking that there might be some sort of vegan explanation for my sudden issue. I should have know that a vegan diet has actually been found to reduce pain and menstrual cramps. It is related to the amount of estrogen in our bodies: more estrogen in the body will likely result in more painful cramping and PMS symptoms. Vegan diets, because they are low in fat and high in fiber, help reduce estrogen levels and also helps promote estrogen elimination. Not only can this help reduce menstrual cramps and pain, it may also reduce cancer risk: estrogen helps promote the growth of cancer cells.

Next, I googled “vegan iron deficiency” just for some peace of mind even though I’m aware that one does not need to eat steak for iron. Spinach is an outstanding iron source and far better for you in every way than beef. You would need 1700 calories of a sirloin steak to get the same amount of iron that’s in one cup of spinach. I’m usually really good about eating spinach regularly, but I’ve been bad about it lately. In general, I’ve been eating a lot of carbs, so I won’t surprised if I’m running low on iron at the moment.

On a somewhat related note, I’d like to talk about multivitamins. A month or two ago, I switched to a vitamin that is marketed as being vegan. It was kind of expensive, though, so I bought a bottle of the generic drug store vitamins that I used to take which I believe to be vegan even though it doesn’t specifically say so on the bottle. Anyway, I was surprised this morning to see that the vegan vitamin only had only a 10% daily value of iron while the other vitamin had 100%. The vegan vitamin was also comparatively low in calcium and a handful of other minerals. Hmmm.

Thanks for reading and tell me, vegans: what has been your experience with menstrual pain and cramps since changing your diet? And what are your thoughts on iron deficiency and multivitamins? What do you think caused my episode this morning? Lemme know in the comments! –Melissa

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Healthy Desserts

I don’t worry much about Brent and I getting enough nutrients but I rarely skip and opportunity to make sure we’re getting enough iron and B vitamins. I learned about this product from a friend who had cervical cancer. When chemo destroyed her red blood cell count, she relied on FloraDix (or the gluten-free version, FloraVital) to improve her blood stats.

It did and in a hurry. Within 2 weeks she was considered healthy enough to continue her treatments and today (7 years later) she’s alive and well with no recurrences in sight. While this is merely anecdote, it’s good to know that an iron and vitamin B supplement can be gentle enough for someone who routinely suffers from nausea and effective.

So what does this have to do with Turning Veganese? Smoothies! I put a little something extra into every smoothie we drink and by ‘a little extra’ I mean anything from protein powder (from peas, of course), maca powder, carob powder, spirulina or just about anything to give it that nutrient and antioxidant kick. This is one of those nutrient and andioxidant kicks. I don’t like the idea of hiding vegetables and fortunately this doesn’t need to be hidden. It tastes fine all by itself!

Today I’m putting it into a blackberry raspberry banana orange smoothie. I know you want some. You won’t know the difference except the B vitamins make me feel like I was shot out of a cannon (in a good way).

This is Christie, signing off!

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Rice Cooker Cuisine: Persian-Inspired Rice & Lentils

This dish was my attempt to recreate the dish I had at Noon-O-Kabab a few weeks ago. As you’ll see, my creation doesn’t look anything like adas polo, but it was easy to make, made my kitchen wonderfully fragrant, and was a pretty good replication in terms of flavor.

Ingredients:

1 cup brown rice
1 cup lentils (I used red)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 an onion, chopped
2 dates, pitted and chopped
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

I put the brown rice and lentils in my rice cooker pot, rinsed them, and then added water to fill up to the 2 cup line. I did measure out the water this time around for those of you who don’t have a rice cooker: it was just under two cups of water. I also want to note that the rice was slightly undercooked, so I will go with 2 and a half to 3 cups of water next time. I put the pot in the cooker and then turned it on.

Immediately after pushing the “on” button, I prepared the garlic, onion, and dates. I then heated some olive oil in a pan and browned the garlic, onion, and dates along with the spices. When the onions were nearly translucent, I removed it from heat and then added it to the rice cooker pot, stirring it in to the rice and lentils. Tip: use a wooden spoon or spatula when mixing stuff around in a rice cooker! Anything metal can scratch the pot and that is no bueno.

I stirred the mixture every 5-10 minutes to keep it from sticking. It stuck a bit anyway. Sigh. The above photo how it looked when the rice cooker first thought it was finished. I gave it a quick stir and pushed the “on” button again, and it cooked for at least another 5 minutes.

Finished! I had a moment of panic at first (uhhh… where did my lentils go! I need my protein and iron!) but the lentils had gotten mushed in with the rice pretty quickly.

I sprinkled some salt and pepper on tomato, onion, and bell pepper and broiled it in the toaster oven for about 10 minutes. They were a great accompaniment to the rice and lentils.

Mmmmm… cinnamon…. –Melissa

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Rice Cooker Cuisine: Persian-Inspired Rice & Lentils

This dish was my attempt to recreate the dish I had at Noon-O-Kabab a few weeks ago. As you’ll see, my creation doesn’t look anything like adas polo, but it was easy to make, made my kitchen wonderfully fragrant, and was a pretty good replication in terms of flavor.

Ingredients:

1 cup brown rice
1 cup lentils (I used red)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 an onion, chopped
2 dates, pitted and chopped
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

I put the brown rice and lentils in my rice cooker pot, rinsed them, and then added water to fill up to the 2 cup line. I did measure out the water this time around for those of you who don’t have a rice cooker: it was just under two cups of water. I also want to note that the rice was slightly undercooked, so I will go with 2 and a half to 3 cups of water next time. I put the pot in the cooker and then turned it on.

Immediately after pushing the “on” button, I prepared the garlic, onion, and dates. I then heated some olive oil in a pan and browned the garlic, onion, and dates along with the spices. When the onions were nearly translucent, I removed it from heat and then added it to the rice cooker pot, stirring it in to the rice and lentils. Tip: use a wooden spoon or spatula when mixing stuff around in a rice cooker! Anything metal can scratch the pot and that is no bueno.

I stirred the mixture every 5-10 minutes to keep it from sticking. It stuck a bit anyway. Sigh. The above photo how it looked when the rice cooker first thought it was finished. I gave it a quick stir and pushed the “on” button again, and it cooked for at least another 5 minutes.

Finished! I had a moment of panic at first (uhhh… where did my lentils go! I need my protein and iron!) but the lentils had gotten mushed in with the rice pretty quickly.

I sprinkled some salt and pepper on tomato, onion, and bell pepper and broiled it in the toaster oven for about 10 minutes. They were a great accompaniment to the rice and lentils.

Mmmmm… cinnamon…. –Melissa

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Sauted Spinach with Garlic and Nuts!

I eat spinach just about every other day and while the iron and vitamin K is important for women, it’s not as important for men. Fortunately, Brent likes spinach too so we added spinach as the third element to our BBQ dinner. We used the following:

3 cups spinach (one package frozen is fine)

1 tbsp sun dried tomato, minced (opitonal)

2 tbsp vegan margarine

6-7 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 cup nuts or squash seeds, toasted

Melt the butter in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and nuts or seeds and heat until it becomes fragrant.

Add the spinach and stir until it wilts.

Butter and garlic make anything delicious. Fortunately spinach is delicious all by itself. We served it up with tangy BBQ butternut squash ribs, savory mushroom wild rice and it was a great meal.

This is Christie and Brent, signing off!

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I like to call this one, “Tandoori Tofu”

This is a dish about spices. I love Indian food but am wary of restaurants (even though Southeast Asian cuisine usually has ‘safe’ options for people who are vegan or vegetarian but I have the additional issue of gluten free). This is a great main or appetizer with an exotic blend of herbs and spices. Clockwise from top is cilantro, lemon (zest and juice), ginger root, garlic and something you may not be used to: turmeric root.

Turmeric is what gives Indian curries and indeed a lot of vegan foods their rich golden coloring. It’s very similar to ginger root in it’s appearance and texture but the flesh is a rich orange compared to the pale gold of ginger. It’s slightly sweet and intensely herbal in flavor when consumed in the root form. If you can find it, I recommend cooking with it whenever you can. I store mine in a paper bag, wetting with water occasionally to keep it from drying out completely. One tablespoon has 15% of your recomended daily allowance of iron. OMG!

All of these spices are excellent sources of anti-oxidants and micronutrients that you just can’t get anywhere else.
For this dish, you’ll need 1 package of firm Chinese style water packed tofu, cut into bite sized pieces (I used Nasyoa).

The marinade consists of the following:

1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated or minced (a piece about the size of your big toe)
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric powder or a piece about the size of your thumb, grated or minced
chili powder to taste
salt to taste
2 tbsp oil
juice from 1 lemon (add a little zest if you’re feeling adventurous)

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade.

Spoon over the tofu, tossing gently to coat. Let set for 30 minutes so that the flavors can marry and sink into the tofu.

Line a baking tray with foil, spray lightly with olive oil and place tofu on the tray. Bake at 400F/200C for 20 minutes on a middle-upper rack. Serve hot, with cilantro sprinkled over the top and lemon wedges for squeezing.

You can do this with any vegetables: potato, zucchini, mushrooms… even make kebabs! This is an easy way to impress taste buds with healthy exotic cuisine.

If you’re a purist and need raita, I AM working on a vegan version. So far it’s okay but needs a little something more. I’ll let you know what happens.

This is Christie, signing off.

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Great big raw green dinner!

I am getting ready to go out of town and I wanted to make sure nothing in my kitchen spoiled. I had some weird foods: Spinach, kumquats, yellow zucchini and avocado. What am I supposed to do with that!? Because this was an experiment I didn’t take as many pictures as I would normally like but it was good I decided to share.

I decided to julienne the zucchini and mixed that with some sun dried tomato and mixed it with 1/3 of my avocado as a binding agent. I also added a pinch of sea salt and a tablespoon of nutritional yeast.

I mooshed it into a mold and put it into the freezer while I did the next part. I chopped up the kumquats, a big bunch of mint leaves, and again mixed that with 1/3 of my avocado.

Next I took the rest of the herbs in my fridge (parsley, basil, and dill) and put the stems and leaves into my blender with a generous tablespoon of tahini, the remaining 1/3 of the avocado, juice from 2 lemons and 1 lime, and a little bit of almond milk until the flavor was balanced as a dressing. I blended it until it came out nice and creamy.

I covered a plate in spinach, put my chilled zucchini mixture onto that and then spooned the kumquat mint relish onto the sides. I added a quick drizzle of my tahini herb dressing and sat down to a healthy raw vegan dinner.

The mellow flavors of the zucchini and sun dried tomato were a good base for the tangy, sweet mint kumquat relish. The herb tahini dressing was really good but I think it brought too many flavors into the dish. The avocado brought the whole thing together as a common element in all the parts and the spinach helped me get it into my mouth. I think if I do this again, I might try adding some raw garlic to the zucchini and save the herb tahini dressing for plain spinach salads.

Experimenting is probably my favorite part of being vegan. I hope you get to experiment a little. The more you do it, the more things will ‘work out’ instead of being composted. Good luck!

 

This is Christie, signing off.

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Spinach Artichoke Dip

Stereotypes about vegans often include the idea that they’re anemic. I’ve donated blood for years and I panicked after I went vegan, worrying that I wouldn’t be able to donate anymore. I’m a little more pedantic about my eating habits than most people so it’s probably not surprising that my iron levels were in the high end of the healthy range when I donated Thursday evening. There are a lot of reasons you might want to give blood. I’m including 2 links to scientific papers whose results suggest that regular blood donations can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, especially if you’re a dude.

My personal reasons for donating blood is that one out of every 4 people will need a transfusion in their life. Imagine 4 people you care about. Now imagine your life without one of them. Wow, that’s depressing. Anyways, there are benefits to donating blood other than patting yourself on the back for saving lives: I got a free movie ticket and a snack, I know my blood pressure and my blood iron levels are healthy and in a week I’ll know my cholesterol level. You’ll also learn your blood type which is a good thing to know if you’re ever seriously hurt.

Spinach is another one of my favorite vegan goodies. Spinach can help you prepare for and recover from donating blood. One cup has enough vitamin K to give 2 people their recommended daily intake of vitamin K. WTF is vitamin K? It’s a crucial nutrient for blood clotting. This is important for after you’re done donating blood to help you stop bleeding and reduce your risk of bruising.
So why is spinach better than beef if you’re thinking about donating blood? Beef has less than 2/3 the iron and almost 10 times the calories compared to spinach, ounce for ounce. Spinach also has 600 times the vitamin K of an equal weight of lean beef. (according to http://www.nutritiondata.com)
Did I mention I’m making spinach artichoke dip? Yeah. I’ve gotta recuperate the nutrients I donated (excuse to indulge). Assemble these ingredients.
1/2 onion, diced
1 generous bunch spinach, chopped (frozen is fine, one 12 ounce package should do it, just make sure it’s thawed and well drained)
1 tin marinated artichoke hearts
1 tsp olive oil
1 12 oz. package silken tofu (I used Mori-Nu)
4 tbsp nutritional yeast
3 garlic cloves
2-3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp flake red pepper
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350°F. Sautee onion, spinach and artichoke hearts in olive oil until onion is soft.
Blend together tofu, nutritional yeast, garlic, vinegar and spices in blender until smooth.
Combine all ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a glass baking dish and bake for 15-20 minutes, after that, observe until lightly browned on top.
Garnish with some shredded basil. Serve warm with crackers, raw broccoli florets or carrots.
As I’ve written it, this recipe contains about 350-500 calories (depending on how much olive oil you sautee with and what sort of tofu you use). That’s about the number of calories in a blood donation. Coincidence? I think not.
This is Christie, signing off to go see that free movie.
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