More good news about the benefits of a plant-based diet! A new study shows that following vegetarian diet reduces the risk of stroke. We’ve been reporting on the many health benefits of vegetarian diets for lowering the risk of disease such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer and colon cancer. We can now add reducing the risk of stroke to the growing list. This is important since stroke is the fifth leading cause of death for Americans. Read more
A plant-based diet doesn’t just reduce your risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetics, but has benefits for the health of your thyroid as well. The thyroid gland is critical for maintaining a healthy body. Thyroid hormones have functions ranging from control of metabolism, heart beat and reproductive function.
Millions of people in America suffer from hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, most commonly in the form of Grave’s disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis which are autoimmune diseases. Those following a plant-based diet are much less susceptible to autoimmune diseases in general and thyroid disease is no exception. Vegans have been shown to experience a 22% lower risk of hypothyroidism, and a 51% risk of hyperthyroidism.
However, there are a few things those following a plant based should do for optimal thyroid health. Most vegans get enough iodine in their diet, but many don’t!
Iodine deficiency can lead to a variety of medical problems at all ages. This is a special concern for pregnant women. Children of mothers having an iodine deficiency during pregnancy may have mental retardation, deaf mutism, spasticity and short stature. Congenital hypothyroidism due to iodine deficiency is the most common cause of preventable mental retardation in the world. Iodine deficiency may also be a factor in the development of breast cancer, so consuming sufficient iodine may help protect against this all too common cancer.
It’s important to get enough iodine your diet. There’s usually enough iodine in the different foods we eat. Some foods that are a good choice for iodine include black eyed peas, navy beans and whole wheat bread. If you’re not on a sodium restricted diet, iodized salt, as is commonly sold in the supermarkets, can be very helpful and has a good track record of preventing iodine deficiency. However, the salt in commercially prepared food is not iodized.
It’s also important not to get too much iodine. Seaweed can contain high levels of iodine. It’s fine to eat various kinds of seaweed as long as it’s in moderation.
The message is clear. A plant-based diet will reduce your risk of both hyper- and hypothyroidism. Getting an adequate amount of iodine will enhance the health of your thyroid gland even further.
A recent study of 237,000 singles found that online dating customers using the EliteSingles dating platform, who mentioned veganism or vegetarianism, received 73% more responses than the average member. The singles were selected randomly and anonymously based on mention of any of three words: vegan, vegetarian and veggie. The study team then looked at the average number of messages that profiles with these words received and compared them to the average number of messages received by customers on the same platform overall. Read more
It’s the New Year and many people are resolving to make changes in their lives, especially concerning the food they eat. But we all know how that often goes! We’re super motivated during January, but by the time February rolls around, the enthusiasm has worn off and we’re back to our old habits. So how can we make changes that are sustainable for the long term?
Dr. BJ Fogg, founder and director of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University, has been looking into this challenge, and he’s identified a formula for any successful shift in behavior. He suggests that the first step to a successful change is motivation. You need to pick a change that you really want to do, not just feel like it’s something you ought to do. So think carefully through your motivation to change your diet, is it for your health?, for the environment? or for the animals? for example. Find or print out a positive picture relating to that motivation and stick it on your refrigerator – perhaps it’s a picture of you when you were healthier and more energetic, a picture of a beautiful forest, or cute farm animals – something that will inspire you every time you think about food. Read more
A cookbook can make the perfect gift for someone who is moving toward a plant-based diet. With an abundance to choose from these days, we thought we’d give you some tips and suggestions to guide your selection, whether it’s for you, a family member, or a friend who just needs a little nudge to get started!
We recommend you choose a good vegan cookbook, avoiding all animal products. Some people will appreciate the extra creativity and adventure of a cookbook that uses only plant foods for ingredients. Others will appreciate recipes that are healthy, save the animals and protect the environment.
For a good all-round cookbook that includes lots of variety, from simple to gourmet, as well as many ethnic dishes from all over the world, we highly recommend our own Veg-Feasting Cookbook! This is a restaurant cookbook, with recipes from veg-friendly restaurants all over the Pacific Northwest, plus some special recipes from Vegfest chefs, so it has plenty to captivate the reader while covering all the bases. Most ingredients are familiar, and recipes are often adaptations of old favorites, so it’s a valuable cookbook for all levels of experience.
Cookbooks designed for students can vary from those using from scratch ingredients to those which include some ready to nuke and eat ingredients. Note for students: cooking from scratch can save you a lot of money and the food might just taste a bit better. For those on a tight budget, Eat Vegan on $4 a day by Ellen Jaffe Jones, is an excellent cookbook with lots of money saving hints and tips. It shows how to get the best flavor out of simple, affordable, but high quality ingredients, using whole foods such as grains, beans, fruits and vegetables to create delicious meals.
At the other end of the spectrum, for those chefs who want to produce gourmet vegan dishes, Extraordinary Vegan by Allan Roettinger is an excellent introduction to unique ingredients that make a dish really special. With dishes such as Piña Quemada Ice Cream and Edamame Salad with Penang Curry, this is a book to entice the chef to take the time to perfect the flavors and textures of vegan cooking.
For the health focused cook, a whole-foods plant-based cookbook, which doesn’t overdo the salt, oil and sugar, is a great choice. Ramses Bravo, the chef from the True North Health Kitchen, provides delicious recipes that are at the core of a food-based treatment strategy to help regulate weight and safeguard against disease. His cookbooks combine simple, fresh wholesome ingredients that are converted into gourmet meals filled with color and nutrition. Choose either his original cookbook, Bravo, or for those pressed for time, his more recent Bravo Express.
New meat and dairy substitutes are readily available and increasingly popular these days. For those cooks who want to experiment with making their own, Miyoko Schinner’s Artisan Vegan Cheese provides an insight into how she creates those delicious cheesy flavors from plant-based ingredients. For readers who want to whip up something quick, Miyoko provides recipes for almost-instant ricotta and sliceable cheeses, in addition to a variety of tangy dairy substitutes, such as vegan sour cream, creme fraiche, and yogurt.
This is just a brief introduction to the range of available vegan cookbooks. Look carefully at the style of cuisine, the types of ingredients used, the complexity of the recipes, and any other features, and you’ll be sure to find the perfect cookbook for your needs.
There’s more good news from New York! New York City has the largest public school system in the country with a million students. We’ve written about several New York City public schools going all vegetarian. Students, parents and teachers have been very happy at the results – they’re seeing healthier kids and better grades. Read more
Put the following ingredients in a ziplock bag, (multiplying for team members as needed)
1/3 cup green lentils (per person)
1 stock cube
1 tsp onion flakes
1 tsp garlic flakes
½ tsp thyme
¼ tsp rosemary
¼ tsp oregano
¼ tsp Black pepper
½ tsp Cumin
Chili flakes (to taste)
Pre-chopped fresh carrot, broccoli, cauliflower as desired
1/4 cup dried potato flakes to thicken and add calories as needed
1 pita bread pocket per person
At camp, bring 2-3 cups water (depending on how many servings) to boil. Add lentil mixture and boil until lentils are soft (20 mins), adding any extra veg after 10 mins. Pour into bowls or eat from the pot, with pita bread on side.
Cashew Curry recipe
Makes enough for 4 meals – 2 people evening meal and lunch the next day!
Put the following ingredients into a ziplock bag:
1½ cups quinoa (or couscous)
2 Tablespoons curry powder
¼ cup dried onion flakes
1 Tablespoon sugar (optional)
1 vegetable low sodium bouillon cube
2 teaspoons garlic powder
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
Put 1 cup raw cashew halves into a separate ziplock bag.
At camp, bring 3 cups water to the boil in a pot. Add the quinoa mixture. Let it simmer until quinoa is cooked. Boil off any excess water, stirring to prevent burning. Stir in cashews. Enjoy!
This can be eaten cold for lunch the next day, so bring a suitable container to store it in.
Warming Breakfast recipe
Put the following ingredients in a ziplock bag:
1 cup quinoa (rinsed, dry toasted)
¼ tsp salt
1 tablespoon sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
½ cup dried blueberries, cranberries, raspberries and/or raisins
2 tablespoons dried soymilk or coconut milk powder
¼ cup hazelnuts or pecans (dry toasted)
At camp, bring 2 cups water to boil. Add quinoa mixture. Simmer until quinoa is cooked. Serve quinoa in a bowl, topped with nuts. Milk powder can be included with quinoa mixture, or rehydrated separately and poured over the cooked quinoa.
This recipe would also work with oats, but oatmeal might make it a little harder to clean the pot afterwards!
I recently spent a weekend backpacking in the Mount Baker area. Backpacking differs from camping in that you have to carry everything you need for several miles, so you need to make sure your food is as lightweight as possible, doesn’t need refrigeration and is still reasonably balanced, nutritious and provides adequate calories for the exertion of hiking. I took some time planning the meals for our 2 night, 3 day trip.
We carried enough water for the first day, but relied on water from streams and lakes, suitably filtered and/or sterilized, for drinking and cooking the rest of the time. Some members of our group used a steri-pen which uses ultraviolet light to sterilize their water. We used a Platypus filtration unit that could finely filter 4 liters of water at a time, so there was no need to sterilize. It was good to have a selection of methods, since we found we had to trek quite a way from our campsite to find a good water source.
The range of commercial vegan foods suitable for backpacking is increasing rapidly. Did you know that you can now select from 29 different packets of freeze-dried vegan meals at REI.com? Trader Joe’s has a great selection of freeze-dried fruits and vegetables, including blueberries and raspberries, great for adding lightweight nutrition to your morning cereal, and even dried okra, a crunchy and nutritious snack.
However, I prefer to make most of my meals from scratch, even if it takes a little longer to prepare and to cook at the campsite, so I based my meals on what I had in the kitchen. I did order a container of dried soy milk powder which was useful to have with our breakfast cereal and in morning coffee.
To avoid refrigeration, it’s best to take grains you can quickly cook on a campstove. If you’re trying a new combination, I’d recommend that you experiment at home first, so that you get the flavoring mix right.
Grains that are quick and easy to cook:
Quickcook rice (eg Uncle Ben’s boil-in-bag, )
Oatmeal (great for breakfast, but a bit of a hassle to clean the pot after!)
Pita pockets (to eat with a stew)
Dried potato flakes (not a grain, but a good source of extra calories to thicken a stew)
Lentils (red lentils cook to a mush, green hold their shape) – 20 mins cook time
TVP – textured vegetable protein (meat-like consistency) – soak for 5 mins to rehydrate
Cashews, hazelnuts, pecan nuts
Here’s what I chose to take with us:
Morning 1: Quinoa with cinnamon, hazelnuts and dried blueberries – see recipe.
Morning 2: Oats with coconut and raisins, dried blueberries and raspberries, plus soy milk made from powder.
Tea or instant coffee
Lunch (we used leftover curried quinoa for one lunch):
WASA rye crackers
Lilly’s shelf-stable hummus.
Primal Jerky strips
Go Macro bars
Mid-afternoon snack: Clif bar
Evening 1: Lentil stew with potatoes and carrots – see recipe
Evening 2: Curried Quinoa with cashews – see recipe
Chocolate and ginger biscotti, made by my friend Jan!
Additional snacks for emergencies:
Munkpack Flavored Oatmeal
The food worked out well. I carried a few additional snacks that fortunately weren’t needed, since it’s always advisable to have some additional food with you, just in case you get delayed and have to spend an extra day out in the wild.
The weather was very mixed, and we were glad to share a tarpaulin erected between trees to cook out of the rain, but all in all, our trip was a big success and we had some fabulous views when the clouds lifted!
When I’m giving cooking classes, people often ask me what steps they should take to eliminate animal products, so here are some tips to help you get started. You can choose your own pace of change – you can start with just one meal or you can jump right in. I encourage you to be willing to experiment and learn as you go. Enjoy the adventure!
Some initial steps to take to cut back on meat and fish:
Acquire a vegan cookbook, or find a website with interesting vegan recipes – vegetariantimes.com is a good place to start.
Find some new vegan recipes that sound appealing, and buy the ingredients.
Try replacing meat and fish with a plant-based alternative in some of your regular meals.
Look for vegan options on the menu at your favorite restaurant and try one next time you go.
Try a new restaurant – ethnic restaurants such as Mexican, Thai or Indian usually have plenty of good options to choose from.
Once you have a selection of about 10 delicious vegan meals you enjoy, you can rotate through them on a regular basis for the majority of your meals, adding new meals from time to time to increase the variety.
Steps to reduce other animal products in your diet:
Find one or more plant-based milks that you like and replace dairy milk with them.
Try some of the many plant-based yogurts and cheeses, and find some favorite brands.
If you’re a coffee drinker, find a non-dairy creamer that you like.
If you like eggs for breakfast, try a tofu scramble instead.
Explore the “natural” section of your regular grocery store if it has one, or explore a new grocery store near you that has a good selection of natural foods.
Check the ingredients of the packaged foods you commonly buy, and start to seek out vegan alternatives.
Speed of transition – How quickly to make the transition is really up to you. If you’re ready to make the change right away, you can change your diet in just a few weeks. If you have a health concern you’re hoping to alleviate, remember that while a plant-based diet is helpful for several diseases it could take a few months to see significant results. If you’re changing out of caring about the animals, you start saving them from the first bite.
On the other hand, if you feel like it’s the right thing to do, but you want to proceed at your own pace and just do the best you can, you could try one new meal or ingredient each week and assess how it goes over a year or so.
Consider other family members – If you have other family members to consider when making meals, you may want to have a family meeting to explain your wishes, and ask for their help in making your transition. Get them on your team! It will be a lot easier for you if the refrigerator and the pantry are only stocked with healthy vegan foods for you to enjoy. If, however, others sharing your kitchen are not open to change, you’ll need to work out a plan based on who’s doing the shopping, who’s doing the cooking, and how much storage space you have available. Offering to cook for others is a great way to introduce them to new recipes.
Amanda gives a cooking class
Learn to cook – It’s fun, healthier and more affordable than the alternatives. Using frozen precut vegetables and fruit, and jars of sauces for flavoring can save time and effort. If you’re not used to doing the cooking, consider choosing some individual frozen vegan meals you can easily microwave to get you started.
Whatever path you choose is up to you. Don’t feel pressured by others to go slower or faster than you can handle. Vegetarians of Washington is here to help. You may find some of our books helpful in making the change. Say No to Meat answers many questions about why and how to make the transition. In Pursuit of Great Food – A plant-based shopping guide is handy to plan what to buy and choose the best brands and freshest foods. The Veg-Feasting Cookbook provides lots of recipes for every possible meal. If you’re based in the Seattle area, come to our monthly dining events and classes to get ideas and support for your transition, and don’t miss our annual Vegfest.
Amanda Strombom, President of Vegetarians of Washington, gives regular cooking classes to support those interested in moving toward a plant-based diet and learning new ways of preparing food avoiding animal products. Each class focuses on a different aspect of going veggie, whether it’s on specific food groups, on a particular health topic, shopping or even holiday cooking. Plenty of samples to taste are always provided. See the schedule below.
Classes will be held at East Shore Unitarian Church, Bellevue, 7pm unless otherwise noted. A nominal charge of $5 per class helps us cover the cost of the ingredients and materials. Shopping tours are free.
Wed May 8th Save the Earth with a Plant-Based Diet!
One of the best things each of us can do to help take better care of the Earth is to change the food we eat away from animal products. How does a plant-based diet help? We’ll talk about the damage animal agriculture causes to the soil, the water, the air and our climate. Plus you can taste some delicious dishes and get recipes to help you make the switch.
Wed June 12th– Where do you get your protein from?
The first question many people ask when they’re thinking about cutting out meat is about protein. In this class we’ll discuss the benefits of the various plant-based sources of protein available and make some delicious dishes using both beans and meat alternatives.
We’ll talk about how a plant-based diet can help protect you against getting certain kinds of cancer, and which nutrients are particularly beneficial for fighting cancer. We’ll make delicious dishes using a rainbow of different vegetables to give as many phytonutrients as possible.
Eggs are loaded with cholesterol which clogs up your arteries. We’ll talk about how cholesterol, present in all animal foods, impacts your health, particularly your arteries, and we’ll discuss alternatives you can use to eggs in various recipes. We’ll make some delicious egg-free recipes and even try the amazing Vegan Egg.
Wed Oct 2nd Reducing pain with food
Several chronic painful conditions can be helped with a plant-based diet. We’ll discuss how certain foods can help reduce inflammation and reduce pain. Then we’ll make some tasty recipes with anti-inflammatory foods such as chia seeds, mushrooms, turmeric and walnuts.
Wed Nov 6th Healthy Cooking for the Holidays
We’ll talk about how to handle the many issues that come up at holiday times when cooking for or eating with your meat-eating family members, and discuss ideas for special vegan holiday dishes. We’ll make some delicious dishes that all your guests can enjoy.
Wed Dec 4th Shopping for Plant-Based Foods
We’ll meet at Fred Meyer, Bellevue, to tour the Natural Foods section, and learn about label reading, choosing fresh vegetables, and finding some new favorite foods. This class is free.
Wed Jan 8th Losing weight, Defeating diabetes
We’ll talk about what foods are most helpful in losing those extra pounds, and how the same foods can also reduce your insulin resistance and treat Type II Diabetes. We’ll make some really simple starter plant-based meals to get you started on a new way of eating for the New Year.
Wed Feb 5th Ditching Dairy
Dairy products often contain surprising amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol, and come from cows forced to give birth frequently. We’ll talk about the many alternatives to dairy that are available these days, we’ll taste samples of some commercial products and make some simple cheese alternatives of our own.