Archive for the ‘Healthy Eating’ Category

The Lowdown on Fake Meats

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

Mock meats have gone from hiding in specialty stores in hippie neighborhoods to being a staple in every grocery. They now cater to a different kind of vegan/vegetarian: the kind who have decided to cut their ties with meat but cannot seem to part with the cravings. Soy products–including the broad range of fake meats that have come into the market–constitute the biggest part of the vegan market. But are they really that good for you?

Some people have argued that on a nutritional level, mock meats leave a lot to be desired. Sure, they put protein in an otherwise protein-poor diet. But many are so full of preservatives and artificial flavorings that real meat may actually be safer. Plus, the high temperatures required for their production drain away most of the other nutrients, and they’ve been known to cause digestion issues because of their heavily processed content.

Not all fake meats are bad for you. It depends on what they’re made from, and how much processing goes into it. Tofu-based products, such as the popular Tofurkey, are heavy and filling but the synthetic content can be all over the scale. A close competitor is seitan, which is made from washing the starch off wheat flour so that only the gluten remains. It’s said to be the “meatiest” of meat substitutes, so much that even some vegetarians avoid it. The catch is that most commercially available seitan is high in sodium, so it’s best to look at the labels or have it in moderation.

Tempeh is another popular meat substitute. Originally from Indonesia, it’s made from soy beans that have been naturally fermented and molded into “cakes,” much like tofu but with a firmer texture and a flavor described by many as nutty. Its taste has been likened to tuna and it’s a popular choice for sandwiches, barbecues, and salads. Among available meat substitutes, it’s probably the least processed and comes the most highly recommended by most doctors.

Sports nutritionist Mitzi Dulan reminds vegetarians and vegans that there are other protein sources besides processed meat. Beans, lentils, nuts, and whole grains are equally rich in protein, not to mention cheaper and preservative-free. Mushrooms are great at simulating the taste and texture of meat; many vegetarians consume portobello and cremini on a regular basis.

There’s no shortage of options when it comes to replacing meat in your diet. But if you’re serious about your new lifestyle, cutting the cravings is a more long-term solution. Vegetarianism may require some sacrifices on the gustatory level, but the nutritional, environmental, and economic benefits are more than worth the effort.

Veganism Has Its Risks — Here’s How To Do It Right

Friday, May 13th, 2011

A 2009 survey by the Washington Post showed that vegans account for about a third of American vegetarians, or roughly 1% of the U.S. population. That’s not much, but compared to five years ago, on the whole the vegan movement is well on its way to the mainstream.

But how healthy can a vegan diet really be? A recent study that appeared in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggests that a fully plant-based diet has its risks: for one, vegans are more prone to blood clots and atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries. These are diseases commonly associated with fatty diets and sedentary lifestyles, so what gives?

The lead author, Duo Li from China’s Zhejiang University, believes the risk may be due to the lack of vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids, both of which are vital in the proper function and formation of red blood cells and reducing unhealthy fat. Both are also scarcely found in vegan foods.

Some components of omega-3 are found only in flax, hemp, and chia seeds, while others are present in some algae. Even with regular consumption of these foods, one may still need supplements to get to the required 1.4 to 1.6 grams per day.

Getting enough vitamin B12–the recommended dose is 2.4 mcg per day–is even harder. The only known whole food source is spirulina, a type of algae that’s popular among vegans because of its high protein content. Most vegans obtain it through reabsorption, a process in which previously released nutrients are reabsorbed by the body. As a result, vitamin B12 deficiency can take up to 20 years to manifest in people who switch from a regular to a vegan diet.

Omega-3 supplements abound in the market in oil, capsule, and gel forms. Some use fish oils, however, so strict vegans should read their choices carefully. As for vitamin B12 supplements, experts recommend oral types that can be dissolved under the tongue. They get absorbed faster and some say they give you a quick energy boost almost immediately.

Iron deficiency is also a common problem among vegans, although sources abound–they include beans, legumes, and dark green vegetables. This is because they contain a different type that’s less easily absorbed by the body. Doctors suggest combining these foods with a vitamin C source or supplements, taken during the same meal or shortly before, as they help break down the iron content for absorption.

Important Tips for Vegan Body Building

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

When it comes to the diet required for building muscle many people believe that a diet rich in proteins is the most important nutrient needed for people who are body builders.  The success of building muscle for a body builder is related to the consumption of a large amount of protein which is important for muscle growth.  For the average person who is building muscle, proteins can be easily sourced through foods such as red meat which have a high protein content.  For people who are vegetarian or vegan proteins and other essential nutrients and minerals need to be sourced from other foods that do not contain any animal products.  The following are a few tips and important points for people who are vegan or vegetarian and want to enter the world of body building.

It is important to understand that body building or building muscle is not solely based on the consumption of protein, while this is an important nutrient for muscle growth it is also important to eat a balanced diet.  Vegan body builders are also able to source enough proteins through alternative foods that don’t contain any animal products.

For the vegan body builder who is looking to be at their best it is important that they focus on their whole diet not just the consumption of protein.  While consumption of protein is important for all round health it is also important to consume enough calories through your diet for the activity that you are doing.

Vegan bodybuilders need also consume plenty of fruits and vegetables as these can provide you with necessary nutrients for recovery after a workout.  Eating a good variety of fruits and vegetables can also keep your immune system working properly and give you a good healthy feeling.

Some good protein rich vegan friendly foods include chickpeas and legumes which are great for people who are looking to build muscle.  These foods are also low fat and are a great snack to have before you do your workout.

For body builders looking for a more concentrated protein source that is also convenient then a soy protein powder may be the answer.  There are quite a few different varieties of protein powders that do not contain any animal products just make sure to read the ingredients before purchasing.  Mixing up a soy protein shake is a great way to get the protein you need for muscle development.

Vegetarian Diet Lowers Heart Risk, Study Shows

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Vegetarians are three times less likely to develop heart disease and a host of other problems than meat eaters, researchers from Loma Linda University in California and Karolinska Institute in Sweden revealed last week.

Supporting previous studies’ findings that a fruit- and vegetable-rich diet lowers cholesterol levels, the paper suggested that a purely vegetarian regime cuts the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. People who swear off meat and fish, it found, are 36% less likely to develop metabolic syndrome–a mix of conditions that can be a precursor to the said problems.

A person is said to have metabolic syndrome when he shows three of five determined risk factors: high HDL cholesterol, high levels of triglyceride (unhealthy fat), high blood pressure, high glucose, and a large amount abdominal fat. Only twenty-five percent of the vegetarians in the study had metabolic syndrome, compared to 39% of meat eaters.

Semi-vegetarians–those who only eat white meat–are only slightly less at risk than non-vegetarians. The same was true for pesco-vegetarians, whose meat consumption is limited to fish. Thirty-seven percent of those studied suffered from the syndrome.

The team studied members of the Seventh-Day Adventist group, which values healthy eating and discourages meat consumption. Because of the limited scope, the subjects aren’t representative of the entire population and the overall risk levels may be higher. However, they still support current advice on healthy eating, according to experts.

Nico Rizzo, one of the researchers, said the team wasn’t sure at the outset whether there would be a notable difference between vegetarians and meat eaters. But the extent of the contrast surprised them, and proves that lifestyle factors, especially diet, do play an important role in preventing metabolic syndrome and heart disease.

The research also bolsters the well-known fact that processed meats, such as bacon and sausages, greatly increase the risk of bowel cancer and other types of cancer. The curing and cooking processes are known to introduce free radicals, which create the DNA changes from which cancers can originate.

The study was published in Diabetes Care, a peer-reviewed medical journal. It was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and is part of the ongoing Adventist Health Study 2. The religious group is heavily studied because of its members’ unique dietary habits and health beliefs. Besides avoiding meat, the faith also discourages smoking and drinking, which means researchers can easily control for these factors.

The Best Healthy Breakfast Foods

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day as it provides the body with food and energy after resting for a long period of time.  Breakfast is also important for kick starting your metabolism and providing you with enough energy to make it through the morning to your next meal which for most people is morning tea or lunch.  To start your day off in a positive way it is essential to have breakfast however what you eat for breakfast is also very important.  Many people who rush to work every morning make some bad food choices when it comes to breakfast by eating things that are high in fat or sugar and washing it down with a coffee.  Having a nutritious breakfast is very important for your body and the following is a list of the best healthy breakfast foods you can have to start the day right.

One of the old favourites is oatmeal which is a great breakfast item as it is low in fat and high in essential dietary fibre.  On a cold winters morning this is a great start to the day and can be served with fresh fruit such as strawberries or bananas and a bit of milk to add some extra protein and calcium to the breakfast.  Oatmeal is quick and easy to make as you can buy the ready to make sachets that go in the microwave.

Cereals and fresh fruit is also another great healthy breakfast food and is quick and easy to prepare.  The main thing to note when it comes to breakfast cereals is to read the labels and stick with ones that have low sugar, low salt and are high in fibre.  Options such as Weet-Bix are great with some fresh fruit and topped off with some low fat milk.

Toast for breakfast is another popular choice especially for people who are on their way to work.  Choosing a bread that is wholegrain gives you a great source of vitamins and minerals as well as fibre.  Many people also enjoy things such as vegemite and peanut butter or some eggs on their toast which all adds to the nutrition of this breakfast favourite.

For people who are on the move a fruit smoothie is also a great choice of healthy breakfast food as they are packed full of fruit.  The great thing about making a smoothie is that you can choose the fruits you like and you can also have breakfast on the move.