Hello Dear Reader-
One afternoon in December of 2013, I watched two videos in succession. The first, Earthlings, highlighted the suffering animals endure in the food industry and the second, a lecture by Gary Francione, examined the philosophy of animal use. Clearly moved by what I had learned, my husband asked, does that mean you are going to stop eating animal products? I was taken aback and responded, “no…that would be pretty extreme.” But, that night we went out to dinner and I discovered I had lost my appetite for dishes containing meat, fish, dairy or eggs. I didn’t see it coming; I went from a carnivore to a vegan overnight.
Admittedly, those first few weeks were nerve wracking. I knew no vegans, my text books had gathered dust since my days of majoring in Nutrition in college and my well-loved go-to recipes were meat, fish, egg and dairy centered. This started a quest to update my nutrition knowledge and establish what I would now be eating. I enrolled in Cornell’s Plant-Based Nutrition Certification Program and binge purchased vegan cookbooks. The single most reassuring thing I learned in those early days was:1
“Appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”
– American Dietetic Association
This was a relief; I could kiss my old cookbooks good-bye. Well, sort-of…I still had a family to feed. Tha’?s a topic for another blog post. Now, as a vegan food lover, blogger and nutrition enthusiast, I’m determined to help debunk one diet-related myth that is both pervasive and detrimental to our health. It suggests that we need animal based foods to obtain adequate protein, iron and calcium. It is not widely known that all three of these nutrients are available for us, in abundance, in plants. We do not need meat, chicken, fish, eggs or dairy to obtain optimal nutrition. Here’s why:
1) Legumes (beans, lentils, peas and peanuts), nuts, seeds, leafy green vegetables and (non-GMO) soy products provide excellent sources of protein.
2) Many leafy greens, calcium-set tofu, almonds, almond butter, fortified plant milks, sesame seeds, tahini, figs and blackstrap molasses are all calcium rich nutrient sources.
3) Legumes, leafy greens, (non- GMO) soy products, quinoa, potatoes, dried fruit, dark chocolate, tahini, seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower) and sea vegetables (dulse and nori) offer significant quantities of iron.2
In addition, many of these plant products tend to be rich in health-promoting phytochemicals, antioxidants and dietary fiber.
With that in mind, I find it very fulfilling to create delicious plant based recipes and then to use the USDA Nutrient Database to analyze the nutritional content of the dish. Over and over again, I see evidence that vegan dishes are nutritional winners. As an example, here is a perfect nutrient rich summer salad that is crunchy, creamy, delicious and easy to prepare.
Asian Cabbage Salad with Citrusy-Ginger Dressing
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Nutrition per serving: Protein-14 g, Iron-3 mg, Calcium -150 mg, Fiber-9 g, Calories -300 kcal
8 cups shredded cabbage
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup diced cucumbers
1 cup peanuts
3 tablespoons chopped mint
1 tablespoon chopped chive
2 tablespoons smooth almond butter
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tsp srirachi sauce
1 tablespoon agave
2-3 tablespoons lime juice (juice of one lime)
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- In a large bowl toss together all of the salad ingredients..
- In a small bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients until well combined.
- Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients. Toss until cabbage mixture is evenly coated.
- Serve chilled or at room temperature.
With warmest wishes xo,
2015 Beantown Kitchen- Reprint only by permission of the author
1?J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Jul;109(7):1266-82.?Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets. Craig WJ, Mangels AR; American Dietetic Association