Tag Archives | Gluten-free

Plant Based Protein

The goal of this post is to address a question that I receive frequently when people find out that I don’t eat meat: “How do you get enough protein?”

Plant Based Proteins Vegan Gluten-Free Vegetarian Paleo-Friendly

{A Food Centric Life – Guide to Plant-Based Protein}

While I am personally of the camp that believes Americans consume too much of the wrong kinds of protein, I will avoid lecturing on the topic and instead provide you with suggestions for some healthy, easily digestible, protein-rich foods that don’t center around animal products.

For comparison’s sake I’ve included a few common animal products in the plant based protein chart below as well. All of these statistics are based on a 100 gram serving size:

Food Protein (g) Cholesterol mg Total Fat (g) Iron (mg) Fiber (g) Energy kcal
Turkey: roasted 29.90 69.00 7.41 1.35 0.00 157.00
Ground beef: broiled (75% lean) 25.56 89.00 18.72 2.37 0.00 278.00
Tuna: in water, drained 25.51 30.00 0.82 1.53 0.00 116.00
Chicken: roasted w/out skin 23.97 76.00 13.39 1.26 0.00 223.00
Egg, hard-boiled 12.58 373.00 10.61 1.19 0.00 155.00
Food Protein (g) Cholesterol mg Total Fat (g) Iron (mg) Fiber (g) Energy kcal
Kidney beans 23.58 0.00 0.83 8.20 24.90 333.00
Almonds: raw 21.22 0.00 49.42 3.72 12.20 575.00
Almond butter: w/ salt 20.96 0.00 55.50 3.49 10.30 614.00
Sunflower seeds: dry roasted w/out salt 19.33 0.00 49.80 3.80 11.10 582.00
Chickpeas 19.30 0.00 6.04 6.24 17.40 364.00
Flaxseed 18.29 0.00 42.16 5.73 27.30 534.00
Cashews: raw 18.22 0.00 43.85 6.68 3.30 553.00
Tempeh: cooked 18.19 0.00 11.38 2.13 10.00 196.00
Oats 16.89 0.00 6.90 4.72 10.60 389.00
Lentils: boiled w/out salt 9.02 0.00 0.38 3.33 7.90 116.00
Black beans: boiled w/out salt 8.86 0.00 0.54 2.10 8.70 132.00
Hummus: commercial 7.90 0.00 21.13 2.44 6.00 166.00
Tofu: Silken, firm 6.90 0.00 2.73 1.03 1.00 62.00
Quinoa: cooked 4.40 0.00 1.92 1.49 2.80 120.00
Kale: raw 3.30 0.00 0.70 1.70 2.00 50.00
Sweet potato: baked w/skin & no salt 2.01 0.00 0.15 0.69 3.30 90.00
Avocado: raw, California 1.96 0.00 15.41 0.61 6.80 167.00

I’d like to call your attention to a few noticeable discrepancies in the nutritional values of the first and second groups of foods.

First, you will see that plant-based foods contain no cholesterol while animal-based foods do. Cholesterol is necessary for a variety of bodily functions, including the production of hormones and cell membranes. Luckily for us, healthy livers produce enough cholesterol so that these functions can be carried out. It should be noted however that the high intake of dietary cholesterol (i.e. the cholesterol in the first group of foods) can lead to heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Second, the animal products listed above contain no dietary fiber, which keeps your GI Tract running smoothly and is necessary to maintain a healthy diet. This is a great post from Gena at Choosing Raw on intestinal distress, treating IBS, and the differences between soluble and insoluble fiber. It’s graphic but incredibly educational if you’re interested in how dietary fiber affects your body.

Third, notice the difference in the amounts of iron in these foods. Our bodies need iron to help with oxygen transportation and the regulation and differentiation of cell growth. If any of you have ever taken an iron supplement you know how incredibly hard it is on the body to digest iron in that format, so eating iron-rich foods is by far the superior way to get the required amounts in your diet.

The act of digesting food puts stress on your system – It takes effort for your body to break down the foods you consume so that the nutrients can be readily absorbed by the body. Simply put, plant-based foods require that you waste expend less energy to digest them, meaning the you: (1) Stress your body less, and (2) Have more energy to utilize after digestion. Even taking just a weekend off from the consumption of animal products can give your system a much-needed rest.

If you’re interested in learning more about this topic I highly recommend that you pick up Brendan Braizer’s Thrive Diet. While the title of this book contains the word “diet” that is somewhat misleading. Mr. Braizer was a professional triathlete and spent 15 years studying how the foods he consumed affected his life and his athletic performance, ultimately determining that a plant-based, high raw diet resulted in the optimum results.

This isn’t a diet that you go on to fit into your skinny jeans, this is a lifestyle change that you commit to so that you’ll never need a cup of coffee in the morning to wake up or a dose of sugar in the afternoon to keep your eyelids from drooping.

Please note that I am not a healthcare professional and that my comments, suggestions and thoughts are based on personal research and experience only. Prior to making any drastic changes to your diet you should consult a physician, especially if you suffer from illnesses or allergies which may be affected by nutrition.

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Smoothie Love

My first meal at least five days a week is a smoothie. It’s a great way to get easily digestible whole foods first thing in the morning and is an especially nutritious way to hydrate after a sweaty AM workout.

As the early morning workers at my office can attest, my smoothies are either green, or not. “Not” encompassing a wide range of colors, from purple to a delightful dirty snow/sludge color, depending on what I add to my own personal Frankenstein’s Monster of a drink.

I never follow a recipe and my ingredients are usually based on my mood and what’s in the immediate vicinity. Below are a variation of my green and my “not” smoothie.

Green Smoothie:

  • 3 cups of spinach
  • Coconut water as needed
  • 1 scoop of Sun Warrior protein – Vanilla flavor (ridiculously expensive, but after extensive personal research I’ve found that this works best for me, you can obviously substitute the protein powder of your choice)
  • 1 tsp Maca
  • 1 apple (I’m on a Pink Lady kick, even the name is cute!)
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Cinnamon
  • Ice cubes

“Not” Smoothie:

  • 1 banana or apple
  • 2-3 cups of fresh or frozen mixed berries
  • 1 scoop of Sun Warrior protein
  • Water as needed (I like the natural tanginess of the berries so I use plain water, but if you prefer a sweeter smoothie feel free to substitute coconut water or aloe vera juice)
  • Dash of cinnamon & maca
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • Ginger
  • Ice cubes

Breakdown of properties in these ingredients:

Spinach: As with many leafy greens, spinach is high in antioxidants, Vitamin A, B2, B6, C, E, K, magnesium, manganese, folate, iron, calcium, folic acid, potassium, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Spinach is most easily absorbed by the body when consumed simultaneously with a good source of Vitamin C, such as lemon juice or berries. If you’re not a spinach convert, try adding a few leaves of romaine lettuce, collard greens or kale.

Coconut Water: Coconut water provides simple sugars, electrolytes and minerals, naturally replenishing your body’s hydration. It’s tasty, refreshing and perfect after a workout. If you don’t love the taste, popular brands O.N.E., Vita and Zico offer flavors like passionfruit and pineapple.  [Note: Coconut water and coconut milk are two VERY different beverages. Coconut water is found inside a coconut, while coconut milk is produced by pressing liquid out of ground coconut meat, which means that it is much higher in fat and calories.]

Maca: Touted as a “superfood” maca is a Peruvian root, usually ground and sold as a powder. Maca contains amino acids, calcium, phosphorous, zinc, magnesium, iron and Vitamins B1, B2, B12, C & E. Maca affects the endocrine functions of the body and the benefits can range from hormone stabilization to digestion to sexual function and fertility.

Cinnamon: Not only is this spice tasty, it has been used to combat colds, nausea, menstrual pain and digestive distress in eastern medicine for years. It’s also believed to help with circulation and have anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting properties. Chemically cinnamon contains calcium, iron, fiber and Vitamins C & K.

Apples: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” Well… It can’t hurt, right? Apples are high in antioxidants and fiber and studies show that they may help reduce the risk of various forms of cancer (like prostate, lung & colon).

Berries: Different berries have different nutritional benefits, but across the board they’re high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber. They’re thought to be beneficial in the fighting of different types of cancer, boost cardiovascular functions and improve vision.

Bananas: In additional to adding great taste and texture to smoothies, bananas add a healthy dose of Vitamins B6, C, manganese and potassium. Similar to the health benefits listed above for apples and berries, bananas contain vitamins and minerals which may help the body ward off various types of cancer.

Chia Seeds: Yes, as in Chia Pets. Consumption of this Aztec superfood is on the rise in the United States with books like Born To Run advertising the unique  properties and amazing benefits. Chia seeds contain protein, phosphorus, manganese, calcium, potassium and sodium, similar to other seeds, but are completely atypical in their reaction to water. Add them to any liquid and leave for 20+ minutes and you’ll return to find a glass full of a gelatinous substance not unlike tapioca. Now imagine adding dry seeds to your stomach. That’s what the ancients are said to have done, subsisting on teaspoons of chia seeds for days at a time. There are some other great recipes that include chia seeds, which I’ll touch on at a later time.

Ginger: To be honest, I can’t stand ginger. But given its rock star benefits, I needed to find a way to get a little ginger in my life. And luckily for me, the tart berries and spices in this smoothie make the ginger barely detectable. Ginger has been used as a natural remedy for a host of ailments, including: ovarian cancer treatment, colon cancer prevention, heartburn, menstrual cramps, inflammation, migraines and relieving digestive/stomach conditions like morning and motion sickness.

Benefits of smoothies:

  • By blending the fruits & vegetables you’re breaking down the tough outer cells of the plants and making the nutrients more easily accessible to your body, reducing the amount of work your body wastes on digestion
  • Tasty way to hydrate your body first thing in the morning, especially if gulping down water isn’t your favorite AM activity
  • If you’re not a fan of breakfast, this is a great way to get in multiple servings of fruits & vegetables in a quick and painless way
  • Like soup, you can add whatever ingredients you have available: nut butter, strawberries, spirulina, almond milk, frozen veggies, carrots, celery, cashews… Clean out your fridge!
  • If you don’t love greens and have trouble getting your daily recommended amount, you can add them to a smoothie and just get it over with!

Now go forth MCLV readers, power up your blender,s and make me proud!

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Community Sponsored Agriculture – CSA

Today I would like to discuss a topic with you that is very close to my heart – And my refrigerator – Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSAs).

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy having a variety of fruits and vegetables in your fridge at any given time so that you can make quick and healthy meals. Trips to Whole Foods and other specialty shops can be hard on the pocketbook, especially if you need to restock your cupboards with multiple trips a week.

Enter the CSA…

CSAs are programs that provide you with direct access to food produced by local farmers. Fresh, seasonal, high quality food. Essentially it’s a mini farmer’s market delivered directly to your front door, or a nearby pick-up location, for a fraction of the price that you’d pay at a large chain grocery store.

Why did I choose to join a CSA?

First, I was intrigued by the idea of giving my money to local farmers directly without a big corporation acting as the middle man. Second, I live car-free in San Francisco and rely on my own two feet for most of my errands. Finding a CSA with a drop-off three blocks away saves me time, energy and effort, all good things when you don’t want to run to the grocery store after spending all day at the office. Third, I was interested in learning to eat a more seasonal diet. True, I virtually always crave spinach and sweet potatoes, but I began to wonder if I was missing out when I purchased the same things each week. I quickly learned that I’d been missing out on a lot.

What is the biggest benefit of joining a CSA?

You don’t get to pick and choose what you receive through these programs, you are given a box/basket/bag containing a variety of produce that was picked at the farm that week. The result is that you’ll frequently get the opportunity to try things you wouldn’t normally buy for yourself. You get to plan your meals around what’s in season and what the farmers in/near your city are harvesting, rather than what’s being flow in from out-of-state or South America. In addition to getting the chance to eat seasonal, local produce and support smaller farmers, you’re reducing the pollution created when foods are transported long distances.

How expensive are CSAs?

They’re not! Without packaging and the shipping costs to send the food around the country, all you’re paying for are the fruits and vegetables themselves. Each CSA is going to charge slightly different fees and the cost will depend on how often you receive deliveries and whether you request any special additions to your basket. That being said, most of the programs that I researched when I was making my choice were less than $30 per delivery. I don’t know about you, but I can do quite a bit more damage than that given half an hour at Whole Foods!

Did anything surprise you when you first signed up?

If you’re used to the beautiful displays and waxed fruit at grocery stores, your deliveries may initially come as a shock to you. When I say that everything is harvested that week, I’m not exaggerating. The food will be unwashed, with dirt and leaves still clinging to it. Recycled and reusable containers will be utilized whenever possible, so there wont be pristine packaging and sterile plastic wrappings. A good word to keep in mind when you prepare yourself for your first delivery is rustic. It is coming straight from the field to you, with no stops for beautification.

What’s an example of the contents of a shipment?

My most recent delivery contained the following: a bag full of small navel oranges, a large grapefruit, a big bag of spinach, a large bag of pre-mixed stir fry greens, a head of lettuce, onions & garlic, a head of green cabbage, collard greens (yum!), half a dozen small apples and a large bunch of carrots. The variety and types of produce you receive will vary depending on the region you’re in, the season and the CSA you choose.

There are a variety of CSAs currently available and with a little research you can determine the one that suits your needs best. You’ll find that there are some farms that offer you additional supplements to the standard fruit & vegetable boxes, like eggs, milk, cheeses and meats. There are both certified organic farms and traditional farms offering CSAs and you can get deliveries weekly, twice a month, monthly… Whatever will work best for you.

If you’re interested, Google CSAs in your area to try to find one that is perfect for you, or check out the LocalHarvet website to help you narrow down the choices available to you.

The Bay Area has some amazing options and I will admit that it was a hard decision to pick which CSA I wanted to support. I finally made my choice based on the following criteria that were important to me: (1) certified organic, (2) close-by to cut down on shipping cost and pollution from transportation, and (3) a pick-up location walking distance from my apartment. In the end, I went with Eatwell Farm. I had previously seen them at the Ferry Building’s Saturday morning farmer’s market and was impressed by their selection of beautiful produce. I’ve been a proud member since October 2009 and they’ve been very easy to deal with and consistently produce excellent fruits and vegetables.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this post and that if you haven’t looked into signing up for a CSA prior to this that you’ll consider it now and keep in mind the benefits to the environment, local farmers and your refrigerator!

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