Plant-based, vegetarian, meatless, vegetarian advice, vegan., Uncategorized

Nuts About Milk

Remember the days when the nightly phrase at dinner was, “Drink your milk!”? Oh, how I dreaded those words. Luckily for me, my mom gave up her attempts to get me to drink milk upon realizing the only way I could swallow cow’s milk was if my glass was filled half way with chocolate syrup. I hated the taste of it, and as it turned out my body was rejecting cow’s milk as well, in the form of exzema and digestive issues.

When I first ditched dairy, non-dairy milk choices were slim. Our local market had a specialty aisle; nestled into the corner of said aisle, were  a few dusty cartons of EdenSoy and rice milk from which to choose. Times sure have changed. These days, I am blown away by the array of non-dairy milks available at every store I visit. How convenient!

There are several  uncomfortable truths  about the store bought nut milks, though; they’re mostly water and thickener, and are  often high in added sugar. Homemade nut milk only takes a few minutes; it’s  higher in protein, minerals, and flavor.

Nuts are a great source of protein. Protein  is the building block of our tissues, and is reparative as well.  Nuts are high in minerals such as: Calcium, Copper, Iron, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Selenium, and Zinc. Minerals are important for nerve and muscle function and  immunity.  Some are cautious regarding nuts because they’re  fairly high in fat. While excess  is unhealthy, fat is a necessary macronutrient essential for the good health of our skin and other cells. Fat also helps in the transport of fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E, and K). Homemade nut milk is creamier  than store bought, and making nut milk at home helps you to avoid excess sugar by allowing you to control the sweetness.

 

After some experimentation I discovered the best ratio was 1/4 cup of cashews to 2 cups of water.  The recipe below creates a basic neutral milk for use in sauces, mashed potatoes, baking, cereal, and smoothies. Although, you’ll likely want to skip the vanilla for certain uses! The most commonly used nuts are almonds or cashews. Almonds create a lighter milk that’s lower in fat, but MUST be pre soaked overnight even if using a Vitamix. Cashews result in a richer result and don’t require soaking.

Cashew Milk

1/2 cup of unsalted (preferably raw) Cashews

4 cups water

3-5  Dates

1 tsp Vanilla extract  (optional )

Place in high speed blender, and blend on high for about two minutes. Chill for 30 minutes before drinking (unless you’re adding it to a hot recipe).

This cashew milk keeps in the fridge for up to five days. Shake before using.

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Plant-based, vegetarian, meatless, vegetarian advice, vegan., Semi-vegetarian, Flexitarian, heart health

Eating for Health and Happiness

It’s no secret that the United States ranks 37th in health outcomes. The high sugar low nutrient  Standard American Diet (ironically abbreviated as SAD) is a major contributing factor to heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

Eating should be enjoyable. The foods we consume should appeal to our senses, and make us feel energized and ready to face the day. Our diets should nurture our immune system, and overall well being. Eating well is a form of self-respect. 

   Many remain under the impression that eating  well means sitting down to a plate of boiled carrots, plain rice, and an unseasoned block of tofu; they believe they’ll have to force down sandwiches on bread that tastes like cardboard, cut out entire groups of macronutrients, and be deprived of flavor at every turn. This is untrue. There are many options that are nutritious without sacrificing flavor, or asking you to avoid fat, carbs, or proteins. 

Today I’m featuring overviews of healthier ways of eating. Changes  can be made without sacrificing flavor or richness. Better  ways of eating can be worked into your diet recipe by recipe, day by day.

Semi-Vegetarian

Semi-vegetarian, sometimes referred to as flexitarian, is a way of eating that involves lessening ones intake of animals to the inclusion of more fruits and vegetables. Meatless Mondays took off a while back. Through this movement many have adopted the semi-vegetarian diet, lessening their consumption of animal products and increasing the number of heart healthy meals they serve.

Is it healthy?

It’s common knowledge eating  more fruits and vegetables while decreasing animal intake is a healthier choice. A large scale study has shown a semi- vegetarian diet to decrease the chance of death by stroke or heart disease.*

Vegetarian

The title “Vegetarian” denotes a person who doesn’t  consume  chickens, cows,  fish or any other animal. Vegetarians may however, consume dairy products and cheese. Such vegetarians are known as ovo-lacto vegetarians.

Is it healthy?

Vegetarians tend to consume more fruits and vegetables therefore increasing their intake of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  That said, one can be vegetarian but eat ice cream for breakfast on a daily basis which obviously  wouldn’t be a heart healthy choice.  According to the American Heart Association, many studies have shown the vegetarian diet to be helpful in the avoidance of obesity, coronary heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain forms of cancer.

Vegan

Vegans are another breed entirely. In addition to not eating animals, vegans also avoid dairy, eggs, and all animal by-products including honey. Vegans  don’t wear leather or fur. Their commitment to animal rights extends to their personal care items. Vegans only use products that are free of animal by products, and  never tested on animals (look for the leaping bunny).

Is it healthy?
The nutritional aspect of veganism is entirely dependent on the individual. Oreos are vegan, but still chemical laden and filled with hydrogenated fats. There are vegans who eat well, and those who’s compassion and care for animals doesn’t  carry over to their concern for their own well-being. A few concerns about veganism are lack of  protein and vitamin B12. Both are easily corrected. We need around .35 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Vegans may accomplish this with tofu, seeds, beans, legumes, nuts,  nut butters, and whole grain items. Vitamin B12 may be supplemented or made available to vegans through fortified cereals or plant milks.

Plant-Based

Plant-based eating means eating only plants or minimally processed plant foods. Those who are plant-based keep processed foods to a minimum or omit them completely. The diet of a plant-based person is filled with vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, nut butters,  and plant milks.

Is it healthy?

A plant- based diet is essentially vegetarianism in its optimal form, a natural whole foods diet. The fact that plant-based means eating mostly whole foods and keeping processed foods to a minimum makes this way of eating inherently higher in fiber, nutrients, and lower in preservatives, chemicals, and inflammatory ingredients like sugar and soybean oil. Many plant based folks avoid oils. The fats in their desserts and dressings exist in the form of nuts,seeds, or avocados either whole or blended into a cream consistency. The sweetness in their baked goods and pies comes from pureed dates. The plant-based diet contains less empty calories because each ingredient has nutritional value beyond caloric intake.

Plant foods can be prepared and seasoned in a variety of ways. If you’re looking for better health in the form of weight loss,  lower cholesterol or blood pressure, and increased vitality, fruits and vegetables seem to hold the key.

Which of the aforementioned appeals to you? Will you make changes to your diet? For which reasons?

Sources:

http://m.newsroom.heart.org/news/semi-veggie-diet-effectively-lowers-heart-disease-stroke-risk

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Vegetarian-Diets_UCM_306032_Article.jsp#mainContent

Plant-based, vegetarian, meatless, vegetarian advice, vegan.

Wholesome Hot Chocolate   (vegan-friendly/High in Protein/Non-Dairy/No Added Sugar)

Growing up in the northeast meant brutal winters, it also meant snow days. When a storm kept me home from school, my mom would bundle me up in full on ski attire (not an exaggeration) and send me out to play. Given my aversion to the cold, I’d usually last about half an hour before wanting to return indoors where I knew a mug of hot chocolate would await.

I’m not sure how hot  chocolate mix  was made in the 80’s, if the ingredients were “real”. I do know when I recently looked into buying the mix I remembered from childhood, I saw on the label: hydrogenated oil, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial flavors. There was also alot of added sugar. I don’t know about anyone else, but  I remember always needing to add extra spoonfuls of mix because it was never quite  chocolatey enough for me; meaning I was  getting double or triple whatever was on that label each time I had a mug of hot chocolate.  No wonder my mom stopped buying it!

Eating well is a form of self-respect and self-improvement, and I knew there had to be a better way to enjoy hot chocolate that offered some nutritional value. And so  my wholesome hot chocolate recipe was born. IT’S MADE  FROM FRUIT, NUTS,H2O, AND CHOCOLATE; YOU’VE GOT TO TASTE IT TO BELIEVE IT!

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This recipe is made only from whole foods; it contains no added sugar,dairy, oil, or synthetic ingredients. At 24 grams of fat per serving, this hot chocolate is surely a rich dessert  indulgence, but it also offers in each serving: over three grams of fiber, more than six grams of protein, nearly 20% of your recommended daily iron intake, and plenty of potassium. The dates have naturally occurring sugar but are low glycemic index and won’t cause the dreaded sugar crash. Plus, you can drink it knowing  your’re only putting good things into your body!

So without further ado, here it is:

Wholesome Hot Chocolate  (Vegan Friendly/Non-dairy/High in Protein/No Added Sugar)
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You’ll need the following:
(Makes two mugs)

*A high speed blender  (i.e. ninja/vitamix/nutribullet)
NOTE: if you’re without this, you may sub store bought nut milk.

*1/2c Cashews
NOTE: If you’re concerned about fat you may half this amount, and it will  be less creamy, but still pretty darn good!

*2c Water

*6-7 dates

*4 tsp. Cocoa Powder

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high for a full minute. Pour into two mugs and and heat in the microwave for about one minute. Enjoy.