September 2018 Edition
According to a report from 2017, almost 6% of Americans identify themselves as vegetarians. Only 1% of the population described themselves as vegetarians in 1971.
Tips for Going Vegetarian
There’s Vegetarian. And there’s Vegan. Related, yet different. Both diets eliminate meat, fish, and poultry. Vegans don’t eat any dairy, eggs, or other products derived from animals. Sub-types of vegetarianism, however, make exceptions for certain animal products:
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat both dairy products and eggs.
- Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products but avoid eggs.
- Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but not dairy products.
Whatever your reason for choosing this dietary path – your health, concerns for the environment, or for spiritual reasons (or a combination of these reasons) – be aware of common mistakes that can adversely affect your health. Understanding these pitfalls can help you maintain a nutritionally sound vegan or vegetarian diet:
Consuming too much fruit sugar. Fruit is an important part of any healthy diet, but consuming too much fruit sugar on a daily basis can have a detrimental effect on blood sugar. Also, fruits alone fail to provide the diversity of nutrients a body needs to thrive. Balance fruit intake with veggies, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Lacking dietary variety. Being a creature of habit, or being afraid to try new foods or recipes, can leave your diet deficient in nutrients, and your taste buds in a sorry state. You’ll have food cravings, hunger pains, and might just give up on vegetarianism. Follow those famous Dr. Seuss characters’ advice: Try New Things; You Might Like Them!
Tipping the carb scale in the wrong direction. With so many convenience foods for vegetarians, it’s easy to get tricked into thinking you’re making a healthy choice by selecting “fortified with (fill in the blank)” products over fresh foods. Many of those products are loaded with hidden sugars and sodium. Get complex carbs and grains from whole, organic food sources such as barley, wheat, rye, millet, flax. Buy dried berries and nuts without added sugar or salt.
Mismanaging your protein. Folks new to vegetarianism don’t properly combine foods to provide sufficient amounts of complete protein for their age and activity level. Many people wind up relying on protein shakes, which is not the ideal way to obtain protein. Most of your protein should come from whole, real, fresh foods. A holistic health practitioner can help you establish good, flavorful meal planning strategies.
Both vegetarians and vegans need to pay attention to the intake of nutrients lost by omitting meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. As noted above, “fortified with” foods aren’t the best because the nutrients aren’t in the most bioavailable state for the body to utilize. The nutrients most commonly lacking in vegan/vegetarian diets are:
- B vitamins, particularly B12 and B6
- Iron, Zinc and Selenium
To track your nutritional intake, try this awesome program: cronometer.com. It has both free and paid account options. To understand your nutrient needs and assess risk for deficiency, see a holistic health physician for a nutrient assessment test (details below). This simple blood test indicates if deficiencies are present and need to be corrected, as well as how to best support already good health with the right dose and type of supplements for you.
Food for Thought. . .
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
Surprise Your Taste Buds with Sunchokes
On your next foray down the produce aisle, don’t overlook the wonderful sunchoke, aka Jerusalem Artichoke. These tubers look nothing like an artichoke and are easily mistaken for a strange potato!. A native North American plant, sunchokes are a member of the sunflower family.
Low in calories and nutrient dense, sunchokes provide iron, potassium, thiamin (one of the B vitamins) and a good amount of fiber in a one-cup serving. The carbohydrate contained in sunchokes is inulin, which doesn’t cause spikes in blood sugar, so it’s a great option for anyone concerned about diabetes or weight management. Sunchokes also contain vitamins, A, C, and E. The most unique nutrient found in sunchokes is known as prebiotics, a type of non-digestible carbohydrate found in many root vegetables. Food-based prebiotics enhance nutrient absorption and help maintain a healthy intestinal tract by promoting growth of “good” gut bacteria, which supports immunity.
Sunchokes have a nutty, mildly sweet flavor and are delightful to eat raw – shredded or sliced into a salad or sliced and served with raw carrots and other veggies. They can be cooked in a variety of ways and added to stir-fry dishes in lieu of water chestnuts. Their flavor is enhanced when lightly seasoned for sauteing or roasting. You can also puree sunchokes for soups.
Available year-round in the U.S., prime harvest time is October through early spring. Buy tubers that are firm, free of sprouts or bruises, with a smooth, clean surface making them easier to prepare.
Roasted Sunchokes With Garlic
Simplicity can be the spice of life and this recipe offers both. Sunchokes have a delightful flavor that is enhanced in this recipe with fresh minced garlic, parsley and Olive Oil.
Roasting makes sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes) tender on the inside and lightly crisp on the outside. This dish is a perfect addition to any evening meal or for a tasty, healthy snack.
- 1 pound sunchokes
- 2 T. olive oil
- 1 T. minced garlic
- 1 t. sea salt
- 1/2 t. fresh ground black pepper
- 2 T. fresh minced parsley
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Scrub sunchokes with a vegetable brush. Cut tubers into 1-inch bite-sized pieces.
- In a medium-size bowl, toss sunchokes with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper.
- Arrange sunchokes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, turning once, until the sunchokes are golden brown.
- Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
May the Force ‘B’ With You, Vegetarian!
Vegetarianism has many health advantages, but a poorly designed diet poses significant health risks. Research shows that vegetarians (and vegans) are vulnerable to deficiencies in two important B vitamins: B12 (cobalamin) and B6 (pyridoxine).
If ever a group of vitamins could be considered “the Force” within you, it’s the B-Complex group, which synergistically supports energy production. Individually, each B vitamin – B1 (thiamin), B2(riboflavin), (niacin B3), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B12, biotin, and folate are vital to different physiological processes throughout the body. Specifically, B12 is essential for healthy nerve cell communication while B6 is necessary for hormone regulation and breaking down dietary fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
It’s difficult to obtain sufficient, high-quality amounts of food-based B6 and B12 when meat, fish, eggs, and dairy are eliminated. B12 is not present in plants, so vegetarians usually need to take a supplement. Some plants contain a “glycosolated form” of B6 that is not absorbed easily or used efficiently in the body. The aging process, a vegan diet, stress, certain medications, and illness also can alter your body’s ability to utilize vitamins taken from food.
Signs of B12 deficiency include extreme fatigue, sadness, irritability, loss of appetite, anemia, lower immunity, and increased risk for heart disease. B6 deficiency is associated with PMS, depression, and insomnia; it can lead to nerve damage in the hands and feet, which is usually reversible with proper supplementation.
A holistic health practitioner can order a blood test to determine if a vitamin deficiency exists and work with you to identify the appropriate supplement (vitamins, injection or nasal gel, or sublingual tablet), form of that supplement and dietary improvements for your health needs.
Got Sprouts? Health Benefits of Alfalfa
What makes a sprout so good for you?
Sprouting is the moment of greatest vitality in a plant’s life cycle, the phase in which the seed activates and makes its way through the topsoil and sprouts into the fresh air above. At this high point of metabolic and enzymatic changes, the sprout contains high levels of nutrients. And that’s what makes sprouts good for you, particularly Alfalfa.
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is a legume that is also considered to be an herb. The leaves and seeds can be used fresh, or dried for supplements, and the sprouts are enjoyed with meals. It’s high in Vitamins A, C, and K and contains several B vitamins. A good source of dietary fiber, copper, magnesium, and iron, Alfalfa contains active plant compounds currently being evaluated for benefits in women’s health, managing high cholesterol, and effects on the nervous and cardiovascular systems.
When selecting sprouts, look for those that have been kept chilled in the produce section and choose organic when possible. The International Sprout Growers Association (ISGA) seal on a product indicates the sprouts have been carefully grown and handled. Look for clean roots with a creamy white color. Buds should be attached to the stem. Sprouts should be odorless. Keep sprouts refrigerated and use within 2 days of the sell-by date on the package. Enjoy sprouts atop salads, sandwiches, or as a garnish for prepared entrees.
Why is Nutrient Assessment Important?
How are your cells doing today? Don’t know? Then a Nutrient Assessment might be in order.
Here’s the truth of it: If your body is missing – or even short on – key vitamins and minerals, your cells will not perform at optimal level. This can affect your daily energy, quality of sleep, mental and physical performance at work, school, or sports and can lead to complex health problems.
Nutrient deficiency can occur for reasons other than the presence of an active illness, including:
- Inadequate intake in the diet
- Poor absorption in your digestive tract
- Problems at the cellular level, preventing proper use of the nutrient
- Loss of nutrients through intense exercise or long-term stress
- Insufficient cofactors or enzymes needed to properly utilize the nutrient
And that’s why a Nutrient Assessment is important. In holistic medicine, specialized tests are available to assess nutrient status. These tests are also known as Functional Nutrient Assessment, Nutrient Status Testing, or Micronutrient Testing. Using samples of blood, stool, urine, or hair, these tests evaluate how well your body absorbs and utilizes each nutrient assessed, along with the amount and functional availability of vitamins, mineral, and antioxidants in your cells. They help identify the nutritional supplements needed to achieve and maintain good health and lower your risk for serious illness.
Even if you feel your best, a baseline nutrient analysis is good to for two important reasons:
- A healthy baseline provides a point of comparison for times when you become ill and need to assess what’s going on with your body and what it needs to recover.
- Some nutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies don’t manifest in disease for a long time, even years. Having a baseline and periodic testing can help detect problems early.
Ask your holistic health practitioner about the type of nutrient testing that is most appropriate for you.