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I can't believe that the month of May is winding down. I know many of you may be wondering how it's going and if I'm craving meat. To be honest I'm really not missing it. I haven't felt deprived or hungry. You do have to put some planning into it, but it hasn't been any harder than what I was already doing. On the nights I made a meat dish for the family, I planned it around what I was eating. There were times when something came up and I couldn't make what I had planned so I had to fall back on the vegetarian products I bought. I will be talking about the different ones I bought and tried and the good, the bad, and the ugly about these products. I'm also going to be talking a little more about the health benefits of what you get from eating vegetables. You may be surprised by what you learn. I will also share how I'v been feeling and some of the recipes that I"v used.
Eating a verity of fruits and vegetables is important because each contain different vitamins and minerals that your body needs. Many people think vegetarians don't get the nutrients you need to stay healthy. That if you don't eat meat you're not getting iron and protein. This is a big misconception. If you learn what is in your food then you can have a healthy meat free live style.
I had to learn this lesson. I thought that I was eating what I needed to, but around the third week I was feeling a little sluggish. I started looking back at what I was eating and started to study what was in my food. Now I'm not saying that what I was eating wasn't healthy, it was just that I wasn't eating enough of what I needed. The more I studied about nutrition the more I realized that I wasn't getting the amount or absorbing the iron that my body needed. I bought an iron supplement to take to help make up the iron I wan't getting. After about a day or so I felt my energy coming back.
What I was feeling is called anemia. Anemia happens when there is a decrease in the number of red blood cells caused by the lack of iron. Without iron your body can't make enough hemoglobin found in the red blood cells that helps carry oxygen to the body's tissues. This causes you to feel weak, tired, and irritable.
There are two forms of dietary iron, heme and nonheme. Heme iron comes from hemoglobin that is found in animals, such as red meat, fish, and poultry. Your body absorbs the most iron from heme sources because it easier for the body to absorb but is not essential for the human diet. Most nonheme iron comes from plant sources. Nonheme iron accounts for the majority of people's iron intake. So with the right foods you can meet your daily iron requirements. I want to share what I learned about which are the best iron rich foods, how much daily iron you need and how to help maximize the absorption of iron.
So how much iron do you need? For women ages 19 to 50 you should aim for 18mg per day. To give you an idea of what that means, a cup of soybeans has 29.2mg of iron. So with one cup of soybeans you would meet your goal, but not every food has that high amount of iron. So this is why it's important to know whats in your food.
Some of the foods that contain iron are spinach, broccoli, lentils, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, quinoa, strawberries, cashews, figs, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, beans, and peanuts. Some foods have more iron then others and those are the ones I want to highlight.
Lentils, a cup of cooked lentils has 6.59mg. They are not only rich in iron, but also protein and fiber. They also contain B vitamins, magnesium, potassium and zinc. Eating lentils on a regular basis reduces the risk of diabetes, obesity, cancer, and heart disease.
Cannellini beans or also know as white kidney beans have 5.2mg of iron per cup. The consumption of beans helps reduce the rick of heart disease and related conditions. Other types of beans with high amounts of iron are chickpeas with 4.75mg, blackeye peas have 3.59mg, and red kidney beans with 3.59.mg.
Spinach is low in calories but high iron with 6.43mg. It is also rich in potassium, magnesium, and vitamins B6, B9, and E, vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid, and calcium.
Dark chocolate! For a bar of dark chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cocoa it has 11.9mg of iron. However you shouldn't eat a chocolate bar everyday, but it is a a great treat to have every now and then. Dark chocolate also has copper and potassium that can help prevent against stroke and cardiovascular ailments. The iron in chocolate protects against iron deficiency anemia, and the magnesium in chocolate helps prevent type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Knowing what foods that contain iron is important, but also knowing how to get your body to absorb iron is just as important. To increase the amount of iron that your body can absorb you need to eat food that have a good source of vitamin C. Some of these foods are bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and citrus foods. There is also a list of foods and supplements that reduce the absorption of iron. So you should avoid these up to two hours before and after an iron rich meal. They are dairy, black tea, peppermint tea, calcium supplement, red wine, coffee, and antacid medications.
What about protein? When it comes to protein people often think about beef and fish, not really about vegetables. You might be surprised by the list of other foods that contain protein and how much of it. What does protein do for the body? It makes enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. It's important for building bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Protein is a macronutrient, meaning that the body needs relatively large amounts of it. So if you don't eat meat how do you get protein and how much of it do we need?
For the average women you need to eat 46 grams a day. Which should equal 10 percent of your daily calories, if you're not super active. To give you an idea what 46g looks like, a cup of quinoa has 8.14g of protein. Some other foods that have protein are eggs, oats, peanut butter, broccoli, green peas, avocados, cauliflower, mushrooms, nori (dried seaweed), chia seeds, edamame, black beans, tofu, lentils, spinach, winter squash, and even a banana has some protein. The top foods with the most protein are soybeans with 68g in one cup, wild rice has 24g in a cup, with one cup of greek yogurt you get 20g, chickpeas has 15g in one cup, and walnuts with one cup and cottage cheese with 1/2 a cup get 12g.
Let us not leave out omega-3s. I know what you're thinking, but omega-3s are only found in fish. Wrong! You can find omega-3s in nori, chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, edamame, kidney beans, leafy greens, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and canola oil. So why do we need omega-3s? It's needed for proper neurological function, cell membrane maintenance, hormone production, helps fight inflammation, reduces the risk of heart disease by lowering high triglycerides, regulates cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, and helps with plague buildup. It also helps with weight management, depression, lowers cancer risks, is linked to preventing and managing autoimmune diseases and supports healthy skin and slows down the aging process. So have you eaten your omega-3s today?
Now there are all kinds of products out there for vegetarians to try. There is chicken nuggets, ground beef, chicken strips, burgers, hot dogs, bacon, sandwich meats, sausage, and even fish. However just because it's made to be a meat substitution doesn't mean that is healthy. I wanted to try some of these products, just to see what they are made of and how tasty they really are.
Let's start with the veggie burger. There are all kinds of versions. The one I tried was Morning Star Farms. I do have to say, taste wise I didn't have a problem with this one. It was easy to make, just don't cook it for to long or it will get rubbery. I fixed it like I would a regular burger. I put it on bun with mayo, mustard, pickles, tomato, lettuce, and onion. It makes for a good dinner if you don't have time to make a black bean burger. So what makes up a veggie burger? In one Morning Star veggie burger there is 110 calories, 350mg of sodium, 180mg of potassium, 3g of fiber, and 4g of iron. The ingredients for these burgers is listed as so. Mushrooms, water chestnuts, onion, carrots, green and red bell peppers, black olives, textured vegetable protein, egg whites, brown rice, rolled oats, corn oil, calcium caseinate, soy sauce, onion powder, cornstarch, salt, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, yeast extract, natural flavors, sugar, soy protein isolate, spices, garlic powder, dextrose, jalapeno pepper powder, and celery extract.
One of my favorites out of all the products I tried has to be the Morning Star Veggie Crumbles their ground beef alternative. I just loved how it tasted. It really looks like ground beef and was super easy to make. In a 1/2 cup it has 60 calories, 330mg of sodium, 4g of fiber, 250mg of potassium, and 40mg of calcium. The beef alternative is made up of water, soy flour, corn oil, yeast extract, cooked onion and carrot, juice concentrate, reduce sodium tamari soy sauce, natural flavors, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, gum acacia, sugar, and spices.
The Beyond Meat products are said to have some of the best and closest tasting fake meat on the market. I tried the grilled chicken strips and the lightly seasoned chicken and I have to say I was not a fan. I did like the lightly seasoned chicken better but not by much. I dipped them in hot sauce to help cover up the rubbery texture. The tasted wasn't to bad but it wasn't chicken. For both products they are almost made up of the same things. Six strips has 130 calories, 360mg sodium, 3g of fiber, and 22g of protein. The chicken is made of water, soy protein isolate, pea protein isolate, rice flower canola and sunflower oil, soy fiber, natural flavors, spices, distilled vinegar, titanium dioxide, potassium chloride, and paprika. The only different between the products is that the lightly seasoned chicken has 330mg of sodium, and contains carrot fiber, and maltodextrin.
The last product I what to talk about is the Morning Star Buffalo Chicken Wings. I didn't mind how they tasted, in fact the wings had a bit of a kick. They don't look anything like a chicken wings but do look like real chicken nuggets. A far as being the most unhealthy, I think this product wins. After reading the ingredients you realize that you're just eating bread with a lot of spices. In five wings there is 200 calories, 400mg of sodium, 3g of fiber, 2g of sugar, 13g of protein, 30mg of calcium, 1.7mg of iron, and 110mg of potassium. The wings are made up of water, wheat flour, soy flour, vegetable oil, soy protein isolate, wheat starch, wheat gluten, cornstarch, methylcellulose, potato starch, natural flavors, salt, yeast extract, dextrose yeast, paprika, onion powder, sugar, garlic powder, hot sauce, spices, leavening, vinegar, citric acid, yellow corn flour, paprika, xanthan gum, turmeric, annatto extract color, and barley malt extract.
It was fun trying out the different products but you have to keep in mind that, that is what they are, products. Ever one is a processed food. Some of them do have fiber and protein, but it isn't the best way of getting it. They also have a lot of sodium, sugars and your eating things like methylcellulose, which is a chemical compound which is used as a thickener and emulsifier in various food and cosmetic products, and also as a treatment for constipation. Knowing what is in your food is so important. It helps you make a wiser decision about what your eating.
Now on to my favorite parts. I love that I get to share some of the recipes I tried. I'm not going to post every one, but I do want to share the ones I really enjoyed.
For Cinco de Mayo I wanted to do something festive and delicious. So I made Mexican Noodle Soup with Avocado and Black Bean Quesadillas. Both were yummy!
Mexican Noodle Soup
2 14.5 ounce cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic (about 1 large clove)
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces spaghetti noodles (broken into 1" pieces)
2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
Add canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, cumin and 1 cup broth in a large blender. Blend until completely smooth. Blend this in a blender until smooth.
Heat a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add blended tomato sauce. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
Heat a Dutch oven or large pot over medium high heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and add spaghetti noodles. Stir fry for 3 to 4 minutes, until pasta has browned a little and begun to blister.
Add the warm blended tomato sauce, the remaining 5 cups of broth and salt. Stir together to combine, cover and cook for 20 minutes, until the noodles are cooked through.
Taste and season with more salt if necessary.
Avocado and Black Bean Quesadillas
1/2 onion sliced
1/2 bell pepper sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup black beans drained
1 tablespoon taco seasoning
4 medium soft flour tortillas
2 avocados peeled, halved, seeded and sliced
1/4 cup minced cilantro (optional)
1 lime cut in half
1 cup light Mexican Cheddar or mozzarella cheese
In a medium pan over medium-high heat, saute onion and bell pepper in 1 tablespoon oil for two to three minutes or until tender. Add the black beans and taco seasoning. Cook for another minute. Transfer mixture into a small bowl and set aside.
Rinse and wipe down pan and return to heat. Drizzle with a light layer of oil or spray with cooking spray.
In a small bowl, lightly mash the avocados with a fork. Stir in cilantro and juice of 1/2 lime, season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread a quarter of mashed avocado onto half of a tortilla. Top with bean mixture and 1/4th cup of cheese. Fold the tortilla closed over the veggies. Repeat until all tortillas are filled and all fillings are used.
Cook on medium-high heat for two to three minutes per side or until the outside is crispy and cheese has fully melted. Serve with your favorite salsa or sour-cream, Enjoy!
This next recipe the family and I really loved it. I will be making it again.
Portobello Pot Roast
1 tsp Basil
4 carrots, cut into coins
2 Garlic cloves, diced
1 Onion, diced
4 Portobello Mushrooms, cut into strips
4 Potatoes, cut into bite size
1 Sprigs of fresh Rosemary
1 tsp Sage
4 Sprigs of fresh Thyme
6 1/8 cups Vegetable Broth
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
3 tbsp Flour
1 1/8 cup White Wine
Salt and pepper
For this recipe I made my own worcestershire sauce because store bought is not vegetarian friendly.
Homemade Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 cups Apple Cider vinegar
2 tbs water
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 ground cinnamon
Ground Black Pepper to taste
Add all ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil and cook for 45 seconds. Cool to room temperature.
The roast recipe I found on Pinterest but the part on how to make it was missing. So I'll share how I made it. I took my diced onion, garlic and sauteed them in some of the white wine. After cooking them for a few minutes I add the mushrooms. I then took the flour and added to the mixture. It then became a yummy rue. In a large pot I added all the other ingredients and then pored in my rue mixture. I mixed it altogether and cooked it for about an hour and a half.
I'm sure you could make it anyway you want. Just make it! It's was so yummy and rich. You don't even miss not having the meat.
One thing I did make with one of the vegetarian products that I really enjoyed was zucchini noodles with crushed tomatoes topped with the Morning Star ground beef crumbles. All I did was take the frozen zucchini noodles and put them in the microwave. Then took a can of crushed tomatoes and added some italian seasoning and heated up on the stove. I cooked the beef according to the package instructions. Then just put it together. It was really good, super filling and so easy to make.
Another dinner I want to share is something else I just put together but it ended up being really good. This one has all ready be asked to be made again. I sautéed some onion and add a little bit of garlic powder. When the onions started to soften I add a handful of spinach and cooked it down. When the mixture was ready I took out my portabella mushrooms that had been marinating in liquid aminos (a natural soy sauce alternative) and stuffed it with the onion and spinach. I set the oven to 400 and cooked the mushrooms for about 20 minutes and then topped it with goat gouda cheese. You could add parmesan or feta cheese.
Stuffed Portabella Mushroom
There are other ones I want to share but I'll save them for the next blog. In the next blog I'll talking about another reason why to go vegetarian. I'll let you know what I'v decided to do about staying a vegetarian and where I'm going from here. I really do hope you got some good information and will want to try some of the recipes that I'v shared. I leave you with this, "We all eat, and it would be a sad waste of opportunity to eat badly."—Ann Thomas