So maybe you’ve decided to take the route of becoming a vegan (a person who does not eat anything that comes from animals….no meat, no dairy, no seafood…none of that) or a vegetarian (a person who doesn’t eat meat but will eat some products that come from animals such as dairy). Or maybe you’d just like to mix up your diet more with vegan and vegetarian dishes for health/fitness reasons. Whatever your reasoning is it can definitely be a challenge to find meals that fall into these categories you will enjoy…especially if you’re used to eating tasty foods like barbecue chicken, juicy cheeseburgers, and tender steaks. But we all know that eating these foods on a regular basis is not ideal for someone who is trying to follow a healthier diet. No worries….there are PLENTY of tasty and healthier vegan and vegetarian alternatives out there that will have you wondering why you ever thought you’d actually miss eating these foods. Let me help you out with a few meal ideas….I even threw in a couple of desserts! Continue reading
As some of you know I have changed my diet quite a bit…mainly by decreasing how much meat I eat. I’ve cut out chicken, beef, turkey, and of course pork (I gave pork up a couple of years ago). I haven’t quite parted yet with my seafood, though, and still eat it every so often….I would say 2-3 times a month at most. But because of society and how we are raised most of us are led to believe that we need meat for protein, which is not true. There are plenty of alternative plant-based proteins that can help us meet this need. Tofu is one of them. Like meat, tofu is considered a complete protein making it a great plant-based alternative. It also does well with soaking up flavors such as seasonings it is cooked in. That’s what I found with my sofrita dish. I hadn’t figured out a good way to cook tofu and make it tasty until now. But this dish turned out very tasty! Check out my recipe below Continue reading
I’m veering away a bit from what I typically blog about. But I’m feeling very numb this morning because I just can’t understand what has been going on in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri for almost the past year or so. The world now knows about Ferguson because of the death of Michael Brown last August and the understandable anger expressed by the community in the following weeks. But what started out as peaceful protests (a couple of which I attended) turned into unjustifiable acts of ignorance. And let me be clear that I’m not talking about from the true protesters…the ones who were out there for the right reasons. I’m talking about the ones who came out looting, fighting, shooting, and causing chaos at a time when we should be sticking and working together. You would think that what happened in Ferguson would bring our community closer together…but instead it just seems that things have taken a turn for the worse. What is really going on in the Lou? Continue reading
Evernote is a very nifty app I started using about a year or so ago to better manage my notes. It interested me initially as a free app (there are also versions available at a fee that offer more features) that I could use to divide information I wanted to remember into categories (notebooks in Evernote). This was something I couldn’t with more basic note apps such as those that came pre-installed on my phone. There are other features Evernote offers that I have grown to love. Here are my fave features that help me manage my growing business and life in general. Continue reading
Protein is an essential macronutrient necessary for a healthy diet. Protein facilitates important functions including muscle, bone, and skin development; hormone production; and immunity. For individuals following a vegan lifestyle, optimizing adequate protein is not difficult, but it does take mindful consideration.
Building Blocks: Amino Acids
Before we get into vegan sources, let’s first discuss amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Amino acids are the organic compounds that join together to form a complete protein. When protein breaks down as we digest food, amino acids are the result.
There are 20 different types of amino acids. The sequence of these amino acids determines the specific function of a protein. Amino acids come in three categories: essential, nonessential, and conditional. There are nine essential amino acids that our bodies do not make or produce at a slow rate, which requires them to be obtained through food. Nonessential amino acids are produced by most healthy individuals or stored within the body. Conditional amino acids denote proteins, which are only necessary for specific times such as during trauma, stress, illness, injury, or premature birth.
Protein in food is broken down into amino acids via digestion. The body then converts those amino acids into its own usable forms of protein. To make a protein, the cells in the body must have all the amino acids required for that specific protein. Since nonessential amino acids can be made within the body and essential amino acids come from food sources, it is imperative to include all the essential amino acids in your diet.
The Role of Protein in the Body
Humans need protein to create structures in the body such as muscle, bone, skin, and tissues. Protein is also necessary to help maintain the body’s fluid and electrolyte balance, acid-base balance, hormone production, transportation of fluids and nutrients, protection against disease, and fuel when absolutely necessary.
In Western culture, there exists a common belief that the more protein the better. In some scenarios such as extreme body building and during certain disease states, extra protein is necessary. But excessive protein intake when not warranted can lead to health complications including an increased risk for heart disease, kidney disease, and bone loss.
When adhering to a vegan lifestyle, it’s important to know what protein sources are high quality. A high-quality protein contains all the essential amino acids as well as some nonessential amino acids, which support the body’s functions. Animal sources such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, and milk are all considered high-quality proteins. The digestibility of a protein is also something to be mindful of, since proteins need to be digested before we can fully utilize the amino acids. Our bodies digest and absorb certain proteins better than others. Factors that influence a protein’s digestibility are the source of the protein as well as the other foods it’s paired with. Animal protein has the highest percent of digestibility followed by plant-based sources.
Vegan sources of protein are derived from plant-based foods. Most plant proteins lack one or more essential amino acids, and therefore are incomplete proteins. This does not mean a vegan lifestyle can’t be healthy and balanced; it just requires some thought and planning. A variety of plant-rich foods are key to optimize protein in a vegan diet. By consuming two different types of plant-rich proteins, you can obtain different amino acids from each source. The two distinctly different plant proteins combine to create what is called a complementary protein. The different plant proteins do not need to be consumed together as long as a whole day of meals contains a variety of essential amino acids.
A classic example of a complementary protein is rice and beans. Legumes lack some of the amino acids that rice has, and vice versa. However, when consumed together, or on the same day, rice and beans provide all the essential amino acids necessary to create a complete protein.
A vegan is classified as someone who does not eat foods of animal origin. When adhering to a vegan diet, the emphasis should be placed on fruits, vegetables, legumes, wholes grains, nuts, and seeds. Ideally, unadulterated real foods from real sources constitute the primary dietary sources, but there are some vegans and vegetarians that also rely on processed foods and starches full of empty calories. Aside from optimal protein, it’s especially important for vegans to obtain enough B12, Vitamin D, iron, calcium, zinc, and essential fatty acids—all nutrients that may be easier to get from a non-vegan diet.
People choose a vegan, plant-based lifestyle for a number of reasons including concern over animal welfare, to offset environmental implications caused by factory farming, to eat more economically, to improve health, or for religious or cultural beliefs. Whatever the rationale, researchdemonstrates there are plenty of benefits to a plant-based diet. A balanced vegan diet is rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and is naturally low in unhealthy fats. This lifestyle can help combat heart disease, diabetes, and cancer; help maintain a healthy body weight; and improve gut health.
Optimize Your Protein: The Best Vegan Protein Sources
Legumes, nuts, seeds, tempeh, grains, and vegetables are examples of the diversity a vegan diet can offer. The most protein-rich examples are:
Notorious for their not-too-flattering side effects (soak in water and rinse to help reduce gas-producing enzymes), beans are an economical and versatile source of protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates. Providing an average 15 grams of protein per cup, beans are a hearty and lean protein that can easily fit into a plant-based diet. Turn chickpeas into hummus, make a black bean salsa, add pinto beans to a salad, toss with brown rice, or make a multibean chili.
Chia seeds come in black and white varieties and provide a hearty dose of fiber in addition to 4 grams of protein per ounce. Chia seeds absorb up to27 times their weight in water (or any liquid), which makes them a great thickening agent. Chia seeds can be used for puddings, overnight oats, smoothies, salads, and soups.
These little seeds are rich in protein, with 9 grams in every ounce. They’re also a good source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Subtle in flavor, hemp seeds are a great addition to smoothies, salads, soups, or stews.
Lentils are another fantastic, economical plant-based protein. These small but mighty legumes are simple to cook and loaded with numerous nutritional benefits. Lentils are high in dietary fiber, which help with digestion, satiety, and cardiovascular health. Lentils are also a good source of vegetarian iron, an essential mineral for oxygen transportation in the blood and proper metabolism. Pairing an iron-containing food with vitamin C assists with optimizing iron absorption. Lentils are a combination of protein, carbohydrate, and fiber and provide 18 grams of protein in one cup. Add to a grain salad, veggie burgers, meatless sauce, or soup.
Cashews, almonds, peanuts (technically a legume, but you can find them with other nuts), walnuts, and pistachios all fall into the nut category. Nuts are rich in vitamins and minerals as well as healthy fats, and contain anywhere from 5 to 7 grams protein per ounce. Spread some nut butter on a banana or toast, make a trail mix, top your oatmeal, or grind into gluten-free flour.
Organic Tofu, Edamame, Tempeh
All three of these food sources are made from soybeans. Soy is a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids and provides between 10 to 17 grams per ½ cup serving depending on the source. Try to avoid processed, genetically modified, and soy byproducts by carefully reading labels. Opt for natural and fermented sources such as organic edamame, tempeh, and tofu. Edamame can be used similarly to beans, made into hummus, or added to salads. Tempeh or tofu can be sautéed into a stir-fry, crumbled into burgers, added to tacos, or substituted for meat in a meat sauce.
South American in origin, this seed, which is consumed like a grain, is high in protein and fiber. One cup of this gluten-free carbohydrate contains 8 grams of protein and is a good source of iron and magnesium. Quinoa is a terrific substitute for rice, can be used in stir fries, can be added to oatmeal for a multigrain breakfast, or can be used to make veggie burgers.
Curious about a plant based lifestyle but don’t want to become a full-time vegan? Try integrating more plant-based foods into your meals or instituting Meatless Monday as a way to reap the health benefits without having to say goodbye to meat.
Please check out Northwest Pharmacy’s Health Perch site for more posts on healthy living. The original posting of this article can be found at https://www.northwestpharmacy.com/healthperch/optimize-protein/
Growing up, lasagna was one of my fave dishes! The cheesy, saucy, meaty filling between layers of pasta noodles was just something I couldn’t resist. I also became very good at making lasagna…so good that people paid me to make them in college a few times Of course, the combination of pasta and loads of cheese along with fatty beef was not healthy at all. But I still love my lasagna and have a weakness for anything with cheese and tomato sauce! So it should be no surprise that I’ve found a healthier version of it that I can enjoy without all the guilt (and bloat feeling afterwards). I recently made and ate my first zucchini pasta and it was ooooo SO GOOOD! Wanna see how I made it and how easy it was using ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen? Then read on!
According to webmd.com, as an adult female I need a minimum 46 grams of protein per day. An adult male needs 56 grams. Along with fat and calories, I keep a close eye on the amount of protein I take in on a daily basis. As someone who doesn’t eat much meat at all (I only eat seafood now and that’s generally 1-2 times a week at most if at all) it is really important to me that I get enough protein. Protein helps us to feel fuller longer because it takes longer to digest, which can be beneficial for people who maintain a healthy eating regimen and aim to stay within an ideal weight range or are trying to lose weight. It also helps with cell growth and repair by breaking down amino acids. So we definitely need protein daily and a good amount of it. But the misconception that has been beat into our heads over the years is that we must eat meat to get enough protein…this is simply not true. There are a variety of vegan and vegetarian sources of protein….some of them having more of it than meats. And unlike meats and eggs that are often touted as primary protein sources, vegan and vegetarian options often are not high in saturated fats and cholesterol making them healthier choices. Personally, since I’ve drastically reduced my intake of meat I have noticed fairly significant differences such as it being easier for me to maintain my ideal weight and not feeling bloated everyday as I did when I ate meat daily. If you have struggled for a while with weight loss…even while exercising and changing up your diet then reducing or eliminating meat may be something you want to consider. Even starting out doing it once or twice a week to see if you notice a difference may help (ever heard of “Meatless Monday”?). Then you can gradually increase to a week, two weeks, etc….that’s what I did. But people who have been raised on eating meat may have a difficult time coming up with meal ideas that include non-meat sources of protein. It definitely takes research and experiments in the kitchen to stay motivated enough to stick with such an eating regimen. I have my vegan and vegetarian protein sources that I love whipping up in the kitchen. Here are my top pics along with meal ideas. Continue reading
I really LOVE the age of technology…I mean I am an IT professional by day But with my passion for fitness and health I really love combining tech and fitness together and I do this on a daily. I enjoy tracking meals using MyFitnessPal as well as a couple of other apps to track my runs. Recently I purchased a Fitbit Flex and so far I’ve enjoyed it very much! But as a fitness blogger I was recently presented with an opportunity from Verizon to try out the Fitbit Charge and see what all it has to offer. It’s a very cool device to have and I really enjoyed using it. Are you currently shopping around for a wearable fitness tracking device such as Fitbit? Or maybe you just haven’t decided which fitness tracker you would like to purchase (because there are many!). Well check out my review below on my experience with the very cool Fitbit Charge. Continue reading
So I’ve grown to LOVE quinoa! I’ve used it to make stir-fry, meatless taco salad, veggie-topped, and even an apple dish that makes a great breakfast or dessert dish. I had heard of quinoa cakes before but had never tried or made any myself…until yesterday…and they were AWESOME! Besides the nutritional value they offer, quinoa cakes are also great for something to eat on-to-go and are filling. Check out my recipe…if you like quinoa you won’t be disappointed!
Since I’ve drastically decreased my intake of meat I have found a number of healthy, tasty alternatives…and my homemade veggie burger is one of them! I typically make black bean burgers but have also ventured into white bean burgers using white kidney beans. I enjoy my veggie burgers so much that it has been months since I’ve had a meat burger and honestly I don’t miss the meat ones. I’ve also found a few restaurants that offer tasty veggie burgers such as Cheesecake Factory and Ol’ Charley’s. But I also found that the restaurant veggie burgers tend to have a lot of sodium and sometimes more calories than I would expect in them so I prefer to make my own. Check out my white bean veggie burger recipe below. Tasty and guilt-free! Continue reading