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What to buy: December

1 Dec

Veggies:

– Dry beans

– Beets

– Cabbage

– Carrots

– Collard greens

– Herbs

– Leeks

– Onions

– Parsnips

– Potatoes

– Winter squash

– Turnips

Fruits:

– Apples & pears until June

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Feeling “off”?

18 Nov

Whether’s it’s anxiety, fatigue, mild depression or mild panic, there are some foods and vitamins that will help rid yourself of what’s dragging you down.

Anxiety:

  • tryptophan in: brown rice, peanuts, soy
  • tyrosine: almond, avocado, banana, lima bean, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds
  • kava-kava, ginkgo biloba

Fatigue:

  • get your vitamins: A, B, C, D, E!
  • iron (liver, fish, cocoa, oysters, molasses)
  • magnesium (dried fruits)
  • fibre (fruits, veggies, whole-grain cereals, yogurt, probiotics in general)
  • sleep, of course (regular sleep schedule, light dinners, relax before bedtime)

Depression:

  • B1: wheat germ, brown rice, whole cereals, dark leafy greens, corn, peas, legumes
  • B3: whole cereals, soy, broccoli, peanuts, coconut, asparagus, legumes, potatoes
  • B5: yeast, wheat, oats, soy, lentils, avocado, corn, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, brassicas (turnips, kohlrabi, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, brocoli)
  • B6: whole cereals, wheat germ, soy, molasses, nuts, bananas, grapes, prunes, avocado, spinach, cabbage, potato, lettuce, tomato
  • B9 (folic acid): yeast, whole wheat bread, wheat germ, buckwheat flour, legumes, brown rice, almonds, asparagus, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, avocado, root veggies, soybeans, legumes
  • B12: animal products only (meat, dairy, eggs, cheeses, seafood) – supplements available; look for packaged goods that have been fortified with B12 (cereals, veggie burgers, margarines, soy milks)
  • C: citrus, red fruits/berries, kiwi, melons, peppers, cabbage, peas, red radish, asparagus, tomato, lettuce, brocoli, parsley, black olive
  • Magnesium: cocoa, dark chocolate, almonds, hazelnut, dry figs/apricots/dates, lentils, favas, kidney beans, dark leafy greens, tofu, peanuts, unpeeled potatoes
  • Omega-3: fatty fish (mackerel, sardines, anchovy, pacific salmon, Albacore tuna, herring, sea trout, cod liver), flax oil, flax seed, hemp oil, hemp milk, hemp seed.
  • keep your blood sugar levels balanced/even; favour slow-release carbs like brown rice (anything non-white, bread, pasta & rice-wise);
  • breathe well

Panic attacks:

  • sleep & exercise regularly
  • avoid caffeine & booze
  • breathe consciously; try yoga, meditation, massages
  • eat tryptophan (serotonin precursor) & tyrosine (adrenaline & dopamine precursor)
  • consider going for a hormone test (to evaluate levels of melatonin & DHEA)
  • fish oils are believed to stabilize your moods & improve brain function
  • plant-based aids: millepertus/St. John’s Wort, gingko biloba, valerian, kava kava (may conflict with certain medications – consult a naturopath)
  • B-complex vitamins: especially folic acid (B6) & B12
  • calcium & magnesium may have a relaxing effect on the nervous system

Hope this helps, veggies!

What can I buy in November?

1 Nov

Harvesting is basically over now in Quebec, obvs, but you can still get your hands on this local/Canadian produce:

Beets                                Mustard greens

Broccoli                          Onions

Brussel sprouts             Parsnips

Cabbage                          Potatoes

Carrots                            Pumpkins

Cauliflower                    Winter squash

Celery                              Turnips

Collard greens              Corn (probably)

Cucumbers (probably)

Eggplant                        Garlic

Kale                                 Leeks

Fruit-wise, we’re in the super-low season until May (*cries*): apples & pears, y’all, just apples & pears.

note: My formatting for these lists sucks, I know. I try to keep it alphabetical, but fixing the list when I want to add items is such a pain. So semi-alphabetical it is.

More on minerals and vitamins!

29 Oct

Last week I spoke about iron, so I thought it would be interesting to give you some info on some of the other essential and sometimes hard-to-find vitamins & minerals. Since there’s a lot to say about calcium, I’ll talk to you about that little sucker next week!

I love lists, so I’m just gonna give you the vitamins & minerals with their typical sources next to ’em:

B2: whole grains, mushrooms, almonds, leafy greens, yeast extracts

D: sunlight, D-fortified vegan margarine & some soy milks, supplements

Folate: wheat germ, raw/lightly-cooked leafy greens (brocoli, spinach, etc.), yeast, yeast extracts, nuts, peas, green “runner beans”, oranges, dates, avocados, whole grains

H (biotin) : legumes (soybeans, peanuts), green veggies

Iodine: seaweed, some veggies & grains depending on the iodine level in the soil

Phosphorus: legumes, potatoes, garlic

Potassium: leafy greens (spinach, lettuce), cruciferous veggies (brocoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage), bananas, potatoes, chick peas,

Zinc: wheat germ, whole grains (whole wheat bread, rice, oats), nuts, pulses (especially limas, pintos), tofu, soy protein, miso, peas, parsley, bean sprouts, pumpkin seeds, string beans

Fruit on display at La Boqueria market in Barc...

Image via Wikipedia

And the following are anti-oxidants! yay!:

Betacarotene – sweet potato, carrot, squash, pumpkin, peach, mango; spinach, savoy cabbage

Vitamin A – fortified oatmeal, fortified cereals, cantaloupe, mango, carrots, kale, peas, raw red pepper, spinach, winter squash, sweet potato

Vitamin C – lots of veggies (broccoli) and fruits (citrus fruits, tomato)

Vitamin E – nuts & grains; sunflower/corn/soy oils, mango, swiss chard, sweet potato

Lutein – leafy greens (spinach, kale, etc.)

Lycopene – tomatoes & tomato-based products (sauce, juice), watermelon, guava, papaya, apricot, red grapefruit

Selenium – rice, wheat germ, wheat bran, brazil nuts

Vegan, without the attitude

27 Oct

I’m not going to point my finger at any particular culprit, because even though I am fired up by a specific comment, the attitude I have trouble with is not uncommon among vegans (often newbies).

So, vegans are “enlightened”? Veganism is the ideal to which all humans should strive? I’m sorry, no and no. I chose to try my best at cutting out all animal products because I feel like it’s my contribution to maintaining the health of the planet and its inhabitants. I don’t think meat-eaters are monsters. I think everyone has the right to choose the path that brings them the most joy, because life is short. I don’t support selfish, wasteful behaviour, but most non-vegans I encounter don’t behave like that. In fact (believe it or not!) some environmental activists, some of the people doing the most they can to help our planet, eat… dairy! Meat, even!

So, while I believe that my choices are good and helpful, and that decreasing the general reliance on animal proteins would be beneficial, all I ask for from non-vegans is an open mind. Happily, for every bacon-loving BBQ-ing meat-maniac, there are many more who are open to meat alternatives, are participating in Meatless Mondays, and who are cutting back on animal products in general.

I don’t think we’ll get anywhere with a holier-than-thou attitude or defensive snark. The only way that someone will change their mind is by changing it her/himself. So why not bring vegan desserts next time you visit a friend or relative? Serve fabulous meatless, balanced meals to dinner guests? And don’t go on about how awesome it tastes without animal products! Exposure to the multitude of alternatives and their general deliciousness is usually enough to get someone thinking. Not that conversion is my goal, but because of my beliefs, I like to spread the love! I sound like a religious fanatic a little bit, lawwwwd.

Adios, before I really get myself in trouble!

Iron!

23 Oct

Iron can be found in a multitude of foods, including: nuts, seeds, pulses (lima, kidney, azure, mung beans; peas; chickpeas, lentils, black-eyed peas), grains, dry fruit, sea veggies, parsley, leafy greens, molasses, and miso!

Based on some light internet research, it appears that up to 22% of the iron in meat is absorbed, while only 1-8% is absorbed from eggs and plant foods. If the reserves of iron in your body fall, the rate of iron absorption rises. About 40% of the iron in animal foods is in a form called haem iron. The rest, and all the iron in plant foods, is in the less well absorbed non-haem form. Iron absorption from plant sources can also be reduced by tannins and phytates (found in nuts, grain and seeds – see yesterday’s post). Tannins are, unfortunately, found in quite a few foods: tea, coffee, wine, beer, sorghum, pomegranates, persimmons, cranberries, strawberries, blueberries, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecans. I was only able to confirm that the tannins in tea, coffee, wine and sorghum absolutely affect iron absorption, but it’s safe to assume the other foods listed have some effect as well.

Maybe this sounds a little depressing but take heart, research has shown that iron deficiency in vegans is no more common than in the rest of the population. Just eating meat does not guarantee a high internal level of minerals!

You can help your body absorb iron from plant foods by incorporating any of the following in your meals: vitamin C (ascorbic acid), other organic acids such as malic acid (e.g. in pumpkins, plums and apples) and citric acid (in citrus fruits). A lab test performed on about 300 people showed that the inclusion of foods like fresh salad, orange juice or cauliflower, which provide 70-105mg of vitamin C increased the absorption of iron. Just 4.5oz cauliflower containing 60mg of vitamin C may cause more than three-fold increase in iron absorption!

Here’s the part that contradicts yesterday’s post (& what I said above) a bit: some studies have shown that when iron intake from plant foods is relatively high (14-26mg/day), even large amounts of phytate do not have a negative effect on iron balance. Note that only some studies showed these results. In any case, phytates may inhibit absorption of other minerals, but their effect on iron absorption is debatable.

So that’s iron for you. I had wondered for a while about the validity of various claims concerning iron deficiencies in vegetarians/vegans, so I tried to find out the whole story. Much more research could have been done, but time is always an issue!

More details on soaking!

22 Oct

Those familiar with a raw food diet are aware of the practice of soaking various food items. There are benefits to soaking these foods, so we should all do it! Check it out:

  • Many foods contain compounds called phytates, which bind to minerals and cannot be broken down during normal human digestion (so we lose out on some of the nutritional benefits of eating these foods)
  • Soaking breaks down the phytate-mineral bond and frees up calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium for absorption in our intestine (as important group of minerals for our bones, immune system and energy level).
  • Soaking also destroys enzyme inhibitors and improves digestion (possibly lowering the amount of protein and other nutrients you need to consume in order to meet your body’s needs).
To discourage seed predators, pulses contain t...

Image via Wikipedia

Foods that benefit from soaking:

  • Nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts)
  • seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, flax*)
  • lentils, mung beans, kidney/navy/various other similar beans
  • some grains (including buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice)

You don’t need to soak things for long to break the phytate bond. I usually soak nuts and seeks overnight or when I’m at work, about 4-8 hours. I typically soak grains and pseudograins (buckwheat, quinoa) for around 8-12 hours because the texture improves with longer soaking, as far as I’ve seen.

Note: Soaked nuts, seeds and grains must be rinsed and drained. Prepare to be amazed by how sweet some previously bitter-ish nuts become post-soaking! Super-yum.

* Flax and chia benefit from soaking but you cannot rinse them, because they will become goopy (their natural reaction to water) and you can eat them in that state. Consequently, use relatively little, very fresh/filtered water for soaking.

– parts of this post were based on information found on a now-lost blog; I wanted to credit where appropriate but could not find my source!-

I’ll be posting a tie-in post tomorrow about iron, the absorption of which can be tied to the presence of phytates. See you then!