Healthy Eating – Vegetarian Eating- Were We Born This Way?
World Vegetarian day is October 1st, and so is my birthday. Coincidence? Probably not.
Is it possible we are born to be vegetarian? I’m convinced I was born this way because even as a small child, if I just started thinking about the animal who I was eating, I’d have to push my plate away. I could not enjoy meat while thinking about what the animal might have suffered.
The group think is that humans are designed to eat meat. After all, isn’t it said that we evolved more rapidly during the meat-eating paleo days? Aren’t we hunters before gatherers?
Looking at our digestive system might give us a different view. While the data points below vary according to the source, it appears that the digestive systems of herbivores and humans are more closely linked.
- Saliva – Carnivores and omnivores do not have enzymes in their saliva to digest carbohydrates, whereas herbivores and humans do.
- Acidity – The stomach acidity of carnivores and omnivores is higher than herbivores and humans.
- Intestines – The combined small and large intestines of carnivores and omnivores is 3 to 6 times the length of the body, where herbivores and humans have intestines that are 5-10 times the length of the body.
- Colon – The colons of carnivores and omnivores are short and smooth; the colons of herbivores and humans is long and sometimes sacculated (a medical term meaning a structure formed by a group of sacs).
- Kidney – Carnivores and omnivores have highly concentrated urine where herbivores and humans have moderately concentrated urine.
- Teeth – Carnivores and omnivores have many sharp teeth for ripping into flesh, while herbivores and humans have more flat teeth better suited to grind plants.
Living in harmony with our design by eating more of the foods that our bodies were born to digest is a more biological approach to good health and a robust immune system. So, even if you aren’t ready to eat vegetarian all the time, I invite you to celebrate World Vegetarian Day and my birthday on October 1st with these recipes, or by serving up your favorite veggie meal.
Makes 4-6 Servings
This is my version of a popular online vegan meatloaf recipe. I’ve simplified it a bit. You can play with this recipe by adding veggies you have on hand, or by increasing the oats to give it a firmer texture. One of my clients served this “meatloaf” to a family member who refused to believe it was vegan!
1 large minced onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
8-10 ounces minced mushrooms
1 large minced carrot
3 cups cooked green lentils
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons low-sodium tamari
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon paprika
Salt to taste – optional
1/4 to 1/2 cup organic barbecue sauce or ketchup
Garnish with fresh herbs if desired
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a sauté pan or wok, cook the onions for a few minutes on medium-high heat until they begin to soften. The moisture of the veggies should prevent sticking. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, if needed. Add the garlic, mushrooms, and carrots, and continue cooking for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the mushrooms are soft.
In a medium bowl, mix the cooked lentils, oats, nutritional yeast, tamari, paprika, black pepper, rosemary, onion powder, dry mustard, and sage. Drain the veggies if the mixture is too wet before adding them to the bowl of lentils and spices, and stir until it becomes somewhat sticky. A sticky consistency means it is ready for the loaf pan.
Coat the bottom of a loaf pan with 1/4 cup (or less) of ketchup or barbecue sauce, then add the vegetable and bean mixture. Try to level the surface before spreading another thick layer of ketchup or barbecue sauce on top.
Bake for 1 hour. Allow this dish to cool a bit. It cuts MUCH better when it has had time to cool and set.
Peaceful Vegan Feeling
Have you ever heard of the song “Peaceful Easy Feeling” by the Eagles? I had that feeling recently when eating green rice for breakfast while gazing at our French Bulldog Buddha statue. The bully Buddha is purposefully placed across from the kitchen table to remind me each day that peace starts on my plate.
Now you might not think that green rice belongs on the breakfast table, or any table, although it’s truly a transformative dish. Whole grain rice is a breakfast staple of the macrobiotic diet, as are sea vegetables.
The macrobiotic way of eating was foreign to me before my health coach training in 2014, but after studying over 100 dietary theories, I explored many recipes and found macrobiotic meals appealing and satisfying. The basic principle is to eat lots of whole grains, sea vegetables, local seasonal fruits, veggies, and beans; all while limiting or avoiding processed foods, alcohol, caffeine, and refined sugars. There is also a spiritual aspect that encourages cultivating intuition, gratitude, humor, self-reflection, and respect for others. Could all of this could lead to more peaceful, easy feelings? Seems to have done so for me, and it might for you too.
This dish could be especially health-promoting if what I recently heard is true.
There is chatter these days about nano particles and the negative effects they may have on our health and immune system. These particles appear to be increasing in our environment and medical delivery systems. The “scoop” I received was that the combination of brown rice, sea vegetables (a great source of iodine), and sea salt is a powerful detoxifier of these nano particles. While there is no proof of this as far as I know, the potent healing ingredients in my green rice recipe have been proven to reduce the risk of cancer — and that is something to bring more peace of mind.
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped, or 4 teaspoons minced garlic from a jar
2 large portabella mush caps, or 8-ounce package of mushroom of choice, chopped
2 cups brown rice, rinsed
8 cups water
1 package of Nori or two .35-ounce packages of seaweed torn into pieces
1 to 2 teaspoons sea salt
½ to 1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice (optional)
1 cup edamame, fresh or frozen
Add chopped onion into a six-quart (or larger) stock pot and dry sauté (meaning no oil) for three to four minutes. Add garlic and mushroom and sauté for another three to four minutes. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low to medium heat for 45 minutes or until rice is soft, stirring occasionally.
If using an Instant Pot, follow the method above and cook on manual setting for 25 minutes. This is my preferred method.
Once cooked, test and adjust sea salt and pepper to taste. When serving, a splash of liquid aminos or soy sauce and uncooked edamame gives extra punch and color.
It’s vegan & cheesy! How beautifully deceptive is this plant-based mac & cheese? Kids of all ages will have no idea it’s good for them! The sauce is inspired by a popular online recipe that I’ve modified, making the gooey goodness healthier and less chalky tasting.
4 cups warm water
2 cups old fashioned oats
½ cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
2 tablespoons of garlic powder or minced garlic
2 teaspoons sea salt
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon liquid smoke, or ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
2 roasted fresh red peppers, or one 12-ounce jar of roasted peppers in water
1 pound box of macaroni pasta, cooked according to package instructions. I used Barilla whole grain elbows. It’s a healthier pasta that has the texture of the less healthy version. You could also choose a legume-based pasta, which I just adore!
For the cheese sauce, add all ingredients except the pasta into a high-speed blender. Blend on high until the sauce thickens to a melted Velveeta consistency. You will hear the motor of the blender moan a bit when the sauce is ready. This usually takes about 5 minutes.
If you don’t have a high-speed blender, add all ingredients to mixer or standard blender and process until a smooth consistency is reached. Transfer to a saucepan and heat to a low boil. Reduce the heat and continue to stir until the sauce thickens.
Pour warm sauce over cooked pasta, mix thoroughly and enjoy. Depending on your preference of cheesiness, you may have extra cheese sauce. Leftover veesy sauce makes great nachos. Just add in salsa and dip with your favorite veggie or chip!
Springing to life with Vitamin D
I have a confession to make. I’ve been overdosing on vitamin D all winter.
How does one get extreme doses of the sunshine hormone? One way is spending lots of time outside in the light. Five to fifteen minutes of midday sun exposure can be enough to meet many people’s vitamin D needs. That is the other part of my confession. I’ve been wintering in our Florida bungalow, walking, biking, and paddling outside for much more than 15 minutes each day. I must admit, it’s been nice—except that I didn’t even see snow this winter.
Sunshine indulgence is not without its effects. The immune system greatly benefits from healthy doses of vitamin D, which is not just a vitamin. Vitamin D is a hormone the kidneys produce that controls blood calcium concentration and elevates the immune system.
Our friends at The Physicians Committee tell us that vitamin D consumption and supplementation may reduce the risk for viral infections, including respiratory tract infections, by reducing the production of pro-inflammatory compounds in the body. Increased vitamin D in the blood has been linked to the prevention of chronic diseases including tuberculosis, hepatitis, and cardiovascular disease.
Food sources of vitamin D include mushrooms, fortified cereals, plant-based milk substitutes, and supplements.
As we emerge from what some have called a dark winter, and bounce into the season of renewal—ripe with opportunities to enjoy nature—we might feel like we are springing to life.
Wishing you all a beautiful spring and Easter to those who celebrate. May the recipes I share with you liven up your holiday tables!
DRUNKEN MUSHROOM NOODLES
Makes 4 servings
All mushrooms contain some vitamin D, but mushrooms have a distinctive ability to increase vitamin D amounts with UV light or sunlight exposure. Like humans, mushrooms naturally produce vitamin D following exposure to sunlight or a sunlamp. For the maximum amount of nutrition, eat the darker varieties.
This dish is a cross between Thai drunken noodles and stroganoff. I was recently inspired to create this recipe when I had leftover lasagna noodles, lots of portabellas in the fridge and not much else.
8 ounces of pre-cooked noodles (I cut leftover lasagna noodles into strips.)
1 medium onion, chopped
8 ounces of mushrooms, chopped (about 4 portabella mushroom caps)
3 garlic cloves, chopped (3 teaspoons minced garlic)
1 cup warm vegetable broth in a medium jar or bowl
3 tablespoons liquid aminos
1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon pepper
Salt to taste, optional
Vegan sour cream, optional
Heat vegetable broth and liquid aminos in a small sauté pan or add to a medium bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Whisk in the cornstarch or arrowroot powder until it has dissolved. Then add the sage, basil, pepper and salt, if using. Set aside.
In a large sauté pan, cook onions for three to four minutes or until softened. Add the mushrooms and cook for a few more minutes. Stirring often, add the seasoned broth and cook down until the liquid evaporates. Once the vegetables have caramelized, add the cooked noodles and mix thoroughly.
Serve with vegan sour cream, if using. (It adds creaminess, but I skipped
QUICK RICE PUDDING– A PCRM recipe
Makes 4 servings
This is not only a wholesome sweet treat, the fortified soy milk in this recipe will boost the sunshine you hold inside.
1 ½ cups plain or vanilla soy milk
1 teaspoon cornstarch or arrowroot powder
2 cups cooked brown rice
¼ cup maple syrup
1/3 cup raisins
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
Pour soy milk into a medium saucepan and add the cornstarch or arrowroot powder. Add the rice, maple syrup, raisins, and cinnamon, and cook over medium heat.
Cook the rice pudding for three minutes. Then remove the pan from the heat and add the vanilla and almond extracts.
Serve hot or cold. Top the pudding with sliced bananas for extra flavor and nutrition.