World Vegan Day – Celebrating 5 years on a plant-based diet!

WorldVeganDay200x200Today is World Vegan Day and the beginning of World Vegan Month. Five years ago, on November 1, 2010,  I switched from being a long time vegetarian (nearly 20 years) to a 100% whole foods, plant-based diet. Although it can be challenging at times to follow an organic plant-based diet, it is so much easier now than even five years ago. Here are five reasons why I continue to follow this plant-based diet and lifestyle:

1. Health:

Scientific studies continue to support the benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet. Just last week the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer cautioned “the consumption of red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans and processed meat as carcinogenic to humans.  A whole food, plant-based diet has helped people reverse cancer – see my brother-in-law’s story about beating prostate cancer – as well as reverse heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.  I have a family history of cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes, so I take comfort in knowing I’m doing what I can through my diet, regular exercise, plenty of sleep and daily meditation to reduce my risk of chronic health problems. Read More


Reducing your exposure to environmental toxins in your home – part I

Laurel J. Standley, Ph.D.

Laurel J. Standley, Ph.D.

Laurel J. Standley, Ph.D. is Principal of Clear Current LLC. She is an environmental consultant with over twenty years experience in environmental chemistry and policy. Dr. Standley earned a B.S. in Chemistry from California Polytechnic State University, a Ph.D. in Chemical Oceanography from Oregon State University and a M.A. in Urban Affairs and Public Policy from the University of Delaware. In 2011, she published a book called #ToxinsTweet: 140 Easy Tips to Reduce Your Family’s Exposure to Environmental Toxins. This is part one of a two part series summarizing key points from her book.

We are exposed to chemical toxins every day that can impact our health. Exposure comes from the air we breath, food we ingest, water we drink or cook with, cosmetics we put on our skin, the furniture we sit or sleep on and even our clothing. We can’t avoid all toxins but can take steps to reduce our risk of exposure.

What are toxins?

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gazpacho soup

Gerry’s Gazpacho Soup

Gerry's Gazpacho

This is a recipe provided by Gerry Gospe and a wonderful way to celebrate tomatoes on a hot summer night.

Note – this recipe is super easy to make if you have a juicer (for making the tomato juice) and if you have a Vitamix or similar blender. Then you do not need to chop everything so finely.

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups tomato juice. If you have a juicer, you can make fresh tomato juice in it.
  • 2 1/4 peeled, or not, seeded, or not, chopped red tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup minced red onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 medium bell pepper, minced
  • 1 peeled, seeded, diced cucumber
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced
  • 1/2 fresh jalapeño, minced and seeded (unless you like it hot)
  • 1 cup minced celery
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon and 1 lime
  • 2 T. balsamic vinegar, or to taste
  • 1 Tsp. each dried tarragon and basil, or 3 Tbsp. fresh
  • 1/2 to 1 Tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 cup freshly minced parsley
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro
  • 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil (optional)
  • Salt, pepper and cayenne to taste

Directions:

  • Make the tomato juice with a juice or by hand, squeezing the tomatoes
  • Add all ingredients through the lemon and lime juice into the Vitamix, blender or food processor, if using. Process on low for 30-40 sec. Otherwise you can simply stir the ingredients.
  • Add the remaining ingredients (from balsamic vinegar on), stir and chill for an hour or so. Serve and enjoy!

 


hemp seeds

Hemp Seeds: The Perfect Food!

Hemp is a common term for high-growing varieties of the herb, cannabis sativa, and its products. The versatile hemp plant is grown not only for food but also for oil, resin, wax, rope, fabric, paper, pulp and biofuel. Hemp foods are made from a variant of the cannabis plant in which the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, is so low it is non-detectable.

The primary edible part of the hemp plant are its seeds. Raw shelled hemp seeds, also known as hemp hearts, can be eaten as is or made into protein powder, oil, flour and milk. The seeds are packed with high quality protein, healthy fat, fiber, and have anti-inflammatory properties. Since they are eaten raw, they retain their enzymes, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and chlorophyll.

In just 3 tablespoons (30g) of hemp seeds you get 13 grams of fat, 3 grams of carbohydrates and 10 grams of protein. In addition, hemp seeds are loaded with manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, thiamin, iron and zinc. See the table below based on the nutrition data from Carrington Farms.
hemp seed nutrition

Protein:
Hemp seeds contain 33% protein and all 10 essential amino acids, making them a complete protein. According to professional vegan triathlete and author, Brendan Brazier, hemp is more alkaline than most proteins so is a great protein source if you are balancing your pH. In addition, hemp has anti-inflammatory properties namely due to an amino acid, edestin, that is an integral part of DNA. Brendan says that “it makes hemp the plant source closest to our own amino acid profile.”

Healthy fats:
Hemp seeds provide the perfect ratio (3:1) of Omega-6 to Omega-3 essential fatty acids. In 3 tablespoons you’ll get 7.5 g of Omega-6 and 3g of Omega 3. Omega-6 is pro-inflammatory and most Americans get way too much of it. Omega-3s on the other hand are anti-inflammatory. Read more about why you want to avoid inflammation.

Easy to digest:
Raw hemp protein retains naturally-occurring enzymes which make it easy to digest and absorb. Hemp milk is easier to digest than soy milk. Dr. Andrew Weil states that “hemp milk contains no oligosaccharides, complex sugars that can cause flatulence if not properly broken down during digestion” unlike soy milk.

Allergies?
According to Dr. Weil, “As far as allergies are concerned, hemp seeds and nuts do not pose the threat that tree nuts do. Similarly, anyone allergic to soy or dairy should be able to safely consume hemp milk.”

How to use:
Sprinkle hemp hearts or protein powder on your oatmeal or other cereal, in salads, soups and in smoothies. Hemp oil is dark green with a nutty flavor and makes a great salad dressing base. See our recipe for Chia, Flax, & Hemp Seed Pudding – a great way to start the day. Serve with hemp milk, sliced bananas and fresh berries!


Kimchi

Pass the kimchi: the health benefits of fermented plant foods

Humans have been fermenting foods for thousands of years as a means to preserve food, enhance its flavor or to make alcoholic beverages. Many types of plant foods can be fermented, including:

  • Soybeans: soy sauce, miso and tempeh
  • Grains: beer, bread made with yeast, whisky, vodka
  • Vegetables: kimchi, sauerkraut, beets, carrots and more…
  • Fruits: wine, vinegar, cider, brandy
  • Tea: kombucha

Even chocolate is fermented! The cacoa seeds are fermented to develop flavor and reduce bitterness.

Fermentation is a metabolic process in which sugars are converted to acids, gases or alcohol via yeast or bacteria. In lacto-fermentation, lactobacillales, a bacteria found in plants and animals, converts sugars into lactic acid. This acid inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria, therefore preventing spoilage.

Health benefits of fermented vegetables

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Laughter and Healing with Verne Varona

Verne Varona and Patricia Joy Becker

Verne Varona and Patricia Joy Becker

This week I had pleasure of attending the Monday Night Vegetarian Dinners in Palo Alto, CA with my friend Patricia Joy Becker. The dinner was sponsored by the Peninsula Macrobiotic Community where head chef Gary Alinder has been preparing macrobiotic meals since the group’s inception in 1987.

The Macrobiotic diet is similar to a whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet emphasizing locally-grown, non-processed foods: grains, legumes, vegetables, sea-vegetables, fruit, seeds, nuts and a variety of fermented foods.

In macrobiotics, any and all foods can be consumed depending on the person’s constitution and condition. A person’s lifestyle, health issues and the climate they are living in also has a strong determining factor as to what foods will provide optimum health.  Macrobiotics offers dietary and lifestyle guidelines based thousands of years of oriental wisdom.

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Eat your “sea” veggies!

View Patricia Joy Becker's video talk on sea vegetables and seaweed.

View Patricia Joy Becker’s video talk on sea vegetables and seaweed.

Sea vegetables (also known as kelp and seaweed) are edible algae that can be eaten as is or used as an ingredient in recipes. The most common types to eat are alaria, arame, dulse, hijiki, kelp, kombu, nori, and wakame. They have been consumed by coastal people for thousands of years and for good reason. According to Dr. Gabriel Cousens in his book Conscious Eating, sea vegetables are packed with protein, vitamins and minerals. In fact, they are “higher in minerals and vitamins than any other class of food” and unlike land vegetables “have all the fifty six minerals and trace elements our bodies require.”  In addition to vitamins A, B, C, and E, sea vegetables contain human-utliizable vitamin B12, which is challenging to get on a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) vegan diet. For example, one-half ounce of alaria contains 10 times more vitamin B12 than the recommended daily requirement. One-half ounce of kelp has 1-2 times the daily minimum requirement and nori has 2-3 times.

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