"I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being." ~ Abraham Lincoln

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Healthy Grains

I've talked about quinoa before but I wanted to touch on it again because of its nutritional value and fabulous taste. A recently rediscovered ancient "grain" native to South America, quinoa was once called "the gold of the Incas," who recognized its value in increasing the stamina of their warriors. Not only is quinoa high in protein, but the protein it supplies is complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids. Not only is quinoa's amino acid profile well balanced, making it a good choice for vegans concerned about adequate protein intake, but quinoa is especially well-endowed with the amino acid lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair. In addition to protein, quinoa features a host of other health-building nutrients. Because quinoa is a very good source of manganese as well as a good source of magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus, this "grain" may be especially valuable for persons with migraine headaches, diabetes and atherosclerosis.

Vegetarianism-Unhealthy vs Balanced

Recently, Yahoo did an article about 10 diet and exercise myths that pack on pounds. One of the topics in that article was about becoming vegetarian as a weight loss aid and I would like to focus on that subject today.

“Becoming a vegetarian will help me drop a size.”

Unhealthy vegetarian diet or healthy vegetarian diet? You may have just become a vegetarian or been a vegetarian for years. How healthy is your diet? Do you know?

As a new vegetarian, I didn't know what to eat. As a lacto-ovo vegetarian, I ate lots of eggs and cheese. My favorite dessert was ice cream. I was overweight.

If you're a new vegetarian, you may not know what to eat either.

If you've been a vegetarian for a while, you still may not be paying attention to getting all the nutrients your body requires.
If you're vegan, then without eggs and milk products, you'll want to pay even closer attention.

A balanced vegetarian or vegan diet is really quite easy if you just pay attention and eat the right foods.

Some experts advocate the vegan and vegetarian pyramids as published by USDA.gov or check out The Vegan Food Pyramid.

Other vegetarian and vegan experts suggest using the 4 Basic Food Groups. 

The most important information I can offer is for you to avoid the popular processed foods of the rich, high fat American diet. French fries, soda, specialty ice creams, baked goods laden with trans fats to extend shelf life, excessive amounts of cheese, and coffee with dessert like additives do not support the health of your body.

Every day to get the nutrients you require, you'll want to eat whole foods, 3-5 servings of vegetables, 2-4 servings of fruit, 5-9 servings of whole grain, and 2-3 servings of beans and legumes. Supplement with a variety of nuts and seeds in small amounts and you have the basics of a Balanced Vegetarian Diet Of course, you can still eat your favorite vegetarian foods.

If you're overweight you may want to increase your vegetables and decrease your hunger. If you're underweight, you may want to increase your whole grains and perhaps, nuts, to increase your calories.

A handy rule of thumb is eat 80-90% healthy foods and then allow yourself the 10-20% splurge on what your friends are eating or what you're craving. 

The Unhealthy Kind

Eliminating meat from your diet can result in great health benefits, but if you don’t follow a vegetarian diet properly, you could accidentally pack on pounds.
Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, author of The Flexitarian Diet, explains common vegetarian beginners’ mistakes that may cause weight gain. Vegetarian “types” to avoid becoming:

·         Cheese-aholic vegetarians: They cut out meat from their diets and turn to cheese as a protein source. But cheese is a high-calorie, high-fat food and should be eaten in moderation.

·         Faux-meat fixators: All they eat is boxes of frozen faux meats, such as soy chicken nuggets, vegetarian sausage links, and veggie bacon strips. These products are okay once in a while, but they are heavily processed and can have a lot of sodium, resulting in bloating and water retention.

·         No-veggie vegetarians: A lot of vegetarians don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. They eat only grains, beans and veggie burgers, all of which can be high in calories.

·         Same-meal-minus-the-meat vegetarians: These people eat the same meals they did before, but without the meat. If they’re not replacing the protein, they’ll probably have a ferocious appetite and may be missing out on essential nutrients.

·         “Vegetarian” food label fans: These people find any recipe or packaging that contains the word “vegetarian” or “meatless” and then over-eat that food. They often wind up taking in too much junk food. Be aware that the word “vegetarian” is not synonymous with “healthy” or “low calorie.”

Vegetarian Healthy Eating Tip: Don't Be A "Starchatarian"

When you go vegetarian, it's a common misstep to replace meat with starch. However, such a diet is no healthier than a meat-based diet and may even be less so. Instead, fill the empty spaces on your plate with plant-based protein--nuts, seeds, soy, and legumes contain plenty. In addition, aim to get enough of the following nutrients, which can fall short:

Iron: For nonmeat sources, turn to egg yolks, beans, and cooked spinach.

Calcium: Nondairy eaters should opt for leafy greens such as kale.

Omega-3s: If fish isn't on your menu, be sure to consume walnuts and flaxseed, and consider a supplement.

Vitamin B12: This nutrient occurs naturally only in animal products, so you must either supplement or eat fortified foods (like cereals or soy milk).

The Balanced Kind

What is a balanced vegetarian diet? Can I get all the nutrients my body needs eating vegetarian? Where do I begin? It all seems so complicated. 

Here are some uncomplicated answers.
The most important thing to remember when you want to eat a balanced vegetarian diet is to choose a variety of foods every day.

There are books written about nutrition, but these are the basics to get you started.

You'll want to keep reading and experimenting with new foods until you understand what's right to eat to make up a balanced vegetarian diet for your body.

Two important considerations are types of foods and the nutrients in each one. 

You'll also want to know the amounts of each food dietitians consider a portion size. 

Types of foods:

1. Vegetables
Yes, I'm listing vegetables first, but you'll get to eat other great foods, too.
You'll need 3-5 servings every day. Most vegetables are measured in 1/2 cup serving sizes. Salad greens portions are one cup. Most vegetable juices are 1/2 cup.

Most Americans are used to super-sized meals. A half cup seems more like a taste than a serving! So drink a tall glass full. It's infinitely better for your body than a soda.

Vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, protein, phytochemicals, and fiber.

Eat some of your veggies raw. Cook some of them,too. Carrots, celery, and onions can be eaten either way. Carrot sticks or carrot soup. Sliced celery or celery soup. Onions on lots of things from salads and sandwiches to omelettes and stew and casseroles.

Be sure to try new veggies. Look through cookbooks or surf the internet for different, interesting choices.

At the grocery store, try the natural or organic foods section for fresh vegetables you may never have heard of. Do you have any idea how many types of squash you'll find?

Keep in mind the importance of variety every day in the foods you choose for your balanced vegetarian diet.

2. Fruits

It's recommended you eat 2-4 servings of fruit every day. Keep reading for comments on serving sizes.

Fruits contain vitamins, minerals, enzymes and fiber. Try to eat the fruit rather than drink the juice. Juices often contain increased concentration of sugars. (see glycemic index)
Serving sizes are a little tricky. You can see the difference between a slice of watermelon and a fresh pear. Obviously all fruits don't come naturally in a serving size.

One large apple may be two servings and a medium apple just one. Bananas come in all sizes, too. What's a serving? For bananas, it's about eight inches in length.

What about canned pears or other fruits? Well, fortunately, the label on the can lists the serving size for you. Often it's one half cup.
But what about applesauce? And how do you measure fruits that go in baked goods?

Don't worry about that now. We're just doing the basics. You can fine tune as you keep learning. Just remember that variety is necessary for a balanced vegetarian diet - or any diet! Some people "go flexitarian" for a while to insure adequate nutrients.

3. Beans and legumes

Include unsalted raw nuts and seeds. Eggs as well as soy and textured proteins are also included in this grouping.

Two to three daily servings are recommended. A portion size for cooked beans is 1/2 cup. One egg is a serving.

Nuts are counted by type in some references. A general rule is about 2 tablespoons or 10-15 nuts, eg almonds or walnuts. Peanut butter is 2 tablespoons.

Nutrients these foods supply are protein, fats, and multiple vitamins and minerals. Fiber is an additional benefit.

Please don't get hung up on precise measurements at this point. Just remember that a half a cup of nuts of any type is supersized and not recommended. The fat content is way too high unless you're seriously trying to gain weight.

Textured protein and tofu portions are marked on the package, often in ounces similar to meat portion sizes.

Remember to vary your choices to maintain a balanced vegetarian diet.

4. Grains

This is a large group and includes many options. Breads, cereals, rice, pasta and some very nutritious choices you may never have heard of such as quinoa, (pronounced keen-wah)

Eat 6-11 servings every day with the number dependent on overall calories you want to eat.

Whole grains are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber.Brown rice has the additional benefit of a lower glycemic index.

Refined grains are processed in a way that many nutrients are removed. Most nutrients are then added back. Some of the whole grain benefits are lost and not restored.

Recommended portions of most breads is one slice with whole grain the preferred type. Cooked rice and pasta serving size is 1/2 cup. Hot cereal is also 1/2 cup, but many cold breakfast cereals are 2/3 to one cup portions. Once again, labels are helpful as serving size of more dense cereals may be just 1/4 cup.

Once again, remember to try new types of food to maintain the variety that creates a well balanced vegetarian diet.

5. Milk and dairy products

May or may not include milk! Lacto-ovo vegetarians do drink milk although many have switched to soy, rice, or nut milk-type drinks to reduce their intake of animal fats.

Dairy products include cheese, ice cream, puddings and so on.

The daily recommended allowance in this category is two to three servings. Those would be measured in cups, 8 ounces, a day of the liquids.

Cheeses are very concentrated forms and are often high in fat. Ice cream, too, may have a very high fat content. Portions of these foods are quite small.

Cheese is 1 ounce or one slice. Ice cream is 1/2 cup per serving.

Not all dietitians knowledgeable in vegan vs vegetarian vs flexitarian diets believe dairy is required for a balanced vegetarian diet.

Some vegetarian diet plans don't even include this food group. Calcium and protein are available from many plant sources. 

6. The extras.

These are sugars, fats, and oils.

Table sugar is not a nutrient for our bodies. It's included in many of our favorite foods though. I suggest you go ahead and enjoy your chocolate or cheesecake or whatever sugary food you love. Just keep in mind the 80/20 rule and don't over do. Your goal is a balanced vegetarian diet.

However, our bodies do require a variety of fats and oils, but in small amounts. Most are present in the foods we eat, nuts, cheese, avocado, milk, eggs, and tofu, for example, and we don't need to add more beyond what may be required for cooking or for dressing our salad.

There you have it. Now you know the basics to begin your balanced vegetarian diet. Remember, there's still lots to learn. What a pleasure it is to bring nutritious foods to feed our bodies. Some even say we feed our souls when we care for our physical form. 


Cooking Oils: The Good and the Bad


Before you reach for that stick of butter when sautéing veggies, consider a healthier alternative. Cooking oil, a tasty addition to many dishes, can be healthier than butter and other solid fats and add flavor. With so many vegetable oil and nut oil flavors to choose from, you'll never run out of healthy cooking options.

Choosing Nutritious Oils
Most liquid cooking oil is a better option than butter or margarine, but some types of cooking oil are healthier than others. What makes cooking oil healthy or unhealthy is the amount and type of fat it contains. Healthy cooking oils are high in monounsaturated fats, which are some of the healthiest types of fats and may help lower blood cholesterol levels. Cooking oils may also contain polyunsaturated fats, which are also healthy and can help improve heart health.
Start your cooking oil selection with plant-based oils like:

Avocado Oil
Avocado oil has a light, but unique flavor that makes it an excellent choice for salad dressings or for use as a condiment. It is usually produced from avocados that are damaged or not aesthetically pleasing. Refined avocado oil has the highest smoke point of any plant oil, so it is useful for high heat cooking. It is a good source of monounsaturated fat and vitamin E, which makes it nutritionally beneficial. Avocado oil can be found in some specialty shops.

*Canola Oil
Canola is the marketing name for oil that is obtained from rapeseeds. It is also known as LEAR oil, or "Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed" oil. It has the lowest level of saturated fat of any edible oil and has one of the highest levels of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. It also contains a high level of omega-3 fatty acids, which are polyunsaturated fats that help to decrease the risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure. Canola oil is an excellent choice for everyday cooking or baking. It has a high smoke point (428-446ºF or 220-230ºC), which makes it useful for stir-frying and deep fat frying. Because it is mildly flavored, it can be used as a base for salad dressings, effectively blending in with other salad ingredients. It has very little taste so foods will not be overpowered with a strong flavor.

Corn Oil
An oil extracted from the germ of the corn kernel. Refined corn oil is one of the best oils for frying because it has a high smoke point. It has a light golden color and is almost tasteless and odorless so it is a good choice for baking. It is widely used as a salad oil and it is also the main ingredient in the production of margarine. Corn oil is high in polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats so it is healthier to use than oils with higher saturated fat levels.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil should be one of your primary cooking oils. Rich in monounsaturated fat, olive oil also contains phytochemicals that may help lower blood cholesterol levels and protect against cancer. Unlike most vegetable oils, which are very bland, olive oil adds its own delicious flavor to foods. Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed and most flavorful type of olive oil. And a little bit goes a long way, making this product a good choice for use in low-fat recipes. What about "light" olive oil? In this case, light refers to flavor, which is mild and bland compared with that of other olive oils. This means that you have to use more oil for the same amount of flavor — not a good bargain.

*Soybean Oil
Most cooking oils that are simply labeled "vegetable oil" are made from soybean oil. Soybean oil is also used as an ingredient in many brands of margarine, mayonnaise, and salad dressing. This oil supplies a fair amount of omega-3 fat, though not as much as canola and walnut oils do. Like canola oil, soybean oil has a bland flavor that works well when you want to avoid adding any interfering flavors to your dish.

*Vegetable Oil
A liquid cooking oil that is extracted from the fruit, seeds, or nuts of a vegetable plant, such as corn, soybeans, peanuts, safflower seeds, sunflower seeds, and rapeseeds (used for canola oil). It may consist of one type of oil or it may be a blend of oils that have been highly refined. Vegetable oil is generally light colored, has a very mild flavor, and can be heated to high temperatures. It is very useful as cooking oil, but it is not as desirable for use in salad dressings.

Nonstick Vegetable Oil Cooking Spray
Available unflavored and in butter, olive oil, and garlic flavors, these products are pure fat. The advantage to using them is that the amount that comes out during a one-second spray is so small that it adds an insignificant amount of fat to a recipe. Nonstick cooking sprays are very useful to the low-fat cook, as they promote the browning of foods and prevent foods from sticking to pots and pans.


~ Next choose from a variety of seed- and nut-based oils, many of which make tasty bases for salad dressings and marinades, including:

Almond Oil
A type of nut oil extracted from the almond. The oil has a distinctively nutty flavor that is typically used as an ingredient in salad dressings, sauces and mayonnaise, and it is often used in desserts. However, unlike almond extract, almond oil is not concentrated enough to provide a strong almond taste to sweets. It has a high smoke point so it may be used for high heat cooking.

Flaxseed Oil
An oil obtained from the seeds of the flax plant. When it is processed, Flaxseed oil is first cold pressed from the seeds, providing an edible oil. The seeds are then hot pressed to produce an industrial oil and solvent, known as linseed oil,which is not edible.
Flaxseed Oil has a smooth, buttery flavor, which makes it ideal as a salad oil or as an addition to cooked vegetables. Since the edible oil has a very high level of omega-3 fatty acid (a polyunsaturated fat considered of value in reducing potential stroke and heart disease problems), Flaxseed Oil is most often used as a nutritional supplement rather than for cooking.

Grape Seed Oil
Grape seed Oil has a high smoking point (485ºF) which is ideal for sautéing and stir-frying. Studies show that grape seed oil is high in vitamin E, and has the ability to raise HDL cholesterol. Its light, nutty and slightly fruity taste makes the oil a perfect base for salad dressings. 

Hazelnut Oil
The oil obtained from pressing hazelnuts. The brown colored oil has a slightly sweet, nutty taste and is generally used as a flavoring for baked goods and for some sauces. It is excellent when brushed on fish and it works well as a marinade. It can also be added to mildly flavored oils and used as a base for salad dressings. Hazelnut oil is expensive and it is usually found in gourmet shops, although some supermarkets may have a supply. It is very popular in French cooking.

Macadamia Nut Oil
This oil has a delicious, light macadamia nut flavor, making it especially complementary to fish, chicken, vegetables, baked goods, and salads. Its high smoking point also makes macadamia nut oil ideal for stir-frying and sautéing. Like olive oil, macadamia nut oil is highly monounsaturated. Look for macadamia nut oil in health food and specialty stores.

Peanut Oil
This is an organic material oil derived from peanuts, noted to have the aroma and taste of its parent legume. Peanut oil is appreciated for its high smoke point relative to many other cooking oils. Its major component fatty acids are oleic acid,linoleic acid, and palmitic acidPeanut oil has multiple uses when it comes to food and cooking. It can be used on salads as a replacement for salad dressing, but it is also especially good for frying due to its high smoke point.

Sesame Oil
Sesame oil has a rich, nutty flavor that enhances the flavors of many foods. And when used in small amounts, this ingredient will add a distinctive taste to recipes without blowing your fat budget. Use toasted (dark) sesame oil for the most flavor.

Sunflower Oil
Also known as sunflower seed oil, this golden colored oil is derived from the seeds of the sunflower plant. Refined sunflower oil is high in polyunsaturated fats and low in saturated fats. It has a fairly high smoke point so it is an excellent choice for cooking. Other uses for refined sunflower oil are for the commercial production of confectionery foods and margarine and shortening production. Unrefined sunflower oil has better flavor than the refined version and a greater level of heart-healthy oleic acid, but it has a lower smoke point so it is not as useful for cooking. It is best used as a base for salad dressings.

Walnut Oil
With a delicate nutty flavor, walnut oil is an excellent choice for baking, cooking, and salad making. Most grocery stores sell as least one brand of walnut oil such as Lorvia California Walnut Oil. Like canola oil, walnut oil contains a substantial amount of omega-3 fats. Most brands of walnut oil have been only minimally processed and can turn rancid quickly, so once opened, they should be refrigerated.

~ Some oils contain higher levels of saturated fat, which is considered the "bad" or unhealthy fat because it can clog arteries and lead to high cholesterol levels and increased risk of heart disease.

~ Avoid these oil varieties, some of which are so high in saturated fat that they have more of it than some meat sources:

Coconut oil

Palm oil

Palm kernel oil

Safflower oil

~ In general, keep the amount of saturated fats you eat to a minimum; check the labels before you buy any cooking oil to see what types of fat it contains. You also want to avoid any oil-based products with trans fats and hydrogenated oils — even worse for you than saturated fats.

How to Use Cooking Oils
Certain types of cooking oil are best when used for specific styles of healthy recipes, or when you're preparing certain foods. Think about the flavor of the oil, and consider what it might best complement. For instance, nutty cooking oils go well in rich pasta dishes with grilled meats, while a lighter olive oil is a good complement to fish sautéed with herbs. Sesame oil tastes great in an Asian-inspired dish and lightly drizzled on top of an Asian salad.

Healthy Alternatives to Cooking Oil
You don't always have to cook in oil — there are other options that are even lighter and healthier. Try these alternatives:
·         Lightly coat your pan with cooking spray rather than adding liquid oil
·         Bake by wrapping food in parchment paper or aluminum foil to steam it and keep it moist
·         Use broth, such as a low-sodium vegetable, beef, or chicken variety, as a cooking medium and sauce base
·         Steam food above boiling water
·         Season food with lemon juice for a citrusy flavor
·         Marinate or cook with balsamic vinegar for a tangy, rich flavor

A variety of heart-healthy cooking oils can give your meal great flavor. Experiment with light sautés or marinades; if you avoid frying foods or using heavy amounts of oil, nut or vegetable oil adds taste and valuable nutrition to any meal. Just. And remember: A little oil goes a long way.



Weight Loss Assistance

Are you struggling to lose weight? Could you use a little help? These 11 everyday foods have the proper nutrients to guide you in the right direction.

~ Yogurt – Loaded with calcium, which studies show may reduce weight gain by blocking the absorption of fat in the small intestine.
~ Eggs - According to a study, they beat out carbs when it came to helping folks feel full longer and helping them avoid snack attacks later in the day.
~ Pistachios - Like all nuts, pistachios offer lots of hunger-curbing protein and fiber. They’re also high in healthful, unsaturated fats.
~ Grapefruit – One study of the most famous weight loss food reveals that eating half a grapefruit before each meal helps dieters shed more pounds.
~ Avocado – Researchers suspect that the unsaturated fat in avocados may ratchet up body levels of the hunger-halting hormone called leptin -- a hormone that lets your brain know that you're full, so you stop eating.
~ Mushrooms - If you want to try an easy and tasty calorie-cutting trick, then replace the meat in your favorite recipes with mushrooms. You'll automatically cut about 420 calories out of a meal, partly because you'll skip all the belly-padding saturated fat contained in meat.
~ Olive Oil - This rich-tasting oil found in salad dressings and marinades contains a hunger-busting monounsaturated fat called oleic acid -- which triggers a complicated process in the gut that ultimately tells your brain you're full and makes you want to stop eating.
~ Whole Grains - Toss your refined grains into the garbage, and eat more whole grains instead. Research shows this one move can help whittle your middle. A few examples: brown rice, quinoa, steel-cut oats, whole-grain cereal, and 100% whole-wheat bread and pasta.
~ Red Pepper - Add some heat to your meals and you'll boost not only the taste but also the effectiveness of your weight loss diet. A dash of cayenne pepper or some diced jalapeno or red peppers will do the trick. They all contain capsaicin -- the heat-inducing compound in red peppers that, according to research, tamps down appetite and curbs food intake later in the day.
~ Fava Beans - Creamy and hearty, fava beans are a lean protein source bursting with flavonoids. And in a 14-year study, these special antioxidants were shown to help hinder the accumulation of extra belly fat.
~ Rice with Veggies - Adding some high-fiber vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and kale to your rice will obviously help lower the calorie count. Adding veggies to rice at lunchtime appears to slow stomach emptying, according to research. The end result? You feel full longer.

*Thank you to the editors at RealAge for this useful information.*


I Took the Stairs

I’m taking a break today from food health to focus on body and heart health. This morning I had a visit with my doctor whose office is located on the second floor of the building. In keeping with my goal to become an overall better person, I chose to take the stairs instead of the elevator. I was curious how much this would actually benefit my health so I did a little research and decided to share.

Taking the stairs is the perfect way for you to get exercise at work. Most office buildings have several stairways available. There are also stairs in malls, hospitals and other public places you visit. Although you may find taking the elevator a lot easier, taking the stairs is a better way to get fit. Here are eight reasons to incorporate stairs into your workout. You won’t get these benefits from riding the elevator.

1. Tone Legs
Walking up and down stairs every day can tone your legs in no time. As you walk up the stairs, you use every muscle in your legs to take your body upward. Your thighs and calves get a great workout. You’ve probably used a stepper in your exercise routine. You know how toned your legs become with this equipment. Normal stairs provide the same benefits. Before you decide to push that elevator button to the third floor, take the stairs instead.

2. Increase Blood Flow
Taking the stairs improves the circulation in your legs. A great circulation reduces your chances of heart-related illness, stroke and high blood pressure. You also prevent blood clots from forming in your lower extremities.

3. Burn Calories
You burn calories when you take the stairs. Although the calories you burn aren’t as much as walking on a treadmill, the amount adds up over time. You also have more energy for the rest of your day.

4. Lose Abdominal Fat
Your legs aren’t the only things that firm up. You can lose weight around your abdomen by walking up stairs. The more calories you burn during the week, the more weight you lose. Abdominal fat is the hardest excess weight to get rid of. It leads to heart disease and numerous other health problems. Along with cardio, abdominal exercises and stair walking, you can tone your abs.

5. Firm Your Buns
Walking up stairs firms your buns. You work out your glutes every time you lift your legs. The lifting motion tightens and strengthens your buttocks.

6. Lose Weight Faster
Another reason to incorporate stairs into your workout is to lose overall body weight. This low-impact cardio exercise helps you lose weight faster. You also burn calories all day long.

7. Increase Stamina
Stamina helps you exercise longer and faster with each workout you do. Your stamina is increased by your ability to go up and down on the stairs without overtiring. There are several types of stamina, including mental and physical. With stair exercises, you improve both. You’re more alert and ready to tackle your day.

8. Reduce Pain
You can experience joint pain and arthritis as you get older. Sitting for long periods of time increases this pain as well. Incorporating stairs into your workout can help relieve the stress placed on your joints. Your joints become stronger and more flexible. Back pain is another reason to use the stairs. Taking the stairs alleviates the stress put on your hips and back through everyday activities, such as bending and lifting.


GMOs:The Pros and Cons

Wikipedia defines GMO as an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. In simpler terms, it’s the lab process of artificially inserting genes into the DNA of food crops and animals. GMOs can be engineered with genes from bacteria, viruses, insects, and animals or even humans. Although GMO foods may have several benefits to your health and the general well-being of the farming industry, it may also present several potential drawbacks. From its very beginnings, this form of genetic engineering has been the subject of heated debate.

Pros: Insect Resistance
Some GMO foods have been modified to make them more resistant to insect pests. The University of California in San Diego reports that a toxic bacterium can be added to crops to make them insect repellent, yet safe for human use. This can reduce the amount of pesticide chemicals used on the plants, thus potentially reducing exposure to pesticides.

Pros: Environmental Protection
Oklahoma State University reports that the increase of GMO crops and animals often requires less chemicals, time and tools, and may help to reduce environmental pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and soil erosion. This can improve the general beauty and health of the environment surrounding farms and contribute to the sustaining of better air and water quality, which can indirectly benefit your personal well-being.
Pros: More Nutritious Foods
The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations reports that some GMO foods have been engineered to be more nutritious in terms of mineral or vitamin content. Not only does this help you get the nutrients you need, it can also play a significant role in battling malnutrition in the developing world. The United Nations advises that vitamin-A enhanced rice is helping to reduce global vitamin A deficiencies.

Cons: Allergic Reactions
GMO foods can present significant allergy risks to people, according to Brown University. Genetic modification often mixes or adds proteins that weren't indigenous to the original plant or animal, causing new allergic reactions in the human body. In some cases, proteins from an organism that you're allergic to may be added to an organism that you weren't originally allergic to, prompting the same allergic reaction experienced from the first organism.

Cons: Decreased Antibiotic Efficacy
Some GMO foods have had antibiotic features built into them to make them immune or resistant to diseases or viruses, according to Iowa State University. When you eat them, these antibiotic markers persist in your body and can make actual antibiotic medications less effective. The university warns that such ingestion of GMO foods and regular exposure to antibiotics may be contributing to the decreased effectiveness of antibiotic drugs that is being noticed in hospitals around the world.

Cons: Gene Transfer
A constant risk of GMO foods is that the modified genes of the organisms may escape into the wild. Brown University warns that herbicide-resistant genes from commercial crops may cross into the wild weed population, thus creating "superweeds" that are impossible to kill with herbicides. A related risk is that the escape of genetically enhanced animals and vegetation can create new super-organisms that can out-compete natural animal and plant populations to drive certain species into extinction.

Cons: Health Issues
Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system. I am currently reading
Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods and will post more about the health risks associated with GMOs at a later date.

For more information on which companies provide non-GMO products please visit the link below.
This list is also now available as a Mobile App! (True Food by True Food Network)

Thank you to the Center for Food Safety and Livestrong for the information.


For the Love of Greek:The Yogurt Debate

*As you all know, vegans don't drink/eat animal milk so today's post is strictly for my lacto-ovo vegetarian peeps.*

Even in my pre-vegetarian days, I was a lover of yogurt but to be honest, I never would have thought about Greek yogurt. Now that I'm vegetarian, I've done some research and discovered how important it is in my diet. 

Before we get into the debate of Greek yogurt vs regular yogurt, let us know more about how yogurt is made. All yogurt, whether it is regular or Greek is made from milk. It can be either cow's milk, goat's milk or sheep's milk. Yogurt is formed when a specific strain of bacteria is introduced in the milk in a controlled environment and is allowed to ferment. After fermentation, yogurt becomes thick and custard like in texture, with a very subtle tangy taste. Greek yogurt is also made in the same way, the only difference being that once the bacteria strain has been added to the milk, the mixture is allowed to rest in a cheesecloth that drains away the liquid whey. This draining of the excess liquid whey, makes the resultant yogurt very rich, creamy and thick, that makes it an excellent toppings for desserts. 

Greek yogurt is strained three times, as opposed to two times for regular yogurt. Because so much of liquid whey is removed during its triple straining process, that is why Greek yogurt is very rich in protein. Greek yogurt has twice the protein content of regular yogurt, which is a great news for those people who are vegetarian and do not get the recommended protein in their diet. It also has a lower amount of carbohydrates than regular yogurt. While the amount of carbohydrates in regular yogurt is that between 15 to 17 gm, that of Greek yogurt is around 9 to 11 gm. The most important advantage of Greek yogurt vs regular yogurt is that Greek yogurt is around fifty percent less in sodium than regular yogurt.

Finally, the only point where Greek yogurt scores low in the regular yogurt vs Greek yogurt debate is in its calcium content. During the triple straining process, when all the liquid whey is removed, some of the calcium too is removed. This is why regular yogurt has three times as much calcium than Greek yogurt and is great for people who need more calcium in their diet.

After reading all about Greek yogurt vs regular yogurt, if you still can't decide which is better for you, why not keep both in your refrigerator. Use Greek yogurt for making dips and gravies and regular yogurt for salad dressings and desserts. Either way, both these yogurts are way better than indulging in ice creams and other high calorie snacks and desserts.

So, for a vegetarian diet, when you need more protein, keep it Greek! :)


Being a Vegetarian

Why Do People Become Vegetarians?
For much of the world, vegetarianism is largely a matter of economics: Meat costs a lot more than, say, beans or rice, so meat becomes a special-occasion dish (if it's eaten at all). Even where meat is more plentiful, it's still used in moderation, often providing a side note to a meal rather than taking center stage.
In countries like the United States where meat is not as expensive, though, people choose to be vegetarians for reasons other than costParental preferences, religious or other beliefs, and health issues are among the most common reasons for choosing to be a vegetarian. Many people choose a vegetarian diet out of concern over animal rights or the environment. And lots of people have more than one reason for choosing vegetarianism.
Vegetarian and Semi-Vegetarian Diets

Different people follow different forms of vegetarianism. A true vegetarian eats no meat at all, including chicken and fish. A lacto-ovo vegetarian eats dairy products and eggs, but excludes meat, fish, and poultry. It follows, then, that a lacto vegetarian eats dairy products but not eggs, whereas an ovo vegetarian eats eggs but not dairy products.
A stricter form of vegetarianism is veganism (pronounced: vee-gun-izm). Not only are eggs and dairy products excluded from a vegan diet, so are animal products like honey and gelatin.
Some people consider themselves semi-vegetarians and eat fish and maybe a small amount of poultry as part of a diet that's primarily made up of vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts. A pesci-vegetarian eats fish, but not poultry.

What This Means For You

Vegetarians are still a minority in the United States, but a large and growing one. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) has officially endorsed vegetarianism, stating "appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases."
So what does this mean for you? If you're already a vegetarian, or are thinking of becoming one, you're in good company. There are more choices in the supermarket than ever before, and an increasing number of restaurants and schools are providing vegetarian options — way beyond a basic peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
If you're choosing a vegetarian diet, the most important thing you can do is to educate yourself. That's why the ADA says that a vegetarian diet needs to be "appropriately planned." Simply dropping certain foods from your diet isn't the way to go if you're interested in maintaining good health, a high energy level, and strong muscles and bones.
Vegetarians have to be careful to include the following key nutrients that may be lacking in a vegetarian diet:
·         iron
·         calcium
·         protein
·         vitamin D
·         vitamin B12
·         zinc
If meat, fish, dairy products, and/or eggs are not going to be part of your diet, you'll need to know how to get enough of these nutrients, or you may need to take a daily multiple vitamin and mineral supplement.

The Benefits of Soy Protein

One of the main questions I get when telling people that I am now a vegetarian is, "So do you only eat vegetables, fruits and nuts?" It's hard for me to understand why most Americans don't know that there are other sources of protein and nutrients besides animals.  

Benefits of Soy 
The American Dietetic Association says soy products make a good substitute for meat in vegetarian meals. Soy protein comes in a package that's naturally cholesterol-free, low in saturated fat, and rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. While some health claims about soy have yet to be supported by science, it may help lower your cholesterol. The Food and Drug Administration says daily intake of 25 g of soy protein as part of a diet with reduced fat and cholesterol may reduce your risk of heart disease.

Where To Find It
While soy foods have been around for centuries, a lot of new soy products have emerged in recent years. In fact, soy food sale figures more than quadrupled in value between 1996 and 2009. Besides whole cooked soybeans, there are soft and firm varieties of tofu, soy milk in several flavors, toasted soy "nuts," green soybean snacks called edamame, meatlike soy crumbles, and soy versions of hot dogs and cheese slices. Check out the links below for a few of my favorite meat and dairy substitutes (some soy, some not).

Don't expect great benefits from soy protein if you just add it to a diet that's already high in fat, sugar and cholesterol. The Cleveland Clinic explains that its value to cardiovascular health is as a substitute for other foods that provide fewer nutrients or more calories. Examples include soy burgers instead of hamburgers, soy cheese instead of full-fat cheese, soy nut butter instead of regular butter, textured soy protein instead of ground beef, and marinated tofu in a recipe instead of skin-on chicken.

*Thank you to www.livestrong.com for all the wonderful information.*


Baby Food Memories

This is a little off subject from my normal blog topics but with so many people in my life expecting, I thought it was an appropriate subject.

Want your child to love veggies? Start early. Very early. Research shows that what a woman eats during pregnancy not only nourishes her baby in the womb, but may shape food preferences later in life.

At 21 weeks after conception, a developing baby weighs about as much as a can of Coke — and he or she can taste it, too. Still in the womb, the growing baby gulps down several ounces of amniotic fluid daily. That fluid surrounding the baby is actually flavored by the foods and beverages the mother has eaten in the last few hours.

"Things like vanilla, carrot, garlic, anise, mint — these are some of the flavors that have been shown to be transmitted to amniotic fluid or mother's milk," says Julie Mennella, who studies taste in infants at the Monell Chemical Senses Center. In fact, Mennella says there isn't a single flavor they have found that doesn't show up in utero. Her work has been published in the journal Pediatrics.

The Scent Of Amniotic Fluid
To determine if flavors are passed from the mother to the baby via the amniotic fluid, researchers gave women garliccapsules or sugar capsules before taking a routine sample of their amniotic fluid — and then asked a panel of people to smell the samples.

"And it was easy," says Mennella. "They could pick out the samples easily from the women who ate garlic." The sense of taste is actually 90-percent smell, she added, so they knew just from the odor that the babies could taste it.

Mennella says she got the idea from dairy farmers, who in the 1960s and 70s were doing research on how the diet of the dairy cow impacted the flavor of the milk. She says cows that graze on wild garlic and onion, or who live in stinking barns, produce milk with distinct flavors.

But Mennella says that not only is the amniotic fluid and breast milk in humans flavored by food just like cows, but memories of these flavors are formed even before birth. That could result in preferences for these foods or odors for a lifetime. In other words, if you eat broccoli while you're pregnant, there's a much better chance your baby will like broccoli.

Mennella says this had already been observed in rabbits, so she decided to test it in human babies — with carrots. Pregnant women were divided into three groups. One group was asked to drink carrot juice every day during their pregnancy, another during breastfeeding and a third to avoid carrots completely. Then when the children began to eat solid food, researchers fed them cereal made either with water, or carrot juice and videotaped their responses.

Introducing Babies To Food Culture
"And just like the European rabbit, the babies who had experienced carrot in amniotic fluid or mother's milk ate more of the carrot-flavored cereal," says Mennella. "And when we analyzed the video tapes they made less negative faces while eating it."
This makes a lot of evolutionary sense, says Mennella. Since mothers tend to feed their children what they eat themselves, it is nature's way of introducing babies to the foods and flavors that they are likely to encounter in their family and their culture.

"Each individual baby is having their own unique experience, it's changing from hour to hour, from day to day, from month to month," says Mennella. "As a stimulus it's providing so much information to that baby about who they are as a family and what are the foods their family enjoys and appreciates."

That very idea got Matty Lau thinking 'how is it that kids in other cultures eat foods that are spicy, bitter, or have pungent flavors?' She's a Chinese-American who had a baby in late July and recalls growing up eating foods most American kids she knows would never touch.

"My parents are great cooks — and so they'll cook things like preserved oysters. I always wondered how it was that I was able to grow up eating bitter vegetables like kale and mustard greens and things like ginger," says Lau.

Instilling A Love Of Chinese Flavors Before Birth
While she was pregnant, she consciously tried to provide her baby with the flavors she loves from her native Chinese cuisine. She the hopes that when her baby is older, it will share her love of flavorful food.

"I was really concerned that my child enjoys food as much as the rest of my family," says Lau.

University of Florida taste researcher Linda Bartoshuk says babies are born with very few hard and fast taste preferences. She says Mennella's work shows that very early exposures to flavors – both before and after birth — make it more likely that children will accept a wide variety of flavors. And when those early exposures are reinforced over a lifetime, Bartoshuk thinks they might have far-reaching implications, even promoting good eating.

"To what extent can we make a baby eat a healthier diet by exposing it to all the right flavors — broccoli, carrots, lima beans, et cetera? Could we do that or not? My guess is we could," says Bartoshuk.

Menella acknowledges that many toddlers will still make a sour face when given broccoli, no matter how much the mother ate while pregnant. And maybe they will never like it. But she says parents should keep exposing young children to these flavors because they can eventually learn to like them.