Where's the Beef? 

A Few Facts About Vegetarianism

A well-balanced vegetarian or vegan diet provides all the necessary nutrients the body needs for optimum health. 

According to the American Dietetic Association, studies show a link between a vegetarian diet and a lower risk of obesity, coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes and some cancers. 

Bad food, loaded with saturated fat, cholesterol, refined sugar, hormones, pesticides, and other additives – aggravated by a sedentary lifestyle – cause most of the health problems in the United States. 

The most immediately obvious consequence of consuming a high-fat, empty-calorie food is weight gain. Obesity may lead to chronic health problems and increases the risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, difficulty breathing, diabetes, sleep apnea, gallstones, arthritis, certain cancers including breast, prostate and colon cancer. 

Eating a vegetarian diet helps save animals, reduce hunger in developing countries and contributes to the protection of wildly over-fished oceans. It’s also more environmentally friendly (a leading motivation for deforestation is to create grazing lands for livestock). Being a vegetarian is also cheaper, even if you pay more for higher quality organic foods. Meat can be very expensive, as can meat-related illnesses.  

If being vegetarian is not what you choose, then consider being a part-time vegetarian. Eating vegetarian meals as much as possible and reducing consumption of meats are a good start. If you must eat meat, buy organic lean meats and eat smaller portions less often. 

There are many forms of vegetarianism. The most common types of vegetarians are lacto-ovovegetarians who eat dairy and eggs in addition to plant foods, lactovegetarians who eat plant foods and dairy but no eggs, and the strictest vegetarians are vegans. 

A Vegan eats only plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, grains and legumes—absolutely no animal meats, dairy or eggs. A well-balanced vegan diet, contrary to popular belief, provides complete nutrients. It’s one hundred Amira Elgan percent cholesterol free and helps prevent many diet related illnesses. There is no such thing as an obese vegan.

However, that’s not to say that that a vegan diet guarantees good health. Some people choose a vegan diet strictly for ethical reasons, but are unconcerned or ignorant about health. A growing number of teenagers, called “french fry vegans,” fall into this category. 

A well-balanced vegetarian and vegan diet can easily provide complete and adequate protein. By eating a variety of soybean products, which contain complete protein, and also by combining certain types of foods that contain complementing amino acids. For example, rice and beans make a complete protein as do corn and beans, rice and peas, peanuts or peanut butter and whole wheat bread. Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained from flax seed. Also, many soy products such as organic tofu and organic soymilk are enriched with calcium and vitamin B12. I will discuss these topics in more depth on later issues. All my recipes offer complete protein. 

Eating well balanced vegetarian food, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, eliminating or reducing alcohol will naturally make you healthier. Living a healthy lifestyle will make you look and feel better. Yes, healthy living will give you a longer life, but more importantly a much higher quality life. You’ll be happier and more energetic and you’ll achieve and maintain a healthy weight more easily. The health benefits are literally priceless.

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Good Things In Store

Most health food stores carry a variety of wholesome foods that are organic and nutrient rich. I realize that many of you don’t have access to the stores or brands of foods I mention in my recipes, however, for the benefit of those who do have access, I have to mention that my favorite store is Trader Joe’s. They have limited locations throughout the United States but they carry many wonderful organic items at very reasonable prices. 

Trader Joe’s, for example, carries my favorite cereal: Nature’s Path Organic Flax Plus Multibran Cereal, and all these ingredients: 

  • Creamy soymilk (as opposed to fat free soymilk, which I like only for drinking cold) 

  • Organic frozen blueberries (good for your memory, if I recall correctly…)

  • Fresh sliced organic bananas (rich in potassium)

  • Almonds (rich in folate and vitamin E) 

  • Organic raisins (for the sweetness)

A simple breakfast combination of the above items provide complete protein, high fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, calcium, and healthy monounsaturated fats (which help protect against heart disease and certain cancers). It’s a delicious way to start the day!

Reader Q&A 

Q: As I understand it, the definition of "organic" means there have been no chemical pesticides, fertilizers or additives used in the past five years in the case of plants; no drugs, hormones, or other non-natural substances in the case of animals. But GM plants are all still 100% natural -- the gene may not be that of a corn or soya bean, but it's not something cooked up over a Bunsen burner, either. Therefore, it would logically seem that it's perfectly possible to have "organically-grown" GM foods, wouldn't it? 

A: No, it’s not possible to have organically-grown GM foods. The moment genetic engineering plays a role in the creation of a plant it results in a non-organic “transgenic organism.” By definition, in order for a plant to be considered organic, the crop plant cannot be the result of genetic modification or manipulation (in addition to not making use of chemical herbicides, fumigants, synthetic fertilizers, and unapproved pesticides on soil or the produce itself). Even the USDA’s organic standards prohibit the use of GMO in the production of organic foods. GM plants are created by bypassing natural boundaries and have been completely altered through means that do not occur in nature but instead through human intervention in the laboratory where species, which would normally not interbreed, are combined.

Words of Wisdom

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

Marcus Aurelius

The Research Department

And yet another reason for eating organically grown produce: Organic fruit and vegetables contain up to 50% more cancer fighting antioxidants than conventionally grown, according to a study published by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The study found that organically grown produce contains higher levels of phenolic metabolites, which appear to have a protective role in plants and synthesize as result of insect pressure, UV light exposure and microorganism pressures. 

Organic plants cannot be genetically engineered or irradiated, are grown without synthetic pesticides, herbicides and are therefore more likely to be attacked by insects and other microorganisms than their corresponding conventionally grown plants. The natural exposure to predation such as insects, bacterial and fungus infections forces organic plants to boost their natural defenses by producing more plant chemicals to protect themselves. This plant defense mechanism enhances the plants’ antioxidant and nutritional content important for human health. 
The use of pesticides in conventionally grown produce suppresses the plant's natural production of phenolics, resulting in fruit and vegetables that contain a less than optimal levels of antioxidants and cancer fighting properties.

Go here for more.

Organically speaking…

Even when not in Rome we should do as the Romans do. 

A new association called “CITTA’ DEL BIO” has been formed in Rome for the development of “organic culture.” They sponsor and promote consumer education to organic production and farming. The association’s president, Vicenzo Vizioli, says that “organic does not have to be exclusively a productive industry but can act as a cultural precursor of knowledge and information in favor of healthy, good food and also for the environment in which we live." In fact, in 1994 Roman schools began introducing organic meals to children. Currently, 150,000 organic meals are being served in Roman schools because officials want to improve the quality of life and health of the children.

Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the Week

Black-eyed peas and Tofu Casserole (vegan) 
Serves 4 to 6

This delicious, low fat and quick high complete protein dish has a Latin flare to it. Serve it with slices of fresh avocado, tomato, chopped red onion and corn tortillas to create a more authentic Latin meal.

Ahead of time: 
Cooked black-eyed peas or substitute with organic canned black-eyed peas or similar beans.

Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 25 minutes Equipment: Food processor or blender

Get ingredients ready (use organic ingredients if possible)
3 tablespoons unrefined safflower oil 
4 fresh garlic cloves 
½ small red onion 
3 cups black-eyed peas (drained) or canned (rinsed and drained)
20 oz (3 cups) of fresh firm tofu cut in small cubes
½ teaspoon fresh chopped cilantro or (dried cilantro)
1¼ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
1½ cup frozen corn
Sliced avocado, fresh tomato, chopped red onion and corn tortillas (optional as side servings)
sea salt & freshly ground pepper

1. In a large saucepan, heat oil on low heat. Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender combine garlic and onion and chop finely. Put chopped garlic and onion in saucepan, stir and sauté until lightly browned.

2. Add black-eyed peas, cilantro, cumin and chili powder to the sauteed garlic and onion and cook for 5 minutes stirring often. Stir in tofu and mix well with beans cooking for 10 more minutes on medium heat stirring frequently.

3. Add frozen corn and cook for 8-10 more minutes stirring constantly. Serve with sliced avocado, tomato and chopped red onion if desired.

For dairy lovers: If you must have dairy, try a teaspoon of plain fat free yogurt or low fat sour cream or light grated jack or cheddar cheese.

Cook’s tip: Black-eyed peas can be bought dried. Before cooking, soak overnight if possible then drain. Replace fresh water and cook over medium heat with 2 cloves of garlic and ½ onion (not chopped). Cover with lid lightly and cook boiling for 45 to 60 minutes or until tender. Add salt after the beans are done cooking. Cool and store in fridge for up to 15 days.

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Comments? Please send e-mail to Amira at [email protected]