Vegetarian Alternatives to Gelatin

Any vegetarian diet needs alternatives to gelatin.

Gelatin serves both nutritional and culinary roles in non-vegetarian diets. However, a lot of vegetarians and all vegans do not consume gelatin in its many forms because it is often created out of boiled pig skins and dissolved veal cartilage and bones. :-(

This leaves vegetarians with a gap in cooking functionality when a recipe calls for a gel or thickening agent. It also leaves vegetarians with fewer options if they need a source of gelatin to increase bone and cartilage health.

If you are a vegetarian and you are looking for something to replace gelatin, do not  despair. I found these alternative options for you on Amazon that work well:

1. Use a corn starch alternative like Instant Clear Gel For cold recipes its a very good choice that closely mimics functionality of gelatin.

2. Food Grade Kappa Carrageenan -  100% made from natural seaweed sources and is highly recommended for vegan cheese recipes. Best part is that it works like it’s supposed to Be sure to use the food grade version of this!

3. Use seaweed-based alternatives. Agar-agar is a seaweed based alternative to gelatin that can simulate the culinary functions of gelatin. It also can be used in recipes that need to be heated.

4. Increase your calcium intake. One component of gelatin supplements that allegedly increases joint health is calcium. If you want to increase your calcium intake without eating gelatin, you can simply consume more calcium-fortified foods and even take supplements.

5. Increase your vitamin C intake. Another component of gelatin supplements that allegedly increases joint health is vitamin C. You can increase your vitamin C intake by consuming more citrus fruit.

Many recipes need a thickening agent during cooking. Finding one that’s not made from animal products really isn’t that hard. If you want to protect your bones and cartilage, take calcium and potassium supplements. I think the hardest part of not using gelatin is remembering to carefully read the ingredients because it’s added to so many foods.

Vegetarian Protein

Non-meat sources of vegetarian protein are really quite simple to find. One of the key things to learn is how to eat to get all the amino acids – sometimes called a ‘complete protein’.

In order for vegetarian diets to contain a healthy amount of protein, they must contain a variety of plant proteins to form complete amino chains. There is no one plant that has a complete protein. Complete proteins are important because your body needs them to create muscle tissue.

Combining grains like rice with legumes like dried beans will give you that complete mix of amino acids. A classic example is a peanut butter sandwich (on whole wheat bread!). It’s a great combination. Black beans and rice is a favorite Hispanic dish.

By eating vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts, fruits, and whole grains, vegetarians can increase the amount of complete proteins they create by combining a number of varieties of amino acid chains.

Although most vegetarians consume a considerable amount of protein, they often do not absorb as much as they would on a non-vegetarian diet. This is because plant proteins are considerably less digestible than animal proteins, which contain amino acid chains that are closer or identical to human amino acid chains.

Consuming animal proteins might yield close to a 1:1 absorption ratio, while consuming plant proteins, such as wheat, might only yield 50% of the amino acids needed to build a "complete protein" or a protein that can readily be assimilated into the human body.

For non-vegan vegetarians, yogurt, milk, and eggs (which contain complete proteins) are all excellent sources of protein.

Because plant proteins are generally harder to digest, vegetarian diets need to include more grams of protein than a meat eater. While a nutritional label may suggest that pasta has 5 grams of protein per serving; you may only be able to digest 2-3 grams of that protein, which means you must complement the pasta with other sources of protein. A bit of cheese would do the trick.

In addition to natural sources of protein, vegetarians should also seek foods that are "protein-fortified"–
or artificially-infused with protein. For example, many supermarkets offer a variety "protein-fortified" pasta and bread. I have seen pasta that contains as much as 12 grams of protein per serving.

Soy milk is also a good source of protein for vegetarians. Studies on isolated soy protein show that it can be absorbed nearly as well as animal proteins, yielding close to a 1:1 protein absorption ratio. Be careful not to rely to heavily on soy as a protein source. Isolated soy protein is a manufactured food that’s made from the residue left over from pressing soybean oil. There’s nothing ‘natural’ about it.

Vegetarian foods can give you the complete proteins you’re looking for. Learn to mix and match them correctly and you’ll have no problems getting enough protein into your diet.

My New Super Honey

I’ve always liked honey in my tea and I especially like raw honey. That grainy texture really appeals to me. Plus I know that I’m getting all the natural pollens and nutrients that the nice little worker bees went out and gathered for me. I could write TONS of good things about honey, but then I’d just be regurgitating other info that’s already been well-written. (That’s my little honey pun for the day!  ) Here’s a good honey reference page if you want to know more.

Back to my super honey…

A queen bee larvae (baby) starts off exactly the same as a regular worker bee. The thing that causes her to change is a special substance called ‘royal jelly’. It makes her about 50% bigger than the others. It’s a very amazing thing when you stop and think about it.

Anyway, there are lots of anecdotal claims for what it can do for humans. The main thing I want to say is that some people with allergies and especially allergies to bee stings probably should stay away from this. It has been somewhat proven to help with lowering cholesterol which is always a good thing even for vegetarians.

As I get older, I’m always looking for something natural that can help me keep my body looking and functioning like it did when I was in my 20′s. So I’ve started including a bit of honey with royal jelly in it to my daily routine. One of the things it’s supposed to help with is memory. Must be working because so far I’ve been able to remember to take it!

 

Fresh Organic Vegetables From Co-ops

One of the things I really enjoy is going to my local co-op to pick up a week’s supple of locally grown organic vegetables. During the harvesting season, it’s a weekly Sunday afternoon ritual. I go to ‘the farm’. I live in Florida, so the fall and winter are good seasons for us here with gardens.

The types of veggies I come home with depends on what was harvested that week. Sometimes I get some really exotic things depending on what was planted. I had a purple turnip the other day!

With a co-op, you buy ‘shares’ of the produce. The number of share you buy will depend on how many people are in your family. There’s a quota on what you can have per share.

When I get home from picking up my booty, I always have the ritual of washing everything and packing it into containers for the week. I used to use a veggie wash that’s commercially made but now I’ve found a way that’s even better. I mix up a concoction of water, white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. It’s about 50% water, 30% vinegar and 20% perioxide. This does a good job of cleaning and killing any pathogens and/or larve or eggs that could later hatch into those annoying gnats. I don’t have to worry about removing any chemicals because it’s all grown organically.

That may seem like an unusual mixture but it really does work well. I’ve used it for strawberries and raspberries, too, and they will last way longer than if I just rinse with water.

 

What’s Up With Zucchini?

One of my favorite summer vegetables is zucchini. It’s also super-easy to grow if you have your own little organic garden. We’ve all probably had a neighbor or friend who grew it and was constantly trying to give it away. The mild flavor of it lends itself to many dishes. If you grow it yourself, use a trellis as it makes long vines.

Zucchini is a member of the summer squash family which also includes yellow crookneck squash (another favorite of mine!).  It’s an excellent source of manganese and vitamin C, a very good source of magnesium, vitamin A, potassium, calcium, iron, folate, copper, riboflavin, niacin, and phosphorous. That’s a lot of nutrition packed into a cute green package.

Italians first grew it for it’s blossoms which are very edible. However, zucchini actually is native to Central and South America. It was brought to Italy by the early explorers. Italians fell in love with it and it’s sometimes referred to as ‘Italian Squash’.

The flavor of zucchini is best when it is less than six inches long. They should be firm, but not hard. So if you grow it yourself or buy it at a produce stand, look for the smaller ones.

If you make your own Kim Chee, try putting some zucchini in it to replace some of the cabbage. I used to go to a Chinese restaurant that was owned by a Korean family. They always brought me some of their kim chee that wasn’t on the menu but they knew I liked it. You never knew what veggies were going to be in it. The zucchini version was my favorite.

 

 

Types of Vegetarian Foods and Diets

There are different types of vegetarian foods. To understand this you need to know what exactly is the definition of vegetarian? And how is a vegan diet different from being a vegetarian?

If you recently started reading about vegetarian diets, you have probably read all sorts of strange vegetarian terms and categories like ‘vegan’, ‘ovo-lacto vegetarian’ and ‘semi-vegetarian’. You may be wondering what’s the big deal. Afterall, what is so conceptually tough about not eating meat?

The distinctions between these sub-categories of vegetarian are actually small, but each is very important to members who belong to the groups. For them, these distinctions aren’t arbitrary lines.  They are important dietary or ethical decisions.

Let’s take a look at some of these groups:

VEGETARIAN:

Vegetarian is a blanket term used to describe a person who does not consume meat, poultry, fish, or seafood. This grouping includes vegans and the various sub- categories of vegetarian. Generally it implies someone who has less dietary restrictions than a vegan.

SEMI-VEGETARIAN:

The term semi-vegetarian is usually used to describe someone who is not actually a vegetarian. Semi-vegetarian generally implies someone who only eats meat occasionally or doesn’t eat meat from mammels, but eats poultry and fish.

OVO-LACTO-VEGETARIAN:

Ovo-lacto vegetarians are vegetarians who do not consume meat, poultry, fish, and seafood, but do consume eggs and milk. This is the largest group of vegetarians. This term is pretty much interchangable with ‘vegetarian’.

OVO-VEGETARIAN:

Ovo-vegetarian is a term used to describe someone who would be a vegan if they did not consume eggs.

LACTO-VEGETARIAN:

Lacto-vegetarian is a term used to describe someone who would be a vegan if they did not consume milk.

VEGAN:

Vegan is the strictest sub-category of vegetarians. Vegans do not consume any animal products or byproducts. Some even go as far as not consuming honey and yeast. Others do not wear any clothing made from animal products.

It’s not necessary to choose which group you think you belong to. It’s your life and your decision about what you eat and why you eat it. These different types of vegetarian labels aren’t intended to label people. They just serve as a way to describe the different types of vegetarian diets that can be followed.

Cooking With Tofu

You don’t have to be a vegetarian to cook with tofu.

Tofu is a low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-calorie food made out of steamed and compressed soy beans. Not only is it a great source of protein but it is also heart-healthy and has been linked to a decreased risk in cancer.

Tofu itself doesn’t really have much of a taste. It picks up the flavors of the foods and spices you cook it with. You can find it just about everywhere in the produce section of grocery stores. It comes in many different types which describe its texture – such as firm, soft or silk.

If you aren’t a vegetarian now and haven’t been one in the past, you probably also haven’t eaten tofu many times. In fact, the only time most people hear about tofu it is in jokes aimed at vegetarians.

So why is it that vegetarians eat this stuff all the time? Is is it simply because they have no other choice?

The answer is both yes and no.

As long as they research and create meal plans, vegetarians can maintain a healthy diet eating traditional meals or ethnic dishes. Tofu is often cited as something exclusively vegetarian because it is a versatile, highly-nutritional, and can be used to replace meat dishes.

Being a vegetarian doesn’t mean you have to eat tofu. In fact, there are many vegetarians who never eat tofu or any popular meat-replacement dishes such as "veggie burgers" or "tofurkey". However, these products are made of soy protein isolate which is the residue left over after soybeans are pressed for their oil. The residue is highly process to make it palatable and resold as meat substitutes. Tofu is much more natural and a food that has been produced and eaten for centuries.

Not only can it be created in textures, consistencies, and flavors that simulate a range of meats–from turkey to hamburger, but it can also actually replace and far exceed the nutritional value of similar meat dishes.

While vegetarians do not actually need to consume tofu, doing so is often a wise dietary choice and also the next best thing to eating similar meat products (for those who enjoyed meat dishes before they became vegetarians).

In addition to being served as a meat alternative, tofu is also served in a number of spicy and ethnic dishes, which were never intended to contain meat. Many ethnic Indian dishes contain large amounts of tofu cooked and spiced in different ways.

So here is my suggestion to you: If you aren’t already a vegetarian, but want to become one, don’t let tofu get in your way. You can maintain a healthy vegetarian diet without ever eating it. However, if you already are a vegetarian, but haven’t tried tofu, I highly suggest you do. It is both nutritional and versatile – and it might not taste as bad as you think.

Becoming Vegetarian

If you’re considering becoming vegetarian, here are some things to consider.

As a prospective vegetarian, you probably question whether or not it really matters if you stop eating meat. You might wonder how much of a difference one additional vegetarian can make.

And while it might be true that one vegetarian won’t make huge statistical difference in a world of meat-eaters, it is also true that one more vegetarian probably isn’t going to turn the tide in the movement.

The number one cause of death in the United States and other countries with meat-centered diets is heart disease. Meat, eggs, and dairy products are the three largest sources of cholesterol. Heart attacks and other heart and circulatory problems would be far less prevalent if the consumption of them was reduced or entirely eliminated by eating only vegetarian food.

According to EarthSave, the average vegetarian has about 1/4 the chance of having a heart attack as the average non-vegetarian. As for people who are pure vegans, it gets even lower: they have less than 1/10 the chance of having a heart attack as non-vegetarians.

There are other health benefits of becoming vegetarian besides protecting your heart. Processed meats like salami, hot dogs and ham contain a lot of preservatives, salt and fat. The preservatives especially have been linked to cancer.

Beef cattle are normally fed diets that include growth hormones to get the maximum size and weight in the shortest period of time.  These hormones often disrupt normal hormonal processes in the human body.

And you won’t consume as much lactose, which most people cannot digest properly–and which some dietitians have suggested is a cause of digestive problems.

In addition to health benefits you will receive as an individual, you will also reduce your share of the suffering human beings inflict on animals. According to veganoutreach.org, the average American consumes 2,714 land animals in their lifetime. If you quit eating meat now, you could literally prevent the suffering and death of hundreds of animals of the course of a couple decades.

In addition to this, if you stop eating eggs and drinking milk, you will also reduce your share in the suffering and death of battery hens and their offspring, as well as dairy cows and their offspring, too.

So the answer is yes:  becoming vegetarian does matter.  It matters to the thousands of animals you could potentially save and it matters to you as an individual because you can greatly reduce your chances of getting cancer and heart disease. You can do a lot as an individual that will be good for you and good for hundreds of animals.