Blending your Way to Being a Healthy Vegetarian

All vegetarians know that they need to eat a diverse variety of foods to be healthy but sometimes it can be hard to work a lot of different of fresh fruit and vegetables into a busy day.

I have personally known several vegetarians that rely far too much on pasta, rice and soy products. While it is okay to include these sorts of things into your diet what will really be of greater benefit to your health is consuming more fresh whole foods. The best and simplest way to incorporate more whole foods in your diet is actually to use a blender.

A blender?!

Yes, it’s true. That appliance you have stashed in your kitchen cabinet is good for more than just making an occasional margarita. Did you know that in addition to fruit smoothies you can make all sorts of concoctions if you have a strong enough blender. From dips and sauces to soups and nut butters, there are all sorts of healthy snacks and meals that can be made quickly.

If you do some searching around on the internet you’ll find that the best blender on the market is definitely a Vitamix. It’s the ideal blender for three simple reasons: power, versatility and quality. For a more in depth analysis you can read one of the many Vitamix reviews floating around the internet.

The Vitamix review I have linked to here is an especially thorough one.

Is a Vitamix another cheap kitchen gizmo that will break after you use it a few times?

No it certainly is not. Vitamix is an old American company, orginally founded in 1921. They are serious about making extremely high-quality products and if you look around you’ll discover that they have quite a cult following. Let me put it this way; you know you are dealing with a quality blender when the company backs it up with a 7-year warranty. That’s pretty much unheard of in the appliance market. I’ve actually talked with Vitamix owners who have had their blender for over 20 years!

So what can you do with a Vitamix?

Well I’ve owned one for about 3 years so let me share with you a few tips and ideas. First of all, since this is a very powerful blender (the blades can reach over 37,000 revolutions per minute), you can blend pretty much anything in here. I’ve made fresh almond butter, hummus, and even raw soups in our Vitamix.

The best part of this is that you can leave foods in their whole, unprocessed form which is the healthiest way to eat them since nothing has been removed. For instance, when I make a green smoothie I throw in a whole pear (I don’t even seed it), a half a cup of grapes, a few chunks of frozen banana and a large handful of collard greens (stems and all). The Vitamix will completely pulverize all of the ingredients into a smooth, creamy, and most importantly healthy smoothie that is full of vitamins and minerals. It’s so easy to make quick and nutritious snacks when you have the right tools.

So do yourself a favor by grabbing this Vitamix promotion code and head on over to the Vitamix website to order a blender that will change the way you think about smoothies, dips, and snacks. I think you will be glad you did.

Cheers and happy blending!

Health Advantages of a Vegetarian Diet

There are lots of health advantages of a vegetarian diet. While many people lament the nutritional disadvantages of a poorly planned vegetarian diet, few stress the health advantages of adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet.

The first major advantage of a vegetarian diet is increased heart health. Vegetarians typically consume more nuts to insure a good intake of protein. Nuts contain "good" fats, such as omega-3 and omega-6. This promotes good heart health by reducing "bad" cholesterol and unclogging arteries.

If heart disease runs in your family, this is a particularly important reason for giving up meat and adopting a vegetarian diet to promote good health.

In addition to nuts, vegetarians also consume more soy milk (often to replace milk), which reduces "bad"
cholesterol and has been linked to good heart health. Recently though, claims that soy milk reduces breast cancer have been proven false.

The second major advantage vegetarians enjoy is increased skin health. In addition to consuming larger quantities of nuts which contain healthful oils, vegetarians tend to consume more fruit and vegetables, which are rich in essential vitamins, including A and E, which are linked to good skin health.

The high amount of fiber found in fruits and vegetables also help to keep your digestive tract working efficiently. A clean colon helps to keep toxins flushed out of your body further contributing to better skin health.

The last health advantage vegetarians enjoy is an increased natural consumption of antioxidants. Antioxidants are foods that help prevent cancer by destroying free radicals. Vitamin C and Vitamin E, two
strong antioxidants, are commonly found in vegetarian meals.

Vitamin C can be found in berries, tomatoes, citrus fruit, kale, kiwis, asparagus and peppers.

Vitamin E can be found in wheat germ, seed oils, walnuts, almonds, and brown rice. These are all foods that are commonly a part of a well-balanced vegetarian diet.

So what does this all mean for you as a vegetarian?

It means the popular mythology about vegetarian diets is false. Not only can a vegetarian diet be nutritionally sufficient, but it can also give you better skin, help to prevent cancer, and increase your heart health.

Vegetarians and Sugar

Some vegetarians will not eat sugar and not just because it’s a highly refined substance that contributes no nutritional value. But because sugar is often whitened with bone char from cattle. If you’re a vegetarian and you want to continue eating products that contain sugar, but do not want to consume this small bit of animal product in the process, you have a number of options.

There are two major sources of sugar in the United States: beet sugar and cane sugar. Cane sugar is often whitened with bone char from cattle. Beet sugar is never whitened with bone char.

So, if you want to completely avoid the bone char, you can do so by eating only beet sugar. Your biggest challenge is going to be finding out which foods contain beet sugar and which foods contain cane sugar.

To make things more complex, you can also consume a number of types of cane sugar without realizing it. You need to figure out the source of the sweetener added to food.

You can do this in a lot of cases by looking at the nutritional panel on food before you buy it. If it says fructose or dextrose, the sugar is from beets or most commonly, corn. If it says sucrose, it could be from a number of sources, which could include bone char-whitened cane sugar.

Now, if you’re cooking with sugar, you can personally verify that is bone-char free by purchasing from the following companies which have publicly-stated that they do not use bone-char: Florida Crystals Refinery, Imperial Sugar Company, Irish Sugar Ltd., Sugar In the Raw (which is also less-refined), and American Crystal Sugar Company.

If you can’t find these brands, but want to avoid consuming bone-char sugar if possible, you can avoid these brands, which have publicly-stated that they do use bone-char: Domino, Savannah Foods, and C&H Sugar Company.

Get into the habit of reading the labels on packaged foods. You’ll soon start to be able to pick out the ones that are vegetarian-friendly. While you’re looking at that label, remember if any type of sugar is listed as the first ingredient, that means there’s lots of sugar in there. Vegetarian or not, keep all sweeteners to a minimum for good health.

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.

Five Nutrients Vegetarian Diets Lack

Vegetarian nutrition has its plusses and minuses. Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets have advantages. Vegetarian diets tend to be rich in antioxidants, certain vitamins, and healthy fats. Diets that include meat, by contrast, tend to contain more protein, iron, zinc, calcium, and vitamin B-12.

If you already decided to adopt a vegetarian diet, it is essential you learn how to increase your intake
and absorption of these nutrients to avoid short-term and long-term health complications.

Here’s some ways you can be sure you’re getting a good supply of necessary nutrients to keep you healthy.

1. Protein

Different types of protein are made up of different permutations of amino acid chains.
In order to create a "complete protein" or a protein that can be assimilated into the human
body as tissue, you must consume foods that contain complementary chains of amino acids.

Wheat, nuts, and beans are three types of vegetarian food that have proteins but not complete. Plus, wheat is hard to digest and up to 50% of its protein is lost during the process.

Isolated soy protein, which you can get from a number of sources (including soy milk), can be digested
efficiently-enough to match the animal protein yields. Just keep in mind that soy isn’t the answer to a vegetarian’s prayers. It shouldn’t be relied upon as a main source of protein.

2. Iron

Plant sources contain a significant amount of iron, but in non-heme form. Heme iron is primarily found in red meats and is the most easily absorbed. Other forms of iron are bound to some other organic constituent of vegetarian food. The the iron found in plants is difficult to absorb but cooking tends to break these interactions and increase iron availability.  You should do two things to increase your blood-iron levels: 1) consume more plant iron; and 2) avoid absorption inhibitors such as tea, coffee, and fiber.

Some iron-rich foods are poor sources of the mineral because other compounds render it nonabsorbable. The classic example is spinach. It contains iron, but it also contains considerable oxalate, which chelates it and renders it nonabsorbable. Phytates, present in whole grains that have not been subjected to fermentation by yeast (for example, during bread making), have a similar effect.

3. Zinc

Whereas non-vegetarian diets seem to enhance the absorption of zinc; vegetarian and vegan diets do the exact opposite – they inhibit it. Nutritionists suggest that you can overcome this by consuming more foods that contain zinc, such as soybeans, cashews, and sunflower seeds while reducing your intake of inhibitors by washing vegetables and grains.

4. Calcium

Vegetarians can easily consume an adequate amount of calcium without any dietary
additions. It is important that vegetarians avoid consuming certain foods that are high in oxalate,
which inhibit calcium absorption.

Dietitians suggest that vegetarians do not consume spinach, beet greens, and swiss chard as the calcium component of a meal plan. While they are rich in calcium, they also contain high amounts of
oxalate.

Rather than consuming those foods for calcium, vegetarians should consider other options, such as
soy yogurt, tofu, beans, almonds, and calcium-fortified foods.

5. Vitamin B-12

Many vegetarians lack vitamin B-12 simply because it does not exist naturally in any non-animal forms. Vegetarians should seek out vitamin B-12 fortified foods, such as certain soy milks and cereals to supplement what they lack.

This is not meant to discourage people from becoming vegetarians, but instead to encourage them to spend time planning a health approach to their vegetarian diet before starting it. When planned adequately, vegetarian nutrition can not only make up for what it lacks from animal products, but it can far exceed the healthfulness of most non-vegetarian diets.

Vegetarian Diets and Infants

Vegetarian diets for infants need to be carefully planned. In the first year of life, a baby grows and develops astronomically fast. If for ethical or dietary reasons you have decided to feed your infant a vegetarian diet, be very careful in choosing formulas and solid foods.

If you’re breastfeeding your baby and you are also a vegetarian, you may need to supplement breast milk with additional sources of nutrition, depending on your dietary restrictions. If you are a vegan or an ovo-vegetarian, you should add sources of vitamin B-12 to your child’s diet.

Other than the B-12 supplements, your infant should be able to receive all micro and macro nutrients through breastfeeding.

If you plan to use formula rather than breast milk, you should stick to commercial formulas, which contain the proper amounts and ratios of nutrients. If you opt for a homemade formula or soy milk over a commercial product, your child could experience developmental problems from a lack of proper nutrition.

If you want to keep your infant on a vegan diet, you can select a soy commercial formula, as long as it is nutritionally-adequate. However, keep in mind that these types of formulas are relatively new in human evolution and haven’t been time tested to track growth and development of children into adults over several lifespans. Think long and hard before going down this road.

After about a year, you can begin to supplement formula or breast milk with other sources of nutrition, such as homemade formulas, yogurt, and cow’s milk.

Nutritionists suggest that you keep your infant on a full-fat, high protein diet after age one, which includes vegetarian-friendly foods, such as mashed and pureed avocados, nutrient-fortified tofu and yogurt.

When you are ready to switch your infant to solid vegetarian foods, you can introduce solid tofu, eggs, and cheese.

Vegetarian diets for infants and children need to be supplemented with B-12, plenty of protein and maintain a full-fat diet. If you carefully do this, you should have no problem maintaining a healthful vegetarian diet during your child’s crucial developmental stages.