Let’s Dish: Let’s Talk About Vegan

By MaryAnn Miano 

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 11.45.03 AMHealthful eating is all the rage, and that is a good thing.  Turning simple, nutritious ingredients into knockout meals is part of the fun of food preparation. Just think: you can make magical things happen right in your own kitchen by treating your taste buds with foods that can help you trim down, lower your cholesterol, bring your blood sugar and blood pressure under control, and give you your energy back. All this can happen with a vegan diet.

What is the definition of vegan? A vegan diet is one type of vegetarian diet. It excludes anything from animal sources, such as meat, dairy products, eggs, and even honey. A vegan lifestyle is not considered a “diet;” rather, it is a new way of thinking about foods to nourish and heal your body. The foods included in this approach to eating are powerful and delicious and easy to prepare.  The emphasis is on a daily intake of vegetables and fruits, along with whole grains, beans, peas, tofu (soybeans), and lentils (legumes).

A little history on veganism: it is not a modern invention. Sixth-century Greek philosophers were vegetarian, but the term “vegan” was coined in 1944 by Donald Watson, who set up a newsletter called “Vegan News” for non-dairy vegetarians in the Vegan Society of England.  The Vegan Society advocated that man should consume foods derived from fruits, nuts, vegetables, grains, and any non-animal products. It should exclude flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, honey, animals’ milk, butter, and cheese. A vegan lifestyle is more restrictive than a vegetarian; vegans believe in avoiding exploiting animals for any purpose.

You can expect a diet higher in dietary fiber, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, and phytochemicals when you begin to go vegan. Say goodbye to high calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol, too. However, it is recommended that vegans eat B12 fortified foods or add-on B12 through supplements, because plant foods do not provide enough of this B vitamin. According to a study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vegans have shown better overall health compared to omnivores. Studies even show that vegans have a better general outlook on life than their meat-eating counterparts.

And contrary to what you might think, vegans get lots of protein from their food choices. A vegan can take a cup of almond milk (about 7-9 grams of protein), boil up some peas (9 grams of protein), add beans (one cup of black beans is 15 grams of protein), eat tofu, munch on seeds (sunflower is great), pick on peanut butter (2 tablespoons equals 8 grams), and snack on any nuts to add a protein punch to their daily protein intake.

Veganism gained mainstream attention in recent years and has since become trendy, with a wide variety of vegan products offered at the local grocery store, along with restaurants dedicated to vegan dishes. The Recipe of the Month is not difficult to prepare, and it ranks high on the taste-o-meter. Give it a try and come on over to the vegan side!

RECIPE OF THE MONTH

VEGETABLE PAELLA

3 ½ cups vegetable broth

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 medium green or red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 ½ cups short-grain brown rice

1 teaspoon saffron

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 (15 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained, or 1 (8 ounce) package frozen artichoke hearts

1 cup fresh or frozen green peas

1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained

Kosher or sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1.  Heat ½ cup broth in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, and rice and sauté for 5 minutes.

2.  Add remaining 3 cups broth, saffron, and crushed red pepper.  Bring to a boil, cover, and cook over low heat for 45 minutes. Add the artichoke hearts, peas, and beans. Cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes, until rice is tender. Season with salt and black pepper.

Recipe from The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cook Book by Neal Barnard, MD, Page 144. Publisher: Da Capo Press, 2010.