The Fresh Challenge : Hemp

For this month's Fresh Challenge sit back, grab a spot on the couch and pack a bowl... of HEMP seeds! 

Hemp is a all around plant- based power house of nutrients that can be added to smoothies, salads, baked goods and well... just about anything! 

Protein Hit - Hemp hearts contain 10 grams of protein per 3 tablespoon serving. The protein found in hemp is a complete protein and easily digestible! 

Fiber Fire - Add more fire to your belly. These little seeds are full of fiber to aid your gut health and digestion. The standard diet is lacking in this nutrient as we chips in snacks instead of fruits and vegetables, but hemp can help swing the pendulum in a better direction. 

Omega-3 Good-Good - Protect your heart and improve your brain function with a daily dose of Omega- 3 fatty acids. Adding omega- 3's to your day helps reduce inflammation, reduce your risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels. 

The best part about this challenge? Hemp is easy to find anywhere these days from raw hemp hearts to milks you can take the challenge out of this Fresh Challenge. Just in case you need more direction when the munchies kick in, here are a few of my blazin picks. 

 

 

 

The Fresh Challenge : Spirulina

Keep away from the wrath of the leprechauns and go green this month with spirulina. Spirulina is a powerful blue-green algae that will boost your daily nutrient intake, detoxify skin, improve energy and aid digestive health. With 2000% more beta carotene than carrots, 4000% more iron than spinach and 280% more antioxidant strength than berries, spirulina is the ultimate addition to your diet. This super- algae is an easy addition to smoothies, desserts, snacks or even salad dressings. 

 

Protein Boost

Spirulina is a nutrient dense algae composed of 60% protein, B vitamins, iron, potassium, magnesium and manganese. However, what sets spirulina apart from other plant based proteins is that it is a complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids our bodies require to digest and utilize for optimal cellular function. In fact, 1 tbsp of spirulina powder contains 4g of protein with only 20 calories and 2g of carbohydrates. 

Anti- aging

This algae is more than just a protein powerhouse, it has also been found to have substantial anti-aging properties due to its high percentage of beta carotene, antioxidants and phycocyanin. Phycocyanin is the active ingredient in spirulina that is responsible for its bright blue- green color. Phycocyanin is a natural anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant that fights free radicals in the body while reducing the production of inflammatory molecules. Move over carrots… beta carotene levels in spirulina are 10 times more concentrated than those found in carrots, making spirulina a one-stop-shop for anti-aging from the inside out. 

Gut Health

There are countless detoxifiers and digestive aids hitting the market these days but few target the micro biome of your gut to remove toxins quickly and effectively. Well, spirulina does just that, the blue-green algae stimulates the growth and function of beneficial flora while suppressing bad bacteria in your digestive tract. This promotes proper digestion and the removal of toxins and heavy metals in your bloods stream. The stimulation of beneficial gut flora also improves digestive conditions such as constipation, candida and leaky gut syndrome. 

Energy

Lastly, spirulina’s antioxidant, protein and vitamin rich properties make it a compact energy booster. Some studies have shown that regular consumption of spirulina may improve endurance and reduce muscle fatigue among athletes. 

How to use

Raw spirulina can be found in tablet or powder form by companies such as go raw and Sunfood.  Due to the algae's strong earthy flavor is best when paired with sweets fruits such as bananas, mango, pineapple, dates or berries in smoothies or juices. If dessert is what your craving, add a spoonful of spirulina powder to raw chocolate brownies, truffles or chia pudding for a depth of flavor and boost of nutrition. Don’t have a sweet tooth, no worries. Spoon some into your oatmeal in the morning with a sprinkle of sea salt and handful of nuts, toss it with your popcorn or add it to salad dressings. 

For the purest out there, you can dissolve a tablet or spoonful of powder into a glass of water and drink it straight! But keep a glad of water handy because the dark blue-green color will temporarily stain those pearly whites if not washed down. 

Spirulina is gaining popularity among the health food scene and can be found a various prepared snacks and drinks. Check out Go Raw Sweet Spirulina Bar, GT's Multi-Green Kombucha, Roobar's Spirulina + Chia Protein Bar or Vosges Matcha + Spirulina Dark Chocolate

Monthly Myth Buster

Vegan Misconceptions

#5 “Being vegan is too expensive.”

It’s true, vegan eateries, juice shops, organic grocery stores and even processed vegan items can leave you wallet thin. But think about it, most of these manufactures are not sourcing ingredients from GMO farms to obtain the cheapest produce, nor are they filling products with artificial ingredients to prolong shelf-life. So while we may never see a $1 menu at a vegan café, it is safe to say that in many cases the quality of the product you’re ordering is a step above a Big Mac.

With that being said, a vegan diet can actually be a very affordable option (once you step away from the prepared food aisles and juice shops). Here are my best tips for how to make a vegan lifestyle affordable when grocery shopping.

  1. Think less processed. The further you stay away from processed, manufactured or prepared foods the less strain you put on your wallet. This means you will have to be more creative in the kitchen but isn’t it about time you finally used your oven?
  2. Fill your pantry with dried beans, lentils and grains. These staples are packed with nutrients and are usually available in the bulk section which allows you to get more for less. Plus, these dry ingredients will last in your pantry for a long time. Beans, grains and legumes are a perfect addition to many dishes + they can be blended into dips and spreads.
  3. Buy produce in season and at farmer’s markets. Buying large quantities of produce, preferably organic, can also have you fearing the cashier. But there are a few ways to buy your kale in peace. First, buy from your local farmer's market. Not only will you get amazing quality, it is often cheaper than grocery store prices. No markets? No problem, look for produce that is in season in your area. These items are usually cheaper since they had a shorter distance to travel before ending up in your store.
  4. For condiments, versatility is key. These little seemingly harmless purchases can really break the bank if you aren’t careful. Grab condiments that compliment what’s in your fridge so that it can be used with your staple items. For example, Dijon mustard is great on its own or in salad dressings, marinades, soups or dips
  5. Utilize the bulk section. When purchasing expensive items like nuts, specialty flours, grains or dried fruit head to the bulk section and purchase the amount you need for a recipe so that you do not have wasted products in your pantry that will go to waste.
  6. Buy specialty items on sale. I am a huge fan of superfoods, protein powders and power bars but sometimes the prices are outrageous! The reality is people have been vegan for years without these highly marketed foods products, stick to the basics and splurge on a sale.

Need more ideas for wallet friendly meals? Check out Plant Based on a Budget.

 

 

Monthly Myth Buster

Vegan Misconceptions: Part 2

It’s time to knock out another Vegan Misconception that has been a point of controversy for far too long. This month’s myth buster we are breaking down the building blocks of life and finding out the truth about protein.

#3 “You can’t get enough protein being vegan.”

It is hard to imagine that without the daily scrambled eggs in the morning, grilled chicken salad or fillet of salmon for dinner that you can still obtain the necessary portion of protein. It’s true, animal protein provides our body with complete proteins that are necessary for daily functionality. However, it is possible to obtain equivalent complete proteins on a vegan diet (and without relying on processed “fake” meats). Plant-based proteins are readily available in whole food sources such as nuts, beans, legumes, vegetables and seeds - all of which contain healthy fats and soluble fiber that aid the digestion of nutrients.

Without going too science, lets get a quick overview of this essential macronutrient. Protein is a powerful building block in our body that does more than give us toned muscles. Protein has 4 main functions in our body:

  • Antibody production and formation
  • Act as a catalyst for enzymes to facilitate chemical responses in the body
  • The production of hormones
  • Build and repair muscle tissue

Once sufficient quantities of protein have been absorbed for these 4 processes it is stored as fat to be used as energy in times of starvation. Yep, our bodies actually turn protein into fat! Ugh. 

SO how much protein do you need to consume daily to avoid having it turn into fat storage?!

If you are a strict calorie counter, you can use the model that only 10% - 15% of your daily calorie consumption should be from protein. Since our calories consumption varies day to day, a more standard calculation for the average adult is : Your Weight in Kg x 0.8 = Daily Protein Needs. 

For example a 150 lb adult: 150 lb / 2.2 = 68.2 Kg

68.2 Kg x 0.8 = 54.4 g of protein per day

*If you are pregnant, sick or healing from an injury you may need to increase your daily protein to 1 or 1.2 times your weight in Kg.

Now that you know how much protein you actually need on average, below is a list of the top 10 plant-based protein sources and cooking tips.

1.    Tempeh – 21g per serving

Tempeh is a fermented soybean patty that contains a rich nutty flavor. Tempeh is made by mixing fermenting soybeans with a grain (usually barley) and forming it into a 16 oz block. Soy gets a bad rap these days due to GMO farming and its natural hormones, but soybeans are the most complete plant-based protein available. When purchasing soybean products look for organic or sustainable products. Traditional tempeh is not gluten free because it is fermented with grain, however many companies have come out with gluten free options for those with gluten sensitivities. Tempeh contains many health supportive nutrients, such as B12, manganese and fiber. Not to mention it is easy to use when cooking and tastes delicious. I love LightLife can be be marinated, grilled, sautéed or baked.

2.    Tofu – 10g per serving

Tofu is a processed form of soybeans, which have been made into a soy milk and curdled and strained in order to form a block. Silken tofu or firm tofu, which has a high water content, is great to use in smoothies, sauces or vegan cheeses. Extra firm tofu is best used for cooking as it can be marinated, grilled, fried or baked. Here’s a tip for how to pack the most flavor into your tofu:press it for at least 30 minutes before marinating so that it absorbs more of the marinade flavor.

3.    Natto – 16g per serving

You either love it or hate it, this traditional Chinese dish is made of fermented soybeans that maintains a slimy texture and potent flavor. The dish is high in nutrients such as vitamin K, E and nattokinase, an enzyme which prevents blood clots. It is a popular breakfast dish mixed with mustard and soy sauce.

4.    Seitan – 20g per serving

Seitan is a pure form of wheat gluten, so if you are celiac or gluten intolerant stay FAR away! Seitan is made by kneading water and flour to wash away the starches leaving only the gluten protein structure. Seitan is then cooked in a seasoned broth providing an umami flavor. Many people are sensitive to the texture or seitan, however, as far as texture is concerned it is very  similar to meat. Similar to the other plant proteins, seitan can be cooked many ways. Upton's Naturals is one of my favorite seitan brands, it is great in stews, marinated or grilled.

5.    Lentils – 18g per serving

Lentils are the legume that just keep giving. They are high in protein, high in fiber and virtually fat free. Lentils are a very versatile ingredient that can be mashed into patties, loaves, added to salads, soups or stews. Lentils add a rich texture and rounded flavor to any dish. There are three main types of lentils; red, green and brown. All are delicious on their own but certain types are best for various dishes. For example, red lentils become very mushy and pliable when cooked so they are great to use as a binder when making veggie burgers or lentil loafs. Green lentils are the most versatile as they are still pliable enough to be a binder but they can also maintain a good structure for salads. Brown lentils hold their shape the most making them great for salads and soups.

6.    Beans – approximately 7g per serving

Beans can be transformed into hummus, dips, soups or veggie burgers and more -  the possibilities are endless. Beans are an adaptable and nutrient rich plant based protein. There are many types of beans, which provide various textures and nutrients. The beans that pack the most ‘bang for your buck’ are black beans, garbanzo beans, aduki beans, pinto and kidney beans. Containing more than 7 grams of protein per ½ cup serving, these varieties are a powerful addition to salads, stews and dips. Although beans are a great source of protein they are not a complete protein. Therefore, it’s important to serve beans with a form of grains to be digested as a complete protein (which explains why beans and rice are a staple meal in many cultures).

7.    Nuts

Nuts are probably the first plant-based protein people think of and are usually a staple in a vegan diet due to their versatility. They can be served crunchy, creamy, meaty or roasted. Nuts pack a punch of protein, fiber, fat, vitamins and minerals that are necessary in our diets. Not all are created equal though - almonds, pistachios, cashews and walnuts are the most beneficial nuts. They contain the highest ratio of protein and nutrients to fat. Nuts are a great addition to salads, desserts or as a snack on their own. But if you wanted to get a bit more creative you can use nuts in nut-milks, cheeses, cream sauces or pie crusts!

8.    Seeds

Like nuts, seeds are packed with healthy fats, nutrients and protein. Chia, hemp, flax, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds may be small, but they are a nutrient dense addition to any meal. Sprinkle them onto salads, oatmeal, smoothies or mix into your trail mix to get an extra boost for the day.

9.    Protein Powders

With the ‘on the go’ consumer looking for a quick fix that is both filling and nutrient dense, protein powders are a great option. But with all of the brands available it is important to read the ingredients and understand the product’s protein source. Most important thing for vegans to look out for is whey as it is a bi-product of cow’s milk. Therefore, you will want to find a protein powder that lists soy, pea, hemp and/or grain proteins in the ingredients. Due to the probability that soy protein contains GMO’s and is extremely processed in order to get it into a powder form, I personally prefer hemp or pea protein based mixes. They contain less protein than their soy and whey counterparts but are minimally processed and easier to digest. Brands I like are Vega Protein and Amazing Grass.

10. Faux Meat

Due to the increase of vegetarian, vegan or health conscious consumers many companies have created their own “faux” meats in order to provide familiar flavors, textures and appearances to traditional meats. While many of these faux meats are delicious, they should be consumed in moderation as they are still highly processed. It is best to stick to whole food forms of protein for your dietary needs, but companies such as Beyond Meat, Field Roast and Gardein offer great meat substitutions to satisfy every craving.