Once a year, I ask that my readers consider a vegan diet – for a day, a week, a month – or just go for it!
- Did you know that every vegan saves nearly 200 animals per year?
- Vegans are, on average, up to 20 pounds lighter than meat-eaters.
- According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vegans are less likely to develop heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure than meat-eaters.
- Animal flesh is often contaminated with feces, blood, and other bodily fluids, all of which make animal-derived foods the top source of food poisoning in the United States.
- Meat is not environmentally friendly. Consuming it is actually one of the worst things that you can do for the Earth. Meat production is wasteful and causes enormous amounts of pollution, and the industry is also one of the biggest causes of the climate crisis.
- Although most people are less familiar with pigs, chickens, fish, and cows than they are with dogs and cats, animals used for food are every bit as intelligent and able to suffer as the animals who share our homes. Pigs can even learn to play video games.
I know that many people, especially those that are physically active, are worried that they will not get enough protein to sustain them throughout the day eating a plant-based diet.
Protein is essential for our health and well-being. Higher protein intakes are associated with decreased appetite, reduced food cravings, and better body composition. Protein plays a major role in building and maintaining just about every cell in your body.
Whether you are looking to lose weight, gain muscle, recover from a workout, feel more satiated after a meal or even just maintain good health, getting enough protein is crucial.
Proteins are made up of smaller molecules called amino acids linked together like beads on a string. The amino acids form long chains of protein, which are then folded in different ways to create three-dimensional structures that are important to our body’s functioning.
There are 20 different amino acids that combine to form proteins, and although your body requires all of them, your body has the ability to make only 11 of them. These are termed non-essential amino acids. The other nine – those you can’t make – are termed essential amino acids, and must be obtained from your diet.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance of protein for a healthy adult who is physically active can range between 0.8 – 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight; most of us will average somewhere around 1 gram per kilogram of body weight.
The following is a protein calculator:
Get an accurate body weight. It’s most accurate to weigh yourself first thing in the morning with an empty bladder. You can take an average of your weight readings over a few days to minimize any temporary weight fluctuations.
If you took your weight in kilograms, you can skip this step. If not, convert your weight from pounds to kilograms. There are 2.2lb in 1 kg. So if you weigh 150lb, divide 150 by 2.2 to get 68kg.
Next, consider your activity level.
Sedentary—you are seated or lying all day with no physical activity you will need 0.8g/kg *(1.0g/kg if over the age of 70. A lot of research points to the fact that that older adults need more protein)
Light active—you sit all day for work and sometimes do light activity such as walking or household chores – 1.1g/kg
Moderately active—you spend most of the day sitting with occasional standing or walking and sometimes participate in light activity- 1.4g/kg
Very active—you are either standing or walking for most of the day, or you spend your day sitting but also do a fair amount of regular physical activity such as going to the gym or attending spin classes regularly – 1.7g/kg
Vigorously active—you do strenuous work such as construction or do high intensity exercise most days 2.0g/kg
Now take this number and multiply it by your body weight (in kg). So let’s say the 150lb (68kg) example is ‘light active’. Their protein requirement would be 68kg x 1.1g/kg = 74.8, or about 75g of protein per day.
You can calculate your current daily protein intake by writing down your food for the day and looking at the corresponding food labels to determine their protein content. Conversely, you could plug your food intake for the day into an app or website that tracks calories and protein for you. I have used Macro Calculator.
Whole food plant based diet focuses on whole-foods to support a sustainable and healthy lifestyle while limiting processed foods and animal-based products.
The basic parameters of this diet are:
- Focus on eating whole foods in their most natural form, such as plant proteins, healthy fats, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.
- Emphasize food quality, aim to source your whole-foods locally and purchase organic whenever possible. Look to food lists such as the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen to help prioritize what to purchase organically to reduce consumption of pesticides and herbicides.
- Eliminate refined sugars and processed foods
- Reduce or avoid consumption of animal products
This plant-based diet may be right for you if you’re looking to improve your health and naturally lose weight while also:
- Increasing your intake of colorful and phytonutrient dense fruits and vegetables
- Reducing your environmental impact from a plant-based diet
- Learning more about ingredient quality and sourcing
- Enjoying a boost of health benefits from a whole foods based diet
Many whole food plant proteins are a source of healthy fats, fiber, and essential nutrients. Although, most are also not complete proteins, meaning they are lacking certain essential amino acids compared to their animal counterparts; research suggests that consuming a diet with a proper combination of vegetable sources containing all of your essential amino acids throughout the day is sufficient. This means rice at noon and beans in the evening will combine to give you all the essential amino acids you need to function well. They do not need to be consumed together.
Some carb sources provide a small amount of protein such as:
- Brown rice or other whole grain rice
- Legumes (all varieties – chickpeas, lentils, mung beans)
Low-starch vegetables are rich in important vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) and water content. This means they are naturally rich in nutrition and low in energy – making them one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.
Some of these vegetables pack in small amounts of protein too when consumed in the proper amounts, for example, 1 cup of grilled portabella mushroom contains up to 4 grams of protein.
Non-starchy vegetables to add for protein:
- Bok Choy
- Broccoli Rabe
Whether you are trying to hit your high protein goals or just keep your hunger in check between meals, high protein snacks are a healthy eating staple. By FDA labeling standards, any snack that has at least 5 grams of protein per serving can claim it’s a good source of protein and any snack with 10 grams of protein per serving or more is high in protein – even if this snack is well over 300 calories per serving.
Opt for more healthy, minimally processed snacks, made with quality whole food ingredients and natural nutrition. And, double-check the nutrition info for total calories, fat, carbs, sodium, etc. to make sure it matches your overall health needs.
Common Plant-Based High Protein Snacks:
- 1/2 cup edamame
- vegan protein bars
- dairy-free yogurt with granola
- protein shakes
- 2 rice cakes with 2 tablespoons nut butter
Supplements can also be helpful if you are finding it difficult to get enough protein without meat and dairy.
For the cleanest powders, look for third-party certification, like USP or NSF. USP Verification Services is probably the most widely recognized third-party verifier. If a product has the USP verified mark on the label, that means the product was made in a clean and controlled facility. It also contains what it should, in the amounts it should, and doesn’t contain contaminants like lead and mercury.
Opt for options with minimal added ingredients including added sugar. Avoid proprietary blends unless the actual ingredients are described. Powders typically consist of partially broken down proteins that are ideal for fast absorption.
Make your favorite Bolognese with Beyond Meat. Make a vegan chili with beans and rice. Sauté tofu in ginger and miso and place it on a bed of wilted greens. Keep to the flavor profiles that you like to be successful as a new vegan!
Caraway seeds are actually the dried fruit of the caraway plant. It is a unique spice long used in cooking and herbal medicine. Superstitions held that caraway had the power to prevent the theft of any object that contained the seed and to keep lovers from losing interest in one another.
It is slightly bitter and is reminiscent of licorice, coriander, anise, and fennel. It can be used whole or ground in both sweet and savory dishes, such as breads, pastries, curries, and stews. It’s sometimes infused into spirits and liqueurs as well.
When used medicinally, caraway can be made into a tea or taken as a supplement. You can also apply its essential oils to your skin .
Caraway has been used to treat several digestive conditions, including indigestion and stomach ulcers. A handful of small human studies show that caraway oil relaxes your digestive tract’s smooth muscle tissue, relieving indigestion symptoms like gas, cramping, and bloating.
One test-tube study revealed that caraway essential oil blocked the growth of harmful gut bacteria while leaving beneficial bacteria untouched. These good bacteria produce nutrients, reduce inflammation, improve digestion, and support your immune health. Another test-tube study found that caraway extract fought H. pylori, a bacterium known to cause stomach ulcers and digestive inflammation.
Taking caraway oil as part of a specific combination with peppermint oil seems to relieve heartburn, including symptoms of fullness and mild gastrointestinal (GI) spasms, about as well as a drug called cisapride. Unfortunately, this peppermint oil/caraway oil combination is not available in the US. Another combination product that contains caraway plus clown’s mustard plant, peppermint leaf, German chamomile, licorice, milk thistle, angelica, celandine, and lemon balm (Iberogast, Medical Futures, Inc) also seems to improve symptoms of upset stomach. This combination seems to significantly help acid stomach, cramping, nausea, and vomiting.
Caraway is used for other digestive problems including bloating, gas, loss of appetite, and mild spasms of the stomach and intestines. Caraway oil is also used to help people cough up phlegm, improve control of urination, kill bacteria in the body, and relieve constipation.
Women use caraway oil to start menstruation and relieve menstrual cramps; nursing mothers use it to increase the flow of breast milk.
Caraway is used in mouthwashes and in skin rubs to improve local blood flow.
Caraway provides a wide variety of essential nutrients, several of which are lacking in Western diets. These include iron, zinc, calcium, and fiber. It is a rich supply of health-promoting antioxidants, including limonene and carvone.
Just 1 tablespoon of caraway provides:
- Calories: 22
- Protein: 1.3 grams
- Fat: 0.9 grams
- Carbs: 3.34 grams
- Fiber: 2.6 grams
- Copper: 6.7% of the DV
- Iron: 6.1% for women
- Magnesium: 5.4% of the DV
- Manganese: 4.8% for women
- Calcium: 3.6% of the DV
- Zinc: 4.6% for women
In manufacturing, caraway oil is used to flavor certain medications. It is also commonly used as a fragrance in toothpaste, soap, and cosmetics. Caraway comes in various forms, including the whole fruit (or seed), capsules, essential oils, and extracts.
Most types are ingested, but oil formulations diluted to 2% can be safely applied to unbroken skin.
No clear dosage recommendation has been established, but some research suggests that 1/2 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of whole caraway divided into 3 daily doses is likely safe and effective.
How to Buy
Whole and ground caraway are both available at grocery stores in the spice aisle. Caraway leaves and caraway root are less common. The dried leaves can sometimes be purchased from online retailers, or from herb specialty shops. The root can sometimes be found at farmers’ markets.
How to Store
The best way to store caraway, both whole and ground, is to keep them in airtight containers in a cool, dry place. You can store whole caraway in the refrigerator if you really want to prolong its shelf-life. But for the most part, as long as you keep your spices away from sunlight and away from the heat of your stove, and keep them sealed in airtight glass jars, you will keep them fresh. Whole caraway will keep much longer than the ground version, so if you want to use it in its ground form, it’s best to grind or crush the seeds yourself.
How to Cook
Although the whole seed is frequently used, sometimes you’ll want to impart caraway’s distinctive flavor without the crunch of the whole seed. In this case, ground caraway can be used. The ground version is more potent, so if a recipe calls for one teaspoon of whole caraway, you would substitute a scant 3/4 teaspoon of the ground version.
Besides the seeds, caraway leaves are sometimes used as an herb, both fresh and dried, adding them to salads, soups, and stews much like parsley. The root is sometimes also eaten as a vegetable, similar to celery root.
Caraway seeds are frequently used in baking. The seeds found in most types of rye and soda bread are caraway, and they are a traditional ingredient in a British seed cake. Caraway seeds are also used in flavoring curries, soups, sausages, vegetables, and even liqueurs, such as the Scandinavian spirit aquavit. They’re sometimes used for pickling and brining as well. Caraway seeds pair well with garlic and cabbage. Ways to use caraway seeds include:
- Add a pinch to any tomato-based sauce or soup.
- Sprinkle over roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes.
- Mix into a vegan cheese dip.
- Sprinkle onto baked apples to enhance the flavor.
- Add to shortbread cookies or Irish soda bread cookies.
- Add caraway seeds to potato salad or coleslaw.
- Add to any recipe that includes cabbage.
Gluten-Free Caraway Flatbread Crisps
Mary Capone/ Photo: Tim Benko
- 1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour blend
- ½ teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if xanthan is in your flour blend)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon onion powder or garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon caraway (sesame or poppy seeds could be used)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 6 tablespoons warm water, more as needed
- Coarse sea salt, for sprinkling on top, optional
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place flour blend, xanthan gum, salt, onion or garlic powder and caraway seeds in a medium bowl. Whisk together to combine.
3. Add oil, maple syrup and 6 tablespoons warm water. Stir until mixture forms into a dough. If more water is needed, add 1 teaspoon at a time until dough is moist enough to hold together when patted with your hands. (Too much water will make the crackers less tender.
4. Roll dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper into a rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Cut dough into 2×2-inch squares. Sprinkle with sea salt, if desired.
5. Place crackers in preheated oven and bake 12 to 15 minutes or until they’re light golden.
6. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet. Crackers will continue to crisp. Break apart and serve.