kris ulland

Your Nutrition Partner

“If the average American cut just a quarter pound of beef a week from their diet, about one hamburger, it would be the equivalent of taking 10 million cars off the road for a year.”

-Sujatha Bergen, Natural Resources Defense Council Health Campaign Director

Americans are taught to look to meat for their protein. This is too bad as protein can be found in healthier, more environmentally friendly sources like veggies, legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains.

“‘Protein’ is most definitely not a synonym for meat,” says Marion Nestle, a nutrition scientist at New York University. “Vegans, who consume no animal products at all, do not lack for protein.”

Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s book, The China Study, was published in 2005. He based this book on a multi-year study linking plant-based eating to longer, disease-free lives.

Scientists at Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, tracked more than 6,000 native Chinese and Taiwanese people over 20 years, which effectively tracks more than 120,000 “people-years” worth of eating habits. After accounting for 367 variables, researchers concluded a whole food, plant-based diet is definitely beneficial for a vast array of diseases and cancer prevention. Subsequent research at Tufts School of Nutrition and elsewhere confirms that eating a plant-based diet supports good health. Remember that you will only reap these health benefits if your diet is made up of whole and minimally processed foods.

Myth #1: Giving up animal products is expensive.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, which averages the retail costs for various grocery items per pound, the per pound cost for meat and dairy products is higher than for every type of fruit, vegetable, and grain.

Breaking it down further, the USDA calculates that the average daily meal budget for a single individual in this country amounts to $6.90. To demonstrate that it’s possible to eat a variety of whole plant foods on $5 a day, Darshana Thacker of Forks over Knives challenge herself  to eat no animal products for 10 days. At the end, she had $7, and plenty of food left over.

Thacker recommends saving money by buying spices, nuts, seeds, grains, and beans by weight from the bulk section. Also, load up on oatmeal, nut butters, brown rice, canned goods, and other grains.

Reality: Plant-based eating is a bargain!

Myth #2: You can’t build muscle or achieve fitness goals. 

Patrik Baboumian holds the world record for log lifts, heaviest yoke carry, and the title of “Strongest Man of Germany.” And he doesn’t eat meat, milk, or cheese. His daily diet consists of 5,000 calories of protein-rich, plant-based foods, including soy, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Baboumian is among the vegan athletes spotlighted in the 2019 documentary Game Changers. The movie was produced by former UFC fighter James Wilks. He decided to make it after doing hundreds of hours of nutrition research to find the most effective diet for athletes, and concluding that plant-based eating is the key. The entire film is a tribute to recognized athletes who’ve found more success after giving up meat and dairy.

Reality: Many high-performing athletes are entirely plant-based eaters.

Myth #3: You cannot get all your nutrients, vitamins, and minerals from an entirely plant-based diet.

While vegan diets are healthy, you do have to do some planning to balance a vegan plate and make sure you get enough protein, calcium, iron, and vitamin B12. Says nutritionist Marion Nestle, “It is possible, but not always easy, to eat healthfully on a vegan diet…Most healthy people should be able to adapt to an all-plant diet,” says Marion Nestle, nutritionist, professor, and James Beard Award-winning author. She emphasizes eating a “variety of plant food sources, taking in enough calories to maintain a healthy weight, and finding a good source of vitamin B12.”

Getting enough protein is a concern for people thinking about making the switch. But while it’s true that meat and dairy are good sources, so are whole grains, beans, peas, and lentils, soybean products, soy milk, cashew milk, veggie burgers, meat alternatives, nuts and seeds, and vegetables. A big advantage of relying on plant proteins rather than animal products is that you get additional benefits, such as phytonutrients, fiber, and antioxidants.

To get enough protein, aim to eat a variety of plants over the course of a day.

Vitamin B-12 is a reason many vegetarians decide not to forgo animal products entirely, since it’s plentiful in eggs, milk, cheese, and yogurt. But B-12 is also found in nutritional yeast, fortified foods, like cereals, plant milks, and alternative meats. Aim to eat about six micrograms per day. You can also take a daily vitamin. You can supplement with stand-alone vitamin B12 .There are two types – the body may absorb cyanocobalamin better, while methylcobalamin has a higher retention rate.

Other nutrients to pay attention to:

Healthy fats. Healthy, vegan sources of fats include various oils (olive, algae, and avocado), nuts and seeds, avocado, flaxseeds, and chia seeds. It’s important to include foods containing alpha-linolenic acid, a type of fat that can be converted into essential omega-3 fats (DHA and EPA) in your body. The richest sources are flaxseeds and flax oil, chia seeds, hempseed oil, walnuts or walnut oil. Take a flaxseed oil supplement if you want to make sure you’re covered.

Calcium. An unbalanced vegan diet can lack calcium. Aim for one to two cups per day of easy-to-absorb sources of calcium, such as fortified plant milks, almonds, tofu, broccoli, kale, and brussel sprouts. But calcium is everywhere in the plant world.

Reality: A balanced vegan diet with all the nutrients, minerals and vitamins can be easily planned. (Basically, eat the rainbow on your plate!)

Top Ten Vegan Protein Sources:

Black Beans, tofu, nuts, tempeh, chickpeas, broccoli, quinoa, lentils, potatoes, and mushrooms!

Buckwheat, edamame beans, hemp, chia seeds, spirulina, kidney, pinto, and lima beans, oats, wild rice, brown rice, green peas, asparagus, spinach….I could keep going!

 

Cucumber

Just because cucumbers are pale in color and almost 96% water don’t be fooled into thinking that they are not nutritious!

Though commonly thought to be a vegetable, cucumber is actually a fruit. Cucumbers are low in calories and contain a good amount of water and soluble fiber, making them ideal for promoting hydration and aiding in weight loss.

The top nutrient in cucumbers is vitamin K, which is key for bone health. One cup of cucumber with the peel still on supplies over 20% of the recommended daily target for vitamin K. Several studies have linked low K levels to osteoporosis and increased fracture risk. (More about bone health next week.)  Although calcium is important, calcium isn’t the only nutrient that keeps your bones strong. You also need vitamin K to bind the calcium. A study from the journal PLos Medicine found that postmenopausal women who took five milligrams of vitamin K every day for two years experienced 50 percent fewer fractures than the control group. Because vitamin K helps clot blood, however, talk to your doctor before any sudden increase in cucumber intake if you’re taking blood thinners.

To maximize their nutrient content, cucumbers should be eaten unpeeled. Peeling them reduces the amount of fiber, as well as certain vitamins and minerals. One cup of cucumber provides:

  • Calories: 16
  • Protein: 1 g
  • Fat: 0 g (0 g saturated)
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 4 g
  • Sugar: 2 g
  • Sodium: 2 mg
  • Vitamin C: 14 percent of the RDI
  • Vitamin K: 62 percent of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 10 percent of the RDI
  • Potassium: 13 percent of the RDI
  • Manganese: 12 percent of the RDI

According to the Journal of Aging Research and Clinical Practice, cucumbers contain a group of polyphenols called lignans, which may be helpful in treating estrogen-related cancers. They also contain other types of antioxidants like beta carotene and flavonoids, which help fight inflammation and protect cells from chronic disease.

Because cucumbers are high in the electrolyte potassium, they may reduce sodium-induced water retention and thus lower blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association.

Nearly all the calories in cucumbers come from fiber. Fiber helps improve gut health and bowel movement regularity, is beneficial in managing certain conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol, and will even fill you up to prevent you from overeating.

Water is crucial to your body’s function, so staying hydrated is crucial for carrying nutrients to your cells, preventing constipation, and flushing out bacteria, to name just a few. Eating cucumbers can help you reach your recommended daily fluid intake (eight cups of H2O, FYI).  Hydration is involved in processes like temperature regulation and proper hydration can affect everything from physical performance to metabolism.

While you meet the majority of your fluid needs by drinking water or other liquids, some people may get as much as 40% of their total water intake from food.  According to the USDA, one medium cucumber contains 194 grams of fluid. That translates to nearly seven ounces. Adding sliced cucumber to water also adds flavor, which can help boost your water intake even more.

Cucumbers offer a trio of characteristics that promote weight loss. They’re low in calories, but contain filling fiber and fluid. One medium cucumber provides a quarter of the calories in a medium-sized apple. And of the 4 grams of total carb in the cucumber, one and a half are from fiber. Scooping up hummus with a medium peeled cucumber rather than 10 pita chips saves 100 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrate, and takes up far more space in your stomach.

Along with flax and sesame seeds, kale, broccoli, cabbage, strawberries, apricots, and other plant foods, cucumbers contain a natural substance called lignans. Bacteria in the digestive tract convert lignans into compounds that bind onto estrogen receptors. Some preliminary studies suggest they may protect against estrogen-related cancers, including those of the breast, ovary, uterus, and prostate.

The pulp of cucumbers is primarily composed of water, vitamin C, and caffeic acid, a natural chemical that possesses anti-inflammatory properties. So, slices of cucumber on your puffy eyes actually works. The combo triggers a soothing effect on skin, and reduces skin irritations and swelling. For these reasons cucumbers have long been applied topically as a home remedy for both acne and sunburn.

How to Buy

Cucumbers are one of the “Dirty Dozen” vegetables that have been shown to have more pesticide residue. This is a vegetable you should buy organic.

Look for firm cucumbers, without blemishes or soft spots, which can indicate they have started to rot. They should be dark green without any yellow spots, which develop as the cucumber is getting overly ripe. At that point, it will often produce off-flavors and odors. You also want to avoid any that have wrinkles, which shows they have been stored for too long or at higher temperatures and have lost their moisture.

Sometimes you have to pick up and feel the vegetables when you go shopping. Doing so will help you examine if there are any spongy spots, which means that they are not fresh. In today’s Covid-19 world, touching anything is frowned upon if you are not going to buy it. So, when you select one, and if it turns out to be soft, give it to someone working in that area and choose again.

Unfortunately, in order to make vegetables last longer, many growers tend to apply wax on the skin. Most co-ops and healthier stores will not have waxed fruits and vegetables.

Make sure to choose a cucumber variety that fits your purposes. They are generally grouped as slicing varieties, which are longer, and pickling varieties, which are shorter.

English and Persian cucumbers are delicious without peeling. Lemon cucumbers and Kirbys are great for eating raw or pickling. Gherkins, National, and Regal varieties are best for pickling.

Chinese or Asian cucumbers are the same species as melons and they can be very long and have fewer seeds.

How to Store

Cucumbers tend to lose moisture easily, which is why the way you store them can make a huge difference. When you buy cucumbers, always keep them in the refrigerator in the front side of the vegetable rack to retain their moisture rather than stacking them towards the back.

There are some people who believe that cucumbers should be stored at room temperature, not in the refrigerator. Root Simple cites the University of California, Davis, which determined that cucumbers are sensitive to temperatures below 50°F. According to them, stored at room temperature, cucumbers thrive and last longer.

How to Cook

Because cucumbers are mild with a distinctly crisp and refreshing flavor, they are commonly enjoyed fresh or pickled in everything from salads to sandwiches.

Cucumbers are also often eaten raw as a low-calorie snack or can be paired with hummus, olive oil, salt or salad dressing to add a bit more flavor.

Takeout-Style Sesame Noodles

Adapted from Hwa Yuan, New York / Photo credit Craig Lee, NYT

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Gluten Free noodles, frozen or (preferably) fresh
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil, plus a splash
  • 3 ½ tablespoons tamari sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese sesame paste
  • 1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons chile-garlic paste, chile crisp or chile oil, or to taste
  • Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/8-inch by 1/8-inch by 2-inch sticks
  • ¼ cup chopped roasted peanuts

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook until barely tender, about 5 minutes. They should retain a hint of chewiness. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again and toss with a splash of sesame oil.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil, the tamari sauce, rice vinegar, sesame paste, peanut butter, sugar, ginger, garlic and chili-garlic paste.
  3. Pour the sauce over the noodles and toss. Transfer to a serving bowl, and garnish with cucumber and peanuts.

Tip:

  • The Chinese sesame paste called for here is made of toasted sesame seeds; it is not the same as tahini, the Middle Eastern paste made of plain, untoasted sesame. But you could use tahini in a pinch. You need only add a little toasted sesame oil to compensate for flavor, and perhaps some peanut butter to keep the sauce emulsified.

Resources

https://www.takeextinctionoffyourplate.com/faq.html
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https://www.bls.gov/regions/mid-atlantic/data/averageretailfoodandenergyprices_usandmidwest_table.htm
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https://stonepierpress.org/goodfoodnews/plantproteins?rq=amanda
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http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&profile=ehost&scope=site&authtype=crawler&jrnl=10895159&AN=50734051&h=TANcVwajOlZXzJA9yJ7lVUEEi5K05uExhR%2B3K8eArJ2EvLrArR2iRf%2Btc0qW%2FVMVydJ44FVJ5rn1uaz7HkCX5w%3D%3D&crl=c
http://impactfactor.org/PDF/IJPCR/8/IJPCR,Vol8,Issue1,Article8.pdf
http://www.jarcp.com/3050-evaluating-the-potential-benefits-of-cucumbers-for-improved-health-and-skin-care.html
https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/how-potassium-can-help-control-high-blood-pressure#.WeoQihNSz_R
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2566998/
https://www.health.com/nutrition/health-benefits-cucumbers
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5084017/
http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2440/2
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19724292
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5084017/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17943494
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23098877
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-health-benefits-of-cucumber
https://www.womenshealthmag.com/food/a28351053/health-benefits-of-cucumbers/
https://www.thespruceeats.com/all-about-cucumbers-2216154

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