Archive for the tag - vegetarian

Are Fake Meats Healthy?

Dear Davey,

I recently became a vegetarian for health and moral reasons and have been eating a lot of fake meat products. Though they are vegetarian, the products try to mimic the taste and texture of real meat. From a health perspective, are these fake meat products any better?

From,
Jeff

fakemeatDear Jeff,

It’s true that plant-based diets are associated with a number of health benefits – and that most Americans would be well served by cutting their red meat consumption. But not all vegetarian foods are created equal.

When we talk about fake or mock meat products, we’re not talking about tofu or tempeh. We’re talking about vegetarian foods that are specifically created to imitate the look and feel of real meat. Like tofurkey, fakin’ bacon, chick’n and veggie burgers that are intended to taste like meat.

On the one hand, mock meats can be helpful when transitioning to a vegetarian diet. They’re like a stepping stone and can serve as a gateway to a plant-based diet, especially if and individual is craving the flavor or texture of meat. And, because mock meats are entirely vegetarian, there’s no guilt or possibility of animal cruelty.

On the other hand, mock meats really aren’t that healthy. Let’s compare real chicken to the vegetarian product, chick’n. Real chicken is a healthy, lean meat that contains only one ingredient… chicken. Chick’n, conversely, contains the following ingredients:

PATTY – WATER, SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE, TEXTURED WHEAT PROTEIN (WHEAT GLUTEN, WHEAT FLOUR), CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF WHEAT GLUTEN, YEAST EXTRACT, METHYLCELLULOSE, SALT, SPICE (CONTAINS BLACK PEPPER), NATURAL FLAVOR (NON-MEAT), HYDROLYZED SOYBEAN AND CORN PROTEIN, HYDROLYZED CORN GLUTEN, ONION POWDER, SUGAR, SUCCINIC ACID, THIAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1). BATTER – WATER, WHEAT FLOUR, YELLOW CORN FLOUR, SALT. BREADING – WHEAT FLOUR, DEXTROSE, SALT, DRIED YEAST, CARAMEL COLOR, YELLOW CORN FLOUR, EXTRACTIVES OF PAPRIKA AND ANNATTO FOR COLOR. BROWNED IN CORN OIL.

Yikes.

Masquerading plants as meat takes a lot of processing. Fake meat products often contain many artificial ingredients and preservatives, lots of sodium and sometimes MSG. From a purely health perspective, you’re better off eating chicken.

The reality is, mock meat products are never going to taste like real meat. Though I’m not a vegetarian, I’ve tried many of these products. At best, they’re mediocre. And I don’t think anyone wants to settle for a mediocre diet.

Instead of disguising plants as meat, why not enjoy the delicious flavor that fruits, beans, nuts, vegetables and grains have to offer? Processed vegetables will never taste as good as a burger – but a burger will never taste as good as a fresh, colorful and delicious salad! Rather than settle for a veggie burger, grill up a flavorful portobello mushroom topped with tomatoes, avocado and lettuce. Sandwich the mushroom between two whole wheat buns.

Rather than eat fake meat products that fall short, celebrate vegetables and grains and fruits for the delicious and nourishing foods that they are.

Love,
Davey

Is A Pescetarian Diet Healthy?

Hi Davey,

I am a 18 year old male and I’m being ridiculed by people for being a pescetarian. Everyone keeps telling me things like I’m not growing properly, you’re going to die sooner, you’re not getting enough protein, etc. Are any of those remarks true? Do you believe its healthy to be a pescetarian?

Love,
Lloyd

salmon-fillet-caloriesHey Lloyd,

Thanks for the email.

First things first, many of my readers are probably unfamiliar with the term pescetarian. It refers to a diet that includes seafood but not the flesh of other animals. It can include nuts, fruits, vegetables, grains beans and dairy. In fact, pescetarian is the correct characterization for individuals who identify as vegetarian – but who still eat fish.

There are a few things to keep in mind.

Vegetarian diets – even without the inclusion of fish – can be extremely healthy. In fact, most of us would be well served to eliminate much of the meat we consume. A recent study found that, over a six year period, vegetarians had a 12% lower risk of dying when compared to meat eaters. There have been numerous other studies linking vegetarianism to increased longevity.

In other words, when people tell you that you’ll die sooner for eliminating meat, they’re wrong; the science demonstrates otherwise.

It’s also entirely possible for vegetarians to get their required protein. Beans, for example, are a great protein source. If you add fish into the equation, getting enough protein becomes even easier. A fillet of salmon, for example, has a whopping 39 grams of protein. For most men, that’s nearly a full day’s worth. Keep in mind, protein requirements vary from individual to individual and are dependent on a number of factors. You can use this calculator to determine your daily protein requirement.

When we talk about fish consumption, mercury is always a concern. To minimize your risk, it’s possible to make fish selections that contain little to no mercury. These include salmon, oysters, herring, tilapia and others.

Of course, your pescetarian diet is only as healthy as you’ll make it to be. Eating ice cream and chocolate is technically pescetarian – but it will do nothing to help you achieve your health or fitness goals. Stick with plenty of vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fruits, berries and beans – and you’ll be great!

Love,
Davey

6 Healthy Red Meat Substitutes.

Hi Davey,

I have a question for you. I cut out red meat from my diet about 12 years ago and I haven’t touched it since. I’m not a vegetarian (I eat fish and poultry), but I do enjoy Morning Star veggie products. Unfortunately, the sodium is really high.

Is there anything else that I can substitute for red meat?

Thanks,
Frankie

Yummy tempeh sliders!

Hey Frankie,

It’s no secret that most Americans eat far too much red meat. As I recently shared, a Harvard study concluded that 9% of male deaths and 7% of female deaths would be prevented if people lowered red meat consumption to 1.5 ounces (or less) per day. Studies like these are part of the reason why I’ve lowered my red meat consumption to twice weekly.

Because you eat other types of meat, you have no shortage of leaner alternatives. There are a million great chicken, turkey or fish dishes that you can enjoy. But if you want to look beyond the butcher block, I do have a few meatless suggestions:

  1. Seitan. Also know as wheat gluten, seitan was popularized by vegetarian monks in China. It’s frequently used in place of red meat, chicken or pork – and, with a whopping 30+ grams of protein per 4 ounce serving, it’s certainly worth trying.
  2. Tofu. Because tofu has become increasingly popular, you can find it in most grocery stores. It doesn’t have much flavor in and of itself, but it tends to pick up the flavors of the foods and sauces around it. Made from soy, 4 ounces of tofu contains about 17 grams of complete proteins.
  3. Tempeh. I really enjoy tempeh – and, in fact, you can use it to make homemade veggie burgers. The taste is quite earthy and nutty, but very delicious. It can also be marinated before you grill, fry or bake it. It also has 20 grams of muscle-building protein per each 4 ounce serving.
  4. Mushrooms. Portobello mushrooms, in particular, are a popular alternative to meat. Because of their large size, the mushroom can be used in place of a whole piece of meat (i.e., in a sandwich or on a burger bun).
  5. Eggplant. Though it’s one of the few foods that I don’t enjoy, eggplant is a very versatile meat substitute. Eggplant also works well on sandwiches or in other dishes like meatless meatballs or veggie lasagna.
  6. Beans. As I’ve mentioned before, beans are an often-overlooked nutritional powerhouse. As a meat substitute, beans work well. And, much like seitan, tofu and tempeh, they contain a good amount of protein. They’re also incredibly versatile and can be used in soups, stews, salads, veggie burgers and more.

I’m not a vegetarian. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy the above alternatives. In fact, many of these options are so delicious that the label “alternative” doesn’t do justice.

If you are interested in trying a tempeh burger, give this recipe a try:

Grilled Tempeh Burger: Serves 2 – 4

  • 1 (8 ounce) package of tempeh
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium tamari
  • 2 tablespoons mirin (also known as Japanese rice cooking wine)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 whole grain buns

Cut tempeh in half, lengthwise. Then cut across into 4 pieces.

Steam over simmering water for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and poke holes in tempeh (both sides) with a fork.

Mix tamari, mirin, garlic powder and onion into a dish for a marinade. Add the tempeh and turn to coat. Set aside for at least a half hour – but overnight is best.

Heat a grill to medium heat. For 4 to 5 minutes per side, grill tempeh until browned with grill marks. If you don’t have access to a grill, heat a dab of canola oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook tempeh for 3 to 4 minutes per side – or until browned.

Top with whatever your heart desires. Avocado, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, sprouts, pickles, onions, ketchup, etc. all make for great choices!

Enjoy!

Love,
Davey Wavey

Does Being a Vegetarian Help You Lose Weight?

Hey Davey,

I have a question: Does being a vegetarian help with weight loss?

From,
Ashley

Hey Ashley,

It may – or it may not. Though people maintain vegetarian diets for a number of reasons (i.e., moral, religious, health, etc.), it’s not a weight loss program. It’s truly a lifestyle.

I, for example, could have a vegetarian diet that consists entirely of chocolate chip cookies and upside-down cake. Yum! But clearly, such a diet would be extremely unhealthy and result in weight gain.

Losing weight is really creating a calorie deficit. That is, you consumer fewer calories than you burn. It’s all about the type of foods you eat, the size of your servings and the quality and quantity of physical activity in which you engage. Whether you’re a carnivore or a herbivore, the formula is exactly the same.

Having said that, some individuals may find that vegetarian diets typically lack saturated fat (found in animal products) and are rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and other filling – but nutritional – foods. For this reason, being a vegetarian may be more conducive to a healthier lifestyle. But it’s not a magic solution for losing weight.

Love,
Davey

Being Vegan is So Gay?

As a gay person, I understand the pain of oppression. I understand what it’s like to be denied equal treatment and fairness. And I also understand that an injustice to one is an injustice to all – whether it’s with women’s rights, racial discrimination… or the mistreatment of animals.

When Ari Solomon, columnist and animal rights activist, emailed me with an article titled “Being Vegan is So Gay,” I was struck by the intersections in our movements. Ari writes:

I went vegan… because I couldn’t stand knowing that I was paying other people to do to those animals what had been done, on a much smaller scale, to me. How could I say that I believed everyone deserved to be equal and have a chance to be happy when I was eating the remains of lives that had been wrought with misery and mercilessness.

Surely, if anyone can understand the mistreatment of animals in factory farms, it should be other oppressed populations. Like gay people. If you are pushing for equal, just and fair treatment for humans – how can you turn a blind eye to the food we buy and eat?

But unlike Ari, I don’t agree that the answer is necessarily veganism.

I think the consumption of meat, when done responsibly, is a very natural and beautiful thing. When we consume life – be it plant life or animal life – we’re participating in the great cycle of life, death and renewal that keeps this planet functioning.

For me, the answer is about being a conscious eater. Instead of buying factory farm meats, I buy grass-fed meats from Whole Foods or from local, pasture-centered family farms. In fact, Whole Foods even has a 5-Step animal welfare rating so that you can see how the animal was treated. It helps the consumer make wiser, more conscious choices.

But Ari is right: Oppression is oppression. The mistreatment of animals is an injustice, and it’s hypocritical for us to turn away.

What do you think? Do you think gay people – or other oppressed groups – have a special responsibility and duty to stand up for the rights of animals?

5 Protein Tips for Vegan Muscles!

Dear Davey,

I’ve been trying to build muscle and I take protein shakes right after I workout, but I don’t see much of a difference. I’ve been a vegan for almost 7 years now, so I don’t get much protein.

What are some things me and your other vegan followers can eat (excluding eggs, fish, and other animals) so we can get more protein in our bodies?

Thanks,
Davis

Dear Davis,

Most Americans get more than enough protein in their diets. But for weightlifters and exercise enthusiasts, the daily requirements for protein are much higher – and thus much harder to fulfill. While most adults require only 40 – 75 grams of protein, I require 140 grams. It’s no small feat.

Getting the required amount of protein is even more difficult for vegan exercisers, as vegans eat neither animals nor animal byproducts. Meat is an easy, high-quality source of protein, and even whey protein (the highest quality protein available) is derived from dairy. For vegans, meat, dairy and whey are out of the question.

So how can exercise enthusiasts balance protein needs with a vegan diet? I asked Noel, a vegan fitness model living in NYC (pictured above). He’s so passionate about vegan fitness, he even created a YouTube channel about it. Here are his recommendations:

  1. Eat lots of nuts. 1/4 a cup of nuts can have upwards of 8 to 9 grams of decent quality protein. Noel recommends soaking the nuts, as it makes digestion and vitamin absorption easier. It’s important to opt for unsalted varieties.
  2. Get to know quinoa. 100 grams of quinoa contains some 14 grams of high-quality protein. In fact, the protein in quinoa has a higher BV rating than either beef or chicken. Though quinoa is a seed, it can be used in a variety of dishes. Here are a bunch of quinoa recipes.
  3. Stock up on oatmeal. Though you might not realize it, a cup of oatmeal has 6 grams of relatively high quality protein. The quality of the protein, though less than beef or chicken, is slightly better than fish. It’s a great way to start the day!
  4. Spread the hummus. A half cup of commercial hummus has 10 grams of protein, and it makes a great addition to a sandwich – or a condiment for fresh veggies.
  5. Almond and peanut butter. As nuts are a good source of vegan protein, it only makes sense that almond and peanut butter are also wise choices and great additions for smoothies and snacks. Typically, a serving of nut butter will have 6 – 8 grams of protein.

To Noel’s list, I’d like to add tofu – which is packed with a whopping 40 grams of protein per cup. Soybeans, soy milk and pure soy protein are also a great addition – though there has been some speculation that excess soy consumption may have negative side effects. Nonetheless, soy protein is high in quality. Lentils, tempeh, beans, brown rice and even tahini are also good and protein-rich vegan options.

For vegans, it’s especially tough to get the recommended quantities of protein to support muscular maintenance and growth – but with a little planning, it’s not only possible… but delicious!

Love,
Davey