antioxidants

Mini Breakfast Tofu Frittatas

“Frittata” is a very strange word to both spell and say, as I’ve learned from writing this post. Nevertheless, I give you the breakfast tofu frittata (bonus: they’re mini).

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A traditional frittata is an egg-based dish of Italian heritage, similar to a crust-less quiche. But you can enjoy this savory meal sans egg, and start your day off with a hearty dose of protein to boot. What can I say? Some of us are just savory breakfast people.

tofufrittatarecipecardYou can eat these bad boys on their own or make a breakfast sandwich. These frittatas go just right with some salsa and spinach on top an English muffin. And remember, make it yours! If you don’t like broccoli, how about some red pepper, or zucchini?

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You may have noticed that I like to cook with tofu quite a bit. Aside from being a neutral-tasting and versatile meat substitute that goes well in breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert dishes, tofu serves as a functional food in many ways.

The isoflavones found in soy products are well-known antioxidants that absorb free radicals within our bodies to prevent premature cell aging and cell death. Soy isoflavones improve blood vessel linings, and may contribute to bone health. In general, replacing meat with soy products reduces overall fat and cholesterol intake, therefore improving heart health. Some soy products are fortified with calcium and vitamin D, as well.

Unfortunately, many people believe that eating soy products increases the risk of breast cancer. While it is true that isoflavones can act like estrogens, which influence our hormone production over time and may contribute to cancer risk, soy isoflavones can also hinder the effect of actual estrogens on our tissue, thus decreasing this risk (whew, that was a mouthful!). There’s been quite a lot of research on this subject since it’s so controversial. But just recently, The American Cancer Society’s Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Survivors , released in 2012, notes that soy consumption offers “no harmful effects to breast cancer survivors.” 

If you’d like more information, peruse this comprehensive analysis of research pertaining to soy foods. Additionally, Ginny Messina (TheVeganRD) notes that soybean isoflavones “are different from estrogen” and  may reduce breast cancer risk if consumed early in life, and may reduce recurrence of breast cancer

Soy offers a host of health benefits that outweigh its reputation. Overall, “The vast majority of the evidence is that soy is either neutral or protective against breast cancer, including for women previously diagnosed with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer (tumors stimulated by estrogen contact).” So go ahead and enjoy the benefits of soy foods!

You choose: for the road, or here at home. I myself chose one for a late night snack. 😀

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Easy as Pie: Stovetop Pear Preserve

I was completely overwhelmed. By pears.

My wonderful fruit and veggie delivery service, Organics to You, has been sending me pears for weeks now. Anjous, Bartletts, Boscs — you name it. Red, green, yellow, and brown. Tangy, tart, mushy and mealy. Today I decided to face my problems head on and deal with all those pears lurking in the back of my fridge. And what better way to handle lurking fruits than to make them into a preserve?

A preserve is a fruit preparation that is sustained by sugar — i.e., a jam or a jelly. I’m not a fan of jellies, so I decreed that these pears would be made into a homemade jam. And so it was done.

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Looks delicious, huh? Read on to see just how easy this was to make.

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Lots of recipes online called for using just one type of pear. But I like variety, and what’s life without a little whimsy? I also traded a third of the white granulated sugar for coconut sugar.

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Thinking you should peel those pears? Step away from the peeler! By saving the skin, your heart will enjoy the benefits of the 6 grams of fiber that the each pear (mostly the skin) provides. This fiber can bind to fats in your digestive tract and lower cholesterol levels. This fiber may bind to cancer-causing agents and decrease the risk of colon cancer.

Pears are also very high on the ORAC scale — that’s the “Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity” scale, which is a ranking of how many antioxidants a food boasts, as researched by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Check it out here. Although there is scientific debate about the validity of testing antioxidants in a test tube versus how they actually work in the body, we do know that fruits and vegetables tend to have high amounts of antioxidants, and pears are no exception. Pears are also relatively low on the glycemic load, so they won’t spike insulin levels too high, especially if paired with a protein or fat.

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Of course, this recipe does call for added sugar, but a tablespoon or so of jam on morning toast — maybe with some peanut butter — sounds like a good deal to me.

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Note: Although I plan on it, I haven’t yet learned how to can foods. That’s why I’m storing these preserves in the refrigerator. If you are planning on storing homemade canned goods in a pantry, please use proper canning technique! Unsafe canning practices can lead to life-threatening illnesses.

 

 

 

VegFest 2013 and the Plant-Based Nutrition Conference

I had the pleasure of attending my first ever health conference as an actual health professional yesterday! The “Enhancing Health with Plant-Based Nutrition” conference was organized by Adventist Medical Center and Northwest VEG and was a great learning experience. Registered dietitians are required to earn 75 continuing education credits every five years to make sure we are continuing to learn in our field, and I had a lot of fun earning my first six! And as a vegan RD, I was so grateful that the Academy approved this lifestyle medicine conference for credit.

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Huge props to whoever organized the food for this event. I was fed a hearty breakfast of oatmeal with PB. Lunch was a delicious buffet of all gluten-free and vegan items, ranging from cashew cheese spread over millet and tempeh, to tacos with delicious guacamole and salsa. But dessert really took the cake –we were treated to raw raspberry cheesecake. Drool!

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Overheard: “But seriously, how much kale is too much?”

I really enjoyed the speakers at this conference. They spoke on a wide range of topics, from enhancing your brain health and preventing Alzheimer’s dementia with a plant-based diet, to one dietitian’s research in the Marshall Islands working with a population stricken with a diabetes epidemic. After hearing her tales of diabetes reversal and the new life and vigor these people have for plant-based nutrition, I was even more inspired to live my life as a joyful, vegan RD.

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I wrote down a few key points that stood out to me, so I’ll go over them briefly if you’re interested in evidence-based nutrition information:

1. 51% of American calories come from processed foods. It’s hard to remember that outside of the Portland bubble, where everyone seems to care about locally-grown, whole foods, there’s an entire nation of people who are still surviving off of factory-produced or imported food.

2. The average American consumes 12 cows, 25 hogs, and 2400 chickens in their lifetime.

3. Blue Zones, or geographic areas that have been identified as spots where people live significantly longer than the average human and have a better quality of life in their golden years, have specific lifestyle factors in common: strong family ties, non-smoking, plant-based diets, a habit of constant moderate activity, and healthy social engagement. Read more about Blue Zones here. Here are some research articles about how people following a plant-based diet have been shown to live longer and have less incidence of chronic disease (including cancer and heart disease): Adventist Health Study, AHS-2 Fraser, Crowe, & Huang et al.

Some of the specific patterns that have been isolated as promoting significantly higher risk of disease included red and processed meat consumption, refined grain consumption, and consuming foods rich in saturated fats such as sweets, desserts and french fries ( this was from the well-known Nurses’ Health Study, with fourteen years of data from over 69,000 nurses).

I was particularly shocked to read about heart disease reversal and diabetes reversal in the Marshall Islands. Type 2 DM is the number one cause of death on these islands, and 50% of the population who are over 35 years old have it. I can’t even wrap my head around that, but I fear that our country may see these numbers someday (right now about 8% of our population has diabetes). Brenda Davis, RD, of the Diabetes Wellness Project traveled to these islands and helped to integrate a lifestyle change of exercise, stress management, and a fully plant-based, low-glycemic load diet. The results? Within two weeks patients who couldn’t walk without pain were starting to walk to the end of the block and back. Blood tests became normal — in fact, one woman’s HbA1C went from 8.7 to 5.7 (if you’re a health professional, you know this is unheard of without medication!!). I was so impacted by this project and the word Brenda Davis has done with plant-based nutrition.

“Diabetes Wellness Program participants have overcome seemingly insurmountable mountains of Spam, donuts, ramen noodles and cola. They have managed to put together low-cost, healthful meals despite the high cost and poor quality of their produce. They have managed to do it with little education and marginal English skills. They have managed to do it with few gyms, no hiking trails and limited access to fitness facilities. These pioneers are providing a powerful example of health and healing for other Marshall Islanders. They are providing hope amid a deep sense of hopelessness.”

4. Curcumin (the extract from turmeric) really is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory agents. Check out my post on the turmeric-raspberry iced tea! Combining curcumin with pineapple for its bromelain, an enzyme, increases its absorption. This seems like a great excuse for some  Indian pineapple curry 🙂

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6. Areas of the world that have the highest incidence of multiple sclerosis are also the areas of the world that eat the most meat and dairy (aka, have a higher saturated fat intake). Read more about this here. Dr. McDougall is currently conducting a study through my alma mater, OHSU, support his and the late Dr. Swank’s theory that MS can be halted with a low saturated-fat and plant food based diet.

Phew!

After all the brain-power that went into this all-day conference, I couldn’t wait to attend Portland’s annual VegFest today! I love this event for so many reasons — the people are friendly and informative, the vegan foods and products (books, clothes, kitchen-ware, makeup and toiletries, etc.) are delightful, and…perhaps most importantly…the free samples are EVERYWHERE! I purposefully skipped my breakfast because I knew I would be heartily nourished 🙂 I think my favorite had to be the cashew crème fraîche with fig. I mean.

Of course, I couldn’t walk away without some treats. Apart from tasting about 9058723 samples of soups, kale chips, chocolates, vegan artisan cheeses, kombucha, power bars, popcorn mixtures, teas and coffees, I ended up with organic deodorant and an awesome zip up hoodie from Herbivore Clothing Company, a local and sustainable clothing and accessories shop in Portland. I can’t wait to check out their real location! Oh, and check out all those coupons and recipes!

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That’s all for today! Look for my upcoming post on how to replenish healthy gut flora after a bout with antibiotics (long story) in the next couple of weeks. And remember…

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