Vegetarian for Life and Yoga – Part II

Another week has gone by…and I have radishes!  One of the ultimate joys of working towards a vegetarian lifestyle is committing to grow some of your own food for your own health.  I am fortunate to rent from an owner who could be convinced to allow me a fifteen by ten foot plot to garden, but there were lots of alternatives.  The helpless little seeds I sowed last week and carefully covered in plastic have now turned into beautiful little shoots of green, welling up through the damp earth and breaking out into the light of early spring.

Working with your own hands in the earth and participating in the growth and care of your own vegetable plants engenders a healthy respect for Nature and for the effort it takes – but there is something more magical that occurs:  The love and care you put into your vegetable garden returns to you directly via the food you grow.  There is a quality about something grown by ourselves that is absent from the food we buy off the store shelves;  it is present in the way our own vegetables and other produce tastes, in its nutritional value, its natural ripeness, and in the way it reacts with our body once ingested.

Animal vs. Plant

There is a common mistaken viewpoint that the best source of protein for the human body comes from meat, and that to deprive ourselves from it is to deprive ourselves of essential amino acids and a critical muscle-building source.  The truth of the matter is that no nutrient or energy source for the human body that is not readily available in its finest forms in the plant kingdom (or the vegetable aisle at a good grocery store). As one of the biggest obstacles to the vegetarian path, let’s clear a few things up regarding protein, how much is really needed, and what your body does with it.

Amino Acids

The cells of our body use amino acids to build muscle and repair tissue damaged through use.  Every amino acid the human body needs either originates from a plant source, or is synthesized by our bodies from other amino acid combinations.  There are three distinct disadvantages to obtaining protein from meat as opposed to plants:  In meat-based diets, too much fat and cholesterol accompany the bulk of the protein intake.  Two; the protein is “secondary source,” as opposed to directly from plants, and three; risk of coronary disease is directly linked to dietary cholesterol and saturated fats – both of which are nearly non-existent in a good vegetarian diet.

How much is enough?

How much protein is required by the human body to maintain optimal health?  The amount varies according to our age, body mass, and also in the quality of our intake.  People recovering from extreme illness will require more protein; as do professional athletes, especially during mass-building phases of their training.  Keep in mind the RDA or recommended daily allowance of protein has been formulated with considerable room for error due to differences in metabolism, absorption, and protein quality.  Below is a small sampling of the RDA table based on bodyweight for daily protein intake:

Weight (pounds) Weight (Kilograms) Required protein intake (g)
110 50 40 grams
132 60 48 grams
160 75 60 grams
175 80 64 grams

Please note; these values are assuming that the individual is receiving the necessary calories and food variety to insure adequate carbohydrates to be used as energy for the body.  A typical sedentary “nine-to-fiver” whose intake follows this guideline will in truth be a little protein heavy…

Plant Power

How easy is it to get great protein from plants?  Maybe I am being a little unfair, but let’s look at the quintessential hamburger – a typical “quarter pounder,” which provides sixteen to twenty grams of protein…I won’t horrify you with the rest of this hamburger’s nutritional data!  Here are three plant solutions:

  • One cup of cooked mixed beans or lentils provides sixteen to eighteen grams of protein
  • One cup of cooked soybeans provides twenty-five to thirty grams of protein
  • A half of a cup of peanuts provides fifteen to seventeen grams of protein

Aside from the protein, all of these plant sources provide a plethora of fibers, minerals, and vitamins.  Remember the hamburger?  Its greatest gift to you is found in saturated fats, cholesterol, and a third of your daily sodium (salt) intake.  Suddenly that juicy little burger is beginning to look that apple we were told not to eat…Sure, it looks good – but there are lasting consequences!

Recipes!

In my personal quest towards vegetarianism, my time commitments and lifestyle have led me to eating a mostly raw, uncooked diet.  There are benefits to this as far as receiving the best nutrient value from my intake, as various cooking methods can remove a percentage of a food’s value; but I virtually live off of a variety of “sandwiches” with sides of additional vegetables, fruits and lentils or beans.  For those who need a livelier menu, here are some great recipes that are meat-free, easy to prepare, and loaded with vegetarian goodness!

Best morning muesli

¾ cup rolled oats or other grain flake
2 tbsp raisins, currants, or dried cranberries
2 tbsp chopped walnuts, almonds, or other nuts
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 cup fortified soy or rice milk, “moo milk”, or fruit juice
1 apple, grated or finely chopped

In a medium bowl, combine flakes, raisins, nuts, cinnamon, milk, and apple. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Alternatively, the apple may be stirred in just before serving. Serve with or without added milk or juice. This recipe is great for breakfast, and will leave enough over for an evening snack!

Per one cup: calories 333, protein 10 g, fat 9 g, carbohydrate 56 g, dietary fiber 6 g, calcium 192 mg, iron 2.9 mg, magnesium 99 mg, sodium 73 mg, zinc 1.6 mg, folate 77 mcg, riboflavin 0.1 mg, vitamin B12 1.5 mcg, vitamin C 28 mg, vitamin E 3.2 mg, omega-3 fatty acids 0.7 g.

Black bean soup

1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced celery
½ onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cups cooked or canned black turtle beans or black beans
4 cups vegetable stock
¼ cup tomato paste
1½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp lime juice, salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, sauté diced carrot, celery, onion, and minced garlic over medium heat for five minutes. Stir in beans, stock, tomato paste, cumin, oregano, and thyme. Cover and simmer for twenty minutes or until vegetables are cooked. Just before serving, stir in lime juice. Add salt and pepper and adjust the seasoning.  Reducing the liquid will turn this soup into a heartier stew, and it makes enough to serve a family of four!

Per one and a half cup serving:  calories 256, protein 13 g, fat 4 g, carbohydrate 44 g, dietary fiber 10 g, calcium 131 mg, iron 6 mg, magnesium 90 mg, sodium 217 mg, zinc 1.4 mg, folate 140 mcg, riboflavin 0.2 mg, vitamin B12 0 mcg, vitamin C 14 mg, vitamin E 2 mg, omega-3 fatty acids 0.1 g.  Percentage calories from: protein 19%, fat 15%, carbohydrate 66%.

Beans have the means…

One of the best lessons I have learned in my own quest towards a fully vegan lifestyle is to never underestimate the power of the lowly little bean.  Beans of most varieties can be found cheap, in bulk, and with minimal preparation yield some of the highest nutritional value versus weight (quality versus quantity) that you can get.  With a little experimentation, I have found easy ways to make my own flavorful ‘meat replacement spread’ at about a fifth of the cost of the equivalent in actual meat.

Veggie Boy still craves a steak!

Below you will find a few websites that offer hundreds of vegetarian recipes at no cost, as well as a very good book available through Amazon to help speed you on your way.  My final advice to those who consider or choose to follow a vegan lifestyle or incarnation thereof:  Some individuals are very fortunate to be genetically predisposed to vegetarianism, while others like me really love our meat at that same base level.  If you find that you are opposed to the idea or are having a hard time giving meat up – take it slow and do not be hard on yourself.  Breaking a lifelong habit of eating meat should be done slowly, comfortably and with no stress.  Little changes will make big differences over the course of the next year…

Resources

And a great book…

Canadian Living: The Vegetarian Collection: Creative Meat-Free Dishes That Nourish and Inspire

Namaste, my friends…

1 thought on “Vegetarian for Life and Yoga – Part II”

  1. I’d disagree with the amount of proteins we should consume. Judging by your table, the formula is 0.8g/kg of body weight. Well, I’d say that’s the lest amount of proteins we all ought to be taking. To many researchers (can’t really refer to anyone in particular), advice 1-2g/kg of proteins a day. Which is not very hard if you’re a cheese lover – any cheese contains approximately 30% of proteins. Hence, 200g of cheese a day for an average body weight is okay.

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