If you’re considering following a vegan diet, chances are you’re doing it for ethical reasons. Vegans don’t just avoid eating meat, poultry or fish – they also avoid any animal products and by-products like honey, eggs and dairy. They also don’t wear fur, leather, wool or silk, and they don’t use personal care products that are made from substances obtained from animals.
Vegans object on principle to exploiting animals, and believe that animals that are raised to provide foods and other commodities to mankind are not well treated. They consider the production methods to be inhumane.
It is possible to obtain proper nutrition on a vegan diet, and it needn’t be boring. A varied and healthy vegan diet includes vegetables, fruits, leafy greens, seeds, nuts, legumes and whole grain products.
On a vegan diet, contrary to popular belief, one isn’t typically deprived of protein. Vegans can consume chickpeas, peas, tofu, lentils, soymilk, peanut butter, rice, spinach, almonds, kale, broccoli, and any number of other foods that contain enough protein to allow for a well-rounded diet.
In order to get enough healthy fat in a vegan diet, nut and seed butters, coconut, and avocado as well as most oils can be consumed.
One thing that isn’t present in a vegan diet is vitamin D. However, the body manufactures its own vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.
Calcium doesn’t have to come from milk – it can be found in tofu, dark green vegetables, and fortified soy or rice milk. Blackstrap molasses is also a good source of calcium.
Iron is, of course, another important nutrient. For most people, iron comes from meat. Vegans obtain iron in dark green vegetables, dried beans, chickpeas, blackstrap molasses, lentils, prune juice, bok choi, watermelon, and tahini, to name just a few delicious foods.
We could go on and on, but you get the idea – vegans can obtain their essential nutrients from non-animal foods. If you think a vegan diet has to be boring, consider some of these delicious suggestions: stir fried veggies, three bean salad, popcorn, baked beans, orange juice, guacamole, peanut butter on whole grain bread, soy yogurt, rice pudding, corn chowder, banana muffins, vegetable curries… again, we could go on and on.
It’s very possible to obtain all your essential nutrients on a vegan diet. There’s no need to sacrifice variety, and your conscience won’t be troubled either.
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MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a flavour enhancer based on the amino acid, glutamate. It’s found in a good many common food products, and many people don’t tolerate it well. The most common complaints are nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and headaches, and these symptoms motivate many to restrict or attempt to eliminate its presence in their diets. Research also indicates that long-term use of MSG can contribute to memory loss, disruptions in the endocrine system, psychological and neural disorders, and diseases of the pancreas.
MSG is FDA approved, but it’s understandable that you might want to avoid it. If you are considering following an MSG free diet, don’t make the mistake of equating it just with Chinese restaurants. Certainly, it’s long been associated with Chinese cuisine, but you’ll find it in all kinds of foods. The worst offenders are any type of flavored potato chips, Doritos, sun chips, vegetable dips, salad dressings (ranch in particular), bouillon cubes (even those that purport to be MSG free), sauce mixes, and baby foods.
If you’re trying to reduce your consumption of MSG, you’ll need to read food labels carefully. MSG is manufactured by using the process of bacterial fermentation or protein hydrolysis, so if the label uses the term “hydrolyzed protein,” or if the product contains yeast, that means there is MSG in the product. Other terms for MSG are monopotassium glutamate, vegetable protein extract, glutamic acid, hydrolyzed plant protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed soy protein, textured protein, calcium caseinate, sodium caseinate, whey protein concentrate, autolyzed yeast, yeast extract, and senomyx.
Sometimes, food processors use vague terminology to supposedly disclose the presence of MSG, when really, they’re obfuscating. If you see phrases like “vegetable flavouring” or “natural flavour,” you can bet its code speak for “MSG.” Even labelling that says “no added MSG” doesn’t mean much.
You’ll find MSG in virtually every prepackaged food product. Frozen dinners, processed meats, marinated food, broths, stocks and canned soups all contain MSG.
The best way to reduce your consumption of MSG is to cook your own meals instead of eating out or buying processed foods. Choose fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, pasta, eggs, and unprocessed meat, fish and poultry. Most beverages are MSG free, although you may find small amounts in some vegetable juice cocktails. Again, the best course of action is to read the label carefully.
If you find that you miss MSG’s flavour enhancing properties, try using chili pepper, ginger, turmeric, cumin and other spices to add a burst of flavor to your meals. In time, your taste buds will adjust, and you won’t miss MSG.
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Salicylates are naturally occurring chemicals that are found in various plants. Their function is to protect plants from diseases and insects, but they can have an adverse effect on people to varying degrees. People who are sensitive to salicylates may experience the following symptoms:
- Rapid heart rate
- Nausea or vomiting
- Acid reflux
- Sleep disturbances (sleep apnea, insomnia, night terrors)
- Nasal congestion
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Joint pain
Salicylates are also believed to worsen the symptoms of asthma and ADHD. They may also have an adverse effect on people who suffer from clinical depression.
If you suspect that you’re sensitive to salicylates, you should avoid tomato products, citrus fruits, most berries, dried herbs and spices, tea and mint. Obviously, this means that you won’t be consuming several foods that are considered good for you, so you’re going to have to be sure that you consume other foods that will provide you with proper nutrition.
Lentils and beans are low in salicylates. Approach fresh vegetables and non-citric fruits with caution – choose only produce that has fully ripened. Pears, apples, carrots, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, pumpkin and leeks are all low-salicylate. Peel fruits and vegetables before eating – there is more salicylate in the skin.
If you must have a hot drink, coffee is better for you than tea. If you feel that you can do without the caffeine, decaffeinated coffee is much lower in salicylates than regular coffee.
It should be noted that salicylates don’t occur just in food. Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) is present in many medications – you probably know it best under the name aspirin. For most pain-related conditions, you can substitute acetaminophen or ibuprofen, or see your doctor for a prescription medication that doesn’t contain salicylates.
Salicylates are also found in many personal care products. You might, for example, find it in shampoo, toothpaste or mouthwash.
People are sensitive to salicylates to varying degrees. Quantities that could cause extreme discomfort in one person might produce only mild symptoms in another. Given the presence of salicylates in so many of the foods we consume and in the other products we use daily, a totally salicylate-free diet may not be practical. However, avoiding foods that haven’t fully ripened and removing heavily processed foods from your diet is a very good start.
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It’s natural to find colourful food appealing – as humans, we’re visual creatures. Think about what draws you, for example, to produce in the supermarket – you like bright red strawberries, yellow bananas, blueberries, dark purple grapes, cherry red tomatoes, brilliant green peppers, and so on. You wouldn’t want to eat, for example, a grey carrot or a beige peach.
Following a colour free diet doesn’t mean that you give up the natural foods you love; it means eliminating dangerous dyes that are added to your food. Did you know, for example, that a bowl of rainbow-colored cereal can contain compounds that can cause allergic reactions, and have even been implicated in neurological illnesses?
Red 40, Blue 1, and Yellows 5 and 6 have been linked to allergic reactions. Granted, this isn’t common, but it’s reason enough to avoid dyed foods whenever possible. Studies have also indicated that these dyes could cause hyperactivity in some children. Additionally, these dyes along with Blue 2 and Green 3 have been shown to cause cancer in lab animals. Yellow 5 was also linked to mutations.
Food dyes are a relatively new additive. They came into common use when food processors decided to capitalize on our visual nature. At one time, food dyes were natural – beet juice, for example, was used to create red coloring. Of course, food processors are always looking for ways to lower their costs, and artificial dyes are considerably cheaper than natural ones.
In the States, FDA standards for approving food colorings are fairly low. If the risk isn’t actually proven beyond any doubt, the dye gets FDA approval. The laws are similar in Australia. This doesn’t mean that the dye isn’t harmful, just that cause and effect can’t be inextricably linked.
So, how can you follow a colour free diet? Hard as it may be, you should start by eliminating most types of candy. Pure chocolate is dye-free, but colorful marshmallow candies, coated chocolate, jelly candies and waxy candies, to name just a few, all contain dyes.
Read the labels on anything that’s processed. Many cereals are huge offenders when it comes to food dyes. You’ll also find dyes in soups, snack cakes, and even some meats. Yogurt is usually thought to be a healthy food, but read the labels on the fruit varieties – many of them contain little fruit and rely on dye to give the appearance of higher fruit content.
Generally speaking, if a food looks really colorful, and it’s not a fresh fruit or vegetable, it could contain dye. When in doubt, give it a pass.
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If you’ve stopped adding salt to your food, you could still be getting too much sodium. Almost 80% of the sodium people consume on a daily basis comes from processed foods, and you may be eating these regularly without ever reaching for the saltshaker. Therefore going sodium free takes a little bit of work.
Sodium is found in obvious sources, like potato chips and pretzels, but it also hides in a lot of other foods. Because it’s present in virtually everything that’s canned, and also in most frozen foods as well, no one is ever going to be in any danger of getting too little sodium.
Actually, you need some sodium in order to stay alive. It helps maintain cellular fluid levels and facilitates the transmission of information to nerves and muscles. It also aids in nutrient absorption in the small intestine. Too much sodium, though, can play a role in strokes, heart disease and kidney disorders. If you’re thinking of cutting down on your sodium, it’s likely because you’re aware of those health concerns.
Fresh foods are your best friends when it comes to reducing your sodium intake. Choose fresh vegetables instead of canned, and don’t add any salt to the cooking water. If you must use canned vegetables, look at the label, make sure it says, “no salt added,” and then rinse thoroughly just to be sure. One exception to the fresh vegetable rule is celery – it’s actually very high in sodium compared with other vegetables. Three and a half ounces of raw celery contains approximately 130mg of sodium.
Fresh fruits are also fine, as well as whole grain products. When choosing meats, stay away from anything that’s been processed. Ham, bacon, sausage, frankfurters, lunchmeats and cold cuts are sodium minefields. Instead, select lean cuts of meat and poultry, and don’t season with salt. Fresh fish is a good choice, but if you’re going to use canned, make sure it’s packed in water.
Many condiments, and also anything pickled, can be very high in sodium, so keep the use of these products to a minimum.
If you’re serious about cutting back on sodium, consider getting back into the kitchen and making nutritious meals from scratch. There’s very little that you can make from natural, unprocessed ingredients that’s going to contain an excessive amount of sodium. Now just put the saltshaker away, and you’re off to a good start.
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Our Food and Wheat
From the basic pasta and bread to salad dressings, sauces, soups and even spices, wheat forms the base ingredient or at least one of the many ingredients in a majority of products you might pick up.
To replace an ingredient that is so common and which acts as a base for a countless number of commercial and homemade food products is quite a gigantic task. Nevertheless, owing to the widespread incidence of wheat intolerance, the substitutes to wheat are becoming increasingly available.
For example, if you are looking for a substitute for wheat in your baked products, you can use oat flour as the base, which will produce moist but heavy baked products.
In the following section, we will give you a detailed list of the top wheat alternatives you can use along with
a few examples of how you can use some of them.
Table Top Wheat Alternatives
Below gives a list of some of the most common alternatives to wheat.
Amaranth (cereal) – Rice (flour) – Hazelnut (meal and flour) – Rye (flour) – Tapioca (starch flour)- Quinoa (flour) – Kamut (grains, flakes and flour) – Flaxseed (meal) – Soy (flour) – Water chestnut (flour) – Buckwheat (cereal, flour) – Sorghum (flour) – Cassava (flour) – Pearled millet (flour) – Teff (flour) – Kuzu (starch) – Barley (flour) – Chickpea (flour) – Spelt (flour) – True yam (flour) – Malanga (flour) – Millet (whole grain/ flour) – Chestnut (flour) – Poi (dehydrated starch/flour) – Lotus (flour)
The Top 10 Wheat-Free Foods
This section gives you a clearer insight into the optimum usage of the top 10 wheat-free foods that can be imbibed into your daily dietary habits.
Rice – This is the most common alternative to wheat, jasmine and basmati rice are probably the most common and easy to access in the shops. Being a good thickener, in the form of flour, it can easily be used to make breads and muffins.
Quinoa – This grain is very easy to digest and has high levels of calcium, phosphorous, iron, fibre, complex carbohydrates and proteins. It is considered to be an ideal additive for enhancing the nutritional value of many food items.
Sorghum – This grain is high in carbohydrates, fibre, potassium and proteins and works best when blended with other flours.
Millet – This is a butter-coloured grain and tastes best when combined with cinnamon or sugar.
Amaranth – This is a grain with thick consistency and is considered ideal for making stews and puddings, in addition to its used in cereals, pastas and baked goods. Tapioca starch – Having no flavour of its own, it can add a lot of chewiness to rice flour and can be a good substitute for potato starch.
Soy flour – It adds moistness to the dough even when used in smaller quantities. Mixed with rice flour in the right proportion (1/3rd part soy flour and 2/3rd part rice flour), it works as an ideal wheat alternative even for the strongest symptoms of wheat allergy.
Oat flour – This form of flour carries gluten but can work well as a wheat substitute in muffins and quick
Buckwheat – Though not a form of wheat, yet it works well as a healthy wheat substitute.
Rye flour – This form of flour also carries gluten but can work well as a wheat substitute.
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