A-Z of Plantalicious ingredients  D is for Dates

I can recall my parents always having dates in the house around Christmas.  As a child I could never see the appeal of these sticky blobs, and would avoid them.  As I got older, I have realised that the dried dates of my childhood were not really the best incarnation of this most ancient and nobel of fruits.  In fact, Dates are one of the oldest cultivated fruits – it’s thought that they were a staple part of the Babylonian diet 8,000 years ago. Grown in North Africa and Israel, there are several varieties, but only a handful are exported to Britain.

Colours range from honey yellow, red to brown, the last of which is the most common.

Available fresh or dried, they’re very sweet, with a rich, deep flavour and a lush, slightly chewy texture. My favourite is the  mahogany brown Medjool variety which is the sweetest, and tastes a little like toffee.

Given that they are sweet and sticky, the key question is are they good or bad for your health?  Dates are high in sugar, with 60-80% of their calories from sugars.  In addition to all that sugar, dates are high in fibre and in a particular kind of soluble fibre that helps keep you regular – known as beta-D-glucan. In addition to its usual function as a soluble fiber, beta-D-glucan can also absorb and hold water, giving it the ability to add bulk and softness to stools — a quality predominantly associated with insoluble fiber.

Dates are one of the best sources of Potassium which helps regulate blood pH, is required to maintain intracellular fluid balance and is used to convert glucose into usable energy. Potassium also maintains intracellular fluid balance and is involved in hormone secretion, muscle contraction and nerve transmission. Low potassium levels are linked to high blood pressure. Medjool dates are higher in potassium than oranges, bananas and spinach, providing 20 percent of the nutrient’s daily value per 3.5-ounce serving.

Dates help your body to absorb iron as they are high in copper which is an essential trace mineral that helps your body both absorb and use iron to form red blood cells. It’s needed to maintain healthy nerves and is also an important component of several of the enzymes that facilitate the production of energy. Copper is used to form collagen, a fundamental component of skin, bone, cartilage and connective tissue. It’s also a critical element of an important antioxidant known as superoxide dismutase, which is manufactured by the body to prevent damage to cells caused by free radicals.

Additionally dates contain significant amounts of several other essential nutrients, including: manganese, magnesium and vitamin B-6 as well as: niacin. pantothenic acid, calcium and phosphorus and some iron. Dates also provide lesser amounts of folate, zinc, thiamine, riboflavin and vitamin K. A 2009 study published in the “Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry” found Medjool dates to be high in antioxidant phenols. According to the study, these compounds may help reduce high blood triglyceride levels.

Here is Dr Michael Greger’s take on Dates – http://nutritionfacts.org/video/are-dates-good-for-you/

A quick tip/recipe – I make a date syrup by blending dates with warm water in my vitamix and blitzing until smooth.  I let it down with more water and store in a jar.  It is great to use in desserts, to top lattes/mochas and to use over fruit and iced desserts.

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A-Z of Plantalicious ingredients  C is for Chia Seeds

 

I thought that I would use letter C to talk about Chia Seeds.  I came across them when I used to spend half of my time in Canada before they were common iin the UK.
I cannot recall how I discovered them, but they are tiny little nutritional powerhouses. They are apparantly a Mayan Superfood.  They are part of the salvia family and look like slightly larger poppy seeds.  They have an amazing ability to aborb up to 11 x their on weight in water/liquid.  (The ranges I have seen are from 9-17 x).
Why should you bother with them?
  • Combat Diabetes

Chia seeds might be a potential natural treatment for Type 2 Diabetes due to their ability to slow down digestiion.  The gelatinous nature of chia seeds when added to liquids can also prevent blood sugar spikes.

 

  • Improve Heart Health

Chia seeds have been shown to improve blood pressure in diabetics and may also lower cholesterol.

  • High in Fibre

Chia seeds are very high in fibre and so good for your digestive health and keeeping you “regular”.

  • Bags of Omega 3 – Good for Brain Health

The high level of Omega 3’s in chia seeds are good for your brain health.

  • Calcium – Helps fight Osteoporosis

Good for bones and teeth as Chia seeds are very high in Calcium.

  • A good source of Protein

Chia seeds are a good source of dietary protein and without any cholesterol too!

  • Sources of minerals

Chia seeds contain Maganese which helps your body use other essentail nutrients like biotin and thiamin.  They also contain phosphorus which helps with your teeth and bones whilst synthesizing protein which helps your body repair itself.

  • Fill your boots and smile

Chia seeds contain Tryptophan, an amino acid that helps regulate appetite, sleep and improve your mood.

So how can you incorporate chia seeds into your diet?  Easily –
Just sprinkle them on salads, add to baked goods, make crackers incorporting them, or a simple chia pudding:
Here is a chia pudding that you could use for dessert or breakfast –
2 cups of plant milk (I used vanilla soy milk)
1/2 cup of whole (or milled) chia seeds
1 Cup of fresh or frozen berries
Garnish with a sprinkling of cacao nibs (optional)
Method – Mix together ingredients.  Chill for several hours, and then serve with a sprinkling of cocao nibs.
You can also mix this up and make it with banana and maple syrup which I love.
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NEWSFLASH ->> Plantalicious Receives UK Trade Mark

Plantalicious is pleased to announce…..

….that it has been granted a UK Trade Mark under the Trade Marks Act of 1994 of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as of 16th September 2013, under Number UK00003022174, for classes: 29 (Soups); 30 (Salad Dressings); 38 (Blogging Services) & 21 (Cookery Demonstrations).

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 Given that Plantalicious is a “hobby business”, why have we secured a trademark?

It prevents someone else from using the name.
It protects Plantalicious from being accused of infringing another company’s mark.
Effectively it is “Insurance” for any marketing spend, preventing others using it to their advantage.
It records the trademark as an asset of the business in the balance sheet.
Should we wish to, it opens the business up to the opportunities of licensing.

But really, it means that the name PLANTALICIOUS is ours!

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Should I apologise for my “Special Diet” when eating out? Is this Culinary Racism? What do you do?

Once again, I am travelling and today I am taking clients out to lunch.

The clients chose the restaurant and suggested that I check in advance what veggie options they have as they know that I eat a WFPB (whole food, plant-based) diet.   I checked online and whilst the menu had some choices on the starters that work for me, the main courses were all meat and fish with only a few salads and side dishes that looked ok for me.  So, I called the restaurant and realised during the call, that I was actually apologising for my diet and food choices and any inconvenience that it may cause them.

Why did I do that?

  • Is it my natural British politeness (not always evident, especially when tired from travelling)?
  • What was I apologising for?
  • As a paying customer, why should I apologise for what I choose to eat?
  • What is the worst that they can do – Make me a salad?  Serve me vegetables?

If I am a meat eater and I do not like red meat or I do not like lamb, I do not call up ahead and apologise, or grovel to the waiter.  I just make another choice that suits me.  My issue is that due to not eating fish, meat or diary there are occasions when there is nothing suited to me, listed on the menu.  I guess that I may be seen as an oddity by the staff and so I typically apologise that I have a “specific diet” and explain that I do not eat meat, fish or diary.

I actually think that by asking for something specific you are driving a change in what is provided.  I am happy to apologise if I am being an inconvenience but maybe I am being an “inspiration”?  Maybe, I am leading the way in what the eating out public will be wanting in the future – I believe so.  Just look at vegetarian options.  For many years there were few options for vegetarians on menus, now almost everywhere in the UK offers numerous vegetarian options on their menus.  I have noticed a trend with some younger chefs particularly to offer some interesting whole-food, plant-based options too.  (To much applause from me).

I also hate the idea that seems to be more prevalent in the US than the UK, that if you are vegan or vegetarian, then you should go to a specifically vegan or vegetarian restaurant.  Isn’t that “culinary racism”??? Should Lebanese food only be eaten by the Lebanese or Indian by those from the sub-continent?  Of course not, then why should vegans and vegetarians not eat with their friends at any restaurant of their choosing?

My tip….

What I have found is that if I say what I do or don’t eat ahead of time, the kitchen team and chefs are usually happy to provide me with something that works for me.  Calling ahead certainly avoids any embarrassment especially when I am entertaining clients.  A lot of chefs are happy to make something special as long as it is not asked for with a minutes notice during a busy service.  Calling ahead is polite and respectful and with most places having either their full menu or sample menus online you can easily check if you need to call ahead.

As Audrey, my darling Mother used to say, “You can’t get if you don’t ask” and “What’s the worst thing that can happen?  They might say No!”

 

Just don’t upset the Chef!

So what do you do and have you experienced culinary racism?

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A-Z of Plantalicious ingredients  B is for Beetroot. 

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This ruby- red jewel of a vegetable was always a somewhat poor relation in my home as a child. We had pickled beetroot from a jar. As a teenager, I worked in a market garden and used to boil beetroot in a huge copper. I hated it as a result of the pungent smell. As I got older I rediscovered the joys of beetroot.

Did you know that fresh beetroot juice is associated with improved athletic performance?  Have it ahead of a workout and combine with apple, carrot and ginger for a great kick-start juice.  Another terrific juice is Beetroot combined with strawberries and lime – I call it Red Rocket Fuel – see http://www.plantalicious.com/recipes/red-rocket-fuel-a-great-start-to-your-day/

A lot of people seem to dislike beetroot due to its earthy flavour. To reduce this, wash thoroughly and or peel it. You can use gloves to prevent your hands being stained red.

You can bake and roast them and then use in salads. I love to slice them thinly and use them as a base for salads especially using the gorgeous golden beetroot and pink ringed candy ones.

One simple dish that I do a lot is to peel and grate the beetroot (in a food processor or on a box grater) and sauté them in a pan. Before I chose to eat a no added fats wholefood plant based diet I would use butter or oil. Now I use a little stock with a few drops of balsamic vinegar and lots of black pepper.  I sauté them on a high heat until the juices evaporate and the grated beetroot is cooked. It makes a great side dish.

Another idea is to combines grated beetroot with grated potato to make an unusual rosti.

Some fun facts – Beetroot is a great hangover cure, a natural viagra and has an element in it which relaxes the mind (google it to find out more).

What are your beetroot recipes?

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A-Z of Plantalicious Ingredients. A is for…Aubergine

Mr G and I always play some sort of silly made up holiday word game when we are away. Whilst in Istanbul this past weekend, he came up with the idea of an A-Z list of Plantalicious Ingredients.  We did a quick list and agreed that it was such a good idea that I should do a regular little spot on my website.  So here we go….
So – today – A is for Aubergine
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I love Aubergines (Eggplant in the US) as they are such a good versatile veggie.  You can stuff them, cook them in a ratatouille, a moussaka, puree them for a dip, roast them, smoke them.  From a mouth-feel perspective they are quite meaty and satisfying.
Let me share a culinary secret – Aubergines usually take a lot of cooking to soften them and that usually involves oil that they soak up like a sponge.  Often times cooks suggest salting them too. Life is too short for all this nonsense and both can be avoided if you have a microwave. Pierce the skin of the aubergines with the point of a sharp knife here and there and place in a microwave.  Cook on High for about 10-15 mins, depending on the wattage of your machine,  Check them after about 10 mins.  Allow them to cool or plunge in cold water.  They will shrivel up and their smooth outer skin will become wrinkled.  This means that they are pretty much cooked inside.  You can now use them in your favourite recipes or slice and stuff or scrape out the flesh etc.
A simple recipe – grill or griddle thick slices of the wilted Aubergine along with some bell pepper and fill a tortilla wrap for a filling snack.
What’s your favourite Aubergine recipe?
Do you have an Aubergine recipe you’d like given a Plantalicious make over?
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You are not alone on this journey to improving your health destiny. Finding support for your diet, lifestyle and health transformation is easier than you thought.

When I started on this process, I was hungry (when aren’t i?) for knowledge.  I wanted to know all there is to know about plant-based nutrition.  I wanted to talk to others and understand how they had achieved what they had and how.  I did the course at e-Cornell university and then I attended the Farms2Forks weekend.

 

Then I found myself alone.  I wanted to find a Dr who could understand what I was doing and why.  I even sent my own GP a copy of the Forks Over Knives DVD, not that he returned it!

 

I went to Veg Fest, a huge expo in London, and again, whilst I found a lot of people eating a plant-based diet, I still felt that feeling of being apart as I do not identify with being a vegan or a vegetarian.

 

What was I missing?  I was missing a community of “like minded people”, or a mentor that could help to support and guide me on my journey into the unknown where the planned destination is one of a radically improved and changed health destiny.  I wanted someone to pick me up when I fell, or to encourage me when I failed or who would just be cheering me on.

 

Mr G is great, he is very supportive, but he would almost eat whatever I put in front of him.  He likes the results of the WFPB diet as he is looking healthier than ever and is slimmer than ever.  Not bad as he is (coughs) years old.

 

I think what I was looking for is some kind of “support network”.  You know when you first go “on a diet”, you’ve typically got a group of like-minded people, a meeting, or a group of colleagues or friends, all of whom are trying to shed a few pounds.  You may just have a a book, or a DVD, but it is still a source of support and inspiration as well as a reference for the many and varied questions you may have.  It may be that your doctor has recommended that you lose weight for health reasons and he and his colleagues at your local practice are monitoring and supporting your progress.  It may be that you’re working with a personal trainer or your friends at the gym and these become your source of encouragement and support.

 

My community on Plantalicious is designed to provide some of that support.  Join up, meet others who are trying to change their health destiny. You can access it here – http://www.plantalicious.com/members/  It is why I created this aspect of the site.  You can share experiences as well as recipes and ideas, tips and tricks.  Plus reach out for help and support or offer it to others.

I read an article by Jeff Novick on finding a plant-based Dr.  In it he talks about the often asked question of how to find a supportive or plant-based doctor to support you and monitor your progress on a wholefood plant-based diet.  What he goes on to suggest is that you join one of the immersion events that are held across the US just as I did.  However, this is not always practical nor affordable, particularly if you live on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, here in the UK.  What I liked about Jeff’s article is that he goes on to talk about other sources of support and inspiration and provides a comprehensive list that you can use regardless of where you are in the world and for a very reasonable amount of money.  For example, it might involve buying a DVD or a book.

 

Alternatively, it might mean investing some time in watching articles and videos on You Tube.

 

Have a look at Jeff’s article “How To Find a Plant-Based Doctor” by Jeff Novick, MS. RD.

You can read the full article here: http://jeffnovick.com/RD/Articles/Entries/2012/8/6_How_To_Find_A_Plant-Based_Doctor.html  I think it’s probably one of the best that I’ve seen in addressing this question, and in helping those of us who don’t have a ready-made local support network.

Good luck and I hope to see you on the Plantalicious Community soon!

 

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I could have eaten a chocolate covered desk leg – but there wasn’t one in sight! Have you experienced sugar addiction?

Have you experienced the symptoms of sugar addiction?

I was attending a conference in Amsterdam this week and had some weird feelings and cravings for foods that I would usually avoid.  I could not work out what was going on.
At first, I wondered if I was just hungry.  I’m one of those people who is often hungry all the time, although since I have been following a WFPB diet, this has happened a lot less as I find that due to the calorie density of the foods my stomach is full plus the water content of vegetables means that I usually feel nice and satisfied.
Imagine my surprise to find me reaching for the “empty calories” of biscuits at break times and eating sugary deserts at lunch and at dinner.  I’d have eaten the leg of my room desk had it been covered in chocolate at night when I retired to my room.  I also noticed my mood was altered and i experienced some extreme swings in feelings. .
What on earth was going on?  Why did I feel like this?  Am I just a greedy piggy?
So yesterday morning, I think I found one of the main culprits.  I was getting my breakfast.  In hotels I usually have some kind of oat based cereal like a granola or dry museli with some fruit and then have either soy milk if available or apple juice instead of milk.
Imagine my surprise to find that the cereal that looked like it had raisins in it as part of the oat based granola were not raisins at all.  They were in fact pieces of milk chocolate.  I rarely wear my glasses at breakfast but maybe I would have noticed had I had them on.  That’s a lesson for sure.  for a moment I felt smug, as I had not selected the particular cereal as the colour of the oats looked as if they had something added to them.  Cocoa I now guess.  I had chosen the cereal where the oats looked a natural colour and they were combined with slivers of almonds.
Almonds? Oh really?  On further investigation, the almonds were not almonds at all.  No, they were in fact white chocolate!  Every day for my “healthy start to the day”, I had in fact been filling my body with sugar and fat.  In fact that sugar had probably been the cause that I was then craving the chocolates and mints that the hotel put alongside the notepads in the conference room that I devoured eagerly morning and afternoon.
I find that when I eat sugary foods made with refined sugars rather than natural sugars contained in fruits or maple syrup, date paste or agave, once my body processes it, it just seems to want more.  I know that there is a lot of science behind this which you can find more about here:  http://nutritionfacts.org/video/are-sugary-foods-addictive/
So what has your experience been?  How does refined sugar affect you?
If you see me gnawing away on a chocolate covered desk leg – then just walk on by!
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Video Blog – WFPB whilst travelling – An update

This is my first ever video blog.  The idea was suggested by my lovely colleague, Steve.

 

The video has a few seconds at the start where nothing happens – that’s me – just checking the camera was on!  I will do better next time.

 

This accompanies the post i did on staying WFPB whilst traveling – See here – http://www.plantalicious.com/?p=2994

 

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The challenges of maintaining a No-added Fats, Whole-food, Plant-Based Diet whilst traveling.

I have been traveling a lot recently for both work and pleasure, including a recent trips to Johannesburg in South Africa and my holiday in Estoril, Portugal, made me realise how difficult it is to maintain a no-added fat, whole food, plant-based eating plan when you are not buying, preparing and cooking your own food.
I’ve written before about some of the challenges of eating a Plantalicious diet when traveling, but I think I missed a few things out.
Firstly, on these trips I realised that few people know what WFPB means, so instead I use the V word. I say I’m Vegan. As you may know from previous articles I’ve posted, the two are not the same and as a result I get food that does not conform to my nutritional standards. On these recent trips it meant that I had a lot of refined carbohydrates in the form of white pasta and bread. A lot of the food also had added fats such as olive oil etc.
I’m now wondering if I should be more assertive and be more specific about WFPB and what I do and don’t eat. The dilemma that this presents is that in a number places I’d really only be able to eat the soups, vegetable side dishes or salads. I’d miss my pastas etc.
While I am on the subject of pasta; it brings me to added fats and salt. I recently had a dish of pasta with porcini mushrooms. I’d checked the ingredients listed on the menu and they seemed ok. What I had not expected, would be how much added fat and salt would be in the dish. I also think that there was cheese in it, which was not listed on the menu.  Given that I am often sitting with colleagues and clients, now here’s my dilemma, what do i do?  Make a fuss, or just suck it up and eat it?  What did I do?  I ate it!
Another example was at the BA lounge at Heathrow where I had a delicious proper slow-baked jacket potato. The flesh was soft and buttery. Perfect. Reminding me of the ones we had as kids as a treat on bonfire night that had been wrapped in foil and baked for hours. One of the choice of toppings was a “ruby coleslaw”. Shredded beetroot, carrot, white cabbage and onion. Lovely but bound in a thick egg and oil based mayonnaise. It was delicious, but it wasn’t plant-based nor was it vegan, it was vegetarian. I know I’m not on a diet and that I can eat whatever I want, but if I want to stick to this for the majority of the time, I may have to trade-off simple/bland or boring food choices with foods that go against my nutritional principles.
This brings me to another peril. That of fried foods. Twice during the week in South Africa and numerous times in Portugal, I had a major dilemmas, over fried foods. Firstly in a Thai restaurant. The only thing on the starters list that did not contain meat or fish were spring rolls or samosas. Both of which were deep fried. Hardly no added fats! All of the veggie burgers in Portugal were served with chips.  Hmmm.  What’s a greedy boy to do?  They were all lovely, but again they did not conform to what I am trying to do. Another day I had veggie sandwich which came with chips. I was brought up not to waste food so guess who ate them like a little starving piggy?  Believe it or not, this was the best option that my hotel restaurant could offer. It’s also hard to discuss my dietary needs with staff who have little or no English. Asking for whole meal pasts or brown rice in South Africa usually results in a huge smile and a “yes sir”. What gets brought to you is usually exactly what is on the menu and usually is refined carbs loaded with fat. Drat.
In London last week I ate at one of my favourite restaurants with clients. They were splendid in accommodating my requirements with a black radish salad without the buffalo mozzarella but just as wonderful with teeny tiny micro tomatoes and blackberries. A perfect autumnal starter. Then a risotto without butter or cheese but made with wild rice
Finally there’s the issue of refined carbohydrates.  White rice, white pasta and white flour – all vegan and vegetarian but not WFPB.  In Portugal as in South Africa, that is another challenge, where a lot of dishes are made with refined carbohydrates.  We had a lot of lovely pastries in Portugal, delicious, but again not WFPB.  Veggie risotto sounded like a healthy treat, but made with white rice, lots of added fats and undoubtedly some cheese, it was a nutritional nightmare.
So it is time to be a bit more assertive.  Time to be more picky.  I know, I do not have to do this, but I want to in order to be able to be healthy.  Time to ask more questions, “can you tell me, what is in this in addition to what is listed on the menu”, making choices that avoid refined carbohydrates.  Stipulating that I want wholemeal bread, ordering soups made with veggie stock and salads with the dressing on the side or just balsamic vinegar.
In summary – time to be more assertive and less British in my food choices.  It’s my body and it is my choice and in my power to decide what i put in it.
Take a look at my first viideo blig – here for a short update on this topic – http://www.plantalicious.com/?p=2996
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