Mediterranean Quesadillas

Hey everyone! I don’t know about you, but I often crave quesadillas. I just love the flavors and textures of a warm, “cheesy”, crispy tortilla. Yum!  Unfortunately, being vegan, there aren’t many places I can go to have a quesadilla that will satisfy my craving and my diet. But that’s okay because what do you do when you can’t just go out and find the food you’re looking for? -You make it, of course! Introducing my vegan friendly Mediterranean quesadillas! They pair perfectly with my curry flavored plantains, and some of my classic guacamole.

Unlike your typical cheesy filled white flour tortilla quesadilla my quesadillas are made with multigrain flax seed tortillas packed with fiber, organic hummus containing protein, crisp sweet red onions and of course Daiya vegan cheese. Your typical white flour tortilla has little to no nutritional value seeing as it is made with either modified grains or white corn. These grains are stripped of their nutritional value during processing, and therefore contain very little to no dietary fiber, and breakdown in your body mainly as sugar. Your typical quesadilla contains approximately 528 calories, 27 grams of total fat, 11 of which are saturated, 67mg of cholesterol, 3.4 grams of sugar, 27 grams of protein, and 3.1 grams of dietary fiber. It also contains approximately 48% of ones daily reccommended Calcium intake, as well as vitamin A, D, B-12, B6, Iron and Magnesium.

My quesadillas contain 350 calories, 12 grams of protein, 2 grams of sugar, 11 grams of dietary fiber, 0 mg of cholesterol, and 16 grams of total fat, 2 of which are from saturated fat. They also contain Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, vitamin A and vitamin C. Which is the healthier choice? You decide.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pieces of multigrain flax tortillas
  • Approximately 1/4 cup Diaya Vegan Cheese
  • 1 Tbsp original flavored organic hummus of choice
  • 1 Tbsp red onion diced
  • 1/2 Tbsp Extra virgin oilve oil or coconut oil
  • pinch of thyme
  • pinch of turmeric
  • pinch of curry powder
  • pinch of red pepper flakes

Method:

  1. Brush oil at the bottom of a skillet or frying pan of choice ( Make sure pan is large enough to fit the tortilla on).
  2. Sprinkle spices onto oil and mix around at the bottom of the pan (If previously made curry flavored plantains, just use spice and oil residue). Should look a little something like below image. IMG_5611
  3. Coat one side of one tortilla with 1/2 Tbsp of hummus and place in pan hummus side facing up.  Sprinkle red onion on top. IMG_5607
  4. Allow tortilla to warm up for 1-2 minuets then add vegan cheese of choice (can also use real cheese if not vegan).

     

  5. While cheese begins to melt, use remaining 1/2 Tbsp hummus to coat one side of other tortilla and place on top of melting cheese in pan.Processed with VSCO with a5 preset
  6. Allow quesadilla to cook on one side for approximately two minuets before flipping. Once you flip it, it should have a yellow hint of color from the tumeric.IMG_5606
  7. Cook on opposite side for another 1-2 minuets. Plate and enjoy 🙂 IMG_5608

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As always let me know if you have any questions, and let me know what you think!

Curry Flavored Plantains

I know this may seem a little weird, but I’ve been obsessed with fusion foods lately, and have therefore been experimenting with different flavors. In light of this weeks post about lipids (a.k.a. fats) I was aiming to create a full meal that emphasized healthy fats. As I was making myself some guacamole, I saw some curry powder in my spice cabinet. I thought, Hey, would it be weird to combine the flavors of India with the flavors of Mexico? While it may seem like an uncanny flavor combo, I gave it a try. To my surprise it turned out really well –I may be onto something here. I paired this side dish with my Mediterranean quesadillas, and my easy-peasy guacamole. Together they make a lunch packed with nutrients such as complex carbohydrates and healthy lipids! And trust me, even if you’re not looking to add any specific nutrients into your diet, you don’t want to miss out on this flavor combo. (click the links for the other recipes).

Nutrition Information: Plantains:

Plantains are packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, fiber and magnesium; they even contain a little Iron! (1) When cooked, a plantain’s nutritional value increases, and therefore contains more calories. Plantains are particularily rich in potassium, as one cup of cooked plantains contains approximately 20% of ones daily potassium value. This is important because potassium helps in regulating blood pressure due to its ability to combat sodium (1). Pairing a nutritionally rich food with a healthy fat based oil such as coconut oil helps improve heart health, and ones overall health.

Ingredients:

  • 1 extra ripe sweet plantain (should be mostly black on outside)
  • Approximately 1/6 cup of coconut creamer (You can get it at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods)
  • 1 large tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp organic curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • pinch of salt
  • fresh cilantro for garnish

Method:

  1. Peel plantain and cut plantain into approximately 1/2 – 1 inch thick pieces (You can cut them at an angle if you’d like to).
  2. Place coconut oil into a frying pan of choice and heat on low heat until coconut oil becomes liquid consistency.
  3. Place plantain slices into frying pan, and fry each side for approximately 3 minutes OR until golden brown.IMG_5620
  4. Once complete, remove plantains from frying pan and place them on a paper towel for approximately 2 minutes to rid them of any excess oil.IMG_5609
  5. In a separate bowl, mix coconut creamer and spices. Stir well so mixture is combined throughly.  Processed with VSCO with a5 preset
  6. Bring frying pan back to low heat, place plantains back in, and pour mixture over them. Flip the plantains a few times to evenly coat each one in the mixture. Keep frying pan at low-medium heat to avoid burning. Fry for approximately 3-5 minutes OR until a slight crust starts to form. Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
  7. Squeeze approximately 1/2 of a limes juice onto frying plantains, and allow to sit for approximately another 2-3 minutes (If plantains seem to be burning, turn heat to low or off).IMG_5617
  8. Once done, transfer plantains to plate.IMG_5619
  9. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and enjoy :)!!Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

Comment below if you have any questions. Let me know what you think ! 🙂

References:

1. Axe, J., Dr. (2017, March 29). 7 Reasons to Add Plantains to Your Diet. Retrieved June 15, 2017, from https://draxe.com/plantains/

 

Correlation Between Your Size and Your Health

Let’s be honest, no one wants to be fat. While the media tends to praise the bone thin, and bash the ones with more to love due to aesthetics, there are more important reasons why being overweight is considered bleak (click here for a lovely list put together by WebMD). On the list, one of the most preventable diseases due to obesity in my opinion is Type II Diabetes. I recently read an an interesting article titled Obesity Mediates the Association between Mediterranean Diet Consumption and Insulin Resistance and Inflammation in US Adults  published February 7th, 2017 in the Journal of Nutrition. It’s about how body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), and consuming a Mediterranean diet mediate the markers of insulin resistance, a.k.a whether the fat around ones stomach or overall obesity paired with consuming a Mediterranean diet triggers insulin resistance or Diabetes Mellitus.

According to the American Diabetes Association, Type II Diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. This disease is essentially the inability of ones body to take sugar (glucose) out of the blood stream due to defective insulin receptors. The diagram below is a representation of how muscle and/or fat cells take glucose from the blood. The pink portion of the cell represents the cell membrane. In a normal functioning muscle or fat cell, insulin (the purple triangles) bind to insulin receptors (the green things), which trigger the stimulation of downstream proteins (Glut-4 and Glucose transporters) to allow glucose (the light blue hexagons) to enter the cell to be metabolized and used for energy. type-2-diabetesIf insulin cannot bind to insulin receptors, then glucose will not be able to enter the cell, and consequently cause dangerously high levels of sugar to develop in the blood.

The research team who published the article mentioned above, understood that the Mediterranean diet (a diet composed of mainly consuming large quantities of fruits, vegetables, olive oils and whole grains, and smaller quantities of animal protein and unhealthy fats) has proven to lower cardiometabolic risk (a disease that essentially enhances the risk of diabetes due to insulin resistance) due to consequent weight loss. However, the team wanted to see if there is a direct link between insulin resistance and the amount of abdominal fat one has, or if insulin resistance is more-so modified or attenuated by general obesity, since, according to a study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, abdominal fat has been proven to affect metabolic disturbance more than general obesity.

So what did they do? I’m not going to bore you with every single little detail, but I think it’s important to understand how Park et al, derived their conclusion. Basically, they took data from 4700 US adults ranging from age 20-90 with no prior diagnosis of diseases such as cancer, diabetes or cardiovascular disease. The researchers had each participant log the types of foods they consumed during the study. A scoring method was used to assess the intensity of the individuals Mediterranean diet, scoring foods that pertained to the diet from 0-5, and negatively scoring foods that did not fit the diet. Potatoes were excluded from the study due to the variety of ways they can be prepared. Once each participant received a Med-Diet score, researchers measured each participants markers of insulin resistance i.e. glucose, insulin, glycated hemoglobin, fibrinogen, homocysteine, and lipoprotein a (definitions linked), and then used the statistical analysis software, SAS, to produce a linear regression curve. They compared the tertiles (any two points of an ordered distribution that split the graph into thirds) of the graph to draw conclusions.

What they found was interesting. They concluded that it was more-so the presence of abdominal adipose tissue that enhanced insulin resistance, a key characteristic in Diabetes Mellitus, opposed to overall BMI. This is because the adipose tissue in the abdominal region is expanded, and releases what are known as free fatty acids. According to PubMed, free fatty acids inhibit glucose intake from certain muscle cells, aka cause insulin resistance. Why is this relevant? Well because this finding adds to previously proven theories that cohesion to a Mediterranean diet improves ones health. The researchers also discuses previous findings explaining that those on a Mediterranean diet consume high amounts of healthy fats, high amounts of magnesium, and dietary fiber, which all positively effect the way our bodies metabolise glucose. Also, according to the American Journal of Medicine, it is clinically proven that a Mediterranean diet helps you lose weight.

I think it’s time to open our eyes, and realize that this isn’t a theory or some far fetched idea. It has been scientifically proven that consuming fruits, veggies, healthy fats, and whole grains is beneficial to your health, and can even help prevent a disease that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 29 million people in America have. Sounds a lot like a vegan diet can have similar benefits doesn’t it?

 

 

*For copywriter purposes, I do not own the “Featured Image” for this article. It is from the link provided.

Food for Thought: What is healthy?

When it comes to nutrition, I prefer to discuss facts, and I enjoy the excitement I feel cultivating inside of me when I read a scientific article about how some scientist somewhere discovered that eating meat gives you cancer. No, I don’t enjoy reading these things because I’m a crazy vegan and I’m thrilled that meat gives you cancer. I’m simply intrigued by findings such as these because they depict advancements in nutritional research. They exemplify the hope in finding ways in which to prevent the terminal illnesses that thrive amongst us from taking our loved ones, and they prove the potential of cultivating cures for those who are already infected. Needless to say, science is awesome.

However, as I sit here in my living room, I begin to ponder about what defines health, and if data from a group of participants in a ten year study, or numbers on a graph can disclose the means necessary to live a long, happy and healthy life. Yes, thanks to science there are now activities such as eating a lot of red meat or smoking that are known to cause insalubrious health. Nevertheless, I want to look beyond the generalities for a moment and consider the needs of the individual. After all, people are different, and may consequently need different things in order to live healthy lives.

Is there more to the health recipe than the chef wrote? Is there a secret ingredient; a large factor contributing to our health that many of us often overlook? Perhaps there is something that may aid in answering the dire question of what optimal health actually is, and how to attain it. I realize that the answer to that question may be so far beyond our reach that only individuals decades from now will be able to answer it. Then again, maybe our ancestors were on the right track with ancient practices that time and technology have seemed to neglect. While we may never be able to find a direct answer, I believe that we must consider the teachings of the ancient practice of yoga.

I am a certified yoga instructor, and while I was undergoing my teacher training, I learned about the different aspects of self according to Hinduism. One of those aspects is known as Satya, which is simply non-falsehood. This is different from truthfulness. It is simple to be truthful. For example if I ask you what the weather is like outside you can say that it is sunny. When I think that it is sunny outside, I automatically think of a warm summer day, but what if it’s cold out? You did not lie by telling me that it was sunny outside, but you neglected to tell me that it was also cold out. If you tell me that it is cold and sunny outside that would be considered Satya because you are telling me the whole truth about the situation.

Now how does this relate to food and your body? Well, if you haven’t already figured this out, the purpose of consuming food is to provide your body with energy. If you ever consume something that makes you tired, or causes you to take a nap (and you’re beyond infancy), chances are your body does not need it. Food is supposed to feel clean, it should not cause stomach pain or indigestion. Food is not meant to make you obese (take a look in the mirror). Most importantly, plant based foods such as whole grains, vegetables and fruits are composed of a non soluble fiber known as cellulose. Due to the human body’s inability to break down cellulose and use it for energy, it is excreted. Animal based foods are not so easily excreted because your body can break down the components of these foods and store them as energy (fat). Essentially what I’m getting at here is ask yourself: Do you poop enough? Do you poop too much? This may indicate that you may be allergic to something you regularly consume. Do you ever feel guilty after eating something that’s considered to be bad for you? So why did you do it? Because you’re not tuned in enough with your own body when you reach for that pack of Oreos to tell yourself (and actually believe) that you don’t need them.

All of these things contribute to overall health and well being. By implementing a simple yoga practice at least twice a week, meditating, or simply taking a few conscious breaths throughout the day you can become more aware of your internal needs. When we become more aware of our internal needs we can become honest with ourselves, and practice satya to help make better decisions throughout our day. Now this concept doesn’t only relate to food, it can relate to anything you experience in your life. Begin to take conscious breaths at home, at the workplace, around friends, while you’re shopping, or anywhere where you need to make a decision about something that will either enhance your life or degrade it.

My logic may not be a straight forward answer to what health is, nor is it a concept or practice that will make you super skinny in three days (if you presume that getting skinny = healthy), but I think it is worth a shot. If we can understand our needs, then we can be honest with ourselves, and only bring factors into our lives that enhance them. If we fail to be conscious, we wander around like zombies stuck in a rut unable to fulfill the needs of their bodies. Correct me if I’m wrong, but living an unconscious life doesn’t exactly sound like the epitome of health to me.

What are Antioxidants?

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Which of the two images look more appetizing? If you chose the image with the burger held by a hand, it’s probably due to its vibrant coloring, and detail. Have you ever thought about why fruits and vegetables are so colorful? Probably not. Well, it just so happens that there is a scientifically sound story as to why these superfoods are so vibrant, and ironically enough, it all has something to do with why we consume them.

You see, fruits and vegetables are filled with these things called antioxidants, which are responsible for giving fruits and vegetables their appetizing colors. It’s safe to say that you’ve heard it at least once in your lifetime that you need to consume antioxidants, or that antioxidants keep you healthy, right? But have you ever wondered why? What exactly are antioxidants? Let me break it down for you.

What are antioxidants?

According to Dr. T. Colin Campbell, PhD, author of the infamous China Study, antioxidants are chemicals that exist solely in plants. (They only exist in animal-based foods to the extent that animals eat such plants and store the antioxidants in their tissues. Animals do not naturally produce antioxidants.) Anyway, when a plant absorbs light energy it converts this light energy into usable energy or food via photosynthesis, which is simply the process by which electrons bounce from molecule to molecule inside of the plant’s leaf.

Dr. Campbell claims that this process however, is highly complex, and must be managed very carefully. If these electrons stray from their rightful paths, they can wreak havoc in the plant and cause large amounts of damage, similar to the way high amounts of radiation can cause DNA damage in humans. These electrons that essentially sway away from their rightful paths are known as free radicals. However, plants take care of these horrible free radicals by using their antioxidants to form a shield around them, and intercept them so they do not cause damage to the plant tissue. That is why fruits and vegetables have such vibrant colors, because the chemical properties responsible for doing away with nasty free radicals are the same chemical properties responsible for absorbing visible light. That is also why humans are drawn to colorful foods that are aesthetically pleasing in nature, and deem them as appetizing because subconsciously, through human nature, our bodies understand the necessity for consuming such foods.

According to Research Gate however, there is an issue. If the ratio of free radicals to antioxidants is too great, the plants cells will die due to its inability to intercept and scavenge free radicals that cause the plant damage. Below is a diagram from Research Gate  exemplifying the process by which plants detoxify themselves with free radicals. The right side portrays potential cell death. ROS simply stands for Reactive Oxygen Species or free radicals.

fig-14-antioxidants-and-redox-signaling-in-plants

How do antioxidants benefit humans?

Wonderful! Plants have the ability to save themselves. So why do we care? Well, it just so happens that throughout our lifetime we naturally create low levels of free radicals in our bodies, causing our bodied to become rigid and stiff. This is essentially what aging is. With poor diet and little to no exercise, free radicals can cause hardening of arteries, cataracts, arthritis, and many other downfalls of aging.To make matters worse, due to the fact that humans do not carry out photosynthesis, they do not create the antioxidants necessary to combat the effects of free radicals.

However, there is good news. The way antioxidants work miracles in plants, is similar to the way they work in animals. In order to rid our bodies of these nasty chemicals, we must consume antioxidants. Some antioxidants take form in what are known as carotenoids, such as betacarotene or lycopene which exist in red, orange and yellow colored fruits and vegetables. Other antioxidants are colorless and exist as vitamin E and vitamin C.

Further research regarding antioxidants has suggested that low levels of antioxidant consumption can lead to the formation of diseases such as cancer. (To find out more, read the China Study by T. Colin Campbell, or view his webpage for scientific evidence on why living a plant based life is beneficial).

The take away message from all of this? You’re parents were right when they scolded you about eating your vegetables. After all, mom always knows what’s best. Fill your body with vibrant colors, fruits and vegetables. Who knows, one day it may even save you from acquiring an illness, or it may even elongate your life. Fill your plate with fresh produce, it will only be the veganing.

Also, below are some charts exemplifying antioxidant rich foods to help kickstart your new plant based lifestyle. Enjoy:)

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 (Image via pinterest.com)

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(Image via Whatishealthfood.net)

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(Image via lethal.com)

Vegan In Florence: Central Market

Do you love pizza? Of course you do, who doesn’t?  Just admit it, whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, paleo, pescatarian or whatever else you could possibly identify as, you most definitely love pizza in all of its forms. Aside from pizza, you probably also love burgers (more or less), in all of its shapes and sizes. For all of you vegans and non vegans alike, I have found the perfect location in Florence to indulge in these mouth watering treats. Also, if you’re looking for something a bit healthier, this place also offers several fresh pressed juice stands, salad stands, and more.

Welcome to Mercato Centrale Firenze, a.k.a. Florence’s famous Central Market. By day the downstairs portion of the completely indoor market is home to local food vendors as well as vendors from several places around the globe, each offering their delectable delights. Local vendors produce fresh pasta right in front of your eyes, while fruit and vegetable vendors offer only the freshest foods of the season. Vendors from different parts of Italy sell their fresh olive oils, spices, balsamic vinegars and truffles. It is the perfect place to do your grocery shopping, however the downstairs portion of the market closes by 2pm each day.

If you happen to find yourself stumbling upon the market near 2pm and begin to see the vendors packing up downstairs, have no fear because the mini restaurants upstairs are open all day and night. They each offer contrasting cuisine ranging from pizza to sushi and everything in between.

By night this location portrays an atmosphere that is suitable for those on the hunt for a nice glass of wine and a classy meal, as well as those searching for a casual Peroni and pizza. Mercato Centrale is one of my favorite places, and in my opinion should be at the top of anyones to-do list in Florence.

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(Picture via: Insidecom SRL)

My Favorites:

Veg & Veg:

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About: Vegan and vegetarian burger vendor. Also sells soups and create your own salad bowls. Soup of the day always changes, and ingredients are all clearly written out in english. They offer a variety of fresh pressed juices and smoothies.

Pros: Affordable, speak english, healthy, vegan, vegetarian, great food, menu is easy to read, great place for non-vegans and vegetarians as well, can modify to suit dietary needs.

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Soup is served in a bread bowl (yay), salad is served in a tortilla crust. Ingredients are clearly stated. Clear images of food so you know what to expect.

Image left: soup and salad

Image below: each burger

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Cons: Short menu, small stand so there is a long wait when it’s busy, don’t serve water. Other than that it’s great.

Images of food:

Below are images of the Popeye burger. It was very good. The sauce was a bit on the sweet side so if you prefer all savory, do no get this one. Otherwise, it was good.

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La Pizzeria:

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(Picture via: ioamofirenze.it)

About: Best marinara pizza (pizza without cheese) and margherita pizza in Florence. Each pie ranges from 8-10 Euros depending on what you get. They have an upstairs seating area if you don’t want to sit amongst a crowd of others also eating in the market.

Pros: Offer vegan pizza (a.k.a. pizza without cheese), friendly staff, affordable, customizable pizza, english speaking staff, english menu, seating area, suitable for vegans and non vegans.

Cons: Slightly on the pricey side for pizza. You can get pizza elsewhere in Italy for about 5 euros. Other than that, it was good.

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Picture above: Marinara pizza. It is served with olives, oregano and fresh garlic.

Visit Mercato Centrale, find your own favorites, and comment about them below. For now try the ones I’ve mentioned above, it will only be the veganing.

 

 

Vegan Truffle Pasta

Ciao from Italia! I’m really enjoying my time studying abroad in Florence, Italy. Since I began my journey here, I’ve become very inspired by the culture, the scenery, and especially by the food. I’ve subconsciously made it a goal of mine to try and cultivate new vegan recipes using local ingredients from the markets I have visited. Out of the many amazing ingredients I’ve come across during my time here, I have become most intrigued by creating a vegan recipe using truffles. Personally, I think that mushrooms are the perfect meat substitute due to their ability to absorb flavor, so I figured why not create something delicious and nutritious using the most highly valued mushroom in the world; the truffle.

If you are planning on studying abroad in Florence, Italy any time soon, you can purchase all of these ingredients in Italy. The truffle “cream” (doesn’t actually contain any dairy) was from the central market as were the mushrooms, shallots, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic. The parsley and Rice cream were from a health food store in Italy called Coop (it’s amazing). I have tagged the location of the central market in this blog post. Now let’s cook!

Recipe:

Ingredients:
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2 medium sized shallots chopped img_2089

2 garlic cloves chopped

1 Tbsp fresh parsley chopped

1 handful of basil chopped

1 1/2 cup mushrooms chopped

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes

1 container vegan cream sauce (or cashew cream, or any other vegan cream substitute that you like. worst case scenario, you can add almond milk and a little flour to thicken it up)

1 tsp truffle oil OR minced trufflesProcessed with VSCO with c1 preset

1 Tbsp salt

1 Tbsp pepper

1 Tbsp garlic powder

2 Tbsp olive oil

Method:

  1. On medium heat sauté mushrooms and shallots for approximately 2-3 minuets or until soft.img_2114
  2. Add salt, pepper and garlic powder. Once shallots and mushrooms are soft add garlic, and sauté for another minuet.
  3. Add cream sauce of choice, bring mixture to a boil and then reduce mixture to a simmer. img_2087
  4. While sauce is simmering, cook pasta and drain it.
  5. Place cooked pasta back into the pot, transfer sauce into the same pot and reduce heat to low. Stir to combine pasta and sauce.
  6. Add basil, parsley and sun-dried tomatoes to pasta and sauce. Add more salt and pepper to taste if necessary.img_2099
  7. IMPORTANT: literally add 1 small tsp of truffle oil or minced truffles. It is very strong, you only need a little. Stir throughlyimg_2084
  8. Plate, serve and enjoy!Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

 

What is a Vegan?

What is a vegan?

Just the Veganing believes that being a vegan is not about accepting a label; it’s about caring about your body, as well as caring about the environment. That being said, there are different types of vegans. Some vegans don’t eat anything from an animal, but still own leather handbags, jackets and shoes. Some vegans are considered raw vegans, meaning that they do not consume anything from an animal and they do not cook the foods they eat above 100 degrees, if at all. Some vegans chose the lifestyle for the animals, some chose it for themselves. Neither is better or worse or good nor bad, they’re just different. That is why it is unfair to place a label on someone who is considered a vegan. A vegan is simply someone who doesn’t consume anything from an animal. That’s it. They’re not freaky weird hippies, or overly environmentally conscious tree huggers. Personally, I am not one of those vegans that forces their beliefs upon others or judges people for the way they live their life. However, I have found that I love to share nutritional advice, and discuss issues related to food in today’s society. That does not necessarily mean I only talk about why meat is so bad for you or why you shouldn’t harm animals. I’m simply here to talk about nutrition as a whole, and while my beliefs may sway toward veganism, I believe it is important to share the cold hard facts about what is actually in your food.

How do I “go vegan”?

When I first became a vegan, I had no clue where to start. I began to think it was going to be impossible to survive. No meat? No dairy? No eggs? NO CHEESE?! What do I eat? We live in a world where meat is the centerpiece of every meal. We created fixings or side dishes composed of vegetables, starches and whole grains, ignoring the fact that all of these dishes offer us ample nutrition, and proceeded to only focus on the animal as the center of it all. Consider this: What if there was no such thing as Turkey? Would you still be able to have a Thanksgiving meal? Hmm lets see, you would have corn, cream of spinach, salads, green beans, cranberry sauce, potatoes, stuffing, and many other delectable vegetable based side dishes filled with vitamins and nutrients your body needs to survive. So the answer is yes. You could very well survive. Not only would you survive, but you would be thriving, and your body would be incredibly happy with what was inside it. I thought of this scenario when I first became a vegan and I realized that it wasn’t only possible to become a vegan, but it was the best thing I could do for my body. All it took was a little change in perspective.

My journey

Since I have become a vegan, I have read numerous books, scientific articles, vegan food blogs, and nutritional websites related to not only veganism, but to overall wellness. I will reference these books and such in the future. In the midst of acquiring my bachelors degree in biology, I have learned so much about the human body and nutrition that it has become a passion of mine, and I cannot wait to share it with all of you. I’ve also found that it is quite hard to be vegan in foreign countries, therefore, I have decided to add a blog page about how to eat vegan in places all around the globe.

I have found a hard time finding websites and blogs that focus on nutritional research, reasons for becoming vegan, easy vegan food recipes, tips on being a vegan, and just overall factual evidence about food in general. That is what compelled me to write this blog. I love fashion, I love to travel, I love to exercise ( I actually went through a gym rat phase where I consumed way too much protein and BCAA’s and all that) I love adventuring and the environment, I love sports, I teach yoga, I love science, I love having a good time with my friends and right now I love being in college. Most importantly I LOVE FOOD. There was a time when I did consume meat and dairy. I wasn’t born a vegan people. I come from a Hungarian family, and if there is one thing to say about Hungarian’s it’s that they love their meat. So take everything with a grain of salt, as I did years ago when I began my journey. Don’t get offended if I say something bad about meat, or if I say something bad about certain vegetables. When it comes to food, I am here solely to present factual evidence, and to discuss my opinions based on the facts.

One more thing, becoming a vegan has made me the happiest and the healthiest I’ve ever been. This is for all of you out there who are looking for something to jumpstart a healthier, happier lifestyle! Enjoy 🙂

The Good, The Bad, The Cholesterol

What many of those who consume animal products do not understand is that just because a piece of rotting flesh in the grocery store is labeled as “organic”, “free-range”, “antibiotic free”, “hormone free”, or “USDA approved”, doesn’t necessarily indicate that it is healthy. Consumers often overlook or simply neglect to understand how animal products are digested, and what the human body actually absorbs during the process. While the cascade of events during digestion aren’t exactly enticing, and I’d rather not put you to sleep, I find it absolutely necessary to understand cholesterol, and the truth behind its role in our bodies.

I’m sure at one point or another you’ve heard that having high cholesterol is bad, but what  is cholesterol? Where does it come from? Why is it bad? According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, cholesterol is simply a waxy substance that is found in the lipid bilayer of all cell membranes.

cell_basic_partsHere is a quick little science lesson for all of you: To the left is an image of a cell. You have tons of cells in your body, and the outside layer of a cell is called a cell membrane or lipid bilayer. Cholesterol is imbedded in the lipid bilayer, and it allows the cell to be fluid, as seen in the image below. cell20membrane20with20cholesterolBasically, cholesterol helps your cells produce membranes, hormones and Vitamin D, and is therefore vital for survival. There are two different kinds of cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL), and low density lipoprotein (LDL). LDL is the bad kind of cholesterol because it is mostly composed of fat, hence the term low density lipoprotein. (low amount of protein, more fat) Get it? According to WebMD, since fat is sticky, when this type of cholesterol moves through the blood stream it can stick to the sides of your arteries. This action can be fatal as it can cause arteries to completely clog up, allowing absolutely no blood to pass through and get to where it needs to go. On the other hand, HDL is considered to be good cholesterol because it is composed of a higher amount of protein and a lower amount of fat, hence the term high density lipoprotein.

So why do we care? Well, as I mentioned before high levels of bad cholesterol can be fatal, especially when combined with smoking, high transfat intake and vitamin C deficiency. All cholesterol consumed comes solely from animal products. That’s right, plants have absolutely no cholesterol. I know what you’re thinking: How am I going to get enough cholesterol if I don’t consume any animal products? Don’t worry there is good news. Believe it or not, your body makes ALL of the cholesterol it will ever need, therefore, there is no need to consume any extra. If you consume a little extra here and there, your liver will get rid of it, but a high intake of cholesterol filled foods can lead to serious health implications such as heart failure, obesity, diabetes and even cancer.

I understand that reading things such as this blog post often send people into panic mode about their health, similar to the way FOOD INC. or Cowspiracy convinces people daily to save the planet by no longer consuming animals. (if you’d like to check out these awesome documentaries by the way click the links) However, there is hope when it comes to saving your health. What many people don’t understand is that your body will stop at nothing to protect you. It is an extremely powerful and well designed machine that when fed the proper fuel will work its hardest to purify itself. It is never to late to change your life around.

Think you may need to lower your cholesterol? According to HealthAliciousNess, foods rich in monounsaturated fat are the most efficient in lowering bad cholesterol levels. Some examples include, garlic, avocados, olives, peanuts, extra virgin olive oil, chia seeds and walnuts. I will be posting a recipe incorporating chia seeds very soon.

With everything I write, please take the time to understand that I am not trying to make you feel bad about eating meat or dairy products. I am simply sharing my ideas, and some facts that I’ve come across about healthy diets. Take everything with a grain of salt, and take a moment to decide whether the lifestyle you are currently living is truly healthy. If not, try something new. It will only be the veganing.

 

Shake Cafe Florence Italy

For all of you vegans out there planning on visiting the lovely city of Florence, Italy, have no fear, veganism is here! When I initially made the decision to study abroad here, I was extremely nervous about how I would survive as a vegan in a place that essentially revolves around meat filled pasta dishes and cheesy pizzas. I am pleased to inform you that being a vegan in Italy is nearly as easy as being a vegan at home in the states. While there are several vegan eateries I have discovered, one of the first ones I stumbled upon is a place called Shake Café.

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In picture: Apple, carrot, ginger cake and cappuccino.

About:

Envision a modern, sleek, hole-in-the-wall-cafe, filled with plants, pastries, sandwiches and customers eating salads, and sipping on fresh squeezed juices; this is the ambiance of  Shake Café. Being that it is fairly quaint (can seat about 12-15 people), I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going with a large group of friends, however it is a perfect place to grab a vegan cappuccino, a fresh squeezed juice or a quick bite to eat. They offer a large variety of juices and smoothies, however they use dairy in all their smoothies except for the tropical one, so if you’re vegan I suggest sticking to the juices. Shake Café offers a variety of wraps and salads, however not all of their food is strictly vegan, so if you ever find yourself hanging with your non vegan friends, and are in the mood for something delicious, this is absolutely a place for them too. Everything that is vegan is clearly labeled so you will never feel like you don’t know what to expect. (This has been a struggle for me in a lot of foreign countries).

Best Food:

-Acai bowl: You can create your own. I suggest adding peanut butter, granola, fruit and vegan protein powder.

-Quinoa Salad: Quinoa, spinach, walnuts, lettuce, pears. Dressing: Dijon mustard, balsamic, olive oil, salt, pepper.

-Vegan Bagel: Made fresh every morning. Perfect for a grab and go: Hummus, tomato and spinach on multigrain bagel.

-Vegan “Ruben” Wrap: Not a traditional Ruben at all. This comes as a wrap with tofu, sour kraut, kale, avocado spinach and hummus. Only get this if you like sour kraut.

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In picture: Vegan Ruben wrap

Best Drinks:

-Boost Juice: carrot, lemon, ginger, orange

-Digestion Juice: Pineapple, grapefruit, lemon, carrot

-Iron man Juice: strawberries, kiwi, apple

-Tropical Juice: strawberries, orange, pineapple, apple

-Vegan cappuccino: (Rice/Almond/Soy) (best with soy milk)

-Tropical smoothie: same as juice with protein powder (100% vegan)

Best Desserts:

-Carrot, apple, ginger cake

-Vegan tiramisu

-Vegan croissant

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In picture: Vegan croissant

Prices:

-Juices: small: 4 euro, Large: 5 euro

-Cappuccino: Small: 1.50 euro, Medium: 2.50 euro, Large: 3.50 euro

-Vegan croissant: 1.50 euro, cakes/other desserts: range in price, around 2-3 euro a slice.

-Wraps: 6 euro

-Salads: 7.50 euro

Perks:

-Cozy

-Friendly staff

-Staff speak english

-Free wifi

-Vegan protein powder

-Affordable

-Fresh food

-One of the only places in Italy that has organic peanut butter

-Coffee/food to go

Drawbacks:

-Very small

Tips:

-How to say “to go” in Italian: ” da portare via”.

-Get the cappuccino with soy milk; it foams the most.

-Get there early for a fresh vegan croissant.