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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Protein Myths About Vegan and Vegetarian Foods (With Recipes)

I recently had this piece published in a magazine, and oh boy did I get a lot of negative responses. A firestorm was caused on facebook regarding this article. It appears I touched on a very sore nerve, because I basically pointed out that all these excuses people give about why they don't want to save money are just that- excuses, and people aren't interested in changing their practices. The topic I covered?
Protein- the fact that you don't need chicken or meat or even animal proteins every night for supper. Every single fact I claim is easily verifiable, which is what makes it even all the more preposterous that I got comments like "You're no nutritionist, I am baffled how you can say that white rice and pasta have protein", even though a simple look at the nutrition facts of those foods would prove I'm correct.

Anyhow, I realize that part of the reason for the whole hullabaloo was because I wrote the article in a magazine read by many people who aren't frugal minded in the slightest, so they weren't receptive to hearing this. Because of that, I wanted to share the piece with you to see if it'll cause as much of an uproar here as it did there.
If there is something I wrote that you know is incorrect, please link me to information that proves your point.

One more thing I'd like to add is that based on the research I've done, I definitely am not an advocate of a vegan or vegetarian diet as I believe that there is much benefit to be had from animal products (as the Weston Price Foundation supports); however, replacing some of your meals each week with vegan or vegetarian meals won't cause any problems nutritionally and will likely save a lot of money. To clarify again in case I wasn't clear- this article isn't meant to convert people to veganism or vegetarianism, rather to argue that you don't need chicken, turkey, pork, beef, or even fish every. single. day.

So, here's the article; let me know what you think.



Protein Mythbusters


Myth: In order to get enough protein, you need to eat poultry, meat, or fish at least once or twice a day.
Fact: Most people can get more than enough protein through eggs, dairy, legumes, starches, and even vegetables!

Myth: My husband nutritionally needs meat. He's a man, after all, and therefore needs more protein.
Fact: While men do require more protein than women, the average American diet contains twice as much protein as even a full grown man requires. Nearly everyone can get a more than adequate supply of protein even from vegetarian or vegan protein sources.

Myth: Picky eaters won't touch vegan proteins.
Fact: There often is protein even in the limited frugal foods picky eaters will eat. I've yet to meet a kid who doesn't enjoy at least one type of vegan protein.

Myth: There's no way to make meat lovers enjoy a non-meat meal the same way they'd savor a meat meal.
Fact: With the right recipes and ingredients, many people can be fooled into thinking that the vegetarian food they're eating is really animal flesh, and even if they can discern the difference, they enjoy it anyhow. (The recipes on the following page may fool the laymen into thinking they're eating meat.)

Myth: Beans don't taste good.
Fact: There is no one "bean taste." There are all different types of beans, each with a distinctly different taste. Each one can be prepared in millions of different ways, each with its own unique flavor. If you haven't enjoyed any bean dish you've tasted so far, don't give up yet—with enough searching, you'll very likely find a delicious bean recipe that appeals to both your taste buds and pocketbook.

Myth: Beans cause uncomfortable digestive issues.
Fact: By soaking beans in hot water and baking soda for 48 hours (and switching the water after 24) prior to cooking them, nearly all the digestive issues can be eliminated, in addition to having the added benefit of extremely shortening their cooking time.

Myth: Vegetarian protein options aren't much cheaper than meat.
Fact: If you compare the price of tofu or veggie burgers or even canned beans to cheap meat, you may possibly be correct, but dry legumes, gluten, and TVP (soy flakes) double or triple in quantity once cooked, while meat can lose up to 2/3 of their mass once cooked.
[Note: I don't use soy for health reasons, but because enough other people do, I included it in this article.]

Myth: White rice, white bread, and non-whole wheat noodles are just empty calories with no nutritional value.
Fact: Every one of the above is a good source of protein, in addition to containing vitamins and minerals, and the carbohydrates are also a superb energy source.
[Note- in the above links, pay attention to protein, folate, selenium, thiamin, manganese, etc...]

Myth: Carbs are bad for you and make you fat. Eating a high carb diet based on rice and beans will cause most people to gain weight.
Fact: While there are some individuals with a sensitivity to carbohydrates, the vast majority of people can handle carbohydrates as part of a wholesome, varied diet combined with produce and healthy fats. Complex carbohydrates, among them whole grains and legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, and beans have been the staple of traditional diets throughout the globe, especially in the cuisine of Ethiopians, Indians, and Native Americans. These people maintained low obesity rates as long as they stuck to their traditional, high carb diets, but once they started eating the modern, processed food available today, they could no longer boast a low obesity rating.
[Note- I advocate eating a whole grain diet, not replacing chicken and beef with white flour noodles and white rice. I only mentioned white flour and white rice above to show that even they have protein, contrary to popular belief, not because I think people should switch to that.]

Myth: Beans, nuts, grains, and seeds are not "real proteins."
Fact: The human body requires consumption of nine different types of amino acids to function properly. All of these amino acids can be found in any animal product, including milk, eggs, poultry (including the skin), and beef as well as quinoa, buckwheat, and soy, among others.
On the other hand, while legumes like lentils, chickpeas, and beans all contain large amounts of protein, they're lacking in certain amino acids, making them incomplete proteins. Nuts, seeds, and grains also contain large amounts of protein, though they too are lacking in other necessary amino acids. As long as your diet contains some foods from each of the categories of incomplete proteins, you will be able to obtain all the necessary proteins even if you eat a completely vegan diet.

Myth: Meat is filling. Beans are not. I can't serve a meal that will leave my family hungry.
Fact: Meat leaves people feeling more satiated than a legume-based meal because of the fat content—not the protein. Eating fat sends a message of satiation to the brain, making you feel that your stomach is full. Low or non-fat foods such as beans don't send such a signal to your brain, making you eat and eat and still be hungry for more. The simple solution is to serve healthy fats alongside your legumes, which will most likely allow you to eat your beans and feel just as full as if you ate meat. The fats I often serve together with beans are avocado, nuts, olive oil, cheese or even the occasional chicken fat, and they add a terrific taste in addition to curbing the lingering hunger often associated with bean-based meals.

Myth: I can't serve my family beans during the week, especially not on a regular basis. Bean stew for a weeknight supper won't fly in my house.
Fact: There's a huge range of available legume based dishes that aren't even slightly similar to bean stew. Some of the many "non bean stew" vegetarian or vegan dishes I serve my family are chili, tacos with refried beans and salsa, lentil walnut burgers, vegan sloppy Joes, vegetarian meatloaf, Syrian rice and lentils, Ethiopian dishes, Indian masalas (curries), split pea soup, five bean soup, white bean dip, hummus, falafel, etc. The list is endless, and none of them (aside for maybe chili) even remotely resembles stew, either in looks or in tastes.

Fact: Vegetarian and vegan sources of protein can be incorporated into a family's diet as an alternative to meat meals without needing to sacrifice taste or nutrition. By making one or more vegan main meal each week, you can free up a great deal of grocery money.

Too Good To Be Vegetarian
You’d never know that these dishes weren’t meat.

People often dismiss the notion of serving vegetarian or vegan meals, because they insist that they don't taste good, or they say there’s “no way a meat-eater would enjoy such a meal.” Here are three high protein delicious dishes that taste so terrific, even sworn carnivores will be asking for seconds.

Lentil Walnut Burgers
This terrific recipe tastes very similar to burgers—the combination of walnuts and lentils give it a very meaty taste and texture. When I served these, my family and guests had a hard time believing that it wasn't the “real deal".
Ingredients:
2 cups ground walnuts
2 cups cooked lentils
4 eggs
1 small medium onion, minced
1 tablespoon oil, butter, or rendered fat
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons prepared mustard
1/2 cup flour, or bread crumbs (or as needed)

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease a baking sheet.
2. Mash lentils or blend in a food processor. (If you're trying to fool people into thinking this is meat, the lentil pieces left after mashing will be a dead giveaway, so use the food processor method.)
3. Heat oil/butter/rendered fat in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until golden. Combine with lentils.
4. Add ground walnuts, eggs, garlic powder, salt, and mustard. Mix well.
5. Add matzah meal, flour, or bread crumbs to bind the mixture and you are able to shape without these falling apart. Adjust as needed.
6. Using your hands, shape the mixture into burgers. Line on prepared baking sheet.
7. Bake for 10-20 minutes, depending on size of burgers, until patties are solid on top.
8. Serve warm on buns with the usual hamburger toppings, such as ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, lettuce, raw onion slices, or tomatoes.

Note: Once crumbled, these work as a terrific imitation for ground beef crumbles, and are amazing in spaghetti bolognaise and sloppy Joes. This food is a complete protein as it contains both legumes and nuts, giving you all the essential amino acids your body requires.

Lentil Meat Loaf
I never was a fan of meat loaf growing up, as it was always tasted dry and bland to me. This recipe is the exact opposite, being moist, delicious, and with a rich flavor. In my book, it beats real meat loaf, hands down!


Ingredients:
1 cup dry green lentils
1 large onion, diced
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup grated cheese
1 egg
4 1/2 ounces tomato sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease a loaf pan.
2. In a medium saucepan, boil lentils in 3 cups water until soft. (This may take half an hour or more.) Strain.
3. Remove lentils to a mixing bowl and mash. Add onions, oats, cheese, egg, tomato sauce, and seasoning. Spread in prepared pan.
4. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the top of the loaf is dry, firm, and golden brown.
5. Cool for a few minutes before slicing.

Note: You can replace the grated cheese with an equal amount of barbecue sauce. (I prefer the cheese based dish.) This “meat loaf” can be served as is, or topped with a (mushroom) gravy or white sauce.
Because this food contains both legumes and grains, it is a complete protein, supplying you with all the amino acids your body needs, the same way real meat loaf would.

Vegetarian Ground Meat Crumbles
This is not a standalone dish, but it's a terrific ground meat immitation that fools everyone, as the texture is exactly that of ground meat. This type of vegetarian meat, originally from China, is called seitan or wheat meat, and it is made out of gluten, the protein rich section of wheat.


Ingredients:
1 cup vital wheat gluten
½ cup water
¼-½ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons oil

Instructions:
1. Combine vital wheat gluten with water, only enough to make a pliable dough. The dough that forms should immediately clump into a ball. Mix well. Set aside for 10 minutes.
2. Fill a medium saucepan most of the way up with water. Add oil and enough soy sauce to turn the liquid medium brown. Bring to a boil.
3. Break the gluten mass into golf ball-sized chunks and drop them one at a time into the boiling liquid. Keep at a rolling boil.
4. Cook the gluten balls until they have doubled or tripled in size and they are large, spongy masses. This may take up to 45 minutes; the larger the balls, the slower they cook.
5. Strain the gluten out of the liquid. Let cool. Squeeze the gluten balls to remove as much liquid as possible.
6. Place gluten balls in the blender until small chunks, the size of pebbles or smaller, form.
Use these chunks in dishes such as stuffed peppers, sloppy Joes, or anything that requires ground meat crumbles, or they can be mixed half-half with your raw ground meat or poultry to stretch the meat farther without sacrificing taste or texture.

Note- These can easily be made in a pressure cooker; doing so makes the process a lot quicker, taking only 15 minutes.
By cooking the gluten at a very low temperature (not a rolling boil) for a long time, until it has all turned solid, you can achieve a more solid chunk of seitan that can be diced and added in place of tofu or chicken in recipes.
Vital wheat gluten is generally sold in specialty baking supply stores or in health food stores, and is also used as an addition to bread to make it more elastic.


This food is rich in protein, but is an incomplete protein, as it only contains a portion of the amino acids that a person needs. As part of a rounded diet containing animal products and/or beans, you don't have to worry about the other amino acids; you're sure to be getting enough as it is.


Ok, so there you have it- my highly "controversial" article on alternative protein sources. Do you think that what I said was so radical or untrue and that anything needs correcting? If so, what do you think is wrong information?
Have you ever shared some factual but not popular information with people who were really angry at your sharing the info? Why do you think people act like that? Because the information is wrong, or because if you actually were correct, then they'd feel they'd need to change how they run their lives, which they're not interested in doing, so instead they believe you're lying to them, or for another reason? What information was it that you shared that encountered so much resistance? 

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