#341 Is Veganism for You?

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I was a vegetarian until I started leaning
toward the sunlight.

Rita Rudner

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Tips on Going Vegan

By Denis Faye

"One farmer says to me, 'You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make the bones with'; and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying himself with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow along in spite of every obstacle."
—Henry David Thoreau

"Why does Sea World have a seafood restaurant? I'm halfway through my fishburger and I realize, Oh my God. I could be eating a slow learner." —Lynda Montgomery

If you're into health, fitness, the environment, or any combination thereof, you've probably flirted with veganism at some point. From a green perspective, it's hard to argue against it. Eschewing meat, eggs, dairy, and all other animal products helps solve everything from dwindling international fish populations to global warming caused by methane-producing feedlots.

Ox, Grass, Humans, and Food

However, on the health and fitness fronts, the benefits of going meat free aren't as clear-cut. Thoreau's quote may be clever, but oxen are herbivores, meaning their multi-stomached digestive systems were created to eat plants. But humans are omnivores, meaning they can survive on just about anything and, therefore, thrive on variety. True, cutting out red meat eliminates a major source of saturated fats, but cutting out chicken and fish also knocks out excellent protein, iron, and omega fatty acid sources. And if you take it a step further, by going vegan and eliminating eggs and dairy from your diet, you'll really have to work hard to get all kinds of nutrients that you might have previously taken for granted, including calcium and B12. And then there's protein.

Proteins are made up of 20 amino acids. Of those, eight are essential to humans. Sure, veggies, legumes, and grain contain amino acids, but meat, eggs, and dairy are the best way to get all eight of the essential ones at once. Without meat, eggs, and dairy, you need to play some serious amino acid whac-a-mole.

Now, before you vegans out there get your knickers in a twist, I'm not shooting down your lifestyle. In my opinion, it's a very noble endeavor. I'm simply saying it's a tough choice, and if you make it, you need to pay particular attention to nutrition or you just won't stay healthy.

Fortunately, because you're not the first person on earth to go vegan, you have all the information you need at your disposal. Here's a look at some of the better sources on veganism.

On the bookshelf

Becoming VeganBecoming Vegan: The Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy Plant-Based Diet by Brenda Davis, R.D. and Vesanto Melina, M.S., R.D. Even if you're not giving up flesh, this book is incredibly informative. It covers every aspect of vegan nutrition, from the history of veganism to how the macronutrients—protein, carbs, and fat—work for vegans. It also discusses how to get the right vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. The last half of the book is devoted to special diets, including those for the elderly, the overweight, the underweight, and athletes. Becoming Vegan is a road map for anyone adopting this lifestyle.

Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Veganomicon takes less of a scientific approach and more of a culinary one. It's a cookbook, but in a Joy of Cooking sort of way. Not only are there great recipes here, but the first 44 pages introduce the reader to the vegan kitchen—from corn starch to veggie peelers—including information on various cooking methods, ingredients, and tools. There's a whole chapter devoted to low-fat cooking and another chapter that'll show every possible variation on preparing a vegetable.

Once you get to the recipes, you'll find a great international selection ranging from spicy tempeh nori rolls to soft poppy-seed polenta.

The recipes in Veganomicon are largely derived from whole, real food sources, unlike another popular vegan cookbook out now called Skinny Bitch in the Kitch. Don't waste your time with this one. The nutritional information in the introduction isn't accurate, and the recipes are littered with faddish ingredients like coconut oil (loaded with saturated fat) and meat substitutes, such as vegan bacon and vegan chicken strips. If you're embracing veganism from a health perspective, these artificial meats are nothing but sodium and chemicals. You might as well pick up a copy of any Betty Crocker cookbook and substitute fake meat for the real deal.

On the Web

The Internet holds a vast amount of great information about veganism. Unfortunately, it also holds a vast amount of loony information, so it's important to be discerning when surfing the Web. Here are a few good Web sites to try.

VegCooking.com. This Web site isn't strictly vegan, but it's an excellent source of practical information. You'll find articles on vegan and veggie products available at your local grocery store as well as what you can order at various restaurant chains.

FatfreeVegan.com. You'd think that vegan recipes would be uniformly healthy, but oftentimes, meat-free chefs will try to make up for taste with salt and fat. You won't find that here. There's also a great section here that divides the recipes by region, which works for those planning their big vegan Ethiopian, Vietnamese, or Caribbean dinner parties.

Vegan.org. This site may be a little too activist for some, but the Vegan Action Web site is a great resource for people looking to bring their veganism to the next level. The site includes links to vegan clothes and cruelty-free products.

VegWeb.comVegWeb.com. VegWeb.com is a vegan community offering recipes, articles, and coupons. As is often the case when the general public contributes to a site, the recipes can be a little dodgy, but you'll get plenty of variety and some interesting ideas.

VeganChef.com. This site is actually a promotional site for Chef Beverly Lynn Bennett's vegan cookbooks, but she offers several great free recipes here.

Going vegan is a huge commitment, and if you mishandle things, it'll work against you on the nutrition front. But if you do your homework, it can lead to an (extended) lifetime of healthy eating—and you'll be able to eat at Sea World with impunity.

Related Articles
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Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this Monday, February 2nd, at 7:00 PM ET, 4:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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3 High-Protein Winter Stew Recipes

By Ben Kallen

As we move into the last frigid months between winter and spring, it's the perfect time to fortify yourself with some hot and hearty comfort food. And if you're careful, you don't have to screw up your nutrition plan to do it. Winter stews can be high in protein, low in fat, and full of healthy veggies—all the elements you need to help you gain lean muscle and lose excess pounds. They're also easy to prepare and brimming with flavor.

Winter, Pressure Cooker, Stew

Many stews can be cooked in a single pot, without too much prep work. Or you can simply place the ingredients in a slow cooker in the morning, so you'll have a fresh, delicious meal waiting for you when you get home at night. (Follow your cooker's instructions for time and temperature settings.) Make more than you need and save the leftovers—stews tend to taste even better when they're reheated the following day.

Remember, when you're working out regularly, whether it's with ChaLEAN Extreme®, P90X®, or Slim in 6®, your body needs plenty of protein to build muscle. And high-protein meals have been shown to spur more fat loss than the same amount of carb-heavy foods. Best of all, a moderate portion of these rich-tasting dishes will keep you satisfied for a long time. (However, we don't recommend you eat stew right before a workout.)

Here are 3 recipes to get you started.

Hungarian Goulash

Hungarian GoulashThis meaty dish gets its unique Eastern European taste from paprika and caraway seeds. Our version is lower in fat than most and includes carrots for flavor and nutrients.

1 tsp. vegetable oil
1-lb. lean round steak, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 cup sliced onion
2 cloves crushed garlic
4 carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. caraway seeds
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. mustard seed
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups water
2 Tbsp. flour
1/4 cup cold water
3 cups whole wheat pasta, or 6 slices whole-grain bread
Reduced-fat sour cream, if desired

Coat bottom of a saucepan with oil and cook meat over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the edges begin to brown. Add onions, garlic, and carrots, and stir. Mix ketchup, tomato paste, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and seasonings; add to pan and stir. Add 2 cups water, cover, and simmer for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until meat is tender. Blend flour and 1/4 cup cold water, and pour into meat mixture. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.

Serve over 1/2 cup cooked whole wheat pasta per person, or with a slice of good whole-grain bread. Top with a dollop of reduced-fat sour cream (if desired). Serves 6.

Nutritional information (per serving):
Calories: 270  Protein: 27 g  Fiber: 3 g
Carbs: 21 g    Fat Total: 9 g

Irish Stew

Irish StewThis traditional full-meal-in-a-bowl is high in protein, low in fat, and gets its nutrients from veggies such as cabbage. If you can find them, blue potatoes have a unique "nutty" flavor and are rich in healthy antioxidant chemicals called anthocyanins.

3/4-pound boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of fat and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
3/4 pound Yukon gold or Peruvian blue potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
6 cups water
2 cups fat-free, low-sodium beef or vegetable broth
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 leeks, sliced
2 parsnips, sliced
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 large onion, diced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
4 slices whole-grain bread, if desired

In a saucepan or Dutch oven, combine all ingredients except parsley. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Uncover pot and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 45 more minutes, or until lamb is tender. Remove bay leaf and garnish with parsley.

Serve on its own or with a slice of whole-grain bread. Serves 4.

Nutritional information (per serving):
Calories: 309   Protein: 24 g   Fiber: 9 g
Carbs: 42 g     Fat Total: 5 g

Vegetarian Lentil Stew

Vegetarian Lentil StewVegetarian dishes tend to be lower in protein than those with meat, but this delicious stew has a decent amount—and it's loaded with vitamins and fiber, too.

1-1/2 cups water (plus more as needed)
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup dry lentils, rinsed and sorted
1 15-oz. can low-sodium diced or crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup dry brown rice
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 carrots, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 red or yellow pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 tsp. salt (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. curry powder
Plain low-fat (or soy) yogurt

Combine water, broth, and lentils in a large pot, and cook on medium heat. When the liquid starts to boil, reduce heat and stir in tomatoes, rice, onion, garlic, and vegetables. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes, adding more water as needed to keep some liquid in the pot. After the first 30 minutes, stir in the salt, pepper, and curry powder. Cook for 15 more minutes, or until lentils are firm but tender.

Top with plain low-fat (or soy) yogurt. Serves 4.

Nutritional information (per serving):
Calories: 323   Protein: 18 g   Fiber: 19 g
Carbs: 58 g     Fat Total: 2 g

Related Articles
"Stay Warm, Lose Weight: 4 Diet-Friendly Hot Drinks"
"6 Reasons to Eat Your Vegetables"
"3 Cool Soups for Summer"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this Monday, February 2nd, at 7:00 PM ET, 4:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Vegan IQ!

By DeLane McDuffie

The first time I met a vegan, to be honest, I didn't know what to say. Coming from the birthplace of American barbecue, meeting someone who actually didn't eat meat or even wear leather shoes felt sort of like finding a unicorn in your backyard or the Loch Ness monster in your bathtub. But unlike these imaginary (some will beg to differ) creatures, veganism is alive and well . . . and thriving. Answer the following questions about veganism.

  1. Which day is World Vegan Day? November 1st is World Vegan Day. So when you're snacking on leftover candy corn the day after Halloween, there are people in the world who are reaping the benefits from eating real corn.

  2. Donald WatsonWho coined the term "vegan"? Donald Watson, a British vegetarian, became discontent with the vegetarian practice of consuming eggs and dairy. In 1944, he, along with Elsie Shirgley, decided to go their own way and spearhead a movement for people who didn't eat or use any animal products. This was the start of the Vegan Society. Watson created the word "vegan" by combining the first three letters and the last two letters of the word "vegetarian."

  3. What are two alternative forms of veganism? There are certain factions of vegans who partake in the Raw Food Diet (or raw veganism, which is eating only uncooked food) or the Fruitarian Diet (eating only raw fruits and seeds).

  4. What's the total percentage of vegans in the U.S.? According to a 2008 national poll conducted by the market research firm Harris Interactive, roughly 3.2 percent (7.3 million people) of U.S. adults are vegetarian, and approximately 0.5 percent (1 million people) of them are vegans.

  5. Pythagoras of SamosWhich famous mathematician was the first to record the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle? It was Pythagoras of Samos. Yes, that Pythagoras of Pythagorean theorem fame. Along with math and the meatless diet, he taught his pupils to honor and respect animals and humankind alike, believing that humans and animals were equals and that no animal should ever be harmed.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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