Fermented foods: living probiotics to help keep you healthy

Fermented foods: living probiotics to help keep you healthy

Fermented foods are strong allies in our goals to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Fermented foods – and I’m not talking the alcoholic drink type – are bursting with probiotics that help feed a healthy digestive tract. Yet the probiotics that flourish in the fermentation process are delicate, and have a long road to travel from the barrel to our stomachs. We want to protect that journey as much as we can, so these living bacteria may live on in our guts.

Just walk away from the fermented drinks

Quick-witted companies these days are producing ‘probiotic-rich’ fermented drinks, non-dairy yogurts, and other single-serve, on-the-run so-called healthy boosts (more like profit boosts). The advertising for kombucha, nut yogurts and other fermented treats are attractive. Hate to break it to you, but all the sugar added to these convenient treats nullify the benefits that come from fermented foods and fermented drinks.

If you still want to buy these products, at least check the ingredients and watch for refined sugar. Sugar in a refined form is simply not helpful for good body maintenance (and it may not even be vegan).

Want a quick probiotic drink? Put a tablespoon of unfiltered apple cider vinegar into water, a smoothie, or other beverage. Well, okay, it may not be exactly probiotic. But ACV does contain good bacteria that can contribute to gut health. Do this one to three times a day and you’ll feel the benefits. Don't overdo it, though, in case your body is sensitive.

Fermented foods: living probiotics to help keep you healthy. #fermentedfoods #vegansnacks Click To Tweet

My introduction to the health benefits of fermented foods

When I lived in Japan, my friends delighted in teaching me how to cook Japanese style. They all had their own particular family ways to make miso soup, and I practiced diligently. The number one common and crucial factor I remembered from all of those lessons is:

never boil the miso.

You do not want to kill all the good bacteria, my friends would say. At that time, an aha moment about fermented foods came to me that, I believe, many of us here in the West have overlooked. We’ve been boiling, frying and roasting the probiotics out of our foods.

Growing up at my house and at every house I ate, vegetables were boiled to mush. If they were still crisp, back they went onto the stove. Sauerkraut came out of cans – already an assault on healthy microbes – and then thrown into a pot with a chopped up apple to cut the bitter edge of the fermented cabbage. If any bacteria survived the can, they were doomed to be boiled alive.

The ignorance I grew up with in regards to a healthy diet was breathtaking.

I learned a valuable lesson about preserving the integrity of food from my Japanese cooking buddies. I ate a lot of kimchi, Korean spicy pickled cabbage, while there, too. After returning to the States, I reintroduced sauerkraut – pretty much kimchi without the hot pepper – to my diet in a healthier, more robust way: no more boiling.

I can laugh nowadays about the food beliefs I was raised with. Boiled was the only cabbage recipe in the house. The closest I got to raw was the coleslaw from KFC, which was loaded with sugar. I still remember the first time I ate a cold salad of shredded raw cabbage with a dressing. Fermentation moves this delicious, versatile vegetable from a healthy food to a super-nutrient boost.

Buy or make your own fermented foods

Personally, I can't be bothered taking probiotics in pill form. I want to know I'm eating live goodness. If you buy fermented foods like sauerkraut, the brands found in the produce refrigerated section will be fresher and filled with many more gut-pleasing microbes than in jars or cans. Making your own is easy, and here is a simple recipe for you.

Dave and Steve from The Happy Pear demonstrate a quick and easy basic recipe for any fermented vegetable of your choice. The lactic acid process explained in the video is a recipe with simply salt and water – no animals involved.

In The Happy Pear’s video, the pickled veggies start at 02:22

fermented veggies homemade | All Vegan Foods

[mpprecipe-recipe:463]

Photo source:
Fermented vegetable jar by Kim Daniels on Unsplash

Veganism has always been more about living an ethical life than just avoiding meat and dairy

Veganism has always been more about living an ethical life than just avoiding meat and dairy

The following article was originally published on theconversation.com

“Ethical veganism” has been ruled to be a philosophical belief in the UK in an employment tribunal. During a case brought by vegan Jordi Casamitjana, who claims he was sacked by the League Against Cruel Sports because of his ethical veganism, presiding judge Robin Postle ruled he was “satisfied overwhelmingly that ethical veganism does constitute a philosophical belief”.

Postle’s ruling doesn’t affect the outcome of the case itself, which continues, but it means that ethical veganism is recognised as a protected characteristic in accordance with the Equality Act 2010, which means it is unlawful to discriminate against an individual who is an ethical vegan. But how does this differ from being simply a vegan?

The word “vegan” was invented in 1944 in Leicester, England by Donald Watson and his future wife Dorothy Morgan. That year, Watson and others founded The Vegan Society. Research into the society’s early publications shows that their key focus was arguing for an end to animal exploitation.

Veganism has always been more about living an ethical life than just avoiding meat and dairy 1Pioneer: Donald Watson, the founder of the Vegan Society in 1944. The Vegan Society

 

 

 

Veganism was ethical from its birth. In 1946, Watson wrote: “Human existence does not depend upon the inconceivable tyranny now existing against animals.” In 1950, the Vegan Society adopted its first official definition of veganism, agreed at their annual general meeting and published in their Rules of The Vegan Society, as: “the doctrine that man [sic] should live without exploiting animals”. In 1954 Leslie Cross, another key figure in the society’s early years, reflected that “rarely have nine short words enshrined a reform so massive, the achievement of which would bring a new world and new men to inhabit it.”

When veganism is understood in this light, Postle’s ruling clearly makes sense. The Equality Act 2010 states that to be a protected belief it must be genuinely held, more than an opinion, and apply to an important aspect of a person’s life or behaviour. But the ruling uses the term “ethical veganism” rather than just “veganism” to establish this condition. The early vegans felt no need to add an ethical prefix to their definition of veganism – so why add it?

One reason is that veganism has largely gained public prominence in recent years in relation to diet alone. Scant media attention is given to its ethical roots, or the transformative potential for individuals and society that Cross celebrated. Certainly, veganism has experienced a sharp rise in profile and popularity in recent years – the number of vegans in Great Britain quadrupled between 2014 and 2019.

Take-up of the Veganuary Pledge scheme rose from about 3,000 people in 2014 to over 350,000 in 2020. Mainstream supermarkets and restaurants are launching vegan – or “plant-based” – products at a rapid rate. This massive increase in the number (and popularity) of products without animal ingredients, frequently described as “vegan”, doesn’t necessarily reflect the ethics of the movement that invented the word.

The new ‘green rush’

This is nowhere more evident than in the current “green rush” of fast food corporations for the vegan pound. KFC’s new vegan burger is being promoted with an adaptation of its famous slogan: “finger lickin’ vegan”. To promote the product, a KFC UK spokesperson declared that:

The Colonel was all about welcoming everyone to his table – now vegans, flexitarians and our fried chicken fans can all enjoy the taste of our Original Recipe together.

On the face of it, the “green rush” is all about equality. Fast food giants are throwing open their doors to vegans and tackling vegan exclusion from mainstream food habits. But, through this kind of commodification, veganism is being placed alongside the kinds of products that the movement founders were fighting against. Veganism becomes co-opted as just a menu option.

In these terms, people who follow a vegan or plant-based diet are able to spend their money at fast food outlets. This has the ironic effect of making the exploitation of other animals invisible, at the very moment that a commodified, ethics-free version of veganism becomes more visible.

Ethical vegans may see fast food giants as the contemporary perpetrators of “the inconceivable tyranny” over animals that Watson wrote about in 1946. Their recent commodification of veganism seems to make Cross’s vision of “a new world” seem a more distant prospect – a consequence that makes good business sense for corporations that depend on animal exploitation for the bulk of their profits.

Focus on ethics

Postle’s ruling is all the more significant in this context. It sheds light on how veganism has been separated from ethics in common usage and “green rush” marketing. As such, it’s another wake-up call about how capitalism is remarkably adept at co-opting social movements that challenge any of its practices.

But the ruling also equips the vegan movement with a mainstream legitimacy for its ethical foundations that it has never previously enjoyed in the UK. Most importantly, this means that the ethical objection to the exploitation of other animals is firmly re-centred in our conversations about veganism.

Got a recipe for that? How recipes are overrated

Got a recipe for that? How recipes are overrated

Cooking has strong cultural and traditional ties. Recipes are passed down from generation to generation. Secret oral instructions privately circle a home kitchen. Some home cooks inherit boxes of hand-written recipes on index cards. Others employ arguments and cook-offs between sisters, brothers, mothers and cousins at family gatherings. And yet others never set foot inside a kitchen until they live on their own as an adult.

Whatever experience you may bring to the table, as it were, start from what you know. Here on AVF, we used to detail recipes with exact measurements. But the more we cook, the more fun we have using the eye method, as well as the dash method. I explain these two methods on cooking without a recipe below.


AllVeganFoods Jacoue at NEEWS loves to eye salads.
Jacoue at NEEWS loves to eye salads.

The eye method

About 10 years ago when I was still eating fish, my brother would ask me for a Hawaiian poke recipe. Nowadays I prefer vegan plant-based poke, and you will see a series starting here on that soon. At any rate, I drove my brother crazy because I never gave him the exact measurements, nor a proper recipe with ingredients, let alone measurements (I've always been that kind of, throw whatever you've got into the bowl kind of cook).

Got a recipe for that? How recipes are overrated! Click To Tweet

Every time he asked me exactly how much of an ingredient to add, my response was always, “Just eye it; you'll get the hang of it.”

Well sure, there's a little more to it than that. For those who have been using the eye method for many years, they don't give it a second thought. Cooking and baking are like muscle memory, to the trained eye. 

The metric and imperial systems are always a consideration (and a royal pain in the butt) when making recipes. Using both systems often makes recipes look overwhelming – and, of course, the risk of making a mistake doubles.

When you ‘eye it’ you use the volume system.”Pour a good amount could be anywhere from a quarter of a cup to a few cups, depending on how large your recipe is and what the ingredient is specifically. Don’t worry too much, though. This is how you learn to adjust your recipes through tasting rather than measuring – how you learn to have a good eye.

Our friends over at Taste of Home have some good tips on how to wing it when you don’t have your measuring cups:

The dash method

Another way to share a recipe  is just to list the ingredients of a dish. That’s how chefs exchange secrets. They are not bothered to give measurements, as they know the foundations of how to cook – well, okay, not a surprise, it is their job after all.

When you ask one of these pros to give measurements, they may simply say, use a dash of this and a dash of that. Bartenders can be notorious for using the dash method, as you can see here:

https://www.womenwhotiki.com/bartenders

 You’re getting the idea now.

Here’s a helpful video from my favorite vegan cooks over at The Happy Pear. They are fans of practicing the art of cooking, not just following a recipe:

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Let’s take a closer look at a few more measuring references:

  • a handful, a few handfuls
  • to taste
  • the juice of a fruit
  • a dollop
  • a pinch
  • a dash 
  • a smidgen

These are called vague measurements. On a funny note, you can buy measuring spoons for the last three at https://amzn.to/2NgZwHw

A handful of cooked chickpeas does not weigh the same as a handful of parsley, so you may want to eye your measurements rather than weigh them.

What vague measurements to you commonly use?


Anyone up for a Too-bean salad sandwich?

Anyone up for a Too-bean salad sandwich?

The birds living at the New England Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary in Rhode Island are the inspiration for naming of this salad. The cockatoos love healthy snacks, and when I shared this one with Kongo Bird, he dove into it. So, I thought it would be a cute play on words, for the two beans of cubed baked tofu and chickpeas, or garbanzos. You can find the recipe for the baked tofu at the end of this post under “sources”.

Eat chickpeas not chicks

When I was a carnivore, I used to eat a lot of chicken salad. I made it different ways – curried with raisins, or with walnuts and cranberries – it always had a creamy base to it. Now that I am vegan I started to explore different kinds of creamy salads. Salads I can spoon into a pocket, definitely a comfort food for me.

The two beans in the salad are baked cubed tofu and chickpeas. Try smashing a few of them so it holds together better. A handful of grape tomatoes and a stalk of celery provide a nice contrast in color and texture. Some leftover parsley needed to be used, so I chopped that up and threw it in, too.

Italian Herb Mix Baked Tofu





Oven Baked Italian Herb Tofu from OhMyVeggies
Check out this loose recipe: Two Bean Vegan Salad with Oven Baked Tofu. Click To Tweet

I remember visiting a friend down in South Carolina awhile ago and going to the neighbors for dinner. The neighbor had a big bowl of potato salad with some interesting ingredients in it, like peas. Sue said, “Yeah, I put about anything I have in it.”

Then I added a spoonful of the vegan pesto from Trader Joe's and a spoonful of Vegenaise. If I ever have more time I may try making a homemade mayonnaise recipe I found on YouTube. The base is navy beans and vegetable oil. The only thing I don't like about Vegenaise is the canola oil. It doesn't stop me from buying it though, because it tastes so good. Besides, I'm getting less and less comfortable using cashews, so any other alternative ingredients work for me. See why in “sources” at the end of this post.

Too Bean Vegan Salad with Chickpeas - Garbanzo tomatoes and celery.


Here below is VeganLovlie's video how to bake vegan mayonnaise. It looks delicious with the white beans.

Make your own mayo that rocks the house!

I found that chopped up celery gives a nice crunch. It replaces onion, without the aftertaste of onions. As I write this, it is late spring with chives and scallions, green onions, in season. These have a lighter taste than regular onions, so you may enjoy mixing them in as well.

A few raisins add sweetness. Yum!

My blogging partner reminded me that celery is not welcome in her home. She said “I would replace your celery with radishes.”

Okay, radishes, celery, I don't judge. What would your optional crunchy veg be?

I also decided to splurge and add two twists of the black pepper mill and a sprinkle of pink salt.

Two Bean Vegan Salad


As you can see from the image, I chose to use a pita pocket. Lately I've been on a flat bread, or unleavened bread Kik because I know they do not have eggs or dairy added to them. Perhaps even subconsciously I am thinking about the yeast, I don't know.

Whatever your choice of bread or grain, let us know! I didn't have any greens, but I may have added some arugula or spring salad leaves. Come to think of it, this salad has chopped up kale in it, too.

As my friend Sue from South Carolina says, “Throw whatever you've got into it.”

In Joy!

Ingredients:

  • Chickpeas – either from a tin or soaked and cooked. Not raw or soaked only.
  • Italian herb-baked tofu, cubed
  • Celery and/or radish
  • Tomatoes, chopped
  • Kale, chopped or your choice of leafy greens
  • Parsley or your choice of herbs like chives, basil.
  • Anything else you want to throw in, like chopped up walnuts, raisins or cranberries
Cockatoo living at New England Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary in Rhode Island.
Cockatoos love salad, so I named my two-bean salad, Too-bean.

Sources:

‘Blood cashews': the toxic truth about your favourite nut

Italian Herb Baked Tofu

What Exactly Is A Healthy Vegan Diet?

What Exactly Is A Healthy Vegan Diet?

What does a healthy vegan diet look like? Many people don't know what a healthy diet is, let alone a vegan one. I got talking with a neighbor at the grocery store recently. He invited me to join his tai chi classes, and talked about general health benefits. I took a chance and asked him if he knew of any local vegan communities. His response was dismissive. “When I was training at the gym, all the vegans fizzled out quick. A vegan diet doesn't work.”

He went on to admit that the small group (one person, actually) of vegans he had met was back in the 1970s, over 40 years previous. I ventured to mention all the top vegan body builders with videos on YouTube. “With the lack of educational resources on diet before the Internet, the vegan you met probably lived on pasta,” I commented. The neighbor was not impressed enough to inquire more, and proudly announced that he “eats everything.” Needless to say, the man soon excused himself and went on his way.

So, do we really want to know about healthy eating, or are we slowly poisoning ourselves?

According to the National Cancer Institute, Americans do not meet federal dietary recommendations. Sure, opinions vary when it comes to what healthy eating means. But little debate emerges about what is not healthy, and the American population does not seem to care. The following is an excerpt from an NCI study:

The majority of the population did not meet recommendations for all of the nutrient-rich food groups, except total grains and meat and beans. Concomitantly, overconsumption of energy from solid fats, added sugars, and alcoholic beverages (“empty calories”) was ubiquitous. Over 80% of persons age ≥ 71 y and over 90% of all other sex-age groups had intakes of empty calories that exceeded the discretionary calorie allowances. In conclusion, nearly the entire U.S. population consumes a diet that is not on par with recommendations. These findings add another piece to the rather disturbing picture that is emerging of a nation's diet in crisis.

Read more here

How to know what a healthy vegan diet is

In the hype of vegan diets, do you know what a healthy vegan diet is? You may have the suspicion that vodka and potato chips are vegan but not exactly healthy. But what about the vegan burgers you can buy in the supermarket or the lentil soup?

Once upon a time I happily ate any kind of processed foods. When I chose to become vegan, I continued to look for quick, processed vegan options for meals. A healthy vegan diet does not rely on processed foods and alcohol. This means you buy fresh produce with few exceptions. Let's take a look at fresh produce:

  • Fresh vegetables and fruit
  • Whole grains and spices
  • Legumes and beans (dried, not canned)
  • Nuts and seeds

The above items are all fresh produce. Of course, we are subject to seasonal and regional harvests, so including frozen produce as part of a healthy vegan diet is fine. Note that we are not talking about heavily salted, seasoned or sweetened fruits and nuts, like pre-made energy bars. Some basics for your food pantry, ingredients that have a minimal amount of processing, are healthy choices to include, nevertheless. Here are a few good items to keep on hand:

  • Soy sauce
  • Tahini
  • Brown rice vinegar
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Coconut aminos
  • Sprouted bread
  • Nut butter
  • Non-dairy milk

Canned vegetables and legumes are quite commonly found just about anywhere. It's a good idea to get into a regular habit of cooking with dried legumes rather than canned, mostly because the salt content and other additives found in canned food. However, canned legumes are still nutrient-rich and worth having in your cabinet.

The bad news is that the burgers and pre-made bean soups are all processed. So are all other kind of vegan/vegetarian meals and fake meat. The good news is that you can easily prepare meals yourself and freeze. How does a lentil-walnut burger with a paprika sauce sound or a meatloaf with glaze?

Not everything we prepare has to look like meals with meat and fish. Usually in the transition period it's nice to have something familiar to eat.  Keep in mind that just because something says vegan on the package does not make it necessarily healthful for you. As you become more committed to a vegan lifestyle, you may not want so much meat alike food, which is only trying to trick your brain instead of transforming your thinking.  We can cook delicious vegan meals, and it can be just as easy as opening a package of processed fake meat.

If you know nothing about cooking, let alone vegan cuisine, don't fret. It's a lot easier to do than many people think, and infinitely more healthful, no question. We all know that dark, leafy greens are rich in cancer-fighting goodness, for example. But due to the heavy lobbying and marketing of the meat and dairy industries, few Americans are aware that healthier alternatives, such as pulses – seeds of legumes that pull nitrogen from the air to create protein – are an important protein source globally. The American Institute for Cancer Research reports that dry beans and peas are rich in fiber (20% of Daily Value) and a good source of protein (10% of Daily Value). They are also an excellent source of folate, a B vitamin.

In Dr. Michael Gregor's, book, How Not To Die, the author goes into detail about the best foods to include in a healthy vegan diet. Check out Gregor's Daily Dozen in this video below:

At any rate, we all inherently know when we are eating badly. It goes without saying that processed foods are addicting because of added sugars, salt, and saturated fats. If you want to live a long healthy life on a healthy vegan diet, make a concerted effort to cut the processed crap out of your daily food consumption.

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