A vegan fish-oil substitute on sale–and a moral dilemma resolved?

Some consumption of a vegan substitute for omega-6-rich fish oil is called for to maintain brain and peripheral nervous system health and meet other nutritional needs for those who are strictly vegan in all nutritional choices. Plant-nutrition advocate and “nutritarian” doctor Joel Fuhrman’s website recently announced a sale on a vegan supplement containing DHA and EPA, thought to be the key fatty acids found in fish oil, and I thought I would mention the issue and Furhman’s approach to it for those who seek to be completely vegan.

Many will recall that Japanese people and people in other fish-eating cultures are known for lower rates of certain diseases, and it is thought that fish consumption is likely to be a reason.

While fish oil has a greater abundance of usable DHA and EPA, it is of course not vegan! Moreover, for everyone there are health issues associated with seafood from polluted waters.

Flax seeds and walnuts in sufficient amounts are perhaps fine as substitutes for most people. I like to sprinkle ground flax seeds on food. Packages of pre-ground seeds are available in natural foods stores and are handy. In general, raw seeds are a good nutritional  complement to vegetables and fruit as they increase the bio-availability of the micronutrients therein.

For all of this, most seeds and nuts are not as strong in omega-6 fats as flax seeds and walnuts.  Moreover, some people have difficulty obtaining the needed fatty acids by digesting these standard vegan sources of omega-6 fatty acids.

I occasionally mention Dr. Fuhrman’s website and practice because I have used a a slightly relaxed version of Fuhrman’s “six-week” plan from the book Eat to Live for about 10 years. I use an algae-derived supplement of the key fatty acids found in flax seed and fish oil long marketed by his website.

About my discussion: I am not a doctor or nutritionist, though I hold graduate degrees in other fields. So I address my comments to those who, like me, have learned some of the ideas from other places and are receptive to  someone else’s story—one that combines the themes of food in the mid-Hudson Valley; veganism; and plant-based healthy eating.

(I am completely independent in all of my recommendations and receive no compensation from anyone for maintaining and contributing to this website, taking no advertising so far. I do not intend to accept any arrangements in which I am paid for mentioning or recommending anything.)

The need for these essential fatty acids may seem to pose an ethical dilemma for people with a genetic disposition to dementia and other health problems and with small budgets for DHA-EPA supplements. For them, the supplement might be thought of as in the same category as a needed medicine made with animal products. Then, for vegans who may wear leather shoes, etc., the commitment to be vegan in all food choices can be reconciled with consumption of nutritional supplements derived from fish oil. Personally, I have used the Furhman product (DHA-EPA Purity) for at least two years now.

This deal ($46.73 for a two-month supply for non-website members and a bit less for members) makes the financial question more concrete.  Also, as I mentioned, for a sufficient-sized (over $50) or recurring order, shipping and handling are free of charge to addresses within the “lower 48”–all U.S. places in the contiguous states and District of Columbia  One also has the option of stocking up if one visits the wellness center in person for a visit with a doctor in the practice of for any other reason!

Note: Afterthought, minutes after posting the above: It should be noted that the 60-day amount may not amount to 60 days’ worth for some of those predisposed to cognitive (thinking) problems such as dementia.

Improvised vegan pasta dish, with and without pasta

After a recent trip to the supermarket, I enthusiastically made a pasta sauce with no-salt, organic, diced tomatoes from a can, along with garbanzo beans and some very nutritious vegetables. The sauce can be seen cooking in a large pan in the picture above. One can see bits of white and green bok choy and tiny cylinders of chopped asparagus. I always start by water-sauteeing any onion or garlic. The vegetables are added one by one after the tomatoes, so that they will all be done at the same time. I sometimes add frozen loose spinach and then cover to aid cooking.

Served in a bowl with pasta made from lentil flour purchased from Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s internet site, here is how the final product looked.

On a subsequent day, I chopped and steamed the remainder of the asparagus to use instead of pasta as a base for my leftover sauce. I sprinkled on tangy nutritional yeast. Here is a picture:

Cooking ingredients in boiling tomatoes from a can is a low-temperature cooking technique that offers health benefits compared to baking. Moreover, nothing escapes from the pan during cooking. I reserve extra liquid from the can in bowls while I cook, so that my dish does not get too watery, resulting in a soupy mess. Often, I find that I can add nutritious tomato juice back in later on in the cooking process when I find that the pan is getting too dry.

The recipe is an example of the principles of the Fuhrman six-week plan, as I do it when cooking at home. All ingredients meet Dr. Fuhrman’s criterion of nutrient density, a way of thinking about plant-based nutrition. Divide a measure of micronutrients in a given amount of food by the number of calories, as in the formula N/C and you have it. Also, I have made sure to include variety of ingredients, another key principle: nothing but spinach is not great, as nutritious as spinach is! Also, I have leaned toward green vegetables a bit with the inclusion of bok choy and asparagus.  With the inclusion of lentil pasta and a few beans, I also have not missed legumes; they too are required each day in Furman’s six-week plan.

I am missing raw vegetables from this one dish; Furhman advises half raw and half cooked. I have also not included raw or frozen fruit, mushrooms, or raw nuts and seeds. The latter are required but limited. I haven’t bothered with a daily serving of whole-grain food, which is allowed but not required.  And, given limits, I ate this dish made from six-week-plan types of foods until I felt satiated. Finally, supplements needed by any vegan in my geographic location, which is far from the tropical sun, complete the picture. Also, my choice of canned ingredients  has allowed me to keep sodium to a minimum and to keep the dish partly organic.

The pasta is a bit expensive. I am a member of the drfuhrman.com site, giving me a discount. I make purchases in the form of large orders to avoid shipping charges. Health food stores and some supermarkets sell pasta made from a mixture of lentils and other legumes plus whole grain–a pretty healthy compromise for those not inclined to shop online.

Speaking of costs, here is a link to the magazine Chronogram‘s list of 20 spots to eat cheaply in the Hudson Valley, published earlier this month. It mentions three places and dishes in its “vegetarian” category!

One note as an afterthought: the six-week plan is in a chapter Fuhrman’s book Eat to Live.