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.

Three January vegan soups in the mid-Hudson Valley

Mid-Hudson Valley restaurants have been serving some great vegan soups. In this post, I feature three, with pictures of varying quality (I apologize for this and for not comprehensively covering offerings everywhere. This is by no means a top three list!)

  • Chili (V), one of the soup specials a few days back from the veg-friendly Sissy’s Restaurant on Wall St. in Kingston (dish pictured below). The soup was obviously chunky and colorful with a variety of ingredients.

  • Borscht at Kingston’s vegetarian Outdated: An Antique Café, also on Wall St. (Parts of the area’s Catskill Mountains were once known as the “Borscht Belt,” an allusion to this dish of Eastern European origins.) The soup is pictured with a side salad, ordered from the regular menu.

 

  • Jamaican Jerk Red Bean and Rice soup from the (more or less strictly) vegan Garden Café Woodstock, another special. Soups of this type occasionally appear on the restaurant’s menu board, and this one was served just last night.

All savory and delicious!

In other news, as of yesterday, this site has moved permanently to a domain of its own–the former redirect URL healthyveganhudsonvalley.com.  Readers may want to bookmark or otherwise take note of our new address.

Cool: an explanation of the benefits of eating local food

Local options offer health and environmental pluses. From the Food Revolution Network, here is the link, which also includes an interesting  discussion of CSAs and other specific ways of buying food that is grown nearby. (Imagine: CSAs are a big phenomenon in France currently!) Of course, for many, mid-Hudson Valley-grown food is locally grown food.

Weekly features piece on Red Hook’s Cat Cafe

The Almanac Weekly invites readers to “Enjoy Some Lunch and Adopt a Furry Friend at Morgan’s Cat Café in Red Hook.” (Link is to vegan café’s own site.) The article is in the December 21 paper issue, available free around the area; I will follow up with a link to the article right here if and when I find one!

Breakfast cereal, vegan-nutritarian style

A vegan version of a vegetarian buckwheat granola special, made on request by Outdated café on Wall St. in Kingston. The cereal is sweetened with spirulina, a nutritious and fancy vegan ingredient made from algae, and has been sold from time to time at the cafe. The special comes with dairy products and a fruit compote. I ordered the cereal made with water and found the kitchen had served the dish with fresh fruit on top, resulting in something closer to a vegan nutritarian equivalent–not a stripped down item at the same price!

The picture at the top shows how the dish was served. After eating the fruit, I found that the cafe has left it to me to add water from their self-serve dispenser.

I repeatedly added water and let it absorb into the cereal, resulting in a thick but fluid water-granola mix. Here is what the moist and crunchy cereal looked like:

Note the blue-green color, suggestive of the sweetener’s native surroundings, in the sea. The combination of the sweetener and the hearty whole-grain buckwheat made for a remarkable nutritarian-vegan breakfast-brunch Hudson Valley dining experience.

 

 

Hot and sometimes bitter Hudson Valley vegan food in late fall

Just days ago, T, The New York Times Style Magazine, noted a recent fashion for bitter foods—a seemingly odd preference for bad-tasting food. I have always enjoyed many bitter flavors, such as dark-roasted coffees that are relatively bitter, rather than smooth-drinking, and in fact my mother has a remarkable (to some) liking for marinated foods, including tomatoes dressed with vinegar. I do also, though to a lesser degree. Of course, perhaps this accounts for the fact that I have never been to Lagusta’s Luscious Commissary and neglected them in a regrettably half-baked discussion of vegan and vegetarian restaurants in this area in this post. It offers sweets and tea, along with light food all day, according to an entry in the happycow.org site.

An example of popular bitterness cited in the article is the popularity of molé sauces in Mexican food eaten in the U.S. Dr. Joel Furhman’s ultra-healthy website store offers a sauce for bean dishes it calls an Olé sauce. The directions advise the home chef to water-sauté vegetables, then add sauce and beans and simmer. Hudson’s omnivorous Mexican Radio has long offered a molé sauce along with two other vegan sauces for its enchiladas. The magazine article offers an interesting appreciation.

I have also not mentioned Woodstock Animal Sanctuary, which is fund raising to pay for hay during the winter with its Hay Every Day drive.  Donors who help feed the animals every day can watch their hay being eaten in videos provided by the shelter.  I should mention their snack bar as another place regrettably omitted , though the Sanctuary is closed for the season and does not reopen until spring.

Aba’s Falafel draws raves from friends who enjoy their offerings at the Rhinebeck outdoor farmers’ market during the warmer months. Its new storefront operation is located at 54 E. Market in the same village.

Outdated: An Antique Café in Kingston (vegetarian but not vegan and with many interesting foods) has recently been open Friday and Saturday nights until 9 pm, rather than its usual 4 pm. It has retro chic and is housed in a place with interesting nooks and crannies. I might mention it features some Lagusta’s Luscious candy in the case at the front counter. It will be open Christmas Eve until 4 pm, according to a sign on the door.

Then there is www.meatfreezone.org, another worldwide web presence, a project of Woodstock Animal Rights Movement (WARM), an organization with headquarters in the Catskill Mountains village of Woodstock. The operation once boasted a bricks-and-mortar store in the village.  The website’s store sells pro-vegan merchandise bearing the slogan “meat free zone” which was developed as part of a campaign to create meat-free zones much like nonsmoking areas in buildings.

Mexican Cauliflower Rice and Beans and other post-industrial adaptations

Plant-food-oriented nutritional expert Dr. Joel Fuhrman recently posted a “Mexican cauliflower rice and beans” recipe to the Dr. Fuhrman website. The cauliflower in the dish is used as a substitute for the grain, in a way that is reminiscent of pasta made from squash and other vegetables in season this year.

As this site mentioned in this previous post, problems have been reported with arsenic in some rice and rice products, a byproduct of an industrialized world.  Dr. Fuhrman’s page for the recipe emphasizes the higher nutrient density afforded by the use of cauliflower instead of a grain, which is always an advantage of such substitutions. (The recipes on Fuhrman’s site are behind a pay wall; this page of consumer advice mentioned last time is not paywalled.)

I have been trying some vegan alternatives to rice-containing Mexican dishes at local restaurants. Various taco dishes that appear from  time to time on the specials board at Outdated: An Antique Cafe include crispy and delicious homemade Mexican corn tortillas rather than rice, while people wanting to try avoiding rice at the moment can order the vegan soup or various á la carte items–among other vegan non-rice-containing offerings–at the nonvegetarian Bubby’s Kitchen in Red Hook. (Some other Spanish-speaking countries also have a famous dish called a tortilla.)

Adaptations continue to an evolving situation.

An accidental Thanksgiving at home?

How does a single person have a vegan Thanksgiving on short notice? I found out yesterday without really intending to, as I realized I had not made reservations for the Hudson Valley Vegans potluck dinner, a great holiday event that I have attended the last few years.  Only 80 tickets could be sold and I was shut out for the first time in years!

Below I describe what I made on somewhat short notice as my day’s food. It was easy to maintain good nutrient density, given the ingredients I buy for my own kitchen! (Disclaimer in advance: I also supplement with a vegan source of DHA/EPA, which some get by eating fish, along with a more-standard multi-vitamin multi-mineral supplement and extra vitamin B12–one of the few nutrients available only from foods the animal kingdom or supplements.)

(I update fellow nutritarians occasionally with my cooking efforts on Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s network, at his associates’ website. I have told the story in earlier posts of my use of his framework in the book Eat to Live as a way I found to stick to a healthy vegan diet.)

I started by steaming some broccoli raab (rabé). Steaming is the way to go, rather than, say boiling, which leaves nutrients in the cooking water. (Baking is just too hot!)

The steamed vegetable looks like this;

I served it with a fruit salad (a simple, small version of my intended potluck contribution) for a first course.

I then prepared and at a second course of  100 percent green lentil pasta (avoiding the lower-nutrient-density whole wheat pasta that I used to eat and love). Legumes are required to the tune of a cup a day in the 6-week plan that got me started, while whole grains are permitted in limited amounts. Of course, unlimited means there is no counting; I eat until I am “full.” I mixed canned, diced, no-salt organic tomatoes with frozen spinach and some pumpkin seeds for the sauce shown in the pot at right. I served directly from the pot onto my plate after simmering.

For my first evening dish, I made a more-elaborate version of the fruit salad with halved grapes and no frozen blueberries, as seen in the “brunch” version pictured next to my broccoli raab. My evening salad is shown in the image at the top! To the extent I used dressing it was fruit from the cutting board or 100 percent juice. Fruit juice is not allowed if one is on the 6-week plan, but I do use it to finish or dress salads at times, as an established post-6-Week-Plan nutritarian. Not pictured is a berry-banana-almond butter-tahini-almond milk smoothie, my last dish of the evening. The nut and seed butters need to be raw and the milks of the type labeled “unsweetened.”

Along with my concerns to stay thin and be vegan, I try to eat local foods; in this case, I think the Bosc pears in  the salad shown at the top (large image) were the only local produce–delicious and from a local mid-Hudson valley farm stand.

Group offers recommendations on unfortunate rice-arsenic link

Many people eating a vegan or vegetarian diet will be concerned about possible problems with a toxins sometimes found in rice and products containing rice.

The Environmental Working Group (“Know your environment. Protect your health.”) which offers guides to the healthiness of foods and other consumer products, is currently touting a page it has constructed outlining the basis for emerging concerns with arsenic, a heavy metal, as a contaminant in rice and products containing rice.

Summarizing recent widely reported problems, the group notes that

Federal government scientists and regulators and food industry officials are scrambling to respond to emerging evidence that arsenic, a known human carcinogen, contaminates many otherwise healthy foods that contain rice.

The page summarizes its recommendations in the following “bottom line”:

The bottom line: EWG recommends that you limit consumption of rice and rice-based food when possible and instead eat a varied diet of [including?] healthy lower-arsenic grains and sweeteners.

The EWG goes on to make some consumer recommendations such as substituting other grains or rinsing rice before use.  They note the difficulty posed for vegetarians and others who in many cases eat a great deal of rice. (Also mentioned are some policy ideas that could be used by regulators and growers.)

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, whose advice and website I cite often here, recommends a limited amount of whole grain as a reasonable part of a healthy “nutritarian” diet. He advises in his book Eat to Live and elsewhere that white rice–along with foods made with white flour and other refined (non-whole-grain) grains–is a low nutrient-density food and should be avoided by those seeking a healthy diet. The strict “six-week plan” in that book includes at most one serving of starchy vegetables or whole grain foods per day.  Moreover, refined flours are in the lowest nutrient-density (nutrients per calorie) category for anyone following Fuhrman’s nutritarian advice–approximately as low as beef or sugary sweets, for example. (Fuhrman’s books can be found on the web at booksellers like Alibris (link to the book’s page) or at the drfuhrman.com website mentioned earlier, as well as your local bookstore.) Oatmeal without sweeteners or milk or quinoa as a base under vegetable curry fit the definition of unprocessed whole grains in the 6 -week plan in the same way that brown rice does.

Personal digression: I mention Fuhrman’s “6 week plan” because it seems to have worked for me as an individual to lower LDL cholesterol, lose extra weight and keep it off, increase HDL cholesterol, and lower blood sugar. For me, the plan turned out to be a good framework for building a well-rounded vegan diet on my own after being a (lacto-ovo) vegetarian for 12 years. The plan encourages simple habits, e.g., a routine fruit meal in the morning or steamed vegetables and salad at night. I am one who finds that vegans are often people who are already have skills and knowledge related to whole-foods nutrition and cooking, whether or not they are on a diet plan. Others will perhaps be using other diet plans that reflect the same principles of plant-based nutrition, including the options outlined at the Fuhrman website. In any case, many people who never developed the metabolic syndrome common to people on standard diets may not find they need to be on such a strict regimen.  Of course, medical advice can only come from qualified nutrition professionals, such as Dr. Fuhrman and others working in his practice. End digression.

The vast nutritional benefits—and interesting flavor–of whole as opposed to refined grains are another nutritional issue to remember, as people decide what to do about possible rice contamination. I have enjoyed quinoa bowls, Mexican dishes with corn tortillas, and other alternatives at local restaurants since being pointed to the rice story by a vegan friend in another city. There is now also an excuse to eat even more locally grown superfoods like the kale and other produce I bought at a frigid but enjoyable farmers’ market in the mid-Hudson Valley over the weekend, some of which are pictured at the top and below in a salad I made over the weekend.

Note to readers: We can now be found using the simpler and more easily remembered URLs, healthyveganhudsonvalley.com or www.healthyveganhudsonvalley. We have also recently added SSL technology for more security on the worldwide web.