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.

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.



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.

Some more awareness and Hudson Valley micro-nutrition

In a piece timed for breast cancer awareness month, Dr. Joel Fuhrman highlights the role of flax and chia seeds in the prevention of breast cancer. Of course, they and other seeds have other great health benefits. He notes that flax seeds, as whole seeds, have benefits not offered by oils refined from flax because the seeds contain lignans and other micronutrients not present in a clear oil. For those people who are into scientifically based explanation of why foods are healthy the piece is very helpful–typical of Fuhrman’s writings.

Raw salad and fruit also plays a big role in reducing the risk of cancer, according to much research. (See Dr. Fuhrman’s site and books (such as the bestseller Eat to  Live) for more details. (Link is to book’s page at indie bookseller Alibris)  I here are a picture of two salads I ate at Kingston’s vegetarian Outdated (first row) and one I made and ate for dinner with ingredients from a great local grocery store.  You get the idea. The first salad features some (nut-based) vegan cheese; the restaurant makes its own. Raw nuts, like raw seeds, are a nutritional contributor. Also, less processed versions of foods containing strong ingredients tend to be most nutrient dense–another key Fuhrman principle. On the processing dimension of nutrient density, I would expect a product made by the artisanal Outdated to outperform many supermarket vegan products made with long ingredient lists, but probably not my natural foods store-bought ground seeds.

I have not pictured another great salad (ordered with no dressing) that I ate at Garden Cafe Woodstock. , one of four vegan restaurants in the area. The other three are Karma Road in New Paltz, Healthy Gourmet-To-Go in Saugerties, and Morgan’s Cat Cafe in Red Hook. The raw-foods manufacturer Johanna’s Raw Foods in Pine Plains, Eastern Dutchess County, which we mentioned in a recent post, doubles as a retail outlet with some tables.

I note that vegetarian entry Rosendale Cafe, also close by, has been featuring this more vegetable-rich-looking vegan curry as a menu-board special when it is not offering their more usual vegan garbanzo bean curry over rice. A webcam image of the restaurant’s menu board is frequently updated on the restaurant’s homepage.

I hope people will try a lot of these places without worrying about what I or someone else features on the web. The examples are meant as general inspiration–and of course I cannot offer medical advice!

Finally, ending where I began, the salad at the top is another example of nutrient density. It combines fresh fruit, dried apricot, raw radicchio and broccoli–all chopoped–some ground flax seed sprinkled from a container I keep in my refrigerator, and a simple dressing of 100-percent pomegranate juice.