May 16, 2012

Miracle Foods for Vegans

If you are one of those vegans who don’t like your vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients coming from a bottle...these are some of nature's miracle foods for vegans. I wish I knew about them many years ago! There’s a few more on the docket to try, including stinging nettles right out my door.

I started researching dandelion because I needed an herbal diuretic for my canine companion, for medicinal reasons. I couldn't believe what I was reading about dandelion.  Fresh dandelion greens, flower tops, and roots have valuable properties that are anti-oxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting. Dandelion is said to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Dandelion is very nutritious, having more vitamins and minerals than most vegetables. It is rich in vitamins A, C, D, and the B-complex, as well as iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, manganese, choline, calcium and boron. Fresh dandelion herb provides over 300% of the daily-recommended intake of vitamin-A. Dandelion is probably the richest herbal sources of vitamin K; providing about 650% of daily recommended intake. Dandelion is alkalizing, laxative, astringent, highly diuretic, and a general stimulant. Dandelion is high in anti-oxidants such as vitamin-C and Lutein which reduce the free radicals in the body, thereby reducing the risk of cancer. The young spring greens are used as a salad ingredient (before they turn bitter later in the summer). Roasted dandelion root is used as a coffee substitute. Dandelion is a mild bitter herb. Dandelion may date as far back as 30 million years ago, and was one of the original bitter herbs mentioned in the Bible. You need to know the right variety of dandelion apparently. I just purchase it already dried from the health shop and today I nibbled on some when I found the right kind; with the jagged leaves. What most think of as a weed turns out to be a miracle plant; especially for vegans. I talked myself into it; going to make a dandelion tea now!

Like in flaxseed, you can also find ALA (alpha linoleic acid) in purslane. Fresh leaves of purslane contain surprisingly more Omega-3 fatty acids (α-linolenic acid) than any other leafy vegetable plant. ALA is an essential component of omega-3 fatty acids. Because vegans choose not to consume fish, they can still reap the benefits of omega 3 from eating purslane (and a few other vegan foods), which is a precursor to our bodies making Omega-3 fatty acid, at a low conversion rate. (For example, we don't know how much purslane or flaxseed you need to eat to convert to beneficial long chain fatty acids DHA and EPA.) Science has shown that consumption of foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, aid weight control, prevent certain cancers, and can improve the effectiveness of treatment for hyperactivity, Attention Deficit Disorder, Schizophrenia, Autism, Alzheimer's disease, Bipolar Disorder and depression. Omega 3 helps our body in producing compounds that are needed to regulate our immune system, blood clotting and blood pressure. Purslane is not only a good source of fatty acid, it also offers plenty of minerals. Purslane is rich in Vitamin B-complex, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and is an excellent source of Vitamin A; one of the highest among green leafy vegetables. Also present in purslane are potent anti-oxidants and other beneficial nutrients like beta carotene, and amino acids which help our body to make protein. A few other healthful substances found in this “plant that grows like a weed” are pectin; which is believed to reduce LDL (low-density lipoprotein, the bad cholesterol - and there are vegans that do have high LDL cholesterol manufactured by their own body; not sourced from eating animals and their secretions), gluthatione; which is a master antioxidant in our body, dopamine (a muscle relaxant agent), and Co-enzyme Q-10; found in every living cell and supplies them with energy. Since the time of Hippocrates, purslane has been widely used in Europe for its healing properties. In ancient Egypt, purslane was used to treat heart disease and heart failure. (If purslane is not available in your area, you can use lingonberries, hempseed, walnuts, flaxseed, perila, goji berries, and chia seeds as an alternative vegan food source of omega 3.) Purslane can be used simply as a green salad and eaten raw with other greens. Because it contains oxalic acid, which may crystallize as oxalate stones in the urinary tract - and because of its potency of nutrients and alpha linoleic acid, that tells me that it is not necessary to eat large quantities of purslane. I just ordered purslane seeds.

Goji Berries, also known as Wolfberries, contain many micronutrients and phytochemicals, including 11 essential and 22 trace dietary minerals, 18 amino acids (they have the highest amount of protein of any fruit), 6 essential vitamins, 8 polysaccharides and 6 monosaccharides, 5 unsaturated fatty acids, (including the essential fatty acids, linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid; one of the few vegan sources of ALA short-chain fatty acid that converts to Omega 3), phytosterols, 5 carotenoids, including beta-carotene and zeaxanthin (one of the riches edible plant sources of zeaxanthin), lutein, lycopene and cryptoxanthin, and numerous phenolic pigments associated with antioxidant properties. Goji berries contain calcium; 100 gram serving provides about 8-10% of the Dietary Recommended Intake. They offer about 24% of the Dietary Recommended Intake of Potassium. Wolfberries have 100% of the dietary recommendations for iron; one of the essential nutrients that vegans need to be aware that they are consuming. There are plenty of vegan sources of iron, and yet it is one of the 6 nutrients that vegans fall short on, generally speaking, in blood tests comparing them to the "norm" (if those consuming animals can be considered the norm, that is.) Goji berries also contain zinc and plenty of Vitamin C. 100 grams of dried Goji berries provide 91% of dietary recommended intake of Selenium and 100% of the daily recommendations for Riboflavin (Vitamin B2). Published studies report that with goji berry consumption - there may be benefits against cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, and vision-related disease (such as age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma) (sadly, they experimented on mice and other animals to get these findings.) Not all goji berries are created equal. When grown commercially in China, and even claimed to be organic, fungicides may be used to kill insects that attack the fruit. It's good to look into where your goji berries are sourced from. I just learned about goji berries …even my canine companion likes them (cut up).

Chia is a plant which, like flax seed, has a great deal of healthy omega-3 fatty acid in it. In fact, they are the richest plant source of Omega-3; fatty acids which are not so easy to come by in regular vegan eating. Omega-3s are known to reduce inflammation and help the body fight off some of the effects of aging. Unlike flax seed, you don't have to grind chia seed in order for your body to use it - and chia seed does not spoil quickly, making it much more convenient than flax seed. Two tablespoons of Chia seeds also have a respectable amount of antioxidants. Chia seeds have 19 amino acids; but not taurine. They are low in calories, gluten free and easy to digest. They have more iron than spinach, more antioxidants than blueberries, and also high in calcium. Just add Chia seeds to fruit bowls and salads or sprout them much like alfalfa seeds. I just started eating them, I must confess. I add them to my fruit bowl and squeeze an orange over them and let it make a sweet gel with the fruit. It’s a good way to eat them. And I feel really full afterward just from a fruit bowl with chia seeds; that 'full-feeling' is why they are touted as beneficial to weight loss.

Turmeric is an orange-colored spice from India that is part of the ginger family. The main component in turmeric, called curcumin, appears to aid in blocking cancer, new research shows. It may prevent melanoma and cause existing melanoma cells to die. And it may prevent metastases from occurring in various forms of cancer. Turmeric’s powerful antioxidant properties fight cancer-causing free radicals. It is a potent natural anti-inflammatory that may help with rheumatoid arthritis. It can replace anti-inflammatory drugs, with no side effects. Turmeric is said to be a powerful antiseptic and can be used for disinfecting cuts and burns, and it assists wound healing. It’s a natural painkiller. Chinese medicine has used it as a treatment for depression. It is recommended that it be eaten raw, sprinkled on food, and mixed with a bit of oil or tahini for palpability. It is nice when making tofu eggless salad…it turns the tofu yellow. It is available as a supplement in pill or vegan capsule form. “Curcumin, the main component in the spice turmeric, suppresses a cell signaling pathway that drives the growth of head and neck cancer, according to a pilot study using human saliva by researchers at UCLA’s Cancer Center." (link below) Add some spice to your life – turmeric! 

Chlorella is a single-celled type of algae that grows in fresh water. The whole plant is used to make whole food supplements. Because of its unique ability to bind with mercury, lead, and cadmium, the alga (chlorella vulgaris) has become increasingly popular as a heavy metal "detoxifier".  Studies have shown chlorella’s superior ability to (safely) draw these toxic metals from the intestinal tract where they accumulate. Most of the chlorella that is available in the U.S. is grown in Japan or Taiwan. Chlorella is the top selling health food supplement in Japan. Unlike spirulina, chlorella has been shown scientifically to contain bioavailable real Vitamin B12 (cobalamin); not the analog that may actually interfere with real B12 absorption, in two studies. (See links below). However, other tests did not get the same results, so until chlorella is tested more on humans, it should not be considered as a sole reliable source of B12 for vegans. I saw a certified organic brand at a health shop called ‘Lifestream Chlorella” and the labels says it contains not only B12, but Vitamin D; also very rare to see in plant foods. Chlorella is a potent source of healthy omega-3 fats, making it a cholesterol lowering food. Vegans need to ensure that they are consuming enough of these fatty acids, also not that widely found in plant foods. This along with the fact that it contains many phytonutrients - puts it on this list of Vegan Miracle Foods. Chlorella is the highest known source of chlorophyll. Chlorella has ten times the beta-carotene of carrots. It’s a good source of fats, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and protein. It contains 18 key amino acids including the 8 essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein). Many prestigious institutions researched this algae. Initial testing by the Stanford Research Institute showed Chlorella (when growing in warm, sunny, shallow conditions) could convert 20% of solar energy into 50% protein, when the plant is dried. The plant can yield more protein per unit area than any other plant! However, the cellulose cell wall of chlorella must be broken down before people can digest it, so it has to be produced in artificial conditions. Chlorella products varied significantly in the amount of protein, carbohydrate and fat that various tested samples contained. In the presence of light, chlorophyll produces oxygen. Cancer cells don’t like oxygenated conditions. Some use chlorella medicinally to prevent cancer, stimulate the immune system, as a potent cellular detoxifier, to increase good bacteria (probiotics) in the intestine, and to slow the aging process. It’s advised to consume chlorella that has not been freeze-dried, and has no additives or preservatives. I’m off to take a Lifestream Chlorella mini (easy to take) tablet. I have to stick around to see the vegan world that’s coming!

A whole food, an algae that naturally contains real Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D and Omega 3's -
A True Miracle Food for Vegans.


Sunburst Superfoods


Michelle said...

I never heard dandelion. But wow, it can be an alternative source of vitamin d especially for those places with long winter season.

wild leek lady said...

I have TONS of stinging nettle in the woods by my house, its yummy steamed or hung up and dried for tea...take gloves and scissors when you harvest it!! My yard also has Plantain that can be used in salads, use only the lighter green inner leaves they aren't as bitter. Plantain grows everywhere!! And I've also dug up some Burr roots for stir fry, very large elephant green leaves, with those nasty brown burrs that stick to everything. Burr root is a very popular veggie in Japan, almost as much as we love potatoes!! Dig up the younger burr plants, the older roots are too tough. You will need to carry a camp shovel. We also have an abundance of wild leeks/ramps by my house (Columbus, Ohio), they are delicious but only available in the wild during the month of April. I also hear that queen annes lace is actually a carrot plant, but I havnt found any around to try. True queen annes lace has a small purple flower in the center of the lace...if it doesn't have that DON'T EAT IT!! I havnt found purslane here either, but im still looking!! I LOVE plants from the wild, just thinking about all the vitamins and minerals...mmmm yummm. :D