Vegan Nutrition

Regardless of whether you are just starting out on your plant-based journey or have been embracing veganism for years, understanding vegan nutrition is essential if you want to live a happy, healthy life.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths, misconceptions and outright nonsense surrounding vegan nutrition. Some people still flat out believe that is impossible to live completely free of animal products. And there was me thinking we were in the 21st century!

That being said, there are definitely plenty of wrong ways to go vegan. Therefore, we thought a guide to vegan nutrition would help the Happy Happy Vegan family get things right…and this is it!

We hope you enjoy it but, most of all, we hope that it gives you the information you need to live long, happy, healthy lives…

To read the complete article please visit the HappyHappyVegan site here

But What About Agave?

To agave or not to agave; that is the question. It seems that everything today creates scandal and confusion-our food, our politics, our neighborhoods, how we exercise and now even our sweeteners, natural and otherwise.

A relative newcomer to the culinary world (but not the world) is agave nectar, processed from the agave cactus. It became quite popular with the raw foods community because it is processed at low heat, but in reality, about 30 degrees higher than most raw foodists would deem acceptable, but let’s let that go for the moment.

It seemed that this low glycemic sweetener was destined to be the next big thing in healthy cooking. Deliciously sweet, naturally processed, gluten-free, delicate enough for most recipes, it had it all. Or did it?

Some facts about agave: agave plants are crushed and the sap is collected in tanks. It’s heated to about 140*F for about 36 hours to concentrate the sap into syrup and develop the sweetness. See, the main carbohydrate in agave is a complex form of fructose, one of which is insulin. I know; I know, too science-y. Anyhow, the sap is not very sweet, so when the agave sap is heated, the complex form of fructose is hydrolyzed and then filtered to obtain the desired sweet flavor, from the dark to the lighter, milder amber. In short, the complex fructosans are being broken down into fructose.

Based on my own research, I am not as in love with agave as I was in the beginning. I believe that it’s more processed than I originally thought and in that processing some of the vital nutrients that made it healthy for us are lost.

It is marketed as being low-glycemic and therefore safe for diabetics. Well, I say “Not so fast” on that one. Not only is the whole glycemic index misinterpreted and mis-used, but agave is considered low-glycemic because of its high concentration of fructose as compared to glucose (only about 10%). My concern is that this ratio of 90%/10% is not natural. Even high fructose corn syrup only contains about 55% fructose and we consider that to be the Darth Vader of food because of its high concentration of fructose.

And the big deal about fructose? Ay, ay, ay! While fructose naturally occurs in fruits and veggies, it is in small concentrations, so the liver can handle its metabolism. But when concentrated like it is in agave and high fructose corn syrup, an added burden is placed on the liver. Glucose, our body’s desired fuel is metabolized by every cell, while fructose is not. It has to be metabolized by the liver, which can lead to fatty deposits showing up in this most overworked gland. And since it’s metabolized by the liver, it is more likely to contribute to weight gain than other natural sweeteners.

Some studies also show that fructose can be indirectly linked to the inhibition of collagen and elastin production in the body, resulting in skin that is not so firm.

And finally, this form of hydrolyzed fructose contains no enzymes, vitamins or minerals, so like sugar; it can rob the body of these nutrients in order to assimilate itself for use.

Now that I front-loaded the bad news, there is good news about agave. First and most important, its high fructose concentration is where its similarity to high fructose corn syrup ends. Agave is natural, while HFCS was invented, making agave superior in quality.

Agave’s low glycemic index does make it an okay sweetener to use in small quantities. Its molecular structure allows it to provide sweetness without a “sugar rush” and resulting crash and no blood sugar spike. And it does make great tequila, so it can’t be all bad. (Kidding!)

Look, I have always found agave to be too sweet in taste, so I did not use it much in my cooking. But I have found it to be a nice alternative for people looking for a more intense sweet without sugar and a gluten-free option for natural sweetening.

Do I think you should throw out your agave and cower in fear? Nope. But I do think that I will stick with my old reliable brown rice syrup, which I have used with great success in both cooking and health for more than 25 years. After processing, brown rice syrup remains 50% complex carbohydrate, 45% maltose and 5% glucose. This strong polysaccharide structure allows brown rice syrup to be used by the body more efficiently and is less likely to store as fat. And it digests more slowly so you are less likely to crave more and more sweet taste and binge. You will be satisfied with less. And in most cases, it also is gluten-free, so read the labels before you buy if that is a concern.

Now that’s not to say you can use it without reservation. With about 70-75 calories in a tablespoon, brown rice syrup, like all sweeteners is calorically dense (about 60 in a tablespoon of white sugar) and can pack on the pounds if not used wisely. So while a better choice than white sugar, because it’s a polysaccharide, like all sweeteners, brown rice syrup is a treat, not a staple of life, as much as we would like that to be our truth. If it becomes a staple of life, you will have the waistline to prove it!

But, back to the topic at hand. Is agave healthy as a natural sweetener? In small amounts, I would say it’s okay, not the best, but okay. Is it healthier than HFCS? Yes, because it’s natural, not invented. Is it healthier than artificial sweeteners? Heck, yes, for so many reasons. Are there other options? Yup, from xlyitol to stevia, healthy, natural, low in calories. If you like them, go for it. And it’s vegan, as is rice syrup, so it ain’t all bad news. And as our modern food supply goes, you could do a lot worse than agave nectar.

I prefer (and will likely always prefer) brown rice syrup as my primary sweetener for baking, sauces, puddings and all things sweet.

So relax and enjoy the sweetness of life!

This article originally appeared on Alicia Silverstones blog as a guest post by Christina Pirello

My Favourite Vegan Gravy!

This is my number one favorite gravy that I have been using and modifying on and off for over two years now. I discovered this little gem on the Post Punk Kitchen website – thank you!

Really rich, smoky gravy that is just perfect with biscuits. Not to mention it only uses a handful of ingredients and takes a handful of minutes. Smoked almonds are available in most supermarkets. I also use soaked (sprouted) or unsoaked almonds as well.

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup smoked almonds
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce (I use Tamari as it is gluten free)

Stick all the ingredients in a high powered food processor or blender and process until relatively smooth.

Transfer to a sauce pot over medium heat. Stir often until thickened, about 5 minutes. That’s it!

Easy. Enjoy.

I also add spices such as Turmeric (for color) and Cajon Spice or Smoked Paprika!

The Healthiest Diet: Vegan

Our diet influences our health tremendously: “You are what you eat”. A well-planned diet means that we have a wonderful chance to live a long, fit and healthy life. So if our diet is so important, shouldn’t we learn more about how to eat right from the standpoint of nutrition, working with reputable studies from all around the world?

We are all familiar with articles that urge us to eat more fruit and vegetables and less meat. Even so, meat is still considered a completely normal part of a healthy diet, despite the fact that numerous scientific studies have proved that consuming meat damages our health. The disastrous impact that milk, cheese and other dairy products have on our health is less well known. The public is shocked whenever natural disasters or terrorist attacks kill hundreds or thousands of people. But will people react in the same way when millions of people suffer from and die of cancer, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, obesity and other diseases that are related to diet and malnutrition? While the public is being misinformed and misled about a healthy diet, certain industries will profit from this situation.

Doctors, clinics, producers of medical instruments and pharmaceutical companies can only profit if people suffer from and are treated for chronic diseases. The animal industry only profits if people consume damaging foods such as meat, milk, dairy products, eggs and fish. What’s tricky is that the health consequences that result from consuming products derived from animals don’t become apparent immediately but only years later. Medical progress has been enormous, but we’re paying a high price for this situation in two ways. First, health costs rise and, with them, fees for health insurance. Second, people who have become sick because of ingesting unhealthy animal products now live longer because of our medical progress. But with chemotherapy, pills, state-of-the-art medical equipment, surgeries and other expensive invasive procedures, we don’t treat the cause but only the symptoms of chronic diseases, and we lengthen people’s lives and, in many cases, prolong their suffering. In contrast, the goal of responsible medicine that is truly in the interests of all people should be to help people lead a long life in good physical and mental health.

This goal can be achieved only through prevention, which means through a healthy diet and lifestyle. But doctors, clinics, the pharmaceutical industry and producers of medical equipment don’t profit from healthy people. So who is really interested in keeping people healthy, anyway? In my experience, it’s not medical insurance companies, either – no matter how much health costs rise, the insured patient will pay for it by paying higher insurance premiums. Politics, too, is so closely linked to the profits of the health and animal industries that politicians won’t help, either.

But it gets even worse. Seemingly independent nutritionist organizations publishing official dietary recommendations to the public are partially financed by the meat, milk and egg industries around the globe. A lot of scientists in seemingly independent nutritionist organizations are, for example, offered well-paid consultant contracts or other profitable opportunities by the meat, milk and egg industries. Will these organizations and their scientists under these circumstances speak out against the products of companies that pay them or that they profit from in any other way? In politics, too, the animal industries’ interest groups are very active. And this is why huge amounts of money worldwide are paid to animal industries as subsidies. The EU alone every year spends more than 50 billion euros on subsidies for the agricultural industries. Most of this money goes to the animal industry. Additional export subsidies are even paid so that cheap animal products from the EU can flood the world market and destroy the livelihood of farmers in poor countries.

Via Provegan Website

To Decrease Is To Increase

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The best way to change the world is to change yourself.

The best way to change yourself is to surrender.

To decrease is to increase.

To descend is to ascend.

To embrace the paradox is to embrace a life full of meaning.

To be wounded by the divine arrow is to encounter a love all embracing.

Living with less is actually living with more.

Abundance is now.

Presence is now.

Love is now.

If you possess nothing, you possess all things.

Discover the beauty and bounty of nature. Of why even a blade of grass can make you weep.

Take a rest from religion (in all its myriad forms) and embrace a deeper spirituality.

Know that you are deeply loved and give it all away.

Know the exquisite lightness of being: living completely in the present moment. (thank you miss minimalist for that line)

To let go of ego, of ambition, of self, and find joy in the simplest pleasures of life, where relationships really matter, where Christ becomes everything, is seen in others, all around us. What a wonderful thought. And this has been available all the time – we’ve just been asleep (or numbed or blinded) to this reality.

More silence.

More serenity.

More satisfaction.

More space.

More focus.

More time.

More gratitude.

More simplicity.

More peace.

More freedom.

More life.

And the Christ came to give life and that abundantly, and I have been creeping around in the shadowlands and swamps of religion, self, and ego.

Ahh – time to breathe – perhaps for the first time in 25 years…

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Why Minimalism?

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This brief FAQ was gleaned and expanded upon from Leo Babauta’s great minimalist site mnmlist.com

Q: Why be a minimalist?

A: It’s a way to escape the excesses of the world around us — the excesses of consumerism, material possessions, clutter, having too much to do, too much debt, too many distractions, too much noise. But too little meaning. Minimalism is a way of eschewing the non-essential in order to focus on what’s truly important, what gives our lives meaning, what gives us joy and value.

There is a direct correlation between a philosophy of minimalism and that of an authentic spirituality that is learning the language of grace.

What more do we need when we are already abundant within?

We give out of our inner overflow.

We live out of a present awareness of abundance – in the stillness of the now that is teeming with life.

The life of the vine is flowing within, and nothing external, be it material possessions or an event/conference/meeting driven religion will satisfy. In fact the opposite is true far too often. It will only clutter the soul like soot smearing a two hundred year old chimney.

Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give.
Unknown

It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Jesus

Q: Isn’t minimalism boring or too sparse, with nothing in your life?

A: This is a misconception about minimalism — that it’s necessarily monk-like, empty, boring, sterile.

Not at all.

Well, it can be, if you go in that direction, but I don’t advocate that flavor of minimalism. Instead, we are clearing away all but the most essential things — to make room for that which gives us the most joy.

Clear away the distractions so we can create something incredible.

Clear away all the obligations so we can spend time with loved ones.

Clear away the noise so we can concentrate on inner peace, on spirituality, on our thinking.

Clear away the clanging cymbals of religious mindsets trying to earn love; we can assuredly rest in a love that is.

Clear away the clutter of a driven, law bound spirituality and its incessant demands and live in the reality of the indwelling Christ.

Clear away the confusion of the system that always tries to ‘buy bottled water’ instead of diving deep in the clear water that lies within your breast. Thirst can never be satisfied from the outer well, only the inner well of Love shed abroad in the heart can satiate.

As a result, there is more happiness, peace, and joy, because we’ve made room for these things.

Years of consumerism will have tricked your body into thinking it needs a regular dose of retail therapy which in turn feeds your body with ‘feel-good’ chemicals dopamine and oxytocin.
– The Debt Free Minimalist

In the same way, years of religious consumerism will have tricked your soul into thinking it needs a regular does of law and human effort to validate the spiritual systems we seem so intent on pursuing. We need the feel-good chemicals of the event, the conference, the visiting apostle or prophet with that special gift we think they will give us. It is the ‘guru-syndrome’ covered over with spiritual sounding words (and a good marketing campaign) that preys on our innate hunger and thirst.

Minimalism is a radical departure from the system – so too is the simplicity of grace!

Q: What is minimalist living?

A: It’s simply getting rid of things you do not use or need, leaving an uncluttered, simple environment and an uncluttered, simple life. It’s living without an obsession with material things or an obsession with doing everything and doing too much. It’s using simple tools, having a simple wardrobe, carrying little and living lightly.

The more I have understood and discovered the beauty of simplicity the more it seems to impact my worldview. Faith and life suddenly deepen into a more crystal reality. Grace is changing my entire life philosophy – not just the ‘spiritual’.

And is that not a good thing?

We crave that authenticity – an emerging inner integrity and congruence.

Grace, with the inherent soul-lean towards simplicity, beckon us to live in congruence with the truth of that world. Alongside this emerging reality of our deepest urges and instincts we will discover the foundations of love in profound ways.

Q: What are the benefits of minimalism?

A: There are many. It’s lower in stress. It’s less expensive and less debt. It’s less cleaning and maintaining. It’s more enjoyable. There’s more room for creating, for loved ones, for peace, for doing the things that give you joy. There’s more time for getting healthy. It’s more sustainable. It’s easier to organize. These are only the start.

He who is contented is rich.
Lao Tzu

From the outworking of the inner minimalism of grace there is a profound joy found in the simplest things.

Divine rest is contentment, joy, life – an ending of the struggle for acceptance and peace.

The greatest gain a soul can experience is to know godliness (God-like-ness) within. That is contentment indeed. The divine nature indwells. We abound as we abide.

The fact that we are so busy spiritually betray a deeper unrest. An incessant doism plagues many modern spiritual movements – doing things, going to things, trying to get things – when all has already been done and given. It surfaces in our theologies, philosophies, and world-views.

Eliminate physical clutter. More importantly, eliminate spiritual clutter.
– D.H. Mondfleur

Maybe you would be interested in looking at my Minimalist Pinterest Board.

All You Need