31 May 2013

guest post: how to start eating vegan for avid meat eaters {by virginia cunningham}

Switching from a diet that’s heavy on meat to a diet that contains no meat at all – the vegan diet – can feel like a nearly impossible task for some people. While it might seem like a huge change in lifestyle, adapting to a vegan diet could be easier than you think if you do it the right way.

Many people that switch from eating meat to eating a vegan diet also worry about nutritional deficiencies. It’s possible to have nutritional deficiencies while on a vegan diet, but a little bit of knowledge about what foods you need to eat to maintain your health can go a long way.

Being vegan can seem difficult at first, but it can be done in a healthy way! If you ate a lot of meat and dairy foods high in saturated fat prior to switching, you may even see considerable health benefits when you switch to a vegan diet.

Don’t Starve Yourself
When switching to a vegan diet, you may find that you need to eat more food to fill you up and make you feel satisfied. For many people, this can be alarming since eating a larger volume of food can make them feel like they’re overeating.

The truth is, if you’re eating considerably more fresh vegetables and fruits as part of your new diet, you’re going to need to eat more food because they’re generally less calorically-dense than animal proteins and dairy products. Eating more might unnerve you at first, but it’s something you’ll get used to.

Keeping some calorically-dense foods around for when you’re particularly hungry, like peanut butter, can also be helpful for many vegans.

Drink More Water
Everybody needs water, but when you switch to a vegan diet, it may be even more important to you than it was before. That’s because your body is likely going to be inundated with large amounts of fiber-rich foods like fruits and vegetables. These are healthy, but your body probably won’t be used to the amount you’re going to be eating as a vegan.

Water can also help eliminate some of the toxins left over from years of eating processed animal products from your body.

Worried About Protein?
Many people who switching to a vegan diet worry whether or not they’re getting enough protein. While most foods contain a minimal amount of protein, incorporating protein-rich, non-animal based foods into your diet as a vegan is important.

Examples of protein-rich foods include beans, nuts, peanut butter, soy products (like edamame and tofu), tempeh and quinoa. As an added benefit, these foods are also considerably lower in saturated fat than animal-based products – some, like black beans, are even completely devoid of saturated fat.

Not Everything Labeled as Vegan is Healthy 
When you first start eating vegan, it can be tempting to grab everything from the grocery store with the “Vegan” tag on it. After all, it’s going to take you some time to learn how to prepare food that’s vegan-friendly, so these prepared foods can make the transition easier, right? The truth is, not everything with a “vegan” label on it is necessarily good for you. Processed foods like certain veggie burgers and “hotdogs” can be very high in fat and sodium.

There are certainly some healthy prepared vegan options out there, but like with all food, you need to read the nutrition label before you fill your shopping cart with them. Just because it’s vegan, it doesn’t mean it’s something you need to be eating regularly. That applies to vegan snack foods and items like soy ice cream as well.

Making the switch to a vegan diet can be daunting for a lot of people, but once you get in the habit of eating vegan, you’ll be surprised at how easy it really is. As long as you’re conscious of what you’re eating and making sure you’re getting enough nutrients and calories, you might feel healthier as well. 

Virginia Cunningham is a freelance writer from California whose writing covers a wide range of topics, including health, fitness, alternative medicine and technology. When choosing vegan-friendly foods for her family, she makes sure that they contain the essential vitamins and supplements.

30 May 2013

guest post: cancer treatment and healthy eating {by david haas}

Cancer is a notoriously difficult disease to treat, but this is thankfully becoming easier. Better and more targeted treatments, outcomes, and aftercare is making cancer treatment a less arduous process. There are, however, still difficulties that remain.

Some of the treatments for certain forms of cancer are still very debilitating. Many cancer patients have side effects like insomnia, low energy, and weakened immune systems. Healthy eating is one positive thing you can do to counter some of these effects and speed the healing process. For example, someone with mesothelioma symptoms has some tests and is confirmed with a mesothelioma diagnosis. His treatment is expected to pay off in the long run. But in the short run, he is experiencing difficulty sleeping and low energy. He starts eating healthier and finds that he has more energy during the day and sleeps better at night.

One important facet to your cancer diet is fresh vegetables, particularly green, leafy ones. This type of vegetable is loaded with chlorophyll. How can chlorophyll help you? For one thing, it helps build blood. Many cancer treatments leave patients with low blood counts. The chlorophyll molecule is actually very similar to hemoglobin found in your red blood cells. The main difference is that chlorophyll is centered around magnesium rather than iron.
Chlorophyll kills bacteria. When your immune system is compromised by your treatment, an opportunistic infection can be the result. Eating green veggies gives your immune system some needed support while it recovers.

Blood sugar levels
Since fatigue is such an issue with many cancer patients in treatment, maintaining good blood sugar levels is the key for preventing energy crashes. One way to do this is by avoiding foods like sugary drinks, white bread and pastries, and candy. These foods give you a temporary "sugar high", only to leave you crashing later and craving more unhealthy food.
You will want to eat healthier foods and better forms of carbohydrates. Eat whole grains instead of white breads, for example. Whole grains take longer to digest and smooth out your blood sugar levels. Also eat plenty of fiber-rich foods in general for the same reason.

Immune system
You should also eat foods that help support your immune system, particularly if it has been compromised by your treatment. Some good food choices here are yogurt, garlic, tea, mushrooms, and green vegetables.

22 May 2013

vanilla cheesecake with chocolate crust, strawberries, cacao nibs + pistachios

Every part of this is epic. Chocolate cookie crust. Creamy vanilla cashew cheesecake. Strawberries topping it all off. I was going to put this recipe in my COOKBOOK (it is still extremely exciting for me to type that word) but I reached over 15,000 likes on facebook yesterday and thought "Hey, these guys deserve something special for being so freaking amazing, loving and supportive". So here ya go.

It kind of tastes like a giant Oreo, plus strawberries. Eeeexxxccellent. You know what else is excellent? The fact that every single recipe in my upcoming book is going to be just as awesome as this one. I'm not kidding around - I am putting my ALL into this book because I really want it to be a practical tool in the kitchen, as well as a powerful one to impress. Wink wink. Also, I am perfectionist and have to be proud of what I create. There will not be one boring or mediocre recipe in the entire {un}cookbook. That's my promise!

The toppings for this cake are optional but they make it so perdy, don't ya think? I'll be keeping it in the freezer until Saturday, when I'll be hosting a raw vegan dessert party. Yes; that IS the best four word combination possible. As you know, I've been making at least one dessert recipe every day and I figured I can't eat them all - as much as I'd like to - so I may as well share them! Other ways to give away loads of desserts: I'm going to be catering the desserts for a friends party next weekend, and also handing out my extra recipes to the homeless people downtown. Wholesome nutrition for everyone!

vanilla cheesecake with chocolate crust, strawberries, cacao nibs + pistachios 

1 cup pecans
1 cup dates
2 tablespoon cacao powder

1 cup each of cashews, pine nuts, shredded coconut, and dates
1/2 cup water, as needed
Seeds from one vanilla bean (and/or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
2 tablespoons each of maple syrup and melted coconut oil

2 tablespoons cacao nibs
2 tablespoons pistachios, roughly chopped

To make the crust: pulse the pecans in your food processor until they become a rough flour. Add the dates and cacao and process until it begins to stick together. Press into the bottom and halfway up the sides of a small spring form pan (mine was about 6 inches) and put in the fridge. 

To make the cheesecake: blend all the ingredients until smooth and thick. Pour into your crust and then refrigerate overnight so it can set and the flavours can develop. Two days is even better. Decorate with the toppings and enjoy! 

16 May 2013

pink juice, positively bursting with life

I love the colour of this juice; it's so bright and bursting with life! The majority of my diet has been mostly juice and smoothies lately, along with the raw desserts I'm making everyday for my COOKBOOK (it's way too exciting to type that). I think in warmer seasons I naturally crave lighter, cooler food. I haven't really been wanting cooked meals at all, or even my giant fruit bowls or salads. I am totally content with just my juice for now. I would go on a juice fast  because the idea is so appealing and natural at the moment - but then I'd have no way of knowing how my recipes for the book will taste!

this lovely pink juice: 

1 beet
1 cucumber
2 apples
2 oranges
3 tomatoes
1 lemon
Some mint leaves
2 sticks of celery 
2 slice of pineapple 

Wash, chop and peel the produce as needed. 
Put through your juicer, drink up the goodness, and get the glow. 

13 May 2013

dat sunshine juice + some big news

It's not like there's some special secret to making an amazing glass of juice. All you're doing is helping the mind-blowingly delicious flavours of fresh fruits and veggies shine through, and letting your taste buds do the rest. Simple. Yet every time I make juice (about once every one or two days) I cannot believe how incredible it tastes. Then I remember... "oh yeah, momma nature's a pro". Get the recipe at the bottom of the post, but first read what's directly below! 

Onto this big news. Can ya guess what it is? I am SOOO excited about this and it's been extremely difficult not telling you guys until today, because I wanted to share it with you as soon as it was confirmed, but here it goes:

I am working on my first cookbook.


I know you have basically all been waiting for this, and encouraging me to write my own {un}cookbook for quite some time. You gave me the confidence and courage to believe I could do this. However, I saw it as an exciting challenge to complete in the future, maybe a year or two from now, and only when I actually found a company that would publish me. Well, the universe was looking out for me apparently, because not more than a couple months ago I was contacted by Page Street Publishing (distributed by Macmillan) and the rest is history! This is a dream come true, as most of you are aware, and I am actually just GIDDY with excitement. 

This is why I haven't been posting many recipes - or any desserts - recently. I have been working my little butt off making raw dessert recipes out the wahoo (does anyone REALLY know what that phrase means?) This cookbook is going to be solely desserts, with tons of pictures, and about 100 recipes you have never seen before - working. my. butt. off. I will also have how-to photos, tips and tricks for my recipes and the raw food lifestyle, and loads of other awesome stuff that you knoooow you want. Best part? It's going to be very affordable. About $20.00. It is set to be published in March 2014, so I have just a few months to pump out a manuscript and a bazillion recipes and photos. 

Thus, most of the recipes you see on my blog in the next three months will be simple juices, smoothies and raw food dinners or lunches. Also, I'll be posting about once a week or so. 

NOW GIMME FIVE. Oh, and make the juice recipe below. 

glowing green juice:

2 apples
2 oranges
1 cucumber
1 yellow bell pepper
3 pineapple slices
1 lemon 

Juice. Drink. Beam. 

11 May 2013

rainbow noodles with spicy jungle peanut sauce

Nom! This is a simple clean dish that will fill you up with positive energy, vitamins, nutrients, and joy. I always have a giant smile on my face when I eat raw veggie noodles because... well... they make me happy. The day I made this, I had just received some raw jungle peanut butter and olives from the wonderful Natural Food Shop and really wanted to try them in a recipe. Both are used in this one. I wasn't sure how raw olives would taste and at first the flavour was pretty strong and took some getting used to, but now I love them. I've tried raw jungle peanut butter before and very much enjoy it. It doesn't taste like regular peanut butter, it's more bitter - a little like tahini.

I also added some cilantro, black sesame seeds and hemp seeds because A) it makes the dish look that much prettier, and B) why not? You can use a spiralizer for this recipe, but sometimes I prefer my noodles wide and flat, so I used my mandolin to slice the veggies up this time. Anyway you slice it (haha... get it? Slice?  'Cause. You're. Slicing...) this is a fab meal for lunch or dinner and everyone around you is gonna be jealous. Unless you're kind and give them some, but that would basically make you a saint because this recipe is extremely hard to share due to it's amazingness. You're gonna want to keep that amazingness ALL to yourself.

rainbow noodles with spicy jungle peanut sauce: serves one or two

1 sweet red pepper
2 zucchinis
1 carrot

Peanut sauce:
1 tablespoon raw jungle peanut butter
1 tablespoon miso
Juice from ½ lemon
2 dates
Chili powder, to taste
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional) 
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds (optional) 
Water or orange juice, as needed

¼ cilantro leaves
6 raw olives cut in half
1 tablespoon hemp seeds

To make the noodles: cut the veggies lengthwise into thin strips on a mandolin or spiral slicer, then mix in a bowl and set aside. 

To make the sauce: blend all the ingredients until smooth, adding water or orange juice as needed to make it creamy. 

Assembly: pour the sauce onto the noodles and evenly coat. Give it a few minutes for the flavours to develop, and then sprinkle with hemp seeds, raw olives and cilantro leaves. Gobble it up! 

10 May 2013

creamy mushroom soup with avocado + miso

I love raw soups. They are basically savoury smoothies that you top up with herbs and veggies and eat with a spoon. Okay, maybe that isn't the most appealing way to describe them, but my point is: they are full of only the healthiest whole foods your body wants, and served in a way that is easy for your system to absorb. You get excellent nutrition that much quicker... and it tastes freaking amazing.  

My favourite type of raw soup (although there are several worthy competitors) is mushroom soup. I tried adding an avocado this time and the result was magnificent. I think my mom was reading my mind the day I made this because I was going to use the normal white mushrooms we usually have in the fridge, when she came home with fresh shitakes and portobellos. Shitakes are my all time fave shroom! I highly recommend marinating the mushrooms you will use for the garnish. All you have to do is rub them with tamari and a bit of olive oil, then leave them in the dehydrator or on the counter while you make the soup. It brings out their rich flavours and softens them.

creamy mushroom soup with avocado + miso: serves two to four 

1 portobello mushroom 
3 shitake mushrooms
½ avocado
1-2 tablespoons miso
2 cups hot water
3 dates (optional) 
1 teaspoon walnut oil (optional) 

3 sliced shitake mushrooms, marinated in tamari for a few minutes 
Salt + pepper
¼ fresh cilantro leaves 

Blend all the ingredients until smooth and adjust according to taste. Pour into bowls and top with mushrooms, cilantro and sprinkle on salt and pepper, if desired. 

9 May 2013

mango salsa and guacamole with tomato onion tortillas

I do enjoy me some Mexican food - I could eat endless bowls of guacamole and probably still be asking for more. You really cannot go wrong with loads of fresh tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, avocado, mango, lime, onions and garlic. The mango adds a sweet factor that brings the salsa to a new level... OF AWESOME.

I didn't really know what to call the cracker type recipe so I named them tortillas because if you cut larger circles of them, you can use them as a tortilla and fill them up with salsa and guac. This was my favourite way to eat it. The smaller circles are fun for dipping, and if you dehydrate long enough they get crunchy! Enjoy. 

mango salsa and guacamole with tomato onion tortillas: serves two to four

Tomato onion tortillas:
1 mango, peeled and chopped
½ onion, peeled and chopped
¼ cup each of hemp seeds, flax seeds and sun dried tomatoes

1 avocado
1 tomato 
¼ onion
¼ cup fresh cilantro 
3 garlic cloves, finely minced 
Juice from ½ lime
Chili powder and salt, to taste

Mango salsa:
2 tomatoes
1 mango
¼ onion 
Juice from ½ lime
½ cup fresh cilantro
3 garlic cloves, finely minced 
½ cucumber 
Chili powder and salt, to taste

To make the tortillas: pulse all the ingredients in your food processor until they are blended and become a thick, wet mixture. Spread this thinly on dehydrator trays, and dehydrate for a two hours, then punch circles (you choose what size) in the drying mixture and flip these circles over to dehydrate on their other side. Continue dehydrating until they are flexible and chewy, another two hours. These are your tortillas! Alternatively, you could cut very small circles, dehydrate them until crunchy, and use these as chips. 

To make the guacamole: peel and chop the avocado, tomato, onion, and cilantro accordingly. Add to a bowl with the garlic, chili powder and salt, then mix in the lime juice and stir until the avocado starts to get mushy. Set aside.

To make the salsa: peel and chop everything as needed, then mix together in a bowl. 

Assembly: use the tortillas as you normally would; stack the guacamole and salsa high in the middle then fold in half and enjoy the delicious fresh flavours. 

7 May 2013

guest post: foods that should be eaten raw {by joyce del rosario}

Whether you’re a raw foodist, carnivore, vegetarian, vegan, Oz dieter, paleo dieter, or follow any other specific diet plan, there are some foods that it just seems criminal to cook.
These foods, when found in their natural, raw state, are packed full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and live enzymes that too much cooking can destroy.
Raw foods are some of Mother Nature’s best remedies for everything from a lack of energy to digestive issues, and increasing your intake of such foods can even help to prevent serious health problems like heart disease and cancer.

Following are the top eight foods that you should try to eat raw whenever possible in order to enjoy their numerous health benefits.

1. Coconut
Forget about energy drinks – the coconut is known to be one of the most effective natural hydrating foods there is, especially when eaten fresh and raw. The coconut water is made up of natural electrolytes that closely match what your own body produces.
The coconut meat contains healthy fats that can work to lower cholesterol and improve heart and brain function. Coconuts also have antibacterial and antifungal properties that fight off disease, making them one of the healthiest snacks you could ever choose.

2. Leafy greens
Fresh leafy greens like kale, chard and spinach are full of vitamin C that boosts your immune system and also contain chlorophyll, a powerful antioxidant, as well as fiber, enzymes and amino acids. Of course, these greens are healthy when cooked as well, but eating them raw preserves their nutritional concentration best.
Try preparing a raw kale salad with chopped nuts and a light balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing or top your sandwiches with raw baby spinach to give your lunch a healthy boost.

3. Fermented vegetables
Fermented vegetables are super easy to digest, as the fermentation process ensures that the starches are pre-digested, which makes it easier for your body to absorb the nutrients. Another benefit of fermented vegetables is that they are a good source of enzymes and probiotics that help your body build immunity and aid digestion.
Fermented vegetables like kimchi and sauerkraut are delicious in salads or as a topping for rice or bean dishes, or even on sandwiches.

4. Sprouts
Sprouts are the best “live” food you could eat, and are thought to provide more vitamins, minerals and enzymes per calorie than any other food, cooked or raw. This is because the sprouting process activates food enzymes and increases nutrient levels.
Sprouts also contain phytonutrients and chlorophyll, which work as antioxidants in your body. They can be a great addition to most salads and can also add a great kick to dips and spreads.

5. Blueberries
If you are only going to eat one serving of fruit per day you should choose blueberries. They are one of the best sources of antioxidants and are excellent for improving brain function. They also contain fiber, which is essential for a healthy digestive tract.
Try a handful of frozen blueberries for a refreshing on-the-go snack or add them to fruit salads and smoothies to increase their nutritional value.

6. Nuts
Raw nuts like almonds, walnuts and cashews can lower the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood and are even thought to reduce the risk of blood clots by improving the lining of your arteries. Most nuts you buy in the supermarket, however, are roasted at a temperature higher than 170 degrees, which means that the good fats are broken down and turned into free radicals, which are harmful to your body.
Look for fresh, non-roasted nuts that are still in their shells to get the most nutritional value. A handful of mixed nuts make a great quick snack, but they can be added them to salads or grinded into tasty pastes and dips.

7. Chia seeds
If you want a food that contains fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, protein, potassium, iron, magnesium and calcium, then the chia seed is going to be your new favorite snack. Four tablespoons of chia seeds contain as much calcium as three cups of milk and as much iron as half a cup of kidney beans.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy chia seeds without cooking them; you can make a cold chia drink with lime and a natural sweetener, sprinkle the seeds on salads or make a simple chia gel that can be added to dips, dressings and smoothies.

8. Cacao
Raw cacao is a great mood booster due to the phyto-chemicals it contains, which explains why so many people turn to chocolate when they are feeling low. Unfortunately, however, the cooked cacao that is found in most chocolate bars and other chocolate products is actually harmful to your health.
This is because the heating process causes the oils and fats in the cacao to become toxic, not to mention all the sugars and preservatives that are added to most commercial chocolates.
Instead, make your own chocolate without any cooking by using cacao powder, natural sweetener, vanilla and some hot water.

About the Author: Joyce and Patrick Del Rosario are part of the team behind Open Colleges, one of Australia’s leading providers of online courses for nutrition. When not working, Joyce and Patrick blogs about health and fitness.