Coming to a Close

First off, I want to thank each and every person that has read this blog. I know we all have busy lives and even if you just read one blog it makes me feel like I accomplished something. When I began this project, I thought that this was my chance to challenge myself, and make myself really learn, but also learn what I wanted to. I had tons of plans of all the topics I would explore. I sadly ran out of time and I completed the project sooner than I anticipated, but that taught me something. I have a thirst for knowledge about nutrition. It does not have to stop with this project. This goes for anyone. If you have a desire to learn, you should just simply do it. It is never too late to teach yourself something new.

From the topics I have learned about, I really want to do everything I can to apply it to my life. I am going to be graduating this coming May. In the next couple of years, I will be establishing myself as an adult and the lifestyle that I want to develop. I hope to take this knowledge and apply it in all aspects of my life. This could include the portions I eat for dinners, to the snacks I decide to take to work, and to the new areas of cooking I explore. This project also taught me that anyone could change their diets if they put their minds to it. I struggle with this myself. It is so easy to make excuses for why you can not make changes. But it is just as easy to plan the change you want and smartly execute it. And if you do not know how, there are so many resources you can look to for help.

I also want to take the time to thank my advisor. My advisor was the one who initially inspired this entire project. It was by taking Basic Nutrition with her that sparked my large fascination with this subject. She helped and guided me through this experience and I think we both grew as intellectuals from it. Sometimes all it takes is that one person or that one event to find a passion in your life. I really do hope that as honors students and as all human beings, everyone is able to find what I found through this project.

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Can You Please Pass The Salt?

How many of you have said the words “please pass the salt,” without having first tasting your food? It is a common thing most Americans do. I will even admit to doing it myself from time to time. Just imagine if three days out of a week you added more salt to a meal than was necessary. It would add up rather quickly.

Salt comes from seawater that is boiled down or is brought to the surface as brine. It also can be mined from dried up water sources. Salt was not always a tabletop item. Throughout history, salt can be found in religion, economics, and war. Various religions use salt in their ceremonies because of its purifying qualities. One example is a sumo match. Each wrestler throws salt onto the mat before entering to purify the ring. Salt was and still is considered a valuable resource and is coveted in all parts of the world. Wars have even been fought over salt. “In 1777, Lord Howe made a successful attempt to capture General Washington’s stock of salt” (TIME Magazine). Economically, it was a huge trading commodity in the sense that it was traded as huge slabs of salt for gold. Concerning food, salt most commonly was used to preserve meats from spoiling. “Today salt is widely used in the chemical industry, and also for water softening” (Nordqvist).

Salt is capable of more than enhancing flavors in a meal. Sodium balances the water levels in our bodies. It also helps muscles and nerves function. It is involved in some of the largest functions of the body. Since sodium is usually found in our blood, we do blood tests to indicate our sodium levels. I am someone that is constantly drinking water. I joke with all my doctors that ask “if I drink enough water”. I say I drink too much water. Finally, a doctor believed me when my sodium levels were low for my body. “The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that daily you only consume 2,300 mg of sodium and those 51 and older consume 1,500 mg” (World). WEBMd explains that low sodium levels are extremely rare. However, high sodium levels cause high blood pressure that can cause a number of heart problems, stroke, or kidney failure (Sodium).

An event that I was not aware of is World Salt Awareness Week. It is March 11th and 17th each year. The idea of the week is to have everyone ask for less salt on his or her food. Therefore, showing chefs and others that food can still be enjoyed with less salt. I think this is an amazing idea! For just a week read the labels of your food, do not add more salt to a meal when preparing it, and ask chefs to make your meal with less salt. This is a way to open your eyes to how much sodium you yourself consume. It’s the small steps that you can take, like simply making yourself aware, that will lead to the big changes in your diet and life.

Citation

“A Brief History of Salt.” TIME Magazine. (2013): Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,925341-1,00.html&gt;.

Nordqvist, Christian. “What is Salt?.” Medical News Today. (2013): Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/146677.php&gt;.

“Sodium in Blood.” WEBMd. (2013): Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/sodium-na-in-blood&gt;.

“World Salt Awareness Week.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013): Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://www.cdc.gov/Features/Sodium/index.html&gt;.

 

My Week With Veganism

This last week I decided to challenge myself. I adapted a vegan diet for one week. Vegan, as I have explained, is a diet with no animal produced food. I want to first give everyone a little background about myself. I was born and raised, as any other average American, eating both meats and vegetables, with a higher emphasis on the meats. In my family, we are constantly barbequing every weekend. Because of this, meat has become the center of my diet. So taking on a vegan challenge seemed a little daunting at first. But I felt I knew enough about vegan diets and how to do it properly that I could accomplish it. I thought I would be able to analyze the mental, economical, and physical effects of this diet and be able to write about it. I did learn a lot from this diet, but the knowledge I took from this experience blew my mind.

When I first began planning for this diet, I assumed that I would be spending a lot more money than I normally did. This came from the stereotype that to eat healthier, it costs more. I knew that most of the items I probably would need would be at Trader Joes. In my mind, Trader Joes was a lot more expensive than my usual weekly trips to Winco. On average, I spend $50 at Winco each week and another $10 eating out on nights I do not have time to cook. I made a guess that I would spend about $75 the week of my diet. I only spent $63 the week of my diet. I also never went out for a meal, since they were all organized and planned.

I also was planning on feeling amazing from this diet. I have several friends that are vegan and vegetarian. They have explained that they are more energized, have clearer skin, and overall feel better after they made the transition. I was so looking forward to that because I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I thought that since I am extremely in tune with my body that I would be able to tell the difference. I did notice the second day that I was not craving more caffeine like I normally do. I didn’t have the normal energy slump I usually have. I also had noticeably less stomach pains than usual.  I did have some expectations of this experience that did not turn out to be the major things I learned from the experience. I felt like what I learned was a lot more substantial.

I live with two other college students that I cook dinner for normally. They kindly agreed to participate in my vegan experiment. Just like me, they eat meat, however they eat it a lot more. One of the meals I cooked was Ratatouille, which is a stewed vegetable dish. It was not the best recipe and I did not have a side that would help create a filling effect. However, there was this point in the meal when everyone looked at each other. We all began to discusshow for us it was extremely difficult for us to accept that this was it. We

had been so engraved that the vegetable is the side dish. This experience opened our eyes to how it should be. Our vegetable should always be the entrée and the sides should be the starch and protein. I can say this as many times as I want but I need to start really physically working on that. Slowly but surely, I want to work to be rid of that mentality.

One of the main things I learned was about dieting. I put myself through an extreme diet change instantaneously and without any wiggle room. I stayed true to the diet in every way, but it was not enjoyable overall. Do not get me wrong, it was kind of fun to challenge myself. But as soon as the week was over, I got myself a steak. It shows that I was not actually making any change to my lifestyle but just simply putting restrictions on it. The funny part is that’s how most people diet. They decide they want to lose weight or eat healthier and they take it to an extreme. People tend to decide that on a certain day is the day their diet shall begin. It is better to ease into a diet a little bit at a time to make the change more successful. Also, they should let themselves have a little bit of wiggle room in the beginning. And by this, I mean allow some of the things you used to eat that maybe this new diet will not allowed. To me, diets are never successful because they usually have an end goal that you are striving for. Once one reaches that goal, they just return to their old eating habits. If one really wants to make a change, they need to commit to making it into a lifestyle change. I think that with these mindsets it is completely possible to change any types of eating habits.

I will let you all know that I am not becoming vegan, although I scared some family members into thinking I was. But I am going to try and adapt more vegan meals into my diet. One in particular is black bean tacos. I will include the recipe below, but I made the best tacos this week. Instead of using ground beef, I used black beans. It was just as filling and in my opinion, tastier than any taco I had ever made. I think this experience has inspired me to be a lot more creative with my meals and to think outside the box when it comes to incorporating healthy alternatives. I think that this challenge has opened my eyes in ways that no assignment or class ever could have.

Black Bean Tacos

Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups cooked black beans (or 2 15-ounce cans rinsed and drained)
  • ½ cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 5 to 6 cilantro stems and leaves
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2.5 tablespoons taco seasoning (see Note)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt (to taste)
  • ½ lime, squeezed
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
  • 12 corn tortillas plus toppings
 Directions
  • Strain tomatoes. If using canned beans, drain and rinse.
  • Finely chop garlic and onion (use food processor to save time!).
  • Heat a saute pan over medium heat. Once hot, add oil. Add onion and garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes until softene
    d
  • Add taco seasoning, cook 20 to 30 seconds, stirring.
  • Toss in beans, tomatoes and cilantro. Cook covered over a medium light 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Use a fork or potato masher to smash about half of the beans, taste and add salt if needed. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, over medium low light 12 to 15 minutes.
  • Add hot sauce and lime juice, stir, let cool for 5 to 10 minutes, serve with corn tortillas and toppings of choice – Enjoy!

Veganism

For a long time, the only dietary lifestyle I was ever aware of was vegetarianism. It seems like so many more diets are emerging nowadays. Currently, diets such as veganism, Paleo, pescetarianism, gluten free, lactose free, and raw cleanses are extremely popular.  I find all of these diets are really interesting. But the one I am most fascinated by is veganism.

“Vegans, in addition to being vegetarian, do not use other animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, and soaps derived from animal products” (‘Medical’). I know several vegan’s that only pertain to the dietary aspect of this lifestyle. It just depends on one’s reason for adapting a vegan diet, which I will discuss in a moment. I find the vegan diet extremely inspirational. To give a bit of background, about two years ago I bought a rabbit. Rabbits can only eat hay and fresh vegetables. I joked that since I would have to have fresh vegetables on hand, I would eat healthier. That joke turned out to be true. I have been incorporating vegetables into my diet more and more. It was my rabbit that began my fascination with veganism. I feel that veganism is a way to treat your body well. Our bodies are not meant to eat so many animal products. If as a culture we could learn to live off plant based food more, the health of our country might not be such an issue.

Here are a just a few reasons why someone would choose to be vegan.

Nutrition and Health

Some are drawn to the wonderful health benefits that this lifestyle can provide. “Studies show that eating animal fats and proteins raise a person’s risk of developing cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, heart disease, and numerous other diseases” (‘Medical’). Many also make the argument we were not made to drink cow’s milk. Yes, we physically can, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that health wise we should. It is extremely obvious that the health benefits can attract people to this lifestyle. For many, this is just their first step in performing a body cleanse, or a diet for weight loss.

Animal Treatment

The ethics of the treatment of animals in the agricultural segment can also be a reason for veganism. Most of us are aware that animals that are raised solely for their meat do not live the best lives. In that industry, they are just treated as any other inventory. Those people that become vegan for this reason feel this animal treatment is highly unethical, and do not want to support this industry in any way. They protest this by not supporting them including the consumption of animal by products such as cheese, eggs, or milk. Once animals become useless in creating these products, they are slaughtered as well. I am not here to argue about animal rights but to explain the reasoning behind this lifestyle.

Environmental

There is a huge sustainable movement occurring in our generation. With that our diets are being affected also. You can incorporate veganism it into your life to live a more eco friendly life. There are a lot of claims on the fact that the livestock farming has a lot of harm on the environment. Some also claim that they feel more in touch with nature when they eat clean.

Combination

There are some that become vegan for a combination of all or some of these reasons. There are also many other reasons that someone would choose to become vegan but these are just a few of the major reasons.

There are plenty of positive things about a vegan diet. “Most doctors and nutritionists agree that a low-fat diet high in fruits, vegetables, and nuts can be a boon to health. There is also widespread acknowledgment that reducing or eliminating red meat from the diet cuts the risk of heart disease” (WebMd). However, one must eat smart while being vegan. Being vegan doesn’t mean you live off of just the things you enjoy. You need to be aware of what is lacking in your diet and accommodate for it. The most common nutrients that vegan’s must focus on are protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B12. The following are how WebMd suggests you can incorporate these nutrients into your diet.

  • Protein: Is found in tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers, beans, and nuts.
  • Iron: Fortified breakfast cereals, soy-based foods, dried prunes and apricots, nuts beans, legumes, whole-wheat bread, and baked potatoes are rich in iron.
  • Calcium: sesame tahini, calcium-fortified orange juice, and dark, leafy vegetables like collard greens and bok choy.
  • Zinc, which boosts the immune system, is ample in soybeans and soymilk, veggie “meats,” fortified breakfast cereals, nuts, breads, mushrooms, and peas. Wheat germ and pumpkin seeds also have high zinc content.
  • Vitamin B12: Soy-based beverages, some breakfast cereals, and fortified veggie “meats” are all good sources of vitamin B12.

Now if one does consider going vegan I highly suggest you seek advice from a nutritionist or do a lot of research. The better you understand nutrition and the vegan diet, the more enjoyable it will be for you. But I do encourage all of you to just give it a try. Maybe once a month you do a vegan day or pick one meal a day. By making these small steps you can begin to make smarter choices.

For the following week I will be undergoing a vegan challenge. I am challenging myself to put my research and work where my mouth is. I have done extensive research and plan to go an entire week on a vegan diet. I do not suggest any of you do this. When adapting to a new lifestyle, one should do it slowly. I am doing this as a personal challenge to see if I actually know as much as I think about nutrition and this vegan diet. I want to see how hard, or easy, this diet is. Also see if I see any benefits or hardships. I will keep you all updated.

Work Cited

“What is a vegan diet? What are the benefits of being vegan?” Medical News Today. (2013): Web. 8 Nov. 2013. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/149636.php&gt;.

“Vegetarian and Vegan Diets.” WebMD. (2013): n. page. Web. 8 Nov. 2013. <http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/guide/vegetarian-and-vegan-diet&gt;.