Well, maybe almost everything. November 1st is International Vegan Day!
I am not a vegan, strictly speaking, but this year I will be celebrating! And, I’m trying to convince you to do the same. One day only, to overcome the fear.
The official definition
Straight from Wikipedia, but it seems quite simple and precise:
“Veganism is a lifestyle that aims to exclude, as much as possible, all forms of cruelty and exploitation of animals, be it for food, garments or any other use.”
The vegan diet
Given my food obsession, this is the side of veganism I know the best. And, what’s it about?
Vegans exclude all animal products from their plate, either product of their death or just their exploitation. So, vegans naturally won’t eat any meat, fish, seafood, eggs, dairy and processed meats.
Vegans also avoid foods like honey – the product of bees’ work – or gelatin, that is produced using animals’ bones and cartilages.
So, what do they eat?
Vegans will eat everything plant-based: grains, legumes, all kind of vegetables, fruit in all its forms, berries, seeds, seaweed, mushrooms, etc.
Advantages of the vegan diet
First, we must consider the ethical motivation: the repulse for treating animals as a commodity, existing for the sole purpose of serving human needs.
Second, the impact on our health: the exclusion of all animal products from our diet will directly imply excluding those that seem to cause the most harm to our cardio health, namely red and processed meats.
Do you notice how cautious I am here? I am not a doctor; my knowledge results from my numerous readings. In so being, I can only share what public results are, from the latest research. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of such studies.
In any case, and now this is my opinion, a well cooked vegan meal is much more satisfying, tasty and colorful than a plate of steak and fries.
Disadvantages of the vegan diet
I’ll start by quoting the President of the Portuguese Nutrition Professional Guild, Dra Alexandra Bento:
“(…) adopting a vegan diet is not a synonym for more health (…).”
True: there is no principle in vegetarian or vegan diets against processed and industrial foods. Apparently, you can be a vegan and eat Oreos every day!
Do you get what is at stake here? For me, this is the weakest spot of a vegan diet: it can be as toxic as the “normal” western world diet – the one we are trying to improve by limiting the toxins, the hidden drugs, all the chemicals and excess fats.
Ok, but how about the vegan Glow Chef recipes?
I love vegetables and legumes, for starters. I find a lentil or bean stew to be incredibly comforting, even better if you add a slight curry aroma. I like to see green on my plate, and I prefer to deal with vegetables than with animals when I’m cooking. It’s so much cleaner and livelier.
I also like to limit the number of animal products we eat at home, not only for the ethical argument – I am sensitive to that, of course – but also for health purposes.
If we have information that the meat industry has no care about the quality of the end product, no matter what the impact will be on our long-term health, how can I ignore it? I won’t! I limit the amount of meat I eat, and I prefer to buy organic and sustainable.
My recipes use natural ingredients. I don’t use mock meats or other substitution foods, like vegan cheese. If I need cheese, I’ll eat the real one, in small portions. The truth is many of my recipes are vegan by nature, not by choice.
Lastly, I am very curious, and I often try everything that strikes me as appealing.
How to build a balanced vegan meal
When talking about the vegan diet, one of the main concerns of nutritionists and the general public is the daily amount of protein we’ll be getting.
If you observe a few simple rules when putting together your meals, there is nothing to fear. This concern should also exist when you are eating a standard western diet.
And, you know, the Portuguese custard tart plus expresso coffee that is so fashionable as a snack these days is also very far from a balanced meal, I’m afraid. It does not fulfill any meal plan from any nutritionist 😉
Vegan food is normal food
Healthy eating while being a vegan is just the same as with other diets:
- You need to include the primary macro-nutrients, which are proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
- You need a good portion of vegetables and fruits, for their fiber content as well as their vitamins and minerals.
- You should get your ingredients from the best sources you can. Preferably organic and minimizing industrial, processed foods.
- Last but not the least, cook them with imagination and tender loving care.
The big change here is that you get your protein from plant-based sources.
Besides the many green vegetables with high protein content, such as broccoli, asparagus, and green peas, the vegan protein alternatives are:
- Tofu and tempeh, which are made from soy so you should try and get them organic and avoid GMO.
- Seitan, made from wheat; it’s high in gluten so you should avoid if you’re intolerant.
- Legumes, like lentils, chickpeas and all types of beans.
- Nuts, such as almonds, cashew nuts, and walnuts.
- Seeds: chia, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
- Seaweed, such as spirulina, chlorella.
Sometimes, the hardest part is to cook with these less common ingredients. But that’s the whole point of this website and other excellent ones you can find.
Suggestion for one full day of vegan meals
The combination of the following recipes will give you a vegan experience that is varied, balanced, tasty and colorful.
Lunchtime: Chickpea salad with carrots and herbs
Snack: Vegan lemon and oats bars
Simple vegan ingredient substitutions for you to try
- Eggs: 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed mixed with three tablespoons water and then left for 10 minutes to rest will make for one egg in a baking recipe.
- To cook, sauté or fry, instead of butter or other animal grease use extra virgin coconut oil. Save your extra virgin olive oil to season your already prepared food or salads.
- Spread on bread: instead of butter, cheese, ham, etc., use crushed avocado seasoned with a few drops of lime juice, freshly ground black pepper and sea salt.
- Honey: give bees a rest by trying out organic maple syrup or rice malt syrup.
- Instead of parmesan in pesto and other recipes: try nutritional yeast, it’s quite savory and does not add to your cholesterol intake.
- Bolognese: use beluga or puy lentils instead or ground meat.
- Substitute béchamel sauce (which I hate and never have anyway!) with a homemade cashew sour cream. To prepare it: soak the raw cashew nuts for 4 hours or overnight; rinse and blend in a food processor (or Thermomix) until it looks like a white homogeneous cream. Season the cream with lemon juice, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper.
- My favorite milk replacement for oatmeal or chia pudding: unsweetened almond milk.
And more tips!
- 26 Vegan Food Project
- My Mothers’ Daughters
Both great for lunch with friends.
In LA and San Francisco:
- Gracias Madre, the best Mexican food that happens to be vegan… and irresistible cocktails!
In New York and Venice Beach:
- The Butcher’s Daughter, for a cool green breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Vegan blogs that I follow and love!
- My tiny green kitchen (bilingual, English and Portuguese)
- Deliciously Ella
- Nirvana cakery
- Rebel Recipes
- Oh She Glows
- The First Mess
- Anna Jones
- 101 Cookbooks
- The word “vegan” was coined by Donald Watson in 1944 when he founded the Vegan Society in the UK.
- Mahatma Gandhi was a member of the Vegetarian Society in London and, in 1931, he gave a speech stating that the Society should promote a diet without meat as a matter of morality, not health.
- The European Parliament defined the meaning of the “Vegan” food label in 2010, for implementation from 2015 on.
- Since 2010 that the vegan diet has become more frequent, even promoted as glamorous. Some celebrities have adopted a vegan diet, some strictly and some partially.
- Celebrity Chef Anthony Bourdain, known for his always irreverent stance, wrote in 2000 that “Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter-faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn.”
Well, I hope you get motivated and start experimenting some vegan recipes, to alternate with your usual regimen. You’ll see how good you’ll feel 🙂
Please, don’t hesitate to share your opinion here. I would love to know!