Opinion

Beyond Meat

Recently, the company Beyond Meat became listed on the stock exchange, in a very famous and successful IPO.   This may be a food blog, but we actually purchased some shares of Beyond Meat and did very well by them.  We sold them a little while ago at a profit, but the shares have continued to fluctuate and rise.  I am not a vegan, but one of my children is vegan.  I have over the past few years purchased a fair number of vegetarian and vegan meat substitute products.  Occasionally, I will purchase a vegetarian burger at a restaurant or fast food location, and I generally enjoy them, because for me a burger is always about the toppings.  That’s just me, I know.  I also often substitute Yves vegan ground round in recipes for ground beef (for example in Chile, pasta casseroles)

https://www.beyondmeat.com/products/

It’s hard for me to understand then, how this company is seen as so revolutionary and worthy of it’s current $170 USD a share valuation.  I have tried the burgers, and the sausage, and I can say they taste fine.  My vegan child has once tried the Tim Hortons sausage biscuit, and enjoyed it, but as a vegan, really doesn’t look for meat substitutes.  She just looks for healthy foods with a variety of flavours and textures.  At the grocery store, I have seen Beyond Meat burgers – for me a 2 pack for $7.49 CDN.  I can’t say I will buy them at that price.  When I do make beef burgers, I buy bulk packs of ground meat and make 20 or so burgers at the time for my gang of non-vegan boys.  My vegan would just as soon try a grilled portobello on the BBQ.

So while I think that it’s great that Beyond Meat is producing many new vegan products, that they are available in grocery stores and fast food restaurants, and that they are receiving lots of publicity, I just don’t see that this one company will have the control over vegan food industry that the company’s market value implies.  There is definitely a social phenomenon going on with Beyond Meat.  This is just my opinion – and I’m often wrong!

Super Food

Grilled Vegetables

In my part of the world, it’s BBQ season. My favorite side dish for the BBQ is glazed vegetables. It’s so easy to slice assorted peppers (red, yellow) red onions, zuchinni and summer squash into large bite size pieces. Add some cherry tomatoes, possibly chopped asparagus…….

Whisk together a glaze of 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp soy sauce, two cloves chopped fresh garlic, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar and chopped fresh parsley. Toss the vegetables in the glaze to lightly coat. Remember, too much oil can cause the BBQ to flame, so be careful.

If the pieces are large enough, they may go directly on the grill, but you can also cook on a skewer or use a BBQ grill pan. Cook until they are lightly grilled and tender, and serve hot. Add salt and pepper to taste.

(If you prefer you can switch out the balsamic vinegar for Worcestershire sauce – but it’s not vegan – so it’s good to keep that in mind for your guests!)

Super Food

2019’s Trending Superfoods

Pollock’s Communications and Today’s Dietition reported in December 2018 that 1342 Registered Dietitians who responded to it’s survey – “What’s Trending in Nutrition” rating the following as predicted superfoods:

  1. Fermented foods, like yogurt
  2. Avocado
  3. Seeds
  4. Ancient Grains
  5. Exotic fruit, like acai, golden berries
  6. Blueberries
  7. Beets
  8. Nuts
  9. Coconut products
  10. Non-dairy milks

This doesn’t mean that these are Superfoods, just that dietitions feel that they are “trending”.

Super Food

Avocados

Photo courtesy http://©SchoolPhotoProject.com.

Due to the pandemic, we have had our four young adults home quarantining with us for a month. Three of them are avocado fans. It’s not like I ever fed them an avocado before they left home. Our vegan daughter in particular eats everything with avocados and makes an awesome Guacamole. Breakfast is not complete without avocado on a bagel.

Avocados are a trendier super food, and are an au courant fruit.  They are high in monounsaturated fats – the good kind of fat, and provide  more protein and fiber than any fruit I can think of. Because they provide fat and fiber but are relatively low in carbohydrates for the amount of fat they provide, they make us feel full longer, which is a good thing.  Avocados contain manganese, phosphorous, iron, potassium, vitamin E, vitamin C, Beta-carotene, thiamin, and riboflavin.

A drawback to avocados, is that they contain FODMAPs, which some people cannot tolerate, and may irritate those with irritable bowel syndrome. Wikipedia tells me that “FODMAP is an acronym for “Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols”. They are short chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine.” That sounds a bit sketchy to me.

You can be allergic to avocados, and it has been noted that if you have a latex allergy, it may be more likely for you to be allergic to them.  They are pretty high in calories, so if you are on a low calorie diet, you can’t assume avocados will work.

Avocados in my stores are shipped in from Mexico, so I can’t exactly call them locally grown, or part of my hundred mile diet.  They are available now fresh, and I can buy them frozen/sliced too. There have still been lots of avocados in stock in our grocery store during this pandemic as the trucks are still running them in from Mexico. It’s just been difficult estimating the number of avocados to buy on our weekly pandemic shopping run in order to keep up with the demand in our house. We have trouble keeping the right amount of avocados in stock while keeping them from going bad.

https://www.lduhtrp.net/image-9239914-13687358?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fd3t32hsnjxo7q6.cloudfront.net%2Fi%2Fac0b7ade9447b5d4ede8dde9a02e6da7_ra%2Cw403%2Ch403_pa%2Cw403%2Ch403.jpg

Avocados are definitely an acquired taste,- they are fairly bland, with an odd texture.

The really good thing about Avocados, is that they contain a number of anti-oxidant compounds. They contain oleic acid (which we also get from olives) and the antioxidants Persenones A and B.. Oleic acid and Persenones A and B are supposed to reduce inflammation and have beneficial effects on cancer. Avocados also contain Zeaxanthin and lutein which are good for your eyes.  Another anti-oxidant, glutathione is good for our livers, while xanthophyll is supposed to decrease signs of aging.

All of these healthy properties may explain why avocados have become so popular.  Avocados on toast are an easy and satisfying breakfast item, whether fresh frozen or from Starbucks. 

Photo by Foodie Factor on Pexels.com

In the United States, you can order your own Avocado Tree from Citrus.com. They also offer avocado care kits.

Super Food

The Dirty Dozen

As fans of healthy eating we are always searching for superfoods – those foods that are nutritious in many ways and perhaps contain antioxidants. These foods tend to be fruits, vegetables and grains – but these foods may be exposed to pesticides. Every year, since 1995, the Environmental Working Group or EWG produces a list of the most pesticide contaminated foods. The EWG compiles results taken by the FDA and the USDA of about 41000 produce samples taken, to reflect “the overall pesticide loads of common fruits and vegetables”

2018’s top (or bottom!) 12 food products are strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes and sweet bell peppers. But in 2019, the new trendy vegetable – Kale butted it’s way in to number 3 on the list between spinach and nectarines. Wouldn’t you know that the vegetable that has become commonly accepted and has found its way into every beloved bagged salad labelled “superfood” is contaminated with bad stuff.

According the EWG Toxicologist Alexis Temkin, “We were surprised Kale had so many pesticides on it, but the test results were unequivocal,” …….“Fruits and vegetables are an important part of everyone’s diet, and when it comes to some conventionally grown produce items, such as kale, choosing organic may be a better option.” Pesticides found in kale included Dacthal (DCPA) which is noted because it has been banned by the European Union as a possible carcinogen.

Super Food

The ORAC Index

I was very interested in the concept of Superfoods at one point, and spent a lot of time researching the topic. I came across something called the ORAC index. ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbence Capacity.  Phew!  Basically it’s a way of measuring antioxidant capacities of biological samples – in our case FOOD, in a lab setting.  The United States Department of Agriculture produced indexes of foods, but in 2012 withdrew these, because they could not prove in a real life environment, that a biological link between ORAC and biological changes existed.  I think I’ve explained that correctly, please comment if you can help with this.  So basically, the ORAC index is not to be used, but if we did use it, we could see that the top ten Superfoods as listed on the USDA ORAC index are:

Prunes, Small Red Beans, Wild Blueberries, Red Kidney Beans, Pinto beans, Cranberries, Blueberries (cultivated), Artichoke hearts, Raw unprocessed cocoa beans, Blackberries, followed by the next ten :

Raspberries, Strawberries, Red delicious apple, Granny Smith apple, Pecans, Sweet Cherries, Black Plums, Russet potatoes, Choke Cherries, and Black beans, followed by:

Plums, Gala apples and Pomegranates.

So, what I conclude is, even though there is no biological proof that these foods help in real life, they have higher levels of antioxidants as measured in a lab setting.  It looks like prunes, beans, berries, and apples lead the way in superfood land.

Super Food

Blueberry bread pudding

What happens when on the spur of the moment, you have company/family visiting, and you can’t get out to get supplies.  Today, we have an April ice storm in our neck of the woods, and 2 enormous young adult sons home from university, looking for breakfast. This would normally call for eggs, muffins, french toast, or something of that nature.  But we have none of that on hand.  Being superfoods fans we have plenty of frozen blueberries on hand.  So I put together a simple blueberry bread pudding.

On hand we had one leftover hamburger bun, some brown and white bread crusts, and a  crusty french stick.  The boys arrived late last night and had a grill cheese fiesta.

The recipe is approximate:

4 cups cubed bread – stale is good in this case.

2 cups frozen blueberries – or whatever berries you have on hand

1/4 cup maple syrup or honey or 1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup water or milk

sprinkle of salt

1/4 cup butter or margarine

2 tablespoons lemon juice – I used reconstituted, but fresh is better

Stir all ingredients together and press in greased 8×8 baking dish.

Bake for 350 degrees, for 40 minutes stirring halfway through baking, just to toss ingredients lightly and make sure frozen blueberries are evenly distributed.

Let cool but not too long, and serve with something sweet and creamy – perhaps yogurt!

Note that I found this to be not quite enough for my needs – next time I will put in one more cup of crusty bread.  I may substitute the water for orange juice, or add one more spoonful of lemon juice to increase the tangyness of this recipe.  It’s not fancy, but great for a snow day morning.

 

 

 

Super Food

To Quinoa or not to Quinoa

Quinoa can be found on my store shelves labelled as a superfood.  I bet you think that Quinoa is a grassy plant like wheat and rye.  It’s actually a flowering plant in the amaranth family, related to spinach, that is grown for its edible seeds.  The plant originated in Peru and Bolivia.  The plant is actually suited for growth in cooler climates, so it’s now being grown in the United States, the Canadian Prairies, and in my neck of the woods, Southern Ontario.

One cup of cooked quinoa has 220 calories, 3.6g fat, 8.1g protein, 318mg of potassium,16% of your daily iron, 10% of your B6, and 30% of your magnesium.  For a plant food, 8grams of protein is pretty awesome.  Quinoa is supposed to be a complete source of protein, because it contains all of the 9 essential amino acids.  There are apparently 20 amino acids, but 9 are essential because our bodies can’t make them. Amino acids are required in order to make proteins and enzymes that our body needs to carry out biochemical reactions and to produce hormones. I have read that it is the only plant based food that contains all of these, but soya also seems to also be complete!

Quinoa is also known to contain a good quantity of the antioxidants quercetin and kaempferol.  It contains the anti-inflammatories arabinans and rhamnogalacturonans and hydroxycinnamic and hydroxybenzoic acids. A recent study showed that animals fed a daily diet of quinoa had lower levels of inflammatory issues, including obesity.   It’s been said to be rich in omega 3, but that might be a bit of a stretch, it has omega 3, but not in that great a concentration.  And if you are looking for maximum protein, the red and yellow varieties of quinoa have more than the white variety.

Super Food

Those carbs

I think some people are meat eaters, some are vegans, some have sweet tooths (teeth?), but I am a lover of bland white foods with salt, sauces and gravy.  Now I’m not claiming that these carbohydrates are superfoods, not all of them anyway.  I’m talking about potatoes, pasta, rice, bread, oats.  These carbohydrate rich foods have naturally been linked to weight gain, and big bellies.

However, if we can switch out the processed or refined foods for unrefined grains, then we should be improving our diets.  A study at Tufts University linked people who consumed 3 or more servings of whole grains (wheat, quinoa, brown rice and oats) to a 10% reduction in belly fat over people who ate the same number of calories from those white – processed carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, pasta).  The theory is that the unrefined grains are healthier and higher fiber than the refined grains, but is it also possible that those people may have other lifestyle factors?  I’m sure there will be more published on this topic.

 

Super Food

Anti-inflammatory eating

Anti-inflammatory diets and foods are receiving a lot of attention.  The basic theory is that reducing inflammation in the body by eating foods that are anti-inflammatory will reduce pain, heart disease and cancer.  We are all looking for ways to prevent illness and live longer healthier lives, and so intuitively the anti-inflammatory diet makes sense and we want to believe it completely.  However, we have to remember that inflammation is not caused just by what we eat, but can be caused by injury, viruses and illnesses, auto-immune disorders, smoking, pollution, stress, etc.  We do know however, that certain foods reduce inflammation in the body, and we know that eating certain foods labelled as anti-inflammatory leads to positive health effects.  So it is important to read about anti-inflammatory foods, and incorporate them in to our diet.   Simple changes like including omega-3 foods, eating more fruits and vegetables, following a Mediterranean diet, and reducing consumption of refined carbohydrates reduce inflammation and therefore should be healthier.

Studies of inflammatory/anti-inflammatory foods and health have linked:

– Vitamin K, canola oil (which contains omega-3 and Vitamin E), Vitamin D, Omega-3, avocados and ginger (in separate studies) reduced inflammation indicators

-Lower colon cancer rates for those consuming anti-inflammatory foods vs. inflammatory diets

-Reduced inflammation in the body reduces the risk of heart disease

So, on the surface, it seems like anti-inflammatory eating should be a good thing.  There are so many more studies on this subject available to read, and it’s always a good idea to discuss your diet with your physician.