Category Archives: protein


black bean brownies - delicious!

Flourless Brownies

Who doesn’t love brownies?  Oooey, chocolatey morsels of deliciousness. They’re great as a snack, as an accompaniment to a cup of tea, or even for dessert. But some people avoid brownies because they’re high in simple carbohydrates. This includes the gluten free flour versions.

So what if I told you about a brownie that isn’t so high in simple carbohydrates and actually has a fair amount of protein? And no, I’m not talking about putting protein powder into the brownie mix.  I’m talking about beans.  Specifically black beans.  This adds not only protein but is also a great source of fiber, folate, copper, manganese, and thiamine.

Before you think, “Um…no” let me assure you, these are delicious.  I’ve brought these brownies to a number of different gatherings.  Each time I share them I wait until people have eaten them before telling them the ‘secret ingredient.’  Everyone is always amazed at how moist and tasty these brownies are. They’re surprised to discover that the brownies are made from black beans. 100% black beans, no flour. That makes it perfect for those who need to eat gluten free. And tasty for everyone.

When using black beans I’ve found that it’s best to use canned. When cooking black beans from scratch, even in the pressure cooker or slow cooker, the consistency doesn’t seem to come out as well. When using canned black beans consider using a brand that does not have BPA in the can lining. (You can learn more about BPA and it’s health impact in this video) Eden Brands is one company that does not use BPA in their linings.

Black Bean Brownies
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 ½ C. black beans
  2. 2 eggs
  3. 1 heaping T. ground flax seed
  4. 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  5. 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  6. 1 pinch sea salt
  7. ½ t. baking powder
  8. 1 teaspoon almond extract
  9. 3/4 cup evaporated cane juice crystals
  10. 2 t. instant espresso powder
  11. 1 C. dark Belgian chocolate w/almonds, chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Lightly grease an 8x8 square baking dish
  3. Add remaining ingredients (except chocolate); blend until smooth; pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish
  4. Top with chopped chocolate
  5. Bake in the preheated oven until the top is dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes
  6. Enjoy!
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/

Protein Snacks To Boost Energy

Snacks are a part of almost everyone’s day, from children to adults. Supermarkets and convenience stores offer a wide array of snack choices from candies and snack-size cakes to peanuts and chips. However, some snacks leave a person feeling energized while others can leave you feeling tired, lethargic and possibly even moody. The reason for this is found in the contents of the snack.

The best snacks are those with a higher profile of proteins instead of sugars. Snacks filled with protein give fabulous energy boosts. A protein is a substance formed by a conglomeration of bonded amino acids. The proteins, and by extension the amino acids, found in foods are the building blocks of the body’s cells, vital for maintaining all the cells in the body and providing the energy the body needs to function.

How does protein boost energy? Proteins are a far different energy source than carbohydrates. When a person eats carbohydrates they are broken into sugars, which provide quick energy. However, this energy only lasts a short time, eventually leaving the person feeling tired. Proteins provide a much longer source of energy than carbohydrates do. The energy from proteins is a more consistent fuel that powers the body. In addition, adequate protein in the diet guards against fatigue, disease and moodiness. If you want to know your body’s protein requirements, Georgetown University provides a helpful table for determining how many grams of protein men and women need each day.

When choosing protein for snacks it’s important to understand that there are two main types of protein; complete and incomplete. A protein is considered to be complete if it contains all of the essential amino acids necessary for body growth and function. In general, animal products contain complete proteins while plant-based products are incomplete. However, consuming a variety of plant-based products can still give a person all the amino acids they need by combining to form a complete protein.  As an example, combining grains and legumes will form a complete protein.

Here are a few ideas of some protein-filled snacks that can provide long-lasting energy boosts:

  • A hard-boiled egg
  • Half of a tuna fish sandwich
  • A glass of milk
  • A cup of yogurt
  • Half a cup of cottage cheese
  • 2 T. Peanut butter
  • A small handful of raw almonds, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds
  • Beef jerkey
  • A stick of string cheese
  • 2 T. hummus with raw veggie sticks

Of course, protein should be consumed in moderation. While protein is vital for all individuals and moderate amounts of protein make excellent snacks, consumption of excessive amounts may eventually begin harming the kidneys.  Protein is a good choice for busy days when adequate stamina is vital.

Iliana Spector is a health writer for Assisted Living Today, a leading source of information on a range of topics related to elderly care and assisted living.

On My Mind Monday 3.05.12

news | photo: mconnors

It’s never the same two weeks in a row.  My snapshot of what I find interesting.  Information and news about health, nutrition and/or holistic living.  Here’s what’s on my mind.

Growing protein with fewer resources – There are lots of different ways to look at our protein needs and how we get them.  Algae is certainly one way which could be very sustainable; algae of all kinds can be used to provide protein for animals as well as for humans.  Many vegetarians and vegan’s eat it now.  Potentially part of an aquaculture solution it would be a very efficient use of resources.  Truthfully whether you’re using algae or insects (another source of efficient protein) as an alternative source of food the problem is not how much protein we produce but how we produce it.  Well that and the fact that when it comes to animal protein those of us in developed countries often consume more than we need.  Current commercial methods appear to be mostly inefficient with large scale use of fossil fuels, unhealthy (read unsanitary) conditions,  unhealthy methods (GMO feed, over use of antibiotics), and waste.   So while this is a good thing and an idea that I think is worth following, I also feel we need to look at current protein production methods and clean up after ourselves.

Monterey County Say No To Methyl Iodide – YES!  I’m so happy to see this and hope that other counties in California will follow suit.  Some of you may remember that this appeared in an OMMM post in January.  This is a horrible, known cancer-causing agent.  I’m so happy to hear that the folks in Monterrey County are standing up to BigAg and saying no.

Eating citrus fruit may lower women’s stroke risk – many foods have flavonoids, antioxidants that help promote health.  Apparently the flavonoids in oranges and grapefruit, called flavanones, are especially beneficial for women in helping to prevent ischemic strokes.  It is important to note that if you are trying to increase your intake of oranges and grapefruit eating whole fruit is a better way to go.  There are approximately 5 oranges in a glass of orange juice, adding lots of sugar and not much fiber.  Eat the orange or the grapefruit and get the benefit of the vitamin C, the flavanones, and the fiber.

Seattle plants a public food forest – I’m happy to hear about more public food resources and stewardship of public lands that does not include turning it into a parking lot.  This could give a whole new meaning to the word locavore.  It will be interesting to see how this develops and how it is managed over time.  It is an added dimension to urban agriculture that I think brings a lot of benefits to the community.  Considering our shift to a more urbanized population these sorts of measures are to be welcomed and encouraged.

Push to label GMO’s gains ground – I am firmly in the no-GMO camp.  I believe that they are harmful to our bodies, our planet and their use should be discontinued.  However that is a larger battle.  In the meantime I very strongly support labeling of GMOs because I believe that consumers have the right to make an informed choice when it comes to their food.  GMO producers disagree, of course, because this would, in all likelihood reduce their sales.  I hope the labeling of GMO moves forward and becomes mandatory.

Enjoy Nature

What I’m reading:

The Magnesium Miracle by Carolyn Dean.  It’s been a busy week so I’m still reading this book.  Learning a lot about why magnesium is such an important mineral for our health.  For example, it turns out that magnesium is important in helping to support health when it comes to osteoporosis.  So it’s not just calcium, we also need to be looking at our magnesium levels.

On My Mind Monday 2.27.12

newspaper | photo: mconnors

It’s never the same two weeks in a row.  My snapshot of what I find interesting.  Information and news about health, nutrition and/or holistic living.  Here’s what’s on my mind.

Three weight loss drugs make second bid for FDA approval – I’m not a huge fan of weight loss drugs (no surprise there). Unfortunately many of them are stimulants and easily abused. The other problem is that even though they often come with some sort of documentation about meal plans they do not, in my opinion, adequately address educating people about understanding nutrition and specifically understanding their eating habits and how they contribute to their overweight. We are surrounded with generalized statements but often nothing to support lifelong habit and thought changes. This is why people yo-yo, they haven’t learned how to meet their own needs when it comes to their diet. I do hope these products will continue to be refused approval.

A connection between superbugs and antibiotic use in livestock – it frustrates and infuriates me that over 70% of our antibiotics are used in livestock feed and yet the industry refuses to see a connection between that usage and the rampant increase of superbugs. Well, now we have PigMRSA to prove the point. How to avoid antibiotics in your food? Unfortunately there is no labeling requirement that shows how much antibiotic the animal on your plate has eaten. The only way to avoid it is to choose meat marked “natural” and labeled with the statement that it does not contain hormones, antibiotics or preservatives. This label however is not regulated. A better option, if the budget will allow, is to choose organic meat, dairy, and eggs. This is a regulated label and the animal is not allowed by law to have antibiotics, GMO feed, hormones, or preservatives.

In a Squeaky-Clean World, a Worm Might Help Fight Disease – in a nutshell this article talks about the possibility of pig whipworms being helpful in stimulating the immune system.  Here we have yet another scientist looking at the Hygiene Hypothesis which I wrote about here and here.  This is a different take on adding organisms to the body to support health.  Another one that has gained some attention recently is fecal bacteriotherapy which appears to be helpful in remitting C. Difficile infections and a variety of Irritable Bowel Diseases.  While I’m not certain that in our modern culture many people would be open to the idea of either of these therapies, they certainly seem to point to a need to stop being so hyper-clean.  The antibacterial everything in our environment may actually make us more sick in the long run.  Consider a return to good old-fashioned soap and water.

Antibiotics don’t work for most sinus infections – Unfortunately we have become accustomed to taking antibiotics for everything.  As a result many of us are walking around with weakened, overwhelmed, inflamed guts that do not have adequate probiotic colonies to support good health.  If you have to take an antibiotic, seriously consider if it is necessary before just popping those pills.  And don’t forget to take a good probiotic with your antibiotics to replenish the good bacteria which are being wiped out right along with the bad.  I often suggest that people take probiotic supplements for 60 days after their last dose of antibiotic.

Someone asked for a suggestion for probiotics:  One probiotic that I like a lot is Innate Response’s Flora 20-14 Ultra Strength.  With 20 billion CFUs in 14 different clinically proven strains, this is a supportive supplement to recolonize your gut.  It can be purchased at a discount through my Virtual Dispensary please contact me for your access code.

This commercial was seen during the Superbowl.  I think it’s sweet but also carries a powerful message.  I just found out that all proceeds of the song, The Scientist, available on iTunes, go to the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, an organization dedicated toward helping to create more sustainable food and support farmers.  That’s a mission that I can believe in.

Why we must occuppy our food supply – Willie Nelson and Anna Lappe tell it like it is

I like Mark Bittman and watch his youtube channel a lot. I also happen to love both clementines (which are still easily available here in TX) and clafoutis. So this looks like a great combination for a simple dessert that makes use of seasonal ingredients.

What I’m reading:

The Magnesium Miracle – This book highlights how important this essential nutrient is to our health.  Magnesium is important for heart health, weight management, diabetes, mental health and more.  As a matter of fact the book lists over twenty-five conditions that are related to magnesium deficiency.  It also talks about magnesium in synergy with other minerals and ways to get more magnesium into our system.  I’ve known for a long time that many people are walking around deficient in magnesium.  I’m enjoying this book and learning already.

disclosure:  cmp.ly/5

Eat White Food

I frequently spend a lot of time asking people to eat the colors of the rainbow.  There are so many tasty colorful foods that I am at a loss to understand how the Standard American Diet came to be mostly beige.  On my Facebook Fan Page I often push colorful foods.  For the most part this means fruits and vegetables that are higher in nutrients, tasty and easy to incorporate into the diet in their whole food form.

Today however I’m here to advocate for white foods; at least some of them.  I’ll still be one of the first to tell you that white rice, white pasta, white bread, white potatoes and that ilk are primarily simple carbs and not a great choice.  But there are some other white foods that are fabulous and should definitely be part of your nutritionally dense, healthy eating plan.

Cauliflower ] photo: Liftarn

Cauliflower – A cruciferous vegetable that is loaded with vitamin C, cauliflower also provides vitamin K, and some folate.  It’s also got a type of phytonutrient called glucosinolates which are a good choice for detoxification activity within our bodies.  Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties make cauliflower high on the list for cancer prevention and heart health while it’s high levels of fiber make it a great choice for supporting healthy digestion.  You can eat it raw, steamed, baked, roasted, and cooked.  Don’t forget about the greens, these are also edible and make a great addition to a stir fry or curried greens.

Parsnip | photo: A.Cahalan

Parsnips – A root vegetable that is loaded with fiber, parsnips also provide vitamin C, vitamin K and folate.  They have a wonderful mineral content that includes calcium (yes folks, 1 C. of parsnips gives you 5% of your RDV for calcium), magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and manganese.  I’ve read that before people knew that potatoes were edible, parsnips were one of the prized root vegetable for their mild, delicious flavor.  They can be eaten raw, cooked, mashed, steamed, and make a wonderful addition to a root vegetable medley or a carrot, sweet potato, parsnip latke.

Garlic | photo: geocachernemesis

Garlic – Another wonderful root vegetable garlic is a fabulous antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, cancer fighting, immune system boosting food that needs to be a part of your diet.  If chopped and let to sit for a few minutes oxidization boosts the powerful antioxidant allicins.  Many people, myself included, when feeling a little under the weather, will chop a clove or two of garlic and swallow it down raw (do not do this on an empty stomach as it may cause digestive upset).  Delicious, healthy, easy to use in a vast array of dishes, it’s one white vegetable that belongs in your pantry.  As tasty as it is, it’s no wonder that there’s a recipe for chicken with 40 cloves of garlic.

White Onion | photo: multadroit

Onions – there are all different types of onions so it seems a bit odd to single out the white ones since I tend to use them all.  The white ones include sweets, cipollinis, shallots, pearl onions and more.  Try them all, they’re delicious and so good for you. High in chromium, which is great for your blood sugar, onions also have a high level of sulfur compounds which makes them a great choice as a heart healthy, immune boost, cancer fighting, anti-inflammatory vegetable.  They also provide copper which is important for bone health.

Mushrooms | photo: Chris 73

Mushrooms – everyone is going crazy for shitake, oyster, portobello, maitake and other mushrooms these days.  But that doesn’t mean that you should discount those tasty white mushrooms.  They pack a nutritious punch with lots of fiber, vitamin B12 (especially important for vegetarians and vegans), potassium, copper, and selenium.  1/2 cup of mushrooms provides a whole lot of flavor yet only 7 calories. Another easy, versatile vegetable they can be used in many different ways in a wide variety of cuisines.

White Beans | photo: Rasbak

White Beans – This color covers a number of different kinds of beans, navy, great northern, cannellini, pea beans, and more.  A great source of protein, white beans also offer a great source of iron and fiber.  They are good for stabilizing blood sugar, good for your heart, your digestion and can be eaten so many different ways.  They pair well with an almost endless combination of vegetables, herbs, and spices.  One of my favorite ways to eat them is cold (after cooking) in a salad drizzled with a pesto dressing.

Celeriac | photo: AlbertCahalan

Celeriac – Sometimes referred to as celery root this tastes like a cross between celery and parsley.  It’s great in combination with other root vegetables, goes great into a slaw, cooks up well in a casserole, and is another great choice to add to your diet.  Low in calories but high in vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, phosphorus, potassium, and manganese it’s considered a detoxifying vegetable.  It may also help with blood pressure health and support bone health.

So eat a rainbow of food, whole foods that is, but don’t forget white is all the colors of the rainbow and needs to be part of your plate too.

Breakfast – Break Away From The Box

Israeli Breakfast | Lior Bakalu

Over the last couple of days I have been seeing articles in the news that have made me literally cringe.  I’m not going to link to them here because the information contained in them is just so wrong I cannot bring myself to share it even as an example of bad information.

What is it?  It’s breakfast.  One article claimed that a bowl of cereal was shown to be the best breakfast and a good way to start your day, preventing you from snacking on sugary foods later in the day.  I was unable to find a link to the study that the article referenced but based on what I know about nutrition I’m guessing that the study group was comparing to either breakfast skippers or people who ate a donut or muffin and called that breakfast.  Sadly a bowl of cereal is not enough.  Yes the milk is going to provide a small amount of protein but you are typically getting an over-processed, sugary product in the cereal.  While it’s better than not eating breakfast I’m here to tell you that it is not better by much.  Your body will still feel the effects metabolically and it will not be supportive of your blood sugar.

Another article absolutely horrified me by claiming that if you were a picky eater there were some nutritional strategies that allowed you to still get all the nutrition you needed.  Don’t like salmon?  The article suggests eating a bowl of cereal instead.  While you will get some vitamin D from the milk you are certainly not going to get the levels of protein and amino acids in cereal that you do from fish.

The third article referenced healthy choices at fast food places.  I’m sorry but I have never been a fan of those.  The food is fatty, over-processed, chemically laden and very few of these places offer a truly healthy start to your day.

Oddly enough just before all of these articles came out College Crunch contacted me about their recently written article.  10 Breakfast Foods Your Body Hates.  They state the facts clearly and correctly.

So what do you eat?

1.   First and foremost it is important to start your day with breakfast.  Don’t skip.
2.   Eat protein, your body needs to refuel after the “fast” of sleeping.
3.   Get fiber, supportive to your digestive system it also helps sustain you as your blood sugar balances
      out with this first meal of the day.
4.   Limit sugar. Too much sugar (think cereals, syrups, muffins, etc) will cause a spike in insulin and
      then your body begins the blood sugar roller-coaster.
5.   Avoid simple carbohydrates (pancakes, toast, boxed cereal) your body will digest them too quickly
      and they are not supportive of blood sugar stability.

You don’t have to have what is considered “breakfast” food for breakfast if you don’t want to.  I know a number of people who start their morning with a chicken breast and veggies.  I had one friend who served her children beans for breakfast and they loved it.  The breakfast in the picture above is from Israel.  Eggs with lots of veggies (fresh and cooked) and fresh herbs.

Break away from the box; eat something that will nourish and support your body.

quinoa tabbouleh - delicious recipe

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern salad dish; it makes a great meal when paired with falafel (fried chickpea patties), dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), hummus and other Middle Eastern or Mediterranean food items. It’s primary ingredient is cracked bulgur wheat, something that is not allowed for those who cannot eat gluten. In order to make a version of tabbouleh that would be suitable for a gluten free diet I’ve substituted quinoa as the base.

Quinoa is a gluten free grain.  Actually it’s a pseudo-grain.  Quinoa has a lot of fiber, and is high in B vitamins, calcium and iron. It also has balanced amino acids which gives it a good protein profile. Before you use quinoa you’ll need to wash it (unless you buy pre-washed).  This is because the outer coating has saponins on it. If they don’t get washed off they will make the quinoa taste soapy. When cooking quinoa the ratio is pretty much the same as rice, two cups of water to one cup of grain, simmered for 14-18 minutes.

Most tabbouleh is made with parsley and mint.  In this recipe I exchanged the mint for cilantro which makes a delicious change and gives it a bit of a kick.  Rich in phytonutrients, fiber, iron and magnesium the cilantro adds even more to the nutrient profile of this recipe.

This is one of my family’s favorite summertime recipes.  Easy to make it’s delicious as a side dish or it makes a great part of a composed salad plate.

 

Quinoa Tabbouleh
Print
Ingredients
  1. 2 C. cooked quinoa
  2. 1 C. finely minced cilantro
  3. ½ C. minced parsley
  4. 1 clove garlic minced
  5. 1 t. sea salt
  6. 1 C. cherry tomatoes – halved
  7. 1 red pepper, small dice
  8. 3 scallions, mostly white part, minced
  9. 3 T. fresh lemon juice
  10. 2 T. olive oil
  11. ¼ C. pine nuts
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients together
  2. Stir well
  3. Add fresh ground pepper to the top
  4. Enjoy!
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/

Mesquite Flour

My friend Misty asked me “What do you know about mesquite flour?”  Mesquite (genus Prosopis) is a deciduous, leguminous tree that grows quite well in Texas and Mexico and has a range that goes as far north as Kansas and westward to southern California.  Most people use the wood to create a flavorful smoke that imparts a fabulous taste to barbequed meats.  But mesquite also has another purpose.


I had heard of people using mesquite flour before I moved to Texas, a high protein legume that was high in fiber and originally part of the Native American diet for Southwestern tribes.

Researching it further I have discovered that it apparently also has a good profile for calcium, manganese, iron, zinc, and is high in the amino acid lysine.  Because of it’s high soluble fiber content and low glycemic index, in spite of a reported sweet flavor, mesquite flour is believed to be a good choice for diabetics.  

Mesquite flour was traditionally consumed by Pima Indians.  With the advent of a modern diet many of them have developed diabetes; this seems to be attributed to their decline in consumption of mesquite flour.  According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition “the slow digestion and absorption of starch in traditional foods was a factor that helped protect susceptible populations from developing diabetes.”  These traditional foods included corn, lima beans, white and yellow teparies, mesquite, and acorns.  Another study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology highlighted an ethnobotanical study in Israel which researched plants used for the treatment of diabetes; one of the plants included was mesquite.

Because mesquite is a legume I am assuming that it has a non-glutinous profile making it best suited for quick breads, cakes, and muffins or cookies rather than for a yeasted bread.  

Mesquite also has another use, the flowers are attractive to bees and I have heard that mesquite honey is quite flavorful.  You can purchase mesquite honey on the internet as well as mesquite flour. There are also recipes available that call for mesquite flour.  All in all it seems like it might be somewhat similar to another legume flour, carob, which I wrote about here and here. Both are sweet, high in fiber and provide a good protein content.

photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Carob Update

I wrote a previous post about using carob as a sweetener.  Since it really is more than just a sweetener I thought I would share a little more information about this amazing legume.

Carob is currently being examined as a protein source.  Research indicates that the flour made from the germ of carob has a high protein content, 46%.  By isolating the germ further, protein content percentages, in a laboratory setting, have reached as high as 95% according to studies currently being done at the Universidad de Sevilla, Instituta de la Grassia.  This isolate is of interest because it would offer an alternative to soy or dairy proteins for protein shake formulas created for athletes and for diabetics.  
In addition to the higher levels of protein, the germ flour also yields higher levels of arginine, an essential amino acid that is important for healing wounds, immune function, and hormone release among other physiological functions.  
Carob flour and carob bean gum are also useful for people with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance as carob contains no gluten.
Another health benefit is the effect of carob fiber, taken from the pulp of the fruit, in lowering cholesterol.  According to a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition “Daily consumption of food products enriched with carob fibre shows beneficial effects on human blood lipid profile and may be effective in prevention and treatment of hypercholesterolemia.”  The fiber is also high in phenolic antioxidant substances and there are studies underway looking into the chemopreventive qualities of carob.
To rephrase all of that in a less confusing way carob is great as a sweetener substitute, it is high in protein and will probably be coming soon to a protein supplement near you.  Useful for people who can not ingest gluten, it is also showing promise as a functional food that may help lower cholesterol and help prevent oxidative cell damage.  
Consider adding carob to your diet but please remember to read the labels.  If you start seeing wonderful health claims that’s fine but always check what other ingredients are in your food before you unthinkingly purchase something because of the marketing on the package.
Be well.


http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science-Nutrition/Scientists-study-carob-as-alternative-protein-source, http://www.foodsciencecentral.com/fsc/ixid15288, http://cerealchemistry.aaccnet.org/doi/abs/10.1094/CCHEM.1998.75.4.488?cookieSet=1&journalCode=cchem

, http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&client=safari&rls=en-us&defl=en&q=define:arginine&ei=AH70Sd2iH5LAM4qFnMAP&sa=X&oi=glossary_definition&ct=title, http://www.herbco.com/p-449-carob-bean-pods-cs.aspx, http://www.botanical.com/products/learn/c/carob-p.html, http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/Carob-fibre-to-reduce-cholesterol-levels

Amino Acids

Recently I wrote a post about meatless meals where I suggested adding beans to the diet.  If you are a meat eater who is simply trying to eat less meat this is a fine way to supplement the diet, although the information below is also important.

 
If you are switching to becoming, or already are, a vegetarian or a vegan it becomes a little more complex.  Not difficult by any means, but you do need to put more thought into what you eat.
 
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and there are twenty all together. Eight of the twenty are considered “essential amino acids” because we require them but our body cannot manufacture them so we must get them from our food. These eight are phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, isoleucine, methionine, leucine, and lysine. Animal products such as meat, dairy and eggs, contain all eight however different foods such as legumes, seeds and grains do not.  Therefore they must be combined to create a complete protein.  Legumes are high in lysine but low in methionine.  Conversely most grains and high in methionine and low in lysine.
 
In many cultures there are a lot of recipes that call for a mixture of legumes and grains that then create a complete protein.  The above picture is for a Korean dish called Kong bap (this picture shows the dish uncooked) and is a mixture of seven grains and four beans.  Because this dish contains beans (adzuki beans and green peas) and grains (barley, rice, Job’s tears, sorghum and corn) it provides all of the essential amino acids.  This dish also has soybeans which are considered to be a complete protein by themselves.  Other examples include black beans with corn tortillas from South America or chickpea falafel with whole wheat pita from the Middle East.  
 
This is not the only combination that makes a complete protein.  Seeds and legumes together are also a good combination.  Examples would include hummus which is made from ground sesame seeds and cooked chick peas.  
 
The idea is ensure that if you are not eating meat that you are not simply adding legumes to your diet but that you are adding them with whole grains and/or seeds to ensure good nutrition.
 
Our dinner tonight a curried crockpot lentil and rice dish.  This recipe originally came from a Lebanese friend of mine and is called M’judra, I’ve modified it a little over the years and it’s one of our favorites.  I plan to serve this with an Indian spinach dish called Palak and a salad of tomatoes and cucumbers with a spice called Chat Masala.  It’s a tasty, healthy and satisfying meal.  We make it with a fair amount of curry powder because that’s how we like it, if you need to reduce the curry powder it will still be delicious.
 
Curried Crockpot Lentils and Rice
 
1/2 C. rinsed lentils
1 C. rinsed red rice (can use brown rice if you prefer)
1 green pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
2 T. curry powder
1 T. nutritional yeast
1/2 t. fresh ground black pepper
3 1/2 C. vegetable broth
1 T. olive oil
 
saute the pepper and onions in the olive oil until just starting to soften
place all dry ingredients into the crockpot
add broth and stir well
cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours (check at 4.5 hours to see if you need a little more water)
add salt to taste after done cooking
 
Note:  you don’t add the salt while cooking because it will delay the lentils from softening
 
Enjoy!
 
photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Badagnani