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Tag: health

Let’s Talk Turmeric

Turmeric needs a cape for all its super powers!

I’d like to give turmeric some love. As you already know, it’s been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties, but that’s really just the beginning.

  • It has been shown to have anti-tumor effects, inhibiting the growth and spread of cancer cells
  • It’s been shown to improve brain function and reduce the risk of cognitive decline
  • It’s been shown to have a positive effect on heart health, reducing the risk of heart disease and improving cardiovascular function, and so much more!

For years, I’ve been incorporating turmeric into my daily diet, but as I focus on healing my broken ankle bone, I’m upping my turmeric game — both in terms of consuming more of it, yes, but also (mainly) in terms of increasing its bioavailability — in other words…increasing my body’s absorption and use of it.

Increasing turmeric’s bioavailability

Turmeric’s active compound, curcumin, has low bioavailability. It’s considered hydrophobic, meaning it doesn’t mix well with water. In other words, it’s quickly metabolized by the liver and excreted from the body.

That’s not what we want. Not only do we want to CONSUME the nutrients that make us thrive and heal; we also want our bodies to be able to ABSORB and USE them. Otherwise, we’re not getting the full potential of the healthy plant foods we’re eating.

Fortunately, there are two significant ways to increase the absorption of curcumin:

  1. Black pepper — black pepper contains piperine, a compound that can increase the absorption of curcumin by up to 2,000%!!
  2. Fat — curcumin is fat-soluble, which means it should be eaten with a source of healthy fat, such as coconut milk, almond butter, or avocado.

It’s not that I wasn’t doing this before, and it’s not that I’m not using NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for pain management and inflammation reduction, but I’ve definitely made some adjustments:

  • I’ve increased my intake of turmeric.
  • I’m consuming turmeric with fat and black pepper.

Prior to breaking my ankle, I was trying to eat 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric a day, but while I’m focusing on healing this break, I’m eating about a teaspoon a day. That’s specifically because its anti-inflammatory properties reduces my pain, promotes faster healing, and supports my immune system, which of course is also critical for overall health.

And let me emphasize that I eat only ground turmeric (or freshly grated turmeric root) — not a curcumin supplement. Curcumin is just ONE of the many healthful compounds of turmeric. The magic of whole plant foods is that all of the components work together to create the beneficial effect. Isolating one nutrient means missing out on the combination.

Here are some ways you can incorporate turmeric into your diet:

  1. Golden milk latte: Mix turmeric powder with plant-based milk, black pepper, and a touch of maple syrup for a warm and comforting drink.
  2. Tofu scramble: Sprinkle turmeric powder on scrambled tofu, and add black pepper for an extra boost. (Enjoy my recipe for classic Tofu Scramble!)
  3. Turmeric hummus: Mix turmeric powder with chickpeas, tahini, garlic, and lemon juice to make a flavorful dip, and add a little bit of olive oil for a creamy texture.
  4. Turmeric grains: Mix turmeric powder with brown rice or quinoa, and add a tablespoon of coconut oil or coconut milk to make it more flavorful and bioavailable.
  5. Turmeric roasted chickpeas: Toss chickpeas with turmeric powder and a pinch of black pepper, and bake them until they’re crispy for a healthy snack.(Check out my Crispy Chipotle Chickpeas recipe; add turmeric to the other delicious spices I recommend!)
  6. Turmeric salad dressing: Mix turmeric powder with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, mustard, and a touch of maple syrup for a tangy and flavorful salad dressing.
  7. Turmeric lentil soup: Add turmeric powder to a lentil or bean soup, and add a little bit of coconut milk for a creamy texture and / or oil to increase bioavailability.
  8. Turmeric smoothie: Add turmeric powder to a smoothie with almond milk, banana, and a little bit of black pepper for extra absorption.
  9. Turmeric salad dressing: Mix turmeric powder with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and agave nectar for a tasty and healthy salad dressing.
  10. Roasted veggies: Add turmeric powder to roasted vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, and cauliflower, and drizzle them with a little bit of olive oil for healthy fat.

The Best Juicer! (+Discount Code)

Want To Make Fabulous Homemade Juice AND save $$$?

I did a ton of research to find a better juicer than the one I had for 15 years, and my search is over. No doubt about it: the Nama Juicer is THE BEST!

  • It extracts more juice
  • It’s incredibly easy to use
  • It’s extremely easy to clean
  • It’s shockingly well-priced for the value it provides
  • And it’s light enough to be portable! (Yes, this crazy lady takes her juicer on road trips.)

Get Your Discount Code For The Best Juicer

To receive yours (in plastic-free packaging!), get free shipping, and get 20% off!!

1. USE this link 
2. Enter this coupon code at checkout: COLLEEN20

–> Do you have a favorite homemade (or store-bought) juice combo? Tell me below, or ask me any questions you have! (For instance, I love to EAT celery, but don’t get it anywhere near my juice!)

Cooking with Herbs and Spices

Are you cooking with herbs and spices? Or are they sitting and collecting dust on the lids of those cute little jars, unused for six months or more?

If so, I get it. You’re not alone.

Herbs and spices are the most underused ingredients in cooking

I often quip that people who say they “could never be vegan” because the food is “too bland” haven’t stopped to think about the fact that they flavor their meat with plants: ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, relish, vinegars, oils, horseradish, hot sauces, chutneys, jellies, jams, salsa, soy sauce, wasabi, curries, tahini, pickles, garlic, ginger, onions, lemons, limes, and an endless array of spices and herbs.

But truly, aside from the most widely used commercially prepared condiments, even vegetarians and vegans are not taking advantage of the thousands of herbs and spices available that add flavor, color, texture, warmth, and excitement to their dishes.

And that’s what I covered in my class: EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT HERBS AND SPICES. I addressed the most commonly asked questions: 

  • What’s the best way to store herbs and spices?
  • Should I use ground spices or whole?
  • I have a small kitchen but love to cook, so if you could choose only 5 spices and 5 herbs to have on hand, which would you choose?
  • I tend to stick with typical spices and herbs (cumin, coriander, turmeric) but would love to know what to do with less familiar ones such as sumac, fenugreek, and tarragon.
  • How do I substitute herbs and spices? For instance, if a recipe calls for cumin and thyme, but I don’t have either, what can I use instead?
  • Which herbs/spices go best with which foods?
  • Can I freeze leafy herbs like basil, parsley, and sage? How?
  • In terms of nutrition and flavor, which are best: fresh or dried?
  • If a recipe calls for one tablespoon of fresh herbs and you have only dried, what would the measurement be?
  • What cuisines are specific herbs and spices associated with?

I also provided recipes to help boost your use of some common (and not-so-common) spices and herbs:

  • Turmeric “Golden” Milk
  • Hibiscus-Infused Water
  • Za’atar
  • “Poultry” Seasoning
  • Herb-Infused Simple Syrup

Join Me in a Class

I packed a LOT into this class, and I’m so pleased by the response to it. You will feel soooo empowered and soooo excited by the end. GET YOUR ON-DEMAND VIDEO, RECIPES, AND RESOURCES

And tell me what else you’d like to know regarding cooking with herbs and spices in the comments.  

Mindful Eating

In this episode, I explain the benefits of eating with awareness and provide suggestions for mindful eating. 

AFFILIATE PARTNERS

Nama Juicer — Use this link and coupon code COLLEEN10 and get 10% off my favorite juicer.

Plaine Products — Use this link and coupon code “compassion” for 15% off my favorite zero waste bath and body products.

Complement — Use this link and coupon code “joyfulvegan” and get 10% off my favorite supplements.

Eat By Color

In this episode I explain why message for eating healthfully can be narrowed down into three little words: eat by color. The pigments in plant foods are a key to their nutritional benefits.

BANANA OAT “COOKIES”
These couldn’t be more simple and more delicious. There is no added fat, no added sugar — only the protein, nutrients, and natural sweetness from the banana and cinnamon. Mash up 1 banana in a bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup oats (quick-cooking or rolled), some cinnamon, and a dash of salt. Use a spoon to drop 4 cookie-shaped dollops onto a parchment-lined baking tray, and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes until they are a golden brown. (I just use my toaster oven.) Let cool (or not!), and enjoy. (I’ve also made variations where I press a couple blueberries in before baking!!)

AFFILIATE PARTNERS

Nama Juicer — Use this link and coupon code COLLEEN10 and get 10% off my favorite juicer.

Plaine Products — Use this link and coupon code “compassion” for 15% off my favorite zero waste bath and body products.

Complement — Use this link and coupon code “joyfulvegan” and get 10% off my favorite supplements.

Apricot Red Lentil Soup

Easy, Nutritious, Delicious, and Fast!

This is one of my go-to recipes whenever I want something quick and delicious. It’s also a perfect New Year’s dish, as the lentils represent prosperity and luck in the coming year.  If the apricots seem weird to you in a soup, trust me! They add a touch of sweetness and cook down into melt-in-your-mouth goodness. 

Ingredients

2 tablespoons oil or water, for sautéing
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup halved dried apricots
1-1/2 cups red lentils, picked through and rinsed
5 cups vegetable stock
3 Roma (plum) tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 -15-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained 

Directions

Heat up the oil or water in a large soup pot. Add the onion, garlic, and apricots, and cook for about 7 minutes over medium heat, until the onions begin to turn translucent. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. 

Add the lentils and stock. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, cumin, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Puree 1/2 of the stew in a blender or food processor (or using a stick/immersion blender), then return to the pot. Add the chickpeas, cooking until they’re heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve hot. 

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Did you make this soup? Let me know how it turned out in the comments below!

Want To Learn More Easy and Delicious Recipes?

Join me in my online cooking classes!

I have an on-demand soups and stews class and a pressure cooker class where I discuss the whys and hows, and the whats and wherefores of cooking with a pressure cooker and include a recipe for a brown lentil soup!

The Vegan Police: How to Speak Up for Animals without Talking Down to People

A small subset of opinionated, passionate, well-intentioned people perpetuate the stereotype of the angry, self-righteous, perfection-focused animal rights vegan when they spew invective at anyone who is not “vegan enough” in their eyes. They are otherwise known as The Vegan Police.

Of course I’m very well aware of how judgmental people can be — we’re all guilty of it — and nothing tastes better than sweet self-righteousness, especially when it exists in the name of justice. But self-righteousness,  arrogance, and meanness are just ugly regardless of what inspires them. And of course I’ve been keenly aware of the existence of the perfectionist vegan for as long as I’ve been vegan — probably since before I was vegan.

But I’ve been seeing it so much more invective on social media – not much of it directly because I won’t venture into territory that is filled with self-righteousness and piety and name-calling.  But I’m hearing about it a lot more because my audience comes to me and tells me what they see and hear, and frankly…forgive my naivete,  I find it shocking. I’m shocked at the things people say and how they say them. These comments are filled with so much scorn and unkindness, and I have to believe that the people writing it aren’t aware of how toxic it is for everyone — including for the animals.

As I see it, this toxic self-righteousness is coming from two groups — and this is a broad generalization, but there seems to be:

  1. some well-intentioned ethical vegans who are concerned that veganism as an ethical way of living is watered down by the media and celebrities who position veganism as a temporary, trendy diet. Hooked on the ideology, the badge, the label, the purity, this is the group that acts as if veganism is the end rather than the means to an end. 
  2. some well-intentioned health-oriented plant-based eaters who excoriate the consumption of oil, sugar, flour, wheat, gluten, or soy.  This is the group of dietary purity that scorns anyone as a “junk food vegan” who doesn’t fit their prescribed notion of what vegans should eat (and look) like. 

I bring up both of these groups because I see policing on both sides. It’s really more than acting like the police; it’s also playing judge, jury, and executioner. Today, I’m going to talk only about the first category and save the second for an upcoming podcast episode.

In the first category, those folks attack:

  • Vegetarians who are not yet vegan.
  • People who identify as vegan but who “cheat” or eat animal products occasionally.
  • People who identify as vegan but who have stopped eating animals and animal products for health reasons. The feeling is that if they’re not doing it for the animals, then they shouldn’t call themselves vegan.
  • People who don’t identify as vegan but who have stopped eating animals and animal products for health reasons and thus call themselves “plant-based.” The feeling is that if they’re just “plant-based,” then it’s not about the animals and they’ll still be contributing to animal exploitation.
  • Non-vegans (including celebrities) who have vegan companies or sell vegan products. (Even though many of us live in the real world where we buy vegan products from non-vegan grocery stores and plants harvested by non-vegan farmers and eat in vegan restaurants owned by non-vegans, when a non-vegan celebrity (ahem, Beyonce) announced that she’s creating a vegan food delivery service, the Interwebs went nuts — accusing her of appropriating the vegan ethic.)

But it’s not just the non-vegans who are targets of their scorn. It’s also vegans — it’s vegans who are pregnant or who have children (“breeders”). Vegans who have companion animals (“perpetuating animal slavery”). Vegans who are religious. Vegans who celebrate Christmas. Vegans who celebrate Valentine’s Day. Vegans who aren’t intersectionalists. Vegans who aren’t activists. Vegans who share recipes. Vegans who aren’t angry all the time. Vegans who aren’t Level-5 vegans.

In a famous Simpson’s episode called “Lisa the Tree Hugger,” Lisa meets animal/enviornmental rights activist, Jesse. She falls head over heels in love and wants him to notice how conscious and ethical she is.  

Lisa: Oh, the earth is the best! That’s why I’m a vegetarian.
Jesse: Heh. Well, that’s a start.
Lisa: Uh, well, I was thinking of going vegan.
Jesse: I’m a level 5 vegan — I won’t eat anything that casts a shadow.

Ah, yes. It’s funny because it’s so true.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I love people who have opinions. I’m one of them. I love people who stand up for what they believe in. I’m one of them. I love people who speak up for the animals and act on their behalf. I’m one of them. But we can do all of that without being cruel. I feel like I’m constantly talking about walking the line between this and that: walking the line between speaking up for what we believe in and not being attached to the outcome. Walking the line between asking for what we want without being demanding. Walking the line between expressing our opinion without attacking other people. We can do it all. We can. It takes practice, and it takes time, but it can be done.

I think we humans — especially opinionated or justice-oriented humans — are not good at living in the grey areas or at least areas we feel are places of contradiction. For instance, I think what happens for so many animal rights activists and ethical vegans is that we feel so acutely aware of how much animals are suffering that we think if we don’t demonstrate outrage about this fact all the time, then we’re not being true to them. We’re not being good advocates. I think we think that if we’re not in a constant state of anger about how animals are treated, we’re letting the animals down. We feel that if we don’t speak UP for animals, we’re letting them down, but speaking up for the non-human animals doesn’t mean we have to speak down to the human animals. 

I understand the urgency. I understand the desperation, the outrage, the anger. It’s why I talk about this in the podcast series I did called The 10 Stages You Go Through When You Stop Eating Animals (and it’s the subject of my upcoming book The Joyful Vegan’s Guide to Life). It’s not that we shouldn’t be outraged and motivated and angry, but I think some people lose the plot. Or maybe they haven’t lost the plot at all. Maybe the problem is they see nothing but the plot, but that’s a problem because when you see only one thing through one lens, you become incredibly myopic. Animals are victims of horrific violence at our hands for the sake of our pleasure and convenience. That is true. That is real. But that’s not all that’s real. That’s not all that’s true. As human beings, we don’t live in a vacuum.

We are complex people who live in a complex world with many, many inputs determining who we become and what we do and what we believe and what we buy and who we eat. Forces are in play every day conditioning us, reinforcing belief systems, influencing our decisions, and affecting our relationships.

It’s neither realistic nor fair to expect everyone to see through the same lens we do. And as advocates, we want to speak up and help guide people toward embracing their empathy and compassion for animals and not contribute to this violence. In fact, the word “advocate” is built from the word “vocare” – to call – which is related to the word “vox” – voice. As advocates we MUST use our voices in order to be voices for animals, but we have to be mindful of HOW to use our voice so that we’re not only compassionate but effective. We must speak up, but we don’t have to be cretins to do so. 

I will emphasize the word “effective” for those who don’t think they have to be compassionate to people when the stakes (for animals) are so high, but I will tell you that if you think people will be attracted to venom and invective, then I will just say I vehemently disagree.

People join groups and befriend people they’re attracted to, and I guarantee you that very few people are attracted to self-righteousness, especially when something is new to them and they’re already feeling vulnerable and exploring unfamiliar territory. And when the attack comes publicly, that’s even worse, because nobody likes being humiliated. That should just go without saying, but I’ve said it, and I’ll say it again. Nobody likes being humiliated.

I’m not saying everyone has to agree or have the same viewpoints. But that doesn’t mean in disagreeing or having conviction or having opinions we can’t do it in a way that is constructive rather than destructive.

Of course, you can say that in the end, the person who happens upon a negative comment and chooses not to be vegan because of it is really their own blocks and they’re just using it as an excuse to not change their behavior. But I don’t think it’s as simple as that. Yes, I believe very much that we’re ultimately responsible for our own actions, but we’re also social creatures and psychological creatures, and some things really are just a turn-off for people, and if you don’t know that you have an effect on people for better or for worse, then you’re just lying to yourself.

You’re lying because if you’re any kind of activist, you’re ACTING to affect someone else’s behavior, so you’re at least aware that there’s a relationship taking place, that there’s a cause and effect. And what I’m saying is that mean, nasty, self-righteous posts mostly have the EFFECT of turning people away.

Now, in the end, my little lecture isn’t going to change much. It will probably receive approval from those who already agree with me and scorn from those who don’t. In the end, I can’t control how others represent veganism and animal advocacy. And that’s part of the point. We can’t control how people — the media, celebrities, the public, vegans, plant-based eaters, etc. —  will use or represent what “vegan” is!

We can’t control the message, because there is no single voice. My voice is singular; it’s my own, and I use it. Your voice is singular; it’s your own. Use it wisely and intelligently and effectively. How I represent myself as a vegan and animal activist is all I can control, and in being able to control that, I’m going to be the best, most steadfast, most compassionate, most effective voice for animals I can be. 

“Vegan” isn’t a trademark that any of us own. It’s a means for achieving my goal of living in a way that doesn’t contribute to violence against animals. We can help clarify what vegan means, because it does mean something, but we don’t get vegan certification when we become vegan. Being vegan is not about being perfect or pure, and I think this expectation of perfection is what stops many people from even trying to be vegan.

Their fear is justified when they proudly declare to someone or in a message board that they’ve become vegan, and they’re met with smug responses from non-vegans that the shoes they’re wearing are made of are leather or from vegans that the machines on which their peanut butter was made were also used to make non-vegan food products.

That isn’t to say that in this imperfect world I don’t accidentally contribute to the suffering of human or non-human animals, but that doesn’t make me less vegan. It just makes me human: an imperfect human in an imperfect world using this thing called VEGAN as a pretty fantastic way to reflect my values of compassion and wellness.

And that’s the message I want to convey when people are trying to do the right thing. I want them to know that there’s so much they can do in their own lives to not contribute to violence against animals and though they, too, are imperfect humans in this imperfect world. Imperfection is built into being vegan. But so is compassion. And without that, it’s just ideology.  

All of this is in today’s episode — speaking up for animals — online and in person — without alienating people who are trying to make compassionate choices. I’ll be addressing it in this year’s Compassion in Action conference as well as in my upcoming book.

Thank you for your support and for sharing. 

11-Year Anniversary: Another Amazing Love Fest!

Help celebrate the ELEVEN-YEAR ANNIVERSARY of the Food for Thought podcast by sitting back and taking in some of the love letters I’ve received from listeners and supporters this past year. The stories are as diverse as the listeners and reflect varied ages and backgrounds, but they all share common threads of hope, transformation, and compassion. 

I hope you are as moved by the letters as I am humbled by them. If you ever once thought that “people don’t change,” then you’re in for quite a treat. And grab some tea or a glass of wine. 

Thank you for all your support and love these last 11 years!

Food Rainbow

As an educator around the ethics of food, my message for eating compassionately is simple: make choices that reflect your own values of compassion and kindness. When it comes to eating healthfully, my message is equally simple: eat by color… For more, listen below.