Picture by Peter Hellberg
We need to address the elephant in the room… meat. A staple of the American diet, meat is a big one of the big taboo topics for my clients. On average, Americans consume 8 oz of meat per day, including beef, pork, and poultry- 45% more than the USDA recommends and three times the global average. That is roughly 200 pounds of meat per person per year! As much as we personally believe we can’t live without meat in our diets, with the Paleo Diet, South Beach and Atkins Diet ringing in our ears, research tells a different story.
Let’s Take a Look at the Numbers
The popular calorie counting app, My Fitness Pal, reports that a generic burger with lettuce, tomato, mayo, pickle, onion and a bun comes to a whopping 942 calories, 59 grams of fat (37% of which is saturated fat!), 1,000 mg sodium and 57 grams of carbohydrates (refined, of course). The ugly truth is that this good old-fashioned burger provides half your recommended daily intake of calories and sodium, and far exceeds the recommended daily intake of fat and saturated fat. To make matters worse, most people wolf it down in ten minutes or less.
Veggie Power & The Chronic Connection
In order to develop the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2010, the USDA conducted extensive research defining what the “ideal nutrition intake” should be. This process revealed exciting health benefits, “Vegetarian-style eating patterns have been associated with improved health outcomes, including lower levels of obesity, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure and lower total mortality.” This should come as no surprise when we think about what vegetarian style food sources contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, healthy unsaturated fats, phytochemicals and low glycemic carbohydrates. Most vegetarian foods are naturally low in saturated fat, dietary cholesterol and toxins like nitroso compounds, heterocyclic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and glycation—end products formed in cooking, curing and processing meats. Not only do these toxins increase risk of cancer but they also speed up the aging process. Research has also shown that vegetarians have a lower overall rate of cancer and that plant-based diets (including plant-proteins) have been linked to a 20% lower risk of developing breast cancer. I’ve got your attention now; I bet!
What To Do?
Don’t panic! If you are not ready or willing to give up meat, there are small changes you can make to improve your health. Ever heard of Meatless Mondays? Choose one day a week and strive to cut meat from your diet that same day every week. Another option is to avoid meat for one daily meal. For instance, if you have a bacon, egg, and cheese every morning, try a vegetarian omelet instead. And if you are cutting back or eliminating meat from your diet, there are a few factors to keep in mind. Make sure you include foods high in protein and rich in iron and vitamin B12, since those are naturally high in meat-based foods. See the suggestions below to help you maintain a well-balanced diet.
Vegetarian sources of protein:
- Greek Yogurt
- Cottage Cheese
- Legumes (beans & lentils)
- Nuts or seeds such as hemp or pumpkin seeds
- Seitan (contains gluten)
- Whole grains
Vegetarian sources of Iron*
- Dark leafy Greens
- Legumes (beans & lentils)
- Fortified cereal
*Eat with foods high in Vitamin C like lemon or tomatoes to enhance iron absorption
*Males should aim for 8 mg and women 18 mg per day
Vegetarian sources of vitamin B12**
- Fortified Cereal
- Nutritional Yeast
- Milk and Yogurt
*Adults should aim for 2.4 mcg per day
Try The Meatball Shop’s Veggie Balls!Delicious and nutritious!
Thinking of cutting back on meat? What is your motivator? Tell me at #BushwickNutrition.
Written by Debi Zvi, RD, CDN
Edited by Alanna Cabrero and Tamara Cabrero
Pictured are oysters from The Breslin with dill pickle juice – unexpectedly delicious.
Oysters remind me of my dad; he would eat a dozen at a time. He loved to go to oyster bars and watch the diligent shucking process. Yet, I never really knew about their awesome nutritional value until I started eating them myself. Oysters are definitely having their day in the sun—they are everywhere!
Oysters are usually associated with their aphrodisiac nature. One reason is because of their high zinc content. Zinc can boost testosterone levels, which has a positive effect on libido. Another reason, some say, is their shape and texture. I have read that Casanova used to eat oysters for breakfast. I never thought oysters were sexy but hey, whatever floats your boat!
Oysters are part of the mollusk family. Along with their sexy reputation, they are actually great for your health. Like clams and mussels, they are filter feeders. This means they filter up to 50 gallons of seawater per day feeding on the tiny plankton (bottom of the food chain) and micronutrients that exist naturally in the marine environment. Oysters are on the “super green list.” They are one of the top healthiest and most beneficial seafood because 95% of all consumption comes from oyster farms that help clean, benefit and support the environment in which they grow. Most oyster farming operations are very well managed and produce a sustainable product without using pesticides or GMO-grown grains.
Good Vegan Protein Source
Yup—you heard correctly. Oysters do not have a central nervous system and are unlikely to feel pain. They do not respond to injury like other animals and can be included as an ethical source of natural vitamin B12 (a nutrient that is lacking in a vegan diet). And they pack an average of one gram of protein per shell.
Oysters are one of the most nutritious foods per calorie. They are an excellent source of zinc, vitamin D, vitamin B12, lean protein and healthy fats—specifically omega-3 fatty acids (DHA + EPA). One serving of oysters (equivalent to 6 medium-sized oysters or ~3 oz) is a good source of calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium. Since oysters are high in many B vitamins they are considered a good source of nutrition for cognitive health. Oysters are also low in sodium and cholesterol, 180mg and 85mg respectively. A serving is only 43 to 58 calories, dependent on the type.
How to Choose
Taste will vary but fresh oysters should smell of sea water without being too fishy. Fresh oysters should always be on ice. My dad would always make sure the oyster was attached to the shell; for him it was a sign of freshness and confirmed that the oysters weren’t taken from a can and placed on the shell!
Some common east coast oysters are Blue Points (Long Island), Wellfleets (Cape Cod), Chincoteagues (Virginia) and Apalachicolas (Florida). I highly recommend you chew your oyster (at least a little) to allow the flavors to saturate your palate. If the taste is a little too “fishy” add a tinge of lemon, lime or fresh horseradish. The Oyster Blog has a great NYC oyster guide, including all the oyster deals.
They all have different palate appeal and this is highly dependent on the salt content. East coast oysters (Atlantic) are smaller, brinier / saltier and milder than the west coast (Pacific) oysters, which have a creamier, sweeter taste. The west coast oysters also have a distinct, sharply pointed shell compared to the flatter eastern oyster.
Caution: Raw Oyster Safety
Generally, raw oysters are safe to eat but just as with the consumption of any type of raw fish or seafood, there is the possibility for food-borne illness. Shellfish are still among the most common sources of food poisoning in the U.S. every year; oysters alone are responsible for ~15 deaths per year. Food safety is a primary concern and you should order from places you trust. The biggest issue is usually refrigeration; fresh oysters should be refrigerated at <40 F. Oysters may be contaminated with Vibrio vulnificus (grows quickly in warm waters) or put you at risk for contacting hepatitis A. If someone is immunocompromised, they should not be eating anything raw.
Would you consider oysters as part of a vegan diet?
Written and photographed by Alanna Cabrero, MS, RD
Originally posted on NYHRC Tumblr
Consider the Oyster. Why even strict vegans should feel comfortable eating oysters by the boatload. Slate.
10 Most Underrated Health Foods. Summer Tomato.
How to choose oysters. Cookthink.
Edited by TCabrarr