When Mike Chang of 6 pack short cut fame walked in the door to our house, I immediately went up 2 notches on the cool mom status with my 15-year old son. He had known about the number one fitness channel on you tube for years now. What I didn’t know, was that Mike had recently embraced a Plant- Strong vegetarian diet and was about to espouse all the benefits to my impressionable (although not by me), man in the making.
A vegetarian diet was not damaging this man’s muscle. That was made clear by Mike’s physique and consistent workout schedule, which also now included yoga- that’s another blog. I was clearly hitting a major “I told you so” moment here and the silent gloating had begun.
Mike espoused many of the benefits that my husband Alan and I had discovered in our study of longevity. Here are a few facts that may turn you on to eating more plants as well.
People who eat more plants live longer.
People who eat more plants live longer. People in Blue Zones, typically have a consistent habit of filling at least ½ their plates each meal with fresh produce. Check out Dan Buettner’s book. The Blue Zones, 9 Secrets of People Who Live the Longest.
Meat sits in your stomach longer.
It doesn’t contain fiber and makes it very difficult to digest. As a result, meat consumption is recognized as a factor in gastrointestinal disease, such as diverticulitis, colitis and even colon cancer.
Hormones and Antibiotics are regularly used in animal production and in the dairy industry.
These hormones transfer into the milk and cheese we consume. There is concern that these hormones increase the risk of both breast and prostate cancer as well as early menstruation in girls. If you’re a meat eater, look for hormone and anti-biotic free labeling.
You can get the protein you need from plants.
If you’re a 6-foot-tall man with an ideal body weight of 176 lbs., or 80 kilograms, your protein requirements would range from 34 to 64 grams for normal activity levels (the lower number represents the WHO’s figures and the latter the U.S. figures, as there’s still much debate about dietary protein requirements) and 80 grams if you’re engaged in endurance training. Hemp Seeds pack 13 grams in just 3 Tablespoons, Tempeh 12 grams per cup, Almond Butter 7 grams in 2 Tablespoons, Tahini 8 grams 2 tablespoons. Veggies often have between 4 to 6 grams of protein per serving as well. My favorite plant based smoothie from Shaklee has 16 grams of non-gmo protein including live amino acids, probiotics and vegetarian sources of omega3s.
Animal products tend to make your blood more acidic.
When that happens, your body works to achieve homeostasis, or balance. Calcium is one of your body’s best means to achieve that pH balance. If dietary calcium is not readily available, your body will leech calcium from your bones in an attempt to alkalize your blood. So when someone tries to convince you to eat more meat and dairy to avoid osteoporosis, take caution. You’d be better served to increase your consumption of leafy green vegetables, sea vegetables, sesame seeds and other nuts and seeds to acquire calcium that’s easily absorbed and utilized by your body.
Apparently Mike Chang wasn’t the only body builder to pick up on the plant eating trend. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently released a video espousing the values of a vegetarian diet. He is joined by other athletes such as Barny du Plessis the 2014 Mr. Universe, Carl Lewis, Joe Namath and Martina Navratilova.
Here’s a recipe from our dinner that night. Mike had 3 helpings, so I think it boded well. For more delicious recipes, that are plant strong see our cookbook, Your Food Rx for Ageless Living. Our recipes are plant strong, and have both vegetarian and slightly carnivorous options.
Yours in Health and Bliss,
Moroccan Roasted Vegetable Tagine
Brightly colored and slowly cooked, this succulent vegetable dish from North Africa will tantalize your tastebuds. Our tagine serves up loads of protein with the inclusion of sweet potato, chickpeas, quinoa, and couscous. Sweet potatoes are also high in vitamin A, which can boost vision health.
Makes 6 servings. Total preparation time: 30 minutes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1⁄2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 teaspoons curry powder blend (use garam masala in a pinch)
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
3 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 peeled carrots, diced
2 peeled sweet potatoes, diced
1 cup canned diced tomatoes in juice
1 can chickpeas, drained
4 cups vegetable broth, plus 2 cups for couscous
1 pinch saffron threads, optional
1 medium head cauliflower, diced large
1 1⁄4 cup green olives, such as picholine, pitted and halved
1 preserved lemon, seeded and finely chopped, or 1 lemon, zested and juiced
1⁄2 cup dried currants, chopped apricots or dried goji berries
1 cup dry quinoa cooked with 1 cup water
2 cups dry couscous
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup slivered almonds or roasted pine nuts for garnish
1⁄2 cup sliced scallions for garnish
1. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add onion and season with pepper. Stir occasionally until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
2. Stir in ras el hanout and cinnamon stick, and toast until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add ginger and garlic, and cook until just softened, about 1 minute more.
3. Add carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and chickpeas. Season with pepper and cook until slightly tender, about 5 minutes.
4. Add 4 cups vegetable broth and saffron and stir to combine. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook, covered, until vegetables are almost cooked but still raw in the center, about 7 minutes.5. Add cauliflower, olives, preserved lemon, and currants, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is just tender, about 10 minutes more. Taste tagine and adjust seasoning if necessary.
5. Cook quinoa in medium saucepan for 20 minutes. Set aside.
6. Place couscous in a large bowl or baking dish. Bring 3 cups vegetable broth to a boil. Pour broth over couscous and let stand until water is absorbed, about 5 minutes.
7. Add olive oil to couscous, season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir briefly to combine. Combine the cooked quinoa and couscous and top with tagine, almonds and scallions. Serve with Greek yogurt or whole milk yogurt on the side.
Per serving: 201 calories, 5g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 151mg sodium, 607mg potassium, 36g total carbohydrate, 8g dietary fiber, 6g protein
We realize that you may not always have the time to cook meals from scratch, and that a quick and easy substitution may be needed. We always recommend cooking the real thing, but in a pinch you can try this instead:
Buy Moroccan simmer sauce. Add cauliflower florets, diced carrots or diced sweet potatoes, garbanzo beans and dried apricots in crock pot and top with sauce. Cook on high for 30-60 minutes and serve over cooked quinoa or couscous topped with slivered almonds, diced green onions and green olives. Garnish with fresh parsley and lemon wedge. Enjoy!