Trans fats are bad news. If your ingredient label lists partially hydrogenated oils, you know you’ve got trans fats. But what about fully hydrogenated oils? Or when an ingredient label lists partially hydrogenated oils but claims “trans fat free” on the front?
Let’s start with a little explanation on what hydrogenation is. Fats like butter and animal fat are solid at room temperature. Most oil is liquid, although some tropical oils like palm and coconut are semi-solid at room temperature. The more solid a fat or oil is at room temperature depends on the percentage of saturated fats. This is because saturated fats contain more hydrogen atoms than unsaturated fats which allow them to stiffen up.
If you’re a food company, you like saturated fats. They have a longer shelf life in baked goods and provide a more creamy mouth feel. The problem is that saturated fats are both expensive and feared. Cheap oils like soybean and cottonseed are liquid at room temperature, which poses a problem if you want to use them to make shelf stable items like cookies, cakes, and nut butters. So you hydrogenate them- blast the oil with hydrogen atoms until is becomes solid at room temperature, but still spread able. Hello margarine!
If you only partially hydrogenate them, you get trans-fatty acids (if you’re an organic chemistry fan, you’re changing the Cis confirmation to a Trans, hence the name) If you hydrogenate all the way, you get a saturated fat.
Although saturated fats are no angel, if seems that trans-fats cause serious health issues. Always check the label. If it says “partially hydrogenated fats” it contains trans fats. Companies can use the wording trans-fat free if it contains 0.5g or less of trans fats per serving. The daily maximum is 2g. So, if you’re eating 4 or 5 foods labeled trans fat free, but still contain partially hydrogenated oils, you’ve more than likely gone past your daily max.
What to do at the grocery store: Avoid products with partially hydrogenated oils, because of the trans fats. Limit products with high saturated fat values, whether naturally occurring or through full hydrogenation.
Which brings me to the age old question- butter or margarine? Neither. Try a spread like Earth Balance which is made from expeller pressing unsaturated oils.
I spent the better part of Sunday canning peach salsa for the fall (watch for that recipe soon). Sunday night dinners usually involve a little more work, but I was looking for simple and nourshing after spending the morning cooking. This was perfect paired with some miso soup and greens. It’s also delicious stuffed into a wrap, as I did for lunch on Monday. The color isn’t very beautiful, but it IS eggplant. Trust me, one bite and you’ll be hooked.
Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper Spread
4 Japanese eggplants or 2 globe eggplants
1 serrano chili pepper, minced.
7 kalamata olives, drained
1/2 cup walnuts
3 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 red peppers
salt and pepper to taste
small handful parsley, minced for garnish
Roast the eggplant and red peppers over a grill or broiler until skin is charred. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, remove the skins and finely dice. Add 1/2 of the mixture to a bowl and combine with the olive oil, vinegar, Serrano chili, salt, and pepper. Chunky puree the remaining 1/2 of the eggplant and red pepper mixture, walnuts and olives. Combine with the other dip and mix well. Best served at room temperature.
What are your favorite fall appetizers?
My favorite kinds of foods are the simplest: soup, salad, sandwich. This wrap fits the criteria of easy, hearty, and delicious. Also, my camera is on the fritz, I will keep apologizing for my camera phone until I get a nwe one!
Tempeh Bacon and Avocado Wrap
Tempeh Bacon (recipe follows)
Small handful microgreens or sprouts
3 slices tomato
1 large whole-wheat wrap (I used a Sprouted Wheat wrap)
1 tbsp. egg-free mayonaise
1/2 avocado, sliced
2 large leaf lettuce or spinach
Slice 1 package of tempeh into thin slices to resemble bacon strips. Add these to a steamer basket and steam for 10 minutes. You can also steam the block whole and then slice, I just prefer it in reverse!
Marinate the sliced tempeh in 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup tamari soy sauce, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and 1 tsp. liquid smoke (optional). The longer you let marinate, the richer the flavor will be. I usually do 3 hours, but you can do as little as 30 minutes.
Fry the bacon strips in oil until crispy on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side. Also a delicious in scrambles, Rubens, or better than tuna salads!
Assemble the Wraps:
Spread mayo on wrap or multi-grain bread. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and layer with lettuce, avocado, tomato, bacon, and micro greens. Wrap together or top with bread slice.
Enjoy! What are some of your favorite sandwiches?
Have you recently cut out animal products to better your health? Great! Yes, a plant-based diet is best in reducing heart disease, diabetes, and obesity but going meat-free can cause confusion on B12 recommendations.
B12 comes from microorganisms and is found in animal products, b12 supplements, and fortified foods. Low intake can cause anemia, damage to the nervous system, and increased homocysteine levels. High homocysteine levels increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other diseases. Vegans and near-vegans who do not supplement with vitamin B12 have consistently shown elevated homocysteine levels.
I bring this point up because although I whole-heartidly believe that a plant-based diet is superior for optimal health, the need for B12 cannot be ignored. Some argue that people only need a very small amount of B12 and that it is stored in the body for years. This is true only in individuals who consume a large amount of B12 over a number of years. For most new vegetarian and vegans, they have been reducing their intake of animal foods for a while and may not have adequate stores to begin with. Also, even lowered levels of B12 can increase homocysteine. The easiest way to ensure your getting enough B12 is to consume fortified foods or take a supplement.
Daily recommended amounts are 2.4 micrograms for adults.
Do not rely on any seaweed, brewer’s yeast, tempeh, or vitamin supplement that uses plants as a source of B12. Brewers and nutritional yeast only contain B12 if it is added, like the yeast from Red Star or Twinlab (Added B12 comes from the bacteria Propionibacterium shermanii and Pseudomonas denitrificans.) However, B12 is very light sensitive, so I would never recommend your only source of B12 to be from yeast. The tempeh sold in America and Europe has not been shown to contain any b12. Also, there are claims that unwashed foods like root vegetables will have enough B12 from the soil, but as studies have shown the amount of b12 in soil varies greatly.
In conclusion, fortified foods like non-dairy milk, meat substitutes, breakfast cereals and supplements are the best sources. I highly recommend taking a B12 supplement daily, I rely on the Pangea VeganLife B12 Chewable Supplement.
As I know this is a controversial discussion, I would love to hear your comments, questions, and feedback on this post.