Group offers recommendations on unfortunate rice-arsenic link

Many people eating a vegan or vegetarian diet will be concerned about possible problems with a toxins sometimes found in rice and products containing rice.

The Environmental Working Group (“Know your environment. Protect your health.”) which offers guides to the healthiness of foods and other consumer products, is currently touting a page it has constructed outlining the basis for emerging concerns with arsenic, a heavy metal, as a contaminant in rice and products containing rice.

Summarizing recent widely reported problems, the group notes that

Federal government scientists and regulators and food industry officials are scrambling to respond to emerging evidence that arsenic, a known human carcinogen, contaminates many otherwise healthy foods that contain rice.

The page summarizes its recommendations in the following “bottom line”:

The bottom line: EWG recommends that you limit consumption of rice and rice-based food when possible and instead eat a varied diet of [including?] healthy lower-arsenic grains and sweeteners.

The EWG goes on to make some consumer recommendations such as substituting other grains or rinsing rice before use.  They note the difficulty posed for vegetarians and others who in many cases eat a great deal of rice. (Also mentioned are some policy ideas that could be used by regulators and growers.)

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, whose advice and website I cite often here, recommends a limited amount of whole grain as a reasonable part of a healthy “nutritarian” diet. He advises in his book Eat to Live and elsewhere that white rice–along with foods made with white flour and other refined (non-whole-grain) grains–is a low nutrient-density food and should be avoided by those seeking to seeking a healthy diet. The strict “six-week plan” in that book includes at most one serving of starchy vegetables or whole grain foods per day.  Moreover, refined flours are in the lowest nutrient-density (nutrients per calorie) category for anyone following Fuhrman’s nutritarian advice–approximately as low as beef or sugary sweets, for example. (Fuhrman’s books can be found on the web at booksellers like Alibris (link to the book’s page) or at the drfuhrman.com website mentioned earlier, as well as your local bookstore.) Oatmeal without sweeteners or milk or quinoa as a base under vegetable curry fit the definition of unprocessed whole grains in the 6 -week plan in the same way that brown rice does.

Personal digression: I mention Fuhrman’s “6 week plan” because it seems to have worked for me as an individual to lower LDL cholesterol, lose extra weight and keep it off, increase HDL cholesterol, and lower blood sugar. For me, the plan turned out to be a good framework for building a well-rounded vegan diet on my own after being a (lacto-ovo) vegetarian for 12 years. The plan encourages simple habits, e.g., a routine fruit meal in the morning or steamed vegetables and salad at night. I am one who finds that vegans are often people who are already have skills and knowledge related to whole-foods nutrition and cooking, whether or not they are on a diet plan. Others will perhaps be using other diet plans that reflect the same principles of plant-based nutrition, including the options outlined at the Fuhrman website. In any case, many people who never developed the metabolic syndrome common to people on standard diets may not find they need to be on such a strict regimen.  Of course, medical advice can only come from qualified nutrition professionals, such as Dr. Fuhrman and others working in his practice. End digression.

The vast nutritional benefits—and interesting flavor–of whole as opposed to refined grains are another nutritional issue to remember, as people decide what to do about possible rice contamination. I have enjoyed quinoa bowls, Mexican dishes with corn tortillas, and other alternatives at local restaurants since being pointed to the rice story by a vegan friend in another city. There is now also an excuse to eat even more locally grown superfoods like the kale and other produce I bought at a frigid but enjoyable farmers’ market in the mid-Hudson Valley over the weekend, some of which are pictured at the top and below in a salad I made over the weekend.

Note to readers: We can now be found using the simpler and more easily remembered URLs, healthyveganhudsonvalley.com or www.healthyveganhudsonvalley. We have also recently added SSL technology for more security on the worldwide web.

Nectarines, in New York?

Upstater, an interesting Hudson Valley publication whose motto is “live like a local,” mentions local peaches in the front matter of its recently released Fall issue, referring the reader to this online article. I remember being surprised that they are grown in this area. (I moved here 15 years ago or so.)

Here I offer a picture of some nectarine slices from fruit I bought not that long ago at the Kingston farmers’ market in Uptown. Of course, they are a smooth-skinned relative of the peach, perhaps equally growable in this region. Local nectarines sometimes have a distinctive appearance that I do not recall seeing on other peaches, with a yellow and red pattern that I have not run across this year–an interesting and tasty variety, perhaps a bit on the tart side.

I am not sure peaches or nectarines will be on sale locally tomorrow morning, when the market again opens. On the other hand, vegans may enjoy a chance to buy a vegan bar at the Grok stall. Grok–a bit like “gorp”–a name for some trail mixes. An example of the wares at this booth is pictured below with a GoRaw brand name sprouted seed bar that I run across at Rhinebeck’s health food store. No added sugar, artificial sweeteners, or sugar equivalents are among the listed ingredients in either case, and great ingredients abound. And then there are the nectarines and peaches.

Treenut cheese question answered; vegan school lunches!

Treeline Herb Garlic Soft Cheese - Diary Free Cashew Cheese

In yesterday’s post, I featured a picture of a salad containing dollops of vegan cheese. I had ordered the salad at the cafe Outdated: An Antique Cafe in Kingston, New York.  I speculated that the cafe had an artisanal approach that usually means less processing and fewer, more simple ingredients. I pointed out that the nutritional implications were probably favorable. I had forgotten that the café uses cheeses from Treeline in its vegan dishes and in fact that information about the product involved is online. Here is a link to the company’s ingredient page, which confirms that the soft cheeses shown in the picture are made with a handful of ingredients. The image above depicts one of a number of varieties of soft cheese offered by the firm, which also makes a firmer, aged cheese on sale around the country at thousands of stores.

Many will know that Treeline manufactures its cheese here in the Hudson Valley. It boasts an artisanal (crafted) approach.  It’s cheeses tend to be served as appetizers at the Thanksgiving event held each year by the Hudson Valley Vegans and fast approaching. One can join the organization online at meetup.com. Alternative means are available; see the organization’s website.

Last year, an article in the food issue of the magazine The New Yorker noted that artisan food was one of a number of “small food” trends that are ongoing following the Obama administration’s–and Michelle Obama’s–mixed success with various food policy initiatives. The article’s author, Michael Pollan, reports that the artisanal sector is small but rapidly growing.

Also, less than 100 miles away, the New York City school system will now offer a vegan lunch entrée option at all of its schools, according to a VegNews article. Most schools will apparently serve hummus to students choosing this option. Here is Moozine’s link to the article, which reports signs of a positive early reception.

Moozine is an e-newsletter from the Happy Cow review website.

 

Some more awareness and Hudson Valley micro-nutrition

In a piece timed for breast cancer awareness month, Dr. Joel Fuhrman highlights the role of flax and chia seeds in the prevention of breast cancer. Of course, they and other seeds have other great health benefits. He notes that flax seeds, as whole seeds, have benefits not offered by oils refined from flax because the seeds contain lignans and other micronutrients not present in a clear oil. For those people who are into scientifically based explanation of why foods are healthy the piece is very helpful–typical of Fuhrman’s writings.

Raw salad and fruit also plays a big role in reducing the risk of cancer, according to much research. (See Dr. Fuhrman’s site and books (such as the bestseller Eat to  Live) for more details. (Link is to book’s page at indie bookseller Alibris)  I here are a picture of two salads I ate at Kingston’s vegetarian Outdated (first row) and one I made and ate for dinner with ingredients from a great local grocery store.  You get the idea. The first salad features some (nut-based) vegan cheese; the restaurant makes its own. Raw nuts, like raw seeds, are a nutritional contributor. Also, less processed versions of foods containing strong ingredients tend to be most nutrient dense–another key Fuhrman principle. On the processing dimension of nutrient density, I would expect a product made by the artisanal Outdated to outperform many supermarket vegan products made with long ingredient lists, but probably not my natural foods store-bought ground seeds.

I have not pictured another great salad (ordered with no dressing) that I ate at Garden Cafe Woodstock. , one of four vegan restaurants in the area. The other three are Karma Road in New Paltz, Healthy Gourmet-To-Go in Saugerties, and Morgan’s Cat Cafe in Red Hook. The raw-foods manufacturer Johanna’s Raw Foods in Pine Plains, Eastern Dutchess County, which we mentioned in a recent post, doubles as a retail outlet with some tables.

I note that vegetarian entry Rosendale Cafe, also close by, has been featuring this more vegetable-rich-looking vegan curry as a menu-board special when it is not offering their more usual vegan garbanzo bean curry over rice. A webcam image of the restaurant’s menu board is frequently updated on the restaurant’s homepage.

I hope people will try a lot of these places without worrying about what I or someone else features on the web. The examples are meant as general inspiration–and of course I cannot offer medical advice!

Finally, ending where I began, the salad at the top is another example of nutrient density. It combines fresh fruit, dried apricot, raw radicchio and broccoli–all chopoped–some ground flax seed sprinkled from a container I keep in my refrigerator, and a simple dressing of 100-percent pomegranate juice.

The story of a meal

This blog is somewhat local-food oriented. In this post I illustrate ways to eat that avoid animal products and help to achieve health goals in a very scientifically supported way–with the twist that I illustrate my connection to sources of food that are in some relevant way local–a concern of many in this era of big conglomerates and their industrial ways.

I had found myself completely without of vegetables yesterday. Finding my local farmers market in the village of Rhinebeck virtually unreachable with all nearby parking taken, I went to the wayside stand that is part of Montgomery Place, a historic estate in the area (website link). I bought the vegetables pictured below (along with apples which are also in season currently, including some very interesting varieties–including antique varieties) grown here in the Hudson Valley):

(I could have bought good mushrooms that were locally grown, but had bought the shitakes in the picture at the two-store natural foods chain Sunflower Natural Foods Market.)

(I had noticed stirrings at another farm stand on E. Market St. on the outskirts of Rhinebeck but would not get back before their likely closing time. They are also a local entry to watch and marvel at, if only on occasional days. More things are open on Sundays in the village because it’s a market day.)

If I eat all of the things in the picture or maybe even what’s in that picture times 100, I am on the Fuhrman 6-week plan (more or less)–careening for my ideal weight if I were not there already by sticking to unlimited amounts of certain kinds of foods–all of them plant-derived, except for mushrooms, which are fungi, of course. In a moment, I bring in some foods that are also allowed, but only in limited quantities.

Now I add water; I use filtered.

I begin water-sauteing. If I were to use oil instead, I would be off the 6-week plan. (Fats in my diet are from whole-seed and whole-nut sources (or avocados), which are all allowed (and required) but only in limited amounts.)

I finish off with pasta made from lentils only. Lentils are in the legumes group, which are among the types of food that are required in minimum amounts. Legumes are also not limited. Pasta made with whole grain would be acceptable but in the strictly limited category.  (By the time I finish, I have supplemented quickly with some frozen spinach leaves from a huge supermarket package. I have also added no-salt, organic, canned tomatoes, as the base for the sauce–a concession to convenience and seasonal limitations.) Here is a picture of the dish on the plate.

The 6-week diet plan is explained in the book Eat to Live, by Joel Fuhrman. A second edition of this book came out not too many years ago. There are of course other plans that use similar dietary principles, emphasizing plant-based foods in what would be insanely large amounts in plans that fancy themselves more balanced.

Finally, just for fun and to add to the nutrition, I finished off with nutritional (edible) yeast, which to me tastes a lot like tangy cheese–making it a perfect pasta topping! This product is available in natural foods stores; I use a mail-order version from Fuhrman’s website, which comes in a package that reminds one of supermarket grated Parmesan cheese. There is no reason any nutritional yeast is necessary.

Fuhrman’s brand is not fortified with vitamin B12, but many are. As many will know, B12 is one of the handful of nutrients not found in any plant in significant amounts, so as a vegan I must use a supplement or foods that essentially contain a supplement. Dr. Fuhrman’s plans can be done without being a vegan, but I had wanted to be a vegan for a long time when I started his plan about 10 years ago. For nonvegans, most Fuhrman plans would be doable with a tiny amount of chicken or fish added to a dish like the one above.

So that is a day that illustrates my approach, which leans toward locally (Hudson Valley) grown produce; is vegan; and remains close to Dr. Fuhrman’s “nutritarian” 6-week plan, which really does almost seem to melt weight off in the initial weeks and keep things stable thereafter. I hope you take a look at his book for the details. Some may find a more compatible approach in one of his other books.

O+ for veg enthusiasts continues at cafe, elsewhere

Along with other events of interest to readers doubtless taking place in the mid-Hudson Valley this evening, Uptown Kingston, New York’s vegetarian Outdated Cafe hosts an official O+ event tonight. I mentioned this annual 3-day event, providing some links, in my previous post.  Tonight, the Wall St. restaurant is offering vegetarian and vegan baked goods as well as cafe beverages, made with house made nut milks on request–great for vegans! (The kitchen is otherwise closed for the day.) They remain open after their usual 4 pm closing hour through the special event (a Literary Salon) which starts at 7:30 pm.

Covering the event with a cover story is Almanac Weekly. On the worldwide web, they can be found at HudsonValleyOne.

Johanna Sophia tries her hand at summit; festival approaches

Johanna Sophia of Johanna’s Raw Foods in Pine Plains, New York hosts a raw foods summit online! Here is a link sent by Johanna to her mailing list. Watch out, as Johanna’s spiel begins without warning when you reach the front page. The summit requires a quick sign-up procedure, where you provide your name and email address. I recall a wonderful alternative French food adventure at her restaurant a few years ago in the setting of rural Pine Plains.  I was one of a group of intrepid Hudson Valley Vegans. I have not listened to much yet, so I cannot offer an opinion about the quality of the interviews, but any Summit from Johanna promises to be of interest–and people will want to decide for themselves! Of course, feel free to offer your thoughts below; just press “add a comment.” Johanna’s products are all vegan and hers is the only raw food restaurant that I know of in the mid-Hudson Valley.

By the way, I apologize for a bad link in my previous post to Ocean Robbins’s Food Revolution Network.

In nearby Ulster County, O+ (pronounced “oh positive” like the blood type), a big festival featuring musical acts and other events to benefit health care for local artists, takes place Friday through Saturday around Kingston. This event is not specifically vegan, but there is for example an event at the Guatamalan-American fusion Peace Nation Cafe (site under construction), which has is rated “veg-options” by the demanding reviewers of Happy Cow. 

The O+ event is not specifically about veganism, but its theme overlaps our own, in its connection to health. This new blog will occasionally feature links of this type, while remaining at the intersection of the trio of healthy eating, veganism and  vegetarianism, and the mid-Hudson Valley.

New blog! The importance of a good base and more!

Garden Café Woodstock now uses only unsweetened vegan milks as milk bases in its smoothies. Just to be sure the other day, I asked a waitress to show me the package of almond milk the restaurant had used to make my drink behind the counter while I waited. I had moved there after a first round of coffee and the restaurant’s miso-vegetable soup at a table. Sure enough, it was an organic brand labeled “unsweetened.” To my recollection, the restaurant once told me it was using unsweetened hemp milk but sweetened products for its other vegan milks. My attempt to catch the restaurant in deception was–happily, of course–foiled. The restaurant was merely making it possible to have a smoothie without sugar or artificial sweetener and leaving the choice of sweetener–or no sweetener–to me, the customer.

Hudson Valley readers who look for local Hudson Valley produce in area farmers’ markets and elsewhere may be interested in this chart of harvest dates and availability dates for various fruits and vegetables, in a new brochure from the state agriculture department.

It is billed by the department as “your guide to harvest times and availability.”

Of course, local options are often fresh, less chemically treated, and easier on the environment. This area is reported to be the biggest center in the farm-to-table food movement. A far larger number of local varieties exists here than is available at typical chain supermarkets around the world. According to nutritional-lifestyle doctors—for example, Dr. Joel Fuhrman in the New York Times bestseller Eat to Live–variety is a key part of a healthy diet, and is no less the “spice of life.”

Coming soon to this new blog site: a list of links to websites and resources related to healthy vegan eating in the mid-Hudson Valley. I will also tell more of my own story. For now, I have lived in the Kingston-Northern Dutchess County area since 2002 when I came here to work as an research economist at a small college. I became an enthusiastic vegetarian in 1995 and a vegan in 2007, when I adopted the “nutritarian” plant-food-intensive 6-week plan of Dr. Joel Fuhrman and his associates. My health indicators improved–by leaps in some cases. My concerns have led me to become an enthusiast about local farmers’ markets, community- supported agriculture, the many area vegetarian and vegan cafes, the Hudson Valley Vegans, and the natural foods stores in so many of the villages and cities here–as well as the natural beauty celebrated by the Hudson Valley School of artists and their modern-day artistic descendants.

Many will have enjoyed the recent Hudson Valley Vegfest, a local bid to be among the big vegan cities of the world! A local daily covered the event here. I hope you enjoy the article.

A new food complex is potentially headed for Uptown Kingston, thanks in part to a new Downtown Revitalization grant, which will also benefit other Uptown projects, possibly to include a parking garage, historic preservation of some ruins, and more in a neighborhood that boasts the actual building  where the first New York State Senate met. Here is a link to an article in a recent edition of the Kingston Freeman.

Quoting grant application material quoted in the article:

The (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) could support the Kingston Food Exchange, a project of BBG Ventures, which plans to open a 35,000-square-foot food hall, food manufacturing facility and grocery with an emphasis on locally sourced food. BBG Ventures has invested over $1 million into the facility at 311 Wall St. with another $5 million being invested during build out. The exchange will hire approximately 65 people directly and sub-lease space for four to six additional restaurants and four other businesses in the market itself, creating an additional 20 to 30 jobs.

The block is already home to the vegetarian Outdated: An Antique Cafe.  As a vegan and enthusiast for the area, I will be eager to hear about the gustatory offerings planned for the new spot.

***

So you get a flavor of the intended focus of this blog: the intersection of scientifically based nutrition, vegetarianism and veganism, and the mid-Hudson Valley region of the State of New York. Hence, the name, Healthy Vegan Hudson Valley. The blog’s web address for now is foodblog.greghannsgen.org, a subdomain of a site I set up in 2015 for my work as an independent economist. I hope to keep the two ventures separate and I know the food blog will have to appeal to readers regardless of their agreement with the points of view expressed in my economics blog. That is one reason that this blog may soon move to a domain of its own.

The new blog has been launched officially with this post. Please feel free to add your comments here if you feel so inclined.  Also, I can be reached at foodblog@greghannsgen.org. Greg