Monthly Archives: June 2013

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chili recipesAre you a vegan or vegetarian who’s sick of being asked “but where do you get your protein?”

Most who choose a cruelty free diet will come up against this at some point, but the truth is that managing your protein intake as a part of daily nutrition is difficult for everyone- even meat eaters. It’s useful to start with a few home truths, and that includes the amount (and type) of protein that you actually need to stay healthy.

Different authorities calculate protein requirements in different ways, but a good general rule is that sedentary people (those who sit at a desk all day and don’t work out a whole lot) should have about 1g of protein per kilogram of body weight, per day. Endurance athletes may need up to 70% more than this. To be safe, if you work out at a moderate level three to four times per week, you should aim for between 1 and 1.2 grams of protein per kilo you weigh. So for example, if you weigh 70kg and you want to maintain your weight, you would eat 70 – 84 grams of protein per day.

It is important to note that this doesn’t mean X grams of protein-rich food- it means total protein intake. That means you need to pay attention to the protein content, which for most whole foods is less than 50%. You also need to take into account the quality of the protein, namely what else comes along with it (in terms of fat, carbs and other nutrients), and whether it is a ‘complete protein’- i.e. whether it includes the 9 essential amino acids your body cannot synthesise itself. Now, you may also have heard that no vegetarian protein source is complete, but this is incorrect- all proteins are complete, they just have different levels of each amino acid, and it is important to get a balance by eating a variety of protein rich foods rather than relying on the one source.

The other problem is finding the time to cook. There aren’t many nutritious home cooked dishes that are both balanced and keep well. The trick is to find the ones that are, and then take it in turns to cook your favourites throughout the week. Below is a recipe for a high protein, high fibre, low fat and very tasty vegan chilli that will keep in your fridge for days.

This recipe serves 2, or one very very hungry vegan.

There is approximately 45-50g of protein in each serving (when you add the beans- 40-41g without), and under 450 calories in total.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can Sanitarium nutmeat (available in the health food section of most supermarkets
  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1 cup of red cooking wine (make sure its vegan & not processed with shellfish)
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 can of corn kernels
  • 1 packet of taco seasoning OR make your own spice mix with 1 teaspoon each of turmeric, cumin, chilli, coriander, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper, adjusted to tasteOptional:
  • small quantities of other vegetables to taste (try grated carrot & zucchini for more fibre)
  • fresh chilli to taste

Steps:

  1. Heat oil in a small saucepan
  2. Add onion and spices, fry until onion is translucent
  3. Crumble nutmeat into onion, spice & oil and fry over medium heat for 1 – 2 minutes
  4. Add red wine and cook off alcohol at same heat
  5. Add everything else: beans, tomato, tomato paste, corn and optional ingredients
  6. Simmer until slightly reduced (approx. 10-15 min), stirring regularly. You may wish to add water as it goes, and adjust the levels of tomato paste, salt and chilli to taste.

Enjoy!

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vitaminsThese days, it seems to be a common belief that everyone needs vitamin supplements if they wish to remain healthy. They are flogged on television at every commercial break, and many brands are sponsors for a wide range of high profile events. Multi vitamins have become synonymous with the word ‘healthy’, and every second person feels the need to pop vitamin C in order to prevent getting sick. But are these vitamin pills really necessary, or are they simply a clever marketing ploy?

While the benefits of vitamins are undeniable, the impact of them in supplement form is less than convincing. There are studies that suggest that taking supplements really doesn’t do all that much.  It is thought that while the body absorbs these pills, it can’t actually use them effectively due to the fact that they are presented in synthetic form.

That is, they simply aren’t in a structure naturally utilised by the body. What this means is that all those expensive vitamin supplements you have been buying are simply passing out of your body, leaving behind little positive impact.

Many scientists agree that vitamins and minerals are best absorbed from fresh food sources. In these cases, the vitamins are in a natural structure that the body can easily make use of. While many people believe it is hard to get the correct amount of nutrients from food alone, this is generally untrue. If you eat a healthy, balanced diet you will easily reach the recommended dietary intake levels of all the important vitamins. In addition, there are many other benefits to be gained from eating actual healthy food – benefits that are missed out on if supplements are taken instead.

There is also evidence to suggest that supplement consumption can actually go beyond having null effect – it can actually have a negative impact in some cases. A prime example is that of people who take calcium tablets. For calcium to enter your bones, it needs to be attached to phosphate molecules.

When you take a calcium supplement, your body may need to actually take phosphate out of your bones in order to make the calcium pill effective – therefore leaving your bones worse off than they were beforehand. It is also a myth that all unused vitamins are simply passed out in urine. For some this is the case, but fat soluble vitamins can actually accumulate to dangerous levels. One such example of a fat soluble vitamin is vitamin D – a supplement many people take in order to compensate for lack of sunlight.

Of course, vitamin supplements are not all doom and gloom – some do have their place. If you have tested low to vitamin D, supplements are needed to bring your body back up to the correct level. In a similar vein, iron tablets can be very helpful for those who may be lacking – especially women, and vegetarians who may not receive enough iron in their diet.

The key is to use vitamin supplements when needed, to supplement a balanced diet – not to replace it. Popping multi vitamin pills left right and centre will not save you, it will only work to keep Swiss in business. Grab a glass of milk and an orange instead.

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horse-riding-benefitsFor many people, the word ‘exercise’ evokes images of repetitive gym workouts or endless jogging, not sitting on a horse. However, the belief that horse riders are merely passengers is nothing but a myth. Sure, heading out for a sedate pony ride at a walk will do little for your figure – but neither does lifting tiny weights or setting the treadmill on a setting so low that you don’t even raise a sweat. Horse riding, when undertaken on a regular basis and treated seriously, is an excellent form of exercise that targets more areas of fitness than just about any other sport.

Firstly, you will find that any good horse rider has terrific balance. This is not by mere fluke, as riders wishing to stay onboard are forced to develop an innate ability to remain with the horse no matter what it decides to do. Good core strength is also a great improver of balance. When you ride, one of the main muscle groups you develop is your core.

This is due to adapting to the correct riding position – sitting up straight, with your shoulders back. As any good rider knows, in order to develop an independent seat you need to have great position and a strong core, otherwise you will struggle to move harmoniously with the animal. This is perhaps most apparent when it comes to the sitting trot, as this movement requires considerable stomach strength to pull off effectively.

If you watch an inexperienced rider, the sitting trot is virtually impossible. They will bounce all over the place and find it extremely uncomfortable. As core strength improves, an independent seat develops, and you will find that a smooth sitting trot becomes possible – evidence of the influence regular riding can have on your fitness levels.

In addition to core strength, horse riding also improves leg strength. When you take a look at skilled riders, they may appear to be sitting perfectly still – however there is much more going on than meets the eye. A rider’s legs are constantly working, whether it is to make the horse go forward or to maintain balance. Lazy horses are perhaps the best indicator of how riding regularly can improve your leg strength.

A horse that wishes to carry on a leisurely pace will often continue to do so with a beginner rider on board, as they often lack the leg control to convince them otherwise. An experienced rider on the same horse will often be able to get it moving with apparent ease, due to better leg contact.

You may be wondering exactly how cardio fits into the picture. When it comes to riding this of course varies according to the intensity of the workout. Cross country riders, who are required to spend quite long distances in a forward position out of the saddle require an excellent level of cardio fitness, and this type of riding certainly improves this fitness aspect. In a similar way, riding a fast paced area workout will get any rider puffing. The call that horse riding is merely a ‘ride’ is certainly a false pretence, as anyone who has ridden is sure to understand. You legs hurt the next day for a reason, and elite level riders are every bit as fit as athletes following other sporting endeavours.

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