VegWeek Day 5, Mexican-inspired Vegan Rice & Beans

29 Sep

“Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.”
-Hippocrates

VegWeek_2011Welcome to Day 5 of VegWeek – we’re almost to the end! There are a number of great documentaries out on the state of our food system, and if you have Netflix, many of these are available on-demand. There’s a new documentary that just came out this year, called Forks Over Knives. It promotes a vegan diet from the health perspective. As I mentioned on Monday, health concerns are one of the reasons many people opt to reduce or eliminate animal products from their diet.

Forks-Over-Knives

Meat-eating has been linked to a plethora of diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, prostate cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. According to the film’s stats, a person is killed by heart disease every minute in the United States, and 1500 a day die from cancer – over one million combined a year. A third of people born today will develop diabetes in their lifetime.

Forks Over Knives tells the story of two doctors, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., whose independent research ultimately brought them to the same conclusion: the simple prescription of a whole foods, plant-based diet could reverse the leading causes of death in the world today. Specifically, this diet includes whole, minimally refined fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes, and avoidance of animal-based foods such as meat, dairy, and eggs, as well as processed foods like bleached flour, refined sugars, and oil.

The film details the history of the American diet and shows how the rise in processed foods and meat consumption directly correlated with a rise in heart disease and cancer. These findings were common throughout the world, in places where the American diet is new, as well as places where meats and dairy have been scarce for a time due to war and poverty. When the meat is gone, disease decreases. When it’s back, disease is on the rise.

To further explore this idea, Dr. Campbell conducted a test with rats, to see how they responded to casein, the main protein in dairy products. The rats’ intake of casein was adjusted between of 5% and 20% of overall diet – the increase our culture has seen – at three-week intervals. Rates of cancer followed this single change, down and up and down again. “This was so provocative, this information,” says Campbell. “We could turn on and off cancer growth just by adjusting the level of that protein.”

There’s so much more valuable information in this documentary, but you’ll have to watch it to learn the rest. I hope you will. Do your research – decide for yourself.

Everyone knows the old adage, “you are what you eat.” If I think of myself being a cow or a chicken or a goat, that might not be so bad. There’s kind of a cool, reincarnationey feeling about it. When I think of myself being a frightened, abused, diseased cow or chicken or goat, it gets a bit harder to stomach. But then, think of this – you are what you eat and everything that you ate, ate. What comes to mind when you think about grazing cattle? Grass, bugs… dandelions? How about feathers, hair, skin, hooves, and blood? Manure? Plastic? All these and more get digested by factory farmed animals and show up in their meat. Chew on that next time you’re craving a burger. [Source: Union of Concerned Scientists]

you are what you eatAnother problem with our diet is the cost of food. Fast food is cheap, loaded with instantly gratifying flavor including massive amounts of sodium, which we’ve our palates adjust to, and, well – it’s fast. Convenient. Logical… There is a distinct correlation between obesity and economic status. But education and awareness could be factors, too. Here is a great article to debunk this commonly held, woe-to-us idea. Food for thought, if you will.
New York Times: Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?

Still not convinced? Eat a vegan diet and you, too, can be buff!

Vegan bodybuilders Derek Tresize and Robert Cheeke debunking the myth about plant foods and building muscle. Image via Forks Over Knives.

Mexican-inspired Vegan Rice and Beans

Rice and beans is a humble, staple kind of dish, but I never thought to make it until I caught a quick glimpse of the hottie firemen in Forks Over Knives making it. I love jasmine rice and black beans, and had a host of great companion veggies on-hand, so I decided to try it.

Rip EsselstynHonestly, though, this guy could convince me to eat almost anything.

I love how versatile this dish is, and that it’s a one-dish meal. It’s perfect for workweek lunches. Last week, I made my rice and beans with garlic, red onion, bell pepper, lime juice, avocado, and cilantro.

rice & beans

This week, I decided to try out some “El Burrito Soyrizo.” (Man, I love the name! Had to buy it.) Veggies included were shallot, bell pepper, tomatillo, tomato, lime juice, avocado, and cilantro.

soyrizo rice & beans

My preparation from the first night is below. But go ahead and experiment with this dish, and whatever veggies you have. Olives? Jalapenos? Spices? Vegan cheese crumbles? The sky is the limit!

1 cup jasmine or other rice
2 1/2 cups water
1 (14 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon neutral oil, such as safflower
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Juice of 1 lime
1 avocado, sliced into cubes and scooped
Fresh cilantro, for garnish

Prepare rice according to package directions. Saute garlic until just lightly browned, then add in onion and bell pepper. Cook until slightly softened, between 5 and 10 minutes, then add black beans and rice to warm through. Garnish with lime juice, avocado, and cilantro.

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