The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog


Posted on December 14, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

Maria Pittarell, RD from: did a TV segment on vegan holiday food ideas last December. She offers many creative ideas that family members would enjoy.


VRG Offers One $10,000 Scholarship plus Two $5,000 Scholarships to Graduating High School Seniors in the USA – Deadline is February 20th!

Posted on December 13, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

Due to the generosity of an anonymous donor, The Vegetarian Resource Group each year will award $20,000 in college scholarship money to graduating U.S. high school students who have promoted veganism/vegetarianism in their schools and/or communities. Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, or fowl. Vegans are vegetarians who do not use other animal products such as dairy or eggs.

One award of $10,000 and two awards of $5,000 will be given. Entries may only be sent by students graduating from high school in spring 2018. Deadline is February 20, 2018. We will accept applications postmarked on or before February 20, 2018. Early submission is encouraged.

Applicants will be judged on having shown compassion, courage, and a strong commitment to promoting a peaceful world through a vegan/vegetarian diet/lifestyle. Payment will be made to the student’s college (U.S. based only). Winners of the scholarships give permission to release their names to the media. Applications and essays become property of The Vegetarian Resource Group. We may ask finalists for more information. Scholarship winners are contacted by e-mail or telephone. Please look at your e-mail.

For details on the contest, see: VRG Scholarship Contest

Scientific Updates on Veggie Diets from the Latest Issue of Vegetarian Journal

Posted on December 13, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

Each issue of Vegetarian Journal features a column called Scientific Update by Reed Mangels, PhD, RD. In the latest issue topics include:

More Beans Could Mean a Reduced Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Benefits of Plant Protein
Weight Loss without Counting Calories
Vegetarians and Gallbladder Disease
Healthy vs. Less Healthy Plant Foods

Find the complete article here:

To subscribe to Vegetarian Journal, visit:
Subscribe to Vegetarian Journal

Enjoy a Vegan Chanukah Celebration

Posted on December 12, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor


Chanukah is a time that extended families gather together. The first night of Chanukah this year is tonight (December 12, 2017). Here are three vegan recipes you can share with your friends and family during this 8-day celebration.

Tofu/Potato Pancakes (from Conveniently Vegan)

Makes 8 pancakes – serve 2 per person

2 pounds white potatoes, peeled and chopped
6 cups water
1 box (about 10-12 ounces) extra firm silken tofu, crumbled
½ cup matzo meal
Small onion, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon dill weed
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons oil

Place potatoes in water in a large covered pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook 15 minutes over a medium-high heat. Drain.

Place the cooked potatoes and remaining ingredients (except for the oil) in a food processor cup. Blend until smooth (about 3 minutes).

Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Brown pancakes on each side for 8 minutes. Flip over carefully. Serve warm pancakes with applesauce.

Vegan Noodle Kugel (from Vegans Know How to Party)

Serves 5

Vegetable oil spray
One 12-ounce package wide vegan noodles (lasagna noodles work well)
1½ cups silken tofu
¾ cup organic sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons orange zest
½ cup raisins
½ cup drained, chopped canned peaches
1½ cups peeled, cored, and cubed green apples
¼ cup applesauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a loaf pan (about 4 inches deep and 8 inches long) with oil. Cook noodles according to package directions, drain, and cool. Using a blender or mixer, puree tofu with sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and zest.
In a large bowl, combine raisins, peaches, apples, and applesauce. Whip in tofu mixture. Add in noodles and mix until well combined. Pour into loaf pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden.

Variations: For different flavors, use pineapple or apricots instead of peaches and dried cranberries and cherries or apricots instead of raisins. Whole wheat noodles can be used in this recipe.

Festive Cashew Cookies (from Simply Vegan)

Makes 2 dozen

2 cups raw cashews
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup molasses or maple syrup
½ cup water
¼ cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Small jar fruit-only jam

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grind the raw cashews and rolled oats together in a food processor for a few minutes. Pour mixture into a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients, except for the jam. Mix all the ingredients together.
Form 24 round balls and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. With your thumb, form a small well in the center of each ball. Place a small amount of jam in each well. Bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees. Allow cookies to cool before removing from the cookie sheet. These cookies make a wonderful gift!

Pregelatinized Starch is Vegan; Present in Many Tylenol®, Excedrin®, Motrin® & Target® Pain Relievers

Posted on December 12, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS

The Vegetarian Resource Group received an email inquiry from Theresa with a question about ingredients in pain relievers. She wrote:

“I went shopping yesterday for Tylenol and Motrin…Tylenol and Excedrin Migraine both had pregelatinized starch in them…I have three bottles of Excedrin Migraine and two do not have that ingredient. I called both companies and…was…told that it was high quality bovine gelatin—GREAT! I can’t believe that gelatin is…a needed ingredient in pain killers…Just thought it was weird that only one out of three products had that ingredient…

…I did find an alternative solution for now. The Target® brand of tension headache medication did not have gelatin in it.

Thanks for your continued research into this.”

Pain Reliever Ingredients
When analyzing the entire ingredient statements for these products, the first thing that we noticed was a major difference between tablet and gel capsule formulations.

Tablets may contain pregelatinized starch which is never animal-derived. (See next section for more about this ingredient.) Gel capsules most often contain gelatin (thus, their name) which is animal-derived. Despite their seemingly similar names, however, these two ingredients are not the same. [VRG Note: Gelatin alternatives that are vegan exist. Seaweed-derived agar agar may serve as a suitable substitute for gelatin. Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC or hypromellose), sourced from wood or cotton with petrochemical-derived parts, is another vegan alternative to gelatin.] See:

Pregelatinized Starch in Foods
“Pregelatinized” refers to the process by which an ingredient such as starch or flour is pre-cooked, dried, and ground into flake or powder form. Pregelatinized starch is widely used in the food industry (soup mixes, sauces, etc.). Its ability to dissolve in cold liquids and achieve viscosity simplifies the manufacturing process. The most common starches used are corn, tapioca, and potato starches.

Diane Andrick in the Customer Advocacy Department of Tate & Lyle Ingredients Americas LLC, a major manufacturer of pregelatinized starch, told The VRG in November 2017:
“Gelatinizing starches allow them to be used in different food applications than starches that are processed otherwise.

I can assure you that no gelatin is used in the production of our prejel starches. They are all both kosher- and halal- certified. Halal certification is not given to products using gelatin. Our T&L products are vegan and vegetarian. The vegetarian status below is on our specification sheet [for our product Miragel® 463].
Vegetarian Status
vegetarian: suitable
vegan: suitable
ovo-vegetarian: suitable
lacto-vegetarian: suitable
lacto-ovo-vegetarian: suitable”

Pregelatinized Starch in Pharmaceuticals
In the pharmaceutical industry, pregelatinized starch is commonly used as a binder in tablet manufacturing. There are other functions as well. See, for example, this weblink for more information starting on the bottom of page 2548 and following:
See also:

Pregelatinized starches also have many other applications such as in the mining, textile, and construction industries:

To learn more about pregelatinized starches:

VRG Comment on Theresa’s Inquiry
Based on our research into pregelatinized starch, VRG inquirer Theresa received inaccurate information when she called pain reliever companies about pregelatinized starch. It is not from bovine gelatin. Below is what we learned from several companies which manufacture pain relievers when we called in November 2017.

We first submitted a contact request form on Tylenol’s website about pregelatinized starch and magnesium stearate. We received a reply:
“At this time, we unfortunately do not have that information available to us at the Consumer Care Center.”

In order to obtain some ingredient information we then called Johnson & Johnson® manufacturer of Tylenol. We asked specifically about their Cold + Flu Severe® caplets containing pregelatinized starch and magnesium stearate:

The customer Service Representative told us that their pregelatinized starch was “plant-based starch.”

We then asked about magnesium stearate. She read from her database:
“Q: ‘Does this product contain animal or animal byproducts?’ A: ‘No.’”
She did not have specific information on magnesium stearate.

The VRG first submitted a contact request form on Excedrin’s website about its ingredients. The email reply instructed us to call their consumer line for information.

So we called GlaxoSmithKline® manufacturer of Excedrin. We wanted to know more about the ingredients in:

Readers may note the disclaimer at the top of the first page in this weblink that states that when a product’s label ingredients differ from what is on the website for that product, the website information is the most current.

This Excedrin product contains stearic acid, magnesium stearate, zinc stearate, and pregelatinized corn starch.

On our first call we were told that she had “no information on animal derivatives.” She sent our questions about stearic acid, magnesium stearate, zinc stearate, and pregelatinized corn starch to their medical information team and stated that she would get back to us.

On a second call, we were told that “bovine or porcine gelatin” is used “in all Excedrin products where there is gelatin.” He also relayed that “one or more ingredients in Excedrin may be derived from material of animal origin (beef or pork derivatives).” We asked if this statement were true for all Excedrin products and was told “yes.” He also volunteered that “Glycerin is plant-derived in all GSK products.”

On our third call it was stated that the medical information team had repeated what was said on the second call. There was no new information on the specific ingredients that we had inquired about.

We also contacted Johnson & Johnson by phone about its Motrin pain relievers.

Table 1. Motrin Products & Ingredients
Product Ingredients
Motrin IB liquid gels gelatin
Motrin IB caplets magnesium stearate, stearic acid, shellac, pregelatinized starch
Motrin PM caplets magnesium stearate, lactose monohydrate, pregelatinized starch

The VRG first attempted to obtain animal ingredient source information through the Motrin’s website contact request form. We asked if magnesium stearate and stearic acid were derived from animal sources. This is what we received in an email reply:

Regarding Motrin IB caplets, Johnson & Johnson’s Consumer Care Center wrote:

…At this time, we are unable to confirm the absence of the ingredients which you are inquiring about in this product. We make every effort to provide information that is as comprehensive as possible. This is sometimes complicated as the source of an ingredient or mixture(s) used at very low levels in our products may change from time to time. When we are unable to confirm the presence or absence of specific allergens or ingredients right away, this information is provided to our product development department for future consideration.”
Regarding Motrin PM caplets, the Johnson & Johnson Consumer Care Center stated in an email:

“The lactose monohydrate is derived from milk. We also were not able to confirm if there were any other animal-derived ingredients in the caplets.”

In order to gather some more information we then called Johnson & Johnson. We spoke about the Motrin IB caplets. The representative stated that “No animal ingredient or animal byproducts are in this product” but had no specific source information for each ingredient.

However, another representative was able to state the following about the ingredients in the Motrin IB caplets:
•Magnesium stearate is an ink printing agent.
•Stearic acid serves as a lubricant in the product’s coating.
•Shellac is a coating agent.

She had no source information for shellac.

It appears from her general statement (if accurate) given previously about this product being free of animal ingredients that the manufacturer does not consider shellac to be derived from an animal source. We know that shellac is derived from insects.

The representative identified the pregelatinized starch as cornstarch.

We were also told that Motrin PM caplets contain dairy in the form of lactose monohydrate. There is no allergen statement on the package because “due to FDA regulations an allergen statement does not have to be on the package.”

We pursued further and asked if the lack of an allergen statement were possible because of the small quantity of lactose present or the non-requirement of an allergen statement on pharmaceuticals. The rep did not have further information regarding this point.

The Target website did not list label ingredients.

We found them here:
gel capsules:
colloidal silicon dioxide, FD&C blue #1, FD&C red #40, gelatin, hydroxypropyl cellulose, hypromellose, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, polyethylene glycol, povidone, pregelatinized starch, propylene glycol, shellac glaze, simethicone, sodium starch glycolate, stearic acid, titanium dioxide

corn starch, crospovidone, D&C red #27 aluminum lake, FD&C blue #2 aluminum lake, FD&C yellow #6 aluminum lake, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, polyethylene glycol, polyvinyl alcohol, povidone, sodium starch glycolate, stearic acid, talc, titanium dioxide

On our first call, the Target representative stated that he had no list of ingredients and immediately transferred us to his supervisor. She sent my questions to another department for a reply.

After one week we called again for an update and spoke with a Target representative. He checked and said there were not yet any updates and sent me to the Minnesota corporate office customer service department. She again wrote down my questions and said they would get back to me soon.

A few days later, I received an email which stated:
“I was able to get in contact with the manufacturer in regards to your inquiry. They were able to advise that the pregelatinized starch is vegetable-based. Also, the magnesium stearate and stearic acid are plant-based as well.”

As mentioned previously, this product’s formulation differs significantly between the tablet and gel capsule. However, note that the Target brand gel capsules contain both gelatin and pregelatinized starch. Consumers who inquire about this or similar products should emphasize this difference in their email or phone inquiry to avoid being mistakenly told that gelatin’s source information applies to pregelatinized starch as well. (VRG inquirer Theresa had been told this about pregelatinized starch when calling the consumer information line.)

Possibly Animal-Derived Ingredients in Pain Relievers
Vegans and vegetarians should be aware that other ingredients in common pain killers may be animal-derived.

Gelatin is common in capsule forms. Insect-derived shellac was listed in some pain relievers such as Motrin IB caplets.

Other common ingredients that could be animal-derived include
•stearic acid
•magnesium stearate
•zinc stearate
•lactose monohydrate

The contents of this posting, our website and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.

To support this type of detailed research, please consider donating to The Vegetarian Resource Group here:

The Nutrition Hotline Column in the recent issue of Vegetarian Journal Answers this Question: What’s the latest thinking about soy and the risk of breast cancer or breast cancer recurrence?

Posted on December 11, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

We often receive this question: What’s the latest thinking about soy and the risk of breast cancer or breast cancer recurrence? Reed Mangels, PhD, RD answers this query in the latest issue of Vegetarian Journal. To read the article, visit:

To subscribe to Vegetarian Journal, to:
Subscribe to Vegetarian Journal

Vintae Vegan Wine

Posted on December 11, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Arielle Burgdorf

Vintae, a Spanish company run by José Miguel Arambarri and his family dating back generations, has released a new line of vegan red wines called Matsu. The wines come from the Toro region in central Spain, an area known for its old vineyards. The theme of the line is the aging process, and each of the four wines represents a different stage in life.

Suitable for vegetarians and vegans, the company employs a biodynamic winemaking philosophy, meaning there is minimal interference with the grapes, and the wines are unfiltered, leaving more of the original taste and forgoing animal ingredients common in processing. The Matsu collection has already won many awards and received high scores from wine tasters.

Ranging in price from $15-$50, the wines are fairly affordable for the quality. If you like wine, find out where to get a bottle near you at and enjoy with a nice, sharp vegan cheese.

The Vegetarian Resource Group’s Guide to Vegan Yogurt

Posted on December 08, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

New varieties of vegan yogurt keep showing up on store shelves. The latest edition of Vegetarian Journal includes an extensive guide to vegan yogurt that was researched and written by several VRG interns and volunteers.

The reviewers tasted various yogurts and compared nutritional information, cost, and more. They looked at almond-based, soy-based, coconut-based, cashew-based, flax-based, and hemp-based yogurts.

The entire article can be read here:

To subscribe to Vegetarian Journal, visit:
Subscribe to Vegetarian Journal

Please Give a Gift Membership including Vegetarian Journal to Family and Friends this Holiday Season!

Posted on December 08, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

Through December 31, 2017, you can give a gift membership to The Vegetarian Resource Group (includes a 1-year subscription to Vegetarian Journal) for $15 each (40% discount). This offer is valid in the USA only!

This is a terrific way to share the vegan message, as well as support VRG. Gift subscriptions can be done online by simply typing in your message and the address(s) of the gift recipient(s) in the comments field. Go to:

Travel the World in a Stew Pot

Posted on December 07, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

South African Potjiekos
Winter is the perfect time to serve a vegan stew. Zel Allen serves up several international stews in the latest edition of Vegetarian Journal. Enjoy:

Burgoo (a regional stew from Kentucky)
Harira (the national soup/stew of Morocco)
Neapolitan Cannellini Ragu (Italian stew) along with homemade Parmesan
South African Potjiekos
African Pumpkin Stew
Rajastani Ragout (Indian inspired stew)
Savory Indonesian Stew
Guisada Mexicana

The entire article can be read here:

To subscribe to Vegetarian Journal, visit:

  • Donate

  • Subscribe to the blog by RSS


    Sign up for our newsletter to receive recipes, ingredient information, reviews of new products, announcements of new books, free samples of products, and other VRG materials.

    Your E-mail address:
    Your Name (optional):

↑ Top