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VRG Journal July 1994


Scientific Updates

A Review of Recent Scientific Papers Related to Vegetarianism By Reed Mangels, Ph.D., R.D.

Isn't Chinese Food Healthy?

Chinese food is often perceived as healthy, an idea that was challenged by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) last year. CSPI had various dishes from Chinese restaurants analyzed and found that many were quite high in fat. Most of the dishes analyzed contained a good deal of meat and/or nuts, which certainly added to their fat content.

What about stir-fried vegetables? Should vegetarians be concerned about the fat content of the foods they choose in Chinese restaurants? Possibly so, based on a study from Taiwan. Researchers stir-fried selected vegetables and shredded hard tofu in 3 teaspoons of oil per 3 ounces of raw vegetable or tofu. They then measured the amount of cooking oil absorbed by the vegetables. In general, leafy vegetables such as spinach and mustard greens absorbed most of the oil used in cooking. Pea pods and leafy vegetables with large stems like cabbage or bok choi absorbed slightly less oil. Broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, and finely shredded carrots absorbed about as much oil as leafy vegetables. Peas, wood ear (a mushroom), shredded hard tofu, and green pepper absorbed about half the oil added.

In all cases, the amount of oil measured as absorbed by the vegetables did not include that found in the juices left in the pan. Generally, if more oil was used in cooking, more oil was retained in the food.

These results suggest that if you like Chinese food and if you are following a lowfat diet, you should ask that your food be cooked with as little oil as possible. Although many foods did absorb most of the oil used in cooking, in some foods significant amounts of oil were found in the juices left in the pan. Since these juices are often incorporated into the sauces accompanying Chinese foods, your best bet is to lift pieces of vegetables out of the juice or sauce rather than eating all the sauce.

For further information see: Pan W-H, Wang H-L, Chang S-C, Chen M-L. Cooking oil absorption by foods during Chinese stir-frying: Implications for estimating dietary fat intake. J Am Diet Assoc 93:1442-4, 1993.

Long-Term German Vegetarians have lower Death Rates from Cancer

Close to 2,000 German vegetarians were studied for 11 years. Those who had been vegetarian for twenty or more years at the end of the study had a lower risk of dying of cancer than those who had been vegetarian for less than twenty years. The researchers felt that this showed a true protective effect of long-term vegetarianism. In contrast, duration of vegetarianism had no effect on deaths from heart disease.

A lower risk of death from cancer was seen in near vegetarians who ate meat and fish occasionally than in strict vegetarians who avoided meat and fish. This seems a little surprising. One explanation is that near vegetarians chose their diet primarily for health considerations and may have been more conscious of eating healthy foods than strict vegetarians who tended to choose vegetarianism for ethical reasons. No information was available on the nutritional quality of subjects' diets. Differences in intake of nutrients such as fat, cholesterol, and vitamins and minerals may have influenced the results.

For more information see: Chang-Claude J and Frentzel-Beyme R. Dietary and lifestyle determinants of mortality among German vegetarians. Int J Epidemiol 22:228-236, 1993.

Nutrition Hotline:

Nutrition Questions from Our Readers

by Suzanne Havala, M.S., R.D.

Vitamin A

Question: Recently, I purchased a juicer that came with a tape that said people cannot overdose on vitamin A from vegetation, although they can overdose on vitamin A if it comes from fish oil, liver, or other animal products. Is this true? L.S., PA

Answer: Liver, whole eggs, whole milk, and chicken meat are examples of foods that are rich sources of preformed vitamin A. (Many dairy products are fortified with vitamin A.) In other words, they contain vitamin A in the form in which our bodies use it.

But foods also contain carotenoids, which are substances that our bodies convert to vitamin A. Rich sources of carotenoids include carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, dark green leaf lettuce, tomatoes, cantaloupe, mangoes, and kale.

To answer your question: too much preformed vitamin A can be toxic. It's not likely, though, that someone would eat enough liver or dairy products to receive an overdose of vitamin A. A person would be more likely to take in toxic amounts by taking supplements.

On the other hand, it does not appear that any harm is caused by consuming large amounts of carotenoids (such as beta carotene). Some people who routinely get large amounts of carotenoids in their diets -- by drinking large amounts of carrot, spinach, and tomato juice, for instance -- can develop a condition known as hypercarotenosis, which is characterized by a yellowish discoloration of the skin. As far as anyone knows, the condition isn't dangerous and disappears when the person cuts back on the carotenoids. (Carotenoids are converted into vitamin A too slowly for toxicity to be a problem.)

There are greater risks to eating liver and high-fat dairy products than vitamin A toxicity. Liver is high in cholesterol. Dairy products can be high in fat and cholesterol.

Weight Gain Needed

Question: How can I gain weight on a vegetarian diet? A nutritionist informed me that my diet is low in fat and protein. E.K., CA

Answer: The answer depends on your particular medical history and diet. However, your diet may be simply too low in calories. As long as a person is eating enough food to meet his/her energy needs, it's almost impossible not to get enough protein on a vegetarian diet (assuming some degree of variety in food choices).

What are you eating? Starchy foods such as breads and cereals, root vegetables like sweet potatoes and white potatoes, and peas, beans and other legumes are nutrient-dense. These foods are higher in calories than other plant foods, such as broccoli, cabbage, and tomatoes. Try incorporating more of these energy- and nutrient-packed foods into your diet.

You also might try eating snacks between meals. Bagels, a bowl of cereal, or a bowl of leftover bean chili are a few good examples.

Vegetarian Journal's Guide to Condiments

By Reed Mangels, Ph.D., R.D.

Condiments, those little extras like ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, and salsa, add zest to our meals. Most of us squeeze mustard or ketchup on our veggie burgers or crunch chips and salsa with-out giving much thought to what is in the condiments. Factors to consider include taste, nutrient content, and ingredients.

This month I'll look at ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, and salsa as commonly used examples of condiments. These are easy foods for vegetarians to like. Fat is almost never an issue in the condiments I looked at. Most had less than 1 gram of fat per serving and were very low in calories. And most products I found did not appear to contain animal products. Some ketchups and salsas did have natural flavoring listed as an ingre-dient. According to FDA's Public Relations Office, natural flavoring is not a term which is regulated by law at this time. If a product you like has natural flavoring on the label, contact the manufacturer to find out what the natural flavoring is derived from.

When selecting condiments, you may wish to pay attention to their sodium content. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that adults limit daily sodium to 2,400 milligrams or less. Certainly limited use of condiments will not have much impact on daily sodium intake. However, if you're a condiment lover, you may want to try the lower-sodium versions of condiments. As little as 2 tablespoons of some brands of soy sauce can supply more sodium than you need in a day.

Ketchup, or catsup, is a thick, smooth-textured, spicy tomato sauce. Most ketchups have either tomato paste or tomato concentrate as their first ingredient. Other common ingredients include vinegar, corn syrup, spices, and salt. Ketchup from the natural food store has fruit juice concentrate or honey in place of the corn syrup. Millina's Finest and Westbrae are two brands using fruit juice concentrate as a sweetening agent; Hain and Uncle Dave's uses honey, a non-vegan ingredient. The sodium content of 1 tablespoon of ketchup ranges from 90 milligrams (Campbell's) to 180 milligrams (Heinz), with most brands having about 115 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon. Several companies make low-sodium ketchup; these include Hunt's and Westbrae. One tablespoon of most ketchup has about 15 calories and less than 1 gram of fat. Millina's Finest Tomato Ketchup uses organic tomatoes.

Mustard seems to be an especially trendy condiment. Visit a gourmet store and you'll see raspberry mustard, green pepper mustard, honey dill mustard, and much more. Mustards have mustard seed as a base. Common brands have varying amounts of vinegar, salt, spices, and turmeric, which gives the mustard a yellow color. Typically, a teaspoon of mustard has less than 10 calories and less than 1 gram of fat. Uncle Dave's Kickin' Mustard has 30 milli-grams of sodium per teaspoon. French's Dijon has 130 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon. The other mustards are in between these two extremes. Westbrae makes a no-salt-added mustard which has 5 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon. Hain Stone Ground Mustard has 3 milligrams of sodium in a teaspoon. Only Uncle Dave's Kickin' Horseradish Mustard contains honey. Mustard-mayonnaise combinations like Hellman's Dijonnaise have egg whites and may have artificial color added. They are slightly higher in fat than plain mustard (1 gram fat per teaspoon). Tree of Life and Eden make organic mustards.

Salsa is another "hot" condiment. Grocery and natural food store shelves are full of picante sauce, green chili sauce, chunky salsa, regular salsa, not to mention hot, medium, and mild versions of most of these. When choosing salsa, taste will be the primary consideration. Some like it hot, some don't. Some like cilantro, some don't. Some like chunky salsa, some like a smoother sauce. Regardless, salsa is a wonderful condiment for jazzing up everything from tossed salads to baked potatoes.

Common salsa ingredients include tomatoes, peppers, onions, salt, vinegar, and garlic. ChiChi's salsa contains sodium benzoate as a preservative. The other salsas I looked at did not have preservatives. The mysterious "natural flavoring" appears in ChiChi's, Old El Paso, and Ortega. Newman's Own has sugar in its salsa; other brands do not contain sweeteners. Most salsas have fewer than 10 calories and less than 1 gram of fat per tablespoon. Sodium content is similar to that of ketchup, about 115 milligrams per tablespoon. Enrico's, Tree of Life, and Guiltless Gourmet are lower in sodium, less than 50 milligrams per tablespoon. Tree of Life and Enrico's Premium Salsa uses organic ingredients.

Tabasco or hot sauce is in the same family as salsa. This is usually a simple product containing only cayenne pepper, vinegar, and salt. It has virtually no calories or fat and has about 20 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon. Pick the one that's just hot enough for you!

Soy Sauce is another popular condiment. A major consideration when selecting a soy sauce is its sodium content. Many people use soy sauce in place of salt. A teaspoon of salt has 2,300 milligrams of sodium. A teaspoon of soy sauce has 182 to 428 milligrams, considerably less than salt although it is still a high- sodium food. Lower-sodium soy sauces include Kikkoman Milder (182 mg per teaspoon), LaChoy Lite (220 mg per teaspoon), and San-J Tamari Lite (240 mg per teaspoon). Soy sauce, as the name suggests, is made from soybeans. It may also contain water, salt, alcohol, corn syrup, caramel color, hydrolyzed protein, and sodium benzoate as a preservative. If a soy sauce contains wheat, it is called shoyu. Tamari refers to soy sauce made from soybeans. Alcohol is added to some brands to prevent yeast growth. This alcohol evapor-ates in cooking.

San-J products do not contain preservatives, caramel color, or corn syrup. These products were the best tasting and had the shortest ingredient list.

When choosing condiments, consider ingred-ients and sodium content, and then experi-ment to find the ones you like. After that, enjoy a veggie dog with mustard and ketchup, a bean burrito with salsa, or stir-fried vegetables with soy sauce.

Veggie Bits

Fat-Free Vegan Cereal Bars

Barbara's Bakery in Petaluma, California recently launched a wonderful fruit-filled, vegan cereal bar. The product is fruit juice sweetened and comes in four flavors: strawberry, raspberry, apple, and blueberry. This is a great item to take along on long car rides or on backpacking excursions. For further information call (707) 765-2011.

Eat More, Weigh Less

Dean Ornish, M.D., has become a well-known figure because of his scientific research in the area of heart disease. Dr. Ornish recommends a lowfat, primarily vegan diet to reverse heart disease. His newest book, Eat More, Weigh Less, includes 250 gourmet recipes, each containing less than 10% fat. Most of the recipes in this book are vegan. Eat More, Weigh Less is a per-fect gift to give to family members and friends who have heart disease. This hardcover book can be pur-chased from The Vegetarian Resource Group, PO Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203 for $27 per book (in- cluding postage). Call (410) 366-VEGE to charge the book with a Mastercard or Visa credit card.

Animals In Education

Lisa Ann Hepner refused to dissect animals while working on her bachelor of science degree in biology. She successfully implemented alternatives to dissection on a wide scale at the University of New Mexico. Animals in Education, a new book by Ms. Hepner, is a helpful resource for pursuing alternatives to animals in education. The book includes student guidelines, lists of alternative suppliers and group contacts, and copies of laws upholding students' rights not to perform dissection. This 312-page book can be purchased for $14.95. Send a check to Richmond Publishers, PO Box 91683, Albuquerque, NM 87199.

Vegan Baseball/Softball Fielders Glove

Heartland Products, distributors of non-leather shoes, now has a non-leather baseball/softball fielders glove available. The glove is made from soft black poly-vinyl with a black nylon mesh back in size 11-1/2, which is comparable to a man's small to medium hand. With use the glove becomes soft and pliable. The glove may be ordered for the right or left hand and costs $40.40 (including postage and handling). Send a check or money order to Heartland Products, Ltd., Box 218, Dakota City, IA 50529. For further information call (515) 332-3087.

Dairy-Free Brown Rice Pudding

Readers looking for a delicious vegan dessert should purchase R.F.'s Gourmet Organic Brown Rice Pudding, which can be found in refrigerator cases. It primarily consists of organic brown rice, soy milk, fruit juice, and raisins. For information contact R.F. Bakery International, Inc., located at 8101 Orion Avenue, Unit 6, Van Nuys, CA 91406; or call (800) 543-2011.

Vegetarian Alternative to Jello

At last, there's an alternative to Jello that will be widely available. Hain SuperFruits is a dessert mix that can be used much the same way Jello is used. It comes in several flavors including kiwi/pineapple, berry medley, and orange pineapple. Hain Pure Foods products can be found in natural foods stores and supermarkets.

Vegan Meat Alternatives

Readers searching for delicious meat alternatives may want to try one of the following new products. Yves Veggie Cuisine located in Vancouver, Canada now offers an original bagel dog and a chili bagel dog, which consist of a vegetarian hot dog or chili dog wrapped in a whole-wheat bagel. For information call (800) 667-9837.

Knox Mountain Farms, producers of Wheatballs, has now introduced Not-So-Sausage and Chick'n Wheat. The first product is an alternative to sausage patties, and the second item is an alternative to chicken. For further information call (800) 943-2011.

Lightlife of Greenfield, Massachusetts, has released Lightburgers, which are vegan. Call (800) 274-6001.

Ottawa Organic Food Alternative

Readers of Vegetarian Journal living in Canada may want to join the Ottawa Organic Food Alternative. This non-profit organization promotes organic, locally grown, fairly traded, community- supported agri-culture. They work with seven local farmers. For information call (613) 730- 0740.

Terrific Gifts from Artists

Each year, around February, a fantastic craft show is held in Baltimore, Maryland. Unfortunately, many of the items exhibited by talented craftspeople are made of animal products including leather, silk, and wool. On the bright side, however, some artists produce excellent vegan items suitable as gifts.

Readers may want to support these individuals. For example, Carol Shannon Hsu and Jean-Pierre Hsu of HSU Studios, PO Box 63, Berkeley Springs, WV 25411 produce aluminum fruit and vegetable mobiles that cost $58.50 (including postage). These mobiles would look great hanging in a kitchen.

Sara Drower, 127 Laurel, Wilmette, IL 60091 specializes in one-of-a-kind, hand-painted items on cotton fabric, including placemats, wall hangings, quilted jackets and pins, pillows, and more. A fruit and vegetable motif is used. Write to Ms. Drower for a recent catalog.

New Item for Chocolate Cookie Lovers

Vegans who miss eating Oreo cookies can soon find a new product distributed by Tree of Life called Creme Supremes. These delicious cookies are primarily made of organic unbleached wheat flour, organic dehydrated cane juice, cocoa, and vanilla. For further information on this item call Tree of Life, Inc. at (904) 825-2011.

Vegetarian Action: Hospital Employees Promote Vegetarianism at their Workplace

Andy Lefkowitz is a clinical coordinator in the social work department of Pennsylvania Hospital. On numerous occasions Andy has distributed materials produced by The Vegetarian Resource Group at events held in the hospital.

This year, for National Nutrition Month (held each March), Mr. Lefkowitz encouraged the hospital's cafeteria staff to offer vegetarian entrees each week. Among the dishes offered were pasta and vegetables marinara, hearty macaroni stew and vegetarian chili (both from VRG's quantity recipe packet), and vegetable tofu lo mein. The entrees were a big hit.

In April the hospital held a 'heart-healthy' fair and Andy made certain that vegetarian materials were distributed. He also provides the cooking staff at the hospital with vegetarian literature and according to Andy they are 'eating them up,' so to speak.

Julie Hoskins, M.S., R.D., is a Clinical Nutrition dietitian at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her primary position is in the area of renal (kidney) disease. Julie has been a vegetarian for over 19 years and is well-regarded as the hospital's resident expert on the subject of vegetarian diets.

The dietary department at Carolinas Medical Center consists of a progressive group of professionals who have facilitated positive changes in the food service system at the hospital and educated the hospital community about vegetarian diets. The food service director and dietitians, for instance, have responded to the increased interest in lower fat, plant-based foods by increasing the number of vegetarian options in the hospital's employee cafeteria as well as on the patient menu. Vegetarian items offered in the cafeteria include pasta primavera, vegetarian chili, colcannon (a casserole made with cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and onions), black bean soup, and veggie burgers. The patient menu now includes chili, a Cajun bean and rice cold plate, a vegetarian hoagie and macaroni and cheese (two admittedly high fat items), and cooked dried beans.

During National Nutrition Month in March of this year, CMC's dietary department hosted a one- day vegetarian booth for hospital employees and visitors. Materials provided by The Vegetarian Resource Group were distributed at the table and vegetarian foods were available for taste-testing. The hospital chef prepared recipes from Simple, Lowfat & Vegetarian, and two copies of the book were raffled for a free employee give-away. Response to the booth was tremendous.

About this document

These articles were originally published in the July/August 1994 issue of the Vegetarian Journal, published by:

The Vegetarian Resource Group
P.O. Box 1463
Baltimore, MD 21203
(410) 366-VEGE

Subscriptions to the Vegetarian Journal are $20 annually. (Canada and Mexico: $30; foreign: $40)

What is the Vegetarian Resource Group?

Our health professionals, activists, and educators work with businesses and individuals to bring about healthy changes in your school, workplace, and community. Registered dietitians and physicians aid in the development of nutrition-related publications and answer member and media questions about vegetarian diets. The Vegetarian Resource Group is a non-profit organization. Financial support comes primarily from memberships, contributions, and book sales.

The contents of this article, as with all The Vegetarian Resource Group publications, is not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional.

For questions or comments on this article, please contact Bobbi Pasternak at bobbi@vrg.org. This article may be reproduced for non-commercial use intact or with credit given to The Vegetarian Resource Group.

HTML by: Jonathan Esterhazy / Manitoba Animal Rights Coalition / jester@mail.cc.umanitoba.ca

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