Earth Day is April 22! What a wonderful opportunity to bring awareness to our every day habits and think about how we can make small changes to create a BIG impact.
Last year, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee suggested that eating a plant-based diet is not only better for health, but also the environment. Their report stated,
"The organically grown vegan diet had the lowest estimated impact on resources and ecosystem quality, and the average Italian diet had the greatest projected impact,” according to the report. “Beef was the single food with the greatest projected impact on the environment; other foods estimated to have high impact included cheese, milk, and seafood."
Even if you are not vegan, please take note that even the smallest changes can make a big difference. For example if you substitute vegetables or a plant-based protein for meat for just one meal a day you can create positive change. Or, if you decide to jump on board with Meatless Mondays, eating all plant-based foods for one day a week, you are making a huge difference. So don't think it needs to be all or nothing or your doomed. Yes, being vegan benefits your health, the environment and animals. However, simply cutting back on meat, poultry, fish and dairy can create considerable benefits for your health, the environment and animals. The following facts were adapted from Cowspiracy. Check out their site for more details and definitely see the film if you have not done so yet!
1. WATER: Animal agriculture is responsible for 80-90% of water consumption in the United States and 23-30% of all the fresh water in the world.
- 2,500 gallons of water is needed to product 1 lb of beef
- 1,000 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 gallon of milk
- 900 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 lb of cheese
- 477 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 lb of eggs
- The amount of gallons of water needed to produce 1 lb of vegetables, legumes, fruits or grains ranges from 34 gallons/lb (broccoli) to almost 300 gallons/lb for rice
2. GREENHOUSE GASES: Livestock and their byproducts are responsible for more than 51% of worldwide CO2 greenhouse gas emissions. Methane, produced from an animal's digestion, has a global warming potential of almost 86 times that of CO2 on a 20-year time frame. Livestock is also responsible for 65% of human-related nitrous oxide, which is 296 more potent than CO2 and can stick around our environment for 150 years.
3. LAND: Over 45% of the earth's land is used for animal agriculture. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and destruction of habitats.
4. WASTE: Animal agriculture produces 130 times more waste than humans in the United States alone. More animal waste equals more methane and faster climate change.
5. OCEANS: Talk about an unsustainable practice, consider this: we could see a depleted ocean by the year 2048. For every pound of fish caught, five pounds of unintended marine species are caught and discarded. As many as 40% of fish caught each year are discarded. It is estimated that as many as 650,000 whales, dolphins and seals are killed every year from fishing vessels and 40-50 million sharks are killed in fishing nets and lines.
6. RAINFORESTS: Up to 91% of Amazon destruction is from animal agriculture. Clearing land for animal agriculture is leading to the death of wildlife and species extinction. It also contributes further to climate change with the release of CO2 as land is cleared.
7. HUMANITY: There are currently over 7 billion humans on this planet with a billion of them going hungry and another billion suffering from hidden hunger while others over consume. Sadly, over 70% of the grain grown in the world is to feed animals, contributing to global hunger.
Whatever your conviction might be for eating more plants and less meat (health, environment or animals) know that you are contributing to sustainable practices for the planet when you opt for plant-based choices. You're saving water, land and rainforests; reducing waste; and supporting the fight for hunger when you choose local, organic plant-based food.
If you haven't tried wheat berries yet, this is an opportune time. Wheat berries are the entire grain kernel made of the bran, germ and endosperm. They're high in fiber, B vitamins and add a delicious nutty flavor and chewy texture to salads and wraps.
Before making this recipe, rinse the wheat berries thoroughly with cold water and discard any sticks or stones (much like you might find in any whole grain). Use 4 cups of water for 1 cup of wheat berries. Boil the water, add the wheat berries then reduce heat to low simmer and cover for 60 minutes.
Once the wheat berries are done you are ready to prepare your meal!
- 2 cups cooked wheat berries
- 1 15.5 oz can chickpeas, drained
- 4-6 Collard leaves, stems removed
- 2 Tbsp avocado oil or other cooking oil
- 1 large carrot, sliced into 1" pieces
- 3/4 c shredded purple cabbage
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 1/2 c tomato, diced
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 3/4 c asparagus, cut into 1" pieces
- 1/4 c vegetable stock
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 1 tsp mustard seed
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp sumac
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne (omit if you don't like spice, add more if you like it spicy!)
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 c cilantro, chopped
- 1/4 c pine nuts
- pepper to taste
How to Make
- In a wok or large pot, heat avocado oil on high until a water droplet causes it to sizzle.
- Add mustard seeds to hot pan and reduce heat to medium.
- Add carrots, pepper and purple cabbage, cook for 3-5 minutes on medium heat. (Note: personally I like cooked carrots, pepper and cabbage, but if you prefer raw or more crunch, cook these for only 2-3 minutes.)
- Add onion and garlic. Add 1/4 tsp salt and stir. Cook onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes or until onion is translucent.
- Add asparagus and tomatoes, cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add chickpeas and wheat berries to aromatics and vegetables.
- Stir in spices-turmeric, sumac, cumin, smoked paprika and cayenne.
- Add lemon and vegetable stock. Turn up heat and stir well. Simmer for 5 minutes.
- While the wheat berry and chickpea mixture is simmering, toast the pine nuts. Place the pine nuts in a dry stovetop pan and heat on medium for 2-3 minutes or until golden. Make sure to stir them around a bit to avoid burning on one side.
- Add the pine nuts and cilantro to the wheat berry and chickpea mixture. Stir well.
- Taste for seasoning. You can add the other 1/4 tsp of sea salt here as well as pepper or more cayenne spice if you are feeling wild. ;)
- Place the collard greens on a large plate, open faced. Scoop the warm wheat berry salad into each green. Serve with a lemon wedge and top with more cilantro.
Save the extra for the next day's lunch! It's even better after it sits overnight.
Makes 6-8 servings.
You guys are going to want to drink this spicy turmeric dressing. Seriously. However, if drinking the left over dressing is a little strange to you, the excess can easily be used to dress another salad or in a stir fry.
Spicy Turmeric Cucumber Salad is a staple of mine during the summer because it's super easy and refreshing plus who doesn't love a crisp, hydrating cucumber during the summer-especially when it's marinated in delicious healing spices and seeds!
If you don't like spicy heat you can easily omit the cayenne and cut the chili paste in half (or omit altogether). If you like it hot, follow the recipe.
We currently have a few avocados on hand that need to be quickly eaten before going bad so I decided to make an avocado bowl out of them. I cut the cucumbers in quarters so that they perfectly fit in the bowl and could be scooped out with either a spoon or fork. I would say the only thing missing here is cilantro. We brought a big bag of it to a friends house for Easter and left without it, therefore had none in the fridge. (Insert sad face here. Can't live a day without cilantro.) But with or without cilantro, it's still delicious. You can eat the cucumbers by themselves, chop and top them as a garnish for grilled tofu, add them into a rice bowl or mix them with some farmers market greens.
- 2 large cucumbers, peeled and sliced
- 2 tsp sesame seed oil
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 tsp chili paste
- 1 tsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp tamari (I used miso tamari, but either works)
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/8 tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp white sesame seeds
- 1 tsp black sesame seeds (optional)
- 1-2 avocados, split in half, deseeded
- Salt for draining cucumbers
How to Make
Drain the cucumbers
- Once the cucumbers are peeled and sliced, place them in a colander then place the colander in a large bowl. The bowl will be used to trap water dripping from the cucumbers.
- Lightly salt the cucumbers, stirring to make sure they all have a light coating of salt. Let them sit for 10-15 minutes.
- Squeeze the cucumbers with your hands, wringing out any excess water.
- Ditch the water and dry out the large bowl.
- Place the drained cucumbers inside the bowl. This process will help the cucumbers absorb the dressing.
- In a small bowl, mix together the sesame oil, apple cider vinegar, chili paste, maple syrup, Tamari, turmeric and cayenne.
- Stir well.
- Pour dressing over the cucumbers and stir.
- Sprinkle white and sesame seeds on top.
- Dish into small bowls.
- Or, cut 1-2 avocados in half and deseed. Cut the cucumbers into small pieces and add to avocado center.
Make this for your next family picnic and wow your guests! (Add cilantro for even more deliciousness.)
Why Veg Week?
There are 52 weeks in a year. Why not make one of them meat-free? That’s the idea behind VegWeek, a nationwide (and increasingly international) campaign empowering thousands of people to pledge to choose vegetarian foods for at least seven days as a way to discover the many benefits and flavors of vegetarian eating. Every time we choose a meat-free meal, we can protect our health, the planet, and animals!
What's In It For You?
In addition to the benefits noted above, when you sign up to take the 7-Day VegPledge, you’ll receive lots of deals, discounts — and you might win prizes — from companies like Beyond Meat, Follow Your Heart, Herbivorous Butcher, and yours truly, nicobella organics.
Ready to get started with this deliciously flavorful recipe?
Chickpea and Spinach Chana Masala
- 1 Tbsp avocado or coconut oil
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 1/2 tsp mustard seed
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 4-5 garlic cloves, diced
- 2 Tbsp ginger, diced (we are ginger junkies, use less if you're not a fan)
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (omit if you don't like spicy, add more if you like a lot of spice!)
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 (28 oz, bpa free) can chopped tomatoes
- 1 (13.5 oz, bpa free) can coconut milk
- 1 (14 oz, bpa free) can chickpeas, drained
- 1 bag Beyond Meat 'chicken' strips (alternatively, you could use another can of chickpeas)
- Squeeze of 1 lime
- 2 cups raw spinach
- 2 cups cooked basmati rice
- 1/2 c cilantro
- 1/4 c raw cashews
How to Make
- Cook the rice based on the package instructions.
- In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds. Toast the seeds for a minute or two, stirring frequently, until the seeds are golden and fragrant. (Be careful not to burn the seeds.)
- Stir in the onion, garlic, ginger. Cook for about five minutes, stirring often. Stir in the garam masala, cumin, turmeric, cayenne and salt.
- Raise the heat to medium-high and add in the crushed tomato and juices, chickpeas and Beyond Meat 'chicken' strips. Stir well. Stir in the coconut milk and lime juice. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes or longer to allow the flavors to develop.
- Stir in the spinach and 1/4 cup cilantro until the spinach is wilted.
- Serve the Chana Masala on top of basmati rice. Garnish with more cilantro. Top with cashews.
Makes 6-8 servings and tastes even more delicious the following day!
Let us know what you think.
Plant-based cooking note: Adding spices, such as turmeric, cumin and mustard seed, to your meals adds pops of flavor and mega-nutrition. Popping cumin and mustard seed not only releases their flavors, but also releases their healthy essential oils and nutrients. Use them often!
Do you have a favorite vegan recipe? Please share with us!
Need a yummy dessert that will definitely win your guests over at Easter brunch? Try these simple Dark Cocoa Maple Truffles-bet that at least half of them don't even make it to the dessert table!
- 10 Medjool dates, pitted
- 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- 2 Tbsp nicobella hot cocoa mix
How to Make
Line a baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper. Blend the dates, coconut and maple in a high powered blender until they form a dough-like consistency. Place mixture in a bowl. Using a teaspoon, scoop out the mixture and roll into balls with your hand. Place the cocoa in a small bowl. Roll the balls in the cocoa powder and place on the parchment lined baking sheet. Chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours. Eat up and enjoy!
Variations: Add walnuts, hemp seed or maca powder to the mixture or roll the truffles in nuts or seeds.
Makes 10-12 servings.
Have you pledged to Go Veg?
There are 52 weeks in the year so why not try eating entirely plant-based for just one week out of the year? VegWeek is a nationwide campaign that empowers thousands of people to pledge to choose plant-based foods for at least seven days. It's a great way to discover the many benefits and flavors of plant-based eating and feel good knowing you are improving your health, the environment and saving animals.
When you sign up to take the 7-Day VegPledge, you’ll receive lots of deals, discounts — and you might even win prizes — from companies like Beyond Meat, Follow Your Heart, Herbivorous Butcher, Brewing Good Coffee Company and yours truly, nicobella organics.
Lavender Mint and Lime Basil Truffles are back for a limited time! Today is the last day to take 10% off your purchase with discount codespringtruffle. Grab them while they're available! Discount code ends Sunday, March 26 11pm PST.
Make sure to look for nicobella munch and power bites at these fine stores:
- Kroger (in select Georgia stores)
- Whole Foods Market (throughout the southeast)
- HomeGoods (Northeast, Midwest and coming soon to California!)
There is a lot of evidence (both human and ... sad sigh ... animals) looking at dark chocolate and its effect on the cardiovascular system. It is well known that dark chocolate contains rocket high amounts of flavanols-beneficial phytonutrients that offer mega disease-fighting capabilities. One type of flavanol is epicatechin, which is responsible for giving dark chocolate its bitter taste as well as offering health benefits. (Side note: more than likely, the more bitter your chocolate, the higher the flavanol content.)
Several studies have looked at the effects of epicatechin's ability to increase nitric oxide production within the body. Nitric oxide can be produced by eating dark chocolate, beets, celery and green tea, to name a few. It benefits the cardiovascular system by dilating the arteries, thereby increasing blood flow to the muscles as well as lowering blood pressure. Don't forget that the increase in blood flow also means increase in oxygen supply and healing nutrients that reach the muscles, heart and organs.
A recent study found that cocoa epicatechins by itself produced a 30 percent increase in fatigue resistance (more energy!) and a 30 percent increase in new blood supply after two weeks of consistent consumption. When the cocoa epicatechins were combined with exercise there was a 50 percent bump in fatigue resistance via increased blood supply and capillary growth (which increases oxygen and nutrient supply). Another study looked a cocoa flavanols over a four week period and found the same benefit after consistent cocoa or epicatechin intake.
What does this mean? Pretty much what we've been saying. First, more isn't better, but a little bit of dark chocolate daily may be good for you. We still stick by the 1-1.5 ounces of dark chocolate daily and, from these studies, consuming a bit before exercise may potentially enhance your workout and decrease early fatigue.
1-1.5 ounce people. Not a bar. :)
ginger green tea truffles
References:Epicatechin mediates beneficial effects of flavanol-rich cocoa on vascular function in humans. 2006 Jan 24; 103(4): 1024–1029.Stimulatory effects of the flavanol epicatechin on cardiac angiogenesis: additive effects with exercise. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2012 Nov; 60(5): 429–438.
Does eating dark chocolate during pregnancy create a happy baby? Maybe!
Scientists in Finland questioned 300 women during pregnancy before and after birth. The women were asked to rate their stress levels and the amount of chocolate they ate. The same women were then questioned six months later about their baby's behavior. The moms who ate chocolate during pregnancy reported that their babies laughed and smiled much more, and also had higher activity levels, than the babies of moms who didn't eat chocolate during pregnancy.
They also rated stress levels in babies who were born to stressed moms. They found that the stressed moms who ate dark chocolate during pregnancy had babies that were less fearful than stressed moms who did not consume dark chocolate during pregnancy.
The scientists believe that the happy baby outcome was due to the chemicals (specifically, phenylethylamine) found in dark chocolate that increase seratonin and dopamine levels. Others are skeptical saying that it may have been solely due to mom's satisfaction after eating dark chocolate. Nonetheless, the babies of chocolate-eating mamas were happier.
Expecting moms, as long as it's organic and dark (not milk) chocolate and limited portions, feel free to indulge in your 1-1.5 ounces during pregnancy. Not only will you be happier but perhaps you're make your baby happy as well.
What does 1-1.5 ounces of dark chocolate look like? It's equivalent to one bag of nicobella munch or any of our three truffles. Shop here.
Journal reference: Early Human Development (vol 76, p 139)
Who doesn't love a DIY cacao facial scrub! It's a scrub that is good enough to eat. Had a bunch of cacao beans on hand and ran out of exfoliant so it was time to make a DIY super charged antioxidant cacao scrub.
- 1/3 c cacao beans or 1/4 c cacao nibs
- 1/4 cup raw oats
- 2 springs rosemary, de-stemmed
- 3 Tbsp coconut oil
- squeeze of 1 lemon
- 15 drops of your favorite essential oil (I used peppermint since peppermint + chocolate smell delicious together😋)
Grind the cacao beans or nibs, oats and rosemary in a grinder. Melt coconut oil. Add the coconut oil, lemon and essential oil to the cacao mixture and stir. Once blended place the whole food based exfoliant in your favorite mason jar and enjoy as a scrub or mask for your face and hands.
- Lemon for skin lightening
- Chocolate for circulation
- Coconut oil for moisturizing
- Rosemary for antioxidants
- Oats for exfoliation
Your face will feel like a smooth baby's bottom after just one use!
Take 15% off this weekend with discount code skinhealth! Offer expires Sunday, March 5 11pm PST.
Everybody wants to know how to look younger, keep their skin looking fresh, and reduce wrinkles…right? Am I about to say that dark chocolate can do all of these things? Definitely not, but I do want to talk about another positive affect dark chocolate can have on the body.
The flavanols in some dark chocolates can be beneficial to skin health. Not only do these flavanols help to improve the overall health of your skin, but it can also help reduce the damage done by UV rays also known as sunlight. Now, I’m not saying that eating chocolate can take the place of sunscreen or keeping hydrated to keep your skin healthy, BUT it can be a part of healthy diet so why not be a part of a healthy skin regimen?
A study in the Journal of Nutrition examined UV exposure, cutaneous blood flow, hemoglobin concentration and oxygen saturation, and skin structure, texture, and hydration. The participants consumed flavanol rich beverages and the researchers concluded that dietary intakes could affect skin integrity and even aid in protection.
The takeaway here…moderation is always key. Don’t put away your sunscreen and moisturizers, but why not add in a little dark chocolate into your diet?
Heinrich , U., Neukam, K., Tronnier, H., Sies, H., & Stahl, W. (2006). Long-Term Ingestion of High Flavanol Cocoa Provides Photoprotection against UV-Induced Erythema and Improves Skin Condition in Women. Journal of Nutrition,136(6), 1565-1569. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
Guest blogger, Carli Barbo, is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in dietetics. She is currently a dietetic intern and graduate student at Georgia State University with hopes to eventually become a registered dietitian. In her free time she likes to try out new recipes, play with her puppy, Sampson, and scoping out Atlanta for new restaurants to try!