Is natural food always made from natural ingredients? The answer is, not necessarily. “Natural” could mean just about anything. Going with an organic diet is the best way to assure yourself that you are getting the most out of every bite. Plenty of people are starting to hop on the organic bandwagon and many of us need to cut corners here and there to save a little money so we rationalize, assuming that a “natural” version of the food we like will be the next best thing.
Those of you who have decided to dedicate yourselves to a vegan diet or folks who simply want to cut down on their meat intake may seek meals containing meat substitutes because advertisements state that it’s good for you. Why shouldn’t you eat it? Everyone says it’s healthy and “natural” and it contains soy that is taken from a bean that is high in protein.
I listed a few of these foods (that are not organic) that many people think are healthy alternatives. The reality is that these products appear to be healthy but if you decode the ingredients you might be surprised. The following consists of two products that are widely used but aren’t as healthy as they seem. You can also take me up on the recipe I created as well as the one I found online that might prove to be healthier alternatives.
What looks to be a healthy alternative to meat could actually contain gasoline. The soybeans used in most veggie burgers may have been soaking in hexane before the burgers were made. The hexane separates the oil from the protein of the soybean. You will have an idea of whether or not your veggie burger is actually a gassy patty if it contains one or more of the following: soy protein concentrate, soy protein isolate and/or texturized vegetable protein.
Alternative: Your very own… Chickpea Burgers!
If it’s convenience that you’re looking for, make a decent amount of these burgers and toss them in the freezer for easy access! Here is a recipe I discovered online that I tweaked slightly so it would be organic. The idea belongs to Anne Lindsay, the author of New Light Cooking. This is an easy way to make a delicious, hexane-free dinner that contains plenty of protein:
Chickpea BurgersServes 4
2 tsp organic canola oil2 organic green onions- chopped2 cloves of organic garlic- minced1 tsp each organic dried oregano and organic chili powder1 cup diced organic sweet red or green pepper Half organic tomato- chopped1 can (19 oz) organic chick-peas drained and rinsed1/3 cup organic dry bread crumbs2 tbsp organic cilantro or organic parsley- chopped
1. In nonstick skillet, heat 1 tsp of oil over medium heat and cook onions, garlic, oregano and chili powder, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add red pepper and tomato. Cook, stirring for about 3 minutes or until pepper is tender and liquid is evaporated.2. In food processor, mix pepper mixture with chickpeas; transfer to bowl. Stir in breadcrumbs, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste until well combined. Pressing firmly, shape into 4 burgers.3. In nonstick skillet, heat remaining oil over medium heat and cook burgers for 4 minutes on each side or until heated through.
Here is another popular product that advertises how much children love to eat it.
Vegan Chicken Nuggets:
Are you converting to veganism? I wouldn’t start with these fake chicken nuggets if I were you. Many people choose to become vegan because they do not believe in consuming animal products. Eating foods that are full of vitamins and minerals should be of concern to people on a vegan diet or any other diet for that matter so you want to be sure that you’re getting the nutrients you’re paying for. Let’s take a look at the ingredients in your typical box of frozen vegan chicken nuggets. Mind you, these are advertised as being “all natural”. You will see why they didn’t earn the organic stamp of approval.
Here is the list of ingredients:
Sea salt (Decent choice)
Garlic powder and Toasted onion powder (Any non-organic spices can contain anti-caking agents made from chemicals)
Rice starch (Natural stabilizer- replacing chemicals)
Dehydrated celery (Not too shabby)
You’re probably wondering why I’m criticizing this product since the ingredients don’t seem that bad. Well, the list goes on.
Flavorings: This is not the best explanation. What are the flavorings and where are they taken from? Artificial flavors are made from chemicals and are used to mimic the flavor of real food. There are actually flavoring experts who mix combinations of chemicals until they discover a pleasing flavor, or possibly in this case something as simple as “chicken flavor”.
Carrageenan: This thickening agent is taken from red seaweed so it may sound healthy. The truth is the carrageenan is sucked out with alkali solvents that act like acid. A study on human tissue showed that carrageenan contributes to cancer and digestive problems.
Maltodextrin: A carbohydrate that is sweet like sugar and is considered safe in small amounts according to the FDA. Maltodextrin can contribute to weight gain.
Soy protein isolate: Yikes. Remember I mentioned that this ingredient is derived from soybeans that were soaking in hexane.
And here comes the winner…
Hydrated textured soy protein concentrate: Huh? This is the stuff that gives you that “chicken” feel. It has a similar density to beef and is used as a meat substitute. The soy protein is turned into meat-like fiber after it takes a bath in phosphoric acid and salt.
Soybeans do not go from farm to grocery store without undergoing a huge process first. They are soaked in alkaline and phosphoric acid, then back to the alkaline bath. What is left of the soy morphs into something else once it has been dried under high temperatures. By the time this process is over, the soybean is hardly a soybean at all and it contains the added bonus of pesticides.
Organic Rice and Beans
This dish delivers a substantial amount of protein; it’s delicious, nutritious and safe. You can make organic rice and beans and be assured that what you’re eating is actually pure food. Here’s a fun recipe that I conjured up at home:
2 cups Organic Brown Rice 4 cups Bottled Water
Directions: Boil water. Add Rice and bring to a boil again. Turn down to simmer and stir. Cover tightly and do not remove lid for 45-50 minutes when rice is tender and the water has been absorbed.
Ingredients for the Beans:
1 Can Organic Kidney Beans1/4 Organic Potato- Cut into bite-sized pieces1 Tbsp. Organic Coconut Oil4 oz. Tomato sauce2 Tbsp. Diced Cilantro1/4 Organic Onion- Chopped1/4 Organic Red Pepper- Chopped1/8 Organic Green Pepper- Chopped1 Clove GarlicDecent Pinch of Sea Salt Dash of PepperGarlic Powder- To tasteDash of Chili Powder
Directions: Heat uncovered on Medium-Low to a slow boil. Turn down heat to simmer and cover half way. Stir occasionally for about 15 minutes. Shut off and cover tight. Let sit, stir after five minutes. Let sit for five more minutes then serve with organic brown rice.