Vegetarian diet: The green way of life

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Updated 04 December 2013
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Vegetarian diet: The green way of life

You might think maintaining a healthy body weight would be easier for vegetarians as they eat mainly fruit and vegetables? Actually, vegetarian food includes many items that are rich in fat and carbohydrates, such as cheeses and potatoes.
Nutritionist Hessa Al-Saeed will help our readers understand more about being a vegetarian and how to lose weight and eat healthy. She also shared a great recipe for you to enjoy and benefit from.
“Before beginning I would like to clarify the different kinds of vegetarians. Total-vegetarians, or vegans, only eat foods that have a non-animal origin. These can be vegetables, legumes, fruits, grains, seeds and nuts. Then comes the lacto-vegetarian who eats plants plus cheese and other dairy products. The ovo-lactovegetarian adds eggs to their diet. A semi-vegetarian does not eat red meat but includes white meats as well as plant foods, dairy products and eggs,” said Al-Saeed. “Most vegetarian diets are lower in fat than non-vegetarian diets. This is better for the health, as most of the foods they eat contain a rich amount of vitamins and natural oils. Studies also shows that vegetarians have a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, coronary disease and cancer,” she added.
All vegetarian diets should include a wide variety of foods to obtain the energy and nutrients a human body needs. “I highly recommend vegetarians to stay away from foods that are rich in fat and sugar because they are low in nutrition and high in calories,” said Al-Saeed. “Choose fat free or low fat dairy products and stay away from artificial and non-beneficial additives,” she added.
Salads and soups are the best kinds of foods to help you lose weight, while keeping you full and comfortable. “When making a salad, try to choose a dressing that contain citrus juice, and herbs. Stay away from fatty dressing that contain mayonnaise, oils and butter,” said the nutritionist. “When at a restaurant, ask the waiter to put your salad dressing on the side so you can control the amount you add to your salad. Remember to not overdo it,” she added.
Soup is the best comfort food because it is warm and fulfilling. Soups contain much more of the natural nutrients, vitamins and general essences in vegetables and beans than you would get by frying or stewing them.
Al-Saeed recommends making sure your soup is rich in protein, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins that come with vegetables and beans. “Soups are great for your body, cold or hot. They will fill your stomach with comfort and love so try to take advantage of that and add a bowl of soup to your daily diet,” she said. “Add all the vegetables you love, from carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, beans, zucchini and more and try to stay away from potatoes. These are filled with carbs that your body does not need, especially when you want to lose weight,” she added.
When on a diet, limit your intake of pasta, rice, bread and other carbohydrates. “Focus on eating fresh greens and other colorful fresh foods instead,” said Al-Saeed. “If you fancy having cooked vegetables, just eat them with a fork and forget about rice or dipping your bread in a sauce. That will make you feel full but it won’t provide many nutrients. If you must have a small amount of rice or bread, make sure they are brown to at least gain some nutrition,” she added.
When you are on a diet, it’s all about losing weight in a healthy way. A food pyramid can be a helpful tool to guide you to the quantity and amount of foods you should eat in every meal, said Al-Saeed. “The Vegetarian Diet Pyramid suggests the types and frequencies of foods that your body required for healthy reasons. The pyramid is divided into daily, weekly, and monthly frequencies, but does not recommend serving sizes,” she said. “Your vegetarian diet pyramid should include whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables and includes moderate amounts of nuts and seeds, soy, egg whites, dairy products and plant oils,” she added.
Finally, water. Al-Saeed said she could never stop talking about the importance of drinking water. “Make sure you always carry a bottle of room temperature water. You need at least eight full cups a day to benefit from it,” she said. “It helps with balancing the diet structure and it prevents dehydration,” she added.
A plant-based diet can be an excellent source of all the necessary nutrients, such as proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and all nine essential amino acids. Some vegetarians will need to add supplements to ensure they are getting all the nutrients they need. Al-Saeed also recommends drinking green smoothies or juices that are filled with vegetables and fruits for a great alternative drink in a hot summery weather.

This recipe is great to jumpstart your morning with a high-fiber, low-calorie breakfast drink.

Ingredients:
2 cups of spinach
1 cup of kale
½ cucumber
¼ ginger
¼ head of celery
½ bunch parsley
1 bunch mint
3 carrots
2 apples
¼ orange
¼ lime
¼ lemon
¼ pineapple

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a blender, add ice and enjoy.

Email: [email protected]


Next generation of biotech food heading for grocery stores

Fred Gmitter, a geneticist at the University of Florida Citrus Research and Education Center, holds citrus seedlings that are used for gene editing research at the University of Florida in Lake Alfred, Fla., on Sept. 27, 2018. (AP)
Updated 15 November 2018
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Next generation of biotech food heading for grocery stores

  • Scientists even hope gene editing eventually could save species from being wiped out by devastating diseases like citrus greening

WASHINGTON: The next generation of biotech food is headed for the grocery aisles, and first up may be salad dressings or granola bars made with soybean oil genetically tweaked to be good for your heart.
By early next year, the first foods from plants or animals that had their DNA “edited” are expected to begin selling. It’s a different technology than today’s controversial “genetically modified” foods, more like faster breeding that promises to boost nutrition, spur crop growth, and make farm animals hardier and fruits and vegetables last longer.
The US National Academy of Sciences has declared gene editing one of the breakthroughs needed to improve food production so the world can feed billions more people amid a changing climate. Yet governments are wrestling with how to regulate this powerful new tool. And after years of confusion and rancor, will shoppers accept gene-edited foods or view them as GMOs in disguise?
“If the consumer sees the benefit, I think they’ll embrace the products and worry less about the technology,” said Dan Voytas, a University of Minnesota professor and chief science officer for Calyxt Inc., which edited soybeans to make the oil heart-healthy.
Researchers are pursuing more ambitious changes: Wheat with triple the usual fiber, or that’s low in gluten. Mushrooms that don’t brown, and better-producing tomatoes. Drought-tolerant corn, and rice that no longer absorbs soil pollution as it grows. Dairy cows that don’t need to undergo painful de-horning, and pigs immune to a dangerous virus that can sweep through herds.
Scientists even hope gene editing eventually could save species from being wiped out by devastating diseases like citrus greening, a so far unstoppable infection that’s destroying Florida’s famed oranges.
First they must find genes that could make a new generation of trees immune.
“If we can go in and edit the gene, change the DNA sequence ever so slightly by one or two letters, potentially we’d have a way to defeat this disease,” said Fred Gmitter, a geneticist at the University of Florida Citrus Research and Education Center, as he examined diseased trees in a grove near Fort Meade.
GENETICALLY MODIFIED OR EDITED, WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Farmers have long genetically manipulated crops and animals by selectively breeding to get offspring with certain traits. It’s time-consuming and can bring trade-offs. Modern tomatoes, for example, are larger than their pea-sized wild ancestor, but the generations of cross-breeding made them more fragile and altered their nutrients.
GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are plants or animals that were mixed with another species’ DNA to introduce a specific trait — meaning they’re “transgenic.” Best known are corn and soybeans mixed with bacterial genes for built-in resistance to pests or weed killers.
Despite international scientific consensus that GMOs are safe to eat, some people remain wary and there is concern they could spur herbicide-resistant weeds.
Now gene-editing tools, with names like CRISPR and TALENs, promise to alter foods more precisely, and at less cost, without necessarily adding foreign DNA. Instead, they act like molecular scissors to alter the letters of an organism’s own genetic alphabet.
The technology can insert new DNA, but most products in development so far switch off a gene, according to University of Missouri professor Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes.
Those new Calyxt soybeans? Voytas’ team inactivated two genes so the beans produce oil with no heart-damaging trans fat and that shares the famed health profile of olive oil without its distinct taste.
The hornless calves? Most dairy Holsteins grow horns that are removed for the safety of farmers and other cows. Recombinetics Inc. swapped part of the gene that makes dairy cows grow horns with the DNA instructions from naturally hornless Angus beef cattle.
“Precision breeding,” is how animal geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam of the University of California, Davis, explains it. “This isn’t going to replace traditional breeding,” but make it easier to add one more trait.
RULES AREN’T CLEAR
The Agriculture Department says extra rules aren’t needed for “plants that could otherwise have been developed through traditional breeding,” clearing the way for development of about two dozen gene-edited crops so far.
In contrast, the Food and Drug Administration in 2017 proposed tighter, drug-like restrictions on gene-edited animals. It promises guidance sometime next year on exactly how it will proceed.
Because of trade, international regulations are “the most important factor in whether genome editing technologies are commercialized,” USDA’s Paul Spencer told a meeting of agriculture economists.
Europe’s highest court ruled last summer that existing European curbs on the sale of transgenic GMOs should apply to gene-edited foods, too.
But at the World Trade Organization this month, the US joined 12 nations including Australia, Canada, Argentina and Brazil in urging other countries to adopt internationally consistent, science-based rules for gene-edited agriculture.
ARE THESE FOODS SAFE?
The biggest concern is what are called off-target edits, unintended changes to DNA that could affect a crop’s nutritional value or an animal’s health, said Jennifer Kuzma of the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at North Carolina State University.
Scientists are looking for any signs of problems. Take the hornless calves munching in a UC-Davis field. One is female and once it begins producing milk, Van Eenennaam will test how similar that milk’s fat and protein composition is to milk from unaltered cows.
“We’re kind of being overly cautious,” she said, noting that if eating beef from naturally hornless Angus cattle is fine, milk from edited Holsteins should be, too.
But to Kuzma, companies will have to be up-front about how these new foods were made and the evidence that they’re healthy. She wants regulators to decide case-by-case which changes are no big deal, and which might need more scrutiny.
“Most gene-edited plants and animals are probably going to be just fine to eat. But you’re only going to do yourself a disservice in the long run if you hide behind the terminology,” Kuzma said.
AVOIDING A BACKLASH
Uncertainty about regulatory and consumer reaction is creating some strange bedfellows. An industry-backed group of food makers and farmers asked university researchers and consumer advocates to help craft guidelines for “responsible use” of gene editing in the food supply.
“Clearly this coalition is in existence because of some of the battle scars from the GMO debates, there’s no question about that,” said Greg Jaffe of the food-safety watchdog Center for Science in the Public Interest, who agreed to join the Center for Food Integrity’s guidelines group. “There’s clearly going to be questions raised about this technology.”
SUSTAINABILITY OR HYPE?
Gene-editing can’t do everything, cautioned Calyxt’s Voytas. There are limitations to how much foods could be changed. Sure, scientists made wheat containing less gluten, but it’s unlikely to ever be totally gluten-free for people who can’t digest that protein, for example — or to make, say, allergy-free peanuts.
Nor is it clear how easily companies will be able to edit different kinds of food, key to their profit.
Despite her concerns about adequate regulation, Kuzma expects about 20 gene-edited crops to hit the US market over five years — and she notes that scientists also are exploring changes to crops, like cassava, that are important in the poorest countries.
“We think it’s going to really revolutionize the industry,” she said.