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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Quinoa Coconut Curry (Vegan, Gluten-Free) + 5 Truths About Eating Animals

Before this recipe, I had never tried a curry dish before but I fell in love after I did! This has become one of my favorite entrees and I make it often because it makes enough for several meals, although I only cook for me so leftovers are easy to come by. ;-) It's a perfect meal for the fall with its rich, comforting flavors and delicious veggies! And yes, quinoa is back to attack. I couldn't go too long without another recipe incorporating my favorite gluten-free "grain" (it's technically a seed).

In my last post, I feel like I merely scratched the surface when talking about the consequences of consuming animal products, specifically meat, and it left me wanting to expand on those points. Since the start of my diet (and lifestyle) transformation a few years ago, I've naturally crowded out meat just by adding in nutritious foods like whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds and I've never felt better!

Below I have pinpointed 5 important truths I've learned about eating animals. It is not meant to scare you. It is meant to educate you and empower you, because I was oblivious myself before becoming a vegetarian and then a vegan. It is much easier to not confront the truth. That is why we are where we are today - people don't want to hear the truth because it challenges what we've been taught to believe for so long and it means we don't have to change if we ignore it. It feels safer to be quiet or remain in the dark than to be courageous and take a stand for what's right. Though in all actuality, that mindset is a leading contributor to the diseases, environmental issues and ethical dilemmas we face today. We can become part of the solution or remain part of the problem. We have that much power. 

5 Truths About Eating Animals

1. Evidence-based reviews have found that vegetarian or vegan diets are associated with significantly lower rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and hypertension as well as having lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower blood pressure and lower body mass index than those who consume animal products. This is much attributed to the low-fat, high fiber, whole foods that are the center of a vegetarian or vegan diet. In fact, the American Dietetic Association proclaimed that "appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits in the prevention or treatment of certain diseases" and also stated that animal-free diets are appropriate for all stages of life from pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

Dr. Dean Ornish conducted a study in the late 1990s involving 48 heart patients. Half of them adhered to the standard recommendations from doctors, such as taking prescription drugs and making dietary modifications like taking the skin off of chicken, and the other half were put on a vegetarian diet along with regular exercise and stress management. After a year, the first group's condition worsened and the second group's condition improved on Dr. Ornish's plan. I couldn't agree with Dr. Ornish more when he says, "I don't understand why asking people to eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet is considered drastic while it is medically conservative to cut people open or put them on powerful cholesterol-lowering drugs." 

By the end of 2013, it is estimated that Americans will have spent $2.8 trillion on healthcare. Something's got to give because clearly, what we're doing now isn't working. We have a disease care system, not a preventative care system. Chronic diseases can be prevented and reversed with diet and lifestyle changes and therefore greatly reduce costs and needless suffering.

2. 70% of antibiotics in the United States (they're finding it's even higher than that), or about 25 million pounds, are given to healthy chickens, pigs and cows from birth to slaughter to speed up growth and production. In comparison, that's about 8 times more than sick people use yearly, or about 3 million pounds. Not only is this practice inhumane, but also a major health hazard for humans given that more and more diseases are becoming resistant to antibiotics due to unnecessary use.

3. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization conducted a study in 2006 that revealed the damaging effects that raising animals for food has on the environment. 18% of greenhouse gases are attributed to livestock farming - that's more than all transportation put together (cars, trains, planes, boats), which contributes 13%. To create this space for pasture or animal feed, trees are burned or cut down, contributing even more to global warming as trees are no longer absorbing CO2 to reduce greenhouse gases. 70% of all land in Latin America is used for animal grazing and 1/3 of all land on earth is used for livestock. Lastly, methane emissions are over 20 times more poisonous than CO2. Yes, methane = cattle flatulence. It adds up! Not to mention, polluted waterways and loss of biodiversity are a result of animal waste and pesticides used on feed crops.

4. This one has become most important to me. In 2012, an international group of brain researchers released the Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness with data showing that non-human animals, even fish and bees, are conscious and aware, just like humans are. Or are they even more so than us, given that exploitation and abuse for our own selfish needs is so commonplace now and not representative of a conscious society? I've come to believe that all living beings have value, even the tiniest of insects... but I didn't always think that.

Most people would rather not hear this, but the treatment of animals raised for food is abominable. Chickens are de-beaked shortly after birth to keep them from pecking each other to death in the confined space they're left in. They are de-feathered and scalded to death in boiling vats of water and also have their wings and legs snapped in two when crammed into crates. Chickens and turkeys are bred to grow quickly and eventually become crippled because their organs cannot keep up with their growth. To make more sense of this, chickens were excluded from the Humane Slaughter Act 50 years ago, so factory farmers are able to get away with any degree of cruelty.

Cows are constantly kept pregnant through artificial insemination to produce as much milk as possible and are also fed growth hormones to rapidly increase yields to meet demand. Calves are taken from their mothers right at birth and male calves are used for beef or veal. We are the only species who insists on drinking another mammal's milk which is only meant for their baby calves, just like our mother's breast milk is meant only for us. Most people stop producing lactase, an enzyme needed to digest milk, after 2 years of age and then we begin to obtain those nutrients we received from the breast milk from other food sources. Dairy consumption has been linked to a host of health problems including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis (ironically), and lactose intolerance. We can obtain calcium from broccoli, kale, collards, and other dark leafy greens, almonds, and non-dairy milk. 

Livestock animals are denied fresh air, light, exercise, and natural feed and instead live in overcrowded, disease-ridden conditions. But worse than that, many are thrown into trucks, hung upside down, beaten, their throats are slit and they bleed to death, all while fully conscious. Pigs' teeth are ground down and their tails are cut off to keep from self-mutilating or mutilating each other since they are so unhappy with their living conditions. Sick pigs are gassed and thumped to death. It's even been said that the immense fear and stress these animals experience is transferred into the food we eat and becomes our energy too. Check out to see the abuse for yourself. Sometimes things doesn't become clear until you see it with your own eyes. **Just to forewarn you, it's incredibly graphic, but it's the truth, and the truth can hurt, but it can also be very freeing.

Fish are not exempt from cruel treatment either. They are also subject to factory farming and suffer while being suffocated and gutted. Studies have shown that they are intelligent, aware and complex animals. Other aquatic animals such as dolphins and turtles are killed by the fishing industry as well. 

5. There is animal feces in nearly every supermarket meat you purchase. When animals are slaughtered, they poop as a natural response, and it ends up in their flesh. Consumer Reports tested 5 different types of bacteria in 257 raw ground turkey samples and 90% had at least one type of bacteria. 60% had E.coli, a common cause of foodborne illness and/or death in the U.S. The Environmental Working Group released findings from tests done by federal scientists revealing the amount of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in meat. The findings? Antibiotic-resistant bacteria was found on 81% of ground turkey, 69% of pork chops, 55% of ground beef, and 39% of chicken breasts, wings and thighs.

I could list countless other reasons to cut back on or eliminate animals products altogether, but I had enough trouble condensing these 5 points! I started off thinking I'd do 10, but I'd have a novel if I didn't stop myself. :-P

If you still want to include meat or other animal products in your diet, I encourage you to buy organic, grass-fed meat and organic dairy and eggs. Even minimizing your intake of animal products to only a few times a week can make a difference! Just keep in mind, "free-range" eggs are all the rage now, but there are no set guidelines for the environmental quality, time allowed outdoors (usually very minimal), the amount of space given or space per hen. In all honesty, "free-range" hens are slaughtered just the same as factory farmed hens. And the male chicks, seen as having no value, are suffocated, trashed and ground up in machines at birth. Organic doesn't necessarily mean cruelty-free either. They all live incredibly physically demanding lives and are abused more often than not.

The reality is, we don't need to eat animals to survive or to be healthy. It's quite the opposite. Meat and dairy are just massive, highly influential multi-billion dollar industries that spend hundreds of millions of dollars marketing animal foods to convince us that we can't live without them. Another interesting fact, according to David Robinson Simon, lawyer and author of Meatonomics, "American governments spend $38 billion each year to subsidize meat and dairy, but only 0.04% of that ($17 million) to subsidize fruits and vegetables." Yet the federal government's dietary guidelines recommend we consume more fruits and vegetables? But because only $17 million of $38 billion is used to subsidize fruits and vegetables, they aren't affordable. The system has set us up to fail. Just so you know, 1/2 of the people who developed the food pyramid had ties to agribusiness (large-scale farming of raising animals for food). 

Let's face it, we'd go crazy if our cats and dogs were treated the way that livestock animals are. In fact, we'd be imprisoned. Going vegetarian or vegan saves about 50 animals per person anually, saving thousands over our lifetime. One of my favorite vegan bloggers Oh She Glows said it so beautifully, "so often as humans we feel it is our right to decide what lives and what dies, but I’m tired of that way of living. Maybe I can’t change the world, but I can do my own part. A vegan diet is simply the way I aligned what’s in my heart with the food on my plate."

Quinoa Coconut Curry
Lightly adapted from Detoxinista

YIELD: 3-4 servings


• 1 tsp unrefined coconut oil
• 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 2-3 tsp curry powder (start with 2 tsp and add more as needed - spice level varies by brand)
• 1 can classic coconut milk
• 1 Tbs reduced sodium tamari (can be found next to the soy sauce at Whole Foods)
• 2-3 tsp raw coconut nectar or other sweetener, to taste (optional)
• 1 medium carrot, chopped
• 3 cups of broccoli florets, cut into bite-size pieces (or frozen florets)
• 3 cups butternut squash, roasted or steamed *See steaming directions below
• 1 Tbs dried rosemary
• 1 cup quinoa, dry and soaked overnight
• 1 1/2 cups filtered water
• 1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1. If roasting the butternut squash, do so first. Follow the instructions with pictures on this blog post.
2. While the squash is roasting, in a strainer, thoroughly rinse off the soak water from the quinoa then pour the quinoa into a sauce pan with the 1 1/2 cups water and sea salt. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Set aside, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff quinoa with a fork.
3. In a 3-quart saute pan, melt 1 tsp coconut oil over medium heat, then add in the onions and garlic and saute for 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add in the curry, coconut milk, tamari, and sweetener (if desired) and whisk together well. Let simmer for 5 minutes, covered.
4. Add the carrots and broccoli florets to the sauce and cook until fork tender, or about 10 minutes.
6. Whether you steamed or roasted the butternut squash, add in at the very end and mix well. Save a few roasted squash cubes to top. Lastly, mix the quinoa in the sauce. Serve and enjoy!

To steam the butternut squash: 

1. Follow the instructions on peeling and cutting the squash here. Cut into 1-inch cubes.
2. Fill the steamer with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil.
3. Place 3 cups cubed squash in the steamer basket. Cover and steam for 7 minutes. Do not lower the heat - keep it at a boil.
4. Transfer to a bowl and toss with 2 tsp coconut oil, 1 Tbs dried rosemary and sea salt and black pepper, to taste.
5. Transfer the squash to the coconut curry sauce at the very end and mix well.

• Feel free to use any veggies you'd like! Don't feel bound to the ones that I used. Cauliflower would be great too.

Bless your heart if you made it to the end of this post!! I thank you for sticking with me. I hope it was enlightening in some way and gave you some food for thought. Happy October! Be well. <3

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." Mahatma Ghandi


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