Health & Wellness

Plant-Based Power: The Truth Behind The Big ‘V’

By: Rachel Werner

#VegLife is more than just hype. Cities like Los Angeles, New York and Seattle have long been faves amongst those who follow plant-based diets thanks to being on par with hipster hub Portland in terms of the prevalence and popularity of vegan eateries, bakeries and grocery stores. Plus according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), even Midwest metro areas are seeing the number of veg-centric dining options expand in response to consumer demand. Last year, PETA named Detroit one of the top 10 vegan-friendly cities; Minneapolis now has a vegan butcher shop; and Milwaukee is home to four all-vegan restaurants. 

If you think this veg-centric trend is more fad than fiction, here’s a few more facts to consider before kicking kale to the curb:

  • The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified all processed meats an official carcinogen and red meat a ‘probable’ carcinogen. 
  • As reported by the Food Revolution Network, mainstream health organizations are recommending a plant-based diet. Including, among others: Kaiser Permanente (the largest healthcare organization in the U.S.); the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee; and the American Institute for Cancer Research.
  • Vegetarians are likely to have lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and lower body mass index (BMI), all of which are associated with longevity and a reduced risk for many chronic diseases (Harvard Health Publishing).

In light of statistics such as these, it’s not surprising that the number of self-identified vegans in the United States has risen 600% in the past three years (Top Trends In Prepared Foods Report, 2017). Making the transition from omnivore to vegetarian may seem daunting at first. But thanks to “95% of U.S. grocery stores now selling plant-based meat products” and big brands like Tyson, Lean Cuisine and Nestle now offering dairy-free and/or meatless options, it has never been less complicated—or affordable—to make the switch. 

Peace of Soul Vegan Kitchen and Food Cart owner Folami Geter encourages other women of color to ease into it by setting small nutritional goals which focus on being health-forward rather than an extreme dietary makeover.

She suggests:

  1. Drink lots of spring water. 
  2. Try to eat mostly whole grains in addition to fresh fruit and veggies. 
  3. Keep it simple. “There is no need to overwhelm yourself with cumbersome recipes,” Geter states. “A green salad filled with veggies, grains, and beans can be filling, delicious, and full of nutrients!”

Another gentle way to incorporate more plants into meals and snacks is with tea, shakes and smoothies. Edible wellness company GOLDE makes three turmeric-based powders that can be added to cold or hot beverages to harness the restorative and balancing properties of the potent botanical. 

I can also personally attest to making the process gradual. Since my teen years, I’d explored various forms of vegetarianism—lacto-ovo, pescatarian and probably just about every option in between—before finally pulling the trigger on becoming vegan at the beginning of this year. What had always held me back on fully embracing the big ‘V’ was how much I enjoyed eating cheese, especially when paired with a glass of dry red wine. I honestly have to say this was one of those instances where preconceived notions had unwisely held me back. Sure I liked cheese, but there’s also plenty of foods I adore just as much—like avocado—which I’m now experimenting with in new recipes courtesy of inventive food bloggers and cookbooks. To help you get started, I’m sharing one an easy DIY staple perfect for plant-based novices.  

Faux Fried Tofu Recipe

Herein lies the one multi-step recipe I would stake my life is worth every millisecond spent assembling. I really had come to think it just wasn’t possible to make at home the sort of crispy (completely void of any sogginess-type) tofu which I’d previously mostly encountered in cheap—and highly Westernized—Chinese restaurant unless I moved into a luxe pad with a certified kitchen; or dropped a half a paycheck on a high-end deep fryer.

But then one miraculous day while trolling the web for non-sugar bomb desserts, I stumbled across the blog Sweet Potato Soul. And in one of her posts, black maven and vegan chef Jenné Claiborne boasted three recipes which could each be produced for a $1.50 or less (per serving). One of which happened to be for “Broccoli and Crispy Tofu.” Ms. Jenné acknowledges the “technique for making the tofu crispy comes from Minimalist Baker” (another dope female foodie extraordinaire). So I’m giving props to them both because their no-fried templates most definitely served as my muse, although, make no mistake that the final product is all Moi.

  1. Start by pressing your tofu to release the excess water. Remove the tofu block from it’s package and sandwich it between two plates or cutting boards. Then place two to three books (or another heavy object) on top of the top plate to create your makeshift “press.” Press for at least 10 minutes, though 1-2 hours is ideal.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425°.
  3. Once pressed, cut the tofu into cubes.
  4. Warm 2 tablespoons of oil in a cast iron skillet, then add the tofu and salt. Cook the tofu on all sides until it turns golden and begins to crisp up, 5-7 minutes.
  5. Transfer the skillet to the warm oven, and bake for 15 minutes, until crispy.
  6. Add to just about anything…salad, stir-fry, wraps—or solo with a generous dash of bbq or picante sauce. You won’t regret!

Have you transitioned or thinking about transitioning to a plant-based diet? Tell us in the comments below.

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