Category Archives: Health and Nutrition

Do you or someone you love suffer from heart disease? You can eat your way to health!


Recently CNN’s Sanjay Gupta did a documentary called Last Heart Attack.  In it, he investigates how diet can prevent, reverse damage from, and even protect against heart disease.  Among Gupta’s guests is former President of the United States, Bill Clinton, who recently lost a significant amount of weight from a change to a more plant-based diet.   To watch the entire documentary, click here.

Several important, and perhaps surprising points presented in the documentary are:

  • According to some research, you can actually become ‘heart attack proof’ as a result of a plant-based (or vegan) diet.
  • Since eating is the reason we are suffering from high cholesterol, heart disease and heart attacks, eating could and should be a solution.
  • “Your genes are not your fate.”  No matter how much ‘risk’ you have, you are not bound to your genes.  Your diet makes a difference!
  • 1 heart attack happens every 30 seconds in the United States.
  • Even doctors who do see the benefits of an entirely plant-based (or vegan) diet may not recommend it to patients. (They think it’s too hard and people won’t do it).
  • Some people who appear healthy can have a heart attack with no warning symptoms.
  • New technology, coronary calcium scans, can help detect the presence of plaque early.
  • Heart attacks are the biggest killer of men and women in the United States and are “COMPLETELY PREVENTABLE”.
  • Your cholesterol number is not necessarily what is important.  What is important is the size of the ‘bad’ cholesterol particles (small is bad!).
  • “Stents, drugs, and bypasses are not the cure – because they do not treat the CAUSE of the illness.”
  • A lot of women don’t experience classic symptoms of heart attacks.
  • Certain cultures around the world have no incidence of heart disease.  NONE! (Could diet be the reason?)
  • Research shows that the more people changed their diet or lifestyle, the more they improved – in DIRECT PROPORTION.
  • Plant-based (or vegan) diets can not only prevent heart disease but actually REVERSE it.
  • Plaque starts building in childhood!

We decided to share this documentary with you because the realization of how much of an impact diet has on our health is almost revolutionary.  What is now a number one killer is entirely preventable.  Changing your diet may seem difficult, but it can be done with support, resources, and faith in yourself.  

We want to offer you a bit of that support and resources so that you can make those small steps toward a healthier diet.  Although there was not much discussion about the TASTE of the plant-based (or vegan) foods making up these healthier diets in the documentary, as vegans, we can assure you that THEY TASTE DELICIOUS!  Not only the recipes on our blog, but many cookbooks, other blogs, and internet resources (please see our resource page for some), provide an abundance of ideas for creating delectable and nutritious meals.

As Dr. Dean Ornish says in the video, once you start to make the change, you “reframe the reason for making these changes from ‘fear of dying’ to joy of living.  And joy is what’s sustainable!”

So be joyful!!!

Alf Hana!!!

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5 Easy to find, Nutritious, Quick, Vegan Snacks in Cairo, Egypt


How’s that for a post title?!  This post was actually inspired by a recent post on One green planet about vegan snacks that are available on the market.  But, unfortunately, none of them can be found in Egypt!!!  So, we humbly present the first in a series of posts about vegan snacks that you can find in Egypt.

Later we’ll write about snacks that you can make at home, but for now, these are snacks available in shops or from street vendors.  We have tried to choose snacks that are as close to their whole state, retaining as much of their nutrition as possible.

1.  SEEDS (or ‘lib’)

Brown Egyptian seeds (watermelon seeds)

These beautiful babies can be found in almost any nut vendor’s shop in Cairo.  Egyptians love to eat them by cracking the shell open with their teeth and pulling the seed itself out with their tongue.  It’s kind of a complicated technique and you might have to be a real Egyptian to eat them properly 🙂 .   There are two common varieties : larger white seeds (what my research says are pumpkin seeds), and smaller brown seeds (which are watermelon seeds).  Both are easy to find, relatively inexpensive, fun to eat, and full of nutrients.

White Egyptian seeds (pumpkin seeds)

For the watermelon seeds, 1 cup of seeds will give you a whopping 602 calories – so go SLOW!!!!  But, it also provides 31 g of protein, 44 % of your daily recommended intake of iron, and is a good source of phosphorous, zinc, manganese, and magnesium!

As for the pumpkin seeds, they are only 285 calories for a whole cup.  With 12 g of protein, a cup of these cuties provides 12 % of your daily intake of iron, and a good helping of magnesium and zinc.

For the record, I love the white ones most – I guess because they’re larger and easier to manipulate!!!  But, if you’re in the mood for a challenge, try the brown ones!!!  Oh, and if you’re watching your weight, just take no more than two tablespoons because these are high in fat! [images from http://www.taw9eel.com/]

2.  Termis

Termis, also known as lupin or lupin beans, is another type of seed very common in Egypt.  You can buy them in their dried state in any small grocery.  Find the already-prepared version (soaked, cooked, seasoned with salt, lemon, red pepper!!!) in larger markets.  It is especially popular in the spring during the Sham El Nessim holiday, but you can find the prepared version year-round.   Eat the yellow lupin seed with the skin, if you like, but I like to bite about half-way down and remove the skin before I eat it.

And here’s the nutritional info on the yellow lupin:

Yellow lupin seeds

1 cup will provide you will only 193 calories and – hold on to your hats! – 26 grams of protein!!!  That’s right, folks – here’s a high protein, low-calorie food you can snack on without a guilty conscience!  But wait, you also get 5 g of fiber and 8% of your daily recommended intake of calcium from these plump yellow cuties.  In fact, our source for this nutrient information, nutritiondata.com lists them as being a good snack if you want to lose weight!  So dig in!!! [image from el-baraka.net]

3. Dried Figs

A favorite especially around Ramadan, these nutritious and naturally sweet goodies are also easy to find.  In small groceries or larger supermarkets, they are commonly sold in 250 gram packets or in air-tight circular packages.  Their very sweet taste will satisfy even the most troublesome sweet tooth – while you get some nutritional value!  Eat them right out of the bag – or soak them in some water for a softer treat!

As for their nutritional punch, here’s the low-down:

For 1 cup, you get 371 calories, 15 g of fiber (!), and 5 g of protein.  Not to mention 24% of your daily recommended intake of calcium and 17 % of your need for iron!!! [image from all-creatures.org]

4.  Grilled Corn on the Cob (especially in the summer!)

Can you smell it?  Yes, the man with the cart on the corner has a grill and is smoking up some corn!!!  MMMMMMM!!!  Usually grilled in its husk, it can obtain a smoky taste, but if you like corn, you’ll love this!

This snack is quite nutritious, with one large ear providing 123 calories, 4 g of fiber, and 5 grams of protein!  With 16% of your daily recommended intake of Vitamin C covered, you’ll be protecting yourself from illness with just one ear!  It’s also a good source of thiamin, folate, magnesium, and phosphorous.  [image from wikitravel.org]

5.  And now, the best for last: Dried dates stuffed with nuts

We actually already wrote about this in a post during the Vegan MoFo last November. You can find these in most small groceries and larger supermarkets.  In fact, you can even find them organic!  Try Isis Sekem.  I love these little jewels. They are the perfect combination of sweet and savory.  You can find many variations – including dates stuffed with almonds, peanuts, and I have even seen cashews!

Our dried dates with peanuts are not too bad on the nutritional scale.  For one ounce (about 28 grams) – which I’m thinking would be around 3 of these babies – you get about 140 calories, 3 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and about 4 % of your daily need for calcium.  Not bad!

What other vegan snacks do you readily find in Cairo?  Please share!

Alf Hana!!!

What COLOR is on your plate?


There is an old saying in English: You are what you eat.  And, as trite as that might sound, I think it’s true.  Especially when it comes to color!

Think back over your last few meals.  What colors did you eat?  White? Brown? Black?  GREEN?  Did you have a variety of color or mostly one?  How did those colors compare or contrast to the meal before?

What does color have to do with anything?

Well, naturally occurring colors in foods are signals to us about their benefits. Each color is created by different phytochemicals or antioxidants that can be very beneficial in the protection of our health, prevention of disease, and reducing damage.  You can read about each color and see a list of fruits and vegetables for each on this page.

Since all the colors (antioxidants) provide different health benefits, it is most beneficial to include a wide variety of color in your diet.  So, try and see how many colors you can eat in one day!  Here’s our salad from yesterday:

Red (tomatoes), Purple (purple cabbage), Green (cucumber), Yellow (yellow pepper), White (garlic), Yellow / brown (chickpeas)

WOW!  Okay, and here was breakfast from the other day:

Purple (purple grapes), Yellow (banana), Brown (peanuts), Red (apple)

Make your plate into a rainbow, reap the health benefits, and give your taste buds a real treat!

Want to find some awesome recipes to help you do so?  Try out Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s book, Color Me Vegan.  In fact, she has some free recipes for you to try out on her website, here.  We’ve tried the Blueberry Buckle, Carmelized Bananas, Beet Burgers, Rainbow Salad, and many more and have absolutely loved them!

What color is your favorite food?  What color is your least favorite food?  

Resolve to be healthy and compassionate!


Happy New Year, everybody!  Have you made a resolution?  Are you planning to get healthy, stay fit, eat right?  Maybe you’re thinking of trying to move toward a plant-based diet, but don’t know where to start?

Well, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has exactly what you need!  They run a program several times a year called “21-Day Vegan Kickstart Program“.  It’s full of recipes, tips, messages, encouragement and community for anyone who wants to try the benefits of a plant-based diet for 21 days.  Here’s what they say on their website:

“Based on research by Neal Barnard, M.D., one of America’s leading health advocates, this program is designed for anyone who wants to explore and experience the health benefits of a vegan diet. Low-fat vegan—plant-based—diets are the easiest way to trim excess weight, prevent diabetes, cut cholesterol, lower blood pressure, prevent and reverse heart disease, and reduce cancer risk. They even trim our carbon footprint.”

When you sign up, you will receive daily emails, recipes, and have access to all their very valuable information.  I participated last time and it was really great.  You can connect to them on Facebook and watch their webcasts!  You will find that it is a great resource!

Make this year’s resolution one that will keep you healthy AND compassionate towards our animal friends.  Sign up today – it starts tomorrow!!!

Alf Hana!!!

Pharaoh’s Friday #1 Breakfast Wheat (Bileela)


During the month of November, Alf Hana participated in Vegan MoFo.  We spent a month veganizing your favorite Egyptian recipes.  It was a lot of fun, so much so that we decided to set up a regular post for Fridays called “Pharaoh’s Friday”, where we would continue to post veganized versions of popular Egyptian foods.  It’s taken us a while to get started, but here is our first installment of Pharaoh’s Friday!!!!

Who doesn’t love to have something warm for breakfast during the winter months?  One of my favorites is oatmeal!  However, oatmeal is not well-known in Egypt (although it is relatively easy to find!).  If Egyptians are not having foul for  a warm breakfast, then it will be billeela.

Bileela is basically slow-cooked whole wheat.  You can find the whole wheat in packages readily available in stores.  Here’s what it looks like up close:

One of the benefits of eating bileela is that it is a whole food and is full of nutrition!!  In fact, here is an image from Wikipedia that helps explain the insides of the whole wheat grain.

Now, I have finally bought a demassa (the Egyptian version of a slow cooker)!!!! I LOVE IT!!!  Check it out!  Isn’t it cute?

Yes, we have made foul and lentils with our demassa and we also used it to make our bileela!  Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

1 cup dried whole wheat grain
4 cups water

Directions:

1.  Plug in the hot plate of the demassa (with the Egyptian demassa, the hot plate is separate from the silver pot and needs to be heated up first).
2.  Add the wheat and the water to the silver pot.  Put the pot on a regular stove eye.  Heat on medium heat until boiling.
3.  Once the mix is boiling, transfer the pot onto the hot plate.  Leave to cook for about 90 minutes.  Stir every half hour or fifteen minutes or so, just to be sure the bileela doesn’t start to stick to the bottom of the silver pot.

Before adding milk or spices

 

2/3 cup of whole wheat, 1/4 cup soy milk, 1 teaspoon of sugar: just the way we like it!

 

Serving Suggestions and Variations:
Add water or non-dairy milk.
Add sugar.
Add cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, or other spices.
Add raisins, dried dates, or other dried fruits you like.
If you don’t have a demassa or a slow cooker, you could probably do the same in a regular pot with a lid.

Alf Hana!!!

Yes we CANOLA OIL!


Many of you have noticed that we use a kind of oil that may be unfamiliar in some of our recipes.  We thought we’d write a post to help you understand canola oil and why we use it.

What is canola oil?

Canola oil is made from rapeseed.  Its name actually is a brand name that comes from the words: Canadian oil, low acid.  The low acid we’re talking about here is erucic  acid, a fatty acid.

What are the health benefits of canola oil?

Canola oil is low in saturated fat (the ‘bad’ kind of fat), and high in monounsaturated fat (the ‘good’ kind of fat).  In fact, Jack Norris recommends canola oil, olive oil, and some other oils as a source for daily Omega 3 intake [read the details].  You can read more about fatty acids and why we need them here. You may also be interested in this comparison chart of different oils and their fat content.

Why use canola oil in baking?

Canola oil is an excellent oil to bake with because it is high in monounsaturated fat and because it has a very mild taste.  While olive oil also is high in monounsaturated  fat and low in saturated fat, it has a very distinctive flavor that would not make your cookies and cakes taste so great.

Can we find canola oil in Egypt?

Yes, you can!!! We have found several brand names in both small and large sizes.  The best place to find it consistently is Royal House, but we have also found it at Oscar and sometimes at Metro.  All the varieties we have found are imported, unfortunately, so you may find yourself paying a bit more than you’d like.  We always try to remember that it’s better to pay now for healthy foods than later for medicines and treatments!

Alf Hana and Healthy Cooking!!!

How to replace eggs in your cooking…


Many of our Egyptian friends who taste our delicious treats can’t believe that they are free of animal products.  This is especially true when it comes to baked cookies like cookies and cakes.  We always get the question:  How did you do that without EGGS?

As many of our readers already know, there are many ways to replace eggs in your cooking, whether you’re making something sweet or not.  And yes, dear Egyptian readers, you can do it with products available here in Egypt.  So, here goes.

Why are eggs used in recipes?

Before you begin to replace the eggs in your recipe, it’s important to know what role the eggs were playing in the original recipe.  Usually, eggs are used for two main reasons: to add leavening (or lightness) and to bind (or hold) the food together.   We will discuss ways to replace eggs that play both roles in the following.

Sometimes you can leave the egg out of a recipe entirely without replacing it.  In such cases, you may need to add some liquid (non-dairy milk, fruit juice, water, etc.) so the moisture in the recipe remains the same.

Using plant-based ingredients to replace eggs when they add leavening to a recipe

There are many ways to get lift in a recipe without the use of eggs.

  1. vinegar + baking soda
    1. 1 egg= 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of vinegar
    2. you can use white distilled vinegar or other vinegars (apple cider vinegar is nice!)
    3. this substitution is especially nice for cakes, cupcakes or quick breads
  2. ripe mashed banana
    1. 1 egg = 1/2 ripe mashed banana
    2. this substitution is especially nice when you don’t mind the banana flavor like in muffins, cookies, pancakes, or quick breads
  3. tofu
    1. 1 egg= 1/4 cup of tofu, blended with the liquid ingredients in the recipe
    2. this substitution works when you want a rich texture like in moist cakes or brownies
  4. applesauce, canned or mashed pumpkin or squash
    1. 1 egg = 1/4 cup of any of these
    2. these may add flavors to your final product, so watch out!
    3. you may want to add an extra 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder to the recipe because these fruit purees may make the finished product heavier than the original
    4. this substitution works well with moist baked goods like cakes, quick breads and brownies
  5. cornstarch + water
    1. 1 egg = 2 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons of water
    2. this substitution works as a binder and a thickener
    3. we use this substitution frequently like for spinach and cheeze phyllo pasteries, chocolate chip brownie surprise, chocolate chip cookies, and apple cake
  6. flax seeds + water
    1. 1 egg = 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons of water
    2. this is especially nutritious because the flax seeds provide essential Omega 3 fatty acids while they bind and provide lift in your recipe!

Using plant-based ingredients to replace eggs when they hold food together in a recipe:

  1. When you replace for eggs that bind with dry ingredients, you may need to mix it with water, vegetable broth or another liquid (use 1 1/2 teaspoons of dry to 2 tablespoons of liquid).
  2. tofu
    1. 1 egg= 1/4  cup of tofu, blended with 1 tablespoon of flour
  3. Use any of the following at the ratio of 1 egg = 2-3 tablespoons of the following:
    1. tomato paste
    2. potato starch
    3. cornstarch
    4. breadcrumbs
    5. quick-cooking oats or cooked oatmeal
    6. mashed potatoes

Every recipe is different and every substitution acts differently.

You will have to experiment to see which substitution is the most appropriate for the recipe you are changing.  The important thing is to know that there are options for replacing eggs.  You can bake and cook your favorites while maintaining a plant-based diet!

There are other ways to replace eggs in your cooking.  We have chosen these to feature because they are relatively easy to find in Egypt.  Have you tried any these substitutes or others in your cooking?