Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 5

STEP #5: TRY NEW PLANT-BASED FOODS & RECIPES!

Friends, this is where the real exciting adventure begins! Personally, I find this to be the most fun part of the journey. I think my family would agree, because they get to taste test lots of new plant-based breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas…not to mention baked and no-baked goodies! Think of yourself as a connoisseur or budding foodie on the trail of plant-based goodness, searching for delectable recipes to

incorporate into your family’s cooking repertoire. Your explorations will lead you to discover new tastes, colors and methods of cooking that you previously had not envisioned. Don’t be afraid to experiment! At worst, you just end up with a result that doesn’t taste great, but then just modify the recipe or try a different recipe.

New Tastes & Textures! – Dietitianmom.com

For myself, I never thought there would be such easy substitutions for eggs in baked goods (you could make a flaxmeal egg replacer or a chia seed egg replacer easily), or learn to appreciate the flavors within an Indian dish and even make a few Indian dishes myself! I am now using new spices like coriander, cumin and garam masala in my kitchen and have even made a vegan pumpkin pie using tofu as a base!

You might find some tastes and recipes that the family likes and some that they don’t like. But regardless, you will be awestruck at the wide array of existing and newly emerging whole foods plant-based recipes on the horizon through sources like the Internet, cookbooks, magazines, library resources, friends and acquaintances. For those with a ‘sweet tooth’ out there, you might be glad to find that there are actually a lot of plant-based foods out there that are naturally sweet, and fruits like dried figs and dates can be used to sweeten baked goods easily. Call them ‘Nature’s Candy’ if you will. There are also many easy vegan baked and no-bake treats that can be found through recipe sites on the internet, which don’t require fancy ingredients or a lot of time.

Here is another piece of good news. Currently, there is an abundance of plant-based alternatives on the market with new products continually emerging – you just need to be on the lookout for them in the grocery store, health food stores, ethnic food stores and online. Examples include soy based mozzarella or cheddar ‘cheeses’, dairy and soy free shredded ‘cheeses’, nutritional yeast fortified with vitamin B12, non-hydrogenated vegetable margarine, tofu dogs, tofu with different levels of firmness, veggie bologna, hemp hearts, ready-to-use nut and seed butters, ground flaxmeal, tempeh and a variety of calcium and vitamin D fortified plant-based milk alternatives. These commercial options make it much easier nowadays to maintain a plant-based diet, especially since you do not need to spend time processing or making some of these from scratch if you don’t have time (like making seed butters, tempeh or tofu!), though of course it is important to still choose whole foods where possible. It also helps tremendously that the world we live in now is a global market and foods from different countries are often imported into the nation. So take advantage of this!

Here are some key tips to assist you on your plant-based food journey:

* Don’t be afraid to try new recipes (or create your own!) and new ways of cooking (e.g., stir-fries, casserole dishes, salads, soups). If you have time, read the some reviews on a recipe before trying it. This will tell you if you need to modify the recipe, if you can use certain substitutions or whether the recipe is even worth trying! If you are just starting out in this plant-based realm, pick recipes that require 10 ingredients or less and don’t need exotic ingredients that are hard to source. There are many great plant-based vegetarian recipe websites on the Internet, with just some examples being www.chocolatecoveredkatie.com, www.plantplate.com and www.emmaslittlekitchen.com.

*Use your slow cooker! As mentioned in previous posts, the slow cooker is my new best friend, especially for recipes using legumes such as beans, split peas, and chickpeas. See below for some links to great recipes I’ve tried and tested already.

*Experiment with different nuts and seeds, including using flaxmeal in your cold and hot dishes.

*Experiment with making a variety of salads and using different toppings and dressings.

*Try different milk alternatives such as calcium and vitamin D fortified almond milk, soy milk, cashew nut milk and coconut milk. Some stores may also carry rice milk, pea milk and hemp milk. But be careful to choose the calcium and vitamin D fortified versions, as many organic and non-organic versions of milk alternatives are not calcium and vitamin D fortified. Due to the possible contamination of arsenic in rice milks, in the United Kingdom children under the age of 5 are not recommended to drink rice milk (read more about arsenic in foods here)

* Try new foods such as quinoa, chia and buckwheat

*Experiment making your own protein bars/snack bars (non-baking options and baked options available). These then become great snack options for you and your family.

* Try modifying existing recipes. For example, does a recipe call for butter in the graham cracker crust? Substitute with some vegetable oil, and it works pretty much just as well! Need an egg in a recipe? Try using an egg replacer like a ‘flax egg’ or a ‘chia egg’. Need to use cow’s milk in the recipe? Substitute with a fortified plant-based milk alternative like almond milk, soy milk or coconut milk.

Here is just a small sampling of the recipes available from the Internet. I’ve made these recipes and found them easy and delicious. My family agrees!
Slow Cooker Black Bean Pumpkin Chili
Lazy Lentil Burger
One Pot Vegan Mushroom Pasta
Slow Cooker Butter Chickpeas
Kung Pao Eggplant

Want more information? See my previous posts on this topic:
Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Introduction
Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 1 (Halve the Meat & Double the Veggies)
Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 2 (Switch to Whole-Grain Options)
Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 3 (Choose Smart Snacks)
Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 4 (Increase Beans & Other Legumes)

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Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 4

In this post, I would like to touch on Step 4: Increasing Beans/Legumes in one’s diet.

STEP #4: INCREASE THE BEANS/LEGUMES

If you are already using legumes like black beans, navy beans, kidney beans, garbanzo/chickpeas, split peas, lentils, soy beans and/or peanuts in your diet, then this step is easy. You can simply increase the amount and how regularly you eat of this nutrient dense category in your diet.

However, if you have not really cooked with these before, then this can be a whole new territory! You may be wondering, “What exactly are legumes?” (to learn more about legumes click here) and “How do I cook them?” Some of you may also be wondering if eating legumes will cause you to have more gas or affect your digestive system in other unpleasant ways. Well, I did! Don’t worry! There are lots of ways to deal with these to help you successfully incorporate beans/legumes regularly into your diet. That’s another advantage of a slower gradual transition to a plant-based diet, as it will help your body gradually adjust to having a higher fiber and legumes diet. Today, let’s look more closely at a few different types of legumes.

Beans & Chickpeas

For those new to using beans and chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), the easiest way is to start with canned versions. Simply pop open a can, drain the liquid and then rinse the beans well before using. Some worry about the salt content in canned beans but it is really easy to remove much of the salt by properly rinsing and draining the beans. I usually open a can of beans into a colander, placing a plastic mixing bowl underneath. Then I fill up the colander with cold water, stir the beans a few times in the water, and then drain this liquid off by simply lifting the colander. I repeat this process a few times before using the beans in stir-fries, soups, making bean dips like hummus, slow cooker meals and other dishes. If you like, you can also let the beans sit in the cold water for a longer period before draining the liquid, to potentially help remove more salt content from the beans. Yes, it’s that easy! The benefits of using canned beans are that it is quick and easy, and also avoids the potential for toxic poisoning from phytohaemagglutinin. What is phytohaemagglutinin? Read on.

In plants, animals and humans, there exist certain naturally occurring proteins called lectins which have important functions. However, phytohaemagglutinin is a type of lectin that is found in many species of beans and can reach high levels in some plants, particularly in red kidney beans, and have toxic effects. As little as 4-5 raw beans can trigger symptoms such as nausea and vomiting a few hours after ingestion.  Slow cookers present a risk as the internal temperature of the food being cooked may not reach a high enough sufficient temperature to cook red kidney beans. Hence it may be best to use the canned versions of beans (especially red kidney beans) when making a slow cooker recipe.

To use dry beans in slow cooker recipes, take steps to ensure beans are cooked well before using and also by the end of the cooking process. According to the United States Food and Drug Administration, it is recommended to soak dry beans in water for at least 5 hours, then boil the beans in fresh water for at least 30 minutes, before discarding this water and using the beans (for more information, see the Sources section below). If you are really worried, you can use canned red kidney beans instead of dry ones when you make a bean-based slow cooker recipe, or substitute the red kidneys beans in the recipe with a different type of beans.

In practice when I work with dry beans, I tend to soak the quantity I want to use in a large pot of cold water overnight. Then the next day, I would drain the water and boil them in fresh water on the stove for at least 30 minutes before using. This helps to reduce the overall cooking time tremendously (in the actual recipe used) and also ensures that the beans are cooked before I discard the water and throw the beans in the slow cooker.

Lentils & Split Peas

There are many different types of lentils, coming in a range of sizes and colors such as yellow, red-orange, green, brown, and black. However, you will usually find red lentils most commonly at the local grocery store, followed by green or brown lentils. Lentils are a powerhouse of nutrients: just a small quarter cup of raw red lentils provides 10 grams of protein, and a quarter cup of green lentils provides 12 grams of protein! In my opinion red lentils are the easiest to cook, and one that I recommend starting out with initially. First, sort through the quantity of lentils to be used to remove small stones or other debris, before rinsing it in cold water (again I usually use my colander and mixing bowl combo) and draining the liquid. Then simply cook 1 cup dried red lentils to 3-4 cups of water, bringing the water to a gentle boil and then simmering on the stove for about 15-20 minutes (or until tender).  Remove the lentils and drain out the excess cooked water before using the lentils in the dish of choice. I like to season cooked red lentils with garlic powder, cumin and possibly a dash of onion powder. Brown and green lentils are firmer and hold their shape better with cooking. For faster cooking, soak the green/brown lentils overnight. Using canned lentils is also an option – just rinse and drain well first to remove as much of the salt content as possible.

Split peas come in green and yellow varieties. Dried split peas usually need a lot of soaking in order to be able to reduce cooking times. I find it helps to soak a batch overnight, even if I plan to put it in the slow cooker or on the stove the next day.

(Sources:

  1. Food and Drug Administration. Bad Bug Book, Foodborne Pathogenic Microorganisms and Natural Toxins. Second Edition. [Foodborne Pathogenic Microorganisms and Natural Toxins, pp. 254]. 2012. https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/UCM297627.pdf. Accessed March 15, 2017.
  2. Allen K, Proctor D. Killer Kidney Beans? http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/factsheet/FN_FQE_2014-01pr.pdf. October 2014. Accessed March 15, 2017.)

Want more information? See my previous posts on this topic:
Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Introduction
Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 1 (Halve the Meat & Double the Veggies)
Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 2 (Switch to Whole-Grain Options)
Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 3 (Choose Smart Snacks)

Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 3

Getting hungry? -Dietitianmom.com


Hello there! Previously, I had provided an overview of a whole foods plant-based diet and discussed the first 2 steps of transitioning to such a diet. These were “Step 1: Halve the Meat & Double the Veggies” and “Step 2: Switch to Whole-Grain Options” (see posts Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Introduction, Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 1, and Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 2). In this post, I would like to touch on Step 3: Choosing Smart Snacks.

Tahini Raisin & Flaxmeal Crackers – Dietitianmom.com

STEP #3: CHOOSE SMART SNACKS
Need something to tide you over until lunch or dinner? Children tend to need to eat more frequently than adults, so would often benefit from snacks between meals. There are a few key reasons why. Children, especially younger children, tend to have high energy levels and smaller stomach capacities. In general, a whole foods plant-based diet tends to consist of foods that have a higher fiber but lower caloric content. Hence, due to the higher fiber content of these foods consumed, it is possible that in some cases a child could feel full easily at meals with their smaller stomachs, but receive inadequate calories for overall optimal growth.

 

 

Fruit Wedges with Seed Butter & Walnut Dotted Banana Coins – Dietitianmom.com

For adults, you may also feel the need to have snacks in between meals, especially if you find you are becoming more active, and if your metabolism revs up with the switch to a whole foods plant-based diet. That’s the best part of a whole foods plant-based diet – on such a ‘diet’, you actually don’t need to watch your caloric intake or restrict yourself unnecessarily in terms of how many times a day you eat, AS LONG as the foods you choose to consume are ALL whole foods plant-based foods. So this does not mean you can snack endlessly on cookies, candies, cakes, biscuits and other processed high refined sugar and high fat commercial foods since they are ‘vegetarian’. As mentioned before, being a ‘junk food vegetarian’ will negatively impact your health and reduce your intake of phytochemical nutrient-rich health boosting foods which you could be eating instead.

So it’s alright to have snacks frequently on a whole foods plant-based diet, but choose your snacks wisely! Try these tasty more nutrient dense options:

*A handful of nuts and/or seeds (e.g., pumpkin seeds, sunflower, pine nuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios, peanuts, walnuts, hazelnuts)
* A piece of whole fresh fruit (kiwi, apples, grapes, melon slices, oranges, grapefruit, pears…you name it! These also work great as dessert after meals!)
* Dried fruit (e.g., dried apricots, figs, dates, raisins)
* Vegetable or fresh fruit slices with spreads or dips (e.g., bell pepper slices, carrot sticks, celery sticks)
* Soy spreads, seed butters  (such as tahini, pumpkin seed and sunflower seed butters) and nut butters (examples include almond,  cashew nut, and peanut butters)
*Vegetable and/or bean based dips such as hummus and guacamole
*Fruit/vegetable combination smoothies
*Fruit salads
*Vegetable salads
*Whole-wheat bread/pitas/tortillas for dipping into hummus or spread with nut butters for quick easy sandwiches or burritos
*High calcium and/or high iron cereal
*Bean-based or vegetable soups with whole-wheat pasta
*Soy-based or other vegan cheese slices and whole wheat crackers

 

Banana Sunflower Seed Butter Sandwiches – Yum! Dietitianmom.com

You can mix and match the above to create lots of tasty combinations! My current favorite is a sunflower seed butter sandwich with sliced banana wedges! Other ideas are a bowl of a bean-based vegetable soup with whole-wheat pasta, or some soy-based/vegan cheese slices with whole wheat crackers. Or you could have a quick bowl of calcium and iron fortified cereal with fortified almond/soy/coconut milk (and sprinkled with nuts or dried/fresh fruit on top!). Don’t forget about home-made vegetarian baked and no-bake treats which also make great snack options! Many such easy recipe ideas can be found on the internet, which don’t require fancy ingredients or a lot of time. The possibilities are really endless!

 

Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 2

 

Choose Whole-Grain Options! Dietitianmom.com

In this post, let’s look at the second step of transitioning to a whole foods, plant-based diet.

STEP #2: SWITCH TO WHOLE-GRAIN OPTIONS

This is an easy 2nd step. Right here, you can immediately make a big difference to your diet by choosing whole-grain options the next time you go grocery shopping. Examples are brown rice, whole wheat flour, bran, whole wheat tortillas, whole-grain pasta and whole-wheat breads or bread products. The increase in nutrient and fiber content in these alternatives will help to keep you fuller after meals and cause your blood glucose levels to rise less dramatically post-meals. For instance, 1 cup (85 grams in weight) of whole grain pasta contains as much as 3 times the fiber content and slightly more protein and iron than an equivalent cup of white refined pasta! Another example are bagels. A regular bagel will provide approximately 2 grams of fiber but a whole wheat bagel can provide as much as 7 grams of fiber so more than three times the amount!  If you are worried about the cost factor, there are a few ways to get around this. Buy and store up larger packages of whole grain pasta if brands carry a larger more economical packaged option, or purchase the regular sized packages at larger grocery stores where the prices tend to be lower. Another idea is to keep your eye out for discounts and sales at your local grocery store and stock up when the prices drop (but take note of expiry dates!).

A note about rice: when purchasing rice, be careful to note the country and place of origin due to the varying levels of arsenic found in rice grown in different parts of the world. To reduce one’s intake of arsenic, rice from California in the United States and India are generally among the safer options to purchase, but it is best to avoid rice grown in the southern part of the United States. There are also ways to cook the rice to reduce the arsenic content within it. A recent news article brought attention again to the arsenic content within rice and the importance of being careful of your method of cooking to reduce arsenic levels. See also my previous posts on this important subject [Arsenic & Rice (Part 1): Why this Affects You and Your Family, Arsenic & Rice (Part 2): Action Steps You Can Take Right NOW, Arsenic & Rice (Part 3): What Are Others Saying About It?, Qn of the Month: How Can I Reduce the Arsenic Content of Rice Through Cooking?].

(Source:
Common method of cooking rice can leave traces of arsenic in food, Queen’s University Belfast scientist warns. Belfast Telegraph. Published February 8, 2017. http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/health/common-method-of-cooking-rice-can-leave-traces-of-arsenic-in-food-queens-university-belfast-scientist-warns-35434905.html. Accessed February 22, 2017.)

 

Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 1

doubleveggies1

Double Up the Nutrition! – Dietitianmom.com

In my first post on this subject (see Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Introduction), I gave a simple overview of what a whole foods plant-based diet is, and some of the key steps involved in a transition to such a diet. Based on our family’s experience in this transition phase, we have found the following simple steps below helpful:

Step 1: Halve the Meat & Double the Veggies
Step 2: Switch to Whole-Grain Options
Step 3: Choose Smart Snacks
Step 4: Increase Beans & Other Legumes
Step 5: Try New Plant-Based Foods & Recipes!

In this post, let’s look at the first step.

STEP #1: HALVE THE MEAT & DOUBLE THE VEGGIES
This is an obvious initial step. But it takes some forethought. If you’ve been so used to having meat as the main entrée for every lunch and dinner, how do you really make the switch?

Well, it first takes a change in mindset. If you’ve been viewing meat as a key source of protein, you will likely be worried about what to replace it with. But be assured that in western developed countries such as America, one’s intake of protein is generally more than adequate and usually exceeds the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) protein recommendations. In general it is estimated that the average person needs only about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. So halving the meat won’t suddenly cause you to have an inadequate overall protein intake. You will likely still be getting enough on a daily basis. Also don’t forget that vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and grain products provide protein too, so you will still be getting protein from these sources. For example, one avocado provides approximately 4.6 grams of protein, a cup of chopped boiled broccoli provides about 3.7 grams of protein and a cup of cooked black beans gives 15 grams of protein!

Here’s an easy way to reduce the portion of meat used in recipes. Does the recipe call for 6 ounces of ground meat? Use 3 ounces. Another way to do this is to just increase the amount of vegetables used in the recipe, which is easy to do for meals such as stir-fries and casseroles. For instance, does the recipe call for one chicken breast and a chopped bell pepper? Simply cook two or three bell peppers with the one chicken breast, then eat it over more meals. That way, the amount of animal protein per serving is much reduced. This works well for a variety of dishes such as stir-fries, casserole/lasagna dishes, pasta sauces and soups.

Here are 5 other SUPER simple ways to cut down on the animal protein intake and increase vegetables:

Increase the ratio of vegetable dishes to meat dishes on the dinner table
One method of doing this is to ensure that there are always at least 2 veggie dishes and only one meat-based dish at lunch or dinner. Vegetable side dishes could be a salad, stir-fry, roasted vegetables side dish, steamed or roasted winter root vegetables, or even vegetable kabobs.

Reduce or replace ground meat in a recipe
I’ve found that the ground beef, chicken, turkey, pork or other meat called for in a recipe can be easily reduced (to even a quarter of the recipe!) and the dish powered up with vegetables, without losing the taste of the dish. In some cases, I’ve even substituted some of the meat I removed from the recipe with lentils or beans instead, with good results. For example, one could add veggies and reduce the ground meat or eggs in a dish (e.g., adding onions, carrots and bell peppers to a traditional scrambled egg and tomato dish).

Reduce meat to once a day
Stick to just having an animal based protein source at dinner, or just at lunch, instead of having it for every meal over the course of a day.

Reduce meat to a few times a week
Have meat at a meal a few times a week, instead of every day. Just as some have a ‘Meatless Monday’ vegetarian dinner once a week, you could aim to have an animal based protein source on certain set days of the week, making it more the exception rather than the norm. Or just go for a ‘Meat Monday’ instead!

Try a weekly vegetarian slow cooker recipe
One easy way to eat a more plant-based meal especially during busy weeknights, is to cook a big vault of a bean-based slower cooker meal once a week (to last 3-4 days). So the first part of the week you could prepare a greater variety of meals. In the latter half of the week, prepare a main entrée using the slow cooker and then serve vegetable sides to go with this main vegetarian entrée over the rest of the week, along with a grain staple like rice, couscous, quinoa, barley or whole grain pasta. By the middle of the week you’re probably already feeling drained from work and cooking anyway, so why spend more time than necessary in the kitchen? Just whip up a slow cooker meal!

Some of you must be wondering: why do I say increase the veggies and not fruit? Of course fruits should also be increased with vegetable intake. But I am focusing more on the veggies because most of us tend to eat more fruits than vegetables on a daily basis anyway. And who can blame us? Fruit is usually sweet!

Of course, if you like, you can cut down on the animal based protein more drastically immediately, but dropping halfway may be a more realistic first step. After you (and your family) are used to the reduced consumption of meat and other animal based protein, then you can slowly transition further off of animal-based protein, while increasing the proportion of other protein-rich plant-based foods such as nuts, beans and other legumes. This method will also help you use up all that meat sitting in your freezer!

Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Introduction

Ready to Transition? Dietitianmom.com

Ready to Transition? Dietitianmom.com

A New Year marks a new beginning, and the chance to try new things or make changes that had previously seemed daunting. Last Fall, I read the book ‘The China Study’ by T. Colin Campbell (The China Study) and it changed my whole perspective on health and disease. I wasn’t aware that there was so much research already done supporting a whole foods plant-based diet in reducing one’s risk for diseases like diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, and in some cases even improving the health outcomes even if a person already has these medical conditions. Apparently, the lower one’s intake of animal proteins is, the lower the risk of these negative health outcomes. Our family of four has since decided to transition to a whole foods plant-based diet. This poses some challenges when you have a 4 year old, a nearly 11 month old, and a freezer packed with meat! But we have already made some (successful) changes to our way of eating and I hope to share what we’ve learned along the way and the experiences of our journey to help those who are also thinking about making similar changes but don’t know where to start.

The main tenet of a whole foods plant-based diet is to consume primarily plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, nuts, seeds and legumes, while minimizing as much as possible animal-based proteins, excess oils as well as refined and processed foods high in fat and sugar. If you can remove all sources of animal proteins from your diet, even better! One reason behind reducing refined and processed high sugar/high fat foods from one’s diet is the tendency for these foods to take the place of more healthful nutrient dense foods that you would otherwise be consuming, so reducing your body’s intake of important nutrients, phytochemicals and minerals necessary for optimal health. A key reason for reducing excess oils in one’s diet, including vegetable oils, is so that a more desirable ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids intake can be achieved for optimal health.

It is best to go slow and make gradual changes to one’s diet. Of course you could go off meat and other animal protein products immediately cold turkey, but our family has found it more successful to make the changes gradually, as small successes empowered us to make further changes. You may find that this approach also helps your family transition more successfully to such a diet, especially if you are a busy household and don’t have much time right away to try or create completely new recipes. This method also helps you use up all that meat in the freezer anyway!

So where should you start? Successful transitioning to a plant-based diet involves five basic steps:

Step 1: Halve the Meat & Double the Veggies
Step 2: Switch to Whole-Grain Options
Step 3: Choose Smart Snacks
Step 4: Increase Beans & Other Legumes
Step 5: Try New Plant-Based Foods & Recipes!

In upcoming blog posts, I plan to touch on each of these steps in a bit more detail, and hope to also discuss a few tips for feeding children plant-based whole food diets. Stay tuned!

Arsenic & Rice (Part 3): What Are Others Saying About It?

To eat or not to eat? - Dietitianmom.com

To eat or not to eat? – Dietitianmom.com

In the 3rd part of this series, we will examine the positions and recommendations from a few other sources. First, the concern of arsenic in rice drinks is not a new one. As early as 2003, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the United Kingdom has been conducting surveys regarding levels of arsenic in rice and rice products. In February 2009, they released key results in a food survey information sheet regarding arsenic in rice drinks. It was found that arsenic was detected in all samples of rice drinks at low concentrations. Hence FSA advised against using rice milk to substitute for breast milk or for cow’s milk infant formulas for toddlers and young children who are 4.5 years of age and under. This recommendation is not only for nutritional reasons as rice milk is nutritionally inadequate compared to breastmilk or infant formula, but also to reduce arsenic exposure and intake by young children.

In November 2 014, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provided some advice regarding the use of infant rice cereal for infants and older children who need this due to special needs including dysphagia or gastroesophageal reflux. The AAP’s interim advice is that oatmeal can be used as a preferred thickener instead of rice cereal. This can be done through the use of infant oatmeal cereal. For older children, cornstarch or gum based thickeners can be suitable alternatives.

More recently, in January 2015, the European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) released some guidelines and recommendations regarding the issue of arsenic in rice. In the report, it is stated that inorganic arsenic is considered a

“first level carcinogen because long-term exposure is associated with increased risk for various carcinomas including skin, bladder, lung, kidney, liver, and prostrate. Furthermore, exposure is also associated with alterations in gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, hematological, pulmonary, neurological, immunological and reproductive/developmental function”.

Further, infants and children may be more susceptible to toxic effects, with a “higher exposure reported to be associated with increased infant morbidity and mortality and impaired development“. The ESPGHAN Committee on Nutrition caution that rice, especially rice bran, contains high levels of inorganic arsenic, and rice drinks should not be used in infants and young children. This group also encourages a wide consumption of different grains in the diet to reduce inorganic arsenic exposure from food, such as oat, barley, wheat, maize and rice.

All this serves to show that the issue of arsenic in rice is a real one, and one worth noting. There will likely be more data and guidelines out in the near future, especially from the United States Food and Drug Administration, so keep watching this topic. In the meantime, there are many action steps that you as a consumer and parent can already take for yourself and your child [see posts on Arsenic & Rice (Part 2): Action Steps You Can Take Right NOW and Qn of the Month: How Can I Reduce the Arsenic Content of Rice Through Cooking?]!

 

(Sources:
AAP Arsenic in Rice Expert Work Group. AAP group offers advice to reduce infants’ exposure to arsenic in rice. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://aapnews.aappublications.org/content/35/11/13.1.full. Accessed July 20, 2015.

Food Standards Agency. Survey of total and inorganic arsenic in rice drinks. Food Survey Information Sheet 02/09. http://tna.europarchive.org/20140306205048/http://www.food.gov.uk/science/research/surveillance/fsisbranch2009/survey0209. Accessed July 20, 2015.

Hojsak I, Braegger C, Bronsky J et al. ESPGHAN Committee on Nutrition. Arsenic in rice: a cause for concern. JPGN 2015;60: 142–145. http://www.espghan.org/fileadmin/user_upload/guidelines_pdf/Hep_Nutr/arsenic_in_rice.pdf. Accessed July 20, 2015.)