Three Sisters Bowl
1 C cooked squash, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 C corn, fresh, frozen, or canned
1- ½ C cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
½ tsp. ground cumin (to taste)
Salt to taste
2 C greens
1 C salsa or Pico de Gallo
Avocado cut into slices
Fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
Vegan sour cream (optional)
Cook the squash and corn. Combine beans and cumin; warm over low heat.
Line the bowls with the greens. Divide the squash, corn, and beans equally among them. Top with salsa or Pico de Gallo. Add desired garnishes and serve.
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Cause to celebrate -- National Nutrition Month in March and Earth Day in April
March is National Nutrition Month, an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to invite people to learn about making informed food choices and developing healthful lifestyle habits. Earth Day is celebrated on April 22, with events planned throughout the weeks leading up to that day. The 2021 theme is “Restore Our Earth.” Because healthful eating is not only good for people but the planet as well, these celebrations are very much intertwined. May they both motivate us to adopt beneficial earth-related lifestyle choices.
Adopt a planet-friendly diet—to improve our health, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that threaten all life on Earth, and alleviate the suffering of animals.
Reduce waste—both by purchasing only the food items that will actually be consumed and avoiding items that are packaged in plastic or other non-recyclable, non-biodegradable materials.
Eat local—plant a garden or rent a garden plot, purchase locally grown foods at grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and CSAs (community supported agriculture).
Patronize restaurants--where plant-based menu items are prepared with ingredients that are locally sourced and in-season whenever possible.
Adopting a planet-friendly diet improves people’s health by optimizing functions of the human body. All the human body’s nutrient requirements can be met by plants— carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. Speaking of protein, while there is a Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for this nutrient, it does not refer specifically to animal protein. All plants contain protein (amino acids) and consuming a wide variety of whole foods can provide all that is required for normal physiological functions. Humans do not need to eat animals and they are healthier if they do not. Research continually shows that people who consume only plants have a significantly reduced incidence of a multitude of health issues--heart disease, diabetes, cancer, gastrointestinal distress, auto-immune disorders, and chronic pain, to name a few. Providing the human body’s 30 trillion cells and 11 organ systems with plant nutrients will promote optimum health and extend the lifespan. The message is simple: Eat only plants.
Raising animals for meat is a main driver of global warming, particularly because they emit carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane gases. Ruminant animals (beef, dairy, bison, sheep, and goats) are the main emitters of methane through the digestive process, specifically belching and flatulence. These emissions are particularly problematic because methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Animals excrete hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, which is an issue with land and water pollution.
With over 77 billion animals slaughtered for food each year, the obvious action to address greenhouse gas emissions and soil and water pollution is to markedly reduce the number of these animals on the planet. This will require a significant decrease in the consumption of animal and their byproducts (this includes dairy and eggs).
Joseph Poore, DPhil, Environmental Science, University of Oxford, UK, states, “Today’s food chain creates approximately 13.7B metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2eq) and 26% of anthropogenic [human made] GHG emissions. The farm stage represents 61% of food’s GHG emissions (81% when including deforestation), 79% of acidification, and 95% of eutrophication.” [Eutrophication refers to the excessive nutrients in a body of water, usually caused by runoff related to animal waste and fertilizers, which is toxic to aquatic life.]
Most farm animals raised for food are confined in CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), including 70.4% of cows, 98.3% of pigs, 98.2% of egg laying hens and 99.8% of chickens and turkeys (2017 USDA Census of Agriculture). These animals are crowded into buildings where they barely have enough space to turn around, let alone to engage in their most basic instincts (territory marking and defense, hunting and foraging, mating, nest and den building, and the protection of newborn and their young). These sentient animals have been reduced to “food units” in order to minimize or ignore their intelligence and the fact that they have some of the same emotional and physiological responses as their human counterparts, such as contentment, affection, fear, and pain.
Reduce food waste. Animals are not the only source of methane. Rotting food also produces this gas, which is why it is important to buy only the foods that will be consumed and to compost any components that are indigestible. For the latter, invest in a compost bin for use with your home gardens, collect them in a composting bucket for the city to pick up, or contract with a local composting service.
Before purchasing any food item, ask these questions: “Will this promote the health of my family and the planet? Does it look like it was once attached to the earth? From where does it come? Is it enclosed in plastic wrap or packaged on a Styrofoam or plastic tray? Is there a better option?” And of course, take your own reusable grocery and produce bags with you to the store (or ask for paper bags and decline plastic).
Eat local. Vital nutrients are best found in fresh, organic food grown close to your home--ideally outside your own back door. No space for a garden? Grow vegetables in patio pots. If you need more space, rent a city garden plot. No inclination to garden? Farmers’ markets are available most days of the week from spring though autumn, and grocery stores sell locally grown produce. Another option is to purchase a membership in a CSA where farmers deliver fresh products to your home. A Google search will give the locations of local farmers’ markets and CSAs.
Patronize local restaurants. It is also desirable to support local restauranteurs who feature plant foods on their menus that are prepared with locally grown ingredient. When dining in a restaurant or ordering takeout, proactively ask what plant-exclusive items are available. This informs the restaurant managers there is a market for these types of foods, and this encourages them to expand their menus to include more plant-based options. When paying for your meal, leave a thank you note to let the staff know you chose their restaurant because they offer these options. Is there a vegan restaurant in this area? Yes, the Trumpet Blossom Cafe in Iowa City owned by chef extraordinaire Katy Myer. Every dish she prepares is delicious, wholesome, beautiful, and nurturing.
Dr. Poore sums up the challenges of climate change by stating, “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use.” We as individuals need to take every action we can to prevent a looming climate catastrophe, and a grass roots way to do this is by making a commitment to eating only plant foods to support the health of the magnificent planet upon which we live. Let our actions show that we want to be part of the solution rather than contributing to the problem.
If you care about your health--be a vegan. If you want this planet to be habitable for future generations--be a vegan. If you believe the world is enhanced by the presence of animals and that they should be cherished and treated respectfully--be a vegan. Experience the gratification of knowing that you are living your values of optimal health, compassion for all living beings, and preservation of planet Earth.