Natural Foods Guides

Natural Sweeteners: A Brief Guide

While the detrimental effects of white sugar are still being debated, there’s little doubt that Americans consume far too much of it. But most of us would be loath to giving up sweets altogether, no matter how bad the news. While most natural sweeteners aren’t nutritional bell ringers, they are generally thought to produce less of a shock to the body’s blood sugar level and metabolism than do simple sugars. Here’s a brief guide to using and enjoying these kinder, gentler sweeteners. more→

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Getting to Know Pepper

Peppercorn varieties

Like grapes, black pepper grows on perennial vines. But pepper vines soar to a height of 30 feet or more—you can see them trellising swaying palm trees in the state of Kerala on India’s Malabar coast, where black pepper is big business and pepper vines are everywhere. Excerpted from Healing Spices* by Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD, Sterling Publishing, 2011. See VegKitchen’s review of Healing Spices.

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Coconut Oil as Part of Healthy Plant-Based Diets

Coconuts And Organic Coconut Oil

Much of the research on the relationship of saturated fats and heart disease points to the possibility that saturated fats and cholesterol in animal products may play more of a role in causing health problems than saturated fats in plant foods. However, as researchers uncover more information on the role of nutrition in health, it often becomes less clear why various foods cause or prevent disease. Heredity plays a key role in shaping our biology and to what degree each of us is susceptible to certain health problems. more→

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Soy Sauce, Shoyu, and Tamari

Until the 1960s, the only type of soy sauce available in this country was the mass-produced, commercial variety. In the mid-1960s, George Ohsawa, father of the macrobiotic diet, introduced the natural, Japanese product to North America. This is what is commonly found in natural foods stores, inaccurately labeled tamari. What we buy as tamari (or in some instances labeled shoyu-tamari) is actually what is known in Japan as shoyu. Tamari in Japan is a by-product of miso and is a thicker, stronger tasting sauce. True tamari is rare in this country, so when you buy a product labeled tamari, chances are very good that you are really buying shoyu, or natural soy sauce. more→

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Miso: What It Is and How to Use It

Miso soup

A ubiquitous staple in Japanese and Chinese cookery, miso, or fermented soybean paste, is a powerhouse of concentrated flavor and nutrition. Three types of miso are commonly available in the Western natural-food market: soybean miso, rice miso, and barley miso (rice and barley misos actually combine soybeans with the grain). Within each category of miso exists a range of earthy hues and subtle flavor variations, all more or less in the realm of a pungent saltiness. The texture resembles that of peanut butter. Miso is best known as the base for simple, broth-type soups, although it is equally useful as a basis for sauces, dressings, and dips. more→

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Common Culinary Herbs and Spices

Spice jars with various spices

As the popularity of healthy, ethnic cooking home grows, our spice rack should expand to accommodate the seasonings give vegan dishes their unique characters. Volumes can be written on the healing aspect of herbs (in fact see our review of the terrific book, Healing Spices), the focus here is culinary. This section will give a brief overview of those seasonings most commonly used to flavor global whole food recipes. more→

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Ginger: Fresh and Flavorful

Ginger - fresh and powdered

In recent years, this knobby root has made its way from being a specialty item in Oriental groceries to becoming a fixture in supermarkets and produce stands. Its fresh, biting, and slightly sweet flavor and aroma are essential to many Asian cuisines, and it is one of the most characteristic flavorings in Indian cookery. In its powdered-spice form it is useful for baking, but aficionados agree that dried ginger should not be used when fresh is called for. more→

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Carob: Not Quite Chocolate, But Still Good!

This naturally sweet powder is ground from the pods of the evergreen carob tree. In the past, carob was once known as locust bean or Saint-John’s-Bread. Saint John the Baptist is said to have survived in the wilderness by eating carob pods and wild honey. Carob is most commonly used as a substitute for cocoa due to the similarity of color, texture, and cooking properties. Does it really taste like chocolate? Opinions vary, but it’s hard to deny that it is at least similar. more→

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