Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash & Tofu Salad

Healthy Recipes

Serves: 4
Prep & Cooking Time: 75mins

This recipe was adapted from: BBC Foods

Notes: This recipe contains: Vitamin A, B-Vitamins, Vitamins C & K, protein, fibre, potassium, iron, calcium and (per serving) is low in saturated fats!

This is a wonderful ‘winter salad’ recipe containing: squash, lentils and a spicy dressing to help warm you on a cold winter’s day! It’s also very versatile and easy to prepare. 

Quick Foodie Facts:

  • Lentils are a stable in many diets, particularly South Asian. They are a great, versatile and cheap source of: B-Vitamins, carbohydrate, protein, fibre, iron, potassium and are naturally low in fats! These little lovelies should be incorporated into everyone’s diet- vegan or otherwise. 
  • This is a high fibre meal that (per serving) contains approximately 3.5 servings of fruit/veggies towards your 5-A-Day! 🙂

 

Ingredients:

 

 Nutritional Content:

 

Directions:

Open and drain the tofu. Place it between two heavy chopping boards for about 30 mins to remove any excess water.

 

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Line two baking trays with some parchment paper; lightly spray it some low-fat cooking oil.

NB: We used ‘8 sprays’, but you could probably use less!

 

Wash, peel, trim the ends, de-seed and chop the squash into bite-sized pieces.

 

Place it onto one of the baking trays. Spray with some low-fat cooking oil. Sprinkle over the thyme. Place onto the top oven shelf. Roast for 40-45 mins or until tender. Remove. Allow to cool slightly.

 

Meanwhile, drain and chop the tofu into small cubes. Place it onto the other baking tray. Lightly spray it with some low-fat cooking oil. Place it onto the middle oven shelf. Bake for 30 mins or until lightly golden and slightly crisp around the edges. Remove. Allow to cool slightly.

Baked tofu 🙂

 

In the meantime, place a large, non-stick saucepan with some cold water over a medium heat. Add the lentils. Cook them according to the packet instructions. Drain. Allow to cool slightly.

NB: Ours took 25 mins to cook.

 

Meanwhile, wash and dry the rocket. Wash, trim the ends and finely slice the onion. Wash, remove the stem and dice the tomatoes. Drain off any excess oil and then finely chop the sun-dried tomatoes. Peel and dice the garlic. Wash, trim the ends, de-seed (unless you prefer dishes with a little more heat!) and then dice the chilli.

… For an extra, spicy kick-  do not remove the chilli seeds!

 

Place a small, non-stick frying pan over a high heat. Add the seeds. Lightly toast. Remove from the heat. Place into a small dish.

 

 

1. In the meantime, prepare the dressing. Place the garlic, chilli, oil, both of the vinegars, soya (or tamari) sauce and the syrup into a mixing jug. Whisk to combine.

2. Place the rocket into a large mixing or salad bowl.

3. Add the squash.

4. Add the tofu.

5. Add the lentils, onions, all of the tomatoes and the seeds. Pour over the dressing.

6. Gently toss together.

 

 

Serve warm. Transfer the salad into a large lipped plate or serving bowl and garnish with the sesame seeds.

 

Enjoy!

 

Refrigerate any leftovers in a resealable and air-tight container; consume within 3-5 days.

 

If preferred….

  • Instead of sesame seeds try some: pumpkin, chia or  flax seeds or some nuts (maybe walnut, flaked almonds or pine).
  • Swap the rocket for: spinach, swiss chard or lightly steamed kale.
  • Use some sweet potatoes instead of squash.
  • Swap the tomatoes for roasted red bell pepper.
  • If you are not vegan, swap the tofu for some low-fat cheese.

Iron: Understanding & Supporting Healthy Intakes

Diet & Weight Loss

Most of us have been told that iron, especially in the form of spinach (think Popeye!) ‘gives us muscles and makes us strong’! Although I’m sure vegetables were the last thing I was thinking about when I was five!  However, when it comes to understanding the importance of iron’s role and making sure we have a healthy intake of it- how does your knowledge and diet weigh up?!

 

 

Photo by: Kalli McCleary Flickr

Photo by: Kalli McCleary Flickr

The human body contains 2-4mg of iron (men usually and naturally have higher levels); approximately two-thirds is found in Haemoglobin (Hb).

Haemoglobin is a protein found in our red blood cells that: carry oxygen around our body, mygoglobin in our muscles and it also gives it its red colour; myogloblin accepts, stores, transports and releases oxygen.

The body uses iron to make Hb. A protein called transferrin binds to iron and transports it around the body. Without enough iron, our organs and tissues become starved for oxygen.

 

Iron-Deficiency Anemia By: Ed Uthman Flickr

Ferritin is another protein that helps store iron by binding to it; approximately 25% of our iron is stored as ferritin.

It’s found in our liver, spleen, skeletal muscles and bone marrow. Only a small amount is found in the blood, but this is an indicator of how much is stored in our bodies; low ferritin levels are indicative of iron deficiency which causes anaemia.

 

Functions Of Iron

Photo by: Barack Shacked  Flickr

Photo by: Barack Shacked Flickr

Energy Production

If iron stores are low, Hb production slows down, therefore the transport of oxygen is diminished resulting in fatigue, dizziness and lowered immunity.

 

 

Photo by: The American Yoga Academy FlickrImmunitymmunity

Immunity

Our immune system depends on it for efficient functioning; the production of new enzymes is dependent on iron, which is important when we are recovering from illness or strenuous exercise.

 

 

 

 

 

DNA. Photo by: AJC1 FlickrRequired For DNA Synthesis

Iron is required for the function of many proteins involved in cell cycle and DNA synthesis, e.g. Ribonucleotide Reductase.

Production of red blood cells; they help carry oxygen around the body.

 

 

 

Consequences of Low Iron

  • Iron deprivation can result in harmful effects, in particular to our: cardiovascular, respiratory, brain and muscle function.
  • Iron depletion occurs when iron stores are low or exhausted and further decreases can produce iron deficiency anaemia. Iron deficiency anaemia is the most common consequence of a lack of dietary iron.
  • Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world. Mclean et al 2008, showed that it affects nearly 2 billion people globally; a significant problem in the developed world affecting approximately 50% of the global population and 74% of non-pregnant women.

 

 

Why Women Are At An Increased Risk?

Photo by: Mini-DV Flickr

  • Menstruation with long and/or heavy periods.
  • Eating disorders and/or various ‘restrictive dieting regimes’.
  • Following a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle with improper instruction.
  • Consecutive pregnancies/ bleeding during deliveries.

 

 

 

All women should be given dietary information to maximise iron intake and absorption regardless of whether they are vegan/vegetarian or following a ‘typical’ balanced diet.

 

 

Groups At Risk Of Iron Inadequacy

Photo by: Howard Dickins Flickr

Photo by: Howard Dickins Flickr

  • Pregnant women
  • Infants and young children (needed for physical and mental growth)
  • Frequent blood donors
  • People with colon cancer or heart failure
  • People with G.I disorders or that have had G.I surgery
  • Vegetarians/vegans/fussy eaters

 

 

Signs And symptoms of Iron Deficiency

Photo by: Rajesh Jhawar Flickr

  •  Pica
    • Apathy
      • Dizziness
        • Depression
          • A sore tongue
            • Breathlessness
              • Exhaustion/weakness
                • Reduced endurance
                  • Unusually pale skin
                    • Frequent infections
                      • Restless leg syndrome
                        • Memory problems/difficulty focusing
                          • Brittle nails/ concave or spoon-shaped depression in the nails

 

 

Iron DRV’s (UK)

Average adult woman:

(19-50yrs) = 14.8mg/Day (inclusive of pregnant women).

*Breasting feeding could require up to an extra mg per day.

Average adult man:

(19+) = 8.7mg/day

NB: Please refer to your own country’s nutrient guidelines; quantities may vary.

Quick Facts:

  • These DRV’s take in to account that with normal iron metabolism only approximately 5-10% of dietary iron is absorbed through diet and supplements.
  • Children and adolsences having growth spurts may find their intake of iron isn’t adequate.
  • The iron in breast milk has a high bioavailability. Unfortunately not in amounts that are sufficient to meet the needs of infants older than 4 to 6 months. This is why children older than 6 months should not be exclusively breast fed.
  • On average, 1mg of iron/day is lost through faeces, sweat, urine and the exfoliation of old skin cells.
  • Women of child bearing age lose on average 20mg/month through menstruation- but this can vary.
  • Blood donors can lose approximately 200-250mg of iron with each donation.

 

 

Types Of Iron In Our diet

Photo by: Michael T nicknamemiket/ Flickr

Photo by: Michael T nicknamemiket/ Flickr

Haem:

Is iron found in ‘meat’. Its bio-availability is greater and is generally unaffected by other food components.

The bioavailability is approximately 14-18%* from mixed diets that include vitamin c and substantial amounts of meat and seafoods.

 

 

 

 

Photo by: Ric W Flickr

Photo by: Ric W Flickr

Non-Haem:

Is iron found in foods of vegetable origin or fortified foods and is the main form of dietary iron.

The bio-availability is lower and is therefore harder for your body to absorb. The bioavailability is approximately 5-12% (1).

 

 

 

 

 

Some Common Foods That Contain Iron

*Sources: 2,3,4

 Have a look and see if you can roughly calculate what your current iron intake is!

 

Factors That Can Increase & Affect Overall Iron Absorption

Photo by: Flickr

Photo by:V/ Axiomista  Flickr

  • The absorption of iron is affected by the presence of other foods in our guts, e.g.

 calcium, tannins, phenols, protein (inclusive of eggs & milk) and phytates (phytic acid) which all hinder iron absorption.

We should all avoid drinking caffeinated teas, coffee and milk around meal times, especially if we’re taking iron supplements.

 

 

 

Photo by: Julia Khusainova Flickr

  • Vitamin and iron are best friends! Vitamin C helps to increase of the absorption is iron, particularly non-haem, e.g. drink a glass of orange juice with your morning porridge!

 

 

 Our Diets & ‘Supplementation’ For Health And Well-Being

  • Purchasing cookbooks can help inspire new ideas to make sure you keep your meals nutritious, varied and ‘iron rich’. 🙂
  • Some studies have shown, including this article (found in the Journal of Food Science), that cooking in cast iron pots/pans can possibly increase the amount of iron in your food, especially when cooking high-acids foods, e.g. applesauce or tomato-based recipes. Apparently the greater the acidity of the food and the longer you cook it= the more iron that is transferred into the food; it’s a nice thought, but this would be hard for us to measure!
  • If you are embarking on a vegetarian or vegan diet, it’s a good idea to talk to your GP, a dietitian or a recognised nutritionist to make sure you have all the facts & avoid ill health. If you do suffer from, e.g. ‘heavy’ periods, an underlying G.I problem, or have a limited budget, it might also be a good idea to speak to a health professional about possible supplementation to lower your risk of iron deficiency anaemia.
  • If you are diagnosed with iron deficiency anaemia, your GP might prescribe iron supplementation or iron therapy; even an oral contraceptive pill to decrease menstrual blood loss during periods.

We should consult with our health care provider before taking loads of extra supplementation, especially if you are taking prescribed medications, regardless of whether it’s iron or, e.g. vitamin A, zinc or calcium. Firstly, to make sure we are going to do ourselves any harm, e.g. unsupervised use of iron supplements can reduce the absorption of other essential nutrients (such as zinc and calcium) and secondly they can recommend the ones with the most bio-availability and that may cause the least amount of gastrointestinal effects etc.

Unfortunately, taking mineral supplements, especially iron can cause undesirable side effects…

 

Possible Side effects of iron supplementation:
  • constipation
  • nausea
  • sickness
  • diarrhoea
  • heartburn
  • tummy ache

These types of side effects can make compliance poor and will have knock-on effects on your well-being.

 

So having read my article, hopefully you are just a few informed choices away from improving your health….

…As everyone has a responsibility to themselves to source and eat a healthy diet, regardless of their food likes and dislikes…

…Because it’s all too easy to just assume that we are getting enough iron, but the reality is that it’s all too easy to not get enough!

 

Article written by: Lynn Risby BSc Nutritionist
Feature image by: Miserablespice Flickr

 

Sources:
1. Am J Clin Nutr May 2010 vol. 91 no. 5 1461S-1467S
2. USDA Database
3.Foods Standards Agency (2002) McCance and Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods, Sixth summary edition. Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemisty
4.Foods Standards Agency (2002) Food Portion Sizes, 3rd Revised edition edition. London:TSO

BBC Headline: Ready Meals May Count Towards Five A Day

Review Of News Articles

This article came out this week regarding new considerations of what the ‘5-A-Day’ logo could entail.

…“Currently the five-a-day logo can be used only on food or drink that is 100% fruit or vegetable.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think including ‘ready meals’ in the Five-A-Day ‘branding’s’ could be sending the wrong message??

 

They noted:

…”Products would have to meet agreed standards on fat, sugar and salt.”

……but some of these ‘ready meals’ are not ‘great’; not just with their added sugar, fat and salt contents. A ‘token’ amount of peas, tomatoes or beans doesn’t go far into your 5-A-Day total.  These ‘ready meals’ should contain healthier levels of sugar, fat and salt anyways and they should emphasize that serving them with ADDITIONAL vegetables will help people meet healthy eating guidance! Vegetables provide us with a lot more vitamins and minerals than fruit do and therefore go a long way into preventing chronic diseases…. So we should be encouraging more people to cook from scratch, using a vary of vegetables, legumes and pulses…

 

It feels like the government has given up on the obesity problem slightly… because the masses complain about a ‘nannying state’ and portray that the current 5-A-Day structure and physical activity guidance is unrealistic … so they are ‘watering down’ the criteria of what may or may not be healthy.

…“Now government nutritionists are meeting with academics and food industry experts to decide if rules on the five-a-day logo scheme can be relaxed to include healthy foods that are currently excluded.”

If they do include ‘ready meals’, should the quantity of fruit of vegetables be increased too? Maybe 7-A-Day? How many fruits and vegetables do you currently eat/day?

 

As it stands:

…“Fewer than one in three adults and one in 10 children in the UK eat the recommended five portions a day.”

They should be reviewing the situation… and ask themselves why people are not currently making these recommendations… not ‘lowering the standards’ necessary…

It’s pretty obvious that more provisions should be made into providing: food education, healthy living and eating advice and cheaper staple foods (as food poverty has been shown to affect so many in the UK)…we shouldn’t try and make people feel good about their bad habits, laziness or lack of will power …by condoning processed foods and/or ‘ready meals’ as a ‘healthier choice’.

Cooking methods and the quality of the ingredients used in meals are really the deciding factors as to what is considered healthy anyways….and if we are just relying on ‘zapping’ our meals (regardless of how many vegetables it contains)…how many nutrients will it provide us with?

 

…“No decision has yet been made on what foods would make the grade – but about 350 categories of foods are being looked at, including pizza, vegetable lasagne, soup, and low fat baked beans.”

What’s next then…should we consider condiments and ‘fruit cakes’ too…

Ultimately, if the guidance changes, the general tone of ‘ready meals’ could be a healthier one….and until we know the full criteria for the new guidance, its hard to give it a full thumbs up or a thumbs down.

 

Where do we draw the line with solid healthy eating advice or what foods are considered healthy? What are your thoughts?

 

Written by: Lynn Risby BSc Nutritionist
Feature image: Courtesy of the BBC website (original article)