Posts Tagged ‘plant based diet’

swiss chard

I recently attended a national health conference that focused on the relationship between food and chronic disease. We’ve known for a long time that one of the most protective lifestyle choices you can make is to eat a predominately plant-based diet.  MyPlate, the latest eating guide from the USDA, recommends that half your plate be filled with fruits and vegetables.  What current research shows, though, is that the addition of leafy greens to one’s diet is particularly protective.

I have tried to be more adventuresome in my choice of greens, adding kale, oak leaf lettuce, and baby spinach to my plate the last few years. However, a new (to me anyways) favorite is Swiss chard.  My neighbor grew some last summer, and I was invited to share in her bumper crop.  I was amazed at how mild and tasty it is, and made the decision to grow some in my own garden this year.

Health Benefits

Animal studies have shown that Swiss chard has the potential to regulate blood sugar. A flavonoid in chard inhibits an enzyme that breaks down carbs, so fewer carbs get broken down and blood sugar is able to stay more level. Chard also contains a good amount of fiber and protein.  Foods high in fiber and protein stabilize blood sugar levels by slowing digestion.

Ancient Greeks and Romans prized chard for its medicinal properties. It provides vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that reduce inflammation. Inflammation increases your risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, and arthritis. Not a milk drinker? Chard is bone-protective with its high levels of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin K.  Foods rich in K help prevent osteoporosis.

Leafy Green Requirements

Every week, teens and adults should eat at least two cups of dark green leafy vegetables. Children 4-8 years old should eat one cup and children 2-3 should eat a half cup. When shopping for greens (and this includes chard), try to purchase fresh, or better yet, grow your own.


Do not wash chard until ready to eat. It should be stored in a tight plastic bag with as little air as possible. Chard can be eaten raw or cooked; it is actually a little sweeter when it is boiled and eaten warm. If you get a big crop next summer and can’t eat it all, blanch the leaves and freeze for winter enjoyment.

Written by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu


Reviewed by:  Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu





Read Full Post »

The search for the Fountain of Youth dates back to at least the fifth century BC and unfortunately everyone from Herodotus of ancient Greece to Ponce de Leon of Spain has been unsuccessful in their ventures. While there may not be a flowing spring that promises long life, the secret to longevity might be in the plants growing all around us.

Recently the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine investigated over 70,000 people and found a 12% lower risk of mortality for vegetarians. Additionally, the University of Oxford found a 32% lower risk of hospitalization and death from heart disease among herbivores in a cohort of approximately 45,000 volunteers. Other studies have illustrated lower risks of cancer, diabetes, and other chronic diseases with adherence to a plant based diet. Clearing out your freezer of all animals may not be necessary, but we could all benefit from a few more plant based meals.

“No meat?? Where do you get your protein??”
Animal flesh is the most protein dense food, but it is certainly not the only source of protein. And it’s not the cheapest either: 1 pound of black beans costs roughly $1.39 while boneless, skinless chicken breast clocks in at around $2.39/lb. The pound of beans will also yield far more than the pound of meat.

Food Protein
Beans/legumes 15 g/cup
Nuts 6 g/1 oz
Quinoa 11 g/cup
Soy milk 7 g/cup
Tofu 9 g/3oz
Seitan 18 g/3oz
Tempeh 18 g/3oz
Peanut butter 7 g/2 tbsp

Tofu, tempeh, and seitan are some of the most protein dense plant foods. They act as great meat substitutes, but also tend to frighten people who haven’t experienced them before. Tofu is essentially curdled soy milk (just like cheese, right?) while tempeh is cooked and fermented soybeans (we’ll save refuting the anti-soy argument for another blog). Wheat based seitan is created by removing all of the starch of wheat leaving only the gluten.

Tofu can be grilled, baked, or fried and used in salads, sandwiches, or stir-fries. Crumbling tempeh creates a ground meat type texture ideal for chili or Sloppy Joes. Seitan, commonly sold in cubes and strips, has a grainy texture similar to chicken or steak and is great in fajitas, stir-fries, or grilled on kabobs.

Feeling intimidated? Most likely.

But don’t be! Preparing these foods may be new, but it is no more difficult or time consuming than meat based dishes. Try this tofu lasagna, Chipotle Spiced Seitan Tacos, or my super easy Sloppy Joe recipe below in place of some meat based meals to add variety and possibly even a few years to your life!

8 oz tempeh

2 tbsp olive oil

1 green pepper, diced small

1 small onion, diced small

1 can Sloppy Joe sauce (my favorite is Manwich®)

Whole wheat buns, toasted

Break up tempeh into 4 pieces. Simmer in a pot for about 30 minutes*. While tempeh is simmering, prepare veggies. When there is 10 minutes left for the tempeh, heat 1 T of the oil over medium heat in large skillet. Add onion and pepper to skillet and sauté until softened, about 7-10 minutes. Drain tempeh and crumble into pan. Add the other 1 T of oil and sauté an additional 5 minutes, stirring frequently and breaking up chunks of tempeh. Reduce heat to low and add sauce. Stir until heated through. Serve over buns.

*This step produces a milder flavor of the tempeh, but it can be omitted if you want to save time.


  1. Orlich MJ, Singh PN, Sabaté J, Jaceldo-Siegl K, Fan J, Knutsen S, Beeson WL, Fraser GE. Vegetarian dietary patterns and mortality in Adventist health study 2JAMA Internal Medicine, 2013 DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6473.
  1. Crowe FJ, Appleby PN, Travis RC, Key TJ. Risk of hospitalization or death from ischemic heart disease among British vegetarians and nonvegetarians: results from the EPIC-Oxford cohort study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 March; 97: 604-611.

Recipes Taken from:



Written By: Susan Zies, Extension Educator, FCS, Wood County and Ryan Leone,  Program Assistant, Wood County with IGNITE: Sparking Youth to Create Healthy Communities Project

Reviewed by: Cheryl Barber Spires, R.D., L.D. Program Specialist, SNAP-Ed,OSU Extension, West Region

Read Full Post »