U.S. Company Launched New Plant-based Comfort Food

Most alt-protein companies start out by making the basics, like burgers and nuggets. But US-based Prime Roots has taken a different approach, aiming to make plant-based comfort foods that aren’t widely available.

The company uses a Japanese fungus called koji to make its meat alternatives. In a 2019 interview with vegconomist, co-founder Kimberlie Le said the company could use it to make “pretty much any plant-based meat or seafood product”.

As Prime Roots releases another new product line, we take a look at the highlights of its portfolio so far.

Mac and Cheese

The latest addition to Prime Roots’ range is a selection of four plant-based, gluten-free flavours of mac and cheese. The new flavours are Lobster, Buffalo Chicken, Bacon & Green Chile, and Bacon.

Lobster Ravioli

While plant-based beef and chicken are relatively easy to come by, plant-based lobster is not — so it’s no surprise that Prime Roots’ lobster ravioli is a bestseller. When it launched, the company claimed it was the first vegan lobster ravioli in the world.

The company now offers a whole range of ravioli. The other flavours are Bacon & Butternut Squash, Chicken & Truffle, Chicken, Pesto, & Sundried Tomato, and Sausage.

Flavoured Koji Bacon

When Prime Roots first launched its vegan bacon made with koji, it sold out almost immediately. The company followed up by launching several flavoured varieties — Black Pepper, Maple, Sriacha, and Hickory.

Chicken Florentine

Last October, Prime Roots unveiled a new range of ready meals made with koji meat alternatives. Among them was the Chicken Florentine, featuring a creamy garlicky sauce, “chicken” pieces, and spinach.

Beef Thai Lemongrass Larb

The company’s ready meal range also features this plant-based version of a traditional Thai dish. It contains koji “beef” crumbles, fresh vegetables, and spices like lemongrass, mint, and ginger, all on a bed of brown rice.

Source: Vegconomist

Regular Physical Activity Linked to Better Organized Preteen Brains

Regular physical activity has positive effects on children’s developing brain circuits, finds a Boston Children’s Hospital study using neuroimaging data from nearly 6,000 early adolescents. Physical activity of any kind was associated with more efficiently organized, flexible, and robust brain networks, the researchers found. The more physical activity, the more “fit” the brain.

Findings were published in Cerebral Cortex.

“It didn’t matter what kind of physical activity children were involved in – it only mattered that they were active,” says Caterina Stamoulis, PhD, principal investigator on the study and director of the Computational Neuroscience Laboratory at Boston Children’s. “Being active multiple times per week for at least 60 minutes had a widespread positive effect on brain circuitry.”

Specifically, Stamoulis and her trainees, Skylar Brooks and Sean Parks, found positive effects on circuits in multiple brain areas. These circuits play a fundamental role in cognitive function and support attention, sensory processing, motor function, memory, decision-making, and executive control. Regular physical activity also partially offset the effects of unhealthy body mass index (BMI), which was associated with detrimental effects on the same brain circuitry.

Harnessing big data

With support from the National Science Foundation’s Harnessing the Data Revolution and BRAIN Initiative, the researchers tapped data from the long-term, NIH-sponsored Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. They analyzed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from 5,955 9- and 10-year-olds and crunched these data against data on physical activity and BMI, using advanced computational techniques developed in collaboration with the Harvard Medical School High Performance Computing Cluster.

“Early adolescence is a very important time in brain development,” notes Stamoulis. “It’s associated with a lot of changes in the brain’s functional circuits, particularly those supporting higher-level processes like decision-making and executive control. Abnormal changes in these areas can lead to risk behaviors and deficits in cognitive function that can follow people throughout their lifetime.”

Gauging functional brain organization

The functional MRI data were captured in the resting state, when the children were not performing any explicit cognitive task. This allows analysis of the “connectome” — the architecture of brain connections that determines how efficiently the brain functions and how readily it can adapt to changes in the environment, independently of specific tasks.

The team adjusted the data for age, gestational age at birth, puberty status, sex, race, and family income. Physical activity and sports involvement measures were based on youth and parent surveys collected by the ABCD study.

The analysis found that physical activity was associated with positive brain-wide network properties reflecting the connectome’s efficiency, robustness, and clustering into communities of brain regions. These same properties were detrimentally affected by high BMI. Physical activity also had a positive effect on local organization of the brain; unhealthy BMI had adverse impacts in some of the same areas.

“Based on our results, we think physical activity affects brain organization directly, but also indirectly by reducing BMI, therefore mitigating its negative effects,” Stamoulis says.

Optimal functional brain structure consists of small regions or “nodes” that are well connected internally and send information to other parts of the brain through strong, but relatively few, long-range connections, Stamoulis explains.

“This organization optimizes the efficiency of information processing and transmission, which is still developing in adolescence and can be altered by a number of risk factors,” she says. “Our results suggest that physical activity has a protective effect on this optimization process across brain regions.”

Source: EurekAlert!

What’s for Lunch?

Vegetarian Set Lunch at VegeCafe Lotus in Toyohashi, Japan

The main dish is Veggie Spanish Omelet.

Are Plant Milks Good for You?

Rachel Meltzer Warren wrote . . . . . . . . .

Sales of nondairy milks are up 61 percent since 2012, according to a 2018 report from market research firm Mintel. A 2018 Consumer Reports nationally representative survey of 1,003 U.S. adults found that in the previous year, about a third of people consumed what are now commonly referred to as “plant milks” in place of cow’s milk. And 18 percent of Americans said they buy cow’s milk and plant milk equally.

“The biggest reason my patients choose nondairy milk is that they don’t tolerate dairy, or want to avoid animal products,” says Lauri Wright, Ph.D., chair of the department of nutrition and dietetics at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. But the trend reaches beyond the lactose-intolerant and vegan crowds. More than half of plant-milk buyers in CR’s survey said they think it’s healthier than cow’s milk.

And yet “many people are confused about plant milks’ nutritional profile,” says Ellen Klosz, M.S., a CR nutritionist. So our food testing team evaluated 35 plant milks—almond, coconut, oat, and soy—for nutrition and taste.

Not Purely Plant Parts

Our nutrition rating for plant milks factors in protein. Cow’s milk is naturally rich in that nutrient, as well as calcium, potassium, and several B vitamins, and is typically fortified with vitamins A and D. We rated plant milks according to how they stacked up against cow’s milk for these vitamins and minerals, but we didn’t include that rating in the Overall Score.

The results? Few of the drinks we tested match cow’s milk for nutrition. “Dairy products, including milk, supply the bulk of the calcium people get in their diets, and when you replace it with plant milk, you may be missing out,” Klosz says.

We also gave higher nutrition marks to products that didn’t contain certain added ingredients. Chief among them: added sugars. Plain cow’s milk naturally contains lactose, a type of sugar, but no added sugars. Plant milks with “original” or “plain” in their names often contain added sugars, as do flavored milks, so look for “unsweetened” on the label.

Other ingredients of concern are tricalcium phosphate and disodium phosphate, which add calcium and phosphorous to the milk or act as a stabilizer to help keep ingredients from separating. A high intake of these additives may increase the risk of kidney disease, heart disease, and bone loss, especially when calcium is low.

On the positive side, only one product in our tests (Almond Dream Almond Drink Unsweetened Original) contains carrageenan, a seaweed extract used in certain plant milks as a stabilizer or thickener. Carrageenan may trigger inflammation in people who suffer from colitis or other inflammatory bowel disorders. Some report relief when they cut products containing carrageenan out of their diets.

However, many of the nondairy milks we examined use other gums as stabilizers. These can be chemically processed, and in large doses some may cause abdominal discomfort.

Do They Help the Planet?

Not being nutritionally identical to cow’s milk doesn’t mean plant-based milks are a bad choice, provided you opt for those with the best nutritional profile and the fewest additives. And they can be healthier for the planet—something half of plant-milk buyers in our survey gave as a reason for their purchase—although drawing firm conclusions from studies can be challenging. Soy milk and oat milk may use less water and produce fewer greenhouse gases than dairy milk. Almond milk, though, had a higher water-usage footprint than soy or cow’s milk, a University of Wisconsin-Madison study found. No matter which type of plant milk you buy, choosing organic will reduce the environmental impact that results from pesticide use.

Source: Consumer Reports

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Ingredients

3-4 carrots, thinly sliced
1 tsp agave syrup
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 tsp ground cumin, or to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tbsp red wine vinegar or fruit vinegar, such as raspberry
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves or a mixture of coriander and parsley
salt and ground black pepper

Method

  1. Cook the carrots by either steaming or boiling in lightly salted water until they are just tender but not soft. Drain, leave for a few moments to dry, then put in a large bowl.
  2. Add the agave syrup, garlic, cumin, lemon juice, olive oil and vinegar and toss together until all the carrots are evenly coated.
  3. Add the herbs and season. Serve warm or chilled.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Source: The Ultimate Book of Vegan Cooking


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