Rosie’s Salad
April 11, 2011

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Evening, friends!

I just finished the last of my midterms, which means I have only two exams to go before this long semester is officially done. Not sure how well I did—this professor is prone to trick questions—but I certainly feel better about the material (nuclear chemistry and bonding) than I did about stochiometry and solutions. Phew!

Since I was cramming all day and all last night, it’s only in the last few hours that I was able to read and process all of the awesome comments on yesterday’s quinoa protein bowl post—if you haven’t read them yet, go read them now! There was lots of fascinating discussion. A few follow up points:

  • A couple of you seem to have gotten worried about the amount of protein you’re eating now, because it’s a little lower than the guidelines I suggested. Before you fret, remember this: part of the reason I rarely give meal plans or guidelines out on my blog is because it’s very hard to make recommendations that suit everyone. If you’re eating 30-40 grams of protein and feel like a million bucks, then you may be a person who thrives on precisely that amount. The 45-65 range is a useful guideline, but as the comments on my post indicated, there are all sorts of exceptions: professional athletes may need quite a bit more to recover and perform well, but some don’t. Some people find that protein is crucial to satiety; I, for one, never have. There are very few hard and fast rules, and your own feelings of good health (or the lack thereof) are ultimately the best indication of how well your current diet works for you.
  • These guidelines aren’t meant to be taken literally. If you get about 50 grams of protein on most days, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting more or less once in a while. Our bodies ask us to be mindful of their needs in a broad way, but they’re perfectly capable of handing the odd day or two of eating. You’re not going to fall down and wither if you happen to get 25 grams of protein tomorrow. Likewise, you won’t turn into a muscleman or woman if you eat 80. It’s patterns that matter, not exceptions.
  • Some of you who asked what the symptoms of inadequate protein intake are. Keep in mind that actual protein deficiency is very very rare in countries that rest above the poverty line. Muscle wasting and protein deficiency are routinely documented around the globe, but almost always in conjunction with actual starvation; lack of protein in these scenarios is part of a larger battle against hunger. So our tendency to be protein-obsessed here in America is truly unnecessary, and even a little silly; it certainly gives credence to the idea that meat and dairy behemoths are at least partly responsible for making us worry about our protein so much. With that said, there is such a thing as skimping on protein, and there are a few physical symptoms of it. They include muscle loss, fatigue, muscle cramping, cold extremities, and hair loss. Please take tremendous caution in considering these symptoms, because they’re also symptoms of other, more common conditions, and protein may or may not be related. You’ll have to do quite a bit of health exploration to know what the cause is, so don’t draw any hasty conclusions. As always, talk to your health care provider if something’s worrying you.

OK, enough protein talk. Let’s get to today’s real topic: salad. Last Thursday night, I headed out to Greenpoint for dinner with my friend Rose. This was a big deal for several reasons:

  1. I’m one of those terrible Manhattanites who rarely gets to out to Brooklyn, and I do it even less now that I’m a student on the UWS
  2. Forget Brooklyn: I rarely go out anymore at all (again, I blame student life).
  3. Rose is just as much of a scholar as I am, in temperament if not in fact, so we don’t often get to hang out. Not cool.

For all of these reasons, dinner with Rose felt like a big treat, and I spent the whole week looking forward to it. In the end, it was even better than I’d hoped it would be, starting with this spectacular view as I crossed the bridge:

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Oh how I love this beautiful city.

Rose had promised me a simple repast of hummus and a giant salad. She made good on this promise; when I arrived, I was greeted by a cutting board and a table of fresh produce.

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Rose asked me to give her a hand with the prep, and I was glad to. But not until I quizzed her on the salad ingredients. They are:

  • Greens
  • Bell peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Organic button mushrooms
  • Mint
  • Basil

In no time at all, we were chopping and chatting away.

Rose and I have known each other for six years: we met as young editorial assistants at FSG, all of twenty-two years old. Our friendship had one of those peculiar beginnings wherein we couldn’t really decide whether or not we actually liked each other: we had plenty in common (mutual acquaintances, a love of books, similar jobs, similar taste in fashion, overlapping senses of humor) but our superficial differences seemed to outweigh our common interests, at least for a little while (Rose is a California gal, and I’m NYC to the core; Rose wore flat boots, and I was going through a pointy boot phase; Rose is generally low-key, whereas I tend to be more high-strung).

It’s a good thing that we continued to get to know each other. Today, Rose is one of my dearest friends, and our friendship is one of my sweetest. We admire each other, we console each other, we’re affectionate and expressive with each other, and we always (always) understand each other. No lunch or dinner with Rosie can ever last less than three or four hours, and no time is ever lost in the periods in between.

But the nicest thing about my friendship with Rose is that we never stand on ceremony with each other. Our friendship is relaxed, honest, and plainspoken. For this reason, our salad feast felt apropos. It was a simple dinner, made without fuss or pretention. I was happy that we could throw a quick meal together and enjoy it, rather than waste time and money on dinner reservations or needless cooking. As usual, we were craving the same things: light, bright, fresh food, served up over good conversation.

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Today, without my friend, I made the Rosie salad again. Here it is, in single person portions:

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The Rosie Salad (Vegan, raw, gluten and soy free)

Serves 1 (Double if you eat with a friend)

1 bag or box mesclun greens or baby spinach
1 bell pepper (yellow and red), chopped
1 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 pack organic button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup basil, washed and chopped
1/3 cup mint, washed and chopped

Balsamic vinaigrette:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients together, dress, and toss again.

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Just to keep things authentic to Thursday’s meal, I once again paired it with some hummus–made from scratch and still warm–on some sprouted bread:

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It’s no fun to eat Rosie’s salad without her, but it is lovely to be reminded of our friendship through food. Lovely, and tasty.

Hope you all give this combination a try soon, and when you do, don’t thank me: thank Rose!

xo

Categories: Salads

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    26 Comments
  1. Gena,
    You always have such great information to offer! My co-workers are often asking me what I eat and they all seem a bit incredulous that I could get adequate nutrition from plant-based foods… I will be referring them to your post when they wonder about protein intake! Thanks again-

  2. Aaah greenpoint <3. I just came home from a nine day NYC trip (first time in the US ever). V e r y exciting, but frankly I don't understand how you manage it on Manhattan. Brooklyn, Williamsburg were my kind of places, much more comfy. I guess I am not a big city girl 🙂 Now I am home and happy in Oslo and that looks like a perfect salad to celebrate that there's no place like home.

    Ps and I love the view of Manhattan photo too. I sat on the very same spot a few days before you took that photo. Beatuiful

  3. Just reading about your classes makes my brain hurt. I wasn’t too ambitious with my science credits and college. Plants in human affairs, geography 1000 and Earthquakes and Volcanoes, best class ever. Good luck on finishing up the semester!

  4. Thanks for sharing the beautiful juxtaposition of friendship and food, and showing that the food doesn’t have to be expensive and meat-ridden to anchor such good convivial times!

  5. Thanks for the great post and follow up on protein. I recently read ‘The China Study’ and was surprised by how far off track North American protein recommendations likely are. Though, I guess I shouldn’t have been since going veg made me feel better not worse.

    As always, a lovely, insightful discussion of a topic many don’t like to discuss due to common disagreements etc.

  6. What a beautiful salad. I’ve never really liked salad, but the more beautiful salads I see on people’s blogs, the more I think that I should maybe change my mind. Thanks for pointing out that protein deficiency is very rare in affluent countries. That’s almost always the reaction I get when someone finds out that I’m vegan: “But where do you get your protein?”

  7. This reminds me of when I arrived at a friend’s place in Antwerp after having been travelling by myself for three months, and how much it meant to me that she had a plethora of simple vegetables awaiting me. Sometimes, having a friend who knows exactly what you need is the best thing in the world 🙂

  8. sounds like a great meal catching up with an old friend 🙂

    definitely agree with your point that protein intake requirements vary amongst individuals especially with different activity level and health status.

    thanks for sharing such important information as always! 🙂

  9. Again, Gena, thank you so much for the protein post, and for following up on many important discussion points. I tend to get anxious if I don’t get the certain requirement every day, but like you said, it’s okay to go under and over over a few days-our bodies are after all smarter than we give them credit for!

  10. Hey Gena!

    Regarding protein, as noted above in our country these days (depending on where you practice) excess tends to be commoner than deficiency. My hospital is an inner-city/urban safety net hospital and we see a lot of substance abuse. These people generally have low protein secondary to liver disease and malnutrition (can’t really keep down too much food or even remember to eat if you are drinking/using drugs all day). The general population would NOT NOT NOT be in protein deficit. I dont eat that much protein (actually im probably pretty bad about this…i really eat very little protein now that I think about it). Even anorexics having real protein abnormalities is rare. Low protein basically causes intravascular volume depletion (low blood volume) and ascites (fluid in the abdomen). You can see this in the malnourished children in impoverished areas—note their large bellies. That is fluid that collected in the abdomen because of hydrodynamic forces that basically pushed it out of the bloodstream (free bio lesson!!). We dont see that much here with the exception of cancer patients and people with cirrhosis. Excess is more common, however protein excess takes the form of a) weight gain (protein is converted mostly into fat stores) and b) kidney lab bumps. When protein is broken down for storage, some byproducts are nitrogenous wastes. High protein intake will raise BUN. Otherwise no major changes besides weight gain.
    Yay medicine!
    I think thats enough science for this evening 🙂

    • GREAT comment! I thought it was super important to mention the fact that protein deficiency is nearly unheard of; marasmus and kwashiorkor, as you say, are simply not a part of the fabric of our most urgent health concerns here in the US. Also love the bio lesson!

      That said: I’ve found that it’s much better to give people protein guidelines and protein rich recipes than to tell them not to worry. Because the protein myth, if you want to call it that, is deeply ingrained in all of our consciousnesses, and exerts a powerful influence. If over-thinking actually pushes people toward feeling secure in a vegan diet, I’m happy to parrot what I learned in my nutrition classes at Hunter! I hope readers read your comment and listen, because certainly excess is more relevant than deficiency, but I also hope that having a sense of structure makes them less prone to worry.

      • Thanks! Sort of timely since I’m on internal medicine right now and incidentally all the patients I keep admitting are alcoholics with end stage liver disease. So Starling forces and I are really best friends right now! It’s unfortunate most Americans dont know the way these systems in our body work–they’d understand that the chances of being out of protein whack are slim/none unless one is a) a cancer patient or b) in end-stage liver disease. Eat your protein! Or don’t! It’s totally fine! But dont eat toooooo much because all that nitrogen does a number on your kidneys 🙂

        • Thanks for that info Nicole, it’s really interesting. I am TAing for a class on eating disorders and we had a guest lecture from an RD last week. She did mention seeing protein deficiency frequently in anorexia- edema, increased rates of infection, decrease in organ size, and tissue breakdown. However that’s obviously with severe caloric restriction. What seems more likely to me to affect the rest of us- maybe you can discuss- is interactions with blood sugar and weight storage. For example, the ratio of protein to sugars is crucial for my diabetic mom in regulating her blood sugar, and my ND persuaded me to add good protein sources to my breakfast. At the time I had been making pure veg/fruit juices or smoothies, and she said that without protein my blood sugar would be thrown out of whack, sugar would be stored as fat, and my hormones would also be dysregulated (we were working on my hormonal balance). So from what I know, total protein needs may be overstated or less critical, but a regular intake of protein and ration of protein to other nutrients seems important? I know that my satiety, personally, definitely depends on protein, probably more than anything else.

          • I agree that protein deficiency (or at least early signs) can be spotted in anorexics. Indeed, I had those symptoms myself, though Nicole would know better than me if it was legit deficiency or just an accumulation of other things (edema from electrolyte imbalance, muscle wasting from other sorts of nutrient deprivation, etc.).

            Ultimately, this post isn’t really supposed to address clinical protein deficiency; the goal is to talk about how much protein we need to feel good. Satiety, Laura, is a big part of that: some people don’t feel full without protein. And I think there’s plenty to be said for slowing absorption of sugar with protein and fat. Certainly some athletes attribute proper protein consumption to performance. So I’d say that, while it’s immensely difficult for any normal person to actual develop a protein deficiency, it’s not uncommon for people to feel consequences — no matter how small — if they don’t pay any attention to it.

  11. Gina-great blog,as usual! Good luck on your mid-terms. I wish I could say it gets easier from this point on, but like the saying goes – you spend 4 years trying to get into med school, then the next 4 trying to survive & get out! But if I’ve ever seen anyone with the ability to he a superstar, it’s you. Regarding protein, all of your readers should keep this in mind – in 30 years of doing clinical medicine in America, I’ve never seen a patient suffering from a macronutrient deficiency – but I’ve seen thousands with chronic diseases due to nutritional excesses. Best to you all!

  12. “nuclear chemistry and bonding) than I did about stochiometry and solutions”–
    Are you kidding me? Omg I would die. Better you than me. Major, major hats off to you. Wow.

    The protein discussion and actual protein deficiency rare in developed countries, individual needs, signs/symptoms, etc…all wonderful points and thanks for fleshing out your thoughts. I need to go back and read the comments. I bet there are tons of them!

    And having a friend like Rose..oh, nothing better than friends who are just different enough from us that they complement our tendencies, i.e. high strung vs. low key , and bring out the best in each other. And that you can just shoot straight with her, and not stand on ceremony as you said. Love it!

    Glad you two had blast 🙂