(Common Vegan Ingredients)

What does the Nike SB Janoski have in common with ingredients like flax seed, chia seeds, hemp seeds, nutritional yeast (nooch, as the cool kids say), coconut oil and almond butter have in common?  They’re both “for daily use.”

I get it, these seem weird at first blush.  Remember when the Janoski first came out in 2009?  While it may seem like a permanent fixture of skateboarding nowadays, I recall the initial reaction–at least in Austin, Texas–being mixed.  It had little padding, laces like a set of Sperry Top Spider loafers and some models even had a cork insole.  To top it off, the initial commercial for the release was truly bizarre, featuring Stefan smiling creepy in a David Lynch-esque series of scenes filmed backward (that said, in retrospect, that commercial is pretty fucking awesome and has some seriously sick skating).

Well, fast forward 8 years and—surprise, surprise—the Janoski is one of the best (if not the best) selling skate shoes of all time.  Obviously, I wish it came in more synthetic or canvas models, but I can’t deny that the board feel is superb, the slim design gives it both style and functionality and it has flick for days.  I haven’t picked up a pair since going vegan, but last I checked, the tongue still reads “for daily use.”

Much like the Janoski, these ingredients may seem bizarre at first; however, much like the Janoski, they also perform quite well (in the kitchen) and are intended for daily use. As you test the recipes on this site more and more, you’ll see how great they are (and how often they are used), but for now, here’s a quick primer:

Chia Seeds: Chia seeds are an ancient grain originally consumed by Aztec and Mayan warriors for strength and endurance (indeed “chia” means “strength” in the Mayan language).  Chia seeds offer a host of benefits including promoting healthy skin, supporting the heart and digestive system, increasing bone density, and inhibiting the effects of diabetes.  Chia seeds are rich in fiber, omega-3 fats, fatty acids, and vitamins A, B, E and D.  See Dr. Axe, 9 Chia Seeds Benefits + Side Effects,  You’ll see these in a lot of my sweeter or nuttier recipes and many of the shakes and juices.  They’re great for an extra boost of protein or fatty acids, and gel in the recipes to make you feel fuller for longer.

Flax Seeds: Flax seeds are another ancient grain praised for their benefits to digestion, skin health, cholesterol, hormone regulation and sugar cravings.  These seeds are rich in omega-3 fats, fiber, protein and vitamin B.  Additionally, they are low in carbs (aiding weight loss) and high in antioxidants. See Dr. Axe, 10 Flax Seed Benefits and Nutrition Facts,  You’ll see ground flax seed in many of my baked goods and sweets, as it adds a nutty flavor and, when added to water, can mimic the emulsifying properties of an egg white.

Nutritional Yeast (Nooch): I’ll admit it, “nutritional yeast” does not sound appetizing.  “Nooch” sounds pretty dirty, as well.  But don’t let that stop you from trying it; nooch is a great source of vitamins for vegans who are concerned about a vitamin B deficiency.  Nooch is very high in protein and fiber (a ¼ cup serving has 9 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber) and offers a host of benefits such as preserving the body’s immune system and improving digestion, while also benefitting the body with antiviral and antibacterial properties.  See Dr. Axe, Nutritional Yeast: The Antiviral, Antibacterial Immune-Booster,  You’ll see this in a lot of my tofu, taco and cheese recipes.  While it has a slightly cheesy flavor (think Doritos) which makes it great for vegan cheeses, it also is delicious when used to marinate tofu or added to scrambles.

Hemp Seeds: Hemp seeds, or hemp hearts, are seeds of the Cannabis sativa.  Although they come from the same plant as marijuana, they contain only a trace amount of TCH and, unlike marijuana, will not get you high.  Instead, they contain a host of healthy fatty acids, including Gamma-Linolenic acid (GLA), which helps smooth muscles, control inflammation and regulate hormones. Hemp seeds have also been shown to relieve paint from arthritis and aid in weight loss by creating a fuller feeling that fights sugar cravings.  Hemp seeds are also very high in protein (a 28-gram serving has 9.2 grams of protein).  See Dr. Axe, 7 Benefits of Eating Hemp Seeds You Won’t Believe,  You’ll see these occasionally in my shakes and in some snacks for quick energy.

Almond Butter:  Like peanut butter, almond butter is delicious and also easy to over-indulge in.  It is a healthy fat, but, in the end is very high in fat, so make sure you’re looking at the serving sizes.  Its advantage over peanut butter is that it’s much higher in magnesium, iron and vitamin E.  However, at the risk of editorializing, I also think it blows peanut butter out of the water when it comes to taste.  You’ll see this in a lot of my baked goods, and pretty soon I hope to have a recipe for homemade vanilla almond butter (still working with the ratios, should have it up soon)!

Coconut Oil:  You’ll see that a lot of my recipes, whether they are sweet or savory, call for coconut oil.  Coconut oil is full of medium-chain fatty acids, which, unlike long-chain fatty acids, are easy to digest, not readily stored as fat, and are more immediately converted to energy.  Among coconut oil’s many benefits are: assisting in the delivery of insulin to the brain to help treat Alzheimer’s, preventing heart disease and high blood pressure, reducing inflammation and arthritis, improving energy and endurance, preventing osteoporosis, improving type II diabetes, building muscle and losing body fat, and aiding in hormone balance.

Hopefully, now that you have a bit more background on these ingredients, they won’t seem so esoteric.  Like I said, you’ll see these in the majority of my recipes, so it’s best to buy them in larger quantities (if your grocery store has self-serve areas, those are the best value).  Much like the Janoski, most of these seem weird at first, but once you gain some familiarity with them you’ll see that both the Janoski and these ingredients are meant “for daily use.”

Happy shredding,


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