One thing about me? Oh, I'm gonna eat some meat. While I don't do pork or shellfish, a steak, some salmon and some good 'old dark meat fried chicken can bring a smile to my face in a way that a lot of other foods simply cannot. That doesn't mean that I don't get that sometimes my body needs a break from "indulging in the flesh". When I choose to take one, I still prefer to eat something that has a bit of a meaty feel to it. And since I know that a lot of meat substitute products contain so much sodium and preservatives that I might as well stick to a cow, fish or chicken, I typically prefer to go a meat alternative route that is strictly a vegetable and then prepare it to my liking at home.
What? You didn't know that there are some vegetables that have a texture that is so close to meat that it can make going the vegetarian/vegan route—even if it's just temporarily—easier on your palate? Indeed, there are and if you've got a sec, I'll share with you 10 that top my personal list.
1. Portobello Mushrooms
Off top, whenever I want to take a break from meat while still wanting something that has a meaty texture to it, my automatic go-to is portobello mushrooms. They are probably my favorite hamburger stand-in, hands down. Matter of fact, the only reason why I don't eat them more often is because I've got a fungal sensitivity and well, mushrooms are a fungus. Anyway, on the health benefits tip, portobello mushrooms are cool because they contain Vitamin B, copper, fiber, selenium, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. As a bonus, they can help to lower your risk of getting cancer too. So, if you've got a craving for a sandwich and you want to chill on the meat tip, grill yourself a portobello. You won't regret it.
If you were to go to your favorite search engine, right this second, and put "meat substitutes" in the search field, I'd be floored if you didn't see jackfruit come up in almost every article.
Even though it's a tropical fruit, a lot of people like to swap meat out for jackfruit because they find that its texture is similar to shredded meat. For the record, if you've never had jackfruit before, it has a mild sweet flavor.
And what are its health benefits? Jackfruit is a good source of protein and fiber. It's also got a fair amount of Vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, copper and potassium in it as well. Some other good reasons to give jackfruit a shot is it can help to lower your blood sugar levels, boost your immunity, strengthen your heart, ward off diseases and improve the quality of your skin too. Yep, jackfruit is that one.
Let me just say that, off the top, when it comes to this one, if you've got a gluten allergy, just pass on by this suggestion. The reason why is because seiten is literally wheat gluten. The reason why some people like it as a meat alternative is because it has a texture that is quite reminiscent of meat protein. That said, if you're good with wheat, seiten can be beneficial because it is loaded with protein and is a pretty good source of selenium, iron and phosphorus with a dab of calcium and copper. Cutting it into slices like meat and preparing it is a popular route to take. So is grilling it in the summertime.
Try This: Vegan Meatballs Recipe (they're made with seitan)
Second in line for me, when it comes to meat substitutes, would have to be eggplant. Based on how you prepare it, it also can have a similar texture to meat. It contains a good amount of fiber, iron, antioxidants and plant compounds in it as well as a fair amount of manganese, potassium and folic acid. Eggplant is also good for you because it can help to reduce your risk of heart disease, it contains cancer-fighting properties, it can help you to lose weight and, because of the iron that's in it, eggplant can help to keep you from becoming anemic too. Dope.
Try This: Vegan Eggplant "Bacon" Recipe
5. Black Beans
Beans make the list. It's not that it has a texture like meat; it's just that, say you're making a Mexican dish that calls for something like ground beef. If you go with black beans instead, it's been my personal experience that you don't really miss the beef all that much. Black beans, nutrient-wise, have protein, fiber, iron, zinc, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and manganese in them. All of these things work together to keep you regular, lower your blood pressure, fight heart disease, manage weight loss and, if you've got diabetes, black beans can help to lower your blood glucose levels too. So, pull out some tortillas and do some damage tonight.
Potatoes don't really have a meaty texture to them either. Still, if you want to prepare a vegetarian or vegan casserole, they can be a nice addition because nothing sticks to our ribs quite like meat AND potatoes do, right? Potatoes also have your back because they are full of protein and fiber. Plus, they contain vitamins B6 and C, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, folate, magnesium and antioxidants. Something that a lot of people like about potatoes is that they're gluten-free. Not only that, they are beneficial when it comes to maintaining your digestive health, reducing inflammation and, because potatoes have the amino acid L-tryptophan in them, they're a vegetable that can help to keep you calmer and more relaxed too. Shepherd's pie, anyone?
Try This: Beyond Beef Shepherd's Pie Recipe
Personally, I'm not the biggest soy fan, mostly because it seems to be the non-meat substitute that isn't consumed in moderation when it absolutely should be (a read worth checking out is "The Dangers of Soy"). If you happen to be a soy fan, though, tempeh is something worth checking out. Long story short, fermented soybeans, grains and beans are put together to create this product. The protein amount is high. The Vitamin B, iron, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus levels in it are good (there's some calcium in tempeh too). Health benefits include the fact that tempeh has prebiotics, it can help to reduce oxidative stress and promote bone health too. Not bad for a meat alternative. Not bad at all.
Try This: Teriyaki Tempeh Recipe
Mangoes? Yep. Mangoes. I actually came across a recipe for BBQ mango that was interesting (check it out here). Others like to use this fruit to make homemade mango stew (you can see that recipe here). However, if you're a big sushi eater, there's a huge chance that you've had mango in a roll before. Why are they good for you? For starters, they're protein and fiber amounts are pretty impressive. Mangoes also have a ton of Vitamin C, folate and copper in them, along with some vitamin A, B, E and K and antioxidants. If you eat them regularly enough, they can boost your immune system, improve your digestive health and even make your eyes stronger. So, why not make a mango sushi roll? What do you have to lose, chile?
Try This: Avocado Cucumber Sushi Roll Recipe (it's got mango in it)
OK. Off top, this one might seem like a bit of a wild card yet just hear me out for a sec. There are many vegetarians and vegans who sing cauliflower's praises in this lane because they find it to be a cool chicken alternative, especially when it comes to Asian-themed dishes.
Its health benefits? Cauliflower has vitamins B6, C and K, as well as folate, pantothenic acid and potassium in it. Since it also contains antioxidants, cauliflower is able to help keep free radicals out of your system. Also, since it has choline in it, you can be sure that your cell membranes are being provided with a very essential nutrient that they need. Yeah, cauliflower can seem a little boring on its own. Still, if you season it right, you could look up and wonder why you've gone without using it as a substitute for poultry (sometimes) for as long as you have.
10. Meatless "Meat"
This one, I'll keep short 'n sweet. Whether you hate to cook or you're looking for a quick way to enjoy some meat substitutes, there are more and more plant-based meatless products that are available at your local stores. One that I grew up on as a child was Morning Star and it's still alive and kickin'. Anyway, Peta has a list that you can check out here. Urban Tastebud has a list that you can check out here. Enjoy!
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
How Content Creators Hey Fran Hey And Shameless Maya Embraced The Pivot
This article is in partnership with Meta Elevate.
If you’ve been on the internet at all within the past decade, chances are the names Hey Fran Hey and Shameless Maya (aka Maya Washington) have come across your screen. These content creators have touched every platform on the web, spreading joy to help women everywhere live their best lives. From Fran’s healing natural remedies to Maya’s words of wisdom, both of these content creators have built a loyal following by sharing honest, useful, and vulnerable content. But in search of a life that lends to more creativity, freedom, and space, these digital mavens have moved from their bustling big cities (New York City and Los Angeles respectively) to more remote locations, taking their popular digital brands with them.
Content Creators Hey Fran Hey and Maya Washington Talk "Embracing The Pivot"www.youtube.com
In partnership with Meta Elevate — an online learning platform that provides Black, Hispanic, and Latinx-owned businesses access to 1:1 mentoring, digital skills training, and community — xoNecole teamed up with Franscheska Medina and Maya Washington on IG live recently for a candid conversation about how they’ve embraced the pivot by changing their surroundings to ultimately bring out the best in themselves and their work. Fran, a New York City native, moved from the Big Apple to Portland, Oregon a year ago. Feeling overstimulated by the hustle and bustle of city life, Fran headed to the Pacific Northwest in search of a more easeful life.
Her cross-country move is the backdrop for her new campaign with Meta Elevate— a perfectly-timed commercial that shows how you can level up from wherever you land with the support of free resources like Meta Elevate. Similarly, Maya packed up her life in Los Angeles and moved to Sweden, where she now resides with her husband and adorable daughter. Maya’s life is much more rural and farm-like than it had been in California, but she is thriving in this peaceful new setting while finding her groove as a new mom.
While Maya is steadily building and growing her digital brand as a self-proclaimed “mom coming out of early retirement,” Fran is redefining her own professional grind. “It’s been a year since I moved from New York City to Portland, Oregon,” says Fran. “I think the season I’m in is figuring out how to stay successful while also slowing down.” A slower-paced life has unlocked so many creative possibilities and opportunities for these ladies, and our conversation with them is a well-needed reminder that your success is not tied to your location…especially with the internet at your fingertips. Tapping into a community like Meta Elevate can help Black, Hispanic, and Latinx entrepreneurs and content creators stay connected to like minds and educated on new digital skills and tools that can help scale their businesses.
During a beautiful moment in the conversation, Fran gives Maya her flowers for being an innovator in the digital space. Back when “influencing” was in its infancy and creators were just trying to find their way, Fran says Maya was way ahead of her time. “I give Maya credit for being one of the pioneers in the digital space,” Fran said. “Maya is a one-person machine, and I always tell her she really changed the game on what ads, campaigns, and videos, in general, should look like.”
When asked what advice she’d give content creators, Maya says the key is having faith even when you don’t see the results just yet. “It’s so easy to look at what is, despite you pouring your heart into this thing that may not be giving you the returns that you thought,” she says. “Still operate from a place of love and authenticity. Have faith and do the work. A lot of people are positive thinkers, but that’s the thinking part. You also have to put your faith into work and do the work.”
Fran ultimately encourages content creators and budding entrepreneurs to take full advantage of Meta Elevate’s vast offerings to educate themselves on how to build and grow their businesses online. “It took me ten years to get to the point where I’m making ads at this level,” she says. “I didn’t have those resources in 2010. I love the partnership with Meta Elevate because they’re providing these resources for free. I just think of the people that wouldn’t be able to afford that education and information otherwise. So to amplify a company like this just feels right.”
Watch the full conversation with the link above, and join the Meta Elevate community to connect with fellow businesses and creatives that are #OnTheRiseTogether.
Featured image courtesy of Shameless Maya and Hey Fran Hey
Vaginas Can Have Allergies. Here's What To Do About Them.
I don’t know about y’all, but this is definitely the time of year when a lot of people in my world sound like a hot ass mess. Since springtime is the season when trees, grass, and flowers like to show out (literally) as far as pollen goes, it’s pretty common for folks’ immune systems to go haywire in response to it.
Not only that but neighbors are walking their dogs more often (dander), bugs are making an appearance (eye roll), and dust mites and mold spores are kicking up due to all of the spring cleaning that is going on. All of this can lead to sneezing, watery eyes, an itchy and/or runny nose, coughing, headaches — and so many other bodily reactions that my crew would rather do without.
First, a quick tip: while there are polarizing studies on how effective local honey actually is (due to the pollen that’s in it, it can serve as somewhat of an all-natural antihistamine for the local allergens in your area), there are enough solid studies (like this one here) around to at least give it a try if you don’t want to fill your system up with a ton of allergy medication.
Okay, but what if it’s your vagina (I’m going to be speaking of it interchangeably with your vulva, by the way) who is currently going through it? If you’ve never even thought to consider that Ms. Thang down below can have reactions to certain allergens as well, take a few moments to check this article out. Trust me, “she” will thank you that you did.
The Word for a Vaginal Allergy Is Vulvitis. Now What Exactly IS That?
Something that oftentimes happens whenever an allergic reaction transpires is our body goes through some level of inflammation. Well, when our vaginas experience their version of an allergy, inflammation happens down there too. The technical word for it is vulvitis.
Vulvitis is what happens when the skin of your vulva (the outer parts of your vagina) ends up experiencing some level of inflammation (typically when your vagina’s pH level is thrown off) that can lead to irritation, swelling, itching, a shift in the type or amount of discharge, redness and sometimes even white patches and “scales.”
Although sometimes these symptoms can be due to things like an STD (which is why you should get tested every six months if you are sexually active), vaginal atrophy (due to menopause), eczema, or a yeast infection, oftentimes it’s due to common stuff that can be cleared up by making a few minor adjustments.
Now I will say that if it’s your first time experiencing these symptoms and/or you’re not exactly sure what the heck is going on, make an appointment with your physician ASAP. A urine and/or blood test will help to get to the root of the matter.
However, if you get a clean bill of health in those departments, your doctor may go through a process of elimination which will probably include the following seven things and how your vagina has been responding/reacting to them.
1. Fragrance-Based Body Wash
Body washes. Even though a lot of them smell absolutely divine, the reason why your vagina may not like them very much is that many contain chemicals that can definitely cause your vagina’s pH balance to go haywire.
Does this mean that you can’t or shouldn’t use anything that could help to make your vulva smell better? Not exactly. The key is to find products that are as natural as possible, along with one that will cater to your vulva’s sensitive skin.
Treatment: As far as commercial brands of cleansers go, Healthline’s “The 11 Best Vaginal Soaps and Cleansers Approved by Gynecologists” and Cosmo’s “14 Best Feminine Washes, According to a Gynecologist” can help to point you to the right direction. If you’d prefer to make your own body wash, I’ve got you covered on that tip too. Check out our article, “Love On Yourself With These 7 All-Natural DIY Vaginal Washes,” and, as far as tips on which great-smelling essential oils are also pretty vulva-friendly, also read “10 Essential Oils That Are Great For Feminine Hygiene (And A Few Other Things).”
2. Period Products
If there’s one thing that we can’t avoid, it’s our period (lawd, lawd). And while typically, vaginal irritation that comes from tampons is due to them remaining inside of you too long and pads are due to not changing them enough, some brands also contain chemicals that can be “vaginally triggering.”
Treatment: That’s why it’s always best to go with tampons and pads that are fragrance-free (especially if you have uber-sensitive skin). Or you can go with brands that are organic (a list of tampon suggestions is located here, and a list of organic pad options is here).
While we’re at this portion of the program, if you used to be a Honey Pot supporter but you never got down to the truth about where the company stands between being Black-founded vs. Black-owned (now), AfroTech (which is a great Black business news site) covered that around this time last year: “Did Beatrice Dixon Sell The Honey Pot Company? — Co-Founder Responds After Social Media Goes Into A Frenzy.” I’ve got friends who still use it and are huge fans. Anyway, just make sure you check the article out before making a final call — either direction.
3. Skinny Jeans
Although all that I listed here are skinny jeans, anything that’s so tight that it causes a lot of friction and keeps your vulva from breathing can qualify, including thongs, synthetic underwear, spandex workout clothes (especially if you don’t take them off immediately after your exercise session) and wet swimsuits.
Treatment: If you’re like, “I hear you, but I’m gonna keep the tight stuff anyway,” at least make sure to take them off as soon as you get home and make it a practice to sleep naked as much as possible so that your vulva can get a break. Also, cotton underwear is better than synthetic; at least compromise in that department, please.
If a guy tells you that he doesn’t wear latex condoms because he’s allergic to them, while it might initially sound like game (and might be), it’s actually not a ridiculous notion (although stats still say that it’s lower than 10 percent).
So, how do you know if condoms could be the reason why your vagina is acting up (i.e., itching, swelling up, feeling dry during or after sex, and sometimes even hives or a runny nose?)? If your vagina is just fine until a condom enters you or until you are done having sex, that’s a pretty solid indication.
Treatment: Does this mean that you have to go raw? Unless you’re in a committed, long-term, monogamous relationship, please don’t. Thankfully, there are other kinds of rubbers that will get the job done. Polyurethane is a type of plastic that serves as a great latex alternative. So does polyisoprene, which is made from a synthetic polymer (it is more expensive, though; just an FYI). Then there’s the throwback, lambskin; although, because their spores are larger than other condoms, they’re not as great as the other options when it comes to preventing STD transmission.
As far as some of the best non-latex options that are currently on the market, you can do some of your own research by going here, here, and here.
Oh, and while we’re on this topic, it’s not unheard of to be allergic to spermicide, either. And while you should run this suggestion by your doctor before trying it, there is a vegan kind of spermicide that some people are fond of. It’s called ContraGel. You can read more about it here, and Walmart sells it here.
5. Certain Types of Bedding
Believe it or not, something else that can bother your vagina is your bedding. One, because you might be using a laundry detergent that’s too harsh for it. Or it could be that the bedding you’ve chosen doesn’t breathe enough (especially if you’re someone who happens to sleep naked). Fabrics like polyester and rayon may be cheaper as far as your sheets are concerned, but they also trap in heat more which can cause you to sweat, which could trigger a yeast infection.
Treatment: When it comes to the laundry issue, look for the kind that is either eco-friendly or specifically made for sensitive skin (both contain a lot less chemicals). Another route that you could take is you can make some of your own; some recipes are located here, here, and here. Also, your bedding will feel cooler if you go with something along the lines of organic cotton, silk, or bamboo.
Something that your vagina contains is bacteria — some good, some bad. Usually, your vagina’s pH keeps the bad bacteria in check; however, when you consume too much sweet stuff, that can suppress your immunity and cause bad bacteria to take over, which could result in vaginal inflammation and a full-on yeast infection.
Not only that, but if you don’t get your sugar consumption under control (check out “Ever Wonder If You've Got A Low-Key Sugar Addiction?”), you could end up with a chronic yeast infection because just like your taste buds really like sugar, so does yeast. That’s why it’s a good idea to consume sweets in moderation. Many researchers say that men should have no more than nine teaspoons of sugar a day and women should have no more than six.
Treatment: As for how to deal with the sugar that may have already “taken over” your body — I’m pretty sure you know what needs to happen. A temporary detox can do wonders at restoring the balance in your system. So can reducing your intake of fast food, processed foods, and white foods like white pasta, white bread, and of course, white sugar.
This one is interesting because, yes, there are some people who are allergic to sperm/semen (the fluid that carries sperm). However, what is more common is your vagina/vulva needing some time to get used to new sperm if you’ve recently switched to a new partner (a new partner can temporarily change the way that your vagina smells too).
That said if you do notice that after the first few times of engaging in unprotected sex with a new guy, your vagina is still itching and/or burning and/or swelling up (kind of like a yeast infection minus the thick discharge), it could be that you’re experiencing what is technically known as seminal plasma hypersensitivity; it’s when your body does not respond well to the proteins that are in someone’s sperm/semen.
Treatment: Even if you mildly suspect that you’ve got a sperm/semen allergy, you shouldn’t self-diagnose it; ask your physician. If they confirm it, they might recommend that you use condoms more often or even that you take an antihistamine (no joke) about an hour before coming into contact with sperm. Sometimes having an EpiPen nearby can help matters too.
There’s no way around the fact that your body having an allergic reaction to something can suck because the symptoms are typically super unpleasant. Just make sure that if what’s bothering you is your vagina (or your vulva), you don’t ignore it. A reaction is letting you know that something isn’t quite right. Hopefully, now you know what needs to be done in order to fix it.
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