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The Conscious Crusader Issue #6 -- Your newsletter for healthy, cruelty-free, and sustainable living
September 14, 2011

Welcome to the 6th edition of the
Conscious Crusader!

The Conscious Crusader

This month we have these great tips, stories, and recipes for you:

Welcome to the Conscious Crusader's September Edition!

It's September and the nights in Las Vegas are finally cooling down to the 80s (don't laugh if you live elsewhere, that's a great thing for us desert rats!). This is one of the best seasons to visit our city of lights!

I have great things planned ahead: Belsandia will start hosting health, nutrition, and wellness-related events in Las Vegas! Paired with a good dose of entertainment and social networking, these events will be unique, educative, and super-fun all at once! Of course we will always serve the most delicious plant-based foods at these events too..

Watch out for updates in the Conscious Crusader newsletter or on the Belsandia website

Throughout the month of August I have added healthy breakfast smoothies to There is nothing as light and healthy for a summertime breakfast as a hugely nutritious, easy to digest smoothie made of your favorite fruits, greens, nuts and seeds. You get loads of vitamins and antioxidants, and when you liquefy your breakfast foods, you can have several servings in one large smoothie glass, which is much easier than eating a bowl of cereals or a big solid breakfast. Check out these recipes and claim your favorite:

Strawberry Smoothie

Healthy and Tasty Strawberry Smoothie
The Fruity Power Smoothie
Delicious Green Spinach Smoothie
Energizing Spinach Fruit Smoothie

Latest Green Living Trends - Meaningful Reuses of Products By Innovative Companies

green companies

Befitting this month, as we mourn the loss of many loved ones 10 years ago in the most devastating terrorist attack on US soil on September 11, 2001, I found this amazing idea from a company called "From War to Peace", which creates jewelry and accessories from dismantled and recycled weapons of war. They donate 20% of their proceeds to charities that benefit peace and social justice. The company is also green certified!

TerraCycle's motto is to "outsmart waste". This innovative company is collecting huge amounts of trash from residential households and big companies alike. They then convert the trash into fun and fashionable items like bag packs made from Doritos chips bags, lunch boxes made from M&M pouches, or scrap books bound in Frito-Lay wrappers. Check out TerraCycle, you may find something you like as a thoughtful green gift.

Apart from recycling, another concept is that of "upcycling", perfected by the company Looptworks, which repurposes abandoned materials into lasting, meaningful, and limited-edition products. They take pre-consumer excess textile materials that would otherwise go into landfills and turn them into fashionable outfits. Their name says it all: they indeed do close a loop in the textile industry and limit their product waste.

Have you heard of RecycleBank? They have an incentive program where you can get paid for recycling your own trash! It is called "Incentive Based Recycling" and it rewards you for setting-up a RecycleBank container with a barcode at your home. The recycled items are translated into cash savings that you can then use as shopping coupons in participating local businesses – or you can donate them to charity! . Find out more about RecycleBank.

Green Events & Vegan Events Calendar – September / October 2011

We compiled the most complete list of Green Events and Vegan Events in the US, so check here and find the best event in your city or near you in September and October 2011

Featured recommended product of the month: "Beers Not Bombs"

Beers not Bombs

Take a look at these "Beers not Bombs" bottle openers created from disarmed nuclear missile systems! What a great idea to turn deadly weapons into useful tools for peaceful purposes (like drinking a few beers with good friends)!

The metal these are made from is called "Peace Bronze(TM)". 20% of all proceeds will be donated to the charities Doctors without Borders and The International Campaign to abolish Nuclear Weapons

Health News of the Month: The Low-Down on Vitamins B12 and D in Supplements

multivitamin pills

No matter if we follow a vegan, vegetarian, or omnivorous diet, most of us usually have some need to supplement nutrients or vitamins.

I am vegan and I need extra vitamins B12 and D, which my last blood test confirmed, even though I already take a multivitamin that supposedly has 100% of daily recommended values (more about that below). I also need to look out for my iron. All else is perfect, including my protein intake. I was never concerned about getting too little or incomplete protein in the first place, and here is why.

But even if you are not vegan, vitamins B12 and D are notoriously low in most people regardless of their diet. On top of that, the current USDA recommended daily values (DRV or DV) found in most multivitamin products are completely insufficient and based on outdated data.

For example, the 6 mcgr USDA recommended daily values for vitamin B12 are not enough - it should be more around 10-30 mcgr to be fully absorbed and useful for your health. So even if you religiously take a daily multivitamin that gives you 100% (6 mcgr) of vitamin B12 per official guidelines, you can end up deficient!

Another reason for insufficient vitamin B12 absorption may be a lack of vitamin B9 (folic acid), which needs to interact with B12 for it to work efficiently.

Ideally, look for a vitamin B12 stand-alone supplement that gives you the daily needed 10-30 mcgr without adding anything else.

The same goes for vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, as it is best produced by exposing your skin without sun protection to direct sunlight for 15-20 minutes a day. Vitamin D comes derived from plants as D2 and in animal sources as D3. If you don’t get enough sun, you can supplement vitamin D and it does not matter if you get D2 or D3 - as long as you get the total overall amount.

Standard multivitamins only provide 400 IUs (International Units) of vitamin D as recommended by the USDA. However, the real intake should be more like 1000 IUs or higher per day, based on latest studies.

Only few plant sources provide vitamin D: optimized mushrooms that were exposed to sunlight provide around 400 IUs per serving. Other sources are fortified non-dairy milks and cereals.

Again, look for a good standalone vitamin D supplement that provides at least 1000 and up to 2000 IUs.

Take a look at all food sources for vitamins B12 and D.

Multivitamin supplements are not as beneficial as was initially thought, and they could even be a health hazard!

Each vitamin is nutritionally essential and healthy when it comes in its original form, in food. But when provided as chemical compound and in combination with other artificially created binders, preservatives, waxes, and colors - as is the case with multivitamin pills - the beneficial affects of this combination are questionable, and in some cases they could be outright dangerous. Read an interview with Dr. Joel Fuhrman on this subject.

In their chemical isolated form, some nutrients can become toxic, even if they never present any risk when consumed in their natural state in form of food. The reason is that the food source also provides hundreds of other natural components that enhance or impair the specific functions of this nutrient to work in complete synergy. Needless to say, your food source should be wholesome and healthy - not processed, refined, or loaded with artificial preservatives itself.

The other problem with a standard multivitamin is that its isolated compounds are often competing with one another: zinc competes with iron and that in turn competes with calcium for absorption. Even if you think you get your full daily dose of a nutrient, it all depends how your body absorbs it and what you consume at the same time. Also remember: a vitamin pill never compensates for a poor diet!

The best solution to the question on what supplements you should use, lies in getting blood work done by your physician to find out where you may be deficient (or in excess) in your nutrients, and then pick and choose specifically those nutrients that you need.

Dr Joel Fuhrman has a well-researched formula that is also completely vegan, and contains only nutrients that are proven and safe to take as isolated compounds in the recommended doses. I have not personally tried it and hence cannot endorse it yet, but I simply want to point it out as an option for deliberate and safe supplementation, specifically for vitamins B12 and D: Dr Joel Fuhrman's Gentle Care Formula

Do you use a vegan vitamin supplement that provides you great results? Please share with me and Belsandia readers. I would love to hear from you!

Hot New Recipe on

Raw Vegan Corn Salsa

raw vegan corn salsa

A very tasty raw version of the ubiquitous tomato salsa! This one comes with some extra caliente in form of fresh Serrano chiles, but you can make it as spicy or mild as it suits your taste buds.

Serves 10


6 ears of corn, decobbed
1 organic bell pepper, finely diced
3-4 organic tomatoes, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 fresh Serrano chile, chopped (or more to taste)
1 tablespoon Virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons fresh lemon or lime juice
Freshly ground black pepper to taste


Place all ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Then take about one cup of this mixture and place it into a blender. Blend roughly and pour it back into the bowl. This makes for a nice combination of the raw corn mix and juicy blended salsa. Add more seasoning to your taste.

Serve this tasty fresh corn salsa with your favorite backed chips, tamales, or even as spread for a yummy lunch sandwich!

Global Veg Food Specialty: Greece - Country of Gods and Heavenly Food


vegan dolmades

Dolmades are delicious small rolls of grape leaves stuffed with any goodies that you can imagine. They are one of the most popular Greek dishes that have made it to international fame. You can enjoy your dolmades with a tasty vegan tzatziki dip made with soy yogurt.

Serves 8

Ingredients for Dolmades:

1 cup brown rice
4 oz grape leaves (available at Mediterranean or Middle Eastern food stores)
4 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 medium onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon kalamata olives, chopped
1 tablespoon raisins
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Ingredients for Vegan Tzatziki Sauce:

2 tablespoons cold-pressed virgin olive oil
11/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup organic soy yogurt, unsweetened
1 medium organic cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried ground paprika
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions for dolmades:

1. Cook the brown rice in a pot or pressure cooker.

2. Place the grape leaves flat onto the bottom of a large bowl and cover them with 2 cups of boiling water. Let them soak for 2 minutes, then drain them. Next, cover them with 2 cups of cold water, let them sit for another 5 minutes, and drain them again.

3. When the brown rice is ready, heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and saute the onions and garlic until slightly brown.

4. Combine the rice, onion/garlic mix, mint leaves, dill, olives, pine nuts, raisins, and salt/pepper in a large bowl.

5. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a baking dish with grape leaves.

6. Place one grape leaf on a cutting board, vein side up, and cut off the stem. Place a spoonful of the rice mixture in the center. Fold the sides of the leaf over the rice, then roll from stem-side to the tip, making a nice firm roll. Set the roll with the seam side down into the baking dish. Continue to roll the other dolmades and place them close together in the baking dish – you can even make two layers if needed.

7. Mix the veggie broth, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in a small bowl, then pour the mix over the dolmades in the baking dish.

8. Bake for 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed on the medium oven rack. Remove from the oven and drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice on top.

Directions for tzatziki:

Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper in a bowl. Then stir in the soy yogurt until you have a smooth dip. Add in the cucumbers and fresh dill. Chill your dip in the fridge before serving.

Serve your delicious dolmades with a side of your vegan tzatziki sauce - it's a great snack for a party or a healthy appetizer!


vegan moussaka

This is another delicious Greek vegetarian dish loved by the gods: a hearty casserole with steaming eggplants, zucchinis, and tomatoes in a juicy béchamel sauce. Our vegan moussaka recipe replaces the original eggs and dairy with fabulous vegan ingredients for a lighter, healthier meal without jeopardizing any of the taste!

Serves 8

Ingredients for moussaka:

1 medium eggplant
< 2 medium zucchinis, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 28-oz can crushed peeled tomatoes
2 medium raw baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
¼ tablespoon ground dried paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil for drizzling on top
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Ingredients for vegan béchamel sauce

1/2 cup virgin olive oil
1/2 cup unbleached flour
2 cups organic soy milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch diluted in 1/2 cup water
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper


1. Cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices and slightly salt the slices. Place them into a colander and let them "sweat" for about 20 minutes, then drain the eggplant and wash off the salt. This process helps to remove the bitterness from the eggplant.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a sauce pan and saute the onions and garlic until they are lightly brown. Add the crushed tomatoes, bay leaves, oregano, cinnamon, allspice, paprika, salt, and pepper. Simmer for about 5 minutes.

3. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

4. Lightly oil a rectangular baking dish and layer the potato slices on the bottom of the dish. Spoon one-third of the tomato sauce over them. Next, add a layer of eggplants, then another one-third of tomato sauce, and then a layer of zucchinis, followed by the final third of the tomato sauce.

5. Drizzle the remainder of the olive oil on top of the baking dish and cover it with a lid or with foil. Bake for 1 – 1 1/2 hours.

6. Prepare the vegan béchamel sauce: heat the olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat and stir in flour and nutmeg, stirring constantly until the mix is slightly brown. A nutty aroma will arise from the pot. Whisk in the soy milk. Then pour in the cornstarch mix, salt, and pepper. Stir until the mixture starts to boil, then reduce the heat and whisk it further until it thickens. Set aside from the heat.

7. Once your moussaka has baked, take it from the oven and remove the cover. Pour a thick layer of béchamel sauce on top and return it to the oven to bake for another 20 minutes or until the top is brown. Remove it from the oven and let it cool down for about half an hour before serving. Use the chopped parsley for garnish. Voila: a feast for the gods :)

Amazing Animal Story of the Month:

A Man On A Mission: Vegan US Marines Officer Robert Lucius Promotes Humane Education And Fights The Dog Meat Trade In Vietnam

Robert Lucius

I had the great pleasure to meet Robert Lucius twice this year: the first time during our Vegans in Vegas event and then at the Animal Rights Conference in LA, where he spoke about his Kairos Coalition, a non-profit organization with the goal to abolish the inhumane dog meat trade in Vietnam and to promote humane education and compassion for animals.

Read the fascinating story how this decorated Marine turned into a compassionate animal rights advocate, and what prompted his life's mission to promote humane education in Vietnam:

Robert: "I am a man on a mission, and I can pinpoint the exact moment when it all began."

On a summer day four years ago, I was a Marine Major who had volunteered for duty as the Naval Attaché in one of the world's poorest nations - Vietnam. I had already spent 18 years in a Marine Corps uniform largely because I had come to believe very early in my life that a life not lived in service to something bigger than self is a life wasted.

Yet, despite having spent a good part of my career building bridges, literally as well as metaphorically, in hopes of preventing war and improving the lives of people all over the world, a piece of the puzzle always seemed to be missing for me, preventing me from ever really enjoying the peace that comes from knowing that I was doing what I was made to do - what I had been born to do.

Robert Lucius

Dogs on the menu

My life changed forever on June 7, 2006, around 9:30 am, while I was on my way to deliver donated U.S. Defense Department medical equipment to a rural medical clinic far up in the northwestern corner of Vietnam.

Near the end of a ten-hour drive to a small township named Lai Chau, a lone motorbike heading in the same direction passed my vehicle on the right-hand side. Instinctively, I turned from my conversation with the driver and glanced out the window. I could very clearly see a wicker basket strapped to the back of the motorbike and within it a number of dogs, perhaps as many as four or five in a space that might comfortably contain but one.

I recall even today, at this very moment, the look of dread and fear in the eyes of one of these dogs as our gazes met ever so briefly. The photo below is similar to what I saw that day.

Continue reading the full story here.

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Check out the latest Belsandia Blog posts from this week.

Thanks so much for reading the Conscious Crusader and join me again next month for a new edition with green living tips, hot new recipes, global veg specialties, animal stories, health tip of the month, and more!

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