Protect Your Bones: Vegan Mac & Cheese

Christiane Northrup, MD recently released an updated version of her book, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. She also writes about the fourth edition of this book in her Huffington Post column. This latest edition has an updated section on caring for our bones, including fending off osteoporosis.

She quotes a 2003 Harvard study on diet and hip fractures that concluded “Neither milk nor a high-calcium diet appears to reduce (fracture) risk” and a 2007 Harvard study that also found “no association between total calcium intake and hip fracture risk.” She points to both Asia and Africa where dairy consumption is low and their fracture rate even lower.

If calcium isn’t the answer to bone strength then what’s a person to do? Dr. Northrup suggests that calcium is important, but only one part of the building blocks of strong bones. The good news is those other parts are know becoming more apparent. Her article states that “The key to preventing osteoporosis…is eating a low-acid diet.” What makes your diet more acidic? Animal products. What makes your diet the more preferred alkaline? Fruits and veggies.

For those of you groaning about this news, you’ll be relieved to know that Dr. Northrup is not recommending a rigid diet in response. She says you can achieve a more alkaline balance in your diet by eating  “at least five servings of fruits and vegetables for every one serving of red meat, chicken or fish.” She also suggests eating “vegan—no meat or dairy—one day a week.” I knew there was something I liked about her besides the great name!

One of the things I like to do is to show you how easy it is to be vegan. Many people, upon hearing the news that I’m vegan, ask me what in the world I eat. I think they expect I eat mostly nuts and twigs. (Seriously, I’ve heard people say that). They’re usually surprised when I say that we eat pizza, meatloaf and mac and cheese. Oh, and we also eat rocky road brownies, raspberry chocolate cheesecake, and a number of other sweets (in moderation). And these dishes are not that difficult to make either. The trick is finding a trusted recipe and a good health food store or department in your grocery store where you can buy some of the ingredients. Sometimes we question the price of our ingredients, but I try to remind myself of 2 things: 1) we’re not buying a lot of processed foods or any meat or expensive cheeses/dairy and 2) our health is important and hopefully our diet is warding off other illnesses and diseases which would be very costly.

I like the idea that you can try out being vegan just one day a week to help balance out your overall diet. Or some people eat vegan on weekdays. It’s important that you find something that works best for you. Here’s one of our family’s all-time favorite vegan recipes. It’s high on the comfort food index and very tasty too. That said, I have other versions of this recipe that we love equally as well and I’ll be sharing these with you down the road.

Vegan Mac & Cheese Casserole (Version #1)

(Adapted from a recipe by VegCooking)

3.5 cups (dry) macaroni, Cook according to package directions (We use Ronzoni Smart Taste because it has 7 g of fiber per serving)
½ cup Vegan Margarine
1 small onion, chopped
½ cup Flour, (whole wheat)
3 cups Boiling water
2 tablespoons Bragg Liquid Amino or soy sauce
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon turmeric
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1.5 cups meat crumbles (One idea is to use Boca Ground Veggie Crumbles)
2 cups steamed broccoli

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Heat your oven to 350.

Next, in a large pot, add 5 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add 14.5 oz (1 full box of Ronzoni Smart Taste macaroni) and cook for 6 – 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain well. Pour the cooked macaroni into a 9 X 13 baking pan.

Steam 2 cups of broccoli with florets cut into small pieces. Be careful not to overcook the broccoli because they will cook a little more in the oven as well.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, melt margarine over low heat. Add chopped onions and saute until translucent . Beat in flour with a wire whisk and continue to beat over a medium heat until mixture is smooth and bubbly.

Whip in boiling water, Bragg, salt, garlic powder, and turmeric, beating well.

Cook the sauce until it thickens and bubbles; then whip in the oil and nutritional yeast flakes.

Pour a generous amount of sauce on top of the macaroni noodles and stir. Add veggie meat crumbles and broccoli. Stir all ingredients so they’re equally distributed throughout the pan.

Top with a little more of the cheese sauce (we usually have a little bit of leftover cheese sauce which we use for baked potatoes or as a topping for veggies dishes like broccoli). Then sprinkle the top with paprika, and bake for 15 minutes. You can choose to put under a broiler for a few minutes until the top is crisp.

Updated by Marly · Permalink

19 Responses to Protect Your Bones: Vegan Mac & Cheese

  1. That casserole looks amazing! Thanks for this informative and important post. My mom has osteoporosis, and so I’m a high-risk individual. I try to include a lot of fresh veggies and fruit into my diet as well as participate in weight-bearing exercise. I know that I can’t stop genetics, but I’m doing my best to stay healthy and strong! I hope you have a beautiful day!

  2. Hey Marly, at this point in my life and with the knowledge and discipline I’ve developed thus far (which isn’t much-smile), I’m vegan about 4 days a week. And on other days I’m vegetarian or pescatarian. Hence, I agree that eating vegan one day a week is great. In fact, what a bunch wusses. I mean, can’t they go two or something. Ooh, I’m being obnoxious now. It’s not like I’ve taken the full leap!

    • I’ve seen people who can’t even make it a full day so I think committing to one day a week is a great start. Good for you for doing vegan 4 days a week. I think anything we can do is better for our health and for the environment.

  3. Oops, the mac and cheese looks great too!

    • Thanks! Trust me – it tastes just as good as it looks…if not better!

  4. That actually looks better than my regular mac n cheese! Vegetarian or even vegan is not a problem for me – I don’t eat much meat at all, though I’m surrounded by meat lovers. But, it’s really nice to know that they way I like to eat anyway, is actually doing me some good 🙂

    • Yes, it’s doing you lots of good! I live in the middle of the beef belt here in the US so I know what it’s like to be surrounded by meat lovers. KC used to be known as Cowtown – we have some famous BBQ restaurants and steak joints. But even here we’ve got vegan restaurants now and several vegetarian. I guess it’s all about staying true to yourself. We veggie-loving folks have to support each other!

  5. Hey Marly I completely agree with Dr. Northrup, when I was talking to you about my health issues I didn’t mention that at 37 I was diagnosed with severe osteoporosis, had my bones been in better shape I probably wouldn’t have fractured my back. It is a silent disease and definitely an important subject to speak on. I was put on a bone building drug for 5 years with very little improvement. I started changing my diet adding more vegetables and fruit and when I went for my first check up with my endocrinologist after the diet change, she was amazed and surprised that my levels increased so drastically, she’d never seen such an increase before. I had been hesitant to tell her that I’d stopped taken the calcium supplement and was trying to do it naturally. I was relieved that decision I made helped to improve the T-scores. She told me to keep up what I was doing. Your post is a great shout out and hopefully will educate more woman on the importance of healthy bones and prevent woman from dealing with the issues that I face each and every day.

    • Wow – that’s an amazing story, Grace! It’s one thing to read about the science, but it’s quite another to see someone who has experience this first-hand. OK. That confirms it. I’ve been debating whether or not I should risk running a post on my favorite morning shake. My family won’t even look at me when I drink it, but it really is tasty and is sooo healthy. I’ll post that later this week. I have to make it and take a pic or two first. We’re like veggie virtuosos!

  6. This is definitely important for all of us women! It’s good news that there are things we can do beyond consuming calcium to keep our bones strong. I do love vegan meals so I’m excited to try this mac and cheese! I just need to find some nutritional yeast.

    • I buy nutritional yeast at the health food store. I don’t know why they don’t sell it in most grocery stores. I love that stuff. I even sprinkle it on my food like cheese. It’s got a nice flavor to it…and it’s nutritional. At least that’s what the name says!

  7. Thanks for such an informative post and a delicious recipe for mac & cheese as well! I’m lucky that I’m not a big lover of red meat but for many reasons I think it’s better to eat less of it. I’ll take vegan mac & cheese with a green salad on the side any day!

    • This recipe is definitely the best homemade mac and cheese I’ve ever had (vegan or not). And another great thing is that we’ll make this on Sunday and it will last throughout the week. That’s the best!

  8. I want to also throw it out there, that working out WITH weights is very good for the bones. Weight bearing loads strengthen them quite well. I eat plenty of vegetarian, although I’ve made no effort to eat vegan unless it’s by accident. Too many ‘sub’ ingredients required.

    • Very good point. I’ve read that too – that working out with weights and weight bearing exercise (like walking) is very important for strong bones.

  9. Marly, as I’ve mentioned to you before…I’m a huge fan of Dr. Northrup…it all started with wanting to know why I had a huge fibroid inside of me. My research led me to discovering this incredibly intelligent and soulful human being. I wish all doctors were like her.
    About going vegan…it’s a little tough…however, I have no qualms what so ever to be vegetarian 4 plus days a week. I do eat meat…however my consumption of it has been dwindling over the years.
    Thanks for putting this info out there. More people should be aware of it.
    I’ll have to give that yummy recipe a try very soon;o)
    Ciao for now and flavourful wishes,

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  11. I had read something similar that calcium really doesn’t reduce the risk of a fracture, which is so interesting since that’s what we’ve been told for so long. This recipe looks delicious. I’ve yet to use nutritional yeast, but would love to try this.

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