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How To Be A Healthy Vegan – 11 Basic Tips

 

Science says eating 100% plant-based can be the most healthful diet there is – but of course it has to be done right. Coke and vegan marshmallows do not a healthy vegan make.

There are many tantalising, colourful new vegan products out there now, and ‘dirty’ vegan hipster joints are popping up in East London (what seems like) daily. And this is all good, and harmless to indulge in once in a while. But a new vegan could be forgiven for thinking that this is the stuff vegans eat ALL the time. And the worst thing in the world would be for a new vegan to partake of this kind of food only, and end up feeling so bad that they mistake the fact they are feeling gross to be due to a lack of meat. Or eggs. Or salmon.

Another reason some vegans turn back to meat is because they’ve been influenced by Youtube videos where (slightly crazy imo) people eat 50 mangoes for breakfast, 20 bananas for lunch etc and end up believing that buckets of fruit are the answer to all their health and wellness problems. When they don’t get the desired health outcome they expected from eating all the fruit all the time, they blame it on not eating animal products.

Firstly, none of the problems I’ve ever heard these ex-vegans complain of are because of a lack of animal products.

The one and only time you may NEED to eat meat is if there is no plant-food around anywhere; no chance of you coming across any in the next few days; you are already malnourished and semi-dead of starvation; and an unsuspecting animal walks by. In this scenario, go for it. Otherwise, there is no medical need to eat animal products.

Being a healthy vegan isn’t a mystery, but it’s not about guzzling a fuck-ton of fruit, or buying all the pretty new vegan products. And it’s a good idea to get a blood test done with your GP after a couple of months to check your levels of vitamins and minerals to see how you are going. Then, should you be deficient in any, you may well be able to make up the shortfall through diet.

I wonder who could help you do that?????

*coughs loudly*

**waves manically**

Oh……me?

*blushes demurely*

Well, since you asked, here is my nutritional therapy page 😀

But for right now – here are 11 helpful tips that should keep you on the straight and narrow health-wise:

1. Whole Foods. I was going to say ‘if its brown, gobble it down’ but that sounded a little…weird 🙂 What I mean is, always choose the whole versions of grains. So – brown or black rice; wholewheat products over white wheat products (whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, whole wheat couscous etc); and try using more natural sugars over white sugar – agave and maple syrup are a better choice than white sugar and they don’t spike your blood at the same rate.

When you DO buy pre-made products, try and ensure they have minimal ingedients, and that you know what all the ingredients are – no unpronouncable chemical rubbish needed!

2. Watch your oil consumption. It’s very easy to overdo the oil, especially with all the tempting new junk food vegan places around. Even the better plant oils (olive, coconut etc) count as processed foods. Unless you have chronic disease it’s fine to include a little, but restaurant food very often contains a LOT.

Eat at home as much as possible and take your own lunch into work. Eating out occasionally is fine, it’s when you do it constantly that the excess oil can be harmful to digestion, weight maintenance and health in general. If you have to eat out a lot for whatever reason, try and space it out so you’re not doing it on consecutive nights, and eat oil-free meals the days in between.

3. Beans, grains, greens baby! It’s always gonna be your beans and whole grains that will give you the energy and fibre you need to maintain good basic health, with root veg like sweet and white potatoes making a regular appearance too for the same benefits. The greens are a great source of calcium. When you make a meal, try and incude ‘a bean, a green and a grain’ – or a root veg in place of the grain. So that can incude fabulous chilis, curries, pasta dishes, couscous, hearty salads – pretty much most dishes can contain these elements. I know it doesn’t sound as sexy as ‘Sloppy Joes’ or ‘Dirty mac n’ cheeze,’ but it’s not sexy having digestive issues from too much oil either, so… 🙂

4. Eat the rainbow. The colour of each fruit and vegetable represent different nutrients, so try and eat a variety of coloured fruit and veg throughout your week. For example; red – tomatoes, red peppers, red apples; orange -carrots, sweet potatoes, canteloupe; green – um..greens :), kiwi, okra; purple – beetroot; yellow – bananas, yellow peppers.

5. Love your kitchen. Dudes, there’s no easy way to say this and not sound like an authoritarian school head teacher. But you HAVE TO PRIORITISE SPENDING TIME IN THE KITCHEN. You want the health? Good. I want that for you too. Now GET YOUR ASS IN THE KITCH.

If there was a professional goal you desperately wanted, I don’t doubt you would do whatever it took to achieve that. I never understand why people don’t prioritise their health in the same way when health is so basic to happiness and wellbeing. Health, imo, should be a starting point, and everything else comes out of that. If you feel good, you’re gonna be so much more productive – and fun! 🙂

If you make as many of your own meals as possible, YOU can control the oil that goes into your food, and make sure there is no pesky sugar or white flour added. God knows there are plenty of vegan cookbooks and recipe websites out there. Pick one, get a podcast up on the laptop to help you enjoy your kitchen time, and get cooking.

6. Pamper your guts. We now know that gut-health is key to overall health. Your guts contain 70-80 % of your immune system, and bad gut-health can be responsible for all sorts of issues such as leaky gut, IBS, and fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis, and mental illnesses such as depression, bi-polar and even schizophrenia. Sugars and white, refined starches feed bad gut bacteria, so yet another reason to avoid or at least minimise consumption of them.

Eat a portion of fermented foods every day. Pick from sauerkraut, kimchi, soy/coconut yoghurt, miso, tempeh, or a drink like kombucha, vegan kefir, water with apple cider vinegar. This will help re-establish the good bacteria your gut needs to thrive. Me? I make my own kimchi, because I’m a hippie that knits her own sandals 😀 But seriously, it’s yummy. My recipe here.

If you have any of the health issues mentioned at the top of this paragraph, think about taking non-dairy probiotics.

7. Face the flax. Try and include 2 x tbspns ground flax seeds in you diet 6 days a week. There are SO many reasons why this is a good idea for overall health. Firstly; they provide masses of fibre. Secondly; they promote great gut health. Thirdly; they are thought to be cancer-protective. Fourthly; they are thought to soak up any heavy metals lingering in our bodies and help them to..er…exit the body 🙂 Fifthly; they will help keep estrogen levels stable, again, by helping your body to excrete any excess. Sixthly; they are a great source of omega 3.

Sprinkle it on oatmeal, soups, stews, salads.

8. Vitamin 12. Supplement with this. No backtalk. Do it.

9. Hydrate! Well yeah, it’s obvious I know, but you’d be surprised how many people still don’t. Hydrate even more if you consume alcohol and/or coffee. Water and single herb teas are the ONLY liquids that count as water.

10. Sleep well. Another obvious one, and not really my remit, but I DO know it’s best to leave 3 hours between your last meal and going to bed. You wanna be resting in bed, not digesting.

11. Move it! Move it! Move it! Exercise is key. Pick whatever works for you and be CONSISTENT. If nothing more, then get out and walk briskly for half an hour every day – you get even more points if some of the walk has an upwards gradient.

Iodine – More Important Than I Knew

I need to preface this post by saying that if you have any health concerns at all, go to your GP. I present you my experiences in case they can be of help, but I am a nutritionist, not a doctor.

Recently, I had an iodine issue, and once I’d resolved it, I thought ‘I really should update and repost my article on iodine, so that anyone who needs to can benefit from what I just learned.’

So I searched my website and everything I’ve ever written EVER. Turns out I’ve never written a dedicated post about iodine! I couldn’t believe it. I thought I’d written about every nutrient and health issue pertaining to veganism that existed.

Yet nope.

But now I know more than I previously did about iodine, it’s probably just as well.

So I’d previously thought iodine was mainly for thyroid health, and that we should try and eat sea vegetables whenever we got the opportunity, monitor our levels, and if we needed to, take a kelp supplement occasionally (as kelp is a great source of iodine), but that it was important not to overdo the kelp, as it could pack too much of a punch.

Iodine is in other plant food too, but the levels aren’t reliable because it depends how much iodine was in the soil the plants were grown in – and we know our soil is pretty depleted of nutrients these days.

Thus, vegans are definitely at risk for iodine deficiency, in fact this study shows that they can be quite worryingly so. Do not mistake this to mean it’s better to eat animal products, because it’s not, for a multitude of reasons.

Anyway, I followed my own advice faithfully, and took kelp supplements occasionally, or whenever I became aware that I wasn’t really eating much seaweed.

Until I didn’t. Until I ran out of kelp supplements and firstly forgot to buy more, then kept putting it off for no reason other than I thought it wasn’t a priority. I probably went for a good three months without taking any – and to be honest, I hadn’t been that great at taking them on a regular basis even when I had some. I felt fine and didn’t think it was a priority.

Then I started getting the following symptoms (to any men reading this – don’t stop, this post will apply to you too very shortly!); breast tenderness throughout the whole cycle as opposed to just before a period, and a dry skin rash near my temple which was…well…weird.

Now it’s true that you can have weird cycle things happen as you get older, but I felt like these symptoms were specific, and could not be explained away that glibly. So I did my research like a good little health freak, and eventually I had the thought ‘ah, iodine, I wonder if that could have had an impact?’

It turns out it had more of an impact than I could have known with my previous knowledge.

Obviously there’s a whole juicy scientific explanation but in a nutshell, iodine has a really huge influence on our estrogen levels. If you are prone to estrogen dominance as many people are (I am, it’s in the genes), then an iodine deficiency will mean estrogen can get out of control. So despite the fact that I was doing everything to keep my levels balanced (including flax in my daily diet, exercising, eating whole, plant foods etc), I was still getting those symptoms of estrogen dominance.

I quickly bought some kelp supplements and started taking them. Within a few weeks, everything was back to normal, and the dry skin weirdness vanished almost immediately. I wish I’d discovered this earlier, but it took the breast and skin thing to make me take notice.

Further reading revealed that iodine is super important for fertility in both women AND men. I’m definitely not trying to get pregnant but you might be. Men – you need adequate iodine levels for optimal semen quality.

An iodine deficiency can also be responsible for irregular or anovulatory periods, fibroids and fibrocystic breasts.

The other thing is that conventional doctors, and even the plant-based doctors, will tell you you need a very small amount of iodine daily – 130-150mcg, and that to take any more is excessive.

However, people that specialise in reproductive health say that larger amounts can be needed. It is believed that people can take up to 1100 mcg daily safely.

There is also so much that even doctors don’t yet understand about the way iodine works in our body, and even prestigious vegan websites aren’t even giving clear information. For example, The Vegan Society website gives some facts on iodine, and their advice is ‘every vegan needs a reliable source of iodine in their diet’ and ‘in the UK, the recommended daily iodine intake is 140mcg.’ What is that saying? Take a supplement? Don’t take one?

What am I saying?

I’m not saying everybody should rush out and buy a shit-ton of kelp.

I’m saying that I’ve discovered that iodine is more key to basic health, especially reproductive health in both men and women than I’d previously been taught.

I’m saying know your body. If you get any symptoms like the ones I was experiencing, go to the doctors and get a blood test to check your iodine levels. Those symptoms could have other causes, but then you’d want to go to the doctors in any case, and it does no harm to get a blood test while you’re there. If your iodine levels are low, supplement. Start by taking the recommended daily amount, and have another test after a few weeks to see if your levels have improved.

If you have a thyroid issue, you WILL need to take extra care supplementing with iodine so definitely inform your doctor and get their opinion first.

I’ve learned that sometimes the available information about some nutrients just isn’t set in stone, even amongst medical people. Even amongst eminent plant-based medical people. Sometimes we have to be the CEO of our own health, know our bodies, and research all we can. Iodine is one of those nutrients where it’s worth doing this. 


Vegan YouTube ‘Stars’ that Stop Being Vegan For Health Reasons

In recent months there have been several high profile vegan Youtubers that have gone back to eating animal products; and Twitter, FB et all has had much to say about it.

The one I knew the best is Tim Sheiff, who I followed pretty consistently at the beginning of his transition to veganism. I followed him less over the years because, I don’t know, I just became less attracted to his persona.

I have to admit, I was pretty shocked when I heard he was no longer vegan, because for all of my going off his vibe, I still really thought he fully comprehended all the reasons to be vegan, and thought he understood about health – which was the main reason for him stopping his vegan lifestyle.

I understand that he felt like crap, and that it’s crap to feel like crap. And that his excessive fasts and other slightly outlandish-seeming dietary experiments were in his pursuit of health. I get that. When you feel like shit and you read something that gives you hope, you’ll try it, even if it seems a bit crazy. I’ve been there and empathise with this. A few years back, I discovered I had chronic candidiasis, manifesting in horrible skin….stuff…on my body. I won’t even tell you the most horrendous symptoms because I don’t want to put you off your cocoa 🙂 That’s one of the things I DID like about Tim, he wasn’t afraid to go there with the gross body stuff 😀 Anyway, at this time I would have tried pretty much anything just to feel better.

Thankfully, I eventually found a way to overcome my issues. I went on an anti-candida diet, took grapefruit seed extract, and used apple cider vinegar and manuka honey (yes I know honey isn’t vegan, but it was medicinal. Lots of medications aren’t vegan, so shut up). It was a long, slow process, but I got there.

From the symptoms he described, I believe Tim’s issues were also candida and digestion-linked. He seemed to end up associating these issues with his vegan diet.

I’m not trying to blow my own horn here. Ok, maybe I am just a little, but at no time during my couple of years of candida hell on earth did I think my suffering was because of my vegan diet.

It didn’t make sense that that could have been the cause. And now there is enough research to show that a varied whole food, plant-based diet is the best diet to keep candida at bay (listen to this doctor who is an expert in the field). You may, like I did, need to try a more restricted anti-candida diet at first if you currently HAVE candida, but once you are free of it, it’s a whole food vegan diet that is best.

I remember every time I saw videos of Tim, he was guzzling ridicuous amounts of fruit. I mean, fruit is a snack or a dessert. We are not meant to eat 50 frickin’ mangoes for breakfast FFS. Of course eating fruit in those quantites can contribute to candida overgrowth. That’s wayyyy too much fruit sugar fermenting in your gut! Admittedly sometimes I did see him eating a nutritionally balanced meal, but this didn’t seem to be a consistent thing. It often seemed to be one new food philosophy or another.

The YouTuber Rawvana – the vegan who got caught eating fish – I knew less about. From what I did see, she seemed, like Tim, to constantly be trying new things, whether all raw food, or water fasts, or whatever it may be. Her health issues seemed similar too – yeast and digestive issues. She thought that eating fish and eggs would be the answer to her health problems.

Although it’s disappointing that these people amassed huge profiles and thousands of followers by proclaiming how vegan they were, and personally profited from this – then stopped – thereby probably causing a significant amount of their followers to stop too, my reason for writing this is not to judge Tim or the others (even though if I’m honest they do piss me off a little. Hey, I’m human). I’m not interested in anyone’s path except my own (she says trying to sound grown up and shit :D).

But seriously, my point in writing this piece is as follows:

1. To reassure you that a whole food vegan diet is suitable, health-wise, for everybody at any stage of life. No ifs, no buts. To also assure you that animal products in the diet are not a cure for anything. Unless you are dying of hunger on a desert island and there is no vegetation anywhere, just the proverbial cow… That’s it. Some people may need to avoid certain plant foods in the case of intolerances or allergies – but this is the same with a non-vegan diet. For example, I am highly allergic to eggs. So, um..it’s a good job I’m vegan.

2. To encourage you to watch whoever appeals to you on social media. We all follow people for a wide range of reasons. Sometimes I’ll follow an absolute moron just because they make me laugh. BUT, if you are following a vegan on a particular platform for the sole purpose of learning how to be a healthy, happy vegan, PLEASE make sure they refer to science (peer-reviewed if possible). If you’re not sure how to do this, you can just cross-reference what your new vegan hero is saying with the works of the eminent plant-based doctors – Dr’s T. Colin Campbell, Michael Greger, John McDougall, Caldwell Essylstyn, Michael Klaper, Neal Barnard – they all have plenty of resources online.

Make sure your new vegan gal/guy is consistently eating/cooking (and advising you to eat) a diet rich in whole grains, beans, lentils, root veg, leafy greens and other veg, fruit, nuts seeds, herbs and spices. If they start talking about fasting or being 100% raw, or eating 50 mangoes for breakfast – throw your phone or laptop in the garbage instantly and run as far away from it as you can 😀


When Non-Vegans Ask ‘…But Why Do Vegans Eat Fake Meat If They Don’t Like Meat?’

My Tofurky roast from a couple of years ago


When discussing veganism with non-vegans; hot on the tail of ‘…but palm oil will often follow: ‘why do vegans eat fake meat if they don’t like meat?’

It’s a misconception that people go vegan because they don’t like the taste of meat. Some may quit meat for that reason – wasn’t a huge fan myself – but the main reason people go vegan is because they’ve stopped believing that animals are a commodity put here for our use, and the main way that manifests is in them stopping participating in the cruelty and barbarism that is animal agriculture.

Bearing this in mind – why shouldn’t some vegans want to recreate the taste and texture of meat with an animal free product? I mean, why not? In terms of the ethical reasons, a meat alternative serves the purpose of avoiding the cruelty but still having the taste, so win-win no?

People often find that even if they start off eating alternative meat and cheese products as a vegan, they’ll gradually learn how to make amazing dishes themselves consisting of veg, beans, lentils, grains, herbs and spices etc – think chili’s, soups, curries, pad thais, tagines, porotos granados and all manner of dishes that just don’t need a meat substitute.

Alternative meats can be a great help to people who want to move towards veganism but are a little fearful their new food will be too ‘different.’ It can be helpful, then, for them to have their ‘new’ plate resemble the old one. For this reason I am thrilled about all the alternative meat products we now have available to us – vive la Gregg’s sausage roll!

People also go vegan for health and environmental reasons as well as the ethics (for me all three are interconnected).

So how does ‘fake meat’ fare compared to meat in terms of health and the environment?

Fake meat will never contain cholesterol, anti-biotics or hormones, so already it has that over meat. The chances are very high it will also contain less fat. Another score. So while it may not be a super healthy product, a meat alternative will pretty much always be healthier than a meat one.

As for the environment, even if non-vegans are quick to point out the meat alternative contains palm oil (and I kill that line of argument dead here), it will still be much better for the environment than meat. Animal agriculture is the prime driver behind ALL FORMS of environmental destruction.

And did you know we have 12 years to avoid planetary ruin, and we’re advised to move away from animal products NOW?

So yeah – bring on the fauxsages, and quick!

When Non-Vegans Yell ‘….But Palm Oil!!’

I feel like I’ve been called to write this post 😀

In the last 3 days, on 3 separate occasions (one in print and twice in TV interviews), I’ve heard non-vegans using ‘…but palm oil’ either to denigrate a vegan product, or just generally throw it at vegans with the implication that vegans are hypocritical for using palm oil, when palm oil contributes to deforestation and loss of orang-utan life.

Firstly, we have to acknowledge that palm oil production IS a problem and does cause deforestation and the deaths of the animals of the forest, among them orang-utans. Obviously this is not desirable and nobody would deny that it behoves us all, especially vegans who are mindful of the well-being of all animals, to either make our best attempts to avoid it, or to source products that contain palm oil from an ethical, sustainable supplier.

There are several elements to this.

What non-vegans that throw ‘but palm oil’ in our faces, forget (or just choose to ignore), is the following.

  • 26 million rainforest acres have been cleared for palm oil production*
  • 136 million rainforest acres have been cleared for animal agriculture

Perspective right there! And:

  • The leading causes of rainforest destruction are livestock and feedcrops

These are just the stats on rainforest destruction; I haven’t even got the space or time to talk about how much more animal agriculture destroys the rest of the environment than does palm oil.

I feel we can all agree that animal agriculture is responsible for far more animal deaths than palm oil production?

  • 70 billion farmed animals are reared annually worldwide. More than 6 billion animals are killed for food every hour

I totally agree orang-utans are cute AF, but it is not a worse crime to needlessly kill them than it is cows or pigs. All have the same capacity to suffer.

And another fun fact, just to illustrate how ridiculous the ‘but palm oil’ argument is:

  • 82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten by western countries

Bottom line; animal agriculture will always be more destructive in terms of environmental damage and animal cruelty and killing than will the palm oil industry.

The other line of ‘reasoning’ the ‘but palm oil’ crowd seem to have is that we, as vegans, are not as damn well perfect as we think we are because we consume products that contain palm oil, so we are hypocrites, and may as well not be vegan.

To this I say:

Many vegans DO avoid palm oil, I know of a couple personally.

Also, as vegans, we are not trying to be perfect, we never were. This is a projection that non-vegans impose on us – I dare say fuelled by a defensiveness they have about not being vegan when on some level they are aware it would be the right thing to do. It’s impossible to be a ‘perfect’ vegan in any case. We can go for a walk and trample bugs underfoot. We use cars that have tires made with animal products; we take planes that use aviation fuel containing animal products. In terms of the environment, we all drain the resources of the planet in some way every day, just by living. All we vegans are trying to do, as far as is practical and practicable, is limit unnecessary cruelty to animals and minimise environmental ruin. The best way to do this to have maximum impact will always be to go vegan. If we make the conscientious decision to avoid palm oil too, well great! And I hope more people do. I need to make greater effort in this direction myself. But we are no less vegan if we don’t, and we are still having the most impactful positive effect on the planet and animals than a non-vegan who just avoids palm oil.

*All stats from the Cowspiracy Facts page

End Capitalism – Save Animals And The Planet

Lol…if you haven’t realised already, I don’t write the sort of blog posts that other wellness types do, i.e. give you a little helpful content and then yell ‘buy my shit.’ I mean, I totally should, being someone who relies on people to buy my shit, but ugh, I can only write about what’s on my mind.

This is what’s on my mind right now:

I heartily applaud those of you who participate in Cubes of Truth, vigils for animals about to be slaughtered, animal rights marches etc etc.

These actions are effective, I know, and this post isn’t meant to throw shade on any of them.

As much as I respect it, I’ve never participated in any action of that sort. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always posting vegan advocacy stuff on social media, and continually having conversations where I’m encouraging folks to think about veganism.

I think it’s that I’ve been vegan such a long time – in the beginning there wasn’t as much of that stuff going on, and there wasn’t social media, so even if marches etc were going on, I wouldn’t have had much awareness of them.

But in the last few years, it’s probably more because I’ve become very aware that animal rights and speciesism are not single issue. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t tackle them in a ‘single issue’ way sometimes – Cubes of Truth, marches etc – of course we should. It’s just that I’ve come to believe very strongly that there is a bigger foundational cause of animals being ‘otherised’ by humans that also needs addressing.

I feel like we should address the cause and not just the symptom, if you will.

It can be argued (and in fact IS by many including Martin Luther King) that the driver of continued racism, sexism and even speciesism – in fact all oppressions – is unfettered capitalism, which, in case you haven’t noticed, is the state we are living in now.

Regarding how capitalism is tied to racism, King argued thus:

You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism.” – Speech to his staff, 1966.

and:

We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power… this means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together… you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others… the whole structure of American life must be changed. America is a hypocritical nation and [we] must put [our] own house in order.”- Report to SCLC Staff, May 1967.

Sure, we ended slavery and had the Civil Rights movement. But there are now more people incarcerated in US jails than any other country, most of them brown-skinned (African Americans and Hispanics make up 56% of the prison population), and  most of them employed while in prison, by multi-national companies, on VERY low wages – like 4 cents an hour – to do extremely menial jobs.

Where there is profit in exploitation, it will be done. And even if we think we are progressing, by trying to stop child exploitation and slavery – corporations and company owners will just find a different section of society to exploit. Capitalism is an energy that’s entire point is to grow exponentially, and fuck the consequences. A little like cancer I guess.

If MORE profit can be made by exploiting brown people, so be it. If MORE profit can be made exploiting women, so be it. Animals, the same. There is no reformation of capitalism. You can improve an area, maybe make it a little more socially conscious, this is true – but it’s a bit like a pesky air-bubble, that no matter how you try and get rid of it, that insidious energy will just go somewhere else. For example, we ended slavery in America, but that just led to the Jim Crow laws. We ended those, kinda, but now US for-profit prisons (thanks Bill Clinton!) are disproportionately full of black prisoners who didn’t get due justice- see point above.

As for the otherisation and objectification of women? We KNOW that the pornification of society has detrimental effects on both men and women, and only serves to keep some men viewing women as objects for their use – but porn makes scads of  money, so no-one cares. Young girls are increasingly expected by their boyfriends to look and behave like porn stars, but who gives a toss? Too much money in porn to rock the boat.

It IS true that people ate animals before capitalism existed. Women and people of colour were otherised too. But capitalism took this to whole new levels – by its very nature it sees everything and everyone as commodities, so where money could be made off the backs of the oppressed, for the oppressors, this naturally happened.

This is an exceedingly complex subject – there are myriad ways in which capitalism has reinforced oppressions (while appearing to improve some things), and a blog post is not going to address all of those.

My point is, a move towards a more socialist society will be a move towards a more vegan one. US readers – whatever you’ve been taught, socialism IS. NOT.THE.SAME.AS.COMMUNISM! It just means prioritising people and not profits. It means caring more about the welfare of people than the welfare of the markets. Out of the vegans I know, most if not all have socialist values. You probably do too, whether you know it or not. You believe in free university tuition? Publicly-owned national services? The regulation of banks so they can’t get too big for their boots and cause another crash like in 2008? Think the rich should pay more tax, the poor less? Free health care for all? Bingo – you have socialist values, and they are nothing to be scared of. Jeremy Corbyn is known to be vegetarian and I’ve heard those that know him say he’s actually vegan. The French politician who is on the socialist left is not yet vegan, but is aware that he should be, is trying his best and talks often about the plight of farm animals.

Thus, I’ve come to believe that in order to most effectively fight for animals (and women and people of colour) and against the forces that enslave and commodify them, then working towards a more socialist society has to make up a large part of our activism.

The neoliberal/neoconservative (they are the same thing – the neoliberals are just a little more polite is all) economic models that we currently have are not gonna cut it, in terms of how we look at the ‘other.’ They both uphold the rabid capitalist narrative. If we want to see a change from the ground up, we have to change the system.

A Quick, No Hassle, Guaranteed Way To Get Your Omega 3

As a vegan coach and nutritionist, many’s the time I’ve been asked about omega 3, and how to obtain adequate amounts on a plant-based diet.

Omega 3 is vital for heart, eye, joint, brain and mental health, amongst other things.

The answer is – it’s easy. Include a couple of tablespoons of ground flaxseeds on your breakfast oatmeal every day; snack on a few walnuts a week; eat a varied, colourful, whole food diet; and you’re good.

However, as with lots of nutrients (protein, calcium, iron etc), I’m fighting against decades (if not more) of societal conditioning that has told us the only place to get sufficient amounts of omega 3 is from animal products – and that the best source is fish, and fish oil.

This is the short version of why this myth persists:

Omega 3 consists of ALA, DHA and EPA.

These are a-linolenic acid, docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid.

The DHA and EPA can only be obtained, we are told, from fish and fish oil.

What we are never told, is that if we consume flax seed, walnuts and oatmeal that are all rich in ALA, our bodies are perfectly capable of converting the ALA into the DHA and EPA.

But…but….BUT:

What if you just want a super quick way of ensuring you are getting enough omega 3?  What if you are allergic to seeds? What if you hate oatmeal because it reminds you of your yucky boarding school porridge? What if you just want another way to get omega 3 for the days you just don’t fancy oatmeal and flaxseeds? What if you have heard the ‘omega 3 comes from the sea’ line so much that you’d JUST PREFER to get it from a sea-based source? (I would completely understand this – we have been so indoctrinated that sometimes it’s hard to change our thinking).

And there is some truth to omega 3 coming from the sea.

Seaweed contains the DHA and EPA. This is, in fact, where the fish get their omega 3. So you can cut out the middle man (fish?) and just go straight to the source!

But how will you know if you are eating enough? I mean, it’s great to eat vegan nori rolls and sushi, and sprinkle wakame flakes into noodle dishes, and to eat miso – but they are not necessarily things we would eat every day, so….. how to ensure we would be getting enough omega 3?

British-based company Vegan Vitality have us completely covered on this. They have made a vegan capsule with algae (seaweed) oil containing concentrated levels of EPA and DPA – more than any other algae oil capsule currently available, which means you need only take 1 – 2 capsules daily to ensure adequate levels of omega 3.

As it doesn’t come from fish, it doesn’t contain any of the nasties that are currently found in all sea creatures – the PCB’s, dioxins, heavy metals etc. And of course, there is not the fishy aftertaste you’d get from a fish oil capsule.

My partner gets up late and ends up rushing like a mutha to get to work on time (I feel sure plenty of you reading this will relate 🙂 ), and so almost NEVER has the time to pour himself out a bowl of oatmeal and grind up some flax seeds. These capsules are an ideal way of getting his daily omega 3. He has been taking them for the past week. We can’t really report any benefits in such a short time, but he says it’s nice not having to feel bad because he knows he hasn’t eaten the nutrients he should have.

Now I’m all about price. I really AM Bargain Basement Betty – attractive as that is. These capsules are available on Amazon for £15.99 for 60 capsules, which is a 2 month supply. For peace of mind that you are getting this critical nutrient, I’d say that was excellent value.

If you know you are not the person who is going to be eating oatmeal and flax seeds most days- whether due to lack of time or it’s just not your thing, or even if you just want to make sure you have back up for those days you have no groceries left in the house, or you’re eating breakfast out etc –  then I recommend these capsules.

Omega 3 is important, make sure you have it covered!

 

Please note: Excepting the pot of capsules I was sent to review, I am not being paid for this article. This article reflects my authentic, professional opinion, as with every product I review.

 

But Plants Have Feelings Too

So your argument for not going vegan is that it’s totally proven now, don’t you know, that plants have feelings too and you wouldn’t want to be a hypocrite and eat plants while not eating animals, so…there’s really no point is there? For added weight you also make the point that harvesting plants kills lots of tiny animals, so… again – what’s the point in going vegan, you’re always going to be killing something, right?

If these are included in your reasons for not going vegan, you’re not alone.

Typically (because I’ve had this conversation fifty-hundred times), this argument will be the last one someone pulls out of their excuse arsenal, after ‘but vegan isn’t good for your health’, and ‘but grass-fed cows are ok’ and ‘it’s too difficult, it’s not realistic’

I saw this very argument unfold the other day in an online publication by an esteemed author in the comment section of a piece she wrote, part of which attempted to discredit and dismiss veganism. This publication is very progressive and forward-thinking, and all its contributors are continually thinking outside, like, every box ever. On practically every other point I agree with all their writers, and can only dream of having the knowledge and insight that they possess.

So it was kind of shocking to see someone of this intelligence/enlightenment level resorting to the ‘plants have feelings too’ argument after her previous arguments were rebutted. I think it’s testament to the universality of the fear people have of having to change their life if there should emerge a logical reason to. They think veganism is too different and alien, they are not aware how kinda pretty normal it is, and that we still eat just as much amazing food as non-vegans. Actually I eat more. So this quasi-scientific-sounding, ethical-sounding argument about the feeliness of plants is used as that final barrier between them and veganism, it’s the argument that is supposed to have the effect of shutting the hell up that annoying vegan they are having the debate with.

So, lemme take that final barrier down for ya!

Using the ‘but plants have feelings too’ argument with vegans is set on the premise that vegans are trying to be perfect beings who never contribute to any animal cruelty whatsoever. Because they are just so holy and righteous.

Hahaaaa, I’m so holy and righteous!!! If only you knew.

As vegans we accept that no human being can live without harming animals. It’s not possible. If you’re looking for humans that do the least harm to other living beings then I believe that would be the Jains, a religious group in India, who not only are vegan, but also won’t eat root veg because they believe more insects are harmed in the harvesting of them; and they often wear face masks so they don’t breathe in tiny flies and other insects, thereby killing them.

Vegans are not even close to Jains. I love my root veg. And they love me. And God knows how many flies I sucked up in all the years I cycled around London.

We all inadvertently kill tiny insects every day underfoot. And animal products are in  SO.MANY.THINGS. Aviation fuel, car and bike tyres and musical instruments to name but three. So unless you want an incredibly hermetic life, it’s impossible to live harming no beings at all.

Our goal is to do the least harm possible, as far as is practical and practicable. We don’t need to eat animal products, in fact we thrive without them, so it’s not only practical but actually sensible NOT to eat them. Plant food is available everywhere, so living vegan is easily practicable too. It’s very easy to find vegan clothing and footwear. It’s NOT easy to avoid using cars, bikes, buses, airplanes etc. You can’t check every step before you take it to ensure you don’t crush bugs. Not practicable. Geddit?

Thus, we accept that bugs and small critters do die when our plants are harvested. But being vegan we’re actually responsible for fewer of these deaths because we only eat plants. Non-vegans eat plants AND animals that eat plants.

Similarly, if you are genuinely worried about plants having feelings, the best thing you can do is go vegan. Why? Vegans just eat plants. Non-vegans eat plants AND animals that eat plants.

Another fave anti-vegan argument is ‘but lions tho’ – meaning; lions have to eat meat to live, therefore so do we. I like to borrow from this and in so doing have found a great two-for-one rebuttal to both the ‘feely plants’ and ‘but lions’ narratives.

We actually ARE like lions, but not in the way you think.

Lions are obligate carnivores. They HAVE to eat meat to survive. They are not hard-wired to care about their prey – otherwise they couldn’t survive.

Humans HAVE to eat plants to live and thrive. Even if plants possess ALL the feels, which I doubt, but even if they DO I cannot care about this, because to survive I need to eat them. So I’ll eat them without regard for their sentience.

However I don’t need meat to live, in fact it makes us sick – so why would I? A lion instinctively wouldn’t eat something that would make it sick. I will eat what I know optimises my survival, just like the ol’ lion. This is practical and practicable. And I am still doing the least harm possible.

Bam! Two arguments dead for the price of one.

 

 

 

Don’t Kid Yourself About ‘Pasture-Raised, ‘Grass-fed’ Animals

Aren’t human beings amazing?

Only humans can convince themselves that slaughtering fully-sentient beings at around a tenth of their natural lifespan, is a humane and ‘normal’ thing to do.

Only humans can be self aggrandising and deluded enough that they purchase carved-up dead animals, but because it has a label slapped on it saying ‘pasture-raised’ or ‘grass-fed’ – it makes them feel all fuzzy and like they are doing something good for themselves the planet and the animal.

In terms of health, of course pasture-raised cows, pigs and sheep are better than intensively-raised animals whose bodies are probably full of pesticides and antibiotics. But all animal flesh contains cholesterol, saturated fat, and hormones (think hormone-free meat is safe? This only means no added hormones; you cannot get away from the fact that you will always being ingesting the hormones of any being you consume).

Pasture-raised and grass-fed animals are just as bad (if not worse) for the planet as intensively-farmed, and if everyone in the world decided they wanted to eat this way there wouldn’t be anywhere near enough land to accommodate this. So it’s very much an entitled, elitist way to eat. Not to mention that if it gets more popular, how many forests will be razed to the ground to make way for pasture? God knows the world has lost enough forest already.

As mentioned – you aren’t really doing a whole lot for the animal either. Pasture-raised and grass-fed animals still want to live out their lives, just as (I assume) you do. Pasture-raised and grass-fed animals still go to abattoirs. No-one sprinkles sleepy dust on them so they just drift off to sleep and die for you.

It’s funny that ‘pasture-raised’ and grass-fed’ are such hipster (that have spilled over into middle-class) trends. People seem to be convincing themselves that they are eating in a more ‘natural’ ‘real’ or ‘spiritual’ way when their food sports these labels.

There is nothing natural or spiritual about unnecessary slaughter.  Your body not only doesn’t need meat, it thrives without it. You can bleat about being ‘high-vibe’ and natural and primal all you want, but there is nothing high-vibe about unnecessarily brutalising an innocent being who is as sentient as you.

You think these animals are humanely killed?

The phrase ‘humane slaughter’ always makes me laugh. Is there such a thing as humane rape? I mean, there MUST be if there is such a thing as humane slaughter. We only use this term when we are talking about animals. We’d never use it about people. ‘You murdered that woman?’ ‘Yes, but I did it humanely.’ ‘Oh, ok then…er…cool.’

To see if something is truly humane, ask yourself if you’d like it to happen to you. If we assume that you’ll live until 90, then unless at the age of 9 you’d appreciate a bolt to your head to stun you (which is likely not to work) then have your throat slit and be hung upside down by your leg to be drained of blood, then it ain’t really humane to treat animals this way.

I just went on to a UK website for a pasture-raised cow company. I clicked on the section about animal welfare, and there was lots of talk about how the animal is raised, but I was specifically looking for how the animal was killed. You’d think they’d want to make the abattoir sound as fluffy as possible. But you know what? There was zero information on this. Turns out you can’t make an abbatoir sound fluffy.

It talked about how the animals are ‘free to express their normal behaviours’ – but how are they free to do this? If they naturally and instinctively want to live, they are not being allowed to fulfil this desire. It should maybe end the sentence with ‘…free to express their normal behaviours -up to the point where we kill them at a tenth of their normal lifespan.’

Look, I’m not here to force anyone to be vegan. I just don’t want anyone to be deluded by marketing bullshit. If you eat this stuff – please know what it is. It is not better ethically, environmentally, and health-wise only marginally (but if you are genuinely interested in health – go plant-based!).

The people selling ‘pasture-raised’ this and ‘grass-fed’ that will OF COURSE try and make you feel good about buying it – they want your dough! And people that fell for this already will tell you it’s a great thing to do because they want to justify their own habits and feel good about their choices.

But you are more than capable of thinking  for yourself.

A tenth. Of a fully-sentient beings natural lifespan. Start by thinking about that.

And, um, go vegan anyway, lol! 🙂

Is It OK To Ride Horses If You Don’t Race Them?

Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash

We all know (don’t we?) that racing horses is cruel. I mean the very fact of using living beings for commercial purposes, not to mention the cruelty, the whipping, the shooting of the horses if they get injured – because it’s cheaper to kill them than fix them – I mean, come on. If you don’t get that that shit’s wrong, then may I politely suggest that your moral compass may be busted.

Don’t even get me started on dressage. When I see majestic horses made to prance around like idiots just to prove the riders can ‘control’ them, it makes me sick to my stomach. Way to strip a living being of its dignity.

These things may be obvious, but I wanted to address a question where the answer may not be so obvious:

Is it OK to ride horses if you don’t race them or use them commercially?

I remember the one and only time I rode a horse (I wasn’t yet vegan). When I say ‘rode’ I actually mean ‘clung on for dear life.’

It was in the south of France, and under pressure from my then partner, we went horse-trekking in the Dordogne.

From the get-go I was uncomfortable. I had mentioned I was nervous to the organiser, so he said he had given me a very gentle, docile horse.

This didn’t make me feel any less nervous. During the trek the horse behind kept head-butting mine up the bum, so my horse kept running away from it. I ended up getting off the horse (THAT was a scary enough manoeuvre!), and telling the organiser I couldn’t go on. He shamed me and said NO-ONE had ever got off the horse in the middle of a trek before. I shrugged and just led the horse by hand back to the stables.

I think I can now verbalise how I felt that day.

I think I was aware at an unconscious level that I was sitting astride a living being, who had the full agency and right to do whatever they wanted at any given time – like ALL living beings do. I would not blame the horse if she wanted to throw me off her back. I was not confident, like the other trekkers seemed to be, that the horse was a thing that would do whatever they commanded. I didn’t see how they could be that confident, horses aren’t machines.

It’s not something I could have expressed that day. I hadn’t given much thought to whether animals were fully-sentient beings or not, and I’d already lived in France for two years at that point and was used to seeing horse butchers everywhere.

Yet it just didn’t feel right.

And while part of this was because I was scared AF that I would fall (not gonna pretend I was a saint thinking purely about the horse), I think I also knew that a horse is a living being, and ultimately, living beings have their own mind – even if humans break their spirits when they are ‘broken in.’ Therefore, the horse could do anything at any time – and why wouldn’t she? This didn’t help my fear of falling any, lol!

Now we know animals are the same as us in every significant way – they suffer, feel pain and fear in the same way we do (some countries have even declared that into law); so regarding the above question there is just one thing to ask yourself:

Would you like a big ol’ lummox riding on your back? Controlling you? Pulling at reins that pulled at your head and mouth? Having metal continually banged into your feet, because your hooves can wear down with all the unnatural weight you carry when people ride you?

I’m gonna hazard a guess that the answer to this is no.

So how can we justify riding horses for pleasure whether it’s for commercial purposes or not? The minute we get on their back we are stepping on their agency.

Yes, they may let you do that – probably because they have been previously ‘broken in’ (ugh, I hate that term), and they know that you are their food source.

This doesn’t mean it’s right.

I’ve found that we get the answer to pretty much any question regarding the treatment of animals if we ask – would we like it done to us?

Would you climb on the back of any of your other pets? Ha! I like to see someone try and climb on the back of their cat – the cat would soon let them know how they felt about that!

Wild horses in Nevada

I’ve been lucky enough to see truly wild mustangs and burros in the west of America. We don’t get wild horses here in the UK (the Welsh/New Forest/Dartmoor horses and ponies are actually privately owned and semi domesticated), so it was pretty amazing to see these horse families living wild and free.

I get that due to domestication horses need to be fed a majority of their diet by humans, and to generally be looked after; but isn’t that the same with cats and dogs? Why do the horses have to be ridden to merit their upkeep?

Isn’t it possible to have a horse companion (just like a dog companion) and take them out for walks every day, let them run some, pet them, and just generally enjoy the company of these beings without climbing on their backs and making them do stuff?