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Questions You’ll Get As A Vegan, And How To Respond

people speech bubble

A while back I posted responses to some of the comments and questions that vegans get; part 1 is here, part 2 here.

I was a little, shall we say, sarcastic with some of the responses back then because as a long time vegan, it can be hard hearing (or these days, reading on social media) the same silly things over and over again while the planet is deteriorating due to animal agriculture; and both non-human and human animals are needlessly dying – the non-human through our brutalising of them, and the human through heart disease, strokes, cancers and diabetes complications that occur through eating the non-human animals.

There are a few I didn’t cover back then, so I’ll tackle them now, and I’ll try and be kinder. Maybe.

 

1. But what if you found yourself on a desert island with a cow, and absolutely NO vegetation around and no chance of getting rescued. Would you eat the cow?

Answer: Probably. But that isn’t happening right now, so I’ll just continue to eat the abundance of plant food available to me and leave the animal products – which only HARM my body and the planet – well alone.

 

2. But if we didn’t eat cows, the world would be overrun with them.

Answer: No. Truly no. We would simply stop breeding them for food if nobody ate them.

 

3. Cont…But if we stopped breeding cows for food and milk, then there would be no more cows. I mean nobody would keep them as pets, so they would effectively become extinct.

Answer: Cows becoming extinct is preferable to them being bred to lead a miserable life in which they are raped, having their offspring instantly taken from them, only living a quarter of their natural lifespan and meeting an untimely, brutal (and in many, MANY cases) long, drawn-out death.

Besides, there are many species that have gone extinct that you never heard of. Did you cry over these?

 

4. But God said we have to eat meat.

Answer: To you? Personally? No, God didn’t. At least not in any religious text I know of. There are proscriptions for IF we eat meat, but that is not the same thing. In the three Abrahamic religious texts, for every verse you give me that you believe means it’s ok to eat meat, there are verses that suggest that meat-eating is against the spirit of the text as a whole. I wrote about religious texts and vegetarianism here if you are interested.

 

5. But I wouldn’t be as healthy as I am now if I went vegan.

Answer: As long as you eat enough calories and enough nutrients (which you should be concerned with if you are omni, too) you will thrive. In general, vegans get less sick than non-vegans, with both serious diseases, and minor ones.

 

6. But I wouldn’t know what to eat on a day-to-day basis.

Answer: Do you have access to Google? Can you type ‘vegan meal ideas’  into the search facility? There you go.

You can do one of two things. Both are great. You can eat EXACTLY as you eat now, but with the vegan versions of everything, or, discover a whole new world of vibrant, colourful foods from all around the world that are vegan by default, and discover how to make them yourself. You’ll have fun while learning, and very soon have a whole repertoire of go-to meals you can draw from each day.

 

7. But I don’t like vegan food.

Answer: You don’t like bananas? Apples? Sweet potato fries? Olives? Sweetcorn? Hummous? Popcorn? This list can go on for miles.

 

8. But eating too many vegetable foods makes me gassy.

Answer: Gross! I mean…If this happens (and assuming you don’t have medical issues with your stomach) then it’s just because your body isn’t sufficiently acquainted with fibre. The more vegetable matter you eat (veggies, beans, wholegrains etc), the more your body acclimates to digesting fibre and the fewer problems you will have with gas. Your body is INTENDED to eat fibre, so get chomping on those beans!

 

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How The BBC View Veganism

 

Green Smootie from Flickr via Wylio
© 2014 Robert Gourley, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

*Sigh*

The BBC is supposedly all about impartial, objective, informative, educational programming.

Indeed, part of their remit is ‘Promoting education and learning

On their ‘purpose remits‘ pdf, it says:  BBC journalism should be independent, accurate and impartial.

I’m about to tell you of a programme that did not promote education and learning but instead promoted ignorance, and the journalism most definitely flouted all of the above criteria.

Sometimes the institutions we are led to believe are the most trustworthy can actually be the most harmful because people question them less.

I would much rather some trashy TV channel brought out a programme blatantly discrediting veganism, than what I witnessed last week on the BBC.

At least then we’d be able to say ‘….well, it’s Channel Crapola, no-one takes that shit seriously.’ And most people wouldn’t.

So what was the offensive emission that sent my bullshit radar into overdrive?

I just saw a repeat of a programme called ‘Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets‘ (apparently it was first broadcast in July).

The presenter talks about the upsurge in ‘clean eating’ blogs and personalities – some of whom I referred to in this post, and explores their correlation with an increase in orthorexia (orthorexia is a state of worrying about eating the ‘right’ things to the point that it impinges on quality of life).

There is a legitimate argument to be had here. No-one is denying this. But it becomes very clear, just a few short minutes into the show, that its main aims are to discredit veganism, and eating healthily.

There is no difference made in this programme between veganism, and those who are purely eating more plant-based for health reasons. In fact, some of the blogs mentioned aren’t even plant-based, espousing bone broth, eggs and ‘happy meat’ as they do.

How they can be lumped in with veganism when veganism is at core based on ethics and social justice is some lousy-ass journalism on the part of the researchers of this programme.

It happened continually throughout, however. The agenda was practically waving at you.

The presenter decides to try…well…I’m not sure whether she decides to try veganism, clean-eating, a plant-based diet or what.

At one point she pulled everything unhealthy out of her fridge, then whined that there was no ‘joy’ left in there.

The thing is, her fridge was full of crap. There was barely one unprocessed thing in that entire space. If her fridge had been full of fresh produce, great bread, yummy leftovers from the dinner she made the night before, cool dairy alternatives and homemade treats, that fridge would’ve still been full.

She then went to a branch of one of the most expensive health food shops in London (one at which, in 27 years as a vegan, I have NEVER purchased anything), pointed at a bag of £5 kale chips, and declared healthy eating to be expensive and for the middle classes.

Uh…I shop mainly at Asda. Since when did beans and rice cost more than meat and dairy???

A dietician is interviewed and leads us to believe that it’s unwise to cut out dairy as you’ll forgo a good source of calcium.

This in fact, is the science on dairy; and this page gives you lots of great plant-based calcium sources. Both these pages are run by doctors. If I know where to get this information as a humble nutritionist – why the hell doesn’t this dietician?

Talking of which, online nutritionists are of course disparaged. It’s pointed out that some of these bloggers became a nutritionist with online courses of just 20 hours.

You wanna know something frightening? DOCTORS only get 20 hours of nutrition study!

The presenter then enrols in a course that costs just £29. Of COURSE this is a BS course. Twenty-nine pounds??? I only wish I’d found one that cheap when I did mine! This doesn’t mean all nutrition courses are BS.

And sure there are bad nutritionists; but there are bad doctors; bad lawyers; bad teachers etc, all of whom have studied for years. I’ve personally suffered the consequences of a string of bad doctors. I certainly suffered bad teachers. And bad dentists? How long ya got?

At some point near the beginning of the programme, a sentence that mixes veganism, plant-based eating and clean eating all together says that these diets are not based on science.

Why weren’t the plant-based doctors interviewed? Dr’s Greger, McDougall, Barnard, Klaper, Campbell etc. These guys would have told a totally different side.

No actual plant-based expert was interviewed at all. There was no balance or fair reporting on the health benefits of a whole food, vegan diet.

Nothing is mentioned of the fact that the prime way to stop all forms of environmental degradation is mass adoption of a plant-based diet. You’d think they’d stick this in somewhere wouldn’t ya?

The conclusion to this shambolic shit-fest came from a dietician who bleated, as you might expect, ‘…eat a little bit of what you fancy; eat in moderation; eat food that looks like food.’

How fuzzy and ambiguous is this advice? People fancy all sorts of unhealthy foods all the time. We know that moderation kills (I wrote about moderation here); and bacon looks like food to lots of people, yet it can do this.

A staff member at an eating disorder clinic said it was dangerous to cut out food groups, but never mentioned which ones! We know it’s actually optimal for health to avoid animal products and replace them with whole foods, but the positive side of eliminating certain foods was never mentioned.

 

I don’t even know which part of this programme was the most bullshizzy. Whoever in the BBC let this tripe go out must be absolutely TERRIFIED of vegans.

All I can say is this effort was manipulative, misleading, misrepresentative, biased, unbalanced, and seemingly went out of its way to be deliberately confusing.

Also, as Dr John McDougall says, people LOVE to hear good news about their bad habits, so I can imagine lots of people rubbing their hands together with glee after this programme aired.

It just worries me that because it’s the BBC, some people WILL believe this garbage to have credence.

Let’s not forget. The BBC is publicly funded, so they want to keep their funders happy. Most of the public are not vegan. The BBC possibly figures that making vegans look wacky, extreme and unhinged will make the general public feel warm and fuzzy and better about NOT being vegan. They will then have positive associations with the BBC and keep funding it willingly.

As someone who doesn’t tolerate sexism or anti-vegan propaganda, I fell out of love with the BBC ages ago having witnessed both from them often. But it worries me that because it is widely believed that the BBC are trustworthy when it comes to presenting information, some people will suck this shit up.

I’m extremely proud to declare that not one single penny of mine funded this excuse for a programme.

My advice:

I don’t care if it’s the BBC, NPR, PBS or whatever other ‘well-meaning,’ ‘educational,’ ‘impartial,’ channel. Always question; look for the peer-reviewed science, and do your own research.

Dr T Colin Campbell in his book ‘Whole’ talks about how PBS (a reputable American channel known as being educational and impartial) didn’t end up interviewing him about his findings on diet and cancer despite showing initial interest, because they probably realised how unpopular his views would be and didn’t want to risk a funding backlash.

It would seem that no mainstream media outlet, however supposedly ‘respectable,’ is immune to this.

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Grilled Portobello Burgers With Smoky Chipotle Sauce

 

Warning (in a good way): This recipe really is killer. It will impress non-vegans, and it’s great for a casual dinner party because it’s so damn simple – you’ll be able to chat easily to the annoying guest who stands in the kitchen talking to you while you’re cooking, instead of thinking ‘would you please go and chat with everyone else already!’ and feeling mean about doing so.

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Ever fancy a big, juicy, burger with all the trimmings; something creamy and cheesy on the burger; a smokiness reminiscent of bonfires and barbecue, and where the burger juice seeps a little into the toasted bun and every moment of mastication is sheer heaven?

I did too, yesterday.

Now bean burgers are great, I love ’em.

And seitan patties – fantastic!

But when portobello mushrooms are just THE PERFECT shape and size already, and have a meaty texture when grilled (it’s almost like portobellos were invented PURPOSELY to be vegan burgers!!), I wanted to go this route instead.

Sometimes bean burgers can be dry (unless deep fried), and I definitely wanted a ‘juicy’ quality, without any frying action having taken place.

I love trying to ‘upgrade’ junk food. Junk is ok once in a while, but I figure we can have it MORE OFTEN (and still remain healthy) if we make a few switches, and just upgrade a few of the ingredients. What’s ace though, is that we lose none of the taste! Not a single bit!

Now this recipe DOES contain oil, but if you’re concerned about it you can always minimise the quantity, or just using water instead of oil may work too.

I don’t have chronic disease so I do include a little oil in my diet.

This recipe was inspired by the portobello burger recipe on veganvigilanteblog.com, but I’ve simplified it, and changed a couple of measurements and ingredients (adobo sauce is only sold online in the UK!) I wanted it to be accessible to all.

Also, the original recipe adds a layer of vegan cheese. I’ve excluded this; partly because we have no decent vegan melty cheese in the UK, but also because it really isn’t needed. The cashew chipotle sauce is plenty cheesy. If you want that extra cheese factor, go ahead and add a layer of vegan cheese on the burger.

 

What you’ll need:

All the shizz you will need.
All the shizz you will need.

For the burger:

  • 4 x wholewheat buns
  • 4 x portobello mushrooms (remove stalks)
  • Lettuce leaves
  • 1x large sliced tomato
  • 1 x red onion (thinly sliced)

For the marinade:

  • 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil extra virgin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 x cloves garlic minced (or 2 tsp garlic powder)
  • 1/2 tsp paprika powder
  • 1 tsp dried basil

For the chipotle sauce:

  • 3/4 cup plain cashews soaked in boiling water for 1 hour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp chipotle chilli flakes
  • 1 x large clove garlic (or 1 tsp of garlic powder)

 

What you do:

Note: Put the cashews on to soak in boiling water for an hour first!!

For the marinade:

De-stalk your mushrooms, and I also recommend peeling them – I feel they absorb liquid better when peeled, as the skinned flesh has a more spongy texture.

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Left: smooth finish; right: spongy finish!

In  a medium bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic and spices.

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Roll each mushroom in the marinade, making sure both sides are well coated. Use a spoon, basting brush, whatever it takes! Let sit for 15 minutes.

Too big for the pan now - but wait and see what happens...
Too big for the pan now – but wait and see what happens…

For the chipotle sauce:

Add drained cashews, water, lime juice, sea salt, garlic, chipotle flakes to food processor (I used my Magic Bullet).

Looks gross now - but wait!!!
Looks gross now – but wait!!!

Pulse until smooth consistency, then set aside.

Ta-daaa!
Ta-daaa!

Grilling and dressing the burgers:

Grill mushrooms for approximately 10 minutes on each side. They will reduce in size, that’s normal.

Impressive shrinking trick or what?
Impressive shrinking trick or what?

Remove from grill, and then the fun begins!

Lightly toast the cut side of your buns under the grill (under the broiler if you’re a US friend), and gather together your toppings.

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Place a mushroom on one side of each bun, and add a generous dollop of the chipotle sauce. Remember, you’re not using cheese (unless you are!), so really, a GENEROUS dollop!

That's a small dollop. You should make yours bigger!
That’s a small dollop. You should make yours bigger!

Dress with lettuce, tomato and red onion slices and serve!

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Now THAT’S a sexy little burger!

Serving suggestions:

Feeling virtuous? Serve with corn on the cob and steamed greens.

Feeling a little cheekier? Serve with my yummy sweet potato fries!

 

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Makes: 4 burgers. Up to you if this is one each for 4 people or 2 each for 2!

Prep time: 5ish minutes (though cashews need to soak for an hour)

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Spiciness level: Pretty spicy, say, 7/10 where 10 is ‘oof!’

Suitable for kids?: If the kids are good eaters and like spicy foods, then yes absolutely. If they are picky eaters, not so much.

 

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Vegan + Healthy Does Not = Expensive Weird Shizz

Chia Seed Pudding from Flickr via Wylio
© 2014 Meal Makeover Moms, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

 

There was an article in The Times recently about how the ‘clean eating’ blogs and websites (there are a couple of big ones in the UK – I’m sure the US has its own fair share) have fed into eating disorders, and only served to encourage those that suffer from them to stress even more over the food they eat. It suggested that they play into ‘orthorexia’; a condition where you become so obsessed with eating ‘right’ that it impinges on your quality of life.

I guess I can see how this might happen.

What really irked me about the article however is that it didn’t seem to be too concerned about mentioning veganism in the same breath as the ‘clean-eating’ phenomenon, thereby associating it with the harmful effects that these blogs can have.

You need to know that these blogs have ZERO to do with being vegan. In some cases the ‘diets’ espoused aren’t even 100% plant-based.

Veganism is about not exploiting animals for our use; and in broader terms it’s a foundation for exposing all oppressions, about guardianship of the planet, and giving our bodies what they need and not what they don’t so that we have the energy, will, and spirit to do this.

These ‘clean-eating’ blogs seem to be about looking cool AF while slurping on a smoothie full of ingredients from the peaks of the Peruvian Andes (hello? What happened to shopping locally?)

You also need to know that the foods these blogs showcase are not the only path to great health.

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My thoughts were very conflicted when these fancy, high-end ‘clean eating’ food blogs forced their way across my radar a few years ago.

My VERY first thoughts on discovering Deliciously Ella (famous UK ‘clean eating’ blogger), quite honestly, were jealous ones that I’m not proud of.

How does a 23 year old afford a house with a kitchen like THAT??? How does she afford a fancy website like that?? How does she have the time to compose those pictures and write text and recipes every day??

When I found out it was because she was born rich, that didn’t help my jealousy any.

But then I got over myself and thought about it some more.

My next thoughts were in fact about how positive it could be if lots of people were introduced to plant-based eating this way.

As I said, these websites are all about health and style. They are not about ethics, or about the impact of diet on the environment.

But MY initial main motivation for eating plant-based was health, which eventually grew into something much bigger and all-encompassing.

If I grew to embrace veganism and all it entails through seeking health, surely it could happen to others this way?

Upon further exploration of these websites, I became disheartened. Far too many of the recipes contained ingredients that I knew to be expensive, hard for lots of people to find, and questionable in terms of whether they really deliver benefits in proportion to the price they cost.

If you have the money to afford chia, baobab and cacao by the bucket load, then good for you.

However, veganism and plant-based eating are ALREADY erroneously perceived as being expensive and elitist by many people looking for an excuse to never try it.

These ‘clean-eating’ blogs only reinforce this perception.

I explored the reasons why veganism isn’t elitist here.

I also wrote an article for Mind Body Green with 8 tips on how to eat vegan inexpensively, find it here.

Health does not = smoothies with exclusive ingredients in a vintage mason jar on a photogenic piece of distressed wood.

The much less glamourous  (but also less expensive, YAY!) route to health is this:

  • Eat your wholegrains. Lots of ’em.
  • Potatoes too, both sweet and regular.
  • Root veg like carrots and beets rule for their bright colours and the nutrients they bring.
  • Beans and lentils may not sound sexy, but they are where amazing energy is at.
  • Don’t forget your leafy greens of all persuasions, your nuts and seeds, and fruits of all varieties.
  • Add all the herbs and spices and condiments the earth offers and you not only have the wherewithal to eat deliciously for the rest of your life, but a great foundation for your best health ever.

 

I’m interested to know, what do YOU think of these websites? Please let me know in the comments!

 

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Do Vegans Need To Supplement With Vitamin D?

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Unlike the answer to ‘should vegans supplement with vitamin B12?’ (which is YES btw!), the answer to whether to supplement with vitamin D is not so obvious.

What vitamin D does

Vitamin D is vital for helping us to absorb calcium from the foods we eat, and helps protect us from cancer. It is also thought that it can help prevent us from getting depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets in children, and bone problem in adults (due to calcium not being adequately absorbed). It’s possible that depression is also a symptom of vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D sources

The main source of vitamin D for everyone is sunlight (aim to get 5 to 15 minutes of sunlight on your face, legs or arms every day between 10am-3pm. Go for the full 15 minutes if you have darker skin). It’s also found in fatty fish and eggs, but even omnivores don’t eat fatty fish and eggs every day, so, as with most deficiencies, vitamin D deficiency isn’t just a potential vegan problem, but a potential ‘everyone’ problem.

Depending on where we are in the world, or whether you work outside or not; we all have different exposure to sunlight. If you’re in southern California or some tropical paradise; or you are always outside during daylight hours – you’re likely getting enough. Those in more northerly regions or who aren’t often outside at prime sunlight times may not be.

What to do if you feel you are deficient

If you feel you MAY be deficient in Vitamin D, the first thing you should do is have your blood tested by a doctor.

If the test shows you ARE indeed low, then unless you can escape to sunnier climes pronto – supplementation is probably the way to go.

It used to be that Vitamin D3 was purely animal-based (from the lanolin in sheep’s wool), and vitamin D2 was plant-based (from yeast and fungi); but I hear that now it’s possible to get vegan vitamin D3 supplements, so either D2 or vegan D3 is what you’ll want to look for.

Some would argue that Vitamin D3 is more effective than vitamin D2. However, I had low levels of vitamin D which manifested each year as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I started taking 1000 IU of vitamin D2 (1 capsule daily), and I no longer suffer from this each winter, so I personally found it to be effective.

See what works best for you.

 

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Leather; And Tips On Finding Great Alternatives

leather

 

For me it was a process.

When I first started eating a vegan diet, I didn’t give much thought to leather, suede or wool; where these products might’ve come from; or how much of them I was wearing.

I mean, I knew the specific animals these products came from, but I knew nothing of how the end-product came to be.

I’d heard that leather, suede and wool were all just by-products of the meat industry. That as long as people were eating meat, these products would exist anyway.

I reasoned that I wasn’t contributing to the demand for animal products, and therefore had no participation in the death of an animal. So if the animals were being killed anyway for other people to eat, then me purchasing leather, suede and wool from these already dead animals made no difference to the demand, right?

Besides, I looked shit hot in leather jackets and shoes!  I loved leather bags and purses; and wool is warm in the cold UK winters, so…

This all changed when I saw the documentary Earthlings and saw exactly how leather is produced.

I’m not gonna post any graphic vids, but you just need to know that leather is NOT a by-product. Lots of our leather comes from India, and many cows are skinned alive.

Leather production is also very toxic and disastrous for the environment.

Yup. Lesson duly learned about leather and suede.

I’ll write about wool at a later (more seasonally appropriate!) date. In this post we’ll just look at leather and suede.

When you make the decision to stop buying leather, suede and wool, you may feel bad for owning what you already have.

My suggestion is this:

Don’t feel bad. What’s done is done. You’ve committed to buying no more of these products and that’s amazing.

Don’t throw your old products away – that’s wasteful. Don’t give them to charity or to a friend – that’s just passing on the karma.

Use the products until they wear out, then buy no more.

There is one problem that CAN occur with this, but I have a super sneaky way of getting round it 🙂 If you have a leather or suede jacket (or bag or whatever), that looks really good on you and people often remark how great it looks – this isn’t cool – it might encourage THEM to buy one. So if you get a compliment, tell ’em it’s fake!! Tell them you couldn’t wear leather because of the cruelty involved, but you found this cool jacket/pair of boots/bag made of pleather! Yes it’s a lie, but you already tell your bf they look great when they’ve in fact had a really bad haircut, so…sometimes…needs must!

You could possibly come unstuck if it was a recent item on the High St or at the mall and this person could have seen it in the shops too. In which case you could just tell them the truth – for example ‘yes, it IS a great jacket, but to be honest I’m only wearing it because I bought it BEFORE I found out how leather was produced, and now I know the truth about leather, I’m not going to buy any more.’

Both these responses could spark a conversation that may end up planting seeds in the complimenter’s mind, so weigh up which one would be appropriate to the situation.

 

Tips On Acquiring A Cool, Leather-Free Wardrobe

 

1. Bags (‘purses’ in American:) )

You’ll have no problem finding a great non-leather bag. There are so many great pleather, canvas, and other manmade bags around. I normally go to a high street shop or department store, pick a bag I like, then search inside the bag for the label that will tell me what it’s made of. Yes, sometimes I’m gonna be disappointed because it will be leather, and yes I may have to try a couple more shops, but I ALWAYS end up with a bag I like.

The last two bags I bought got a ton of compliments – even when they got old and raggedy!

 

2. Purses (‘wallets’ in American!)

I go through exactly the same process looking for a purse as I do with bags. Again, it may take a few minutes more than if I just grabbed a leather purse, but I’ve NEVER failed to find something I like.

 

3. Shoes

There are lots of online vegan shoe companies (Bourgeois Boheme, Olsenhaus, Mohop, Beyond Skin etc)  but they’re all pretty pricey. So what to do if, like me, you’re on a regular ol’ Joe Shmoe budget?

Shoes are still pretty gendered (yawn) so:

Women:

Because women are told that they love shoes above all else, there are plenty of varieties of shoes to cater to this worn-out old trope in your regular High Street or shopping mall (um, silver lining, right?) So it couldn’t be easier finding great non-leather shoes, pretty much everywhere, in all styles.

If there is no marking in the shoe, just look on the underside to see if there is a sticker that has the leather symbol or not. If not, it should say ‘man-made materials.’  And don’t forget, for casual footwear; flip-flops, Converse, lots of trainers (sneakers) should all be made from manmade materials. Check out Dr Marten’s vegan shoes too.

If you feel you need long winter boots then you may need to look a little harder but you should find them. Here’s some, for example.

You know the really cheap shoe shops (Shoe Zone in the UK, Payless ShoeSource in the states etc)?  If you’re looking for a basic shoe or sandal, it’s maybe worth trying one of these shops. I’m not saying every shoe is amazing, and yes, these shops kinda stink of rubber and plastic, but you can sometimes find a pair of decent enough shoes, and you KNOW they ain’t gonna be leather or suede.

I’m not too kool for the ‘Zone or the ‘Source, nor should YOU be! 😀

Men:

It IS a little harder to get non-leather footwear for men, but it’s still not DIFFICULT,

Again, Converse, lots of sneakers, flip flops and most sandals should all be non-leather; check labels for materials if you’re not sure.

Dr Martens do an amazing vegan shoe – so no need to miss out on the old DM’s!

My partner has to dress smart(ish) for work, and did have more of a problem getting smart dress shoes that weren’t leather, but eventually found some on vegetarian-shoes.co.uk.

There IS another issue with shoes – sometimes the glue used in the manufacturing of them contains animal products. Some shoe companies can tell you if they use this kind of glue; others can’t, and sometimes there is conflicting info.

It’s up to you what you do with this. For me, if there is no visible animal product in my shoe, and if it’s not a company that says they definitely use glue containing animal parts – I’m good. We can only do what we can do.

 

4. Jackets, skirts, trousers etc:

As for jackets – I don’t even need to tell you there are a million fabulous alternatives to leather everywhere. If you specifically want the leather ‘look,’ a quick google search just told me that H&M, New Look, Warehouse and Miss Selfridge have great, inexpensive faux leather jackets. I don’t doubt it’s just as easy to get faux leather in any mainstream clothing shops in any country.

Confession: I’ve never worn either leather or non-leather skirts or trousers, and so was completely ignorant on where the faux leather versions may be.

I feared I may have to look toward, er, specialty shops for them 😉

It turns out Forever 21, New Look, H&M, Misguided, Top Shop and MANY, MANY other mainstream shops come up with a TON of results for faux leather trousers and skirts with one quick google, so if this is your thing – Go for it!

 

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The Doctrine Of Signatures: Categorical Proof We Are Meant To Eat Just Plants?

Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis) from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Melanie Shaw, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

How do we know we are meant to eat mostly (but probably entirely) plant-food?

There are lots of clues:

–  We have super long intestines reminiscent of herbivores (obligate carnivores have short intestines so that meat can travel through them expediently).

– Our short canines are not long enough to bite through the jugular of a live gazelle; our hands, being clawless, are not great on their own (without a knife) to catch and rip open an animal’s body.

– We need to heat meat thoroughly so it doesn’t make us ill, unlike carnivores that have stomach acids that destroy harmful bacterias.

– We also know that whole, plant-foods do us nothing but good, and that animal foods are not at all optimal for our wellbeing and can make us very unwell.

Not enough clues for you?

What about this one then (and this is something that has always fascinated me):

Some plant-foods resemble (either in shape, colour or quality) the part of the human body, or the disease they are beneficial for!

This is called the plant’s ‘signature.’ Many scholars believed this to be God/nature letting us know how to use this plant medicinally.

This wisdom has been used by ancient civilisations and pretty much every culture had a form of it. There are differing opinions amongst scholars as to where it originated. Some say it originated in ancient Egypt, some say in China. Other scholars say it is universal, as similar doctrines have been observed in classical Greece, ancient Asia, medieval Europe and pre-Columbian America. We know Native Americans used it, as did doctors in Roman times.

In slightly more recent history, the most well-known advocate of this form of plant power was a Swiss physician who gave himself the Latin name Paracelsus (1493-1541). He famously wrote and published a very comprehensive literary theory on it called the ‘Doctrine of Signatures’. He says ‘Nature marks each growth… according to its curative benefit’ and tells of herbs and their uses based on their ‘signature’ of the body part they resemble.

For instance:

  • Liverwort – helps liver disease
  • Lungwort – cures pulmonary disease
  • Toothwort – can relieve toothache

These ‘signatures’ have often through the ages, been used as proof for the existence of God.

I remember from my time at university when I studied religion, that the intricate design of the universe and how everything interconnects is called the ‘teleological’ argument that ancient philosophers used to prove Gods existence. There are other arguments, but this one always struck me as the most solid! It is otherwise known as ‘intelligent design.’

It purports that the universe is so intricately designed that every piece of it, whether animate or inanimate, is so sophisticated and full of incredible detail, and with so many mutually supportive systems, that it’s not possible that it exists by chance; there must have been a creator behind it.

What do I mean by mutually supportive systems? Take the crop system used by many Native Americans in North and South America called the ‘Three Sisters‘. The three sisters are corn, beans and squash. They make up a perfect basis of nutrients. When they are grown together, the beans provide the nitrogen for the soil which benefits the other two plants, the corn provides stalks which the beans can creep up, and the squash provides rambling low leaves that lie on the ground and prevent weeds from growing, thus providing protection for all three crops.

There are lots of other mutually supportive models like this in nature, and surely there are lots we are no longer aware of because we’ve simply lost that knowledge due to modern life.

In Islam, the Hadith (the sayings and doings of the Prophet Muhammad) states “There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its remedy.” Bukhari 7.582

From The Order of Things (1966), French philosopher Michel Foucault says on this subject:

…there must of course be some mark that will make us aware of these things: other-wise, the secret would remain indefinitely dormant”

British botanist William Coles (1626-1662) wrote in his Art of Simpling (1956):

Though Sin and Satan have plunged mankinde into an Ocean of Infirmities, yet the Mercy of God, which is over all his workes, maketh Grasse to grow upon the Mountaines and Herbes for the use of men, and hath not only stamped upon them a distinct forme but also hath given them particular Signatures whereby a man may read the use of them.

nuclear family from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 Kai Schreiber, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Coles also notes in this book that walnuts were good for treating mental diseases because they had a perfect ‘signature’ of the skull (shell) and brain (nut). As walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids, they ARE good for brain health.

Check out this study proving that walnuts can protect against, and treat, Alzheimer’s.

 

Other examples of plant foods in some way resembling the body part the nutrients benefit are:

  • Red kidney beans – maintain healthy kidneys
  • Sweet potatoes  – good for the pancreas
  • Carrots  – good for eyes (slice a carrot width-wise and look at the cut surface!)
  • Avocados – good for the womb
  • Ginger – great for the stomach (ginger root resembles the stomach)
  • Celery, pak choi and rhubarb – strengthen bones
  • Figs – increase sperm count
  • Oranges and grapefruits –  good for breast health
  • Tomatoes – good for heart health (they have four chambers like a heart)

 

Now, it’s up to you whether you believe this is proof of God’s existence, or whether it’s pure coincidence. And I’m not suggesting we go and medicate ourselves purely according to the Doctrine of Signatures – not because I don’t believe it, but just because we’ve lost so much natural knowledge with the advent of western medicine (not that western medicine is ALL bad, but it has undeniably stopped lots of us from taking responsibility for our own health), and we’ve become so dependent on chemical pharmacology, that it would be difficult to know exactly what we were doing. There is, of course, no financial gain in anyone funding studies proving it to be correct either.

We can certainly take lots from it though, and incorporate these incredibly healthy fruits and veg into our diets, and perhaps more of those foods we feel we need for certain parts of our bodies.

Now, which part of our body does bacon resemble? Or sausages? Don’t answer that 🙂

 

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The Harmful Effects Of Sugar

Sugar from Flickr via Wylio
© 2006 Adam Engelhart, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Let’s talk the white stuff.

Uh…that’s sugar.

Not, like, flour.

Or snow.

Or dandruff.

Or any other white stuff.

Sugar.

Several foodstuffs constitute sugar; that’s to say, they act the same as sugar would once inside your body; but to keep it simple, I’m just gonna talk about plain ol’ sugar here. Sugar that is sugar before it goes in your body; sugar once inside.

Now I know YOU KNOW this post is not gonna be good news about sugar; but before sugar, the absolute best first thing you can do for yourself in terms of all aspects of your health is to stop eating animal products. This is the most important dietary change you can make.

I want to talk about sugar however, because it too has some extremely egregious health effects you need to be aware of.

 

Harmful effects of sugar

OK, so I’m pretty sure you know about the link between sugar and tooth decay. (My mouth wishes I’d known sooner).

And you probably have a good grasp on the whole ‘sugar spikes your blood’ dealie. We know that sugar causes energy rushes that soon turn to crashes – not the best way of achieving consistent, long-lasting energy.

So far so blah.

But one of the worst effects in my experience (because I and many others I know have lived through this), is that sugar is candida food.

If you don’t know, candida is a yeast that lives in your gut naturally. Due to various influences disrupting the balance of gut flora (antibiotics* being one, but there are MANY others), it can multiply and proliferate and cause a whole host of awful symptoms.

Sugar, which is candida food, helps this beast grow out of control.

 

Why is candida so bad? What’s the big deal?

Candida is linked to soooo many diseases and conditions.

You may be surprised to know that candida is even linked to mental health – YES, that’s mental health – the extent to which we are only just learning.

It is linked to depression, (here is one academic paper on this subject – there are others) autism, bi-polar disorder, and schizophrenia.

It is also linked to alcoholism, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgiaCrohn’s disease, Celiac disease, oral and oesophageal cancers, endometriosis, and inability to lose weight.

There is also a connection between candida and cystic fibrosis, though this link needs to be investigated more.

It is linked to lots of cancers indirectly, as candida suppresses the immune system – an ideal situation for cancer to develop; but it is also thought to be linked to lots of cancers in a more direct way, though there isn’t enough scientific evidence as yet to prove the links conclusively.

There are many more diseases that candida is thought to be linked to, but there haven’t been enough studies carried out as yet to prove this without doubt.

There seems to be a lack of will to fund studies. Possibly this is because candida can be cured with cheap remedies and a change of diet. Therefore, it wouldn’t be accurate to think that just because there isn’t sufficient evidence, that there isn’t a link between a disease and candida.

Bottom line – Stop feeding the candida beast!

Don’t forget that sugar has addictive properties similar to those found in street drugs. It’s all the more surprising then (or is it?), that food manufacturers want to feed our addiction!

 

How do I avoid sugar?

We KNOW there’s gonna be sugar in cookies and candy etc. But where are all the hidden sneaky places sugar can be found?

You’re not going to like this – it’s blinking everywhere!

It’s in:

Breads

Plant-based yoghurts (even plain ones!)

Chilli sauces (except Tabasco and Cholula, woohoo!)

Pasta sauces

Indian restaurant food

Chinese restaurant food

Cans of baked beans, refried beans etc

Plant milks (One popular brand I just looked at had sugar as the second ingredient – before the almonds even!!!)

Pickles

Soft beverages in bottles, cans or cartons (including most healthy-looking ones)

Cereals (including plain ones – Corn Flakes, Weetabix, All-Bran etc.)

 

You can very easily see how over the course of a day your sugar intake can creep up – and that’s without you even knowingly USING sugar.

It’s worth noting none of these foods NEED sugar to taste good, or as a preservative. It’s almost as if it’s in someone’s interest to keep us full of candida-fuelling sugar!!

 

What can you do?

Though the ideal solution is to completely eliminate sugar from every source, it’s very difficult seeing as how we clearly live in a sugar-saturated world.

The best thing you can do is just KNOW when you are eating something containing sugar. That way you can monitor your intake and make sure it is minimal.

Make your own food as much as possible of course; but when you DO buy pre-made products, just take an extra second to scan the ingredients list on the label. If you’re vegan you’ll be checking to see if there are animal products anyway, so just take an extra second to check for sugar. If the product contains sugar – pick a brand that doesn’t contain it.

It may be a pain in the butt initially, but you’ll quickly get to remember which products contain sugar and which don’t.

 

*I am not against antibiotics when they are truly needed; just against the over-prescription of them.

 

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4 Ways To Go Vegan

Basket of Veg from Flickr via Wylio
© 2014 Micolo J, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

 

There are ways and ways to go vegan.

All ways are good – and if you pick the way that fits you best (in terms of your character; the speed you feel you can move at, and where you’re at right now with regards to how much you currently eat animal products), you’ll stand more chance of succeeding.

So, before you go vegan, WHICHEVER way you do it; do these things.

Then, think about HOW you are going to do it.

Are you someone who likes to face a challenge head-on, and who has a track record of being successful at overnight change? Then number 4 is your bag. Go for it baby!

Are you currently eating a standard American (or European) meat and dairy heavy diet, and have no idea how on earth you’re going to make the transition to this amazing cruelty-free, planet-friendly lifestyle you’ve learned so much about? Worry not. Number 2 is for you. It might take longer but you’ll get there in the end. Just remember the hare and the tortoise!

Are you a whizz in the kitchen, adventurous with food, LOVE all the incredible plant-based meals you’ve previously tried – and as long as food tastes good, you’re happy? Then Number 1 is where it’s at for you!

Do you feel you’re not so bothered about the meat, but might have issues with cheese? Try Number 3. Once the meat is out of the way, you can work on the dairy.

 

These are all the ways to go vegan:

 

1. Crowd Out The Bad

I definitely recommend this way if you’re a foodie and love cooking, but feel a little overwhelmed at the idea of going vegan overnight. What you do here is not focus on what you’re eliminating, but on all the gorge new foods that have been added to your life and are now making up your meals.

It’s similar to cold turkey, but you’re framing it in a different way so that you don’t feel intimidated. While you might not have thrown all your animal products out, you want to make sure you’re eating so much great food that you don’t even think to reach for them.

Have oatmeal for breakfast; add ground flax and fruits and you’ll not have room for anything else. Find recipes that contain whole grains, beans, starchy veg (sweet potatoes, squash) and tubers (potatoes), as well as veg (here’s a good resource) – trust me, you won’t want a piece of cheese after these meals! Have pieces of fruit when you feel like it throughout the day. Drink enough water. You get the picture. If you eat enough good stuff, you won’t have room left for animal products.

 

2. Step By Step

There’s nothing wrong with eliminating one thing at a time. What matters most is that you’re successful in the end, and if this is the way you feel most comfortable transitioning, this is the way that’s more likely to work.

So, for example, you could start by eliminating beef. Then chicken. Then fish. Then cow’s milk. Then eggs. Give it a couple of weeks each time – make sure you fill up the space that particular thing took up with yummy food – then eliminate something else. You’ll get there.

 

3. Vegetarian, Vegan

This is a classic- lots of vegans were vegetarian first. If you’re somewhere in the middle, i.e. not that hung up on meat, and you love your veg already but just feel you need a little time to get used to no meat before moving on to being 100% plant-based; then this way will likely work for you as it’s worked for tons of others.

 

4. Cold Turkey

To have the BEST chance of succeeding with going cold turkey, do your research first. And prep, prep, prep. So the day when you think, ‘that’s it, from now on I’m vegan’ your cupboards and refrigerator will be packed with luscious treats, fresh produce, grains, beans, nuts and seeds, dark chocolate, coconut based ice-creams etc.

———————————————————

Even though these are pretty much all the ways to go vegan, they are fluid and can be combined or melded:

For example, a combo:

You can become vegetarian, and then reduce each dairy product one by one.

A meld:

You could try the ‘step-by-step’ route and ‘crowding out the bad’ at the same time – this could well mean quicker progress.

Whoever you are, and where ever you’re at, there IS a way to suit you.

It’s not one way or the…um…highway.

 

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Review of Beyond Sushi (The Best Sushi You’ll Ever Taste)

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I’m freshly back from a short jaunt to NYC, and I HAVE to share my experience at Beyond Sushi.

We’ve visited New York several times, and I’d heard tell of the gloriousness of Beyond Sushi, and even walked past the branch in Chelsea Market; but not stopped to eat there because it looked tiny, and didn’t seem like there was an area to sit down comfortably.

When we’re on vacation, we like to sit down properly ya know? We like to enjoy our time in a restaurant – we do this so little at home in London so we really like to savour the experience when we’re away, rather than just grabbing food and eating it quickly at a bar or a high table.

However, we’re MAJOR sushi lovers, and on this visit it was time to try this place we’d heard so much about.

There are three branches of Beyond Sushi – in Chelsea Market, Union Square, and Midtown West.

Since we knew we wanted to spend our last afternoon in Central Park, we chose the Midtown West branch.

I had no idea if the space was as small as the Chelsea Market branch but decided to give it a go anyway, if the food was as good as I’d been led to believe, it would be worth the discomfort, right? I’m a foodie and I’ll suffer a LOT to satisfy my palate 😀

But when we hit West 56th, I saw the frontage of the place and my heart sank. It was obvious the place was REALLY tiny. Even kinda hole-in-the-wall’y.’ This wasn’t how I’d envisaged spending my last precious lunchtime in NYC.

On walking in I saw there were around 5 or 6 high chairs at a wall bar, and maybe 3 or 4 tiny tables for two. The place is SO narrow though, and it was SO PACKED, that nothing looked comfortable. Wherever you sat (IF you got a seat in the first place) people would be brushing past you, constantly knocking you.

It was too late to turn back now, so as soon as I saw two of the better wall bar chairs become free, I got my partner to bag them, and I got in line to order.

The menu looked delicious but there wasn’t much time to make selections before someone was yelling at me for my order. It was so noisy and bustly it was difficult to think straight. I went for three of the sushi rolls, but if the atmosphere had been more relaxed I’d probably have ordered from the rest of the menu too.

They have noodle salads, noodle soups, incredible sounding dumplings and wraps; but if you’re new to the place, you don’t have long enough to peruse the menu in this cramped, crowded type of set-up; which is a shame.

I guess this place is great for if you know the menu well, and can go in and order what you want straight away.

There seemed to be lots of workers on their lunch breaks that had ordered take-out, and were just there to pick up their food. The place (at least this branch) seemed to cater best to these people; OR, those that just waltz in knowing exactly what they want ’cause they’ve been so many times before.

As well as the sushi rolls, I also ordered a seaweed salad, and a small bowl of kimchi. We had to catch the red-eye home to London later that night, and kimchi is great for keeping the bugs away!

The kimchi and salad were served quickly, and before too long, out came the rolls, and OMG, they looked specTACular.

I’d ordered these:

IMG_20160531_123609529
Check out the La Fiesta and the Chic Pea
My top choice - the Mighty Mushroom!
My top choice – the Mighty Mushroom!

They looked like this:

IMG_20160531_125046575

IMG_20160531_124812057 IMG_20160531_124909124 IMG_20160531_124843199 IMG_20160531_125504415 IMG_20160531_130201482

 

WOW!

What magnificent, gourmet sushi.

The one that stood out for me was the Mighty Mushroom. That blob of shiitake truffle on top so perfectly and subtly infused each piece with smoke and salt and…just…shiitake-ishness (!) I could’ve eaten these all day.

The next best for me, La Fiesta, was still incredible. You could taste each element just enough, and each complimented the other delightfully in taste and texture.

My other choice, the Chic Pea, was still delicious, even though the other two were slightly better. I love tahini with anything, so I was always going to love this.

The seaweed salad couldn’t have been any better unless it had been brought to me by a hot naked dude. I’ve had plenty of crappy ones where there’s too much added sugar and the seaweed is too hard and chewy. This seaweed was fresh, soft and delicately flavoured.

IMG_20160531_124308439
As for the house-made kimchi, it looked like a classic kimchi, but I felt it may have contained  pear? I thought I could taste it. I’m normally weird about fruit in savoury stuff, but pear or no, it was great.

I learnt later that it’s the Spicy Mang roll that everyone raves about (avo, mango, cucumber, spiced veggies and toasted cayenne). I saw it on the menu, but again, BLECH with the whole fruit in savoury stuff.

So I didn’t go there.

Next time I’ll quit being a special snowflake and try it.

I was absolutely blown away by this food, and could’ve easily eaten another round of everything – not because I was still hungry, but just so that eating this scrumptiousness wouldn’t have to stop.

As we were eating, the place cleared out a bit (this happened around 1pm) and it became a much more comfortable atmosphere. If we’d have known, we’d have come a bit later to avoid the lunch rush.

Inside Beyond Sushi, Midtown West branch, as the rush hour calms down!
Inside Beyond Sushi, Midtown West branch, as the rush hour calms down!

Look. The food really IS beyond sushi, it’s BEYOND BEYOND. I’d come back in a heartbeat. I’ll dream about these rolls until I get the chance to come back and eat them again.

But, it’s such a shame Beyond Sushi don’t have bigger spaces and can’t make newbies more comfortable, and feel more welcome.

I mean, I get it – they don’t need to. You taste it; you’re hooked, and you’d come back even if they set up in a public toilet.

You’d go and see a good gig in a cramped, hot hall without a/c; you’d go to the theatre and sit on the floor to see a good play – anything that is so good it feeds the soul you’d happily suffer a little discomfort for.

It’d just be nice to be able to eat this gorgeous food in a comfortable space, like omnivores get to do all the time.

My recommendation: Go to Beyond Sushi ASAP. Avoid lunch hours and rush hours. Maybe look at the menu online first, decide what you want, order take-out then eat in a nearby park.

I think next time we’ll get take-out from the Chelsea Market branch, then go up to the High Line, bag sunbeds, and eat in (relative) peace.

 

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