The mineral iron is vital to the human body for many reasons, but primarily because it makes hemoglobin – a blood protein that transports oxygen to all parts of the body.
If we’re not getting enough iron it results in us not getting enough oxygen in our bodies, and so we become fatigued – that well-known symptom of iron deficiency.
It’s also well known that iron deficiency can lead to anaemia. Symptoms of iron deficiency and anaemia include fatigue, dizziness, weakness and palpitations (though if you suffer from any of these symptoms don’t automatically assume you have an iron deficiency. These symptoms are compatible with lots of conditions so go see your doctor and find out what’s up).
Many people who go back to meat-eating from being vegan say they felt tired and weak and think it’s because they weren’t getting enough iron, believing that ALL the iron is in the red meat.
The sad truth is that many doctors still recommend upping red meat intake to those that are low in iron – I’ve even heard this within the last year.
Unfortunately, most doctors have so little nutritional education, they will advise their patients to eat food that is carcinogenic and full of saturated fat, cholesterol and antibiotics rather than study modern science on how BEST to acquire sufficient iron levels from food safely.
So what IS the truth?
The confusion arises because iron from meat (haem iron) IS more quickly absorbed in the human body than iron from plants (non-haem iron). THIS is why the medical profession will often prescribe red meat or liver to patients low in iron, thinking that this will be a quick cure.
I guess it IS a ‘quick cure,’ but because this haem iron is known to be more quickly absorbed, people think that haem iron is better for us, period.
…This is NOWHERE NEAR the full picture.
That haem iron is more quickly absorbed is not a good thing. It is absorbed by the body quickly WHETHER WE NEED IT OR NOT. It is not a balanced way for the body to receive iron and can result in iron overload. This increases risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease.
Non-haem iron from plant food is slower to be absorbed by the body but is absorbed as our bodies need it (isn’t this clever?)
All the main health advisory bodies – ADA, BMA, WHO, PCRM – concur that iron deficiency anaemia is no more common in vegetarians than it is amongst meat eaters.
And in the UK in 2002; a study of 33,883 meat-eaters, 18,840 vegetarians and 2,956 vegans found that vegans were found to have the highest daily intake of iron.
As we’ve seen, iron overload is just as dangerous as iron deficiency – but we stand far less chance of over-dosing on iron on a plant-based diet.
Great plant-food sources of iron are whole grains, green leafy veg, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds; and vitamin C-rich fruit and veg help us absorb the iron, but really, if you’re eating a varied whole food plant-based diet, you don’t need to stress over it.
It’s actually harder to NOT get enough iron on a whole food, plant-based diet!
As I understand it, the advent of this new fad for eating ALL THE MEATZ, ALL THE TIME started with a surgeon and weight-lifter called Shawn Baker appearing on Joe Rogan’s podcast, announcing that with an all-meat diet he had managed to regain his energy and strength, reduce inflammation in his body, and control his blood pressure and weight among other things.
Since then he wrote a book called The Carnivore Diet, in which he promotes an all-meat diet for the health benefits he has perceived (I should say mostly meat, it seems he will sometimes eat eggs), and other well known figures like Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson have revealed that they too are on a 90-100% carnivore diet.
It’s not me who will tell Shawn Baker that he’s not feeling better if he says that he is. He’s a grown-ass dude, a surgeon no less, and knows how he feels.
He should also know however, that there could be a multitude of reasons for his health improvement, there is no way of establishing exactly just what the cause is.
It could be as it is with the paleo diet – when people eliminate dairy, refined sugars and processed food from their diets they can experience major health improvements. The science would say that this is more likely to be due to the elimination of these other foods than to the increase in meat.
There are lots of other factors we don’t know. He could’ve had a food intolerance or allergy to anything he was eating previously, perhaps one he didn’t know about, that cleared up on elimination of the food allergen.
There are so many possible other reasons for his health improvements, it’s just not scientific or truthful to categorically state that they were definitively due to an all-meat diet.
And Baker never tried a whole food plant-based, or even junk food vegan diet, so we can’t compare how he felt on either of these to how he feels on an all-meat diet. For all anyone knows, all his health issues could’ve been solved by transitioning to an all-plant diet, he may even feel even BETTER than he does now if he were to try it. We just don’t know. And neither does he… because there’s not any science behind it as far as I can see, his claims all seem to be anecdotal.
On Googling ‘The Carnivore Diet’ I was startled to see many books, not just Shawn’s, with the same or similar titles, all promoting an all or mostly meat diet.
Here are all the reasons why this sh*t is insanity I believe we are not meant to eat this way:
There are so many reasons why eating only meat isn’t the best idea – I’ll stick to 8 so the post doesn’t get too long. I’ll include some obvious arguments and a few less so. I’ve left ethics out of it because it’s blindingly obvious that a Vegan Coach would find a meat-based diet unethical! 🙂
Sustainability. The high quality meat that these human carnivores supposedly eat is not sustainable. It needs much bigger areas of land to be raised and produced. If everyone wanted to eat that kind of meat, we’d need several planets!
We are not carnivores. Lions and tigers are carnivores. Our bodies and digestive systems do NOT resemble theirs. They have:
Long canines(all the better for piercing the jugular veins of their prey), which we do not.
Very short intestines, so they can digest meat in an effective way and in the correct amount of time. We have very long, narrow intestines, designed to digest fibrous plant food in an effective way, while meat can get stuck in them and can fester and putrefy there for years.
Acid in their stomachsthat can kill any pathogens, to stop them getting sick when they eat raw meat. We have to cook meat to kill the bacteria; otherwise we can get very sick.
Speed. They can run extremely fast to catch their prey. If we were to try and catch any animal other than those that are advertised to us because of their docility and cheapness to feed and shelter – if we were to try and catch a gazelle or an impala for instance, just as other carnivore mammals do, we’d fail miserably. We’d need tools like guns to shoot them. Real carnivores don’t need guns.
Long claws – so they can better kill and then rip their dead prey apart. We have rather pathetic nails in comparison. Again, we’d need tools like knives to achieve what carnivores do with their claws.
Fibre is one of the most important nutrients for our bodies. There is no fibre in an all-meat, or all animal product diet. Fibre is only found in plant foods. We need fibre for healthy digestion, healthy weight loss, heart health, and cancer prevention among other things.
Hormones. Even if you are eating the best quality meat in existence, you are STILL consuming extra mammal hormones. Doesn’t matter if this meat is labelled as ‘hormone free’ – this just means there are no added hormones. But animals, just like us, produce naturally-occcurring hormones. These are over and above what your body needs, and may mess with your own hormone levels.
Blue Zones and Inuits. There is a book by Dan Buettner called The Blue Zones. The Blue Zones refer to all the areas of the world that have clusters of centenarians. Buettner investigates what the determining dietary, social, economical, spiritual and community factors are behind so many living to 100+ in these regions. In terms of the dietary factors, all ate either a 100% plant-based diet or very, very close to that.
Isn’t it about time there was a free App that was super easy to use that you could consult whenever you wanted to eat out that told you where the vegan dishes were?
I thought so too.
Well now we have one.
Yes we have Happy Cow and that is always brilliant, I use it often, but the new Allergi App is unique in that A) It ALSO tells you the dishes that are free of any allergens you wish to avoid (nuts, gluten etc) and B) It tells you all the restaurants and cafes nearest your location that have dishes that match your vegan and other allergen requirements.
We don’t always have access to a bangin’ vegan restaurant in our locale, and I’ve found there are some excellent vegan-by-default meals at various restaurants – especially at Middle Eastern, Indian and other Asian restaurants, and we deserve to get our hands (and taste buds) on them!
The Allergi app will completely take the pain out of asking the server which meals are vegan, and having to check and double check if you are still unsure, or if the server doesn’t really understand what you’re talking about. Trust me, this is invaluable. I can’t tell you how many confusing, cross-purposes, awkward exchanges I’ve had in restaurants with waiters over the years. To be fair, I’ve had some great convo’s with waitstaff too, but you don’t want to take that chance, especially if you’re going out for a special meal, or first date meal, lol!
The app was founded by Charles Burns, who some of you may remember as a candidate on The Apprentice a few years back. We had a chat, and he is incredibly excited to debut this app. He was motivated to create it as he suffers from food intolerances, and knew he could develop it so it would be useful to vegans too. He is interested in veganism, has watched all the vegan docs, and of course I couldn’t let him escape without encouraging him to take the plunge 🙂
Some of you know I mainly coach a health-oriented whole food, plant-based diet, and at some point I hope there will be the facility with this app to find out the places where whole foods (like whole grains – brown rice, wholewheat products) are served instead of refined starches. In US restaurants you often get a choice between white and brown rice, wholewheat and white burger buns etc, and it would be great to know who offers this choice.
While the app isn’t a strictly vegan resource, it’s one that has been created taking vegans into consideration, and I believe it will be invaluable to vegans. For this reason I have no hesitation recommending it to you all.
Let me know how the App works for you, and OF COURSE let me know of any surprise yummy vegan dishes you come across!
(Give yourself the best chance of avoiding – or recovering quickly from – Covid-19 with these plant-based, antiviral immune system protectors and boosters!)
I’m not going to add to the fear porn about the virus here. Nor will I go on about the facts and figures for this illness that most of us are in lockdown for – you’ve already read/heard lots of information on TV and the internet, and there is lots of conflicting, confusing information around. We are not being given full context around figures of deaths from flu this year compared to deaths of flu from previous years; who died OF CV compared to who died WITH it etc, and I’m not going to add to this holy clusterf**k.
However however however….
….all that aside, one thing we can ALL agree on is that we don’t want to contract COVID19 (or any other flu) and if we DO contract it, we want it gone ASAP.
Right. So you should be all aware of your government guidelines on what we can do physically in terms of distancing, hand-washing etc, but here are my expert nutritional tips for giving yourself the best chance possible of avoiding the damn thing, or if you have it already, getting shot of it pronto.
This is a no-brainer, but I’m still gonna say it dammit. Include (more than ever) lots of green leafy veg and plenty of citrus fruit in your diet. Clementines, oranges and grapefruit are all vitamin C bombs, but also powerful is lemon juice. Now you’re obviously not gonna peel a lemon and eat it! Eeeww – I’m making the sour lemon face as I type 🙂 So a great way to ingest some lemon juice is to squeeze half a lemon into a tall glass of warm water. It is thought that the warm temperature is better for extracting the vitamin C than if it were cold. Don’t forget to either drink it with a straw, or rinse your teeth once afterwards, as you don’t want the citric acid sticking around on your tooth enamel.
I’ve been doing this every day for over 2 years now, and I’ve definitely noticed the difference in terms of the reduced number of bugs I’ve picked up. If you need an extra incentive – it’s great for the skin too!
As we learned in this post, keep up the health of your gut, as this is the majority of your immune system. Make sure to eat some fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, miso or plain plant-based yoghurts several times a week; or at the very least, take a non-dairy probiotic every day throughout flu season.
Garlic is your best winter friend. It is good for your immune system by helping keep your gut in order, and on top of that it has anti-viral properties. You can crush it and put it in dishes at the end of cooking, and it will do it’s darndest to prevent you getting sick.
If you’re a garlic hater, first of all – BOO; but don’t worry, you can take garlic capsules.
Another no-brainer, but I know how easy it is to get absorbed in your work and forget to drink adequate water. As well as keeping you hydrated, water is going to keep flushing your system, helping you to all the quicker rid your body of anything undesirable.
If you don’t have a routine for drinking water, now is the time to get into one. Drink several glasses at convenient times throughout your day. Drink more if you’re exercising, less if you’re not. There are conflicting opinions on how much water to drink exactly per day; and it depends on your body size, whether you’ve perspired that day or not, whether you are eating especially dehydrating foods that day or not – but a common suggestion is 2 litres, so aim for that.
We actually know that dietary fibre protects against flu viruses. Like water, eating plenty of fibre is gonna keep your system ticking over nicely and will help you to expediently eliminate that which your body doesn’t need! It goes without saying that a vegan/plant-based diet is gonna give you the most fibre, what with there being ZERO fibre in animal products. Obviously look more to whole foods (whole grains and cereals; lentils; all beans; all fruit and veg) as opposed to refined and processed products, and you’ll be a fibre champ!
This one connects into gut-health too because a high-fibre diet will ensure you have a healthy balance of gut microbiota. So like garlic it’s a 2 for 1 🙂
So it’s great for me, but what if you’re a coffee or a Yorkshire Tea fanatic? Look, no-one is asking you to give up caffeine, least of all me – I love it. But there is plenty of the stuff in green tea honest! All I can say is try it. Try it a couple of times a day, then try and make it your go-to hot (or iced!) beverage of choice. Have it with a slice of lemon, a few mint leaves, some cardamom and agave nectar, whatever you fancy. I quite like Clipper White Tea (same as green – just younger leaves) because it’s quite strong with a nice caffeine hit 🙂
These next two are based on empirical evidence solely. I know they work for me, and that they will not harm you should you decide to try them (as indicated) too.
There is a product (available online or at health food stores) called Citricidal (GSE in the US). It is grapefruit seed extract and is a very powerful anti-viral, anti-biotic, and anti-fungal.
I’m currently taking 5 drops in a double whisky shot size of water 3 times a day as I’ve just recently been on a plane. After 2 weeks I’ll do this twice a day throughout this period. It’s a good idea to dip a cotton bud in the water before you drink it and then wipe it around one nostril while inhaling with your mouth closed, then doing the same with the other end of the cotton bud for the other nostril.
If you want to read up on this product, you can read the US and UK Amazon reviews of it. It’s probably one of the only places you’ll get some truth. There was a campaign to try to discredit GSE a while back, but as you can see in the science I linked to above, the claims were bull. As it’s a natural product, big pharma can’t make money from it, so it’s very possible that might be the reason for the bogus claims.
If I feel like I have the first signs of a cold – the bone-ache, the slightly swollen feeling in the back of the throat etc, then I take half an umeboshi plum. If you don’t know these already, they are salted Japanese plums (available in health stores) and are the sourest little mofo’s you ever did taste – and that’s the point. They are extremely acidic, but they have an alkalising effect once in the body and as you may be aware, the more alkaline your body is, the less disease it can harbour. If I remember to take half a plum in time, the cold-feelings are gone by the next day. Just remember to take a couple of mouthfuls of water afterwards, to rinse excess acid from your teeth.
If they are too sour for you to eat as they are, then you can mash half a plum and stir it into some cooked brown rice. This actually flavours the rice nicely, and kids like it too. They are around ten pounds for a jar (around fifteen bucks in the US?), but if you only take them when you need them, they last an absolute age.
Bonus (non-nutrition) tip:
Avoid rolling news and fear porn
This isn’t technically my remit but just to remind you that fear will reduce your body’s capacity to prevent or fight illness. Fear causes the body to transfer its energy away from the immune system into ‘fight or flight.’ Therefore a great thing you can do for your immune system right now is to throw your TV out of the window (or I guess you could just turn it off, that would probs be more responsible :)). The mainstream news seems intent on giving us bad news and numbers without full context, which only serves to create fear and panic. Bad news is good news for ratings but not for your sanity.
You’re on lockdown. You don’t need the news on. I haven’t had a TV for years and I always end up knowing exactly what I need to know, and not what I don’t. If you get your news from social media as I do, just check the few accounts you trust then leave it alone.
I hope these tips are helpful. Eat plants; stay well; breathe deeply; question EVERYTHING.
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.
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 your 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 B12. 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.
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 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?’
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.