Beware The BBC Bullshit

BBC from Flickr via Wylio
© 2006 Tim Loudon, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

Hoo-boy was this a week for the bullshitz.

The bulls must be completely free of shit right now because it seems it has all been dumped this week.

Actually some of the BS that I’m about to address was from last week, but whatever.

Remember the fiasco that was the BBC programme ‘Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets,’ in which veganism was, in a very transparent agenda, smooshed together with eating disorders, clean-eating and just general food faddiness in order to make it look a little crazy?

I ranted wrote about that utter shitfest here.

Guess what? The BBC has done it again.

This time, ‘clean eating’ was the subject of the BBC documentary programme ‘Horizon’ (a long-running British television series that covers science and philosophy).

I belong to a Facebook group called London Vegans. A few weeks ago someone from the BBC posted, asking for people to talk to them about their eating habits for a new show they were making about ‘clean eating.’

Myself and others chased them off, saying that if it was anything like the last shitshow, to forget it.

I believe it was for this very programme they were looking for content – and knowing what I know now – we were utterly justified in giving them short shrift.

I heard that this programme was on last week, but didn’t have any interest in watching it.

A (non-vegan) friend told me it was quite interesting and that she’d liked the doctor who wrote the book about China.

Hang on a minute, I thought. Dr T Colin Campbell? They interviewed him? Maybe the BBC had done a complete 180 on their previous anti-vegan agenda and bothered their arses to talk to actual experienced doctors in the plant-based field? Miracles can happen, can’t they?

Then a couple of days ago, this article appeared on Dr Campbell’s website.

Then today, Dr Caldwell Essylstyn released this one.

Dr Campbell and Dr Esselstyn are both extremely disappointed at how their segments were used, and at the fact that important information and interviews were seemingly purposely omitted.

Alarmingly, they realised it was because the guy who made the programme (Dr Giles Yeo) was promoting the goals of a pharmaceutical company, and therefore had a definite agenda to make plant-based diets appear to not be as optimal for health as we know they are.

I strongly advocate advising those people you know that are interested in being vegan, to NEVER get their information from the television. And in this day and age they really don’t need to. Reputable books and websites suffice.

These sources of health advice are independent, and their only agenda is to make you well and wise:

Books: The China Study (Dr T Colin Campbell); How Not To Die (Dr Michael Greger; Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease (Dr Caldwell Esselstyn); The Starch Solution (Dr John McDougall)

Documentaries: Forks Over Knives; Food Choices; Cowspiracy; Plant Pure Nation

Websites: forksoverknives.com; nutritionstudies.org; nutritionfacts.org

Veganism and plant-based nutrition are the subjects I usually stick to giving professional advice on. But if I could give any other advice, and if anyone would listen, it would be this: THROW AWAY YOUR TELEVISION SETS.

I did this a few years back and it was the best thing I ever did.

Thankfully there is plenty of good, independent alternative media out there to inform and enlighten us.

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The OTHER piece of BS that had me fuming was in HuffPost UK. It said vegan women had a higher risk of having premature babies.

The whole premise of this was that women who are low in vitamin B12 risk delivering prematurely.

What they don’t say is that vitamin B12 deficiency ISN’T JUST A VEGAN THING – plenty of omnis are B12 deficient. And no vegan ever need be deficient in B12 as there are these handy things available everywhere called supplements. I don’t know this for sure but I would be happy to wager that fewer vegans are deficient in B12 than omnis, as vegans learn from the beginning that they have to supplement. Omnis always just assume they’re getting plenty when this isn’t always the case.

FFS.

If you think you know someone who may have been influenced by this piece (as you can bet it will have been widely shared and quoted by omnis happy to believe bad things about veganism), then Julianna Hever’s response post is here. Make sure to share this with them.

Please media, no more bullcrap this week, I can’t take it.

 

 

 

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

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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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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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Five Tips For Maximising Your Energy Levels

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Do you feel like you have little energy and often feel fatigued?

Assuming there is no underlying problem (which, of course you’ll already have checked out at your doctors, right?), then this post can help you get back to being the perky, peppy, zestful YOU.

So, there’s not a list of energy foods for meat eaters and another for vegans – it’s all the same for everyone.

Meat eaters, this is for you because you may find that what you thought to be energy food actually isn’t.

And vegans – its ace that you’re vegan, but vegan doesn’t necessarily mean healthy and full of energy, so this is for you, too.

Let’s bust a few myths first shall we?

The primary source of energy is CARBOHYDRATES.

Where are carbs NOT found?

Not in meat

Meat contains very little carbohydrate, so is NOT an energy food. If anything, it weighs you down and makes you feel sluggish.

Our bodies have a hard time digesting it what with us not having the stomach acids to properly break it down, and what with it containing ZERO fibre, and what with us having really long intestines reminiscent of a herbivores. If our bodies are trying to digest meat, our energy is being used up for this.

However, because our bodies can digest plants easily without all the extra effort, when we eat plants we get energy from them.

Not in dairy products

The only carbohydrate in dairy is in the lactose. Only a very small percentage of the world’s population can digest lactose. If you can’t (which is most of us!) your body cannot utilise the carbohydrate in dairy for energy.

Not from green leafy veg

Now don’t get me wrong, green leafy veg are vital to our diets for lots of nutrients – but not to give us energy. They do not contain enough calories to be efficient energy givers.

Green leafy veg are the side to a dish, or a PART of a stew/soup/salad/stir-fry/curry/chilli/pasta dish. They are NOT the main event.

Not from nuts

Nuts are healthy fats and are another vital part of our diet for lots of reasons. A couple a day when we’re peckish can help BOOST our energy, but they should not be the main source of our energy – you’d have to eat too many, and they are too fatty to eat them in bigger quantities.

So how do we get a ton of energy?

Do these five things:

 

1. Get your carbs from THESE foods:

From unrefined, starch-based plant foods, namely:

  • Whole grains – brown rice, quinoa, wholewheat bread, wholewheat pasta, wholewheat couscous, oats, millet, corn, buckwheat/brown rice noodles, etc
  • Tubers and starchy veg – sweet potato, potato (all varieties), squashes (all varieties)
  • legumes (pulses in the UK) – chick peas, red kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lima beans, cannellini beans, peas, lentils (all varieties), black beans, pinto beans, fava (broad) beans etc

Fruits as dessert are fantastic, but should not be the main dish; regardless of what some YouTubers would have you believe.

 

2. Eat breakfast

Well duh! I hear you say, and you’d be right – but you’d be surprised how many people don’t.

A breakfast containing whole grains (oatmeal, wholewheat toast, wholewheat bagel, brown rice) will set you up for great energy all morning.

 

3. Limit sugar and caffeine

By sugar I mean actual sugar; and white refined carbs (white bread, buns, bagels etc; white pasta and white rice).

Though both sugar and caffeine give us energy in the short term, it’s not really worth it for the energy slump that ensues.

Let’s be realistic. Even though it’s possible to eliminate caffeine from our lives, we might not all want to do that – me included. I have two cups of green tea per day and my energy is great. But when I have more than that, it’s definitely negatively affected in the long run. Have one or two cups of whatever caffeinated beverage you love per day, maybe one if it’s coffee, or two if it’s tea (tea has less caffeine).

Similarly, with sugar, I’m not suggesting you eliminate all sugar from your diet, but rather:

Choose whole grains over refined white starches, and minimise actual white sugar as much as possible. Pay attention to where it could be lurking – ketchups, chilli sauces, relishes, shop bought pasta sauces etc. You may not think this is a big deal, but sugar adds up over the course of a day.

Try and buy products that don’t contain sugar. You have to practise label scanning, but you WILL find brands that don’t use sugar, and then you’ll remember them for next time.

Use agave and maple syrup to sweeten things. They are not a health food either, but they don’t spike your blood as much as sugar.

 

4. Exercise

It sounds like it wouldn’t work but it does. Sometime you gotta expend energy to GET energy! Ever laid in bed for longer than you should and just got tireder? Exactly!

If you do nothing else, a brisk half an hour walk every day is a great, easy inclusion into your daily routine. It’ll get the blood flowing round the body, increase your heart rate and (if you are following the other tips) set you up for great energy for the rest of the day.

 

5. Hydrate

Dehydration is such a common problem.

While water in and of itself doesn’t give you energy, dehydration can leave you feeling drained (Literally! Geddit?) and weary.

While you don’t necessarily need to rigidly drink eight glasses a day if you are eating a whole food, plant-based diet (as much of your food will have a high water content); listen to your body and drink water as soon as you feel thirsty. If your pee is almost clear with just a touch of colour – you’re good. If it’s darker, get your H2o on!

 

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‘What’s The Point In Restricting Yourself? You Have To Die Of Something Anyway’

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I hope with this post I’m giving you help in responding to this comment when you hear it.

Or that I’m responding to YOU if you if this comment is aligned with your sentiments.

This one always drives me crazy because it feels so short-sighted.

Which comment am I talking about?

This one. I hear it often when talking about the health benefits of a whole food, vegan diet:

‘..What’s the point in restricting yourself? You have to die of something anyway.’

Uh…well, this is true I guess (not the part about restricting yourself – I’ve written lots on how a plant-based diet is actually the opposite of restrictive), but, and I know it’s a cliche, it’s not about the years in your life, it’s about the life in your years.

Whether we die at 40, 90 or 110, isn’t it better that we lived as many of those days as possible in vibrant health?

Yes we all have to die of something, but how about that ‘something’ just being your heart stopping at the end of a long, well-lived, fully enjoyed life; where you’ve been independent, fit and capable, and a contributing member of society right up until the absolute end? What if you were pain, discomfort and niggle-free right up to the last minute? What if you kept every single one of your faculties and marbles; your spring in your step and your memory right up until that final second?

What if you also never lost your passion, purpose and zest for life EVER; and food tasted good, autumn smelled like heaven, and music made you get up and dance until your last day on this earth?

Doesn’t this sound better than getting to the point where you feel so crap you don’t really want to go on, but the doctors keep giving you pills to keep you alive, because it’s unethical to do otherwise?

Doesn’t it sound better than being immobile and not having a life outside of four walls, or of living somewhere you’re not happy, because it’s the only place they can take care of your needs, and having to rely on other people to do everything for you? Or worse, having to depend on family members to take care of your personal hygiene?

What if you contract dementia and can’t even recognise and be grateful to the family members who are tending to your needs? (Yes, a plant-based diet can help stave of dementia, too)

And how awful if, due to a sedentary lifestyle where you’re not seeing the sun from one day to the next, you become depressed? Nothing is less fun than living life under a big black cloud – it’s not living in fact. It’s existing.

How different this all could be.

A whole food, vegan lifestyle gives you the best chance at an entirely different scenario.

One where your family and friends would have to worry about you very little, how you’d not be a drain on society but a gift and an example to it – but also, just how much more time you’d have to be in the moment enjoying your damn self and all the people around you?

Why waste time and money suffering and being ill if it’s at all avoidable?

Life is too short (even if it’s long!) and time with others; food; music; sex; nature; art etc is way too fun to lose any time to unnecessary sickliness.

I leave you with the words of romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), who wrote an essay called ‘A Vindication of a Natural Diet’

On a natural system of diet [a plant-based diet], old age would be our last and our only malady; the term of our existence would be protracted; we should enjoy life, and no longer preclude others from the enjoyment of it. All sensational delights would be infinitely more exquisite and perfect. The very sense of being would then be a continued pleasure, such as we now feel it in some few and favoured moments of our youth.

 

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How Do You Get Omega 3 As A Vegan?

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So, you’ve probably heard of omegas 3 & 6, and that you need them to be healthy.

You actually need a pretty even amount of both these beauties:

Omega 6 is inflammatory – which sounds bad, but it helps clot the blood soooo….useful if you have a wound you need healing for example. Omega 3 is anti-inflammatory and an anti-coagulant, so it thins the blood. They compete with each other for the same enzymes in the body, and too much omega 6 can inhibit omega 3 – hence the need for an equal-ish amount of each.

MANY people’s ratios are way skewed however, sometimes by as much as 30:1 (i.e. too much omega 6 to too little omega 3). You need to know that this is NOT a vegan problem, this is a universal problem.

As a plant-based superstar (or plant-based superstar wannabe!) you’re most likely getting plenty of Omega 6 through veg, fruit, grains, nuts and seeds, so it’s really omega 3 we want to make sure we get enough of, to balance out the ol’ 6.

It’s sometimes easy to get too much omega 6 through added oils; like safflower, sunflower, cottonseed or corn oil; so ideally stay away from these or use VERY sparingly.

We need omega 3 for basic cell function. And according to PCRM, adequate intake of omega 3 can mean a reduced chance of strokes and heart disease; reduction of menstrual pain and joint pain, relief from ulcerative colitis symptoms, and there is evidence to show it can also mean reduced breast cancer risk.

A deficiency of this nutrient can lead to health consequences that include kidney and liver abnormalities, dry skin or decreased immune function.

Omega 3 comes in three forms.

The main one is ALA (alpha linolenic acid) and this is the only ESSENTIAL omega 3, so this is the one you want to make sure you are getting.

Your body cleverly converts the ALA into the two other forms of omega 3; EFA and DHA.

We’ve all been sold the bill o’ goods that the best sources of EFA and DHA are fish and fish oils, but this is not true. The best sources are our own bodies! Yay for our bodies!

In any case, the fish themselves do not make EFA and DHA in their bodies; they obtain it from the algae and seaweed they consume.

Even though EFA and DHA are not essential nutrients – there is no RDA (recommended daily amount) prescribed for them – it’s possible you may need to up your levels if you are pregnant or elderly. But – you can do like the fish and eat sea vegetables (fancy phrase for seaweed; try nori or wakame for example), or take supplements made from algae. Aim for 250mg of DHA/day. You’ll also be avoiding the yucky contaminants found in fish this way!

So, how to get the main dude, the ALA?

Oh Em Gee this is soooo easy.

ALA can be found pretty abundantly in plant sources. Flax seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, black beans, red kidney beans, winter squash and edamame are all great sources.

One easy way – the way that I do it in fact – is to have two tablespoons of ground flax seeds on my oatmeal most mornings. There are a gazillion other great reasons for having flax seeds, but ALA is one of the main ones.

You could have two or three meals a week (stews or soups or casseroles or chillis) with red kidney beans or black beans in; and grab three or four walnut halves a few times a week.

But is it HARDER for vegans than for omnivores to get adequate omega 3?

What? You haven’t already surmised the answer to this question?

Though plants contain little fat, they contain enough to help the conversion process in our bodies of ALA to EFA and DHA. The ingestion of higher fat levels (like those found in a meat and dairy rich diet) make this process more difficult. SO, to have great levels of these three forms of omega 3; an overall low fat whole foods, plant-based diet is optimal.

Well…but of course 😉

 

Sources used: PCRM, Dr Michael Greger

 

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How Being Vegan Helps Combat World Hunger

Success Story - Marilyn (Haiti) from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 Feed My Starving Children (FMSC), Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Firstly, a few facts from the World Food Programme:

  • Some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That’s about one in nine people on earth
  • Asia is the continent with the most hungry people – two thirds of the total. The percentage in southern Asia has fallen in recent years but in western Asia it has increased slightly
  • Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence (percentage of population) of hunger. One person in four there is undernourished
  • One out of six children — roughly 100 million — in developing countries is underweight
  • One in four of the world’s children are stunted. In developing countries the proportion can rise to one in three
  • 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone

From the UN:

  • The greatest scandal of our age is the fact that just under 1 billion people on the planet go to bed hungry every night. This is despite the fact that we produce more than enough to feed every single person in the world

Now consider these facts; courtesy of the Cowspiracy Facts page:

  • 82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten by western countries
  • Worldwide, at least 50% of grain is fed to livestock
  • These is 15x more protein on any given area of land with plants, rather than animals

 

I’ve read the facts and seen the stats a ton of times, but each time it shocks me anew.

It’s overwhelming how simple the answer is.

Some people bluster and say that reduction of animal product consumption having the effect of eliminating world hunger is too simplistic.

These people are too invested in their steak, because the facts prove otherwise.

The planet can produce enough plant-food to feed the entire population easily.

But we are feeding grain to animals, for the animals to be fed to rich people. It’s easy to see this isn’t sustainable.

If one were to argue that those particular crops were not fit for human consumption anyway (which in some cases is true), well then let’s use that land to grow crops that ARE fit for human consumption, rather than to grow farm animal feed for poor creatures that are bred to be killed.

Something that always stuns me is that during Live Aid in 1985, the international concert that was held to raise funds for the Ethiopian famine relief – a particularly horrendous and destructive famine that shocked the world – we were, wait for it: EXPORTING GRAIN FROM ETHIOPIA TO FEED OUR CATTLE. From an article by Jeremy Rifkin:

At the height of the Ethiopian famine in 1984-5, Britain imported £1.5 million worth of linseed cake, cottonseed cake and rape seed meal. Although none of this was fit for humans to eat, good quality farmland was still being used to grow animal feed for rich countries when it could have been used to grow food for Ethiopians.

It doesn’t make sense to donate money year after year to Comic Relief (just because this is the one time of year we are shown images of ‘starving children in Africa’) and yet perpetuate world hunger by consuming meat.

There are many ethical reasons to be vegan, and ending world hunger is a big one. Going vegan benefits human animals and non-human animals alike and in reducing the suffering of one group, we reduce the suffering of the other group.

If you want more information on exactly how eating meat is a major cause of world hunger, I encourage you to read this exceedingly well-referenced article by economist Jeremy Rifkin in it’s entirety.

 

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How Do You Get Enough Zinc As A Vegan?

Zinc from Flickr via Wylio
© 2011 fdecomite, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

A reader emailed me in the week asking how vegans get enough zinc.

It’s a great question. We tend to focus on nutrients that uninformed journalists have scared us into thinking we won’t get enough of on a plant-based diet; like protein, calcium and iron.

Zinc doesn’t often figure in this list.

So let’s do zinc; right here, right now!

Zinc is a highly important nutrient; vital for healthy growth during childhood, adolescence and pregnancy; for a healthy immune system; for nerve development and for wound healing.

Symptoms of zinc deficiency include frequent infections, skin sores, loss of hair and problems with sense of taste and smell.

White spots on fingernails are also thought by many to be a sign of mild zinc deficiency, but though I can find this information on several MD websites, I can’t find science to back this up and there are differing opinions on this.

In any case, you don’t want a zinc deficiency, no sir.

The good news is there is no science that suggests that vegans do not get enough zinc.

According to the Vegan Society, vegans of all ages generally have a dietary intake of zinc which is similar to or greater than that of non-vegans.

If a vegan IS deficient in zinc this is more likely to be because they are restricting their caloric intake (i.e. as with an eating disorder) rather than because a plant-based diet is naturally deficient in zinc.

The recommended daily amount is 8 – 11mg. The higher end of this scale is for sexually active males, as zinc is lost through semen expulsion.

It has been suggested by the Institute of Medicine that vegans who have high intakes of whole grains might need more zinc than recommended. It’s true that the phytic acid found in whole grains can bind to minerals like zinc and make them less bioavailable to the body, but there is no solid science to show that this is a problem that causes zinc deficiency in vegans.

In fact, the Vegan Society say that even though whole grains ARE higher in phytate, their higher zinc levels make up for poor absorption, so there’s no need to miss out on the other great nutrients in whole grains.

Even though plant foods are not high in zinc, there are lots that contain zinc. Whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu and tempeh are all great sources.

If you want to pro-actively increase your intake of zinc then add toasted nuts and seeds to salads, or grab a small handful as a snack; and make sure to eat leavened (risen) bread over flatbreads.

Should you take a zinc supplement?

Probably, no.

However –

Disclaimer:

I do take a zinc supplement (30mg per day) in the winter, or at times when I feel like I might be coming down with a cold.

This is because my immune system was decimated as a young’n’! (I had lots of antibiotics as an infant, and took them for years as a teen to combat acne, which pretty much destroyed my health and immune responses).

Taking a supplement when I need to works for me. I live in London and am often on cramped public transport in the winter, standing underneath people that are sneezing on my head.

Yes, my head.

In order to avoid catching infections I take supplementary zinc but you very probably don’t have to because your medical history and your lifestyle may be different.

I’ve also found, in the past that if I have white flecks on my nails, a daily zinc supplement takes care of these (but as I’ve already mentioned, I cannot find the science to support this).

If you feel you may have a zinc deficiency, please consult your doctor and have your blood tested for zinc levels before deciding to supplement.

 

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How You Being Vegan Benefits Every Living Being On The Planet

Planet Gothenburg #photog from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 Erik Söderström, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Ever heard the one ‘you care more about animals than you do about people, but you should care more about people because you…er.. ARE one‘ ?

Me too.

Not too often thank goodness, but I’ve heard it.

Now I KNOW the word ‘vegan’ was invented, back in 1944, to mean someone who chose not to use non-human animals as products in any way, be it for food, clothes, sport or entertainment.

At this time, the intent was to show compassion towards the non-human animals who don’t have a voice.

These days, with easy access to so much more information, we now know there are many beings that don’t have a voice, or not one that’s heard. I am often overwhelmed by reading stories about women and girls who are sold into slavery, forced into abusive marriages while still a child, who suffer ‘dowry deaths,’ who are forcibly kept from being educated; who self-immolate because that’s their only way out of a desperate life, who have undergone extensive FGM – I could go on.

Firstly, it’s ridiculous to separate people from animals, because people are animals too.

And omnivores need NO encouragement to separate themselves from animals – disassociating themselves serves to allow them to believe they are superior, and thus legitimises their eating of animals.

It’s harder to justify eating animals when we fully realise we are animals too. When we understand that we are the same, we have truly seen ourselves in the ‘other;’ in this case a non-human animal.

I believe that ‘otherising’ living beings is not single issue. WE ‘otherise’ animals; men ‘otherise’ women; people ‘otherise’ people of different races; straight people ‘otherise’ gay people; young people ‘otherise’ old people and vice-versa.

Woman is the other of man, animal is the other of human, stranger is the other of native, abnormality the other of norm, deviation the other of law-abiding, illness the other of health, insanity the other of reason, lay public the other of the expert, foreigner the other of state subject, enemy the other of friend ~ Zygmunt Bauman (Polish Sociologist, 1925-)

The fact is, we don’t have to just care about one set of living beings; we have the capacity to care about them all.

It’s not a single prejudice that is the most important, but prejudice itself. Though it’s necessary to fight each prejudice singularly in order to make people aware it exists (that’s why I strive to inform about veganism!); as with all negative things it’s also about treating the root of the problem and not just the symptoms. Hate, fear and the ‘otherising’ that results from this are the root of the problem; racism, sexism, speciesism are how the hate and fear manifest and are the symptoms.

The beauty and power of veganism is that it starts with the beings that are most seen as ‘other’ and the effects radiate outwards.

Caring about the beings who are presently seen as the lowliest in society, i.e. animals (although from things I’ve read lately, I’m starting to believe that women are also not seen as fully rounded, sentient beings, and that many people will see animals as sentient beings before they see women as such), has a ripple effect and spreads out to all of society.

I’ll let these guys help me explain 🙂 :

Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace ~ Albert Schweitzer (French/German theologian, organist, philosopher, physician and missionary, 1875-1965)

As long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love ~ Pythagoras (Greek polymath, c. 570-c. 495BC)

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly ~ Martin Luther King (Civil Rights Leader, 1929-1968)

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated ~ (this quote is often attributed to Gandhi but can’t be precisely verified) Mahatma Ghandi (Leader of the Indian independence movement, 1869-1948)

So being vegan in effect, helps all oppressed peoples.

How else does veganism benefit all people on the planet?

Well, it benefits the planet, upon which every person resides!

It helps combat world hunger – I’d say that’s being pretty caring of other people?

If we, as vegans are healthy (which if we stick as much as we can to whole foods, there is no reason why we shouldn’t be), we can better care for all living beings – including people.

What about the quality of life and mental health of slaughter house workers? Slaughter house workers are often from immigrant communities, and they are poorly paid to kill animals for us. As a result of the speed of the machinery they often suffer serious injuries, psychological stress due to the nature of the work, and are more prone to committing acts of violence. By going vegan we are not contributing to the awful quality of life of these people or the people they affect.

So I figure it does a disservice to veganism to think of it as only helping non-human animals. Of course, as vegans we are shining the spotlight ON animal abuse and slaughter, and taking ourselves out of the equation that demands this cruelty happen, but I believe that all the reasons for going vegan are interconnected. It truly does benefit every living organism on the planet if you think about it.

We can care deeply about non-human animals. And we can also care deeply about all living beings. And we can ALSO care deeply about nature, because it gives life to, and feeds the soul of all living beings (you just try living without nature). It’s possible to care about all of these things at the same time.

And the accusation that vegans care more about animals than they do about humans is just silly, nothing more than lashing out because of lack of a better argument.

 

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Iron and A Vegan Diet. What Is The Truth?

026 Iron - Periodic Table of Elements from Flickr via Wylio
© 2015 Science Activism, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

A few days ago I saw an ‘article’ in Harpers Bazaar entitled ‘5 Reasons Not To Go Vegan’ in which a ‘nutritionist’ explained how hard it was to get enough iron on a vegan diet, and that meat is a much better source of iron.

She went on to explain how, as a vegan, it can also be hard to get enough protein and other nutrients that, in fact, AREN’T AT ALL hard to obtain from plant food.

I was surprised this article was allowed to be published – and why didn’t they ask ME to be the resident nutritionist? I tell the truth that I learned from peer-reviewed science, rather than regurgitate old information that I haven’t once questioned. GRRRR!!

Funnily enough, that article has since been deleted – I’m guessing people must have complained. I’d have complained myself if I wasn’t jaded from seeing too many of these types of ‘articles’ with their dodgy ‘nutritionists.’

Just to prove it WAS there – here it was! Just check out that dumb old URL…

Here’s what’s what on iron:

We need iron. It’s 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 feel 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 have so little nutritional education, they 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.

Because haem iron is known to be more quickly absorbed, people think that haem iron is better for us, period.

BUT…

…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 hard to NOT get enough iron on a whole food, plant-based diet.

Just in case you come across an article with information on veganism or plant-based health and you are not sure of it’s credibility; or it seems to contradict information you believed to be true, here is a handy guide to help you navigate conflicting information.

 

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