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.

 

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.

 

How To Navigate Christmas As A New Vegan

A Safe,Happy and Prosperous New Year to All from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 John Stratford, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Does it seem like it’s Christmas every frickin’ six weeks or is that just me?

It’s just such a lot of….well…bother!

Am I the Grinch?

*sigh* …Probably.

If this is your first (or one of your first) vegan Christmases; you may have a few concerns about how time spent with family and friends is going to pan out in light of your food choices.

It’s true that Christmas CAN sometimes present new vegans with a particular set of dilemmas.

I hope I’ve covered most of them here:

 

How do you navigate non-vegan family dinners?

I wrote a pretty comprehensive piece on this last year. Hope it helps!

 

As a vegan, should you even ATTEND non-vegan family dinners?

This is totally your call.

You are no less vegan if you do.

I get that it might be upsetting for some people, but it can also be an opportunity to wow the fam with some gorge food you made to bring and share.

A big obstacle to people going vegan is that they think the food will be boring and bland, so this can be an opportunity to prove to skeptical animal-munchers that the opposite is true.

 

If YOU are hosting Christmas, should you offer non-vegan food options?

In my opinion? Hell no. Your house = your prerogative. Why would you compromise your values?

However, you MUST offer lots of amazing plant-based food, to stop anyone whining about the fact that there’s no meat.

Look – you’re hosting – so you’re gonna be committed to a certain amount of kitchen time in any case. Try and find some extra-spesh, beautiful looking dishes that will excite the eyes and taste buds of even the grizzliest meat-eater.

Good food is good food. If it tastes great – they’ve got nothing to complain about!

I found some pretty cool ideas here and here.

 

What do you do if someone buys you a non-vegan gift?

Hmmmm. I have to say I think I would just be gracious about this.

It’s a gift. Their intention was good.

If you say you don’t want the gift and try to explain why...I mean…I just can’t see that turning out well.

If the gift is a leather or wool product, you can always make sure that you communicate effectively during the following year that your veganism includes not wearing animal products so that people get the message and it doesn’t happen again.

As for the gift? If it’s a leather, suede or wool product, I’d probably give it to a charity shop. It’s already been bought – and it can’t just dissolve or evaporate – so it may as well not go to waste.

If it’s a non-vegan food gift?

This one is difficult. Personally I couldn’t give it to some else – because I know how harmful animal products are health-wise and I couldn’t give to anyone else what I wouldn’t eat myself.

On the odd occasion when someone has unwittingly bought me non-vegan chocolate, it’s actually just stayed in my cupboard until its gone bad, such is my cluelessness about what to do in this situation.

Sorry!

 

How do you make vegan mince-pies

BLEEEEEEEEECCHHHH! I can help you go vegan and blow your mind with a ton of insights and inspiration to help you STAY vegan, but I cannot tell you how to make a vegan mince pie.

I always HATED those things and found them disGUSting. What even IS that mince shizzle made from?

I really don’t know.

I do not have the mince pie gene.

I found this recipe, if it helps, but I have not tried it and have no intention of doing so, so I can’t tell you if it’s good. Looks pretty legit though, if you like that sort of thing…

 

Is it ok to buy friends and family vegan cookbooks?

I say yes – if it’s a great quality cookbook. If it has lots of mouthwatering pics and engaging recipes, why not? Like I said in a previous point – good food is good food, and a good cookbook is a good cookbook, vegan or no.

 

What do you leave for Santa by the chimney/back door?

Um, a glass of almond or soy milk and some vegan cookies? We don’t want Santa to eat saturated fat and cholesterol and die of a heart attack or diabetes-related complications do we boys and girls?

And not meaning to fat-shame Santa, but he’s portly enough already if truth be told 🙂

 

I wish you all a relaxing and joyful holiday period, whatever you’re doing. And don’t forget, any rubbish presents – regift or repurpose 🙂

 

How Do Vegans Get Calcium?

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

 

The other day a potential client told me they’d be concerned about how they’d meet their calcium needs if they went vegan.

This made me realise I haven’t yet written a ‘calcium’ post. Yipes!

Since I live in a bit of a ‘vegan bubble’ – my partner is vegan, and I am now chatting to other vegans daily on Periscope (Oooh talking of which – why don’t you come join me there on www.periscope.tv/karencottenden), I often assume that people KNOW there are plenty of plant sources of calcium, but clearly I am being presumptuous in this assumption!

If you have the ‘where would I get my calcium from as a vegan?’ question, this post is for you.

Similar to the protein issue, you cannot be blamed for asking yourself this question and not immediately knowing the answer. We’ve all been led to believe a HYYUUUUGE load of crapola, and it’s hard to comprehend just how entrenched and pervasive those beliefs have become.

I had yet another wake-up call to this when I heard the question being asked of me the other day.

So, here’s the deal with calcium.

Firstly, you need to know that it’s hugely probable that we don’t need as much calcium as we’re told we do. There are major interests invested in keeping us all drinking cow’s milk. They’d have us believe that we need a ton of calcium and that this must come from milk – but this is not true.

Secondly, the calcium we DO need is obtainable elsewhere.

Where?

From exactly the same source lots of other animals get it – plants.

Getting calcium from plants instead of milk also ensures that we not getting the horrid saturated fat, cholesterol, hormones and antibiotics that are in cow’s milk.

Where do cows get their calcium? Hmmm, let’s think about that for a second…

Calcium is a mineral.

Minerals come from the ground.

Cows get the calcium (that is in their milk) from the grass that grows in the ground (except, these days they mostly eat feed crops that are supplemented with calcium!).

Where do you think the huge animals (elephants, giraffes etc) are getting their calcium from?

Not from cow’s milk that’s for damn sure!

If you eat a whole food, plant-based diet, then calcium – just like protein – is not something you need worry about.

We’re led to believe we should worry about it far more than we actually should.

I highly doubt you know someone who has suffered from calcium deficiency.

Dr John McDougall writes:

The relationship between people and plants works so well that there has never been a case of dietary calcium deficiency ever reported.

Yet I can bet you know someone who has suffered a disease of excess related to the other properties in cow’s milk (cholesterol, saturated fat, hormones); like diabetes, heart disease and prostate or breast cancer.

There is also a widespread belief STILL, that if you don’t drink milk for calcium you’ll risk getting osteoporosis when you’re older.

A study involving  77,761 women, monitored over 12 years, found that drinking three or more glasses of milk per day DID NOT protect them against hip or arm fractures. It actually showed that there were significantly higher fracture rates in the milk-drinking group than in those who drank little to no milk.

Then there is this study, from 1992, that shows that populations with the lowest calcium intakes had far fewer fractures than those with much higher intakes.

There is lots of evidence suggesting that dairy is harmful and actually contributes to osteoporosis rather than helping to prevent it.

The best osteoporosis-preventing foods are, in fact, whole grains, beans and legumes.

Worried that the calcium from plants might not be as well absorbed as the calcium in milk?

Don’t waste ya time a’ worryin’!

PCRM (Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine) says:

The calcium absorption from vegetables is as good or better than that of milk. Calcium absorption from milk is approximately 32 percent. Figures for broccoli, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, turnip greens, and kale range between 40-64 percent.

Thinking about taking calcium supplements to be sure? Don’t waste your $$$.

 

Honestly? If you’re eating a varied, whole food plant-based diet, you really don’t need to be worrying about calcium.

If you WANT to worry about it ‘cos that’s just who you are, then just ensure you’re getting enough leafy greens, beans and whole grains, and as an extra calcium bonus – have a couple of teaspoons of ground sesame seeds (high in calcium) on your oatmeal a couple of times a week, or enjoy tahini sauce over falafel or salad from time to time.

 

Why Are We Weirdly Selective About The Orifices That Produce Our Foods?

Quick note: Guys! Follow me on Periscope right here: 

https://www.periscope.tv/KarenCottenden

You: What in the Sam Hill is Periscope?

Me: It’s a new(ish) live streaming app, linked to twitter. It’s fab because it’s interactive. You can comment and ask questions while I’m streaming, and I can answer you!  I have a few ‘scopes’ under my belt now and THINK I’m getting a bit better, but YOU can be the judge of that.

It’s VERY easy to install and use. If an utter tech dope like me can get how it works – anyone can!

I talk about all things vegan and plant-based; make recipes, and sometimes do food shopping trips.

If you DO catch one of my ‘scopes’ and get any value from what I’m saying/doing – be sure to tap on your screen and give me lots of hearts (you’ll see how to do it when you start watching)!!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mixed Eggs from Flickr via Wylio
© 2011 soapydishwater, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Well this post will make you laugh if nothing else.

It might even larn you somethin’ – I definitely ‘larned’ something new as you will see!

Now even non-vegan readers must know by now that cow’s milk comes from a cow’s boob-equivalent – their udders; and that milk is food for cow’s babies, just as breast milk is food for human babies.

But I’m absolutely NOT judging you if you didn’t know that. It’s hardly something that milk adverts shout about, for obvious reasons.

And none of us would dream of breast-feeding from our mothers – or even from any other female human past infancy right? Yet this is what milk drinkers and dairy consumers (as all dairy is made of milk) are effectively doing, but it’s even weirder! They’re doing it FROM A DIFFERENT SPECIES.

And I found out something else last week.

Now I’m rather partial to saying that eggs are chicken’s periods (in an appropriate forum of course, not at a dinner table when someone is tucking into an egg – though it’s tempting 🙂 )

The eggs are unfertilised, so a period is technically what they ARE.

But did you know this?

(Maybe many of you did and I’m just ignorant)

A friend was telling me about a discussion she had with her partner. HE was saying that a chicken had but one…um…lower orifice; and she argued that this must be wrong, and that they MUST have two.

I agreed with her. They must have at least two I thought (I actually thought they must have three; one each for peeing and pooping of course; and one for the eggs to exit the body).

Later; to see who was right, I decided to get better informed about chickens’ unmentionables, and consulted the internet on this topic.

It turns out my friend’s partner was right. Chickens DO have but one, um, unmentionable (could I GET any more British?)

Did you know this?

I DIDN’T EITHER!!!!

This means that not only is an egg a chicken’s period, but also that it is pooping the eggs out of its butt (there, I said it).

As chickens (like all birds) don’t pee, the liquid waste mixes in with the solid waste and exits this one orifice as poop. So it really IS a butt.

I feel bad talking about chickens in a disrespectful way, but my intention is to make people think twice about eating eggs – so hopefully they’ll forgive me.

Why weren’t we taught this??? I’ve been on the planet X amount of years (now that really IS unmentionable) and I had NO IDEA that eggs came from a chicken’s butt.

Now chicken experts out there may point out that the poop and the eggs go down different tubes INSIDE the chicken’s body, and only exit from the same orifice, but still. Eggs still come out of their butt.

Just as sometimes those of us that are vegan, in order to get non-vegans to think about where milk comes from, ask them whether they’d be comfortable breast-feeding from a human female as an adult; this egg/chicken issue has similarly made me wonder:

Would we eat anything that exited from a human butt?

So why is a chicken’s butt OK as a food conduit?

Would we eat a menstrual deposit from any other animal?

Why then are we happy to eat a chicken’s?

Why were we not taught precisely where eggs come from and what they are – and in whose interest was it that we were not taught this?

Why are we not encouraged to ask questions about this?

It seems we have been conditioned to just accept milk and eggs as a healthy food source and not question a darn thing about whether they are indeed healthy, or where they came from, or why we don’t drink milk from any other animals (except perhaps goats) or eat eggs from many other birds.

This is why milk isn’t healthy.

This is why eggs aren’t healthy.

The reason why its cow’s milk (rather than milk from any other mammal) that has been pushed on to you since birth is that cow’s milk is the most profitable.

The reason why it’s eggs from chickens (rather than eggs from any other bird) that you’ve been made to believe are good for you since forever is that chicken’s eggs are the most profitable.

NO.OTHER.REASON.

In the interest of profit and profit only (as public health has NOTHING to do with it), our consumption of cow’s milk and chicken’s eggs has been SO normalised and legitimised by a multitude of societal elements that we receive both consciously and sub-consciously; that we DON’T tend to question anything.

It’s funny how many people identify as ‘germophobes’; they buy anti-microbial hand sanitisers galore and fuss and fret about bacteria – yet they’re happy to drink secretions from a different species, or eat something that exited the behind of another species, just because they consider that to be ‘normal.’

 

Next time I want a little fun with a non-vegan (and I know them to have a good sense of humour), I’ll tease them about their ‘butt-food.’

I learned a little something last week, but to be honest I was shocked I didn’t know this already.

Did YOU know?

 

Everything In Moderation Right?…..WRONG!

Let's have some complexity from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 futureatlas.com, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

I just did a ‘scope’ on this subject and got so wound up I figured I’d do a post on it too, to be sure to get it out of my system!

(And yes, please follow me on Periscope @KarenCottenden. If you’re quick you’ll get to see me while I’m still awkward and nervous. I intend ‘scoping’ every day, so it’s only a matter of time before I’ll be a slick ‘pro’ of course 🙂 )

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

‘But Karen…don’t you think we should just eat everything in moderation?’

I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve heard this.

It used to drive me CRAYZEEE and I didn’t have the counter-argument at my fingertips, so I got frustrated every time I heard it.

I had no answers other than ‘but what about heroin or cocaine, surely they’re not good in moderation?’

But this argument never felt sufficient. Someone would always say ‘er…no….they’re not food, we mean all foods in moderation.’

It didn’t help my frustration levels that the person saying it always thought they’d just KILLED ME with common sense, and that there was NO WAY I couldn’t now see things from their point of view.

And after all, it’s not one of the more aggressive things that get said to vegans. It sounds quite innocuous. Strangely, I prefer the stupider, more aggressive, defensive comments ‘cos they’re… well, just plain silly and quite easy to respond to.

But this one really does sound like common sense. Perhaps in another context, on another planet, it WOULD be common sense, but not in the way we use it today.

Now that I’ve given it some thought, I’m clearer on why the ‘moderation’ defence is poppycock; tosh; balderdash and bunkum.

There are really four elements to it, and they are:

 

1. What is moderation?

My definition of moderation is different to yours: yours is different to your auntie’s; hers is different to Donald Trump’s (not sure why I picked him, ew). This word has SUCH an ambiguous, indefinable meaning.

Everyone nods in agreement when someone says they ‘eat everything in moderation,’ yet none of them have the same idea of what moderation is.

And do they REALLY eat animal products in (any definition of) moderation? We all like to think we eat certain less-than-healthy foodstuffs ‘in moderation,’ but when it comes down to it, we just don’t.

Me? I like to believe I eat dark chocolate in moderation. I have it JUST on the weekends so I MUST do right? But when I really think about it honestly, I probably eat way more than is healthy for a two day period. I probably don’t eat it in moderation at all.

How many times have I had non-vegans say to me ‘Oh, you’re vegan? Well you know I hardly eat ANY meat or dairy.’ In actuality, they eat a lot more than they like to think of themselves eating. If all the people who said this were speaking the truth; half the livestock industry would’ve shut down by now! People don’t know how much they eat of anything until they stop eating it.

And ‘moderation’ is such a positive word; we all want to be associated with it. It’s the opposite of radical, fanatical and fundamentalist – all of which none of us want to be. We all want to believe we eat everything in moderation, but the truth is that lots of our meal choices are more animal product-heavy than we realise.

Just consider – do you eat chicken in moderation? Beef? Steak? Eggs? Cheese? Fish? Lamb? Pork? Yoghurt? Butter? Most of these? Weeeellll – that’s a heck of a lot of animal products to be eating ‘in moderation.’ If you eat each of these foods in moderation – you’re not leaving much room for plant foods!

 

2. What is everything?

Do the people who use this phrase really eat EVERYTHING?

I consider myself to eat a wide variety of foods from all over the globe, but I certainly don’t eat everything. I’ve yet to try durian, turnip greens and natto; plus hundreds of other plant-foods I’m sure.

I’m assuming the ‘moderation’ crowd don’t eat monkey’s brains, or frog’s legs, or shark meat. Some of the ‘moderation’ folk I know don’t even eat avocado, or sweet potato for the love of all things holy. And some I know eat chicken and potatoes in some form for pretty much every meal. Maybe they have Weetabix for breakfast.

Their concept of ‘everything’ is narrower than any fair definition of the word oughtta be!

The ‘everything’ they are referring to is the very small group of foods they stick to on a daily basis.

This is not what ‘everything’ means.

 

3. It’s not cool to eat ANY things in moderation (or otherwise) that have suffered and been brutally slaughtered when we have absolutely no need to do so.

Uh, that’s it.

 

4. It’s not cool to eat ANY things in moderation (or otherwise) that have a destructive impact on our planet (habitat destruction, global warming, topsoil loss, air/water pollution, desertification and rainforest decimating etc), when we have absolutely no need to do so.

Yep. That’s it for that one too.

 

‘Vegan’ Does Not = Eating Fruit For Every Meal

Water melon from Flickr via Wylio
© 2006 Hajime NAKANO, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

So there is a trend that worries me somewhat…

I’ve watched a tonne of YouTube videos that have ‘vegan’ in the title and are instructional in nature, and I have something I NEEEED to say.

In my opinion, the absolute vast majority of these videos are great, and it’s heart-warming to see so many people so clued up on the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of vegan. I’m also hugely jealous of the production values, editing skills, and just sheer confidence of the creators of these videos – but really enjoy watching them despite the ol’ green-eyed monster!

Yet some of them really concern me.

Some of these vloggers, if you watch their ‘what I eat in a day’ videos, eat nothing but fruit. Perhaps a nut here and there.

Of course, if you’re eating mainly fruit, then it’s pretty much a raw diet. My thoughts on raw in more detail are here.

I’m not naming any names or trying to take anyone down, I’m just genuinely concerned.

To be fair, some of these people DO look healthy, and report that their blood work is great. If this is true then good for them. But there are definitely others who don’t look like eating 95% fruit is serving them.

It’s popular and trendy diet plans like ’80/10/10′ and ‘Raw Till 4,’ (both encourage you to eat hyyyuuuuuge amounts of fruit for – supposedly – maximal health and fitness), that seem to have inspired this way of eating.

As a plant-based nutritionist I wouldn’t recommend eating a mostly fruit diet. Yes, of course it’s better than eating the standard US or UK diet full of chicken, fries, burgers and cheese etc, and maybe some people can live on it. But it’s not something I would recommend doing.

 

These are ALL the reasons these videos concern me:

  • Health-wise, we know the optimal diet is based around whole grains and starchy root veg. Brown rice, whole wheat products, whole spelt products, oats, quinoa, corn, potato, sweet potato, squash – these types of foods should be the foundation of most meals. After this come beans and legumes, and your veggies on the side.

Fruit appears as dessert; or a snack; or maybe PART of breakfast.

Where do I get off spouting this?

It’s true, I’m a nutritionist not a doctor…

…So I follow the advice of these guys who are:

Dr John McDougall, has practised medicine for many years and successfully treated hundreds, if not thousands of patients with a whole food, plant-based diet, with whole, starchy carbs as the basis. This is what he says on the matter.

The very accomplished and eminent Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, who again, has treated hundreds if not thousands of people successfully with the same diet Dr McDougall prescribes, has this to say on the subject.

Here is what Dr T Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, thinks of diets such as 80/10/10 that espouse a raw, fruit-heavy way of eating.

All these guys say THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE proving that eating mostly fruit is optimal for health.

However – there IS scientific, peer-reviewed evidence proving that a whole food, plant-based diet with a focus on grains and potatoes etc, IS.

 

  • I also have personal experience of eating just fruit. About 26 years ago, I’m not going to say I had an eating disorder because I was never diagnosed and I managed to get out of it on my own with no medical help; but I wanted to lose weight, so I started JUST eating watery fruits and veg, knowing that with this regime I could only lose weight as these foods are basically just water and would go straight through me.

Well I lost weight alright, and I lost my period too (if you’re a female human, you NEED your period so everything can function as it should).

Everything went back to normal eventually when I added starchy plant foods back to my diet, but for a while there, I was not the healthiest!

This isn’t to say that it doesn’t work for some people, perhaps it does, I don’t know. But I don’t understand scientifically how it could be a good idea long term.

 

  • The other thing is – what kind of climate do you live in? In Chinese medicine (not that I’m an expert, but a close friend is a Chinese Herbalist) they believe that some foods are cooling and some are warming.

Tropical fruits, for example, are believed to have a very cooling effect. If you live in a cold climate it doesn’t make sense to be eating lots of mangoes, watermelons and dragon fruit that are meant to cool you down.

The couple of fruit-heavy vloggers I’ve seen who DO look healthy, I believe DO live in hotter climates.

If you live in the UK, Northern or Eastern Europe, East US, or anywhere where the temperatures can drop; eating fruit all day just ISN’T gonna cut it. You need your stews, chilli’s and curries to warm you and fill you up.

Also – how expensive is eating 3 melons for breakfast, 6 mangoes for lunch, 2 dragon fruit as a snack; and 4 oranges, 2 more melons and 3 dates for dinner? Tropical fruit isn’t cheap and with the amounts people are eating in order to fulfill their caloric intake, the cost must rack up pretty quickly. Compare the price of six decent mangoes with a 2kg bag of lentils that will last you months!

 

  • The final reason these ‘fruity’ videos concern me, is that, to me, they are somewhat misrepresenting a vegan diet. If these vloggers called themselves ‘fruitarians’ instead of ‘vegans’ this would be helpful, so people don’t think that this is a typical version of a vegan diet.

Veganism and plant-based diets are, at last, gaining traction. More and more people are interested. But imagine a person who eats a meat and dairy-heavy diet that starts to be curious about veganism and wants to learn more. So they whack ‘vegan’ into the YouTube search engine. Then imagine the first video they see is someone who tells them that eating 3 melons for breakfast and 12 mangoes for lunch is the way to be vegan. I worry this is off-putting. Lots of people think vegans are weird anyway. I don’t believe the ‘fruity’ vegans are helping this perception any.

 

If YOU are the meat-eater tentatively looking for info on going vegan and want to do it healthfully, then type ‘whole food, plant-based’ into your search engine; or read anything by the doctors I mention above – these dudes are the real deal; they’ve done the science and published it. They’ve witnessed hundreds of times over how healing a whole food, plant-based diet is and they live to spread the message.

And if you need any help transitioning….YOOHOO!!!!!! You know I’m here to help you. I offer my programs, and have addressed lots of the common questions and stumbling blocks around going vegan here in my blog posts.

Let me know if there’s anything I haven’t talked about yet that you’d like me to, and I’ll get to it in one of my next posts.

 

Here’s Why Your Parents Are Not Thrilled About You Being Vegan

mother father© 1900 Powerhouse Museum, Flickr | PD | via Wylio

Ha! This is a juicy subject.

There are ways to talk about being vegan with regular non-vegans: then there are parents.

How the dynamics can shift!

If you have parents that were completely on board with your decision to go vegan, and in actual fact wanted to go vegan with you JUST to support you – yay you! And can your parents adopt me please?

But DON’T be downhearted if this didn’t happen to you; the above scenario is definitely the exception, not the norm.

Now you know as well as I do that if your parents are giving you crap about going or being vegan, it doesn’t mean they are shitty parents – far from it.

I mean, they could be shitty parents; I don’t know them; but most likely they are not.

What it means, is one or several of these things:

 

  • Your parents taught you how to eat. They fed you your first foods. For most of us, they decided exactly what your body was going to ingest for at least the first 16 years of your life (sneaky candy splurges aside 🙂 ). They completely informed your food likes and dislikes, and passed their own tastes on to you.

You going vegan is making them feel that you think they were, and are, wrong. That you’ve moved on from, and away from them and the life they gave you

  • Your parents watched with pride as you ate your first boiled egg on your own, ate your first shellfish, and your first piece of French cheese. They have many profound memories that surround you and food. They fear these memories will be negated; that they’ll not now mean as much to you as they do to them.

Don’t forget that the whole food association thing goes further back than you and your parents. Your parents learned about food from THEIR parents, and they have many food memories associated with THEM. And your grandparents would’ve taken on THEIR parents’ food habits, and so on. This goes a loooong way back, baby. You going vegan, in the minds of your parents, is just changing (and ruining) everything.

  • Your parents knew you loved spaghetti and meatballs/cheesecake/pineapple-upside-down-cake, and liked to make it for you when you visited. They fear that they won’t have the same way of connecting with you through food as they used to; that you won’t ever again feel pleasure because of something they cooked especially for you.
  • Maybe you used to go fishing with your dad (why don’t mums go fishing?) and bring the fish home and cook it. Maybe you and your mum or dad always made a special non-vegan dish together at Christmas or Thanksgiving. Food and the acquiring and preparing of it has always been a bonding familial experience for many of us.

When you initially tell your parents you’re going vegan, they may well fear that that’s the end of something they cherished and always looked forward to (it’s most definitely NOT, but I’ll talk about communication with veganism-averse parents in another post).

 

This next one is common:

  • Your parents brought you into this world and wiped your poopy butt; wiped snot from your nose and cleaned your ears and belly-button. Much as they love you and as much as you are the centre of their world, you will NEVER know better than them (about anything!) in their minds, no matter how old and clever you get.

Now, there are not many bigger authorities on a plant-based diet than Dr Neal Barnard of PCRM, but even HE tells this story about his mother being uninterested in going plant-based, even though he’d written fifteen books on the subject and had many times carefully explained to her about how it would lower her elevated cholesterol levels. It was only when, due to her experimenting with going plant-based for a few weeks, her own doctor noticed an improvement in her cholesterol level and told her she was doing the right thing, that she acknowledged that this diet was best for her health. As Dr Neal Barnard says – sometimes the source has to be unbiased. Lots of parents just won’t take information from their offspring, no matter how accomplished.

From my own experience, it’s happened several times that I’ll give my mother a specific piece of dietary advice hundreds of times over a period of years, and I’ll be blown off with a derisory ‘hmmm, that’s nice.’  Then one day she’ll tell me excitedly about how a man she just got talking to down the road told her the EXACT SAME PIECE OF INFORMATION, and how it must be true and she will try implementing it in her own life.

Bless her.

Or something.

Yes, it’s always a facepalm inducing moment.

  • Your parents are not health and nutrition experts (oftentimes even if they are doctors or dieticians!), and are not informed on how a plant-based diet is actually and factually the optimal diet for health and wellness. They are the people that care for you the most in the world, and they just fear that you might be risking your health.
  • They are probably also influenced by all the negative connotations associated with the word ‘vegan,’ and fear that you will become isolated socially and become a massive pain in the ass to people and lose friends.

 

In another post I’ll talk about how to communicate with your parents about veganism, based on the above stumbling blocks.

Fret not; it’s not difficult when you understand the reasons WHY they are freaking. These reasons are mostly just unfounded fears, and there is nothing that a little bit of meaningful communication, sharing of information and creative thinking can’t overcome.

 

There’s No Such Thing As Vegan Food, It’s All Just Food.

Fried artichoke hearts with marinara and ranch dipping sauce, from Sage Bistro, LA. Perfect example of 'food.'
Fried artichoke hearts with marinara and ranch dipping sauce, from Sage Bistro, LA. Perfect example of ‘food.’

Just so we’re clear – there is no such thing as ‘vegan’ food.

So why do we often hear phrases like..

‘I tried vegan food but I didn’t like it’

‘I could never eat vegan food; it’s really dry and rubbery’

‘Come to our party, there will be vegan food’

What is this ‘vegan’ food?

Ok, hands up, I’m also guilty of using the term ‘vegan food’ for ease of expression on occasion, but it’s a term that is grossly overused by vegans and non-vegans alike.

Do we say vegan carrot? Vegan strawberry? Vegan olive? Er…no.

Food that vegans eat, non-vegans often eat too!

The word vegan already, to some ears, sounds like something from another planet; so using ‘vegan food’ to mean, well, just food, isn’t really gonna attract anyone to it. Which is a shame if the food in question is a gorgeous Ethiopian Berber lentil stew, or black-eyed pea fritters with Creole sauce, or salted caramel ice cream.

It’s not surprising someone invented the term ‘plant-based.’ It’s more specific, and everyone knows we all already eat plants, so it’s not as alien-sounding.

Maybe we should even quit using the word ‘food’ to mean anything other than plant-based food!

For if we believe that non-human animals aren’t ours to eat or take bodily secretions from; then we really don’t see meat, dairy, fish and eggs as edible; i.e., as food.

If we could all switch our perception thus – just think! We wouldn’t even need the word ‘vegan’ – there would just be people who ate food, and others who ate food and animals. It may have the effect of bringing home to people just what they are eating.

If you think ‘vegan foods’ means fake meats; soy protein burgers etc, you may have a point. It’s true that these products were made specifically with vegetarians and vegans in mind.

But bear in mind that most vegans, after a period of transitioning to a vegan diet, don’t tend to eat this kind of thing often. It can be helpful for some people when they first go vegan to eat foods that resemble the meat-based foods they used to eat. But after a while of experimenting with all the veg, beans, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds etc – it’s common to start to naturally move away from the fake stuff and make real foods the basis of your diet the most often.

I only tend to eat a seitan or a gardein dish (gardein is another plant-protein with a meat-like texture) on holiday. I DO eat veggie burgers but they’re made from spicy brown rice and pumpkin seeds, so they are just really GOOD food. Hey – maybe we should reclaim the word ‘burger’ too?

And as for some people saying ‘vegan food’ is tasteless or dry etc – well guess what? Lots of non-vegan food is tasteless and dry! I remember many a dry, overcooked piece of meat on my plate, or something cooked in milk that had gone off, or cheap disgusting vanilla ice-cream where the food colouring was so intense it was practically glow-in-the-dark!

Of course there is bad ‘vegan food’ just as there is bad non-vegan food. Why the double standard? If food is badly sourced and badly made, then it’s crap – vegan or not! At least if ‘vegan food’ is bad, no one had to die and the environment wasn’t ruined for something that everyone hated anyway.

I believe in the future perceptions WILL change around what constitutes ‘food’ and what does not. They will HAVE to if we are to survive on this planet – as anyone who has seen the documentary Cowspiracy, or read Comfortably Unaware by the dedicated and brilliant Dr Richard Oppenlander will tell you.

But in the meantime if you hear anyone refer to an animal product-free dish as ‘vegan food,’ try and find a polite way of saying…

…’dude, it’s just food.’

 

10 Top Tips For Happy Vegan Travel!

suitcase

 

If you’re a new vegan and wondering how you’ll cope being vegan when you travel, worry not – I’ve got you covered every which way of the compass you could travel!!!

I’ve previously written about how not to go hungry on plane trips here, so that’s the beginning of your journey sorted (some of the snack ideas would of course apply to road and train trips too).

We vacation in America two or three times a year, and everywhere we’ve been absolutely spoiled with vegan options. It’s definitely one of the reasons we return again and again.

Nothing beats being able to walk into a restaurant that is MADE FOR YOU! Where you don’t have to question the wait staff or read labels; you can just kick back and be ‘normal’!

What I love, possibly even more than a vegan restaurant, is a non-vegan restaurant that has a separate vegan menu. It’s good for non-vegans to see huge plates of delicious, colourful food being served to vegans to bust that tenacious old myth that vegan food is boring.

Even a few vegan options clearly marked on a menu is very welcome, assuming the options are yum and imaginative, not just a token offering (hello, ubiquitous roasted Mediterranean veg!)

Obviously big ‘western’ cities have lots of vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants. But what do you do if you’re going to a country that doesn’t even have a fringe understanding of veganism; or where refusing any animal food at all would be perceived as rude; and where you understand NOT A WORD of the local language?

There doesn’t seem to be many places in the world where it’s not possible to eat vegan. Many countries have lots of staple dishes that are vegan anyway, and you’d be hard-pressed to find somewhere that didn’t sell fresh fruit and veg. It’s not always easy to eat HEALTHY vegan food – but assuming you’re on vacation or a short business trip, the odd plate of fries or bag of chips won’t kill you!

Personally, I’ve eaten well as a vegan in Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Canada, Mexico, France and Spain, and there are ways and means to eat well pretty much everywhere.

Well, what are they?

 

1. Acquaint yourself with the Happy Cow website

Happy Cow lists all the vegan restaurants, vegan-friendly restaurants, and health stores (where you can pick up vegan snacks) in a place.

There aren’t many regions that won’t have at least a couple of listings (I just randomly tried Haiti, Tangiers and Havana, and there were a couple of listings for each!)

Make Happy Cow your first port of call.

 

2. Think about renting a hotel suite with a full kitchen, or an apartment so you can cook ‘at home’

There are plenty of hotel chains that do suite rooms with full kitchens. If there aren’t too many vegan dining out options where you’re going, then shop at a local market or supermarket and cook in!

Otherwise, try renting out an apartment, house or villa through Airbnb or one of the other travel websites. I’ve used Airbnb several times in New York, LA, and I’m just about to do it again in Tennessee.  There is no better way to experience living like a native than shopping for your dinner with everyone else in the town.

 

3. If you have to stay in a regular hotel room, ask for a refrigerator / microwave

Most hotel rooms these days either come equipped with a refrigerator and/or a microwave – OR a fridge is available on request. Keep the fridge stocked with fresh fruit, nuts, bread, and any vegan snacks you come across.

 

4. The travel kettle is your new best friend

Pack a small travel kettle, and you’ve got the fixin’s for miso soup, ANY powdered soup, porridge, some types of noodles, and some instant meals that just require hot water (Mcdougalls soup pots for example). Just make sure to have an adaptor if the electricity sockets are different at your destination!

 

5. Sometimes it’s all about sides and appetisers baby!

As mentioned, lots of staple foods in many European, African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries are vegan by default. If all the mains on a menu contain meat or fish; look for sides or appetisers (‘meze’ in some countries) based on beans, lentils or veg, and order several of these instead. Some may contain yoghurt, but you should find enough that don’t.

 

6. Are you all about the ‘fly & flop’? Pick a hotel with a buffet

‘Fly & flops’ are usually located in sunny climes, and sunny climes always have fantastic fruit,  and salad vegetables right? Fill up at the hotel buffet on fresh produce, good breads, bean dishes, hummus and salsa.

 

7. Ooh, this one’s long!  If you’re going somewhere where the culture is very different to the one you’re familiar with, you will need to make some decisions

What do I mean by this?

Well, for example: Once, in rural Upper Egypt, we were invited to someone’s house, where the mother of the family had cooked us a fabulous meal. Luckily, plenty of it was plant-based by default, so we could tuck in heartily without offending anyone.

Over the meal however, the subject came up that I was vegan, and my Egyptian friend (whose mother had prepared the spread) said that the filling of the delicious stuffed hot cabbage leaves we were eating – which was a herby, spicy rice – had probably been cooked in a meat broth.

Now I’d already eaten some, and had intended having more.

What did I do?

I chose to overlook the fact that meat broth had probably been used.

Why?

Look, its one thing if you’re in the States at a Mexican restaurant and ask the wait staff if the beans have been cooked in animal broth or fat. You are in the US, and Mexican chefs and waitstaff have probably already come across this question before.

However, the context I found myself in that day in Egypt was completely different. Already, the concept of ‘vegan’ was insane to them – it was explained to me that only poor people ate NO meat. I understood that if my friend’s mother had used animal products in our food, it’s because she wanted very much to please us. There was a donkey (that was all ribs) tied up outside the house, and sick stray kittens all over the place. It wasn’t me that was going to cause a massive paradigm shift in understanding that day or even make anyone think that veganism was a credible lifestyle. Complaining about the food would’ve just been mightily ungracious and rude.

I managed to avoid the meat, but continued to eat veg and beans that may or may not have been cooked in meat stock.

It’s quite common in African, Asian and South American countries for beans to be cooked in meat stock and you therefore might find yourself having to make the decision that ‘what the eye doesn’t see won’t harm you,’ i.e., if animal products are not visible, then go ahead and eat the beans and veg you come across.

This is completely your call. My motto is ‘do what you can.’ To me, veganism isn’t about being perfect, or about starving to make a point. It’s about doing as much as is reasonably possible to avoid unnecessary cruelty and environmental destruction.  If I can’t see dairy, eggs, fish or meat in a dish that looks like veg and beans, and this dish is likely the best I’ll get all day, I’ll eat it.

You might feel differently. Like I said; your call.

 

8. Familiarise yourself with words for ‘no meat,’ ‘no milk,’ ‘no butter’ etc in the language of your host country

I went to Valencia, Spain a few years ago, and I’ll never forget ‘sin carne,’ ‘sin leche,’ ‘sin queso’, ‘sin mantequilla,’ ‘sin heuvos,’ ! Learning the words for meat, cheese, butter, eggs and fish (and the word for ‘vegan’ if there is one!) in the language of the place you are visiting, will help you better avoid these foods.

 

9. Don’t overlook street food

There is often great street food available in lots of countries, much of it vegan; and because you can watch it being made, it is fresh and you can see exactly what goes into it. Though you may need to make the ‘do I overlook it if I can’t see it?‘ decision, as per Tip number 8.

 

10. Pre-pack dried non-perishable goodies

If you are going somewhere where you truly anticipate finding vegan food to be a problem, hit up your health store (or supermarket with a good health aisle). Grab some good quality nut/date/seed/fruit bars; fill a few bags with nuts and dried fruit from the bulk bins; get some powdered miso; and breadsticks are versatile, light and last a while, so get some of these too. Any vegan cookies in this shop? Buy some. Some small sachets of soy sauce would be a good idea also.

You can intersperse these protein-filled snacks with (well-washed) local fresh produce when you can. Your destination may well have a grain as the base of its traditional dishes, i.e. rice; so if you can, have plain rice, tomatoes or other available vegetables and flavour with the soy sauce sachets.

 

Happy travels, send us a postie!