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

die of something 4

 

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.

 

How Do You Get Omega 3 As A Vegan?

IMG_20160410_232747733 R

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

 

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.

 

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.

 

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)!!

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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 🙂 )

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‘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.