The mineral iron is vital to the human body for many reasons, but primarily because it makes hemoglobin – a blood protein that transports oxygen to all parts of the body.
If we’re not getting enough iron it results in us not getting enough oxygen in our bodies, and so we become fatigued – that well-known symptom of iron deficiency.
It’s also well known that iron deficiency can lead to anaemia. Symptoms of iron deficiency and anaemia include fatigue, dizziness, weakness and palpitations (though if you suffer from any of these symptoms don’t automatically assume you have an iron deficiency. These symptoms are compatible with lots of conditions so go see your doctor and find out what’s up).
Many people who go back to meat-eating from being vegan say they felt tired and weak and think it’s because they weren’t getting enough iron, believing that ALL the iron is in the red meat.
The sad truth is that many doctors still recommend upping red meat intake to those that are low in iron – I’ve even heard this within the last year.
Unfortunately, most doctors have so little nutritional education, they will advise their patients to eat food that is carcinogenic and full of saturated fat, cholesterol and antibiotics rather than study modern science on how BEST to acquire sufficient iron levels from food safely.
So what IS the truth?
The confusion arises because iron from meat (haem iron) IS more quickly absorbed in the human body than iron from plants (non-haem iron). THIS is why the medical profession will often prescribe red meat or liver to patients low in iron, thinking that this will be a quick cure.
I guess it IS a ‘quick cure,’ but because this haem iron is known to be more quickly absorbed, people think that haem iron is better for us, period.
…This is NOWHERE NEAR the full picture.
That haem iron is more quickly absorbed is not a good thing. It is absorbed by the body quickly WHETHER WE NEED IT OR NOT. It is not a balanced way for the body to receive iron and can result in iron overload. This increases risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease.
Non-haem iron from plant food is slower to be absorbed by the body but is absorbed as our bodies need it (isn’t this clever?)
All the main health advisory bodies – ADA, BMA, WHO, PCRM – concur that iron deficiency anaemia is no more common in vegetarians than it is amongst meat eaters.
And in the UK in 2002; a study of 33,883 meat-eaters, 18,840 vegetarians and 2,956 vegans found that vegans were found to have the highest daily intake of iron.
As we’ve seen, iron overload is just as dangerous as iron deficiency – but we stand far less chance of over-dosing on iron on a plant-based diet.
Great plant-food sources of iron are whole grains, green leafy veg, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds; and vitamin C-rich fruit and veg help us absorb the iron, but really, if you’re eating a varied whole food plant-based diet, you don’t need to stress over it.
It’s actually harder to NOT get enough iron on a whole food, plant-based diet!
There are many tantalising, colourful new vegan products out there now, and ‘dirty’ vegan hipster joints are popping up in East London (what seems like) daily. And this is all good, and harmless to indulge in once in a while. But a new vegan could be forgiven for thinking that this is the stuff vegans eat ALL the time. And the worst thing in the world would be for a new vegan to partake of this kind of food only, and end up feeling so bad that they mistake the fact they are feeling gross to be due to a lack of meat. Or eggs. Or salmon.
Another reason some vegans turn back to meat is because they’ve been influenced by Youtube videos where (slightly crazy imo) people eat 50 mangoes for breakfast, 20 bananas for lunch etc and end up believing that buckets of fruit are the answer to all their health and wellness problems. When they don’t get the desired health outcome they expected from eating all the fruit all the time, they blame it on not eating animal products.
Firstly, none of the problems I’ve ever heard these ex-vegans complain of are because of a lack of animal products.
The one and only time you may NEED to eat meat is if there is no plant-food around anywhere; no chance of you coming across any in the next few days; you are already malnourished and semi-dead of starvation; and an unsuspecting animal walks by. In this scenario, go for it. Otherwise, there is no medical need to eat animal products.
Being a healthy vegan isn’t a mystery, but it’s not about guzzling a fuck-ton of fruit, or buying all the pretty new vegan products. And it’s a good idea to get a blood test done with your GP after a couple of months to check your levels of vitamins and minerals to see how you are going. Then, should you be deficient in any, you may well be able to make up the shortfall through diet.
But for right now – here are 11 helpful tips that should keep you on the straight and narrow health-wise:
1. Whole Foods. I was going to say ‘if its brown, gobble it down’ but that sounded a little…weird 🙂 What I mean is, always choose the whole versions of grains. So – brown or black rice; wholewheat products over white wheat products (whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, whole wheat couscous etc); and try using more natural sugars over white sugar – agave and maple syrup are a better choice than white sugar and they don’t spike your blood at the same rate.
When you DO buy pre-made products, try and ensure they have minimal ingedients, and that you know what all the ingredients are – no unpronouncable chemical rubbish needed!
2. Watch your oil consumption. It’s very easy to overdo the oil, especially with all the tempting new junk food vegan places around. Even the better plant oils (olive, coconut etc) count as processed foods. Unless you have chronic disease it’s fine to include a little, but restaurant food very often contains a LOT.
Eat at home as much as possible and take your own lunch into work. Eating out occasionally is fine, it’s when you do it constantly that the excess oil can be harmful to digestion, weight maintenance and health in general. If you have to eat out a lot for whatever reason, try and space it out so you’re not doing it on consecutive nights, and eat oil-free meals the days in between.
3. Beans, grains, greens baby! It’s always gonna be your beans and whole grains that will give you the energy and fibre you need to maintain good basic health, with root veg like sweet and white potatoes making a regular appearance too for the same benefits. The greens are a great source of calcium. When you make a meal, try and incude ‘a bean, a green and a grain’ – or a root veg in place of the grain. So that can incude fabulous chilis, curries, pasta dishes, couscous, hearty salads – pretty much most dishes can contain these elements. I know it doesn’t sound as sexy as ‘Sloppy Joes’ or ‘Dirty mac n’ cheeze,’ but it’s not sexy having digestive issues from too much oil either, so… 🙂
4. Eat the rainbow. The colour of each fruit and vegetable represent different nutrients, so try and eat a variety of coloured fruit and veg throughout your week. For example; red – tomatoes, red peppers, red apples; orange -carrots, sweet potatoes, canteloupe; green – um..greens :), kiwi, okra; purple – beetroot; yellow – bananas, yellow peppers.
5. Love your kitchen. Dudes, there’s no easy way to say this and not sound like an authoritarian school head teacher. But you HAVE TO PRIORITISE SPENDING TIME IN THE KITCHEN. You want the health? Good. I want that for you too. Now GET YOUR ASS IN THE KITCH.
If there was a professional goal you desperately wanted, I don’t doubt you would do whatever it took to achieve that. I never understand why people don’t prioritise their health in the same way when health is so basic to happiness and wellbeing. Health, imo, should be a starting point, and everything else comes out of that. If you feel good, you’re gonna be so much more productive – and fun! 🙂
If you make as many of your own meals as possible, YOU can control the oil that goes into your food, and make sure there is no pesky sugar or white flour added. God knows there are plenty of vegan cookbooks and recipe websites out there. Pick one, get a podcast up on the laptop to help you enjoy your kitchen time, and get cooking.
6. Pamper your guts. We now know that gut-health is key to overall health. Your guts contain 70-80 % of your immune system, and bad gut-health can be responsible for all sorts of issues such as leaky gut, IBS, and fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis, and mental illnesses such as depression, bi-polar and even schizophrenia. Sugars and white, refined starches feed bad gut bacteria, so yet another reason to avoid or at least minimise consumption of them.
Eat a portion of fermented foods every day. Pick from sauerkraut, kimchi, soy/coconut yoghurt, miso, tempeh, or a drink like kombucha, vegan kefir, water with apple cider vinegar. This will help re-establish the good bacteria your gut needs to thrive. Me? I make my own kimchi, because I’m a hippie that knits her own sandals 😀 But seriously, it’s yummy. My recipe here.
If you have any of the health issues mentioned at the top of this paragraph, think about taking non-dairy probiotics.
7. Face the flax. Try and include 2 x tbspns ground flax seeds in your diet 6 days a week. There are SO many reasons why this is a good idea for overall health. Firstly; they provide masses of fibre. Secondly; they promote great gut health. Thirdly; they are thought to be cancer-protective. Fourthly; they are thought to soak up any heavy metals lingering in our bodies and help them to..er…exit the body 🙂 Fifthly; they will help keep estrogen levels stable, again, by helping your body to excrete any excess. Sixthly; they are a great source of omega 3.
Sprinkle it on oatmeal, soups, stews, salads.
8. Vitamin B12. Supplement with this. No backtalk. Do it.
9. Hydrate! Well yeah, it’s obvious I know, but you’d be surprised how many people still don’t. Hydrate even more if you consume alcohol and/or coffee. Water and single herb teas are the ONLY liquids that count as water.
10. Sleep well. Another obvious one, and not really my remit, but I DO know it’s best to leave 3 hours between your last meal and going to bed. You wanna be resting in bed, not digesting.
11. Move it! Move it! Move it! Exercise is key. Pick whatever works for you and be CONSISTENT. If nothing more, then get out and walk briskly for half an hour every day – you get even more points if some of the walk has an upwards gradient.
I need to preface this post by saying that if you have any health concerns at all, go to your GP. I present you my experiences in case they can be of help, but I am a nutritionist, not a doctor.
Recently, I had an iodine issue, and once I’d resolved it, I thought ‘I really should update and repost my article on iodine, so that anyone who needs to can benefit from what I just learned.’
So I searched my website and everything I’ve ever written EVER. Turns out I’ve never written a dedicated post about iodine! I couldn’t believe it. I thought I’d written about every nutrient and health issue pertaining to veganism that existed.
But now I know more than I previously did about iodine, it’s probably just as well.
So I’d previously thought iodine was mainly for thyroid health, and that we should try and eat sea vegetables whenever we got the opportunity, monitor our levels, and if we needed to, take a kelp supplement occasionally (as kelp is a great source of iodine), but that it was important not to overdo the kelp, as it could pack too much of a punch.
is in other plant food too, but the levels aren’t reliable because it
depends how much iodine was in the soil the plants were grown in – and
we know our soil is pretty depleted of nutrients these days.
Thus, vegans are definitely at risk for iodine deficiency, in fact this study shows that they can be quite worryingly so. Do not mistake this to mean it’s better to eat animal products, because it’s not, for a multitude of reasons.
Anyway, I followed my own advice faithfully, and took kelp supplements occasionally, or whenever I became aware that I wasn’t really eating much seaweed.
Until I didn’t. Until I ran out of kelp supplements and firstly forgot to buy more, then kept putting it off for no reason other than I thought it wasn’t a priority. I probably went for a good three months without taking any – and to be honest, I hadn’t been that great at taking them on a regular basis even when I had some. I felt fine and didn’t think it was a priority.
Then I started getting the following symptoms (to any men reading this – don’t stop, this post will apply to you too very shortly!); breast tenderness throughout the whole cycle as opposed to just before a period, and a dry skin rash near my temple which was…well…weird.
Now it’s true that you can have weird cycle things happen as you get older, but I felt like these symptoms were specific, and could not be explained away that glibly. So I did my research like a good little health freak, and eventually I had the thought ‘ah, iodine, I wonder if that could have had an impact?’
It turns out it had more of an impact than I could have known with my previous knowledge.
Obviously there’s a whole juicy scientific explanation but in a nutshell, iodine has a really huge influence on our estrogen levels. If you are prone to estrogen dominance as many people are (I am, it’s in the genes), then an iodine deficiency will mean estrogen can get out of control. So despite the fact that I was doing everything to keep my levels balanced (including flax in my daily diet, exercising, eating whole, plant foods etc), I was still getting those symptoms of estrogen dominance.
I quickly bought some kelp supplements and started taking them. Within a few weeks, everything was back to normal, and the dry skin weirdness vanished almost immediately. I wish I’d discovered this earlier, but it took the breast and skin thing to make me take notice.
Further reading revealed that iodine is super important for fertility in both women AND men. I’m definitely not trying to get pregnant but you might be. Men – you need adequate iodine levels for optimal semen quality.
An iodine deficiency can also be responsible for irregular or anovulatory periods, fibroids and fibrocystic breasts.
other thing is that conventional doctors, and even the plant-based
doctors, will tell you you need a very small amount of iodine daily –
130-150mcg, and that to take any more is excessive.
However, people that specialise in reproductive health say that larger amounts can be needed. It is believed that people can take up to 1100 mcg daily safely.
There is also so much that even doctors don’t yet understand about the way iodine works in our body, and even prestigious vegan websites aren’t giving clear information. For example, The Vegan Society website gives some facts on iodine, and their advice is ‘every vegan needs a reliable source of iodine in their diet’ and ‘in the UK, the recommended daily iodine intake is 140mcg.’ What is that saying? Take a supplement? Don’t take one?
What am I saying?
I’m not saying everybody should rush out and buy a shit-ton of kelp.
I’m saying that I’ve discovered that iodine is more key to basic health, especially reproductive health in both men and women than I’d previously been taught.
I’m saying know your body. If you get any symptoms like the ones I was experiencing, go to the doctors and get a blood test to check your iodine levels. Those symptoms could have other causes, but then you’d want to go to the doctors in any case, and it does no harm to get a blood test while you’re there. If your iodine levels are low, supplement. Start by taking the recommended daily amount, and have another test after a few weeks to see if your levels have improved.
If you have a thyroid issue, you WILL need to take extra care supplementing with iodine so definitely inform your doctor and get their opinion first.
I’ve learned that sometimes the available information about some nutrients just isn’t set in stone, even amongst medical people. Even amongst eminent plant-based medical people. Sometimes we have to be the CEO of our own health, know our bodies, and research all we can. Iodine is one of those nutrients where it’s worth doing this.
In recent months there have been several high profile vegan Youtubers that have gone back to eating animal products; and Twitter, FB et all has had much to say about it.
The one I knew the best is Tim Sheiff, who I followed pretty consistently at the beginning of his transition to veganism. I followed him less over the years because, I don’t know, I just became less attracted to his persona.
I have to admit, I was pretty shocked when I heard he was no longer vegan, because for all of my going off his vibe, I still really thought he fully comprehended all the reasons to be vegan, and thought he understood about health – which was the main reason for him stopping his vegan lifestyle.
I understand that he felt like crap, and that it’s crap to feel like crap. And that his excessive fasts and other slightly outlandish-seeming dietary experiments were in his pursuit of health. I get that. When you feel like shit and you read something that gives you hope, you’ll try it, even if it seems a bit crazy. I’ve been there and empathise with this. A few years back, I discovered I had chronic candidiasis, manifesting in horrible skin….stuff…on my body. I won’t even tell you the most horrendous symptoms because I don’t want to put you off your cocoa 🙂 That’s one of the things I DID like about Tim, he wasn’t afraid to go there with the gross body stuff 😀 Anyway, at this time I would have tried pretty much anything just to feel better.
Thankfully, I eventually found a way to overcome my issues. I went on an anti-candida diet, took grapefruit seed extract, and used apple cider vinegar and manuka honey (yes I know honey isn’t vegan, but it was medicinal. Lots of medications aren’t vegan, so shut up). It was a long, slow process, but I got there.
From the symptoms he described, I believe Tim’s issues were also candida and digestion-linked. He seemed to end up associating these issues with his vegan diet.
I’m not trying to blow my own horn here. Ok, maybe I am just a little, but at no time during my couple of years of candida hell on earth did I think my suffering was because of my vegan diet.
It didn’t make sense that that could have been the cause. And now there is enough research to show that a varied whole food, plant-based diet is the best diet to keep candida at bay (listen to this doctor who is an expert in the field). You may, like I did, need to try a more restricted anti-candida diet at first if you currently HAVE candida, but once you are free of it, it’s a whole food vegan diet that is best.
I remember every time I saw videos of Tim, he was guzzling ridicuous amounts of fruit. I mean, fruit is a snack or a dessert. We are not meant to eat 50 frickin’ mangoes for breakfast FFS. Of course eating fruit in those quantites can contribute to candida overgrowth. That’s wayyyy too much fruit sugar fermenting in your gut! Admittedly sometimes I did see him eating a nutritionally balanced meal, but this didn’t seem to be a consistent thing. It often seemed to be one new food philosophy or another.
The YouTuber Rawvana – the vegan who got caught eating fish – I knew less about. From what I did see, she seemed, like Tim, to constantly be trying new things, whether all raw food, or water fasts, or whatever it may be. Her health issues seemed similar too – yeast and digestive issues. She thought that eating fish and eggs would be the answer to her health problems.
Although it’s disappointing that these people amassed huge profiles and thousands of followers by proclaiming how vegan they were, and personally profited from this – then stopped – thereby probably causing a significant amount of their followers to stop too, my reason for writing this is not to judge Tim or the others (even though if I’m honest they do piss me off a little. Hey, I’m human). I’m not interested in anyone’s path except my own (she says trying to sound grown up and shit :D).
But seriously, my point in writing this piece is as follows:
1. To reassure you that a whole food vegan diet is suitable, health-wise, for everybody at any stage of life. No ifs, no buts. To also assure you that animal products in the diet are not a cure for anything. Unless you are dying of hunger on a desert island and there is no vegetation anywhere, just the proverbial cow… That’s it. Some people may need to avoid certain plant foods in the case of intolerances or allergies – but this is the same with a non-vegan diet. For example, I am highly allergic to eggs. So, um..it’s a good job I’m vegan.
2. To encourage you to watch whoever appeals to you on social media. We all follow people for a wide range of reasons. Sometimes I’ll follow an absolute moron just because they make me laugh. BUT, if you are following a vegan on a particular platform for the sole purpose of learning how to be a healthy, happy vegan, PLEASE make sure they refer to science (peer-reviewed if possible). If you’re not sure how to do this, you can just cross-reference what your new vegan hero is saying with the works of the eminent plant-based doctors – Dr’s T. Colin Campbell, Michael Greger, John McDougall, Caldwell Essylstyn, Michael Klaper, Neal Barnard – they all have plenty of resources online.
Make sure your new vegan gal/guy is consistently eating/cooking (and advising you to eat) a diet rich in whole grains, beans, lentils, root veg, leafy greens and other veg, fruit, nuts seeds, herbs and spices. If they start talking about fasting or being 100% raw, or eating 50 mangoes for breakfast – throw your phone or laptop in the garbage instantly and run as far away from it as you can 😀
As a vegan coach and nutritionist, many’s the time I’ve been asked about omega 3, and how to obtain adequate amounts on a plant-based diet.
Omega 3 is vital for heart, eye, joint, brain and mental health, amongst other things.
The answer is – it’s easy. Include a couple of tablespoons of ground flaxseeds on your breakfast oatmeal every day; snack on a few walnuts a week; eat a varied, colourful, whole food diet; and you’re good.
However, as with lots of nutrients (protein, calcium, iron etc), I’m fighting against decades (if not more) of societal conditioning that has told us the only place to get sufficient amounts of omega 3 is from animal products – and that the best source is fish, and fish oil.
This is the short version of why this myth persists:
Omega 3 consists of ALA, DHA and EPA.
These are a-linolenic acid, docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid.
The DHA and EPA can only be obtained, we are told, from fish and fish oil.
What we are never told, is that if we consume flax seed, walnuts and oatmeal that are all rich in ALA, our bodies are perfectly capable of converting the ALA into the DHA and EPA.
What if you just want a super quick way of ensuring you are getting enough omega 3? What if you are allergic to seeds? What if you hate oatmeal because it reminds you of your yucky boarding school porridge? What if you just want another way to get omega 3 for the days you just don’t fancy oatmeal and flaxseeds? What if you have heard the ‘omega 3 comes from the sea’ line so much that you’d JUST PREFER to get it from a sea-based source? (I would completely understand this – we have been so indoctrinated that sometimes it’s hard to change our thinking).
And there is some truth to omega 3 coming from the sea.
Seaweed contains the DHA and EPA. This is, in fact, where the fish get their omega 3. So you can cut out the middle man (fish?) and just go straight to the source!
But how will you know if you are eating enough? I mean, it’s great to eat vegan nori rolls and sushi, and sprinkle wakame flakes into noodle dishes, and to eat miso – but they are not necessarily things we would eat every day, so….. how to ensure we would be getting enough omega 3?
British-based company Vegan Vitality have us completely covered on this. They have made a vegan capsule with algae (seaweed) oil containing concentrated levels of EPA and DPA – more than any other algae oil capsule currently available, which means you need only take 1 – 2 capsules daily to ensure adequate levels of omega 3.
As it doesn’t come from fish, it doesn’t contain any of the nasties that are currently found in all sea creatures – the PCB’s, dioxins, heavy metals etc. And of course, there is not the fishy aftertaste you’d get from a fish oil capsule.
My partner gets up late and ends up rushing like a mutha to get to work on time (I feel sure plenty of you reading this will relate 🙂 ), and so almost NEVER has the time to pour himself out a bowl of oatmeal and grind up some flax seeds. These capsules are an ideal way of getting his daily omega 3. He has been taking them for the past week. We can’t really report any benefits in such a short time, but he says it’s nice not having to feel bad because he knows he hasn’t eaten the nutrients he should have.
Now I’m all about price. I really AM Bargain Basement Betty – attractive as that is. These capsules are available on Amazon for £15.99 for 60 capsules, which is a 2 month supply. For peace of mind that you are getting this critical nutrient, I’d say that was excellent value.
If you know you are not the person who is going to be eating oatmeal and flax seeds most days- whether due to lack of time or it’s just not your thing, or even if you just want to make sure you have back up for those days you have no groceries left in the house, or you’re eating breakfast out etc – then I recommend these capsules.
Omega 3 is important, make sure you have it covered!
Please note:Excepting the pot of capsules I was sent to review, I am not being paid for this article. This article reflects my authentic, professional opinion, as with every product I review.
So your argument for not going vegan is that it’s totally proven now, don’t you know, that plants have feelings too and you wouldn’t want to be a hypocrite and eat plants while not eating animals, so…there’s really no point is there? For added weight you also make the point that harvesting plants kills lots of tiny animals, so… again – what’s the point in going vegan, you’re always going to be killing something, right?
If these are included in your reasons for not going vegan, you’re not alone.
Typically (because I’ve had this conversation fifty-hundred times), this argument will be the last one someone pulls out of their excuse arsenal, after ‘but vegan isn’t good for your health’, and ‘but grass-fed cows are ok’ and ‘it’s too difficult, it’s not realistic’
I saw this very argument unfold the other day in an online publication by an esteemed author in the comment section of a piece she wrote, part of which attempted to discredit and dismiss veganism. This publication is very progressive and forward-thinking, and all its contributors are continually thinking outside, like, every box ever. On practically every other point I agree with all their writers, and can only dream of having the knowledge and insight that they possess.
So it was kind of shocking to see someone of this intelligence/enlightenment level resorting to the ‘plants have feelings too’ argument after her previous arguments were rebutted. I think it’s testament to the universality of the fear people have of having to change their life if there should emerge a logical reason to. They think veganism is too different and alien, they are not aware how kinda pretty normal it is, and that we still eat just as much amazing food as non-vegans. Actually I eat more. So this quasi-scientific-sounding, ethical-sounding argument about the feeliness of plants is used as that final barrier between them and veganism, it’s the argument that is supposed to have the effect of shutting the hell up that annoying vegan they are having the debate with.
So, lemme take that final barrier down for ya!
Using the ‘but plants have feelings too’ argument with vegans is set on the premise that vegans are trying to be perfect beings who never contribute to any animal cruelty whatsoever. Because they are just so holy and righteous.
Hahaaaa, I’m so holy and righteous!!! If only you knew.
As vegans we accept that no human being can live without harming animals. It’s not possible. If you’re looking for humans that do the least harm to other living beings then I believe that would be the Jains, a religious group in India, who not only are vegan, but also won’t eat root veg because they believe more insects are harmed in the harvesting of them; and they often wear face masks so they don’t breathe in tiny flies and other insects, thereby killing them.
Vegans are not even close to Jains. I love my root veg. And they love me. And God knows how many flies I sucked up in all the years I cycled around London.
We all inadvertently kill tiny insects every day underfoot. And animal products are in SO.MANY.THINGS. Aviation fuel, car and bike tyres and musical instruments to name but three. So unless you want an incredibly hermetic life, it’s impossible to live harming no beings at all.
Our goal is to do the least harm possible, as far as is practical and practicable. We don’t need to eat animal products, in fact we thrive without them, so it’s not only practical but actually sensible NOT to eat them. Plant food is available everywhere, so living vegan is easily practicable too. It’s very easy to find vegan clothing and footwear. It’s NOT easy to avoid using cars, bikes, buses, airplanes etc. You can’t check every step before you take it to ensure you don’t crush bugs. Not practicable. Geddit?
Thus, we accept that bugs and small critters do die when our plants are harvested. But being vegan we’re actually responsible for fewer of these deaths because we only eat plants. Non-vegans eat plants AND animals that eat plants.
Similarly, if you are genuinely worried about plants having feelings, the best thing you can do is go vegan. Why? Vegans just eat plants. Non-vegans eat plants AND animals that eat plants.
Another fave anti-vegan argument is ‘but lions tho’ – meaning; lions have to eat meat to live, therefore so do we. I like to borrow from this and in so doing have found a great two-for-one rebuttal to both the ‘feely plants’ and ‘but lions’ narratives.
We actually ARE like lions, but not in the way you think.
Lions are obligate carnivores. They HAVE to eat meat to survive. They are not hard-wired to care about their prey – otherwise they couldn’t survive.
Humans HAVE to eat plants to live and thrive. Even if plants possess ALL the feels, which I doubt, but even if they DO I cannot care about this, because to survive I need to eat them. So I’ll eat them without regard for their sentience.
However I don’t need meat to live, in fact it makes us sick – so why would I? A lion instinctively wouldn’t eat something that would make it sick. I will eat what I know optimises my survival, just like the ol’ lion. This is practical and practicable. And I am still doing the least harm possible.
Only humans can be self aggrandising and deluded enough that they purchase carved-up dead animals, but because it has a label slapped on it saying ‘pasture-raised’ or ‘grass-fed’ – it makes them feel all fuzzy and like they are doing something good for themselves the planet and the animal.
In terms of health, of course pasture-raised cows, pigs and sheep are better than intensively-raised animals whose bodies are probably full of pesticides and antibiotics. But all animal flesh contains cholesterol, saturated fat, and hormones (think hormone-free meat is safe? This only means no added hormones; you cannot get away from the fact that you will always being ingesting the hormones of any being you consume).
Pasture-raised and grass-fed animals are just as bad (if not worse) for the planet as intensively-farmed, and if everyone in the world decided they wanted to eat this way there wouldn’t be anywhere near enough land to accommodate this. So it’s very much an entitled, elitist way to eat. Not to mention that if it gets more popular, how many forests will be razed to the ground to make way for pasture? God knows the world has lost enough forest already.
As mentioned – you aren’t really doing a whole lot for the animal either. Pasture-raised and grass-fed animals still want to live out their lives, just as (I assume) you do. Pasture-raised and grass-fed animals still go to abattoirs. No-one sprinkles sleepy dust on them so they just drift off to sleep and die for you.
It’s funny that ‘pasture-raised’ and grass-fed’ are such hipster (that have spilled over into middle-class) trends. People seem to be convincing themselves that they are eating in a more ‘natural’ ‘real’ or ‘spiritual’ way when their food sports these labels.
There is nothing natural or spiritual about unnecessary slaughter. Your body not only doesn’t need meat, it thrives without it. You can bleat about being ‘high-vibe’ and natural and primal all you want, but there is nothing high-vibe about unnecessarily brutalising an innocent being who is as sentient as you.
You think these animals are humanely killed?
The phrase ‘humane slaughter’ always makes me laugh. Is there such a thing as humane rape? I mean, there MUST be if there is such a thing as humane slaughter. We only use this term when we are talking about animals. We’d never use it about people. ‘You murdered that woman?’ ‘Yes, but I did it humanely.’ ‘Oh, ok then…er…cool.’
To see if something is truly humane, ask yourself if you’d like it to happen to you. If we assume that you’ll live until 90, then unless at the age of 9 you’d appreciate a bolt to your head to stun you (which is likely not to work) then have your throat slit and be hung upside down by your leg to be drained of blood, then it ain’t really humane to treat animals this way.
I just went on to a UK website for a pasture-raised cow company. I clicked on the section about animal welfare, and there was lots of talk about how the animal is raised, but I was specifically looking for how the animal was killed. You’d think they’d want to make the abattoir sound as fluffy as possible. But you know what? There was zero information on this. Turns out you can’t make an abbatoir sound fluffy.
It talked about how the animals are ‘free to express their normal behaviours’ – but how are they free to do this? If they naturally and instinctively want to live, they are not being allowed to fulfil this desire. It should maybe end the sentence with ‘…free to express their normal behaviours -up to the point where we kill them at a tenth of their normal lifespan.’
Look, I’m not here to force anyone to be vegan. I just don’t want anyone to be deluded by marketing bullshit. If you eat this stuff – please know what it is. It is not better ethically, environmentally, and health-wise only marginally (but if you are genuinely interested in health – go plant-based!).
The people selling ‘pasture-raised’ this and ‘grass-fed’ that will OF COURSE try and make you feel good about buying it – they want your dough! And people that fell for this already will tell you it’s a great thing to do because they want to justify their own habits and feel good about their choices.
But you are more than capable of thinking for yourself.
A tenth. Of a fully-sentient beings natural lifespan. Start by thinking about that.
If you are vegan, ESPECIALLY if you have just gone vegan, you need to get to know Ethiopian food.
Why am I ordering you around like this?
Because it’s the tastiest food on the planet, period. No meat or cheese alternatives needed, no ‘nooch’ needed (not that there’s anything wrong with these things, I eat them myself, but it’s important to know that there is tasty food out there that is vegan by default and mind-blowingly tasty, and it’s the plants and herbs and spices that make it so).
Once you’ve tasted Ethiopian food, trust me, you will have choice words for the next person who dares to tell you ‘ vegan food is tasteless.’
If you’ve never tried it before, Ethiopian meals come on a base of a flatbread known as injera. It looks like a pancake with air holes. This bread is made (or should be!) from a highly nutritious grain called teff, native to East Africa. The bread is slightly fermented – which means it is excellent for gut-health. There is oftentimes (where that knowledge hasn’t been lost) a fermented food in most traditional national cuisines, and in Ethiopia it’s the injera.
The injera is topped with a selection of stews of your choice.
In most Ethiopian restaurants, not only is there a large number of vegetarian stews (which are also vegan), but they will make it easy by offering a vegetarian selection, so you can try all (or a good selection) of the veggie stews for a set price.
My favourites are shimbra ‘asa (a berbere stew with fried chick pea balls), misir wot (a lentil stew), and gomen (spiced collard greens). But you don’t need to remember these names, the wait staff will know exactly what to give you.
Call me fussy (though I prefer to call it ‘discerning’) but one of my pet peeves is restaurants that don’t use 100% teff for the injera. In one sense, this is understandable – it is not a cheap grain, but there are ways around it that still give people the option of having an authentic, healthy experience if they prefer.
In the US, lots of Ethiopian places offer authentic 100% teff injera, so no problem there. Otherwise, a restaurant may offer a ‘regular’ injera which may be made from a mix of teff flour and white wheat flour, but they will also offer an authentic injera (which they may also cannily label as the ‘gluten-free’ option, as teff contains no gluten) for an extra dollar or so. I have absolutely no problem with this – teff is expensive, I get that, and this gives us health-seekers the option to avoid white flour and get all the benefits from the teff.
You can read about my issue with white flour here, but bottom line – it ain’t real food, and I like my food real AF.
At this point I should also add that 100% teff injera is, in my opinion, the tastiest version.
So, your stews come on a bed of injera, and you get several rolls of injera alongside, with which to eat your food.
Yes, you understood right! NO knives and forks required! Second to the taste, this is my favourite aspect of eating Ethiopian meals. You just tear off some injera, grab some food with it and slap it in the ol’ cakehole.
But don’t worry, you will not be judged if you get nervous and ask for a fork – I’ve never seen an Ethiopian restaurant that didn’t have cutlery for if customers prefer this.
The taste and texture of the injera perfectly complements the berbere and other spice mixes of the stews.
When you’ve finished the stews, you can then – if you have any room left – eat the injera on the base of the platter, which will have soaked up all the sumptuous juices of the stews.
If you are a coffee nut, there is traditional Ethiopian coffee to be enjoyed which I believe comes with a coffee ceremony. I don’t drink coffee, but kinda wish I did every time I see the intriguing coffee paraphernalia in the restaurants.
For the longest time, I couldn’t find an Ethiopian restaurant in London that made 100% teff injera, they all cut it with white flour.
But then, one day while casually looking for a restaurant to celebrate our anniversary that night, I stumbled upon Orit, which promised injera made with 100% teff!
I called just to make sure, and was assured this was correct.
Even more good news was that Orit was pretty local to us, so we went that evening to give it a try.
I could barely contain my excitement – an authentic Ethiopian restaurant near my home and not 3000+ miles away seemed too good to be true.
I feared we’d get there and they’d say ‘oh we usually have 100% teff injera, but tonight we’re out.’ You have no idea how many times I’ve heard this.
My fears were completely unfounded.
When we arrived we chatted with the friendly owner, who has his teff imported wholesale from Ethiopia, and he supplies other London Ethiopian restaurants with it.
The injera was as dark brown as could be (a sign that it’s made from teff), and had that deliciously sour taste that authentic injera has.
Orit has a decent selection of vegan stews – not the full compliment – but enough to have ample variety and to make it interesting.
We had the Yetsome Beyeayenatue, which is their selection of vegan stews.
The stews were misir wot (berbere spiced lentils), gomen (collards) and shiro – and I’m not sure what the others are called, but if you are familiar with Ethiopian food, they are the ones you get at most restaurants.
All were perfect, and induced a feeling I only ever get when eating Ethiopian food. It’s hard to articulate (as you will see!) I can only describe it as feeling so satisfied with the tastes and textures you’ve just experienced that it feels like your soul has been fed.
I defy you to eat great Ethiopian food and try to describe that feeling more eloquently (if you do, please know I will plagiarise you 🙂 )
We will be visiting Orit as often as we can. Life is sweet when you have grub this good so close by.
This subject keeps coming up again and again in my professional life.
I do feel we are (VERY) slowly but surely getting the message across that we don’t need meat for protein.
But there’s another, very much related, almost AS pervasive myth that seems to be sticking around and is not in any hurry to dissipate. And that is – we need meat for energy.
I am guilty of making the mistake of thinking we are WAY past believing that we need meat for energy. But unlike so many people, I have not been exposed to the whole Paleo/Atkins/ketogenic deal; and I guess it’s true that not everyone has their eyes glued to the peer-reviewed science-filled websites of Dr’s McDougal/Greger/Barnard/Klaper all day! (For those that may not know, independent ‘peer-reviewed’ science is the most objective, credible way of doing science that there is. It is the closest to the truth that you can get). There is precisely NO peer-reviewed science on Paleo/Atkins/ketogenic/any other high-fat, low-carb diet you care to mention that concludes that these diets are healthy long-term.
Of course it didn’t help when ex-vegan bloggers declared very loudly that they’d stopped being vegan because they felt they ‘needed’ meat, and that when they took their first bite of meat they felt like the energy was flowing back into their bodies again.
I can’t comment on what may or may not have happened to make them feel unwell on a vegan diet – there could be lots of potential reasons; just as there could be lots of potential reasons for someone feeling unwell on a meat and dairy-centric diet. But, I can say that it is NOT the meat that gave them their energy back.
Optimal energy comes mainly from carbohydrates.
Meat contains little in the way of carbohydrates. If you used meat for carbohydrates, you’d have to eat SO much of it to get the carbs your body needed it really wouldn’t be healthy in terms of the amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol you’d also be consuming (not to mention hormones and antibiotics).
So which carbohydrates specifically should energy come from?
Any tubers, root veg and starchy veg (potatoes, sweet potatoes, squashes of all description)
I implore you to memorise this list if you suffer from fatigue; the dreaded 11 or 3 o’clock slump; or just generally feel you don’t have enough energy.
These are the foods you should look to for your everyday energy. Not meat or any animal protein. Not even nuts, or fruit and veg.
Just to be clear; nuts and seeds contain little carbohydrate, and you’d have to eat a ton to get any decent levels – which would mean you’d be consuming way too much fat.
And fruit and veg, although they contain more carbohydrates than the previous items mentioned, it’s still too small an amount per calorie to give you substantial fuel for the day – unless you eat a bucket of them – but who really wants do that?
If anything, many people report meat making them feel lethargic and ‘weighed down,’ not full of energy. But thanks to paleo et al, carbophobia is an epidemic right now of proportions it is hard to comprehend. Lots of us seem to have lost the innate knowledge that previous civilisations held – that it is grains, cereals, beans and starchy veg that give us fuel.
In case you were wondering; whole carbohydrates will not make you put on weight. They are FULL of fibre, and will fill you up before you can overeat.
Meat, on the other hand, does not fill you up and contains zero fibre. If you are concerned at all about weight – it’s the meat you should be ditching.
The reality is that we should all be clamouring for whole carbs to power us optimally through our busy lives.
This post is not intended to throw shade (as the kids say) at anyone who isn’t vegan or vegetarian. That would not be nice and that is not my purpose.
It IS however, intended to throw a whole shit-ton of poop at the peddlers of nonsense, who know they can gain followers/make money by making people feel fuzzy and comfortable, even though this is not the best thing for anybody in this particular context.
You’d have to live somewhere pretty remote and without access to any media to not have heard about the whole ‘mindfulness’ shebang that is currently pervading all wellness websites and ‘mind body and spirit’ sections of commercial bookstores everywhere in (and influenced by) the western hemisphere.
I have no problem with the concept of mindfulness per se. Of course, in essence it can only be a positive thing. But, like the words ‘moderation,’ ‘flexitarian,’ or ‘clean’ (in relation to eating), it has no real definition and there are only seemingly very ambiguous suggestions on how to achieve it.
Of course, eating is one of the more popular things to be mindful about.
It is not clear however to what extent you should be mindful about eating, and if it’s ok to just be mindful or whether you should then take action?
I thought it would only be logical that ‘mindful’ books and websites would promote veganism as the optimal mindful lifestyle.
But when I googled ‘mindful eating,’ none of the entries I saw suggested a vegan diet as the optimal ‘mindful’ diet – or even vegetarianism. They just bleated vaguely about being grateful for every bite you eat, chewing your food slowly and being mindful of the process of how the animal got to your plate.
To be fair, they did promote eating lots of organic fruits and vegetables and whole foods, but it seemed to be enough that when you ate animals and their products to just be mindful and…um, respect the animals’ life and chew them slowly.
If I were cynical I would think that the purveyors of books, courses, retreats and programs on ‘mindfulness’ were trying to cash the hell IN on the whole fashion for all things wellness and woo.
Because meat-eaters are a bigger market than vegans, it’s obviously more lucrative to make them feel warm and fuzzy about themselves by suggesting they just…think a little…while continuing to live the lives they’ve always led, not by actually encouraging them to change.
We know that NOBODY NEEDS to eat animal products.
We know that animal product production DESTROYS the planet.
We know that consuming animal products is TERRIBLE for your health.
We know that non-human animals are as sentient and suffer in the same way as human animals, so how can we possibly call eating slaughtered animals ‘mindful’?
We know if we really think about it and we have even just one brain cell, that ‘humane slaughter’ is just as much of an oxymoron as ‘humane rape’ or ‘humane torture.’
If you aren’t promoting veganism – you are not promoting mindful eating, however much it benefits you to think that you are.
If you aren’t vegan, (and absolutely not intending going vegan any time soon), you aren’t eating mindfully, the end. Because if it has truly entered your mind how the cheese, chicken or fish came to be on your plate but you still don’t want to change your lifestyle; then your mind wasn’t properly engaged.
The animal doesn’t care whether it is ‘respected’ before someone chomps down on it. It would much rather have led a long happy life and not have suffered to be on a plate. It would probably rather have not been bred as a commodity at all in fact.
The planet doesn’t care that we respect the process of how an animal got to a plate. It would rather stay healthy and not be choking in methane.
Heck, our own bodies would rather we didn’t eat animal products. They were designed to be lithe, active, alert and vibrant. Consuming animal products is markedly less conducive to all those states than is food from plants.
I think some would-be entrepreneurs want to jump on the wellness wagon, but because they feel they couldn’t go vegan themselves, they can’t exactly encourage anyone else to be. But when you know the truth about physical, mental and emotional health and wellness, and what affects it the most – it’s impossible to encourage any other lifestyle than a whole foods, vegan one.
Carry on eating animal products if that’s where you’re at right now. You are on your own path and it certainly isn’t for me to judge you – but please, please, please don’t let these woo merchants persuade you that it’s a ‘mindful’ thing to do.