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

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

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

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

Which comment am I talking about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How different this all could be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How Do You Get Omega 3 As A Vegan?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Omega 3 comes in three forms.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh Em Gee this is soooo easy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well…but of course 😉

 

Sources used: PCRM, Dr Michael Greger

 

Should Vegans Take A Multivitamin?

I Love Macro from Flickr via Wylio
© 2006 Matt Reinbold, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

It’s tempting to automatically take a multivitamin when we go vegan.

We’ve made big changes to our diet; changes that most people don’t understand – changes that most doctors don’t understand.

We get asked questions about what our new protein, calcium and iron sources are going to be; where our vitamin B12 is going to come from; and what about vitamins D and K?

It can be enough to scare the bejesus out of you!

Isn’t it ironic that the omnivores that ask us these questions often aren’t the pictures of health themselves? And how are they so sure that they have all the correct levels of vitamins and minerals?

One thing you need to know as a vegan is that vitamin and mineral deficiencies are not just a potential problem for vegans. Nope, not even a vitamin B12 deficiency is this.

But it’s still vegans that most people believe are more susceptible to malnutrition, and no-one would blame you for feeling fearful after hearing these beliefs vocalised ad nauseum.

I’ve personally been told that it’s impossible to live without eggs; and that not eating protein from meat will make me weak.

Well, here I am all strong and living and s**t.

But after so much fear-mongering it seems logical, doesn’t it, to invest in a multivitamin to cover all bases?

So what SHOULD you do?

I very much lean towards the advice of the doctors that have been teaching (and living) a plant-based diet for decades. They base their decisions on independent, non-reductionist, peer-reviewed scientific evidence.

These guys – Dr John McDougall, Dr Tom Campbell (son of Dr T Colin Campbell), Dr Michael Greger, Dr Caldwell Esselstyn and Dr Neal Barnard all say taking a multivitamin is unnecessary (in every single link you’ll find each doctor saying this somewhere). They advise that taking a multivitamin can distract from us trying to eat a healthy whole food, plant-based diet; and that it’s best to get all our nutrients in dietary form – excluding vitamin B12 of course, for which we need to supplement.

Dr Greger in particular points out all the studies that have been done on multivitamins; some show that they’re beneficial; some show that they are harmful. Ultimately, the most comprehensive studies show that they don’t make any difference, and that they’re a huge waste of money.

All this said….

Dr Barnard says in one article that a multivitamin can play a role if you know you are not eating enough whole plant food. And both he and Dr Esselstyn say that you MAY need to supplement with vitamin D, for example if you live somewhere that doesn’t have much sunshine – as sunshine is the best source of vitamin D for vegans.

What do I do?

I do not take a multivitamin, but as I’ve said before, I DO supplement with vitamin D, and sometimes with zinc and iodine, because through one thing and another (long-ass story), I’ve learned that my body needs help with these nutrients, seemingly regardless of my healthy diet.

The best advice, if you feel you may be short on any nutrients, is to go to your doctor and have a comprehensive blood test for all vitamins and minerals. These tests can tell you if you are low or deficient in any particular nutrient.

It’s important to identify this exactly. If, for example, you are feeling fatigued – there could be any one of several reasons for this. So it would not be prudent to assume you have an iron deficiency and take iron supplements, as iron can be harmful in excess. Thus, I urge you to get your blood tested and not self-diagnose.

Once you’ve been tested; should you be found to be low in any nutrient, firstly try and improve your levels with diet. This will always be the best way to regain optimal nutrient levels.

Should this not work sufficiently – and I know that for me, I need help with vitamin D (not much sun here), and zinc in the winter (immune system compromised over the years), THEN it may be worth supplementing with small doses of whatever it is you need.

Conclusion

It seems from everything I’ve learned with my studies; from my experience; and from researching the advice of the plant-based doctors, that the best advice is this:

  • You do NOT automatically need a multivitamin just because you are vegan. This could lead to overload of certain nutrients that are harmful in excess; or just be a plain waste of money
  • If you feel you may have a deficiency, or if you know you are not eating a varied plant-based diet, have your blood levels checked at the doctors
  • If you ARE low in anything, try and eat foods that contain this nutrient, and the ones that help absorption of it. I can help with this!
  • If this still doesn’t work, supplement with low levels of just the SPECIFIC nutrient(s) you are lacking

 

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.

 

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.

 

Forget Diet And Detox – New Year, New Lifestyle

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Guys – did you know I’m on TV these days?

If you’re not already, follow me on Periscope https://www.periscope.tv/KarenCottenden (download the FREE app) and get FREE vegan tips and insights 6 days a week!

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So you’re counting today as the first day of the New Year right?

Good. Me too.

Now, I can totally see the point of changing shit up at New Year.

It’s an easy way to measure progress; we will always know where we started from, and we’ll have made a clear and well-defined intention that is loaded with the freshness and hope the New Year brings.

This is good.

But…

How many of us have made ‘New Years Resolutions’ only to have forgotten all about them by, ooooh, March at the very latest?

I believe the reasons for this are:

  • We know the resolution will benefit us, but doing it (whatever it is) feels like torture
  • We’re not really engaged with the reasons why we are making a change
  • We’re lazy mofo’s (JK!)

Those of you looking to go vegan/plant-based purely as a way to ‘diet’ or ‘detox’ this January have it ALL wrong. Yep, ya do.

Don’t misunderstand – I’m not judging you for wanting to lose weight and clean up your insides with a whole food, vegan diet. No Sir.

It’s great that you’ve realised the best way to achieve these things IS with a whole food vegan diet. Lots of people still think that avoiding carbs are where it’s at; so props to you for being cleverer than these types.

And as I mention on my ‘About’ page – any way into veganism people may have is TOTES KOOL with me.

But you are coming to it from a perspective that may not serve to sustain your resolution.

You see, being vegan isn’t a DIET. At least, it works BEST when it’s not perceived a diet, but as a whole new lifestyle.

Why?

We always think of ‘diets’ and ‘detoxes’ as temporary. I mean, who is on a permanent diet? OK, you probably know someone who says they are permanently ‘dieting’ but not because they want to, and you know they’re not happy about it.

I encourage you to think of going vegan/plant based as an entirely new lifestyle. An exciting and vibrant one. One that will change your life forever for the better in ways that you can’t even imagine right now. Not only will it benefit your health, but it will benefit every single living organism on the face of the Earth, and the Earth itself! It will help combat world hunger. Your new lifestyle will help give today’s children a chance to explore and experience the natural beauty of the world when they are older, and to eventually  bring their own children into a cleaner, safer, more stable world not fearful of extreme weather events, scarcity and war.

YES war! Going vegan can stop wars! Check it:

As long as there are slaughterhouses there will be battlefields ~ Leo Tolstoy (Russian author, 1828-1910)

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)

As long as people will shed the blood of innocent creatures there can be no peace, no liberty, no harmony between people. Slaughter and justice cannot dwell together ~ Isaac Bashevis Singer (Polish/American author, 1902-1991)

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)

There is nothing wrong with focussing on the weight loss or detoxing benefits of this lifestyle if it’s that that drew you in in the first place, or with eating specific plant-foods that promote this. But if you go into it thinking of it purely as a diet or detox, you’ll:

A) Come to a point when you consider your goal achieved, go back to old habits, and find yourself making the SAME resolutions next year (PEOPLE – we only have so many years, let’s make DIFFERENT resolutions every year!)

Or:

B) Get bored, because you’re just eating fruit and chia seeds and drinking smoothies in an effort to achieve your detox goal; when you could be eating from a HYUUUUGE variety of delicious dishes as you educate yourself about all the ways to veganise old favourite meals, and the multitude of yummy world cuisines!

 

By looking at your resolution as a lifestyle change, rather than as a detox or diet (even if it’s those things that were your initial motivations), your entire perspective on it will change.

Because ‘lifestyle’ implies longer term; you’ll relax into it, learning new things bit by bit rather than bracing yourself for what you may feel is the deprivation of a ‘detox’ or ‘diet’.

You’ll push yourself to discover and explore new foods rather than just grabbing a kale/beet/wheatgrass/whatever smoothie,* and soon find yourself delighting in the amount you’ve learned, not to mention loving all your delicious new culinary creations.

I also encourage you to get informed about the environmental, ethical and social justice impact that veganism has, even if these are not your reasons for going vegan.

Why?

Because the more you know, the more your consciousness will expand, and the more reasons and incentive you will have for STAYING vegan, and thus, slim and untoxed!

We ALL like to feel that we’re doing good. Animal product industry marketers rely on this when they try and sell us ‘humane’ or ‘free range’ products.

So, instead of going back to feeling good about ourselves for buying eggs that are, in reality, produced in JUST as cruel a way as those at more intensive egg farms and benefitting only the bottom line of the greedy egg industry; and for throwing £20 into a charity bucket for ‘Starving Children In Africa’ when it’s actually animal agriculture that siphons food away from hungry people to cattle (for less hungry people to eat); let’s feel good about ourselves in 2016 for something that ACTUALLY MEANS SHIT.

Embrace every aspect of your new lifestyle – it truly is so much more than a diet ever could be.

And if you need personal, one-on-one guidance – you know darn well where I am.

Seeing this as a lifestyle shift and embracing its totality, rather than purely as a diet or detox means it may take a little longer to achieve your weight goal (though most likely not much longer at all!), but I promise you, once you reach it, you are far, FAR more likely to maintain it.

 

* I don’t mean to bash the smoothie; but it doesn’t hold a candle to a huge plate of Ethiopian food, or a table full of Middle Eastern Mezze.

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.

 

Go Back To Your Winter Roots: Celeriac And Rutabaga Fries

Winter ain’t good for much in my book.

If I never see another winter it’ll be too soon.

I mean…um…not that I want to die before next winter; but whhhhhhhhhyyyy can’t it go SPRING! SUMMER! AUTUMN! REPEAT!!!

But…I guess I love skating on the Christmas rinks. And the new Starbucks mulled apple chai with REAL cinnamon sticks is kinda delicious.

And I loooove hot, warming soups and bean stews and curries.

And………

………Wait for it…….

WINTER ROOT VEG!

It’s perhaps worth suffering just a little winter for these?

Now we’re all down with the parsnips, carrots and turnips; but there are two others you may not be so familiar with that would love to be players in your winter meal rotation.

Why?

Just ‘cos they’re darn well delectable that’s why!

Uh, it’s fair to say these two characters ain’t pretty; but their charm is in their rich, earthy taste.

If you haven’t tried them already, get some in and see what you think.

It isn’t always the prettiest veg that taste the nicest!

And they’re cheap as chips, hurrah!

The first is celeriac. This is its prettiest side:

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And this is its slightly grizzlier side!

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Not to put you off, but it looks a little brain-like to me!

But seriously; please don’t be put off by the nobbles or the hairy bits 🙂

The second glorious but lesser known winter root veg is rutabaga; or swede as its known here in the UK.

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This is a little more photogenic – I love the green with the purple.

Oh, also? These two fellas are fibre-filled nutrient bombs.

Celeriac is a great source of Vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, manganese and vitamin C; while the rutabagas will provide you with vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, calcium and magnesium.

One of the best and simplest things you can do with these two veg is make fries. YAY, friiiiiiiiies!!

Celeriac / Rutabaga Fries

  • Pre-heat your oven to 200C.
  • The hardest part of this recipe is peeling your root veg and chopping it into fries; but you’re no wuss; you can do it.
  • You’ll want to make the fries quite thin, say, 1cm wide maximum, otherwise they’ll take too long to bake.
  • Lay your cut celeriac or rutabaga fries in a parchment-paper lined baking tray thus; and spray them with either sunflower or olive oil.
Celeriac cut into fries. Yumski!
Celeriac cut into fries. Yumski!
  • Salt generously and sprinkle either fresh or dried rosemary evenly-ish all over.
  • Bake for approximately 35 minutes (or until they brown slightly), turning them once half way through.

These are the fries of the celeriac:

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And these are the fries of the rutabaga:

Gimme dem fries now!
Gimme dem fries now!
  • Serve with vegan garlic aioli, vegan mayo, ketchup etc.

 

Mash

Have a change from potato or sweet potato mash – try mashed celeriac or rutabaga!

You can even do half potato, half rutabaga; or half potato, half celeriac. The other day I mashed a mix of the root veg I had left in my fridge – which happened to be sweet potato, a wedge of celeriac and a couple of turnips. I was doubtful that it could work but it was absolutely delicious!

Make the mash exactly as you would regular potato mash. i.e. boil the veg till soft; drain; mash your veg while adding a splash of soy or almond milk and a knob of dairy-free margarine. Season well with salt and black pepper.

Stews & Soups

Celeriac and rutabaga are great in stews and soups. Try sometimes adding either (or both!) to any recipe instead of potato.

Don’t get in rut with your roots! Shake it up! Don’t worry about the ugly! Isn’t there a saying.. ‘ugly on the table, damn tasty in the mouth?’ No? Well there OUGHT to be.

 

Constipation. Not A Natural State Of Affairs

Vintage Tins of Ramon's Mild Laxative Pills, Trade Mark - "The Little Doctor", NOS from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Joe Haupt, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

I’m hearing frighteningly often that people are constipated.

I’ve heard it so often it seems like it’s an epidemic.

It’s such a shame that people are feeling so uncomfortable when there is no reason at all they should.

Life is too short to spend that much of it in the bathroom!

If you’re suffering with this all-too-common problem, read on.

Once you’ve checked with your doctor that there isn’t a more serious problem causing it; that is, once you’ve been told its good old regular constipation, you can start the remedy immediately.

I know that YOU know I’m about to go on a fibre-filled rant…and you probably suspect I’m going to tell you that the BEST cure is a whole food, plant-based diet, right?

CORRECT!

Give yourself a candy.

To better understand WHY though, we need to be aware of a few things.

Food in = an almost equal amount of stuff coming out the other end, right?

And you eat three/four times a day?

This food needs to pass through our bodies in 8-12 hours, to avoid overstaying its welcome!

If it takes longer to pass through it will fester and putrefy – your body isn’t refrigerated. When you eat you’re pretty much putting food in a hothouse for 12 hours.

Ick.

It’s fibre that takes food through our bodies. So for timeliness of digestion, everything we eat should contain fibre.

There are two main food villains when it comes to constipation.

The first one is ANIMAL PRODUCTS, ALL OF THEM: MEAT, DAIRY AND EGGS. They have a constipating effect due to their lack of fibre, because….

……fibre is ONLY in plant food.

Therefore, the more animal foods you eat, the more chance you have of being constipated.

The OTHER constipating villain(s) you have to look out for is WHITE, REFINED GRAINS such as white rice and any product containing white wheat –  white pasta, white bread, cookies and cake made with white flour etc.

White flour is wholewheat flour with the bran and the germ taken out – the very elements that contain the fibre. White rice is brown rice with the fibrous elements removed; not exactly ideal for easy transition out of the body.

When I hear (and I DO hear this) that a relatively young person has been prescribed prunes (EFFING PRUNES!) for constipation by a doctor, and the doctor hasn’t even recommended a diet rethink; I get a bit crazy.

Nothing wrong with prunes, they are a delightful fruit. But it’s the most root-cause-dodging, short-term remedy ever. Do you have to buy prunes for the rest of your life? What happens when you stop eating the prunes?

Why buy prunes, or take laxatives when you can just erase the constipating animal products and refined starches from your diet and everything will start working as it should, forever?

And doesn’t this tell us that a whole food, plant-based diet is how we are meant to eat for our bodies to perform correctly?

If you can’t eliminate all the constipating animal products and refined starches at once, then add two tablespoons of ground flaxseeds to one of your meals every day (adding it to breakfast oatmeal is probably easiest!)

Try also to eat more bean, whole grain and legume-based curries, stews and soups. These are also full of fibre, and will fill you up so you will hopefully consume less animal products.

Some great fibre-filled recipes are this lentil dhal , this Italian white bean soup , or this delicious Hoppin’ John

Fruits for dessert and snacks will also help.

But if you don’t want to waste time in the WC, lose the constipating animal products and refined grains.

 

The Healing Power Of A Plant Based Diet, Part 4 – Asthma

Inhaler from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 allispossible.org.uk, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Asthma seems to be SO common doesn’t it?

Don’t you know at least, like, 6 people that have it?

I know I do.

What’s more, I used to be a chronic sufferer myself – twofold, in fact.

What on earth do I mean by twofold? Well, I had good ol’, plain ol’, regular standard asthma; and I also had chronic atopic asthma as an allergic reaction to fur.

Yes, you SHOULD be jealous – I had ALL the fun.

If you’ve never experienced asthma, let me tell you that it can be horrific. Breathing in oxygen is our most basic need, and when you can’t do this effectively it’s frightening. Try breathing through a straw. A VERY THIN one. Sometimes it’s just like that. Sometimes it’s worse.

In the nineties sometime, I heard that eliminating dairy products might help my asthma and eczema (eczema is closely related to asthma in terms of its causes). This knowledge has clearly been around a long time.

I had suffered enough to want to give this a try.

If you’ve read my ‘about’ page, you’ll know that I succeeded in ridding myself of asthma by going vegan. To be more specific; my ‘general’ asthma has completely gone since going vegan – I haven’t had an inhaler in years.

My atopic asthma as an allergic reaction to fur has also significantly improved, and I can enjoy a visit to the house of a friend that has a dog or cat, which I couldn’t before. The allergic reactions haven’t completely gone, I still have to wash my hands thoroughly in hot water after stroking any furry animal, otherwise they itch like crazy; and if, say, I’m visiting a house with a cat or dog in winter, with all windows closed and heating on; I’ll start sneezing and my lungs will definitely let me know THEY KNOW there is an allergen in the vicinity. Some allergies I believe are too systemic to completely disappear.

However, this is a vast improvement on before – and I just avoid putting myself in the ‘hot, stifling house with fur’ situation, so I’m asthma-free all the time!

I personally know of two other long-time asthma sufferers that had always used inhalers. They went vegan fairly recently and after a while no longer needed medication and now consider themselves asthma-free.

So that’s my personal story and some anecdotal evidence – but what happened when actual scientific studies took place?

Incredible huh? (BTW – if you haven’t already subscribed to NutritionFacts.org, you really should. Dr Michael Greger is an expert on all things plant-based and health related).

And in this article on Dr T Colin Campbell’s nutritionstudies.org website, we see that dairy consumption is linked to many diseases, including asthma. The original article was written in 1997 and updated in 2015 – so again, this information is NOT new!

Seemingly, even Hippocrates back in 370BC knew cow’s milk wasn’t the universal health elixir it is cracked up to be:

‘Hippocrates first observed and wrote about negative reactions to cow’s milk around 370 BC, since when, the prevalence, awareness and understanding of this allergy has increased. Milk allergy is one of the major allergies in infants and is caused by the proteins present in cow’s milk’ ~ The Food Safety Hazard Guidebook, by Richard Lawley, Laurie Curtis, Judy Davis, 2008

No-one ever got asthma by eating broccoli. Or brown rice. Or apples.

Disappointingly, on the NHS website you have to click through to the last menu option ‘living with asthma‘ and right down at the bottom it does mention that cow’s milk (along with other animal products like eggs and shellfish) can be a trigger for asthma.

Given the amazing results of the Swedish study in the video above, you think they’d mention this on their asthma homepage.

They also put links to the Asthma UK website where I eventually found an option called ‘asthma triggers’ (really not obvious to find at all in amongst a tonne of other options), and then had to click on ‘food’ (again, this was in among 17 other options; it wasn’t even the first one). I clicked on food, and it DOES cite milk and dairy products at the top of the list of food triggers, but is not very positive and encouraging about avoiding them, and gives FALSE information regarding the impact of dairy on calcium intake and bones!

Milk and milk products – You may have heard there’s a link between dairy foods and asthma, but only a very small percentage of people are allergic to milk products. For them, eating these foods may result in wheezing. Dairy allergy is more common in children but they often grow out of it as their digestive system matures. Calcium-rich dairy products are essential for healthy bones, especially for children and adolescents. And people with asthma can be at higher risk of bone disease osteoporosis (which causes thinning, brittle bones and increases risk of fractures) because of the use of steroid medication. So you should only avoid dairy products if necessary, ensuring you replace them with other sources of calcium under the guidance of your GP, nurse or a dietitian.

Again, the results of the Swedish study conflict drastically with this.

Ugh. Just…Ugh.

It seems that as well as avoiding dairy, including lots of fresh fruit and veg in your diet also helps reduce asthma symptoms; so we can easily surmise that a whole food, plant-based diet would be your best bet for improving asthma, and maybe never suffering from it again.

If you’re an asthma sufferer and haven’t tried avoiding animal products yet in a bid to improve your condition – what are you waiting for? Why suffer needlessly? I mean, why?

I know parents of children with asthma who, despite me passing on the above information, are reluctant to take dairy out of their children’s diets.

Now, when parents are advised to do other things to treat disease in their children, they DO it – like giving them antibiotics for example.

Antibiotics have side-effects, while avoiding dairy only has benefits, so why wouldn’t you want to treat your kid in a non-harmful, plenty-beneficial way?

The only reason I can think of is that they genuinely fear their child would miss out on nutrients, or maybe just not be receptive to the idea.

If your child has asthma and you’d like to make their diet more plant-based but don’t know how open to this they would be, maybe this post will help.

If you need more reasons (besides just curing yourself of asthma) to give up cow’s milk and dairy, read this.

If cheese is your downfall, read this.

You know what? If you don’t think you can do it long-term just commit to three weeks. See how you feel then and re-evaluate.

Life is waaaay too short to lose any of it to wheezing and spluttering and feeling like your lungs are about to explode. Take back control over your windpipe and lungs! Don’t let the dairy and animal agriculture industries commit you to a wheezy, hacking, breathless future.