Posts Tagged ‘nutrition’

Forks Over Knives

The latest film to be creating a stir in the vegan world is Forks Over Knives. However, it is unusual in that, unlike other vegan movie hits such as Earthlings, Forks Over Knives barely even touches on animal abuse and the environment, or the corrupt meat industry. Instead it focuses on an aspect of veganism that is often forgotten, or that at least falls by the wayside: personal health.

Whilst you can find pages and pages online about vegan health, and books about the subject (indeed, the raw vegan movement is almost entirely about health), I have not yet seen a film on the matter, and Forks Over Knives appears to be holding nothing back. Its production seems to be excellent, and it is well sourced as it features interviews with a large variety of people from health experts such as Dr T. Colin Campbell, vegan athletes including Mac Danzig, and people who were afflicted with life-threatening illnesses who have made miraculous recoveries on a vegan diet such as Ruth Heidrich, a cancer survivor and triathlon athlete.

The film is based on Dr Campbell’s work The China Study. It examines the current Western diet, which, despite all its theoretical health plans (such as the low-carb Atkin’s Diet) and talk of conscious and healthy eating, remains to be the most unhealthy diet in the world. Despite the Western medical technology soaring above that of other areas, we continue to be the sickest people on Earth.

Taken from the Forks Over Knives synopsis: “Two out of every three of us are overweight. Cases of diabetes are exploding, especially amongst our younger population. About half of us are taking at least one prescription drug. Major medical operations have become routine, helping to drive health care costs to astronomical levels. Heart disease, cancer and stroke are the country’s three leading causes of death, even though billions are spent each year to “battle” these very conditions. Millions suffer from a host of other degenerative diseases.”

Dr T. Colin Campbell

Now, whether or not these statistics are accurate, there is undoubtedly a vast amount of truth in what is said in this film. The China Study itself was written when the discovery was made that the wealthier Chinese children (who were living off of a diet which was high in meat and animal products) were discovered to be developing various cancers and diabetes at rates far beyond their impoverished counterparts (who rarely consumed animal products).

Whilst it’s perhaps fairly easy to look at these discoveries and think “well, that’s obvious…” it’s nonetheless great to have these ideas illustrated in a film and reiterated by doctors who are nutritional experts, and have studied nutritional health for their whole lives. Also, I often find myself getting so caught up in the issues surrounding veganism to do with animal rights and the environment that I forget about the benefit veganism is having on my body. This film looks like an excellent way to remind yourself of that, and whilst the other issues are about combatting negatives by following veganism, this should remind you of the positive thing that you’re bringing into your life.

Also, I thought Forks Over Knives was a pretty cool name, once I finally understood it (it’s knives as in scalpels… y’know, which they cut you open with when you’re having heart surgery from eating too much fatty stuff… clever, huh?)

You can read more about Forks Over Knives on the movie’s official website, and it was released a few days ago in the US. I’m unsure when it may become available elsewhere, so if you’re in the UK (like me) then you may have to wait a while. Here’s the trailer to keep you occupied until then though:

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Chickens can feel empathy too, shame about the people…

Whilst trawling through the internet I stumbled upon this rather interesting news article. Apparently scientists have now discovered:

adult female birds possess at least one of the essential underpinning attributes of empathy.

Basically this study found that mother hens are distressed when their chicks were disturbed by a ‘puff of air’. Now, I’m no scientist but this study, to me, seems rather obvious? Why is it that we are only now coming to conclusions that animals just might have feelings too?

But should the fact that animals have feelings mean that we shouldn’t eat them? In my research I came across this article on the same topic. Now it wasn’t really the article itself that made me post it here, but rather the insensitive comments at the bottom. People are entitled to their own opinions and I believe it is important to form and stress our opinions on different topics. Everyone’s opinions are valid. However, what gets to me most about negative comments on vegetarian and vegan issues is how uninformed carnivores tend to be. I would quite happily have an in-depth conversation with a carnivore and talk about each others views on the topic but I have yet to come across a carnivore that can form a rational opinion for why we should eat meat that wasn’t born out of his stomachs desire. The fact is most carnivore’s seem to think with their stomachs and not with their minds. They don’t seem to care about gaining all the information and processing it rationally and developing  a sound and structured argument in their favour. The reason? Because they’re ashamed to admit that what they are doing is wrong. They don’t want to hear the copious amounts of research and information because they want to continue what they are doing and so form weak arguments against vegetarianism. In fact, as I’m sure you’re aware, arguing with carnivores is like arguing with a three year old.

The one argument against vegetarianism that makes me mad more than any other has to be this one:

“If we we are not meant to eat meat, then Mother Nature would not have allowed our bodies to handle it.”

The reason this kind of argument angers me is to do with the amount of ignorance this statement generally comes with.If these people bothered to read the literature available, they would discover that actually our bodies are more optimised for plant based diets. The most convincing article I have read on this topic  would have to be this one here. I challenge any carnivore to read this article and then come back to me with their rational thoughts on the matter. Some of the key points this article stresses are:

  • “Our so-called ‘canine teeth’ are “canine” in name only.” This is to say that other plant eaters have canine teeth and ours closely resemble those of the chimp (who are almost exclusively vegan!)
  • “Our early ancestors from at least four million years ago were almost exclusively vegetarian.”
  • “Our omnivorism means we’re capable of eating meat (useful from a survival standpoint if that’s all that’s available), but our bodies aren’t geared for it to be a normal,significant part of our diets.”
  • “Our teeth, saliva, stomach acid, and intestines are most similar to other plant-eaters, and dissimilar to carnivores and true omnivores.”

These are just some of the issues brought up in the article above and I must say it is compelling reading. Whilst the article comes up with a lot points as to why our bodies are more geared towards plant based diets he does go on to say that this doesn’t mean that there isn’t any evidence to the contrary. However, when there is more evidence for rather than against you have to ask yourself this, which is the stronger argument? Carnivores will undoubtedly say their own despite the lack of strong evidence, but in a game of football if one team scores 6 and the other scores 1 the team with 6 goals surely wins? Now you can’t argue with that!

Another statement that particularly irks me is this one:

You know..plants are alive too. They are living things.”

These people are morons. I’m not afraid of saying that. Are they actually suggesting that plants are on the same level as other animals? Do you not regard your pet dog higher than a lettuce leaf? Because to me this is what your argument suggests. Oh, you’re just talking about animals you don’t care about? Right. Got it. Moron. This is a pathetic statement and one that I refuse to acknowledge (except for just now!). It goes hand in hand with this argument:

But other animals eat animals so why shouldn’t I?

Well this is a fine observation and I will give these people a gold star for their observation techniques. They clearly have some thought process. However, what they fail to note is that in the wild it’s all about survival of the fittest. In the wild the hunted have a chance to get away from the hunter if it’s own evolution has served it well enough. Back in our world we force animals to endure no end of pain and suffering, give them barely enough room to stand in, take their young away from them, and force them to eat gallons upon gallons of utter shit and then kill them in barbaric ways, (amongst other vile things that people would rather be ignorant to so they can enjoy there chicken dinner without guilt). Never once giving them a chance. I don’t think you can compare other species to ours when it’s a fixed race all along. And when you show these people the evidence above this argument has little stand on.

Another point I wish to stress before I finish is that the arguments for vegetarianism go far beyond our bodies abilities to simply process meat. It goes beyond desires, tastes, and people’s view of animals. There are environmental reasons for plant based diets. I read that if everyone went vegetarian you could feed the whole world and have food left over. While people still eat meat you can only feed a third of it (This is from a fact sheet from Peta). The meat industry is slowly but surely destroying our amazing landscapes and natures hard work by gutting down trees and preparing land for livestock. When you think about these other factors and results of  the meat industry it makes you feel guilty. In fact, it makes carnivores appear rather selfish, don’t you think?

So I put this last thought out to the carnivores of this world. Whilst you sit there eating your bacon cheese burger, take a moment to think about everything that it stands for. Think about how much of the world you’ve destroyed for your second of enjoyment!

If you’re not convinced, why not ask your doctor about meat, below! Enjoy.

How to get your 5 a day without much effort!

We’re told that as part of a healthy diet we must try to eat at least 5 fruit and vegetable portions every day. In fact we’re made to feel positively guilty if we aren’t achieving this on a daily basis. It can seem quite difficult to reach 5 portions EVERY day, but actually, it’s a lot easier than you might think. I’m going to attempt to show you different ways you can get fruit and vegetables into diet without you really noticing….

First things first::.

-What counts?

Did you know that your fruit and veg doesn’t have to be fresh in order to count towards your 5 a day? Nor do you have to eat them on their own. Here’s a quick run down of things that count towards your portions:

  • fresh fruit and veg (obviously!)
  • frozen fruit and vegetables
  • tinned or canned fruit and veg (try to get the ones tinned with natural juices or water rather than sugars!)
  • dried fruit, such as currants and figs
  • fruit and veg cooked in dishes such as soups and pastas (did you know half a can of heniz spaghetti hoops counts as 1 of your 5 day!)
  • a glass of unsweetened fruit juice (note: this only counts as a maximum of 1 of your 5  a day no matter how much you drink)
  • smoothies (smoothies count up to a maximum of 2 portions)
  • beans and pulses (again only count as a maximum of 1 of your 5 because they contain fewer nutrients than other fruit and veg)
  • fruit and veg in convenience foods such as ready made meals etc. (it should say on the packet whether it counts towards your fruit and veg portions but be careful with these, some ready meals are high in salt, sugars and fats. So don’t use these as a regular substitute for fruit and veg. Remember to always check labels!)

-tricks of the trade

So how can we manage to get all of these things into our diet daily? Easy! Just follow some of these easy tricks:

  1. Chuck some beans in your curry, put some peas or broccoli in with your pasta, throw some chick peas or butter beans in your soups
  2. Top your cereal with fruit (fresh or frozen- make sure you defrost though!) berries and bananas work beautifully!
  3. In stead of snacking on crisps why not try an apple? Or a banana? Or perhaps some dried fruit? A little pack of raisins goes a long way.
  4. Have a side salad with your meal instead of chips. Dress it up nicely and it’ll look just as tasty as a greasy fried potato!
  5. Instead of your morning coffee try some orange juice. Or cranberry. Or apple. Or apple and elderberry. Or ruby breakfast. Or any other type of juice you like. It’s such a quick and easy way portion maker and won’t leave you with nasty coffee breath. 
  6. Buy a blender and make your own smoothies! There’s so many different combinations of smoothies you can try and you can have some real fun creating your own concoctions and they can count as 2 portions. Thus, if you have a smoothie for breakfast you’re almost half way there before you’ve opened your eyes properly.
  7. REMEMBER: to get the most benefit out of your portions try eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. I like to make sure whatever meal I’m cooking has a least two colours of F+V in it. Then I know I’m getting lots of different nutrients.

If you make sure to change some of daily habits with the tricks above you’ll be laughing your way to a happy and healthier life and won’t have to apologise to your poor long suffering tummy for filling it with junk!

Just a quick note here on potatoes: Potatoes, as lovely as they are, DON’T COUNT as a portion of your five a day. Nor do yams, cassava, and plantains. They are considered starchy foods. Other root vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, parsnips, swedes and turnips DO count!

However, whilst potatoes don’t count as part of your five a day, they aren’t all bad. In fact they do help to play an important role in your diet. They are a good source of energy, fibre, B vitamins and potassium. (As long as your not suffocating your potatoes in salt and oil, they are an excellent choice of starchy food!)

I hope this helps!

The importance of vitamin B12

When going vegan people often bring up the difficulties of watching your calcium intake, your protein intake, and your iron intake. Whilst a decent calcium and protein intake is easy to maintain (I get more calcium and protein than most omnivores), iron is something that should be watched. But ensuring you get enough iron isn’t too hard. The only real threat of deficiency in a vegan diet is vitamin B12. B12 comes from bacteria – no foods naturally contain it – it isn’t intrinsically in meat and animal products. It is essentially created by bacteria. Bacteria obviously thrive in animal products and meat, creating vitamin B12. I have heard some reports of ensuring B12 can be obtained by eating unwashed vegetables, but I wouldn’t call this a reliable (or necessarily a safe) source of B12.

So why is B12 important? And are vegans destined for deficiency?

B12 assists ensuring an effective working nervous system, and works to help with red blood cells. As you can imagine from this, a sign of deficiency is anaemia, so couple B12 deficiency with iron deficiency and you have a double whammy of anaemia. One of the other main benefits of B12 in the diet is that it helps to release energy from food. So, B12 is definitely important, but what are the risks of being deficient in it? Well, as mentioned, anaemia is a key problem in B12 deficiency. A more serious lack of B12 can result in pregnancy difficulties, heart problems, and/or damage to the nervous system. Some doctors have listed B12 deficiency as a cause of ME.

This is probably sounding pretty worrying, but don’t let this put you off veganism. The good news is that it’s very easy to stay on top of B12. The body needs an exceptionally tiny amount of the vitamin to stay healthy, and even if you’re not getting that then signs of deficiency will only start to rear their head after around 5-6 years as your body holds onto a huge supply of B12, storing it as though it were fuel for a car. This means there’s plenty of time to ensure you are back on track with your intake of the vitamin. As for where you’ll find it in a vegan diet, that’s also easy.

Most soy milk/plant milks are fortified to contain extra calcium and B12, as is a lot of tofu, so you’ll easily be getting enough from just a standard vegan diet probably. Often meat substitutes are fortified with B12. On top of this, many cereals are fortified with it. Another great source (if you can stomach it) is yeast extract, such as Marmite and Vegemite. If you’re taking a multivitamin pill, that’s also likely to have B12 in it.

What I’m trying to highlight is that B12 should be noted as important but it should not be a worry.

It has actually been highlighted that obtaining B12 from fortified foods makes it both more absorbable and obtainable that maintaining B12 levels from animal products. The US Institute of Medicine actually states “because 10 to 30 percent of older people may be unable to absorb naturally occurring vitamin B12, it is advisable for those older than 50 years to meet their RDA mainly by consuming foods fortified with vitamin B12 or a vitamin B12-containing supplement,” making it clear that fortified foods are more efficient. Indeed, it has been said that a well monitored vegan diet is far less at risk of B12 deficiency than the average omnivore.

Hopefully, from this you can see that B12 should not be too much of a worry. It is just important to highlight it, and ensure that you avoid any claims that B12 can be consumed through unwashed vegetables. Whilst this may be true, there is nothing wrong with being careful about what you eat. This also doesn’t mean a vegan diet is unnatural – what is natural about killing more animals every five days than the number of people who’ve died in every recorded war and genocide in human history (click the link, it’s a pretty interesting article).

I hope this has been of some use, and I apologise if I got anyone worried at first about their health. If you need any more info on B12, check the sites below:

Excellent Vegan Society page on B12

Vegetarian Resource Group page on B12

In-depth look at B12, although beware her advice about not cleaning vegetables…

Love it or hate it, it's a good source of B12

The Vegan Larder

Welcome to the home of the vegan larder! Here’s where we’ll give you a run down of the stuff we think are essential vegan must-haves to (try and) always have handy. Here is a list of things that I consider to be essentials and try not to do without or things I wish I always had stocked!

.::The must-haves:

  • Herbs&Spices;

(Without these fella’s, my cupboards and meals would lack life!) Black pepper, cayenne, chilli powder, chinese five spice, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, curry powder, ginger, nutmeg, paprika, tumeric. And here’s a spice I recently discovered: garam masala. Wonderful. Will be making this fella a staple in my diet of spices!

Bay leaves, oregano, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, basil, parsley (any one remember parsley the lion from kids tv? He was my favourite! I wish I could have him in my cupboard but that would be cruel…).

  • Rice&Grains;

Arborio rice (for risottos!), basmati rice, brown rice, couscous. And I know this is cheating but I like to keep my cupboards stocked with a couple of the Uncle Bens 3 minute microwaveable rices. They can be life savers when you don’t have the time!

  • Dried foods;

Puy lentils, red lentils, soy mince (I like to use this when recipes ask for TVP or textured vegetable protein! Always comes in handy).

  • Nuts;

Almonds, cashews, peanuts, pine nuts (always nice to sprinkle on stir frys!).

  • Canned goods&jars;

Chickpeas, butter beans, chopped tomatoes, sun-dried tomato paste, tomato purée, peanut butter (for the boyfriend!), your regular condiments such as mustard and ketchup and my personal favourite: brown sauce! I also find it handy to get jars of sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes, they make a great addition to soups, pasta sauces, and pizza toppings!

  • Pasta and noddles;

Linguine, macaroni, rice noodles (I like to get the straight to wok noodles, they make stir fries even quicker and save on the washing up!), soba noodles.

  • Frozen foods;

(I much prefer to buy my veggies fresh but I also like to keep some frozen veggies on hand just in case!) sweetcorn, edamame, peas, spinach, peppers, Linda Mccartney sausages and pies and Fry’s Schnitzels and chicken-style strips (essential for those times you just can’t be bothered to cook!).

  • Fridge foods;

Tofu, rice milk, soy milk (I prefer to get my soy milk from the baking section of the supermarket where you’ll find the UHT milks, not only is it cheaper but you can buy a load and keep them in your cupboard and just transfer them to the fridge as and when you need them!), vegan mayonnaise,

  • Oils and other essential liquids;

Cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, groundnut oil (perfect for those stir fries!), tamari (this is a darker soy sauce, I prefer this to regular soy sauce because it’s got a stronger flavour meaning you don’t need to use as much!), chilli sauce.

Other useful things for vegans to have include nutritional yeast, vital wheat gluten, and extra-firm silken tofu. However, these are always things that I find a little less easy to get hold of and so I am, personally, less likely to have these in my cupboard but if you can get hold of these I would highly recommend keeping them in stock!

Another attack on vegan health…

A study has been published today highlighting the risk of a low level of omega-3 and B12 in the diet. There has been numerous attacks on veganism and its supposedly adverse effects on health, but this one is pretty amusing as it focuses on heart disease. Now, I’m no medical expert, but it’s pretty obvious that a diet that is low in saturated fats and cholesterol will result in less likelihood of heart disease. Obviously, there are other factors to take into account but diet is a key one, and I’m pretty confident that eating vegan will reduce my risks of heart disease in the future.

I’m not going to deny the importance of omega-3 and B12 in the diet, and I accept that B12 is fairly lacking in a vegan diet, but supplementation is easy and many vegan foods (such as most soy milk) are already fortified with the vitamin. As for omega-3, providing you’re being responsible as a vegan in what you eat, it is fairly easy to obtain the required daily dose. Flaxseed oil is a worthy supplement to take, just as many omnivores take cod liver oil. Presumably, oily fish is the most prevalent source of omega-3, but even when I ate meat I wasn’t keen on fish and not everyone is. So, this study would surely affect a large number of omnivores too, at least when it comes to omega-3? As a vegan, I use a range of different oils in cooking, omega-3 fortified margarines, and eat plenty of different nuts and seeds: all of which are high in omega oils.

The most amusing thing about this study comes from the conductor of the study, Duo Li – “Despite the fact that vegan diets exclude any foods from animal origin, in his recommendations Li outlined several sources of dietary omega-3 and vitamin B12 sourced from animals.” Thanks for the help there.

I know that the article highlights that vegans are generally at lower risk from heart disease, but constant attacks on deficiencies in vegan diets are beginning to drag me down. It’s so plain to see how many people die every day from excessive consumption on unhealthy, meat-based diets. Surely it’s time to start promoting veganism, and teaching people how to live healthily as a vegan, instead of consistently attacking it whilst the world’s health gets dragged down further and further.

SectionNotes

Hey there! Welcome to the Vegan Cooking portion of this little blog. As the name suggests, this is where you’ll find some tasty vegan recipes for you to (hopefully!) salivate over and then have a bash at making yourself.
::.How to use this section:

Before we get down to business let’s just explain a little on how you should use this section of the blog. The main purpose of this section is to get rid of this absurd notion that vegans only eat nuts and lettuce and show you that vegan cooking is far from drab and boring. We hope what you find here inspires you in your own culinary adventures. It is for this reason that the recipes contained here need not be followed religiously. In fact it is strongly advised that you simply use the recipes as mere stepping stones to aid you in your own culinary quests. So don’t panic if you find a recipe you like the look of but don’t have some of the ingredients just substitute them for something you do have, you never know you might make an improvement and turn a dish into something out of this world that excites your taste buds. Although there is the possibility that it turns out in utter disaster, but hey, that’s all part of the journey. Learning what works and what doesn’t. So we hope that the recipes you find here help you discover a whole new way of thinking about food and helps to open up a whole new world of tastes. You’re taste buds will have never had it so good!

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