vegansaurus!

03/25/2014

Put nutrition profiles head to head with Google search!  »

Welcome to my new favorite thing!!! Google launched this food comparison search tool a few months ago and it’s so dang cool. I just read about it on NPR and I’m already obsessed. I thought all the vegans would be into this too because of course I immediately started comparing veg foods with omni foods. BEST GAME EVER. 

BIG shout-out to kale for having that ill calcium content! I guess you can get calcium without torturing cows? If only we’d known this all along!

01/24/2013

Eating raw will not ruin your life!  »

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When Megan Rascal sent me this article asserting that a mostly raw diet is inherently unhealthful, I debated whether to write a response or just ignore it. It’s always a toss-up when ill-informed crap ends up in my inbox; I thought I might ignore it because I believe that giving press to bullshit can sometimes just perpetuate the bullshit, but I decided to respond because of the (growing? I hope not) misconception that raw food = crazy people food, and that high-to-fully raw people know nothing about nutrition or how to take care of ourselves, and are basically just all counting our days until our nutritional deficiencies kick in and turn us into vegetables.

The article I’m referring to, also published on a “science” blog, claims that a raw vegan diet is super unhealthful. I’ll be honest, it’s got some good (if obvious, already widely known) points in support of expanding a raw diet to incorporate cooked food. Yes, some cooked food has value, and yes, if you don’t supplement your B12 or take a multivitamin bad things will happen, but how the author takes these points and comes to such rash conclusions makes me wonder if he had a bad break-up with a raw vegan or something. When I read lines like “You have nothing to gain and much to lose by going totally or even mostly raw,” I wonder if this article was written to prove that the author’s target was on the wrong path, damn it, and look! now it says so on the Internet!

The piece completely misses the point of a high-raw vegan diet, which incorporates tons of raw greens, veggies, and fruits in whole, unprocessed form, and just picks on the zealots who refuse to supplement and only eat bananas. It even brings up the “you’ll kill your kids if you feed them raw food!” argument, which we have heard about all forms of vegan diets and continue to prove wrong.

(Side note: I hate it when vegan doctors are cited to prove that one vegan diet is better than another. This article cites Dr. Eseystein and Dr. McDougal, both of whom have made millions hawking their unique brands of veganism, as evidence against a high-raw vegan diet, which has its own doctors rooting for and staking millions in its value.)

I really appreciate Gena Hamshaw’s balanced, science-driven approach to raw food in her post “Why Raw? Revisiting the Question.” I love Vegan RD Ginny Messina’s compassionate post, “Raw or Cooked Foods? Which Is the Best Diet for Vegans?,” on why raw foodists should consider incorporating some (or lots) of cooked vegan foods to round out their diets and have an easier time staying vegan. There are plenty of folks who jettison veganism or raw veganism when health issues come up, and while I have no judgement for them I supremely admire folks who take every measure to hold true to their values while minding their health needs. Bonzai Aphrodite recently posted this beautiful long-read about how she’s navigated health issues while staying vegan. Brava! I wrote a Vegansaurus post about why there are so many ex-raw vegans and advocated for folks to consider adopting a more expansive raw vegan diet. In the context of these articles, the anger and all-or-nothing conclusions made by this article and many like it baffle me and make me think there’s a personal grudge.

Closing thoughts: Some (but not all) raw foodies are inflexible and unrealistic, just like some (but not all) vegans and some (OK, most) meat-eaters. Everyone should be taking B12, and probably a multivitamin, omega-3, and maybe a D supplement, too. Mostly raw vegans can be very happy and healthy. I am doing pretty damn well on a high-raw vegan diet that includes lots of raw greens-rich salads and raw smoothies and juices on the reg, as well as a variety of cooked foods. I just got my bloodwork done as a routine every-few-years thing so I can brag in articles like this, and my doctor said my blood is so groovy it makes her want to go vegan. So to the author of these articles, I say this: Please don’t judge all high-raw vegans based on a tiny fraction of us who go to extremes, and in return, I promise not to call the raw vegan who broke your heart and alert this person that you’re hella casting aspersions on them.

[Photo of Pure Food and Wine's tacos by Edsel Little via Flickr]

09/20/2012

Debating the scientific merits of a vegan diet with the Wall Street Journal  »


When even Rupert Murdoch’s favorite news producer wants an excuse to be vegan, you know we’ve arrived. The Wall Street Journal invites two professors of nutritional science, the delightful T. Colin Campbell and Nancy Rodriguez, to argue for and against a vegan diet.

Key points:

The dairy industry has long promoted the myth that milk and milk products promote increased bone health—but the opposite is true. The evidence is now abundantly convincing that higher consumption of dairy is associated with higher rates of bone fracture and osteoporosis.

It’s also worth noting that the government recommendations for certain population groups to increase their protein and iron consumption come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an agency long known to be subservient to the meat and dairy industries.

I’ve always been a welfare vegan, but it’s nice to have science on our side, for the humanists.

[photo by John Hritz via Flickr]

04/11/2012

Vegan Pregnancy: Let’s talk about fiber!  »


One of the biggest head trips about pregnancy is the fact that all of a sudden, your body is largely out of your control. I’m used to a state of affairs where I know the cause-effect relationship behind the changes in my physique. Looking fine in them jeans? Why yes, I have been working out! Sporting a new muffin top? Damn you, delicious Oreos!

But once you’re up the duff, things will happen to your body—sometimes overnight—and you will not really understand why. You will also not necessarily be warned about them. I knew that my stomach would get bigger, of course. I expected my boobs to do the same, though not quite as remarkably or quickly as they did. (Ow.) But were you aware that when you’re pregnant, your nipples get darker? I was not! It’s nice to be warned about these things!

There are actually biological reasons for these changes, though—those darker, saucer-sized nipples help your blurry-eyed newborn easily find them to nurse, for example. That’s a good trick, evolution! Here’s another: When you’re pregnant your digestion slows down, giving your body more time to get nutrients from your food to your fetus. Pretty cool. However, this change comes with an unfortunate side effect: constipation.

I know what you’re thinking: I’m vegan, I couldn’t possibly get constipated! I eat all the legumes! And that may be true, but I know you nodded when I mentioned Oreos. The thing is, even if you’re pretty good about your fiber intake, normal rules no longer apply. Your baby wants to steal all your vitamins and minerals, and your digestive tract is complying, so you’ve got to bring out the big guns or else risk getting hemorrhoids. Apparently that’s a common feature of pregnancy too!

I don’t want hemorrhoids. I have gone my entire adult life (thus far) without them, and I hope to continue that streak. And I know you don’t want them either. That’s why we’re going to talk about all the roughage you need to get into your body in between bouts of nausea and all that napping.

There are actually two kinds of dietary fiber that you need to pay attention to: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber binds with fatty acids and slows down the time it takes for food to exit your stomach and get into your intestines, which in turn means that sugars are released and absorbed more slowly. This kind of fiber helps to lower your total cholesterol and your LDL cholesterol, which is the kind you particularly don’t want to have. It also helps to keep your blood sugar regulated, which is important if you are diabetic, or have gestational diabetes. Oats, dried peas and beans, nuts, barley, flax seed, fruits, and vegetables all provide soluble fiber.

The other kind of fiber, insoluble, helps to keep the bulk of food waste moving along through your intestines, preventing constipation and keeping your guts at a healthy pH level. This keeps you pooping on the regular, which means you’re getting waste out of your body efficiently, and is tied to colon cancer prevention. You get this kind of fiber when you eat vegetables like green beans and leafy greens, fruit and root vegetable skins, seeds, nuts, and whole grains.

The average ratio of fiber is 75 percent insoluble to 25 percent soluble, but don’t get hung up on that; lots of foods provide both types. Just focus on eating lots of high-fiber foods in general, and the ratio will likely even out.

How much is “lots,” exactly? The American Pregnancy Association recommends getting 25 to 30 grams of fiber daily when you’re pregnant. It’s also important to drink lots of fluids. You need a good amount when you’re pregnant anyway, and the liquid helps keep things chugging through your digestive tract. Exercise can also literally help keep things moving, along with just being good for you in general. Talk with your medical pro about what’s right for you when you’re knocked up.

As an added bonus, a lot of the foods that are high in fiber—particularly legumes and whole grains—are also good sources of iron and zinc, important minerals for baby-growing. And because iron supplements can be constipating, it’s great to get as much iron from food sources as you can. Finally, getting enough fiber could also help prevent preeclampsia, a potentially dangerous vascular condition that can affect pregnant women. Now go eat some roughage!

Terri Coles lives in Toronto, where she enjoys barbecuing, feeding feral cats, going to local music shows and getting really mad about hockey games. She blogs about her adventures in plant-based eating at The Vegina Monologues. We edit out all her extra vowels.

[photo by Jessica via Flickr]

04/10/2012

Book Review: The Blood Sugar Solution, by Mark Hyman  »


After PCRM’s recent body-shaming tactics, I wouldn’t be surprised if many omnivores were rightfully terrified of the plant-strong medical community. Who wants to consider making a lifestyle change when they will be derided and treated inhumanely in the process? I wouldn’t blame anyone who might potentially be interested in eschewing animal products for the sake of their health if they felt too upset and offended to consider transitioning into this lifestyle.

That is why I’m here to gently, kindly, and very lovingly tell you why Mark Hyman, M.D. is different, and why his new book, The Blood Sugar Solution, is truly fantastic. Dr. Hyman’s new book elegantly lays out a plan for anyone looking to adopt a plant-strong diet for health to do so effectively and as easily as possible. But perhaps most remarkably, he does this without shaming those he aims to help. In fact, he takes great care to explain how obesity related to animal product consumption and other processed foods is NOT anyone’s fault, and exposes how big business and factory farming are working against people’s own biology to create disease in the body. Regardless of body size, he suggests that there are ways to improve your health through a plant-strong diet rich in diverse greens, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

Dr. Hyman states that weight loss need not be the primary goal of any nutrition regimen—any plan should foremost focus on incorporating wholesome, plant-strong foods, and that weight loss will naturally result. He sheds light on hormonal issues that can arise from eating different foods, and how moderation is near to impossible with addictive foods like cheese. He does not include any pictures of anyone’s legs with captions that say cheese made the legs the size that they are. He just spits straight biochemistry like the rad guy he is, and compassionately suggests that there are ways to boost energy and metabolism without extreme deprivation diets or dangerous surgery.

The Blood Sugar Solution touches some territory that may not apply to all vegans—if you’re already healthy, you may want to skip some of the individualized nutrition quizzes and chapters. What I do think is essential for all vegans are the latest scientific studies included that outline which nutrients are most essential for a healthful, long life as a plant-strong eater. There are also some beautiful recipes in the back, including a split pea and rosemary soup that is as easy to make as it is economical. Dr. Hyman wants people of all budgets to eat healthful soup, shame-free! What a great person!

One last note: Dr. Hyman is not a vegan (I checked with him on Twitter, just to make sure), but he heavily promotes plant-strong diets, and offers some really valuable advice for balancing your plant-strong diet. He advocates eating SLOW carbs, not LOW carbs, and sets the record straight on which essential vitamins and minerals we should all ensure we get in our diet to make sure we’re eating in a balanced way for longevity. I highly recommend you check out The Blood Sugar Solution if you’re interested in getting more info on how to eat a balanced vegan diet, or if you know someone who may want to transition into a vegan diet primarily for health reasons and wants to feel supported and informed, not ashamed and discouraged.

Here’s to our health, the health of the animals and the planet!

This is Vegansaurus raw correspondent Sarah E. Brown’s latest post! Read more by Sarah on Vegansaurus, and visit her personal blog, Queer Vegan Food.

04/02/2012

Vegan chocolate goji ice cream from Cream and Cone! It’s raw and made with avocados! Sometimes avocado in desserts scares me but avocado as an ice cream base just makes so much sense, right? It’s so creamy! I guess it’s just avocado flavored sweets that scare me. But avocado-based mousse and ice cream sounds right on. 
I heard goji berries are really good for you or something so I looked it up on wikipedia, because I’m basically a scientist. According to wiki, goji berries have all this great stuff:
11 essential and 22 trace dietary minerals
18 amino acids
6 essential vitamins
8 polysaccharides and 6 monosaccharides
5 unsaturated fatty acids, including the essential fatty acids, linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid
beta-sitosterol and other phytosterols
5 carotenoids, including beta-carotene and zeaxanthin (below), lutein, lycopene and cryptoxanthin, a xanthophyll
numerous phenolic pigments (phenols) associated with antioxidant properties
I don’t know half of those words but it sure seems impressive! Apparently they are also known as “wolfberries.” And sometimes they are used in wine! If they are in wine, do you still get all the nutritional benefits? Forget chewable vitamins, I want drinkable vitamins! Drunkable vitamins, even!

Vegan chocolate goji ice cream from Cream and Cone! It’s raw and made with avocados! Sometimes avocado in desserts scares me but avocado as an ice cream base just makes so much sense, right? It’s so creamy! I guess it’s just avocado flavored sweets that scare me. But avocado-based mousse and ice cream sounds right on. 

I heard goji berries are really good for you or something so I looked it up on wikipedia, because I’m basically a scientist. According to wiki, goji berries have all this great stuff:

  • 11 essential and 22 trace dietary minerals
  • 18 amino acids
  • 6 essential vitamins
  • 8 polysaccharides and 6 monosaccharides
  • 5 unsaturated fatty acids, including the essential fatty acids, linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid
  • beta-sitosterol and other phytosterols
  • 5 carotenoids, including beta-carotene and zeaxanthin (below), lutein, lycopene and cryptoxanthin, a xanthophyll
  • numerous phenolic pigments (phenols) associated with antioxidant properties

I don’t know half of those words but it sure seems impressive! Apparently they are also known as “wolfberries.” And sometimes they are used in wine! If they are in wine, do you still get all the nutritional benefits? Forget chewable vitamins, I want drinkable vitamins! Drunkable vitamins, even!

03/26/2012

"But how do you get your protein—FOR THE BABY?!" Vegansaurus gets pregnant!  »


When you’re pregnant, everyone has advice for you. They know which doctor or midwife you should use and which hospital you should deliver at, or if you should have the baby at home instead. They know how much weight you should gain and where you should do prenatal yoga—you are doing prenatal yoga, right? And they definitely know what you should eat.

If you’re vegan, this can go to a whole other level.

Emily Deschanel is vegan, and she stayed vegan during her recent pregnancy. Last fall, she was on the cover of FitPregnancy, and in the interview she talked about her veganism. According to Salon and other publications, staying vegan was “controversial,” and Deschanel knew it, saying “As a pregnant woman especially, people will say to me, ‘You must eat meat and dairy.’ You really have to tap into your self-esteem whenever people try to convince you you’re making the wrong choice.”

She’s not alone—a few months earlier, Glamour published a short piece called “Health Controversy: ‘I’m Vegan, and Pregnant’” featuring Crazy Sexy Life contributor Corinne Bowen.

Personally, I’ve found that the best defense in this situation is a good offense. If you’re informed about your nutritional needs during pregnancy, it’s easier to defuse people’s criticisms—or, less cynically, to address the concerns of your partner, family, and friends.

To that end, I’ll be posting about being pregnant and vegan here at Vegansaurus — I’ve got lots to learn myself, and I hope that I can pass along some of that info along the way. In all situations, I like to arm myself with information (side effect of being a journalist, I guess). Here are some of my starting places—and I’d love to hear your suggestions for future posts in the comments!

Terri Coles lives in Toronto, where she enjoys barbecuing, feeding feral cats, going to local music shows and getting really mad about hockey games. She blogs about her adventures in plant-based eating at The Vegina Monologues. We edit out all her extra vowels.

08/11/2011

Guest post: A book to actually help you stay a Vegan for Life  »


A recent Psychology Today article stated that most vegetarians eventually go back to eating meat (I’d like to point out that this was based on a pretty small survey). I think one big reason why people give up the veg life is nutrition—not that it’s hard to have a nutritious plant-based diet, because it’s not, but because they don’t know how to. OK, and because they are sick of explaining how to nosy meat-eaters.

I’m sure fine Vegansaurus readers know that you don’t have to eat beef to get iron or drink milk to get calcium, and that there are plenty of awesome plant-based sources of protein. But do you know the why behind all of that? Not a lot of people do; after all, how many of the omnivores you know can rattle off a bunch of facts about the nutritional content of eggs, or tell you exactly how many grams of protein are in a serving of chicken breast? Not many. That is why you should pick up Vegan for Life, an awesome new book by dieticians Jack Norris and Ginny Messina. Your own health will improve, thanks to the excellent knowledge the book imparts to you, and you’ll be able to get your know-it-all on when someone dismisses your chickpea masala as void of protein.

The best thing about Vegan for Life is how even-handed the book is. Norris and Messina don’t make a bunch of nutty healthy claims, and they don’t pull facts out of their asses; they present the science and let it speak for itself. The nutritional breakdown of foods like tofu, black beans, and spinach are well known and can be proven; there’s no need to make that stuff up. This isn’t a book for hippies who think they can be sustained on sunlight and happy thoughts; it’s a common-sense guide to eating a healthy and varied plant-based diet. That approach makes it lot harder for naysayers to be dismissive.

Vegan for Life offers an easy way to eat to a healthy daily vegan diet, like a food pyramid for the cruelty-free. They talk about healthy vegan eating for all stages of life, from childhood to old age, and give a great guide to eating vegan while pregnant and breastfeeding. They also look at vegan diets for people with conditions like diabetes and heart disease. There’s something for everyone in here, and it all underlines the fact that vegan eating is healthy and feasible for everyone. The ethical reasons for eating vegan are outlined at the back of the book; if you already know, you already know, but readers who aren’t familiar with them will read about all the cruelty that a vegan diet avoids after already getting the facts on how awesome it is for their own bodies. Smart.

If you are vegan or vegetarian, you should get—and read!—Vegan for Life. I’m a health reporter, and there are still things in here that I didn’t know before I picked it up. If someone in your life has talked about reducing the amount of meat they eat, or trying to be vegetarian or vegan, this book is a great way to show them that it’s easier than they may think, and definitely really healthy. Go get it!

You can buy Vegan for Life at Herbivore Clothing Company, Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe, or your preferred local or online bookstore.

Terri Coles lives in Toronto, Ont., where she enjoys barbecuing, feeding feral cats, going to local music shows and getting really mad about hockey games. She blogs about her adventures in plant-based eating at The Vegina Monologues.

07/06/2011

Vegansaurus does an Organic Avenue juice cleanse!  »

Last week I embarked on a five-day Organic Avenue Lovedeep juice cleanse. I did it for a number of reasons: I wanted to “reset” my body and system after developing some bizarre and detrimental habits (daily venti coffee, unreasonable affinity for sugar and candy, pigging out at night and not eating anything in the morning, etc.); I wanted to observe the effect it had on my body and my training regimen (muay Thai, running, Bikram yoga, four jobs); and of course sheer curiosity. I consulted with the folks at OA and told them my intention was to maintain my usual life/training schedule during the cleanse, and after their approval, I booked the dates and kept my fingers crossed. I went to the pick-up location near my office on Monday and picked up a big silver box of fresh-pressed fruit and veggie juices. Inside were six 16-oz. fresh juices and one chlorophyll shot, my food for the day. Organic Avenue also sent me a daily email explaining the benefits of each juice, and offering a suggested drinking schedule and words of encouragement.

I didn’t finish the juices; I couldn’t stomach all of that juice every day. And since I wasn’t hungry, I didn’t necessarily need them. I’d usually keep them and enjoy them the following day, and I have three leftover juices now that the cleanse is over, which I definitely intend to drink before returning my bottles! The juices themselves ranged from totally scrumptiously delicious—orange, ginger lemonade, grapefruit, pear—to borderline undrinkable—chlorophyll shot, Young Love (spinach/celery/cucumber). Pick-up/drop-off was easy, the staff was cheerful and accommodating, and the simplicity of the whole process really made it run smoothly.

Day 1
The first day was the toughest; my moods swung like crazy and I was impatient and irritable for most of the afternoon/night. I had a brutal headache from Starbucks withdrawal, craved salt, and generally felt unlike myself. I made it through the workday without too much drama, but that evening’s seven-mile run was undoubtedly tougher than usual, and I realized I’d need to take it easier in the gym over the week. With no carbs in my system I wasn’t my usual Energizer Bunny self. I got home from the gym that night and passed out on my bed before I could even take my shoes off.

Day 2
I was definitely a little out of it when my alarm went off, but I packed up for the gym and sipped a cucumber juice on the way. Muay Thai class wasn’t too bad, though again I noticed my stamina wasn’t up to par. The following run, this time five miles, wasn’t as rough as the previous day’s, but I was huffing and puffing more than usual. Once at work I was actually feeling good; though still a bit foggy I was in better spirits and enjoyed the juices. I wasn’t nearly as cranky or tired when I got home, though I still slept like a rock.

Day 3
I woke up feeling decent, made it to work and coasted through what was to be the best overall day of my cleanse—no hunger pangs, no headache, no mood swings, decent energy throughout the day—I’d even say I was chipper! There was an orange juice on the menu that day, and after living on spinach, orange juice is the GREATEST THING EVER. I felt like I was cheating! Feeling great, I made it into the gym that night and blasted through five rounds of full-contact sparring and an advanced conditioning class. I felt tired when I got home, but that’s normal for me on a Wednesday night.

Day 4
I woke up feeling clear-headed and was off to the gym. I took it easy in muay Thai, having noticed a significant drop in my stamina and endurance, but I made it through just the same. My run was, again, grueling: I took walk breaks and was certainly not as fast as usual. Though my patience was wearing a little thin at this point, my mood was good. Work was busy and I stayed focused through the day, and enjoyed the delicious grapefruit juice. Into the evening, I was having elaborate, borderline-romantic food fantasies; I missed my precious food! Got home that night a little grumpy, but as usual passed the heck out swiftly.

Day 5
While I generally sleep until about 1 or 2 p.m. on my Fridays off, this time I was wide awake soon after 11 a.m. Feeling great, I got ready to run some errands and packed a few juices along with me in my gym bag. I made it through the day feeling really good; my energy was up, I felt clear and enthusiastic and focused, and my body felt rejuvenated from the good night’s sleep. When I started that night’s training, however, everything changed. My run was dismal; I could barely keep it up for more than five minutes at a time, taking frequent walk breaks and watching other runners leave me in the dust. Muay Thai was equally pathetic; though I made it through three hours of training, I felt like I didn’t have a shred of life left in me. I got home that night and did my best to get a juice down as fast as possible before passing out.

Breaking the Fast
OA sent me an email with directions for my first day after the fast: I could eat as much as I wanted of one fruit of choice, and enjoy a big green salad for lunch and another for dinner, adding some roasted veggies if I so desired. I had some water, then enjoyed CRUNCHING into an organic Fuji apple before heading to the gym again. That day’s training was the worst of them all—I barely survived the run, and opted for a beginner muay Thai class. Even still, I was wiped out by the end and couldn’t wait to get home for my salad. I took a quick nap before I ate, and truly enjoyed every forkful of greens and tomatoes and beets and kale. It felt so good - almost scandalous!—to chew mouthfuls of food again.

I made it through five days of juicing without any major adjustments in my work/life/training schedule. I didn’t cheat once, I followed my plan, and I feel great. Though my stamina and endurance in the gym were significantly lower, my energy levels were the same and I really wasn’t tempted to cheat very often. Hunger was never a problem—if I craved food it was its flavor, texture, familiarity. My skin never broke out like crazy and my digestive system didn’t react too violently at all. I’m so glad I had the experience and I feel pretty great. I learned so much about my body and the fuel I put into it, the importance of complex carbohydrates and balanced proteins, the benefits of a raw organic diet, and how fuel affects mood. I am excited to make changes to my old habits. No, I won’t be cutting caffeine out of my life—I am a sincere and dedicated coffee-LOVER—but it will be decaf for the most part. When I crave something sweet I’ll opt for organic pineapple or fresh berries instead of Twizzlers and Swedish Fish. And I’ll fuel my body on a more regular basis rather than that abusive binge-and-starve pattern. This was an incredible, educational, rejuvenating experience and I can absolutely recommend it to anyone interested in a kick-start to good habits. Organic Avenue offers many different levels of cleansing, and supports you the whole way through. If I can do it, anyone can: you just have to want to!

[Organic Avenue provided me a five-day cleanse free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion. You can order your own cleanse on their website or by calling 212-358-0500. First image via Organic Avenue. Also, check out how Maria did on the Blueprint Cleanse. Vegan cleanses galore, people! Now, back to your regularly scheduled binging!]

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