Meat, eggs, and dairy could be as harmful to your health as smoking, new study suggests  »


"People need to switch to a diet where only around nine or ten percent of their calories come from protein, and the ideal sources are plant-based."

-Valter Longo, director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California. (via the Guardian)

A study published in Cell Metabolism (my new favorite scholarly journal) is making waves today!* After studying 6,000+ people, their data suggests that (at least for people under 65), a diet high in animal-derived protein can be as harmful as smoking, in terms of mortality. I’m sure you can see why that statement would make waves! People do not like when you speak ill of their precious meat and dairy. And we could say comparing it to smoking is a ploy for attention. But, we could alternatively say that the comparison makes the data easily digestible for people (ew, pun!). Plus, it totally deserves attention, so ploy away!

Check out these two “highlights” from the study abstract:

  • High protein intake is linked to increased cancer, diabetes, and overall mortality
  • Plant-derived proteins are associated with lower mortality than animal-derived proteins

Some critics are saying it’s harmful to compare smoking to dairy and meat because it will make smoking seem less detrimental than it is. I say those people are completely unclear on just how detrimental meat and dairy are. 

My favorite thing about this study coming out is that hopefully it’ll shake up the blind faith in protein. I mean, we already knew meat and dairy are bad for you (“we” as in us vegans), there are plenty of studies that have suggested that long ago. But this is a hard attack on the ever-venerated animal protein! The next time you see an omni, you should totally be like: "Where do YOU get your protein?" Booyah!

*Warning! Besides the data they have from studying people, they use data from studies done on mice as well. We don’t have to condone it to learn from it though. 


Product Review: Williams Sonoma and Navitas Naturals smoothie mix belongs in your porridge!  »

I rarely make it to big-chain malls these days (I mean, who has the time!) but I do remember visiting the Williams Sonoma at the mall as a tweenager—and that it didn’t have too many veg options. When I heard the exciting news that Vedge Restaurant co-owners Kate Jacoby and Rich Landau are doing a deal with them for all-vegan sauces and they’ve now teamed up with beloved raw vegan company Navitas Naturals to make superfood smoothie mixes, I got so excited! Looks like Williams Sonoma has totally decided to make vegan deliciousness happen on a large scale (they have more than 250 stores nationwide).

I haven’t tired the Vedge Sauces, but Navitas Naturals and Williams-Sonoma did send me a complimentary bag of one of their three new organic superfood smoothie blends—the Protein Smoothie Mixer! It’s high quality (As you’d expect from Navitas) and made with the nutrient-densest superfoods, including hemp powder, maca, and cacao powder. You can definitely taste the hemp, but the low-glycemic sweetener lucuma (grown in Peru) helps offset that a bit. This certified organic powder blend is super simple to use, making smoothie-making a no-brainer: Just toss it in a blender with ripe fruit and and any other nut milk or fresh ingredients you like. No guessing, no measuring. It’s superfood smoothie-making for the average bear! Get it at Williams Sonoma stores and online.

While smoothies are great, sometimes you’re living with five people in a two-bedroom apartment in the Mission and your roommates left for Burning Man and forgot to pay the electric bill, and the Vitamix just won’t run that day. Or maybe you just don’t feel like slurping your breakfast all the time—chewing is nice, too. Regardless of your motives for going blender-free, this superfood smoothie mix chia porridge will satisfy your palate and keep you going for hours!
Superfood smoothie mix chia porridge
Serves 2 to 3

1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup Navitas Naturals-Williams Sonoma Protein smoothie mix
1/4 cup raisons or goji berries (or both!)
1/4 cup blueberries (optional)
7 drops liquid Stevia
2 cups almond milk
1/4 cup water

Optional toppings
Buckwheat groats
Chocolate chips
Granola (pictured)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl or container. Let sit for 20 minutes or overnight in the fridge. Enjoy!


Guest post: How vegans can rock out on zinc!  »

I’m sure you’ve heard it all, vegans. “Where do you get your protein?” “But what about iron intake?” “Are you sure you’re getting enough calcium?” These questions often come up because of people’s misconceptions and incomplete information about vegan diets, and they can be annoying when you know that many omnivores aren’t getting all the nutrients they need.

But when you’re vegan, you will have to pay special attention to some nutrients—probably not protein, though—because they are harder to get from plant-based diets. That doesn’t mean they’re impossible to get, though, so read on so you can school the next person who tells you you can’t be healthy while being a herbivore.

Zinc is one such nutrient—a mineral, in this case—that you should keep an eye on. It’s an important one for your body; it’s involved in dozens of enzymatic reactions, needed for cell growth and protein synthesis, and important for your immune system—some studies have suggested that zinc supplements can help prevent and recover from colds. Helpful at this time of year!

This is why zinc can be tricky for vegans: Absorbing it from plant foods is more difficult than absorbing it from animal foods. The RDAs for zinc are 8 mg for women and 11 mg for men, which isn’t so high, but the authors of Vegan For Life suggest getting 12 mg for women and 16.5 mg for men to make up for lower absorption.

Fortunately, a lot of vegan-friendly foods do have some zinc content: A cup of Bran Flakes has 2 mg; a half-cup of cooked quinoa has 1 mg; two tablespoons of wheat germ has 2.7 mg; a half-cup of cooked adzuki beans has 2 mg; and two tablespoons of almond butter has 1 mg.

You can also use a few tricks to maximize your zinc absorption. Have some vitamin C with each meal, even just a squeeze of lemon. Coffee and tea can affect zinc absorption, so have yours between meals. Toast nuts before you use them, and sprout beans and grains. And go for whole grains instead of refined. (Bonus: these tips also help boost iron absorption!)

I think that one of the best things we can do as vegans is work to have a healthy diet, so we can show other people that this is a satisfying, ethical, and nourishing way to eat. And pass these tips for zinc along—it’s apparently cold now (still in denial) and we could all use the immune boost.

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.

[Photo of adzuki bean and sun-dried tomato burgers from joanamendes via Flickr!]


Ask a Vegansaur, vol. 01  »

Hello, and welcome to what might pass for an advice column on Vegansaurus!

I’m a vegan, and people ask me a lot of questions. I’m getting pretty good at answering them, I think, so I want to share with you. Please note that my answers to your questions, while they have to go past some editors here, will only reflect my own opinions. Let’s go!

Damian asks: Should there be a “legal” definition of vegan food? Like if something is “non-alcoholic” or “artisanal”?
I think there should be for packaged/prepared foods; at least, I hope you wouldn’t wonder whether a head of cabbage is vegan. In this review, I didn’t do extra research and accepted the “no animal products” designation on the label. Unfortunately, it was not until after I had reviewed the product that I was informed it contained bee food and excretions. Even though food-licensing organizations are suspect, such a rating would make veganism more accessible—especially if, for example, you have a hard time remembering WTF carnauba wax and rennet are. I would like to see the “vegan” label become as visible on commercial products as the “gluten-free” designation is.

Roxane asks: Where do vegans get protein?
From the flesh of naughty children—try it with barbecue sauce and grilled corn. But on the realio, I get it from everything I eat. My favorite forms include tofu and quinoa, but you can also get it from every other bean ever, grains, greens, veggies, seitan, etc. Did you know that the “average” human only needs 10 to 15 percent of his or her calories to come from protein? There are plenty of articles with much more depth on this subject on this site. I know this question annoys a lot of vegans, but I welcome it—when asked sincerely—as answering might help raise awareness. Readers, what are your favorite protein sources?

Greg asks: Is it true that a vegan can’t come into your house unless invited?
It’s easy to get vegans confused with vampires, because both words start with the letter “V” and they both drink blood. KIDDING. I won’t come into your house unless you invite me, but only because I have good manners.

Want to Ask a Vegansaur something? Email me, and try not to be a jerk! Please do not confuse this column with Laura’s Ask Laura column in VegNews; read that, too! VEGAN ADVICE WOO!

[photo by Stephen and Claire Farnsworth via Flickr]


Readers’ choice: protein powder!  »

An omni woman at my work has been asking me a lot of questions and seems to be eliminating animal products from her diet. Yay! The other day, she realized the whey protein she puts in her morning green shakes does, indeed, come from an animal. She asked if I could recommend a vegan option instead. First I told her that people don’t really need a crazy amount of protein, but she was not having it. So, I turned to our Twitter and Facebook friends and did a little vegan crowd-sourcing. I got so many great answers! Thanks to everyone who helped—you guys are the best! And I thought everybody might be interested in the suggestions so here’s a round-up:

Hemp protein seems to be the most popular suggestion and the popular brands seem to be Tempt and Nutiva.

One responder (sorry, I forget who! But you rule) said this about hemp powder: “Instead of your body breaking down a protein like whey or soy into amino acids to then build into protein, it provides the amino acids directly and skips the step of breaking it down. It’s the same thing with quinoa.” Interesting. Oh and a bunch of people said you can get really good deals for Nutiva on Amazon and that Tempt is available at Whole Foods. And someone else said Trader Joe’s chocolate hemp protein “is amazing.” The vegan weightlifters also recommend hemp. I think hemp is also a good environmentally conscious option but I’m just making that up.

Second most popular is Vega which I think is a combination of a bunch of different vegan proteins like hemp, brown rice, pea, etc. One person says it has iron and B12 in it too which is always nice. Another person said the vanilla flavor of Vega is too sweet. And someone said it’s the only protein powder they like that mixes well with water. And someone else specifically recommended Vega Sport—20g of protein in just half a serving. Yowza!

Third is a tie between Sun Warrior protein powder and pea protein.

Other suggestions (sorry, I’m not about to link all of these mofos, you can google them):
Brown rice protein
Amazing grasses
Whole Foods’ soy protein powder in vanilla or chocolate
Peanut flour
Nutribiotic rice protein
Amazing Meal
Plant Fusion Chocolate (“has crack in it”)
Silken tofu
Warrior Food by Healthforce

Ground quinoa
Ground raw pepitas

30/70 blend of brown rice and gemma pea protein from True Protein.
Whole Nectar organic soy protein powder

That’s a lotta’ protein! Thanks guys! Until next time.


Easy answers to common questions about veganism  »

When we made the decision to go vegan, we probably had good reasons, because all us vegans are the greatest best. However, when someone questions your reasons, it can be hard to remember exactly why! Especially if someone is trying to “get your goat” (lolz) or be dismissive. Here I’ve compiled some simple answers to common questions. At the end, I have the main point you have to remember for each answer. Just try and get that down (practice in a mirror or on a pillow! it won’t get you pregnant!) and the rest should flow from your mouth like the fountain of motherloving knowledge that you possess! If all else fails, just grab their hair, knee to face, groin punch, groin punch, groin punch. I kid, I kid.

1. Where do you get your protein?
Actually, you can get all your protein requirements from plants and grains. It’s pretty difficult NOT to get your daily protein. In fact, most Americans get too much of it. 

REMEMBER: Plants have protein.

2. But cheese is gooooooood.
I didn’t give up cheese because I don’t like the taste (and the addictive casein high!), I gave it up because I morally object to the way it’s made. Did you know that male calves are taken away from their moms the day they’re born so they can be sold for veal? You know, because their mom’s milk is for humans, not for their baby. I like cheese but I don’t think it’s worth it.

REMEMBER: It’s not about the taste.

3. Animals eat each other; why shouldn’t we?
Animals do a lot of stuff we don’t do—my neighbor’s dog eats its own shit. Humans are thoughtful, reflective beings and we can make choices in a way most animals can’t. Except lots of animals, including gorillas, who are badass natural vegans and way better than us.

REMEMBER: Humans have choices.

4. I respect your choice to be vegan, you should respect my choice to eat meat.
We can respect each other’s choices to the extent that they don’t harm others. I think your choices harm others.

REMEMBER: First, do no harm.

5. What about the plants you’re killing?! Plants have feelings too!
After researching it, I don’t believe that plants have feelings. If they do, you should know that a meat-based diet kills a lot more plants than eating plants directly. So if you want to reduce plant suffering, you should eat less meat.

REMEMBER: Eating meat kills more plants than eating plants.

6. Do you eat fish?
No, fish are animals. At one point, some scientists thought fish didn’t feel pain but more modern research suggests they do.

REMEMBER: Fish are animals.

7. I tried to be vegan and I got really sick.
That’s weird because usually a vegan diet is healthier than a non-vegan diet. If nutrition was a problem, you could always read more about how to become a healthy vegan and try again! I could help! If you want to talk to someone more professional than me (please note: I wear flip flops in winter and usually have food on my hair, face, and shirt), find a vegan-friendly nutritionist or dietitian!

REMEMBER: Any diet can be unhealthy.

8. What would happen to all the cows if we didn’t eat them?
I think they’d be better off. I assume they would get old and die and not miss the torture.

REMEMBER: They’d get old and die.

9. Why do you care about animals more than people?
I care about people too. But as a person, I feel like we have an obligation to protect animals against people. Besides that, the truth is that the dairy and meat industry are infamous offenders of workers’ rights. They prey on immigrant labor and exploit illegal immigrants. If you really care about people, you should boycott the meat and dairy industry until they make real steps towards workers’ rights.

REMEMBER: The meat industry abuses workers.

10. Human bodies are designed to eat meat.
Humans are designed to eat a variety of foods and we can pick which foods we eat. We don’t need meat to survive. We do, however, need plants.

REMEMBER: Humans have choices.

11. But soy crops are destroying the world and giving us all big breasts and making men become women!
Most soy crops are grown to feed to animals who are slaughtered for food. Don’t like soy? Stop buying meat! And, no soy doesn’t turn dudes gay and make them grow boobs. Soy, like pretty much every food, shouldn’t be consumed at every meal for the entire meal. If you’re eating a balanced vegan diet, NO PROBLEMO.

REMEMBER: The majority of soy is grown to feed livestock.

12. Biggest question of all! Why are you vegan?
I’m not comfortable with exploiting animals. It’s grotesque and not necessary.

But that’s just me! You should have a nice little answer to this because, I don’t know about you, but I get this question all the time. You shouldn’t take this as a challenge to your beliefs, it’s usually just a question. So figure out why you’re vegan and boil that down into a simple sentence or two. The shorter, the better. If you want to expand, make it an elevator pitch. Be compassionate, funny, smart, and succinct. Tall order, maybe, but think of the animals. Especially a really cute pig. That should power you through it! 

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