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For Beginners, Plant Proteins

Dried Beans!


There is so much to love about beans.
They are nutritional powerhouses. Not only are they loaded with protein, fiber, and tons of vitamins and minerals; they also reduce cholesterol, control blood sugar, and have anti-cancer properties. (I aim to have at least a cup a day.)
They are widely available and incredibly versatile; you can use them in everything from soups to spreads to salads to sweets.
AND, they are ridiculously cheap.
While canned beans are great for putting a last-minute meal together that’s inexpensive and healthful, dried beans provide even more bang for your buck, financially and nutritionally. Buying dried beans from the bulk section of the grocery store is probably the cheapest food you can buy (which is why I stock up, as you can see above) and the soaking process makes beans’ glorious nutrients more easily absorbable. Plus, there’s no denying that beans made from scratch just taste better. The process may seem time-consuming at first, but once you get the system down, you’ll realize just how easy and convenient it is.

Step 1: SOAK
Pour the dried beans into a large bowl and cover with water. Soak them for at least 8 hours. Dried beans will expand in water so make sure the water covers the beans by several inches. A good time to put your beans to soak might be either at night before bed or in the morning before heading off to work.

Drain the beans from the soaking water and transfer them into a large pot. Fill the pot with enough fresh water to cover the beans by at least 3 inches. Note: People often complain that beans make them undesirably musical (if you catch my drift). This is why we soak and drain. Soaking the dried beans in water allows them to release the indigestible sugars that cause people to feel gassy. When you discard the soaking water, you are also discarding the beans’ gas-causing elements.

Step 3: COOK
Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat and cook at a simmer until the beans are tender. See time chart below.

Step 4: STORE
Here’s my favorite part: when the beans are done, whatever you don’t use right away can be stored in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for several months. What I do is make a very large batch of beans and then store recipe-size portions in zip-lock bags in the freezer. This way, they are there whenever I need them and I can get all of the health and cost benefits of making my own beans without having to spend hours ahead of time soaking and cooking them each time I want beans.


Black –  1.5 hours
Black-eyed peas* –  1 – 1.5 hours
Cannellini –  1 hour
Fava, skinned –  1 hour
Garbanzo –  1.5 – 2 hours
Kidney, red –  1 – 1.5 hours
Lentils* –  30 – 45 minutes
Lima –  1 hour
Mung –  1 hour
Navy –  1 – 1.5 hours
Pinto –  1 – 1.5 hours
Split peas, green* –  30 – 45 minutes

* These dried beans don’t need to be soaked beforehand. You can just skip ahead to Step 3.

Read more about the health benefits of beans HERE.

Breakfast, Calcium Sources, Essential Fats, For Beginners, Fruit, Gluten-Free, Healthy Body, Healthy Mind, Oil-Free, Plant Proteins, Vegetables

Disease Prevention for Breakfast


Google image search “American breakfast” and you’ll see a pretty sorry state of affairs. You’ll see bacon strips, scrambled eggs, fried eggs, sausage, fried hash browns, fried ham, pancakes with butter, waffles with butter, toast with butter, buttered croissants, bagels with cream cheese… you get the idea. Google image search “healthy american breakfast” and you’ll see practically the same thing. You’ll get a couple more shots of orange juice (which by definition has been entirely striped of fiber) and some shots of highly refined cereal floating in bowls of dairy milk, but essentially the same thing. No greens, almost no fresh fruit, and A LOT of meat, dairy, eggs, refined flour, refined sugar, and salt.

This is absurd when diet is responsible for four out of the top five leading causes of death in America. As Dr. Mark Hyman explains, “the research clearly shows that changing how we live is a much more powerful intervention for preventing heart disease [currently the number one killer of Americans] than any medication.” The “EPIC” study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine studied 23,000 people’s adherence to 4 simple behaviors (not smoking, exercising 3.5 hours a week, eating a healthy diet [fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts seeds, and limited amounts of meat], and maintaining a healthy weight. In those adhering to these behaviors, 93% of diabetes, 81% of heart attacks, 50% of strokes, and 36% of all cancers were prevented.
We know Americans don’t want to suffer and die from these diseases; after all, we spend an exorbitant amount of our personal and national finances on prescription drugs, medical procedures, and research to treat them. So why do we continue to eat in a way that contributes to the very diseases we are spending so much money to treat? It’s as if we believe our only chance at good health is to sit around and wait for cures to be discovered. This hopelessness and helplessness leaves us completely dependent on doctors, hospitals, drug companies, and research labs–which is very nice for them and their wallets but not so nice for our health, our wallets, or the country.

Why have so many of us been led to believe we have no power over our own health? Why are too many of us still tragically unaware (as I was for so long) of the role diet plays in determining whether or not we get cardiovascular disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and a number of other diseases?

In hindsight, it would be way too easy for me to say, “well, the information is out there. If people really cared about their health, they wouldn’t be eating meat, dairy, and eggs.” But I don’t think it’s that simple. While, indeed, research has proven time and time again that animal products promote disease while fruits and vegetables prevent disease, not many people know this. We hear mixed messages from advertisements (“Milk. It Does a Body Good.”), from fad diets (Atkins), from our parents (who were misled by their parents), and from myths passed amongst our peers (“Humans are meant to eat animals. Look at our pointy fangs!” ). Most insidious, though, are the messages we receive from the medical industry itself which consistently plays down the power of eating for disease prevention.

Why are doctors all too eager to write us prescriptions for high cholesterol, screen us repeatedly with expensive medical equipment for cancer (which is NOT prevention, just detection), perform surgeries to unclog our hearts, or put us through chemotherapy, but they’ll rarely advise us to drastically change our diets? I find the explanation that “most people refuse to make drastic lifestyle changes” to be both patronizing and false. Perhaps some people may refuse to make changes in their diet, but we all deserve to make an informed choice. Plus, I believe most people would prefer not to spend gobs of money unnecessarily, or get their chest cut open unnecessarily, or get cancer and endure chemo unnecessarily, or DIE unnecessarily. Based on my experience, I believe plenty of people would much prefer to make dietary changes if the truth were pushed on them even half as much as prescriptions are.

Why is the link between diet and disease so rarely mentioned?

We cannot forget that the medical industry is a business. A massive business whose tentacles reach not only doctors and hospitals but also drug companies, insurance companies, research labs, universities, supply and equipment manufacturers, marketers, lobbyists, and beyond. It is like any other business in that the goal is to make a profit. Profits, grants, funding, and salaries depend on people being sick. When people are sick, the medical industry flourishes because we require its services–researching, testing, inventing, manufacturing, and administering treatments. That’s not to say that individual people go into the medical field to prey upon sick people, but the industry at large simply does not grow and succeed when the people it is meant to serve are in good health. Telling us how to prevent diseases would make us less dependent on the medical industry’s services which means less money in their pockets. (See #3 for more on this.)

But while the medical industry makes enormous sums of money pushing treatment rather than prevention, the rest of the country suffers financially. In 2006, U.S. health spending exceeded two trillion dollars, with three-fourths of that spending directed at treating chronic diseases. Almost two-thirds of that growth in spending is attributable to Americans’ worsening health habits. A 2007 study at the Harvard Medical School found that 62% of U.S. bankruptcies were a result of medical expenses.

This is complete insanity.

What do have to show for all this money we’ve spent? What has all this money accomplished in the name of human health?
Not much.

Before 1900, very few people died of heart disease. Now it is the number one killer of Americans. In the future, it’s likely that more people will die of heart disease. According to a recent report by the American Heart Association, the prevalence of heart disease is set to increase by 10% over the next 20 years.

Similarly, while research suggests that only 5-10% percent of all cancers are hereditary–meaning that 90-95% of cancers are attributable to lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, alcohol intake, sun exposure, etc–the World Health Organization expects cancer rates to increase by 50% by 2020.

And yet, we still throw money at treating diseases. For example, our government funds cardiovascular disease research over $2 billion PER YEAR even though we already know that changing lifestyle could prevent at least 90% of all heart disease. Just imagine what we could do with the massive amount of money that goes into trying to create and test drugs for diseases that already has a proven means of prevention. We could use the money to educate people about nutrition, improve access to fruits and vegetables, subsidize organic vegetable farmers, create more walking paths and bike lanes. Imagine how many fewer people would be sick, bankrupt, or prematurely dead! But the loudest voices come from the medical industry (who has spent more than FOUR TIMES the lobbying money than what the oil and gas industry spends!) and we listen and follow not only with our wallets but also our lives.

To say I find this whole system infuriating would be a major understatement. Nothing breaks my heart more than needless suffering and that is exactly what is going on here on a massive scale. Just think about it. Animals suffer and are killed unnecessarily for humans’ appetites. Humans suffer and die from diseases caused by eating the flesh and secretions of animals. In their suffering, humans seek out cures and treatments, fueling an industry that captures or breeds animals merely to infect them with diseases, overdose them on drugs, infest them with tumors, slice open their bodies, or deprive them of their most fundamental needs. Humans pay for the drugs, which often times don’t work as expected precisely because they were tested on nonhuman animals and also because drugs, surgeries and other treatments only address symptoms of disease and not the cause. We then sit around and wait for the next cure or treatment, while we get sicker and continue practicing our habits and passing them on to our children and encouraging them amongst our peers. It’s a tragic cycle that begins with suffering and ends with suffering.

In our state of suffering we excuse the horrific practice of performing drug tests and medical experiments on living animals. We claim that it is a necessary evil, that it will benefit humanity, that fewer people will have to suffer. Even if that were all true I still believe testing on anyone–human or nonhuman–without their consent is deeply wrong.* But these claims are false. If more people are getting sicker, if more people are spending more of their savings managing chronic illness, if our country is spending more money on researching and treating preventible diseases, we cannot possibly argue we are creating less suffering. Our infliction of needless suffering on animals has caused us to suffer needlessly as well.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
-Albert Einstein
Cancer, heart attacks, diabetes, stroke and many other diseases are much easier and less expensive to prevent than to treat. That’s not to say no attention should be paid to alleviating the suffering of those already ill, but if we don’t want to bankrupt our country and our families, if we want to see fewer of our loved ones suffer and die needlessly, and if we want to be the ones in control of our own health, then I think we must give prevention more of a voice. It’s the only way to stop this madness.
Go to the US National Library of Medicine/National Institute of Health’s online search page here and search “fruits vegetables heart disease” or “fruits vegetables cancer” or “fruits vegetables” and any other major disease and the studies you’ll find say the same thing: fruits and vegetables help prevent chronic disease. (I highly recommend reading Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. I am currently reading this book for the second time and I just cannot emphasize how valuable it is.)
What would be the best thing to eat to promote good health and disease prevention for breakfast? You guessed it, fruits and vegetables! Robert and I love green breakfast smoothies because they are easy to prepare, loaded with antioxidants and phytochemicals, and so so so tasty. (Note: For those of you wary of drinking something that tastes “too green” (I get it, I used to feel this way too), rest assured that dates and bananas are a great addition to smoothies because their sweetness really masks the “green” flavor that some find difficult to adjust to initially.)
Here’s our current favorite:
1 large handful of spinach
1/2 – 1 banana
1/2 apple
2 dates
1-2 scoops almond butter
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
2 cups almond or soy milk
(Other things we like to add in or swap: kale, blueberries, carrots, oats, canned pumpkin)
1. Mix in a blender till smooth. Drink and feel good!

* Animal research is a multi-billion dollar industry in which for-profit commercial interests have high stakes. This is one of the major reasons why the use of animals not only continues, but also is fiercely defended despite obvious limitations, angers, and the reality that it may not help our battle against human diseases, and might actually hinder it. As an example of such financial motivation for its continuance, consider for example that in 2010, The Jackson Laboratory– “a leading mammalian genetics research center– sold 2.9 million mice for a profit of $98.7 million. Investment n the procurement, handling, and upkeep of animals for labs is a highly lucrative enterprise for animal importers, breeders, dealers, cage and equipment manufacturers, feed producers, and drug companies. (See NEAVS for more information.)

If you really want to torture yourself and see just how much money we’re currently spending on researching cures for preventible diseases, see this NIH price listAlso, please see the links I used within the article.

For Beginners, Gluten-Free, Oil-Free, Reviews, Sauces & Dips

Book Recommendation: “Artisan Vegan Cheese”


“I could never give up cheese.”
Based on the frequency that I hear this, I thought about making this post all about the reasons why you should stop eating cheese yesterday. I could have written about how detrimental animal cheese is to your health, delving into the link between dairy products and various types of cancer, including breast, ovarian and prostate. I could have discussed how dairy is actually really bad for your bones. After all, countries with the lowest rates of dairy consumption have the lowest rates of osteoporosis and that dairy has actually been singled out as the biggest cause of osteoporosis. I could have gone over the fact that a whopping 75% of the world’s population are genetically unable to digest dairy, yet we label this near universal human trait a defect and call it “lactose intolerance.” When we are babies all humans have an enzyme that allows us to digest our mother’s milk but we lose that enzyme between ages two and five because we are supposed to be weaned by then. Our bodies weren’t designed to be consuming milk into adulthood (not to mention the milk of another species!). I could also have also told you about how the veal industry is the byproduct of the dairy industry. In order to produce milk, cows–like humans–have to be pregnant and give birth. That means every glass of milk, every slice of cheese, and every scoop of ice cream is the product of a mother cow enduring a nine-month pregnancy only to have her baby immediately taken from her at birth so humans can consume her milk. If her baby is a male, he is slaughtered as veal. If her baby is a female, she is condemned to the same agonizing fate as her mother. To keep a dairy cow producing milk, she must constantly be pregnant, so just after her baby is torn away from her she is impregnated again. The painful cycle then repeats, year after year, until her body can give no more and she too is slaughtered.
But I’m not going to make this post about why you should give up cheese.
Instead, thanks to the brilliant book Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner, I’ll simply tell you that you don’t have to give up cheese because you can make your own unbelievably delicious plant-based cheese. I have spent the past several weeks making eight different vegan cheeses from this book and, as a former dairy cheese lover myself, I am thoroughly impressed. Some of the recipes take a few minutes to prepare while others take a few weeks, even months, to culture but what consistently manifests are complex plant-based cheeses that are strikingly similar to their dairy counterparts. The first time I sampled the cashew-based mozzarella I was so startled at how similar it was to the dairy-based version that I had keep reminding myself that it was vegan and that I needn’t resist it. It was pretty wild.
Pictured above is a caprese salad with Schinner’s mozzarella recipe which I served during our at-home fancy date night this weekend. Below is a brie which I had out while our non-vegan friend was visiting from out of town. We all agreed it was a hit. It was creamy, fancy, and had that perfect melt-in-your-mouth texture. I’ve also got parmesan, provolone, gouda, two types of cheddar, American, and cream cheese in the works. (Click “read more” below for the recipe for American cheese.)

American Cheese

This cheese is EXCELLENT for a grilled cheese sandwich!
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons medium brown miso paste
1/2 roasted red bell pepper, skinned and seeded
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
3 tablespoons agar flakes
1 tablespoon carrageenan powder (I couldn’t find this so I just added an additional tablespoon of agar flakes)
1. Put the water and oats in a heavy medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, until thick, about 5 minutes.
2. Transfer to a blender. Add the nutritional yeast, lemon juice, miso, bell pepper, salt, and mustard. Process until smooth and creamy.
3. Transfer to a heavy medium saucepan and whisk in the agar and carrageenan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently with the whisk, until thick, 4-5 minutes.
4. Pour the mixture into a glass or nonreactive metal mold or ramekin and smooth the top. Cover and let cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, until firm.
Storage notes: Will keep for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator or 4 months in the freezer.
Autumn, Calcium Sources, Entrees, For Beginners, Gluten-Free, Oil-Free, Plant Proteins, Soups & Stews

Incredibly Easy Pumpkin Chili


Believe it or not, I used to hate cooking. I resented having to follow directions for an activity that I believed was meant be creative. But every time I tried to get creative, tossing in a little of this, a dash of that, followed by a twirl, a curtsey, etc., the food was just a sorry disappointment. After too many failed dishes I knew I needed to follow instructions but I still wanted to feel like the dish was my creation. I was able to find a happy balance making dishes that called for just a few ingredients and minimal measuring. For those who are new to cooking, short on time, or just looking for a unique take on chili, this recipe delivers. It is so simple. All you have to do is chop a few vegetables and dump a few cans, but it also feels really creative and unusual because of the pumpkin. The result is a delicious chili that’s warm, comforting, and just a touch sweet.
Over time, you could also get more creative and try adding different colored peppers, other kinds of beans, or using sweet potato instead of pumpkin (see below for more ideas). With such good and simple flavors it would hard to mess this one up.

1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 can (15 oz) organic corn, preferably sweet
1 large can (28 oz) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie puree)
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 can black beans, drained
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
1 cup vegetable broth or water (more if you prefer a thinner consistency)

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the onion, garlic, and red pepper in 1-2 tbsp water or vegetable broth for about 10 minutes or until tender.
2. Stir in the remaining ingredients, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil.
3. Immediately reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15-20 minutes until heated through. Serve hot.

Variations to try:
– To make this chili thicker and heartier, add 2 cups cooked quinoa after step 2.
– Add fresh or frozen de-thawed greens, such as kale, spinach, collards, etc., while simmering during step 3.
– For a slightly sweeter chili, use canned sweet potato instead of pumpkin.

– Double or triple the ingredients to make several days’ worth of food. Leftovers can also be frozen.
– Try using just one kind of bean (for example, only black beans) or add several different kinds in addition to the beans already used (such as pinto, kidney, and white beans).
For Beginners, Healthy Body

“I tried being vegan but…”

Below I examine to some of the common pitfalls of those who say a plant-based diet didn’t work for them.

1. “… I felt really weak/lost too much weight.”

What causes people to feel weak? This is often the result of not consuming enough calories. Animal products don’t have some magic source of energy. After all, people who suffer from anorexia and eat nothing but steamed chicken’s breast, sugar-free gum, and egg whites also experience weakness and lethargy. Being vegan doesn’t cause anyone to feel weak, not eating enough calories does. However, plants do have less calories than animal products so if you simply eliminate the animal products from your diet and don’t add other foods instead, then yes, you may start feeling lethargic, but that’s only because you are consuming less calories. To make up for the loss in calories, eat more! Eat larger portions, eat more frequently, or eat more nutrient and calorie-dense foods with your meals. Try adding healthful fats like avocado, walnuts, or flaxseeds to a salad. Make a smoothie with canned sweet potato, peanut butter, oatmeal, dates and soy milk. Add tofu and sesame seeds to a stir-fry. Snack on almonds and dates.
Bottom line: If you are feeling weak or losing more weight than you want, eat more.


2. “… my body just craved meat.”

Did it really, though? When you saw road kill did you instantly salivate? Did you find yourself looking at your dog and begin to wonder how she’d taste on the grill? My guess is no, you didn’t. No human craves a piece of actual animal flesh the way a true carnivore does. We’re repulsed by the idea of eating a piece of flesh that’s raw, bloody, and covered with feathers or fur. And we have to cook flesh before we eat it in order to make it non-lethal to our digestive system. When we say we’re craving bacon or steak what we’re actually craving is the salt, the fat, or the chewiness, not the flesh itself. Fortunately, the flavors people enjoy when eating animal flesh are plant-based (i.e. ketchup, mustard, horseradish, barbecue sauce, soy sauce, wasabi, relish, onions, pickles, garlic and countless herbs and spices) which means these cravings can be satisfied without taking another’s life. (See Tempeh Bacon and BBQ Tofu.)

I also wonder about this whole “listen to your body” idea. That’s not always such a good credo to live by. After all, people’s impulses also tell them to hit, rape, murder, steal, and destroy. Even the most well-behaving people have at some point had the impulse, even if just for a fleeting moment, to do something crazy or harmful. Should we really listen to every impulse simply because it’s there? I thought we humans prided ourselves on being rational and moral creatures. All humans are omnivores which means we are physically capable of eating plants and animals. It means we don’t have to eat animals. It means we have a choice. Every one of us is physiologically capable of surviving on plants. Why would we choose to harm when don’t have to?
Bottom line: Don’t base your actions on cravings and impulses alone.


3. “… my doctor told me I have to eat meat.”

You’d think that doctors would be experts in nutrition, but alas, they aren’t. In medical school students receive little to no education on nutrition. Instead the emphasis is on drugs and surgery for the treatment of disease rather than on prevention and the importance of lifestyle in good health. This is for a number of reasons, one of which is there’s little money to be gained in advocating prevention. The medical and pharmaceutical industries benefit when people need their services and products, not when they don’t. Bias plays a role as well. Most medical students and doctors grew up eating animal products and aren’t eager to find evidence that contradicts their own lifestyle and habits. After all, doctors used to advocate smoking cigarettes for patients because they smoked cigarettes themselves.

John Robbins, in Diet For A New America, explains: “Today, a similar situation exists with respect to the health consequences of a meat habit. Today’s physician is exposed to the same propaganda promoting meat and dairy product consumption as the rest of us, and he hasn’t the nutritional training that would enable him to evaluate these messages any more intelligently than we can. Furthermore, the meat, egg, and dairy industries are particularly keen on ‘educating’ doctors with their biased view of nutrition. The Meat Board, for example, has presented a series of extremely expensive full page color ads in the Journal of the American Medical Association, presenting a nutritional slant that one nutritional authority, Dr. Kenneth Buckley, did not find at all impressive. He called it: ‘slick and deceitful propaganda, coloring and twisting the facts in the most manipulative way.'”
Bottom line: Find a doctor who is vegan or at least wont let his or her own biases influence you.


4. “… I started gaining weight.”

A healthful vegan diet is centered around on whole foods. What are whole foods? These are foods that haven’t been refined or processed. The produce aisle is where you’ll find the whole food heaven– colorful fruits and vegetables in their natural state. You’ll even find whole foods elsewhere in the supermarket. Look for dried beans and legumes, seeds, nuts and unrefined whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, barley, amaranth and oats. If you eat a diet primarily of whole foods it would be very difficult to gain weight. However, if you eat a vegan diet full of refined carbohydrates it would be very difficult NOT to gain weight. You’ll likely also feel tired and cranky because these foods have been so processed that they are virtually devoid of vitamins and minerals. Foods made with white flour, such as cookies, cakes, breads, and crackers fall into this category, as do grains no longer in their whole form like white rice and most packaged breakfast cereals. Also on the processed list are sugar, corn syrup, soda, pasta, anything fried, candy and alcohol. Fruits and vegetables are refined in the form of juice, jellies, french fries, potato chips, wine, and canned fruit. While these “foods” may be vegan and are okay once in a while, if you ate them frequently, being vegan didn’t make you gain weight; eating a diet high in processed foods did.
Bottom line: Center your diet around whole foods to maintain a healthful weight.

5. “… I got tired of having to cook a vegan meal for myself and a non-vegan meal for my family every night.”

I hear this almost exclusively from women and it makes me really sad. As women we are so expected to be the care-takers and nurturers of those around us. Regardless of whether or not you like being in that role, being a nurturer does not mean giving others whatever they want at the expense of your time and your values. It really doesn’t matter what someone “expects.” No one is entitled to a particular ingredient or product every night, especially if they aren’t making it themselves, so if you are cooking meals for others they should be receiving them with gratitude. Period. Plus, when you make vegan food for others–which is without artery-clogging cholesterol, carcinogens, and harmful animal protein–you are also demonstrating that their health and their lives matter to you. If they still insist on making dietary choices that are harmful, they can do that on their own time, but no one has the right to force you to be an accomplice. Keep in mind though, this may be easier than you think.
Bottom line: As Colleen Patrick-Goudreau says, “the surest way to inspire people to eat delicious plant-based food is to make delicious plant-based food… If people eat food they find satisfying, filling, familiar, and tasty, they wont care if it has no animals in it.”

Addition: I just came across a wonderful essay but Will Tuttle, PhD which I recommend people read here.

For Beginners

The Hunting Excuse/Myth

I recently received an inquiry about my thoughts on an article about hunting. In the article, the author states that “the production of soy and tofu on an industrial scale requires quite a lot of killing,” as millions of animals, including deer, birds, mice, and squirrels are “shot, trapped and poisoned by the millions every year in North America for the sole purpose of protecting crops.” The author argues that, therefore, the more ethical thing for us humans to do is to kill deer by our own hands (or guns, rather, but never mind).

First of all, I would like to point out that the number one consumer of soy are farmed animals! If the author is concerned about the many animals who are killed growing soy then he should absolutely abstain from animal products. Period. The end.

But let me address some other points about hunting, because I get asked about this topic a lot. First, whenever someone brings up hunting as a way of challenging veganism, I’m always inclined to ask, do YOU hunt? For the vast majority of people the answer is no, which makes me wonder why we’re even having this conversation in the first place. After all, only 7% of the US population hunts. But if you do hunt, my next question is, so does your meat consumption consist only of the animals you have hunted? The hunters I know do not abide by a strict my-kill-only policy regarding what they eat. They don’t go to restaurants and ask if all the meat on the menu came from hunted animals. Nor do they go to a friend’s home for dinner and refuse to eat the hostess’s pork chops unless they came from a hunted pig. While I certainly don’t claim to know all the hunters in the world, I have never met or even heard of a hunter who has eliminated dairy, butter, eggs or cheese from their diet even though these products come from animals who most certainly are not hunted (cows and chickens). So even for most hunters, the “hunting excuse” doesn’t hold much water.

In the article I was asked about, the author exclaims, “Odds are that there is a wild deer within a few miles of wherever you are sitting as you read this.” (Oh goody!) “Many state and local parks allow hunting in designated areas,” he goes on. “There is probably some place within an hour’s drive of your home where you can hunt deer for food.” And lest your conscience begins to squirm with the thought of blowing up Bambi, he assures you: “These are not endangered species; whitetails in particular are dramatically overpopulated in much of North America.”

It all sounds so natural! So righteous! So pure! Who could object to getting in touch with our natural cave man instincts?

But if we dig a little deeper it’s clear things aren’t very natural at all. The truth is that, whether on public or private land, the overwhelming majority of animals hunters pursue are purposefully nourished, sheltered, and restocked to ensure that their populations remain high enough to meet hunter demand.

Because hunters spend large amounts of money buying licenses, permits, and equipment–indeed, hunting is far more of a luxury than a means of survival– and because in the United States the federal government dispenses funds to state wildlife agencies based on the number of licenses they sell, state and local wildlife agencies view game animals as economic resources to be maintained for “maximum harvest.”

“To induce higher rates of reproduction and denser population of game animals, federal and state wildlife agencies manipulate population and ecosystems through a variety of techniques,” explains Gary L. Francione in Introduction to Animal Rights. These include, “the clear-cutting and burning of wooded areas to provide grazing ground for deer and other game animals; destroying predator populations; digging and diverting waterways and damming streams and rivers to provide lakes and marshes for ducks; planting berry bushes and fruit trees to attract deer and bear; winter-feeding; providing roost structures and nesting grounds to attract popular species; restocking areas when populations get low; and fencing in tracts of land to increase population density.”
Even whitetail deer–the animals most often claimed by hunters to be overpopulated and in need of “thinning out” (as the author in the article does)–are managed and manipulated by wildlife agencies to maintain dense populations for hunters. Wildlife agencies often limit hunting to bucks so as to ensure that the does remain to reproduce and thus increase population size. The New Jersey Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife, for example, explicitly states that “the deer resource has been managed primarily for the purpose of sport hunting.” Some wildlife agencies also employ management techniques for the purpose of producing ‘trophy deer,’ or large, heavy stags with giant antlers prized by hunters. Hunters and wildlife agencies are not concerned about reducing deer herds, but rather with increasing the number of targets for hunters and the number of potential hunting license dollars. “As a general matter, wildlife agencies are hostile to nonlethal alternatives to hunting, such as contraception, which has proven effective in controlling the size of deer herds but decreases the availability of animals for hunters to kill,” says Francione. The deer overpopulation argument is simply a smokescreen hunters and wildlife agencies use to justify their sport.
Let’s not pretend there’s anything “natural” about hunting. Hunters kill more than 200 million animals yearly, not using the natural strength of their hands or the grip of their jaws but with an arsenal of rifles, shotguns, muzzleloaders, handguns, bows and arrows. Millions more animals are crippled, orphaned, and harassed. “It is estimated that, for every animal a hunter kills and recovers, at least two wounded but unrecovered animals die slowly and painfully of blood loss, infection, or starvation. Those who don’t die often suffer from disabling injuries,” states the organization In Defense of Animals. Bow hunting, often touted as more “fair” and “natural”, also wounds more animals than it kills. In addition, the stress that hunting inflicts on animals–the noise, the fear, and the constant chase–severely restricts their ability to eat adequately and store the fat and energy they need to survive the winter. Hunting also disrupts migration and hibernation, and the campfires, recreational vehicles, trash, and other hunting side effects endanger both wildlife and the environment. For animals like wolves who mate for life and have close-knit family units, hunting can severely harm entire communities.
But even if there were something “natural” about hunting, does that really justify it? Pedophilia is a genuinely natural urge for some people. And rape, after all, frequently occurs in nature, as does infanticide, maternal abandonment, cannibalism, and even filial cannibalism (when adults eat their own young). Does that somehow mean we should choose to do these things?
I also think we need to recognize the difference between intentional harm and unintentional harm. Let’s say I build a state highway for the citizens of Massachusetts to commute. Because of the inherent risks in driving, it can be estimated that each year approximately 9 people will die in car accidents on my highway. If one year I decide to close the highway, would I be justified to go out and intentionally run over 9 people? Couldn’t I argue that had I kept the highway open, 9 people would have died anyway so it’s all the same? No, that would be absurd! Similarly, learning that you consume a product that results in indirect harm should not be seen as a justification to commit direct, intentional acts of violence instead.
Mariann Sullivan, animal law professor and co-host of one of my favorite podcasts, Our Hen House, puts it well: “While it’s true that plant agriculture takes animal lives, it doesn’t necessarily have to (or not as many anyway), while hunting, by definition, has to.” I believe that if we learn we’re doing something harmful or participating in violence in some way, this should motivate us to seek out less harmful alternatives, not throw up our hands and give up. So rather than going out and killing a deer, as the author suggests, why not just stop buying soy and grain products from massive corporate producers? How about looking into companies that use polyculture systems (which closely mimic nature’s ecosystems, within which insects, birds, small mammals and other wildlife thrive)? What about buying more whole vegetables instead of the packaged goods that use highly processes grain as fillers? You could even grow your own veggies! There are so many less destructive options out there, I have trouble believing someone would choose to actively kill animals because they are concerned with causing less harm.
Lastly, I’d like to recommend checking out an organization called The Food Empowerment Project which seeks to create a more just and sustainable world by recognizing the power of one’s food choices. In concert with their vegan advocacy, F.E.P.’s mission is to “encourage healthy food choices that reflect a more compassionate society by spotlighting the abuse of animals on farms, the depletion of natural resources, unfair working conditions for produce workers, and the unavailability of healthy foods in low-income areas.” I think this mission is so wise because it recognizes that many of the world’s injustices are interconnected, and thus we cannot tackle one injustice while perpetuating another.
For me, being vegan is about causing less harm. It’s about making choices that reflect my values of non-violence, justice, and compassion. It’s about choosing to celebrate life and peace rather than romanticize death and violence. Thanks for reading.
For Beginners

“But I buy local!”

When I tell people that being vegan is the best thing one can do for the environment I often hear a response like, “Well, I’m not vegan but that’s okay because I buy all my food from local farms.”

People (myself included!) like to pat themselves on the back for eating local. And in many respects that pat is well deserved. Buying locally grown food keeps money within the community, it’s a way of showing support for small businesses over large corporations, provides less opportunity for the contamination that leads to massive recalls, and allows you to celebrate the seasons and products unique to your region.

But that’s if we’re talking about produce. To an animal whose life was taken, whether he was slaughtered for a local buyer or not doesn’t really matter to him. And despite what many well-intentioned people may think, it doesn’t really matter all that much to the environment either. While eating local is great, what we eat matters much more, environmentally speaking.

This is because the majority of greenhouse gases released from the entire food process come from the production, not the transport. Specifically, nitrous oxide and methane, inadvertently produced by fertilizers (for animal feed crops), manure, and gas expelled during the animals’ digestion account for a large portion of the CO2-equivalent gases created during production. The delivery– that is, the transport of food from the producers to the retailers– contributes only 4% of the greenhouse gasses.

If you eat an all-local diet, you save the greenhouse gas equivalent of driving 1,000 fewer miles a year. But if you were to eat a vegan diet just one day a week, you would save the equivalent of driving 1,160 fewer miles a year. So in terms of greenhouse gases, eating vegan one day a week is better than eating local every single day of the year.

Can you imagine the impact you could make by eating vegan every single day of the year, both for the animals and for the environment?

Check out this fascinating study by Carnegie Mellon University: “Food-Miles and the Relative Climate Impacts of Food Choices in the United States”

For Beginners, Healthy Mind

“Why don’t you care about people?”

According to the United Nations, global human population has reached seven billion. One billion are chronically hungry. By the end of the year, more than five million children under age five will die of hunger-related illness.

While these statistics are heart-breaking, they should not leave you feeling hopeless. Instead, they should be a source of inspiration and empowerment because we can all do something about this. What we choose to eat has a profound impact on the existence of human hunger. We CAN choose to eat in a way that harms or helps other human beings.

“Land availability is one of the main constraints on food production. The Earth has only a limited area of viable agricultural land, so how this land is used is central to our ability to feed the world. Western diets play a large part in depriving the world’s poor of much needed food. This is because livestock consume much more protein, water and calories than they produce. Most of the protein from vegetable feeds is used for the animal’s bodily functions and not converted to meat, eggs or milk.

Studies indicate that a varied vegan diet requires about a third of the land needed for conventional Western diets.

Quite simply, we do not have enough land to feed everyone on an animal-based diet. So while one billion* people do not have enough food, we continue to waste valuable agricultural land by obtaining only a small fraction of its potential calorific value.

The world’s population is increasing and viable agricultural lands are diminishing. If we are to avoid future global food scarcity we must find sustainable ways of utilising our natural resource base. Industrial livestock production is unsustainable and unjustifiable.”

Sources: Help protect…the hungry  
More Articles from: The Guardian, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, FAO, Audubon Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, World Watch 

*updated figure based on most current information
Calcium Sources, Entrees, Essential Fats, For Beginners, Gluten-Free, Healthy Body, Oil-Free, Plant Proteins, Vegetables

The Mighty Power of Sea Vegetables! (omega-3’s)


All too often, when many of us decide to widen our circle of compassion to other animals, fish seem to get excluded from that circle. In my journey going vegan, fish were the last animals I stopped eating. Perhaps this is because fish aren’t enough “like us” or they aren’t “cute” or they don’t make sounds when they are in pain. I also believed, as many do, that eating fish was healthy, even necessary. This, however, could not be more wrong. Fish are NOT a health food.

How could fish possibly be healthy when they are so heavily laden with toxic chemicals that pregnant woman are advised to avoid consuming them? In addition, like all animal products, fish are high in cholesterol. Per gram, fish has comparable cholesterol levels to beef, chicken, and pork. And per calorie, fish has even higher cholesterol levels. As Dr. John McDougall describes, “feeding fish to people instead of beef, pork, or chicken, causes predictable increases in their blood cholesterol levels that are virtually the same.”

As an animal protein, the protein from fish are highly acidic in nature, making it terrible for the bones. When we consume highly acidic protein (which all animal proteins are) the body must take measures to balance out the blood and make it more alkaline. To do so, the body pulls calcium, the mineral in our body that is most alkaline, from the bones. Over time, the bones weaken as a result of this survival mechanism.

Some may now be thinking, “Well, what about omega-3 fatty acids? Don’t we need to consume fish to get those?” Absolutely not! The omega-3 fats in fish are derived from the algae or the algae-eating creatures they consume. That’s right, they get them from plants! Plus, the majority of fish consumed in the US are farmed (90 percent of all salmon!) and fed a diet of cheap fish meal which is devoid of those omega-3’s but high in antibiotics and pesticides. So there is no reason to eat fish to get the good stuff! We can go straight to the source ourselves–by eating sea vegetables!

Sea vegetables are among the most nutritionally dense foods in the world. They contain 10 times the calcium of cow’s milk and several times more iron than red meat. Sea veggies are also very high in protein and a rich source of vitamins (especially A, B, C, E, B12) and minerals (potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iodine). They also have some unusual and spectacular phytonutrients, including sulfated polysaccharides that bring along with them anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and cardiovascular benefits.

This seaweed stir-fry has become a staple in our kitchen. It’s really quick to prepare and it’s so, so tasty.

1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced and peeled ginger
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/2 cup thinly sliced kombu, soaked in water for 15 minutes
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 cups soaked and thinly sliced sea greens like arame, hijiki dulse, wakame, and alaria
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons tamari
1 cup cooked brown rice (optional)
1. Heat a wok or a large, deep skillet over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes.
2. Add the garlic, ginger, and scallions. Cook, stirring for about 15 seconds, then add the kombu, celery, chili flakes and sea greens. Then add the water and soy sauce, and turn the heat to high.
3. Cook, stirring constantly until the sea vegetables are tender, about 7 minutes.
4. Serve over brown rice or store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to a day. Enjoy!
Sources: Dr. McDougall’s “Fish is Not Health FoodWHFoods: Sea VegetablesColor Me Vegan by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau; How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman