eHow Video: Dry Roasted Soybeans & Some Words on Soy Myths


We all know that beans make a great dip or a great chili, but did you know they also make a great snack?

You really could us apply this recipe to any type of bean but I think soybeans are just the perfect size and, frankly, this recipe really  hits the spot so I’m not too inclined to mess with it.

Many roasted bean recipes will say olive oil is necessary to get the spices to stick onto the beans, but I find they spices stick just fine if the beans are wet, so I just add the spices right after I rinse the beans. This recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon salt, which, if you are snacking with others, is pretty moderate but you are certainly free to use less or omit it entirely if you are on a low-sodium diet.

Soybeans are incredibly nutritious. In fact, according to a recent research analysis, if Americans replaced their meat and dairy intake with soy, they would increase they intake of calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin K, folate and fiber. But despite the plethora of scientific evidence about the health benefits of soy, there is still a lot of misinformation that continues to get passed around. I have heard some pretty extreme claims, everything from “I avoid soy because it causes dementia” to “Soy causes breast cancer” to “I don’t let my son have soy because it will turn him into a girl.” We’ve all heard claims like this, or perhaps we’ve even been the one doing the speaking. When we absorb or pass on these claims we are buying into and perpetuating a multimillion dollar anti-soy campaign sponsored by the meat and dairy industry.

So here are some important myths about soy I wanted to debunk right off the bat to put your mind at ease.

Myth: “Soy causes dementia.”
Reality: Soy does not cause dementia; in fact, it improves cognition. This myth seemed to originate from a study in which researchers found that tofu had harmful cognitive effects on people in Indonesia. However, the same was not true for tempeh, which is a more concentrated source of soy, so clearly soy itself was not the problem but something that was being added to the tofu. Well, guess what they use a preservative for tofu in Indonesia? Formaldedye! Yep, the same flammable human carcinogen that’s used to make home industrial products. So next time someone tells you soy causes dementia, set the record straight and say that formaldedye might but soy certainly does not.
More info:

Myth: “Soy causes breast cancer.”
Reality: This myth stems from the belief that soy has estrogen, and higher levels of estrogen have been linked to breast cancer. But soy doesn’t even have estrogen! It has something called phytoestrogen, but this is not estrogen. Estrogen is a sex hormone that is found in all animals (including humans). Soy, in fact, is actually protective against breast cancer. It has been shown to reduce both the recurrence of and the risk of death from breast cancer.
More info:

Myth: “Soy gives men “man boobs.”
Reality: Again, this probably stems from the confusion between estrogen and phytoestrogen. Soy has been shown to have no effect on a man’s testosterone levels or circulating estrogen levels whatsoever. Also, if you are concerned about getting too much estrogen from soy but are still drinking breast milk from a 1,500 lb cow, I think you are barking up the wrong tree. Cows, like humans, only produce breast milk after giving birth. The demand for dairy means that a cow is essentially always pregnant so that she will always be producing milk. So those who consume dairy are consuming the milk from pregnant cows, which have a whole lot of estrogen. In fact, people who consume meat and dairy have significantly higher levels of estrogen in their blood. Definitely check out this study which examined what happens to men’s hormone levels within in just one hour of consuming dairy (hint: their estrogen levels went up and their testosterone levels went down!).
More info:

Myth: “All soy is GMO so it’s poison.” (I’ve actually heard this one verbatim.)
Reality: First of all, the largest consumer of GMO soy is farmed animals. In her article, “A Vegan Doctor Addresses Soy Myths and Misinformation”, Holly Wilson, M.D. explains that this GMO soy “does not just magically evaporate in the slaughterhouse or milk processing plant. It ends up on your plate.” Secondly, numerous brands of non-GMO tofu, tempeh, soy milk, and soy beans can be found in your grocery store labeled clearly on the package. These include Silk, Morinaga, and many others (see a comprehensive list here).

For more information debunking the misinformation about soy, read “Being Vegan and Eating Soy: Myths, Truths, and Everything In Between” by Christa Novelli M.P.H.

So please, let yourself relax about soy and enjoy this delicious and healthful snack without a worry in the world. These crunchy and crispy little beans are so much fun to pop into your mouth. Be warned: they are quite addictive!

2 cans of soybeans, drained and rinsed.
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, toss the spices with the soybeans until evenly coated.
2. Spread the soybeans in one layer onto a tinfoil-lined baking sheet.
3. Roast the soybeans for 45-60 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes so they cook evenly.

Beans Are The Answer: An Introduction To My Third Video Series


I am so excited to share my third video series with everyone! I chose to focus the series entirely on beans. Why? Because I believe beans address a number of concerns and misconceptions people have about adopting a plant-based diet.

Misconception: “I won’t get enough protein.”
Reality: Beans are a fantastic source of protein. Just one cup of cooked soybeans has 29 grams of protein, one cup of cooked lentils has 18 grams, and 1 cup of cooked black beans has 15 grams. Adult men need about 56 grams of protein per day and adult women need about 46 grams per day.  If you make beans a regular part of your diet it would be difficult not to meet these requirements. After all, if you are consuming enough calories, it is almost impossible to be protein deficient. (Note: Not only do most people consume much more protein than they need, they actually consume more protein than is safe. See here.)

Myth: “I won’t ever feel full enough.”

Reality: What could possibly be heartier and more filling than beans? Beans are rich in fiber which means they will satisfy hunger and keep you feeling full for hours. (The soluble fiber in beans also helps lower cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke.)

Myth: “There’s not enough variety.”

Reality: Do you know how many things you can make with beans? This series barely skims the surface of the options. You can make everything from casseroles to salads to burritos to curries to jambalayas and more. You can even make brownies and blondies from beans! Beans are featured in distinct ways in cuisines all across the globe. Plus, there are many different kinds of beans, from lentils to chickpeas to kidney beans and beyond, each with their own distinct flavors and textures.

Misconception: “It’s too expensive.”
Reality: Nothing is cheaper than beans. If you can afford anything, you can afford beans.

Misconception: “I don’t have time to cook.”
Reality: If you have time to get out your can opener, then you have enough time. All you need to do is open the cans, dump the beans into a bowl, and season. That’s it. If you are feeling extra fancy, you can even heat the beans. Voila! Dinner is served. It would probably take you longer to order and pay for a meal at a drive-thru. (See my recipe for “Incredibly Easy Pumpkin Chili”)

Misconception: “I don’t know how to cook.”
Reality: If you are able to use a can opener, you have what it takes. See above.

Misconception: “I don’t have access to ‘specialty vegan food’ where I live.”
Reality: One of the great things about beans is that they are accessible in all parts of the country, rural and urban alike. They are sold at every grocery store, quickie mart, and even at many gas stations.

Misconception: “I won’t get enough calcium.”
Reality: Beans are loaded with calcium! Although the dairy industry would like people to believe that cow’s milk is the only source of calcium, this simply isn’t true. (And, in fact, the higher a country’s consumption of cow’s milk, the higher their rate of osteoporosis.) Beans also contain magnesium, which the body uses along with calcium to build bones. Physicians Comittee for Responsible Medicine has a useful chart of the calcium and magnesium content in many beans here. In a recent study, researchers found that those who consumed more high-phytate foods (i.e. beans) had stronger bones. The researchers conclude that dietary phytate had protective effects against osteoporosis and that low phytate consumption should be considered an osteoporosis risk factor. (For more information on this study, see here.)

Misconception: “I’m gluten-free/allergic to soy so a plant-based diet would be too restrictive.”
Reality: Beans are gluten-free and there are many other types of beans besides soybeans. Also, see “There’s not enough variety.”

Misconception: “There are too many carbs in a plant-based diet.”
Reality: There is a lot of misinformation out surrounding carbohydrates. Be smarter than the urban myths and don’t get sucked in! Recently, researchers at Harvard looked at the diets of 100,000 people and found that low-carb diets were associated with higher all-cause mortality, higher cardiovascular disease mortality, and higher cancer mortality. True, muffins and donuts and cookies are carbohydrates and if you load up on those it’s quite possible you will gain weight, your blood sugar will spike, etc. However, there is a world of difference between refined carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates, and beans are complex carbohydrates. To avoid complex carbohydrates because they technically fall under the same food group as refined carbohydrates is just silly. It would be like refusing to travel on an airplane because you are against war and in wars they use jet planes.
     Beans are truly one of the healthiest foods on the planet and anyone who cares about their health ought to make them a regular part of their diet.recent international study found that there is an 8% reduction in risk of death for every two tablespoons of daily legume intake. An 8% reduction from just two tablespoons! So, to paraphrase Dr. Michael Gregor of, if you want to increase your lifespan, eat beans. If, however, you’re suicidal and want to decrease your lifespan, enjoy a bean-free diet.

So, in conclusion, when the little voice of doubt creeps into your head, just remember: BEANS. They are health-promoting, filling, protein-rich, fiber-rich, calcium-rich, versatile, simple, cheap, accessible and delicious… what’s not to love?

Further notes:
All the recipes in this series will be gluten-free, oil-free, and as always, 100% plant-based.

For those concerned about gas, know that a) studies have shown that this concern is largely overblown (ahem, excuse the pun) and that b) if you eat beans on a regular basis, your body adjusts and gas stops being an issue. I highly recommend reading this entertaining and informative article by Dr. Michael Gregor of Also see my past post on how to soak dried beans as soaking beans can ease digestion.

Check out these short but informative videos on the health-promoting benefits of beans:
Increased Lifespan from Beans
Beans, Beans Good for Your Heart
Beans and the Second Meal Effect
Phytates for the Prevention of Osteoporosis

* If you have ever heard that plant proteins need to be combined in specific ways order to be “complete,” rest assured that is an outdated nutritional theory from the 1950’s that is nothing more than a myth.

Our Values

There are times when I speak about being vegan that people defensively claim, “not everyone thinks the way you do or shares your same values.”

But I refuse to believe that’s true.

After all, don’t most of us value peace and non-violence? Don’t most of us value compassion and kindness? Don’t most of us value truth and knowledge? Don’t most of us feel it’s wrong to cause unnecessary suffering and death?

These are not *MY* values; they are *OURS.*

It’s not arrogant of me to assume most people share my values; it would be arrogant of me to assume that they don’t.

Babies and Milk

    Some of my students express anxiety about becoming deficient in certain nutrients once they switch to a plant-based diet. All of us, of course, should always be concerned with getting sufficient nutrients, but it’s funny that these fears seem to appear only after a person has eliminated animal products. Those around us bolster these fears too. Tell someone you are vegan and the first thing you’ll be asked is where do you get your x, y or z. Tell someone you eat animals and no one is concerned (which is unfortunate because the vast majority of non-vegans do not consume nearly enough nutrients like fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidants which, of course, can only be found in plants). The implication is that only when we go vegan do we need to be concerned with deficiency.
      This is just silly. We all need to remember that there is nothing magical about flesh or dairy. They don’t contain unique properties that cannot be found elsewhere. No one, at any stage of life, needs to consume them. Period. Human beings don’t require specific ingredients; we require specific nutrients. And again, neither flesh nor dairy contains required nutrients that cannot be found elsewhere.
     When kids enter the picture, this anxiety only grows both within us and from the world around us, including from doctors (which is particularly infuriating). I recently received the following inquiry from a friend: “I feel so ‘obligated’ to give my 1 year old whole milk because it’s so ingrained in my brain, but please let me know if you have any good  sources of information on feeding babies soy and/or almond milk. I asked my son’s doctor, and she said to stick with whole milk. Her reasoning wasn’t very convincing though (as much as I hate to second guess her judgement).”
      Stories like this make me want to pull my hair out. 
      First of all, I need to remind people that doctors receive almost no nutrition training in medical school. I know that sounds absurd, but unfortunately, it’s true. The advice you’ll get from most doctors isn’t worth that much more than the advice you would get from asking Joe Schmo on the street. Often times doctors will just tell their patients to do what they themselves have always done or what their parents always did. In other words, when it comes to nutrition, the advice doctors give is usually based on their own habits rather than on science. After all, doctors used to advocate smoking cigarettes to patients because they smoked cigarettes themselves!
      So, do toddlers need to consume cow’s milk? The answer is NO. 
      In previous posts, I’ve discussed why dairy is harmful, but here’s a quick recap: Recent scientific studies have suggested that dairy products may be linked to increased risk for prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and possibly for ovarian and breast cancers. And despite the widespread myth that dairy milk is good for your bones, it has actually been singled out as the biggest cause of osteoporosis. Dairy is also high in cholesterol and saturated fat, which leads to heart disease. And over 75% of people on this planet are genetically unable to digest dairy, yet we label this near universal human trait “lactose intolerance” as if it were some disease or deficiency. Here’s the reality: Human babies are born with an enzyme that allows us to digest our mother’s milk. Between the ages of two and five, the vast majority of humans lose this enzyme because we are supposed to be weaned by then. Our bodies simply weren’t designed to be consuming milk into adulthood (let alone the breast milk of another species!). This is why so many babies and toddlers who are fed cow’s milk suffer from digestive upset. Nothing is wrong with them; it’s what they are being fed!
      So why do so many pediatricians recommend feeding human babies whole cow’s milk? 
      Whole cow’s milk is a go-to for parents and pediatricians simply an easily accessible source of fat, calcium, and vitamin D that is readily available in supermarkets. That’s it. Again, there is nothing magical about cow’s milk for humans, whole or otherwise. 
     Fortunately, there are an increasing number of doctors who are starting to wake up to the nutrition science. In fact, in 2008 and 2011 the American Academy of Pediatrics published releases that discouraged the transition to whole cow’s milk because of the increased risk of cardiovascular disease. In “Disease-Proof Your Child” (which I highly recommend!), Dr. Joel Fuhrman advises against cow’s milk because it can create gastroesophageal reflux, iron deficiency, and calcium sodium excess in infants and toddlers. It also lacks DHA, a necessary ingredient for brain development. And Pediatrician Dr. Natasha Burgurt explains that “unlike the dietary needs of an infant, milk is no longer a source of complete nutrition after a child’s first birthday. Milk provides a convenient source of fat, protein, calcium, and vitamin D for growing bodes. But, in today’s average food lifestyle, these building blocks can be more than adequately supplied in other areas of a balanced diet.” In other words, toddlers can get their nutrients from food, rather than a beverage. In fact, Dr. Burgurt argues that this is preferable. “In a society that typically drinks too many unnecessary calories,” she says, “it is preferred that children develop a preference for low-fat, low-calorie, unsweetened beverages.” 
     The bottom line is that toddlers don’t need cow’s milk. What toddlers do need are specific nutrients. In “Becoming Vegan” (a must-have book on nutrition), Brenda Davis, RD and Vesanto Melina, MS, RD recommend breastfeeding a baby for a minimum of one year and preferably for a full two years or more. If you decide to stop breastfeeding (or using formula), “during the 12-24 month period, fortified soymilk is your best alternative. It should contain calcium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.” They also recommend including plenty of higher-fat foods in a toddler’s diet. Some examples of foods that provide these important sources of fat include tofu, smooth nut butters, mashed avocado, soy yogurt, puddings, and moderate amounts of olive, canola, and flax oil. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in dark green leafy vegetables, seaweeds (which are the the original source for fish), selected seeds (flax, chia, hemp), nuts (walnuts, butternuts), and soybeans. Calcium-rich foods for toddlers include breast milk, commercial soy formula, or full-fat fortified soymilk. Food sources of vitamin B12 include nutritional yeast, fortified soy and grain milks (such as Edensoy Extra, Silk, Soy Dream, Rice Dream, So Nice, and Vitasoy Enriched), fortified breakfast cereals (such as Raisin Bran, Kelloggs Cornflakes, Grapenuts, Nutrigrain, and Total). Vitamin D–which does not exist naturally in cow’s milk; it’s only there because it has been fortified–can also be found in other fortified foods, including nondairy milks, or from sufficient sun exposure. 
     Reed Mangles, PhD, RD provides the following chart on the Vegetarian Resource Group (as well as in her nutrition book, Simply Vegan):

       No one wants to give their child a beverage linked to so many health problems, and I believe that deep down we all care about the mothers and babies of other species and don’t want to cause them harm if we don’t have to. For all of you with a little one in your life, I hope this information gives you the confidence to feed your children healthfully and compassionately 🙂
Below are some links I found from vegan moms raising vegan toddlers that may be helpful:

“Where do you get your protein?”

Tell someone you’re vegan and without fail, the first question is, “Where do you get your protein?” Our culture is SO obsessed with getting enough protein, but this is the last thing Americans should be worried about. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2007-2008, the average American man consumes 101.9 grams of protein per day and the average American woman consumes 70.1 grams of protein per day. This is almost double the recommended daily allowance!

How much protein do we need per day? 
Adult Men = 56g 
Adult Women = 46 g 

The technical term for protein deficiency is Kwashiorkor. There is a reason Kwashiorkor is not a household name. It is because protein deficiency is virtually NON-EXISTENT in America. It exists in countries where people experience extreme poverty and famine. What does exist in America, however, are diseases of excess. The following diseases and conditions are caused by TOO MUCH protein intake and, unfortunately, they are household names that we all know well:

In 2007, the National Cancer Institute revealed that meats, particularly red meats and processed meats such as deli cold cuts, increased the risk of many types of cancers. Lung, liver, esophageal, prostate, bone, bladder and colorectal cancers all increased for people with diets high in protein. According to the 12-year study by the National Cancer Institute, consuming large amounts of protein significantly increases your risk of getting cancer.

Bone loss, also called osteoporosis, happens when calcium is taken from the bones to help carry out bodily functions. Calcium is needed to process proteins, and if there is not enough calcium present in the body, it is taken from the bones. When calcium is removed from the bones, bones lose density; excess protein intake can lead to a 1% decrease in bone mass per year, which can quickly lead to severe osteoporosis. Side effects of osteoporosis include brittle bones that break easily and loss of teeth.

Kidney Damage Normal kidneys work to remove excess wastes from the body. Proteins create byproducts, such as uric acid, that needs to be eliminated from the body. When excessive amounts of protein are consumed, more byproducts need to be excreted from the body through the kidneys. Overworked kidneys can lead to irreversible, permanent kidney damage.

Severe Constipation Bowels utilize fiber to carry out excretion. Diets extremely high in protein generally have little-to-no room for carbohydrates and fibrous foods, such as grains, nuts and seeds. Cutting these foods out completely or eating very small amounts can be very dangerous and could lead to severe constipation and blockages in the bowels. While not immediately dangerous, severe blockages can cause anal fissures, hemorrhoids, impaction, obesity and suppressed immune system.

Weight Gain Your body is simply not capable of storing extra protein that comes from your diet. If you consume an excess of calories and protein, you will convert the unused protein into fat stores.

The notion that we need to eat animals to get protein is a total myth. Where do you think cows get their protein? Plants! ALL the nutrients we need are plant-based, so when we eat animals, we are going through them to get our nutrients. Let’s skip the middleman (or middle-animal) and go directly to the source ourselves.

As long as you eat a diet centered around whole foods and consume enough calories, you will almost always be getting enough protein. Even those who have higher protein needs, such as nursing mothers or extreme athletes, have an abundance of plant-based protein options available.
Here are a few examples of plant-based protein:
Lentils (1 cup) = 18 g rams of protein 
Black Beans (1 cup) = 15 grams of protein
Chickpeas (1 cup) = 15 grams of protein
Pinto Beans (1 cup) = 15 grams of protein
Lima Beans (1 cup) = 15 grams of protein
Black-eyed Peas (1 cup) = 13 grams of protein 
Quinoa (1 cup) = 11 grams of protein 
Tempeh (4 oz) = 24 grams of protein 
Tofu (1 cup) = 18 grams of protein
Oatmeal (1 cup) = 6 g grams of protein
Peanut Butter (2 tablespoons) = 8 grams of protein
Almonds (1/4 cup) = 8 grams of protein
Frozen Peas (1 cup) = 9 grams of protein
Cooked Spinach (1 cup) = 5.4 g grams of protein
Broccoli (1 cup) = 4 grams of protein

A personal side-note: I recently completed a course on nutrition and disease-prevention in which I had to keep a food diary and calculate my daily protein consumption. Much to my surprise, I learned I was consuming a lot more protein than I need, over 80 grams per day! This is without any protein supplements whatsoever, just pure whole foods– vegetables, beans, fruit, grains, and seeds. I’m tall for a woman and do cardio and lift weights 5 days per week, so I have a higher than average caloric intake, but 80 grams was still way more than I was expecting to be taking in. The more I thought about it, though, the more it made sense. There’s protein in practically everything I eat, even in foods that I don’t think of as “protein rich.” Sure, I knew there was protein in my hummus because of the chickpeas, but I didn’t really give much thought to the protein in the carrots that I dip in my hummus. Or the dressing I put on my salad. Or the greens I put in my smoothie. Over the course of a day, this really adds up.

So instead of being obsessed with protein-deficiency, let’s worry about something that is actually plaguing our nation, like heart disease, obesity, cancer, diabetes, or our deficiency in vegetable consumption.

Further reading & listening:

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.

“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.

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

Purple Cabbage Salad + Goldhouse Gold Dressing (Vitamin B12)

“Where do you get your vitamin B12?”
This is a common question asked of vegans. Many people think they get vitamin B12 by eating the flesh of animals. I have even heard this be used as an excuse for why humans have to eat other animals. Puh-leeez! Vitamin B12 is not, repeat not, animal-derived. When an animal consumes particles of soil or manure along with grass or feed, b12-producing bacteria are consumed and the vitamin ends up in the animal’s flesh or milk as a result. So the animal is just being used as the “middle man.”
In centuries past, humans had direct access to B12 from their produce, but now that fruits and veggies are so scrupulously cleaned and grown in soils that have been treated with pesticides and herbicides with less B12-producing bacteria, they aren’t such a reliable source.
Enter Nutritional Yeast, a cheezy-flavored powder that is fortified with B12. It is such an easy thing to include in your diet. The Liquid Gold dressing in this recipe is one of our favorite things to put on pretty much anything. Two tablespoons of this delicious, creamy sauce provides your day’s supply of omega-3 fatty acids and 80% of your B12 for the day! It’s also packed with riboflavin and other B vitamins.

Goldhouse Gold Dressing:
2 tbsp ground flaxseeds
2 cups water or vegetable broth
3/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup low sodium tamari
1 cup Nutritional Yeast powder or flakes
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp ground cumin

1 head of purple cabbage
1/3 cup dried tart cherries
1 cup dry quinoa


1. Blend the dressing until smooth. It can be kept in a jar with a lid (I store mine in empty soy sauce bottles) and refrigerated for 2 weeks.
2. Make the quinoa: toast on the stove, dry, for 5 minutes. Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and cover for 15-20 minutes.
3. Chop cabbage and then transfer to a bowl. Toss in the dried cherries.
4. Divide cabbage onto serving plates. Scoop cooked quinoa on top. Drizzle dressing on top. Enjoy!

Source: “Becoming Vegan: The Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy Plant-Based Diet” by Brenda Davis, R.D. & Vesanto Melina, M.S., R.D. (note: Goldhouse Gold Dressing was inspired by a recipe in “Becoming Vegan” called “Liquid Gold.” My version is oil-free.)

Why We Stopped Eating Dairy


No animal dies for a glass of milk or a piece of cheese, right?

That’s what we thought, too. But there is actually more suffering and death in a glass of milk than a piece of steak. This is because the veal industry is a byproduct of the dairy industry.

Cows are like all mammals in that they produce breast milk for their young. In order for a cow to produce milk, she must be pregnant and give birth. It’s funny how easily we forget this. We convince ourselves that cows just conveniently produce milk for the taking.

A dairy cow is constantly impregnated so that she will continue to produce milk. Her milk never reaches her baby, but is instead pumped out of her for human consumption. A cow is pregnant for 9 months. If she gives birth to a male, he is considered useless to the dairy industry. What happens to him? He is immediately taken from his mother and is sold and slaughtered as veal.

Cows form strong bonds with one another, particularly between mother and child. As Michael Klaper M.D. recalls: “The very saddest sound in all my memory was burned into my awareness at age five on my uncle’s dairy farm in Wisconsin. A cow had given birth to a beautiful male calf… On the second day after birth, my uncle took the calf from the mother and placed him in the veal pen in the barn– only ten yards away, in plain view of his mother. The mother cow could see her infant, smell him, hear him, but could not touch him, comfort him, or nurse him. The heartrending bellows that she poured forth– minute after minute, hour after hour, for five long days– were excruciating to listen to. They are the most poignant and painful auditory memories I carry in my brain.”

A dairy cow’s life is spent mourning the loss of baby after baby as she continues to be impregnated so humans can consume her milk. And she too is destined for the same horrific slaughter when her body has finally become too ravaged and overworked by constant pregnancy to continue producing milk.

We were slow to realize the direct connection between dairy products and the veal industry. But once it clicked, we were eager to stop consuming dairy. With all the dairy-free milks, cheeses, and yogurts out there, this was an incredibly easy change.
Why choose to contribute to such suffering when it’s so easy to make less harmful choices?

For a great list of commercially available non-dairy milks click here.
Also, see my post about why you don’t need cow’s milk for calcium here.
And go to my FAQ section for advice how to transition off dairy.