New Year’s Revolution 2015! Veganuary (Yes, it’s what it sounds like)!

try vegan this jan

I think there are some mixed reviews about the Veganuary campaign, whose goal is to get people to go vegan for the month of January. There are some, like Bite Size Vegan on YouTube who makes a good point against going vegan for the new year, and others, like Kerry McCarpet who argues that it’s a good idea. Click their names to be linked to their videos! Both are extremely intelligent vegans and I highly recommend their channels, which only works if you think I am at least moderately intelligent…I overflowed my oatmeal this morning (for the trillionth time), so I might not be as smart as I (try) to sound….

I will proceed to address three points: what the heck Veganuary¬†is, arguments for and against it, and my own POV (with a little freebie for one lucky-ish person ūüôā ). Prepare yourself fellow vegans and vegans-to-be!

What is Veganuary? 

“Try Vegan this January” is a month long pledge to avoid consuming animal products and go vegan. Of course, avoiding eating animals is not the entirety of what veganism is, but it is the biggest leap into veganism that one can take. You can sign up and pledge to go vegan on their website: www.veganuary.com. You can still pledge even if you are already vegan, and I urge you to do so! Movements are much more successful when they are supported by the masses, so if you are already vegan and think this doesn’t apply, think again! We need your voice! You don’t have to change a thing (if you don’t want to), just pledge.

veganuary pig

Their website provides a plethora of helpful resources for vegans-to-be and I’ve found it pretty interesting myself! I tried to put my self back into the head-space that I was in when I first went vegan, and I appreciate all the work that went into the site even more. Even 4 years ago (when I first attempted veganism, I failed the first time) compendiums of helpful resources like this did not exist on one website.

The¬†why¬†of veganism is addressed from multiple perspectives: health, environment, animals, and nutrition. You can search for recipes easily, either by cuisine, ingredients, or type of food like ‘pizza’ or ‘cookies’ to easily find lots of recipes in one place. I really love the¬†eating out¬†tab. It links you to handy ‘cuisine guides’ for Chinese, Indian, Italian, Mexican, etc. For each cuisine there is information about what you can order as a vegan and certain things to look out for that you may not have ¬†known about. For example, new vegans might not think to ask about fish or oyster sauce in Chinese dishes because it is not as apparent as say, a hunk of meat or an egg in their dish. A word of caution, reading the cuisine guides will leave you salivating and craving the yummy vegan dishes they describe!

They also have a¬†products¬†tab under which they have everything from books, DVDs, clothes, food (tons of food), household products, pet products, cosmetics, medicine, etc. All neatly categorized for the new vegan to find anything they wish! For each product there is information about what it can be used for or how it’s beneficial, nutrition facts or ingredients (if applicable), and links to websites where you can purchase the item (like Amazon). It’s not all superfoods and junk either, it’s pretty good stuff!

There is a¬†vegan myths¬†tab, under which there are tons of helpful Q&A’s. One of which was what my brother desperately clung to as he was grasping for straws, and reasons to eat meat: #30 “What about all the problems facing humans in the world? Shouldn’t we worry about those first before we worry about animals?” The answer was more than thoughtful, a new vegan might not realize how eating vegan will indirectly help feed starving children.

Lastly, there is a¬†vegan people¬†and¬†news & blog¬†tab. Under the people tab, you can find examples of actors, athletes, activists, and regular ol’ people…YOU ARE NOT ALONE! The news tab keeps you entertained with interesting updates, articles, tips/guides and infographics. The website is interesting, helpful, and trust me you will learn something new, even if you think you are a ‘seasoned’ vegan. (Pun intended, can you tell I’m getting hungry?)

So, why might it be a bad idea? (But ultimately, it is a GOOD idea!)

vegan new year

The argument against it is that January is a time of New Year’s Resolutions, most of which fail…so why would this resolution be any different? Unfortunately, this is a time of fad diets and quick-fix weight-loss tricks, and some are worried that going vegan for January might get mixed up in that trend. I agree, it definitely could.

I am ambivalent about resolutions, like many I believe that waiting until the new year to make a change is silly, but that doesn’t mean that January is a bad time to make a change either! There is no good or bad time, everyday is a good day to set a goal, resolve yourself to make a change, or take a pledge! Don’t let the connotation of “New Year’s Resolution” scare you away from trying something new¬†at the beginning of a new year.

Ultimately, Veganuary is a good idea. Unlike other “awareness-raising” months which do only that, raise awareness, Veganuary provides individuals a call to action. It doesn’t make people feel powerless in the face of statistics, it emboldens them to¬†do¬†something! In the process of becoming vegan, the individual will learn information concerning animal cruelty and nutrition and will be better able to navigate ethical eating. (As it pertains to animals…farm worker justice is a whole different can of worms!) The website ensures that the individual has every opportunity for success by providing as many resources as possible.

Lastly, Veganuary is a good idea because even if some people decide to do it for weight-loss or as a cleanse, many more individuals will discover the health benefits of veganism and stick with it past the conclusion of January. I think that a lot of people in society have forgotten what it feels like to actually feel¬†good.¬†Even if the individual doesn’t embark upon the healthiest vegan diet and relies on processed vegan foods, eschewing animal products is often enough to reap dramatic health benefits if the individual was on the standard American diet beforehand.

My personal opinion….and a surprise for you!

veganuary 2015 resolutionI believe there are two hooks to veganism: some go vegan because they love animals a.k.a the ethical hook; others go “plant-based” for their health, athletic performance, or aesthetics a.k.a. the individual/health hook. In my opinion those who go plant-based for health fall into two camps. Some will stay plant-based and their abstention of animal products will not extend past their diet, these are also the people who partake in “cheat-meals” that contain animal products…they haven’t educated themselves beyond deciphering the nutrition label and haven’t peeled back the curtain of cruelty. They are merely concerned with how they look. I think there are very few who stay this way, these people usually fall off the vegan wagon because they always feel deprived.

The rest of the people who begin as plant-based will continue to educate themselves, watch documentaries and realize the ethics behind the vegan lifestyle. They may start off only concerned with how they look or feel, but they will stay vegan because they have seen the suffering of the animals raised for food or clothes, and they empathize. These people can feel the pain of the animals and can see how the effects of eating meat ripple outward in violence, poverty, environmental destruction and starvation. These people stay vegan not only because they feel good, but because they don’t feel deprived…they feel satiated both by the food and the knowledge that they are doing good for the planet.

All it takes is for the individual to simply give veganism a try. So in that sense, the more people who “try vegan this January”, the better!

2015-01-05 16.31.45And now…..Before you think my brother is all bad, he did get me a gigantic vegan cookbook for Christmas. So at least he tried to find a vegan thing for me, and I appreciate the thought! But I don’t cook, like ever. So I am pretty confident I will¬†never¬†use it, I haven’t even cracked it open yet. So I am giving it away, I will mail it to whomever I feel leaves the most detailed reason in the comments below, or emails me at sushitomismith@gmail.com with the reason why they would like this book! Whoever I feel wants/needs it the most based on their comment or email will receive it ūüôā

I just want to find it a good home ‚̧

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#VeganBloodTest Results+ Dangers of supplementation!

vegan blood test

I recently stumbled into an opportunity to take a blood test…and I got the results! This is as exciting for me as hopefully I can make it sound for you! And…medical test results seems to be the only type of evidence that is valid in “meat-eater” court. So, the jury is in….and the verdict is, ummm,¬†interesting.¬†

feeling-so-special-veganFirst, how did I accidentally get a blood test?

Without going into too many private details, I made an appointment at a women’s health clinic for a routine-ish OB-GYN check-up. I’ve never had a OB-GYN appointment before (hence ‘routine-ish’), and to answer some personal questions I had about my reproduction as well as screen for STI/STDs I had my blood drawn. Since they were already drawing my blood, I decided to ask them to expand the blood test to include a full metabolic panel and I specifically asked for B12 levels as well, mentioning that I was a vegan and was concerned about this vitamin in particular. If you are familiar with the high carb vegan community on YouTube you know that B12 and supplementation is a hot topic!¬†(I am too familiar, translation: I have no life.)

I definitely hadn’t prepared to have a blood test that day which is both good and bad. I’ve detailed before how much I despise shady scientific and medical practices, one of which is not disclosing all the information. So, in being consistent with my message- full transparency! The “good” is that the blood test results are a true snapshot of my health. I didn’t change anything beforehand to try to manipulate my blood levels because I had no advance warning to prepare. The “bad” is that since I didn’t know about the test, I did not fast beforehand which is recommended by healthcare providers to ensure accurate results, specifically for triglyceride, cholesterol, and glucose levels. So I apologize that my results may not be 100% because by 3pm of my test, I had breakfast at 10am and lunch at around 1pm. But, not fasting beforehand doesn’t transform terrible results into good results…in specific cases it does make a difference, but in general if all your levels are looking good then you are most likely in good shape!

rabbit food

Now getting to the results! I actually got ¬†detailed voicemail message from my doctor and she specifically mentioned certain things to note that aren’t readily apparent from the paper results.

The long story short is that everything is normal! Woohoo ūüôā¬†Except¬†for one thing! Can you guess what that might be??? Hint: Everyone asks you about it when they find out you are vegan…Actually, that might not be too helpful! To narrow it down a little, my calcium, iron and protein levels were all in good shape!

Yup, it’s B12…but it’s not what you think!

My B12 levels were actually way too¬†high. Like astronomically, off-the-charts high. My provider said they were almost twice what they should be, normal is between 211-911. I was 1,618 pg/mL. Oops. I was extremely relieved to not be deficient, and it’s no mystery to me how this occurred. I’ve mentioned in my “What I Eat Wednesday” posts that I supplement (responsibly, or so I thought) with a sub-lingual, vegan B12 every morning.

b12

Specifically this exact one from Nature’s Bounty, which is the cheapest vegan B12 that I can buy from my local Safeway. I had assumed since this was a sub-lingual versus a shot, and since it is cyanocobalamin which is not as easily assimilated in your body as the better form, methylcobalamin (out of my price range), it would not be a risk to take one per day (as recommended). My thoughts were that besides not being as easily absorbed by my body, and¬†being a water soluble vitamin, if I did accidentally and improbably take too much, I would excrete it. Unfortunately,¬†B12 is stored in your body and not excreted as readily as vitamin C (for example). Fortunately, ridiculously high levels like I currently have have not been found to be harmful or toxic. Phew! But before you ask, I have stopped taking my B12!

I have one more surprising result for you all…

Potassium!¬†My levels are actually low, which is ironic considering that I spent the months of April-June experimenting with a “Rawtill4” high carb vegan lifestyle that advocates eating 20-30 bananas a day! And yes, I was actually consuming 10-12 banana smoothies for breakfast and sometimes lunch! Another reason this was unexpected is because I consume¬†copious¬†amounts of sweet potatoes everyday…usually two pounds worth and sweet potatoes are a richer source of potassium than bananas!

love hate banana

It’s not as clear to me why I have low potassium as it is that I have high B12. But I have some theories…

For starters, I used to be extremely bulimic, I spent about three years hardcore throwing up maybe 15 times a day, almost everyday. The cessation of my purging wasn’t terribly long ago, and so it could be that my body is just trying to recoup. When you throw up a lot you cause your electrolytes to become unbalanced due to all the fluid loss, the same happens with excessive sweating or diarrhea. When I was going to the student health center at Oregon State University for help, I had my potassium levels checked and they were low then. I was given a prescription for potassium chloride (which I did not take because I thought they might have calories and I didn’t care enough to get better, I wanted to die not take something to improve my health).

Even though I am healthy now (and have the blood test results to prove it!) I still might have a hard time keeping my body’s potassium in proper balance because of all the running that I do. While I am not a heavy sweater, highly active people still lose more electrolytes that normal and so this might explain why I have a hard time keeping up my body’s needs through diet especially because right now because I am not ingesting any performance drinks or gels during my current phase of training. I don’t like to make that a regular habit anyway! My chloride was also a little low, but potassium and chloride work together in the body, that’s why I was prescribed a potassium-chloride supplement..so if one is low it makes sense the other might be too…just like calcium requires Vitamin D! It’s¬†always¬†a better solution to get your vitamins and minerals from whole food, plant sources, not through supplementation! Supplements isolate specific nutrients that can create toxic buildup or imbalances within the body at worst, and at best are just a waste of money if you aren’t consuming other nutrients to allow for proper absorption of the supplement. For more on how this reductionist scientific thinking creates harmful medical practices and flawed scientific study designs, I suggest reading T. Colin Campbell’s book¬†Whole.¬†But before I get off on too much of a tangent…

Here are the important bits! My results thus far, I’ve been a vegan for 2 years solid:

2015-01-02 10.31.33

2015-01-02 10.32.08

Here’s to entering the new year happy ¬†and healthy! May your resolutions be made responsibly (of course I’ll be doing a post about that)!

I’ll leave you with this fun video about rice and beans ūüôā Happy 2015!

My Family and #1 Vegan Rule, Part II

funny santa

My #1 vegan rule: In-apartment veganism imposed on all guests in my apartment, including family! This means all food and meals bought to be brought back to my apartment must be free from animal products!

So, how have my brother and mom fared? Are they still alive and do they hate me yet?

Yes! They are still alive, but haven’t exactly embraced the vegan lifestyle outside of my 900 sq. feet animal cruelty-free zone (aka my apartment). They’ve been here for almost a week now and while I am grateful they have honored my rule, they’ve made up for it every time we’ve dined out which is often because they are on vacation…and of course they need to sample the delicious Portland cuisine! I definitely can’t and don’t try to sway their food choices when we dine out and I always make vegan work for me, it’s possible no matter where you go! But, without being pushy and annoying, I don’t think they will change ūüė¶

vegan_christmas_wish_greeting_cardI was pretty much defeated after the last conversation I had with my brother when he saw the video narrated by Steve-O (read more about our conversation and see the video in Part 1). Maybe I am just too far gone on the vegan bandwagon, but I was floored by his assertion that animals are just food. In his eyes, when he sees a pig I think he truly just sees bacon.

In my mom’s case, sometimes I feel like I am on the brink of success…but for every two steps forward I feel like we take one step back. She agrees with me about how wrong the factory farming practices are and how unhealthy people are in America because of the broken food system. I believe that the compassionate animal-lover in her empathizes with the animals that are eaten and exploited, she loves her dogs and as vegans often say, “Why love one and eat the other?” But even though she doesn’t eat a lot of meat (she actually just doesn’t eat a lot¬†period,¬†I’ve often envied her natural ability to portion-control) she still doesn’t have faith that the vegan diet alone is enough to sustain a healthy lifestyle, even though her daughter (me) tries to be a living, breathing, successfully athletic example. It’s a combination of too much health misinformation and a traditional upbringing that makes her ask, “But where will I get my protein?” It’s the ubiquitous go-vegan-live-longeradvertisements paid for by the dairy industry that induces her to think it is a¬†fact¬†that dairy creates strong bones and is the prime source for calcium. It’s the “magic bullet” phenomenon of certain superfoods that are touted by popular news media that provides the surplus of confusing information and always the overarching message that veganism is unhealthy, restrictive, unsustainable and extremist. It’s the pervasive slogan from figures of authority that “everything is okay in moderation”….(like smoking, right?) All those things, key components in keeping the current American food industry in place, also serves to keep well-intentioned, health-minded individuals like my mom, from being able to change. *I had my mom read over my perception of her, and she okay-ed it ‚̧

If you hear something repeated often enough, you start to believe it as fact.

VEGAN (1)As I write this post, they are leaving to go eat something for dinner ūüė¶ I’m gonna stay home, I need a little break from the constant family presence, and I am missing my vegetables! Honestly, I was starting to feel vegetable deficient after eating out most meals yesterday. For lunch we went to a rotary sushi, I ate my weight in veggie, cucumber, avocado, and seaweed salad rolls and for dinner we went to a Thai restaurant where I ate a vegan Papaya salad and 3 sides of sticky rice (the third time I ordered another sticky rice, the server looked at me like I was crazy). Anyway, I am happy to stay home today to eat my veggie-heavy (ab)normal vegan food. At least we’ve all been vegan for breakfast! We’ve been eating oatmeal jazzed up with different fruit, cinnamon and ginger (except my brother, who has a bad habit of skipping breakfast entirely).

But, with all this discussion surrounding veganism…I am starting to doubt myself. Have I become obsessive? Is it really just food, should I stop caring so much?

I’ve addressed this before in this post¬†(Sorry, I’m NOT sorry for being a picky eater). ¬†I don’t like to make people uncomfortable, I don’t set out to insult anyone or make them feel guilty about their lifestyle. But where is the line between me telling it like it is and the point when I start to step on other’s toes? I know it is impossible to please everyone, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. This goes back to when I was posting images like this one (below) on my Facebook page and a friend asked me to stop because he didn’t ‘subscribe’ to that. Or a week ago, when another close friend asked me if I thought non-vegans (like himself) were murderers! I was aghast, and hurt. I NEVER ever paint my non-vegan friends or family in that light! My perception of them is too colored by the wonderful character and spirits that I know they have. They are good, kind, caring people, that’s why they are my friends! So it really makes me feel terrible that they might think or feel that I am judging them harshly.¬†vegan extremistI’ll never be in-your-face, that’s not my style…but on my blog and my social media I should be able to tell it (or show it and share it) like it is. Animal cruelty for the sake of our current eating habits is the truth. So why do I doubt myself? Is it all really just food? Or as someone else in my life just told me, “there are just too many terrible things happening.” Or my brother, “there are more important things to worry about.”

vegansidekick head in sand

Does all this mean that I should give up? Throw in the towel? Sometimes I just feel like a pest, annoying everyone else. To reiterate, I am not in the habit of spouting veganism 24/7 to everyone I meet or hang out with. When it comes up, I talk about it because my vegan lifestyle means a lot to me and I want other people to know about it. I desperately want the people I know to wake up and realize how wrong eating animals is! But even when I don’t say anything, I feel like my mere existence in living my life the way I do is a burden to others…my parent’s cross to bear: their crazy vegan daughter…so sad, sigh. It gets to me, it makes me feel like I need to apologize (even though I am not supposed to!), it makes me want to quit trying. I don’t feel like I am helping, mostly I feel like an annoyance at best.

KH_ROSIE-009-magDon’t worry though, I am not going to give up the fight! I’ll never stop being vegan and I’ll keep on blogging the truth. The information has¬†to be available to inspire people to change. I never know who might stumble across my blog and become motivated…so I’ll keep going. In my daily life I’ll keep living my truth. When I find the balance between being in-your-face or acquiescing and unprotesting, believe me I’ll blog about it! Vegans everywhere will rejoice!

Holiday Spirits, Family Visits and My #1 Vegan Rule

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Below¬†is a festive ¬†picture of my family from 2006 at one of my favorite holiday¬†events on Guam, the Jingle Bell run which I just discovered from my mom has been discontinued…sad face. Those were¬†the good ol’ days when my whole family ran together, now it’s just my mom and I¬†who get up and log regular miles each morning. Also, eight years have passed, and none of us (except my mom, she’s got good genes and seems not to have aged at all!) look like that anymore (see us from last year, above).

Speaking of, my mom just finished the Honolulu Marathon a few days ago when my brother and she were en route from Guam to come visit me in Portland for Christmas!

Jingle Bell 5k 2006That’s how I literally¬†just¬†discovered the Jingle Bell run is no longer in existence….she corrected my out-loud musings as I am typing this post. The real reason for this blog post though, is to discuss my imposed in-apartment veganism on my brother and mom. So, how do they feel about that? What’s my reasoning? And, is it working?

So first, what are the parameters? Basically, I keep my apartment a sacred space free from animal products and it is going to stay¬†that way! Personally, the smell of meat cooking in my kitchen, or seeing milk and eggs in my fridge might physically make me sick. I know enough about how those products make it to the supermarket to¬†never¬†want to be a cause of the process. I also know that meat, milk and eggs can¬†never¬†be a part of a healthy diet, and I care about my mom and brother. I could not in good conscious watch them eat those things and not say something about it. My rule is that all food brought into my apartment needs to be vegan and that all meals eaten in my apartment needs to be vegan as well. But when we go out to eat as I am sure we will often in the next ten days they are here, they can consume what they wish. I can’t control that, but a tiny part of me hopes that they feel good enough eating vegan that they won’t want to go back to eating animals!

vegan kitchenSo far, they’ve agreed to this rule and they’ve been animal product free for their first day here ūüôā small victories! Unfortunately, I had a discussion about eating animals and factory farming practices with my brother this morning…which did not go well. His quote, “Animals are there for us to eat,” really blew my mind, especially because this was¬†after he watched¬†a short video narrated by Steve-O (I thought that Steve-O might peak my brother’s interest) which depicted some of the cruelties condoned by the industry. I was kind and showed him a less graphic version of the cruel practices of factory farming, I’ve inserted the same video below if you are curious. It’s only 12 minutes long and I highly recommend it! Even if you are already vegan, it’s always a good idea to check in with yourself to make sure that your values and lifestyle are continuing to align.

But back to my brother’s statement. Animals are NOT put here on earth for us to eat. I sometimes forget how misinformed the general public can be. I was in the same boat until I decided to change my diet. With that decision came a lot of personal research. I had to seek out the knowledge myself, and find support in others online to succeed in going vegan. It’s not easy to change years of deeply ingrained habits and beliefs (even if they aren’t correct). I definitely have some work to do! My hopes are that his interest in building muscles and having a strong physique will at least compel him to eat plant based in the meantime and that the compassion for animals will follow. For men, it is especially important to show examples of ripped, strong and healthy male vegans to those who are considering changing their diet. I know I am generalizing here, but it’s been my experience that guys are usually scared of looking like a stereotypical, weakling vegan. I am not exactly reassuring myself because of my skinniness, but that is probably a product of my runninveganproblems 2g and my diet, not an inevitable consequence of being vegan. There are many resources for vegan athletes, and I hope to (slowly) educate my brother and show him how much stronger and healthier he can be. How can he argue with Rip Esselstyn of the Engine 2 Diet? Or Rich Roll author of¬†Finding Ultra, Scott Jurek author of¬†Eat & Run,¬†or¬†Brendan Brazier of¬†Thrive?¬†Those are just the guys I can name off the top of my head! There are also so many plant-based athletes and fit guys on YouTube as well. Some of my favorites include Jay of PlantbasedAthlete, Chris of ChrisGoneRaw, and Ben of WholeFuture. Some are athletes, some are not. But all are well-informed, healthy and inspiring examples of how to succeed as a plant-based male.

To be continued….how have the days been treating them? What’s my mom’s take on all this? And why am I doubting my rule?

Part 2 is on it’s way!

 

Don’t be fooled: Decipher a health study like a pro!

conflict-of-interest

I am discussing the bad science and bias evident in this article by Fox News: Heart disease and diabetes risks tied to carbs, not fat, study finds

First some housekeeping: I do not like Fox News (so I may be a little biased…but so are they!); I adhere to a whole foods, plant-based vegan diet; and I just took a health epidemiology class, so I know what to look for when interpreting the findings of a study. Now that I’ve addressed all my potential conflicts of interest, unlike the author of the Fox News study (linked above), let us begin!

This post comes hot on the heels of my last post, “My (Hard-A**) Health Philosophy, #noexcuses” which sums up my position as a future health educator on health. Basically, I advocate for individual empowerment. Individuals need to take ownership of their own health which means seeking additional information, doing their own research and making the healthiest choices they can at every opportunity. This is a perfect example of why you should not take health advice from just anyone, and why it is important not to trust popular media as a source for health education. To put it bluntly, media journalists¬†don’t know what they are talking about and they report on things that are eye-catching and sensational. So of course, when this study was published endorsing¬†consumption of saturated fat a.k.a. meat and dairy, and vilifying carbohydrates, the Fox News reporters were all over it….who doesn’t like to hear good things about their bad habits?b111But…look a little closer! There’s some wacky stuff going on with this study. First, the journal that published the study PLOS ONE, doesn’t require peer-review beforehand by contemporaries of the author. Instead, their mission is to accelerate the publication of research and they state”fast publication times” as one of their positive qualities. Peer-review is the gold standard of scientific regulation. Basically, a study will NEVER be published in a reputable journal without rigorous peer-review by experts in the field.

Second, conflict of interest!!! Always do a little background research about the author of the study, the source of the funding, and the institutions represented. In this case, its clear there is some fishy stuff going on here. At a glance:

  • Who authored the study:¬†Jeff Volek, senior author of this study vilifying carbohydrates is also the author of¬†The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living¬†and¬†The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance.¬†It’s a little concerning that the findings of his study could also be used to sell his books…
  • Who funded the study:¬†The Dairy Research Institute, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the Egg Nutrition Center, and the Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Foundation (yes, of the low-carb Atkins diet). Hmm, a little concerning that the findings of the study also promote meat and dairy products…bad-science-04

Third, study design! The only way to produce valid study results are to have a representative sample size of the population. This study only followed 16 people…I would fail my epidemiology class if I agreed that was an appropriate sample size! The subjects were also only followed for 21 weeks (a little over 5 months). Which is not long enough to reveal the effects of saturated fat consumption on cardiovascular health! Sure weight changes and blood lipid and glucose levels might change in 5 months, but hardening of the arteries that leads to heart attack and stroke takes years to assess for changes. I’m sure many people can go on a diet for 5 months, but how many people can sustain it for life?

The above video, “Heart Disease tied to Carbs, not Fat #study” by PlantbasedAthlete on YouTube thoroughly annihilates all the findings of this study. I highly¬†recommend watching it. His video actually inspired me to write this post and discuss this topic. After taking my epi class, I realize now more than ever, how important it is to critically consume research like this…and that sadly, this is not a skill most people possess. PlantbasedAthlete also points out crucial factors such as:

  • the non-differentiation between processed, refined carbs like crackers and cookies, and whole-food carbs like fruit and vegetables in the study.
  • the inevitable caloric restriction that occurred in the low-carb phase of the study, followed by the rapid increase in calories at the end of the study.

This smells a little of intentional manipulation of data. The fact that the researchers did not control for calories during the different phases of the diet is extremely amateur…or blatantly dishonest. This glaring error doesn’t exactly promote confidence in their other findings…who know what else they didn’t control for?

This is why it is so hard to understand what to do to be healthy in America! If you don’t take responsibility for your own health education, you will end up fat and sick. The average American gets their information about diet and lifestyle from sensationalized TV shows featuring “doctors”, TV commercials funded by the industry who makes the product they are endorsing, and print advertisements that paid big bucks to appear in that magazine or on that billboard. These companies just want your money! TV shows just want the ratings! To put it bluntly, no one cares about your health…the only person who can help you is YOU! So just be careful, be skeptical, read the study, and ask questions. If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. There is no magic bullet or quick fix…but there is a simple answer. Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Eat less of everything else.

BadScience

Article Source:

Wanjek, Christopher. Fox News Health, “Heart disease and diabetes risks tied to carbs, not fat, study finds.” Dec. 03, 2014.

Easy Vegan (Happy Turkey) Thanksgiving!

thanksgiving 2014

A vegan Thanksgiving day is easier than trying to cook a huge genetically-modified bird anyway! Think about it, how many mothers do you know that are stressing about making the perfect turkey? The reality is, the poor bird will never be good enough for you. It gave you it’s life, what more could you ask for?no thanksgiving turkey

Last year, it is estimated by the USDA, the National Turkey Federation, and cited by sources like PETA, that 46 million turkeys were slaughtered specifically for Thanksgiving day consumption in the U.S. That is almost 1/6 of the 254 million that are raised for slaughter annually!

I actually took a moment to think about it, and I hope you do too. 46 million living beings lost their lives for one day…and what are we even celebrating? Pilgrims and Native Indians? Gluttony? Touch football? Black Friday? You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who actually knows what the celebration of Thanksgiving is based upon. To most people it’s a day to gorge ourselves and then hit the sales. If you are more warmhearted and tender than most, you remember that Thanksgiving is a time to be with family members and extend your compassion to others. Above all, Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks for the many blessings we all have.

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So how can you make this day a truly special and thank-filled one? I think you already know: practice compassion. Make this Thanksgiving meatless. I know that’s a radical suggestion, the turkey is a socially-ingrained tradition. Most people have been so brainwashed (and how could they not be, with all the media portraying this year’s roasted turkey?) that they think that the turkey ‘makes’ Thanksgiving. But really, from a shallow standpoint of food, think of the traditional holiday food that’s vegan and vegetarian! Green beans, mashed potatoes, glazed sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, roasted chestnuts, roasted veggies, pumpkin…all these things are vegan or could be made vegan with a few simple swaps, at least no animal died to be a part of it. Dessert is little harder, vegan pumpkin pie and apple pie takes a little more work…but even a vegetarian Thanksgiving is one that honors life instead of celebrates death. Even if everyone did¬†nothing else¬†except¬†not eat¬†turkey, 46 million intelligent and loving creatures would have their lives spared.not a turkey

I might also add, that eating bread cooked in a bird’s anal cavity is pretty disgusting! But society has normalized that weird tradition too. No one thinks twice about eating a**-bread, just so long as you don’t bring it up at the dinner table and become the “weird” aunt everyone’s always talking about! (I bet the weird aunt is weird cuz she’s vegan, just kidding ūüôā )

If you have kids, or work with kids, you might be familiar with the sudden abundance of creative turkey crafts hanging around your home…when I was an after school care teacher, we spent most of November having the kids make hand turkeys, construction paper turkeys, toilet paper turkeys, turkeys out of pipe cleaners….everything became a turkey! And the turkey’s were all¬†alive.¬†No child in their right mind would make a dead bird. Children innately love animals, but society does such a good job of desensitizing them from a young age that they don’t make the connection between the living turkeys they imagined into crafts and the dead flesh they see on the dinner table. Institutions such as schools, families, and churches normalize the tradition of gorging on turkeys (even though the last time I checked, both gluttony and murder are sins); parents, teachers and friends condone the behavior; media like TV shows, holiday movies, commercials, grocery store advertisements, radio jingles and more encourage the tradition.¬†The pressure to consume¬†animal products is already prevalent during the regular times of the ¬†year, but during the holidays, meat is practically shoved in turkey-farm-sanctuary-537x359your face. No matter where you turn, you can’t avoid it. I’m pretty sure vegans never attack anyone with the same ferocity.

 

All I’m hoping this Thanksgiving, is that people will pass on the turkey. Let’s give thanks and celebrate life by allowing the turkeys to live. You can still have good food, enjoy good company, go sale shopping (if that’s your thing), and watch football…it’s not contingent on a dead bird.

tofurky trotLast year, I ran a Tofurky trot the morning on Thanksgiving and volunteered serving Thanksgiving dinner at a local community center. (I didn’t serve the turkey! I know that doesn’t make it right…but hey, I’m trying to do my part the best I can!) I didn’t have family in town and so I didn’t have my own Thanksgiving dinner. But I had a lot to be grateful for.

Everyday I wake up alive and my body will allow me to run is a day I am grateful for. In the picture to the left, I would say I was happy. I was vegan, and it was Thanksgiving day.

Have a happy Thanksgiving ‚̧ Love a turkey today! Also, if like me, you really don’t know the history of Thanksgiving, check out the awesome video below by Bite Size Vegan on YouTube! She’s amazing, and has¬†tons¬†of information vegan videos to check out!

 

Get antibiotics without a prescription! Just eat some meat!

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I wasn’t sure that the meat and dairy industry could do anything more to wreck human health, but I was wrong. If there was an award for creative ways to ensure human extinction is an imminent threat, the meat and dairy industry would take the cake. They already do their darnedest to contribute the most greenhouse gas emissions to climate change as well as cut down large swaths of forests to compound the effects. The meat and dairy industry uses as much fresh water as possible, and they make sure to pollute the water they don’t use as well. Meat and dairy products are implicated (if not the major cause) of major chronic conditions like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis, to name just a few. But it seems they’ve become dissatisfied with only contributing to the ill-health of meat consumers…they’ve now widened their net to afflict everyone, even those who do their best to abstain from meat, dairy, and eggs.

How has the meat and dairy industry contributed to antibiotic resistance, a problem so serious that the World Health Organization declared it “threatens the achievements of modern medicine”?* According to the FDA, animal agriculture consumes 80% of all antibiotics administered in the U.S.**** In 2009, it was reported by the FDA that farmers used 30 million pounds of antibiotics, and the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that 24 million pounds are used simply to make the animals grow faster…and so are used unnecessarily.**

In factory farm settings, animals (cows, pigs, chickens) are crowded into filthy conditions. In some cases they aren’t allowed to move to keep them from burning calories, and they stand in their own fecal matter. The close quarters create an ideal breeding ground for diseases, which spread rampantly between animals.** Chickens frequently share cages with their dead brothers and sisters who couldn’t survive the suffering. The chronic stress and fear that these animals endure 24/7 compromises their immune system, just like in humans. Farmers have to keep animals on a feed laced with antibiotics, or administer multiple vaccines to keep them alive long enough to get big enough to slaughter. Their lives are already much shorter than they would be in nature, but the poor animals can barely live for the months it takes to reach slaughter weight.

The Reuters investigation (cited at end) found that in every instance of antibiotic use they identified, the dosages were sub-therapeutic. Most people are warned by their pharmacist or physician not to use antibiotics extraneously and to take the proper prescribed dose as well as finish the prescription. We know that when we fail to finish the full dose of antibiotics, the strongest bacteria may be left standing at the end of the treatment…ready to multiply and attack with a vengeance!¬†Continually administering low levels of antibiotics, a common practice, is even more conducive to the growth of superbugs: only the stronger, hardier bacteria survive to multiply and give rise to even hardier offspring. Since bacteria have such a short lifespan, their evolutionary timetable is much faster than we realize. It’s survival of the fittest in fast-forward.

How can we have such respect toward doctors and take their advice seriously because we care about ourselves, but not realize we are undermining our efforts toward maintaining good health by consuming meat tainted with drugs, bacteria, carcinogens and dyes (poultry meat frequently gets re-colored to look more appealing)? We are what we eat! Our body metabolizes the components of food, breaking it down into the building blocks that it then synthesizes into our cells. These cells become our muscles, fat, skeleton, organs, everything! The quality of the food you eat is the most important thing that you hold in your control!

You are not simply a chute that passes everything through..your digestive organs are extremely permeable. Digestion actually starts with chewing, and your saliva will be encompassing bacteria that exists in your food as you eat. Just think about the superbugs swimming in your body!

“The use of antibiotics in this context is particularly concerning from a public-health perspective because it has been repeatedly demonstrated that use of these drugs in the animal-production setting speeds the selection for bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics,” explains Keeve Nachman, PhD, assistant scientist and director of the Farming for the Future program at Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.**

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Source: Reuters Investigates, “Farmaceuticals”, Sept. 15, 2014.

Humans are exposed to the antimicrobial chemicals and the superbugs that result from antibiotic residue or superbugs on meat or in milk, runoff from factory farms that contaminate water, and from animal waste that gets pelletized and bagged to be sold as compost or fertilizer.**

The instances of improper handling of meat when cooking, and cross-contamination of vegetables from meat is very common in the ordinary kitchen or food establishment. I worked at Subway a year ago, and I speak from experience when I say that restaurants aren’t as careful as you would hope. I was told to fudge the temperatures I recorded in our food log for the health inspector. Meat, egg, and dairy products breed bacteria when they get too warm, but I’d get fired if I threw out the warm meat or sauces…it would impinge on the profits! According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) 430,000 people in the U.S. become ill from food-borne bacteria that resist conventional antibiotics. At least 23,000 people die annually from infections resistant to antibiotics.*

E. coli is a common food-borne bacteria. I first learned of it from the documentary¬†Food, Inc.¬†which featured Barbara Kowalcyk, a mother who lost her 2 year old son to complications due to E.Coli O157:H7 infection. Like most acute illnesses from bacteria and viruses, the youngest and the oldest are those most at risk of death. Our current cattle raising practices on factory farms promote the growth of this bacteria, according to¬†Science¬†journal, “promote the growth of¬†E. coli¬†that can survive the acidity of the human stomach and cause intestinal illness.”*****Cows are meant to eat grass, but are fed a diet of cheap, govt. subsidized corn, which intensifies the acidity of the cows stomach acids. Like low levels of antibiotics, only the strongest bacteria survive this environment and then go on to infect humans. The stronger strain of E.Coli is now able to survive the strong stomach acids of humans. Though cooking also destroys the bacteria, hamburgers that contain pink meat can contain live E.coli bacteria…*****how many of you love a medium-rare steak? Or a juicy hamburger? A typical ground up hamburger patty can contain flesh from hundreds of cows, increasing your risk of disease!

“In 1976, a ¬†study by microbiologist Stuart Levy showed that potentially deadly bacteria in poultry were developing resistance to tetracyclines and other antibiotics. The resistant bacteria, E. Coli, were then moving from poultry to people.”*

Dieticians from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzed data available from a govt. program, The National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, which tracks food-borne diseases. Each year, the lesser-known govt. program’s researchers buy samples of meat from supermarkets nationwide and tests them for bacterial residues. According to the dieticians from EWG: 69% of pork samples, 55% beef samples, 39% of chicken samples, and a¬†whopping¬†81% of turkey samples (think about that this Thanksgiving!) tested positive for antibiotic-resistant bacteria!!!*** I believe data is from 2011, and the article I am referencing (cited at end) was written in 2013. Believe it or not, this is current…and alarming!

They also found that rates of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella have increased from 48% in 2002 to 76% in 2011!***
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Beyond the medical emergency that antibiotic resistant superbugs herald, treating antibiotic resistant diseases are a drain on our already strained healthcare system. For example, treating strains of MRSA usually require an additional 14 days in the hospital and cost 5x as much as treating the strain that is treatable with antibiotics.**As of right now, current legislation, “The Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobial Drugs in Food-Producing Animals” by the FDA suggests voluntary compliance from the industry to limit antibiotic use.**

Right now, the FDA doesn’t plan to gather data about antibiotic use on farms until 2016. Until then, according to a spokesperson from the agency, “none of us have an idea first hand of what’s going on” at the farm-level.*

I apologize for the length of this article, there’s just a lot to chew on (sorry, ūüôā pun intended!) and¬†everyone¬†needs to know!

Sources:

*Grow, Brian; Huffstutter, P.J.; Erman, Michael. Reuters Investigates “Farmaceuticals: The drugs fed to farm animals and the risks posed to humans“, Sept. 15, 2014.

**Zerbe, Leah. Rodale News: “Factory Farms Use 30 Million Pounds of Antibiotics a Year (and You’re Eating Some of It)”, Dec. 21, 2010.

***Main, Emily. Prevention: “How Dirty is Your Meat?“, April 2013.

****Bottemillar, Helena. Food Safety News: “Most U.S. Antibiotics Go to Animal Agriculture”, Feb. 24, 2011.

*****Segelken, Roger. Cornell University,¬†Cornell Chronicle¬†Simple change in cattle diets could cut E.coli infection“, Sept. 8, 1998. (I know this is old, but more current sources corroborate these findings, such as¬†Food, Inc.)