Optimistic Vegan

Gluten-Free Adventure
April 2, 2011, 10:27 pm
Filed under: Food, Lifestyle, Nutrition, Personal | Tags: , , ,

Today I decided to try a gluten-free diet for a few weeks to see if I see any change in the way I feel. There hasn’t been a whole lot of research about gluten and especially if not eating it is beneficial to those who don’t have Celiac disease, but I figured I might as well try! Also, look for a long overdue Jane Goodall post tomorrow!

If we look back at what our early ancestors ate we can see what our bodies evolved to eat. They mostly consumed vegetables, fruits, nuts, and small game when they could get it. Upon looking this up I came across the “paleolithic diet” which sounds very intriguing. The idea is that you model your diet after the diet of our ancestors because we are adapted to it. Anyway, we didn’t start consuming grains until relatively recently when farming came around (in the whole scheme of things). Our body hasn’t had as much time to adapt to eating grains as it has eating fruits.

Even if a gluten-free diet doesn’t actually have benefits, I’ll at least be giving up a lot of processed foods that I know aren’t healthy. I reached for one of the many Newman-O’s that my dad bought me, but sadly they have wheat. So no cookies, cake, pie, bread, calzones (on Calzone Wednesday!) but we’ll see how it turns out.

My amazing friend, Kristin, is gluten and lactose intolerant and just started being vegetarian! She will be my inspiration for my gluten free journey.

Good bye gluten, hello tons of veggies! I’m so glad that potatoes don’t have gluten, because I don’t think I could give them up. Phew!


I couldn’t think of any cute pictures related to gluten, so here’s a baby duck! Kaity and I saw duck rape for the first time yesterday, and it was so sad to see! But duck rape means baby ducks! (Some male ducks, such as mallards, do actually force penetration on the females. However, apparently female ducks are fighting back and have evolved long, twisted vaginas that can stop unwanted intercourse. You go girls! But someone has to make those baby ducks.)


More About Protein
December 8, 2010, 2:20 pm
Filed under: Food, Lifestyle, Nutrition | Tags: , , , , ,

I discussed protein on a very basic level in a different blog post, Where do you get your protein?! which I suggest looking at first to get a good basis.

Essentially, protein is made up of amino acids. There are 22 amino acids and 8 of them need to be eaten (your body makes the other 14). Everything you eat is made up of amino acids. Carrots, spinach, pineapple, wheat, etc. Everything. The most common question vegetarians are asked is where they get their protein. Unfortunately, in our society, meat is equated with protein. I’m here to tell you that it is perfectly possible to get all of the protein you need just by eating a whole foods, plant based diet.

I just finished reading The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and his son Thomas M. Campbell, and it reiterated over and over that the best diet for your health is a whole foods, plant based diet. My favorite aspect of this book is that it was written by a man who grew up as a farm boy believing in the “all American diet.” It was only through the research he did and evidence that he found that made him change his lifestyle and encourage others to do the same. Let me tell you, the results he found are astounding. He was able to show the distinct relationship between animal products and increased chances of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune diseases and various bone, kidney, eye and brain diseases. If that isn’t enough evidence to convince someone that animal products are not the ideal diet, I don’t think anything could.

The book is called The China Study because he had the opportunity to do a massive comprehensive study on 65 rural Chinese counties. It worked particularly well in China because the people tend to be genetically similar and live in the same area for their entire lives. The results are astounding. (Read it!)

A large portion of his research was dedicated to protein. I’m going to give a brief overview of some of the things he discovered, but definitely read the book to get a more thorough picture. In his research about the way that protein affects cancer growth he discovered that the amount of protein in a diet directly affects how fast the cancer progresses. He was able to show that “a low-protein diet could override the cancer-causing effect of a very powerful carcinogen, aflatoxin” (Campbell 59). However, not all protein can have this effect on cancer growth. It turns out that casein (a milk protein) has the opposite effect than plant proteins do. Casein, in relation to plant proteins, speeds up the growth of cancer. He did an experiment involving rats that lasted 100 weeks to discover the affect of protein on cancer growth. All of the rats were fed the same level of the cancer carcinogen, aflatoxin, but some were fed the regular 20% level of casein (what average Americans eat in their diet), and then to others he fed a low-protein diet of 5% casein diet. At the end of the study almost all of the rats fed the 20% protein diet were dead from liver tumors but all of the animals administered the low-protein diet were “alive, active and thrifty, with sleek hair coats” (Campbell 61). This is astounding. A low-protein diet has the ability to slow or halt cancer growth.

I might blog more about the book later, but I don’t want to make this post too long! I just wanted to bring up the idea that protein isn’t as great as we are told it is.

Here it is!


Losing Weight
June 7, 2010, 8:32 pm
Filed under: Food, Lifestyle, Nutrition | Tags: , ,

Losing weight is usually perceived as a good thing, but when associated with veganism, it often has a negative connotation. Let’s break it down.

Meat has a lot of calories, saturated fat and cholesterol. It’s designed to store calories (so that the animal can use them later, just like us!). It’s very easy to gain weight with such high volumes of fat and calories. (Besides the losing weight issue, this also makes for higher heart disease rates, diabetes, strokes, etc.)

On the other hand, vegetables are low in fat and calories, high in fiber and complex carbs, with NO cholesterol (only found in animal products). As long as you eat a balanced diet (variety of fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, etc.) you will get all of the necessary nutrients while skipping out on the high fat and calories.

While this all sounds dandy, many people actually complain about losing weight, or always being hungry or feeling faint, etc. The best solution I have for this problem is to…eat. If you’re hungry, you should eat, right? If you’re eating lettuce for every meal, (you’re not going to get all the nutrients for one) you won’t be filling yourself up! If it really bothers you that you have to eat more (oh good lord!) then you could eat foods with more fat-avocados (YUM) or nuts for example.

My art teacher recently told me that her son stopped being vegan because he was losing weight. I love how society tries and tries diet after diet to lose weight, then complains about a vegan one…

There are what are called “junkfood vegans” (or vegetarians). These are the ones that eat bread for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or pasta. Or oreos (yes, they are vegan!) YOU MUST EAT VEGGIES. If you eat an entirely carb diet, you may even gain weight. The rule of thumb is to eat everything in moderation. A variety of foods that allow you to get all of your nutrients.

On a side note, it’s really easy to slip into the “junkfood vegan” category. Healthy meals take more time and forethought, but it is worth it in the end. Plan ahead!

Happy eating!

The Truth about Milk

When we refer to “milk” we refer to cow’s milk, without thinking about the connection from “cow” to “glass of milk.” Something that Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (my hero) is fond of pointing out is that we are perfectly fine with drinking cow’s milk, but the idea of drinking human milk is disgusting. When you think about it, how odd is that! We would rather drink the milk of another species before we would drink that of our own.

Besides the fact that we are drinking cow secretions, how milk is obtained is another interesting topic. What most people don’t think about (or know) is that cows only produce milk when they are pregnant or when they have a baby. Why? To support their babies. So to efficiently gather milk from cows (in factory farms) cows are impregnated, and then once their babies are born, they are taken away. The baby boy cows are sent to become veal and the baby girl cows are raised to be dairy cows like their moms.

On a side note, how are the cows impregnated? Well factory farms need to obtain bull (boy cow) semen, so they have specific people who collect” the semen from  the bulls so they can artificially inseminate the cows. I’m not lying. Can you imagine explaining to someone what you do for a living? Yikes!

Colleen and Cow

My hero ^ Colleen Patrick-Goudreau at Farm Sanctuary


Why do we drink so much milk? Well besides “it tastes good” some would say it’s where we get our calcium. Where do the cows get the calcium? Well calcium is a mineral, and minerals come from the ground, and then cows eat the grass that grows in the ground. Cows get calcium from plants! Unfortunately, dairy cows don’t eat grass. Dairy cows are too busy being hooked up to milking machines to go outside and eat some grass. To make sure their milk has calcium, factory farmers supplement their feed with calcium. Wait. Why can’t we just supplement our diet with calcium? Or better yet, eat the veggies that have it! (Spinach, artichokes, green beans, bok choy, swiss chard, collards, dandelion greens, kale, cucumbers, soybeans, turnip greens, and wasabi all have ridiculously high amounts)

Factory Farmed Cow

The life of a dairy cow.


Naturally a cow would produce about 1,000 liters of milk, but in the dairy industry a cow could produce between 6,000 and 12,000 liters, in 10 months. These cows are bred to produce a lot of milk, in addition to a growth hormone that is given to them. Mastitis, a painful inflammation of the utters, and is known to happen between 30 and 60% of all dairy cows.

This is just about cow’s milk, but sheep and goats are also raised for their milk. Humans are the only species that drinks the milk of others, and though it may seem like an efficient way to get your calcium, it isn’t natural and comes at a high cost.

What do you eat!?
May 7, 2010, 3:15 pm
Filed under: Food, Lifestyle, Nutrition, Personal | Tags: , ,

This is another one of those questions that will inevitably be asked when someone finds out that I’m vegan. This one might not seem like it, but is probably the easiest yet hardest question to answer, especially on the spot.

Usually I’ll say what’s in my lunch and leave it at that, or spew out some random food that they wouldn’t expect to be vegan (oreos!) but I’m going to attempt to give a more complete answer.

First off, it’d probably be easier to say what I don’t eat, because the list of things I do eat is much longer. (I’m assuming you know what I don’t eat, but just to clarify: no meat-cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, fish, etc. and no animal products-honey, milk, cheese, gelatin, etc.) The ideal vegan diet would consist of a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and beans. However, there are also what some people call junkfood vegans who are the ones that eat “accidental” vegan foods like oreos. It’s easy to veer towards this side, just because it’s easier, less of a lifestyle change, etc.

So that laundry list of foods I do eat seems to amount to something the equivalent of a salad. Far from! There are so many delicious foods that are either altered “meat-centered” foods or veggie dishes. A disclaimer about trying to recreate meat based foods: it will not taste the same. Just so you know! I have a pretty bomb recipe for meat loaf (which I never liked when it was the real stuff, but I’m in love with this version!), there’s a billion lunch meat replacements, tofurkey (BEST!), vegan pizza, etc. As great and tasty as these foods are, I’m always a little uncomfortable eating them, because it just shows the attachment to meat that we have. BUT it’s a more compassionate, and healthier version.

Along with “meat-centered” dishes, there are a billion (I swear. A billion.) tasty recipes just surrounding the wonderful array of vegetables. There is this green bean dish at a Chinese restaurant we frequent that is to die for, that is vegan without having to adjust anything. Then there are a large number of soups that are veggie based (many squash ones) or chili or stew. And no one can forget the many different types of salads there are.

If someone asked you what you eat, what would you say? It’s a tough question to answer!

Where do you get your protein!?
May 6, 2010, 12:43 pm
Filed under: Food, Nutrition | Tags: , , , ,

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this…

Protein. What is protein? I’m sure you all know this, but just as a reminder, protein is made up of amino acids. Amino acids are necessary in any diet, whether or not you’re eating meat. There are 22 amino acids, 8 of which need to be eaten.

Something that isn’t always realized is that everything has protein. Yes, all fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, everything has some amount of protein, some combination of amino acids. Some foods just have more than others, such as quinoa. (Quinoa is the coolest grain ever. It has all of the 8 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. Plus it’s just so darn tasty!)

This may all sound just too complicated, having to combine foods to get all of your protein. It’s not. As long as you’re eating a balanced diet, with a variety of fresh foods (which everyone should be doing, even if eating a meat-based diet) you will consume plenty of protein. You don’t have to eat meat to get protein.

Another interesting thought-where do you think the cows got their protein? Plants! Or supplemented feed (I’ll save that for another post).

The American Academy of Pediatrics says, “protein is so abundant in the foods Americans eat, that most of us, children and adults alike, consume more than we need. Protein overload may be a more serious problem than protein deficiency.” So be assured that you’ll be fine if you eat a little less.

Humans evolved eating meat
January 29, 2010, 9:31 am
Filed under: Food, Lifestyle, Nutrition | Tags: , , ,

Yes. We evolved eating meat. Many scientists claim that the reason human brains grew larger than those of other apes is because of the change in our diet. Meat gave us the capacity, all of the cellular power, so that our new big brain could perform greater than those of say gorillas.

I accept that.

When humans were in the jungle and plants were plenty, they ate plants. Not only because it was more efficient (you have to chase and stalk animals, their meat will spoil if you don’t eat it, and will one feed a whole “tribe”?) and I’m sure safer. They did eat small animals when they got the chance. When they moved to the plains, plants weren’t as plentiful, and animals were abundant. Most scientists think that this is when they made the switch to eating meat. In this natural situation, humans did it for survival—there were no plants. However, today, not only is it more efficient to eat plants, it’s healthier and helps us survive longer.

The difference between the early humans that ate meat, and those that eat it today, is that those that eat it today eat the meat from a corrupted food industry, including slaughterhouses and factory farms. If you tell me that the cows you eat live their entire lives (20 years), are grass-fed, with no added hormones to make them “beefy,” (and you do all of this just to eat some cow…) be my guest. However, no one, at least a very, very small percentage, of people do that. Instead they eat hormone packed, crap-fed cows that live in places where they can’t move, invested with all things disgusting. THAT is what I don’t agree with.

So even if we evolved eating/to eat meat, it is unreasonable to do so now, and that is what I don’t respect.