Category Archives: Diet

Government is not promoting good health

I know, this sounds like a conspiracy. Well, I believe it is.

I have just started a petition at http://www.whitehouse.gov asking the administration to instruct the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) to write the National Dietary Guidelines, not the USDA (Department of Agriculture).

Please review the petition here, sign, it and spread the word.

As top executives at the Department of Agriculture have traditionally had long-standing ties with big agribusiness, and as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes are at epidemic rates, and as diet is largely responsible for our health, I believe the fox is minding the hen house when it comes to the health of the American public.

The pharmaceutical, beef, chicken, egg, dairy industries and their ilk do not have the best interests of the public at heart. Their best interests are in profits. The pharmaceutical industry, for example, profits from the sicknesses and diseases that the high fat, high cholesterol Standard American Diet from the USDA guidelines. The sicker the American people get, the more money the pharmaceutical industry makes. For the USDA to promote artery-clogging meat, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, chicken, and pork as a hefty portion of the Standard American Diet is irresponsible to the extreme, and causes hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths every year.

If we want to reduce the top health hazards of Americans (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc.), and thereby drastically reduce the amount of money spent on health care every year, these dietary guidelines must come more in line with the guidelines proven to prevent and sometimes even reverse the ravages of disease caused by poor diet. The government organization most likely to do the independent research required to conceive a healthy dietary guideline is The Centers for Disease Control.

I refer to Dr. Neal Barnard’s The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Dr. Dean Ornish’s Preventive Medicine Research Institute, Dr. Michael Greger’s nutritionfacts.org, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyne’s Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Program, Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s Center for Nutrition Studies, and others.

If you’re not familiar with these ground-breaking studies, it would be good for your health and the health of your family and the health of the planet if you looked into it. Start with these websites, read these doctors’ books.

And if you like what you find, please sign the petition.

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Filed under Diet, Dying, Uncategorized

Ten Things a Vegan Kitchen Must Have

So you’re new to veganism? Congratulations on embarking upon a journey to improve to the health of your family and our planet. They say that once you become vegan you continue to find reasons to stay vegan, and I have found that to be true. Sometimes, though the recipes you find call for what appear to be exotic ingredients. But the truth is, once you outfit your kitchen, you’ll find vegan cooking to be easy and delicious. I’ll address those exotic ingredients in another post. This post is about having the right tools for the job. These are my top ten.

  1. A Vitamix. I resisted buying an expensive Vitamix because I had a blender, and I just didn’t see the point. Boy, was I wrong! I bought mine reconditioned directly from the Vitamix website (vitamix.com) and I use it every day. Seriously. Every day. I have both the standard container that comes with it and I also bought the additional “dry mix” jar. I use the standard jar for everything from lunch smoothies to vegan salad dressings to the best hummus ever. I also make vegan iced desserts and soups that take less than ten minutes from start to finish. The dry mix jar I use for grinding coffee, flour, making matcha from my homegrown tea, turning dried peppers into cayenne powder, you name it. I can even make powdered sugar out of regular sugar, or brown sugar out of sugar and molasses. I can make cornmeal out of popcorn! The cost of the machine is nothing compared to the savings on expensive sauces, dressings and herbs. Unquestionably, a must have.

vitamix

  1. A rice cooker. I spent my formative years in Hawaii, so I am a rice eater. My husband (a Midwesterner) has to remind me now and then to bake him a potato, because I never think about it. Rice is nice. A simple, plain vanilla rice cooker is all you need, one that will cook your rice to perfection and then hold it warm while the rest of the meal is getting ready. There are expensive rice cookers with lots of bells and whistles including a steamer, but they’re not necessary. I buy all my grains in bulk, and mix them together in the canister. No one pot of rice is the same as the next. I mix together long grain brown rice, short grain brown rice, jasmine rice, wheatberries, barley, rye, bulgur, and sometimes I throw in some lentils and some dried soybeans. Scan what’s available in the grain section of your market. The result is a healthy, delicious mix that goes with almost any meal.
  1. A mandolin. There are many appliances for chopping vegetables on the market, and if you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, you probably either have or will acquire most of them. For my money, though, a mandolin is the most versatile. You don’t have to plug it in, it rinses off easily, takes up little space in the kitchen cabinet, and is always handy. Again, you can spend a lot of money on a fancy mandolin, but it isn’t necessary. Mine is old and wonderful, with interchangeable blades for grating, slicing both thick and thin, and something else that I’ve never tried. It might make matchstick potatoes, I’m not sure. In the fall harvest, I could not survive without the mandolin for slicing cucumbers for pickles, or slicing cabbages for slaw. Slicing potatoes, carrots, and other root vegetables is a breeze. The blades are sharp, though, so always use caution.

mandolin

  1. A slow cooker. This is what I made for dinner last night: 2 cans water pack jackfruit (from the Asian market), one sliced onion, one sliced green pepper, ½ cup barbecue sauce. Cook all day on low and serve over bread or on a hearty roll. Vegan Sloppy Joe’s from heaven. I threw it all in the slow cooker in the morning and it cooked on low all day. Here’s what we’re having for dinner tonight: two cans of black beans, two yams, sliced thin (on the mandolin), one package of soy chorizo sausage, and 2 cups of enchilada sauce (don’t buy it, make your own http://ohsheglows.com/2016/01/31/enchilada-sauce/ ). Let these cook on low all day and then fill a tortilla and get ready for everybody to go nuts. The slow cooker is the vegan’s best friend. There are lots and lots of vegan slow cooker cookbooks, too, to get you started on your journey.
  1. A soymilk maker. This is without doubt the biggest money saver in my kitchen. It looks like a fat coffee pot and makes a quart of soymilk in about 18 minutes from 1/3 cup of dried soybeans and some water. You can do the math on how much a quart of homemade soymilk costs, compared to what it costs in the store. Load these two ingredients into the pot, plug it in, and it cooks and grinds the beans. Mine came with a strainer and a pitcher. Strain out the soy okara (the dog loves that on her morning kibble) and voila! Delicious soy, rice, or almond milk. Dried soybeans are easily found in your health food store. I buy them in the bulk bins, and whenever possible, I get them in 25 pound bags. Between baking, our over-consumption of coffee, and morning oatmeal (made overnight every night in the slow cooker), we go through a lot of soymilk in this house.

soymilkmaker

  1. A good knife and a good knife sharpener. Vegans do a lot of vegetable chopping. There is nothing more frustrating than a dull knife. And, in fact, dangerous. We cut ourselves when the knife is dull, because we use too much pressure. Invest in a good chef’s knife and a good paring knife. Go to the knife store and spend some money, because these will last you not only for the rest of your life, but for the lives of whoever is lucky enough to inherit them. Once you have invested in fine cutlery, take care of it. Never leave a fine knife soaking in the sink. Never put it in the dishwasher. Wash it, dry it, and put it away. Have a small, simple, effective knife sharpener handy in a kitchen drawer that you can easily access to put a fine edge on your knife at a moment’s notice. You’ll be safer, and you’ll be happier.
  1. Pantry space. I know, space is always limited. But there are items that vegans use often enough that it is worth the fight for a few shelves in the garage. While I buy many items in the bulk bins at the health food store, I buy big bags (25-40 pounds) of pinto beans, soybeans, steel cut oats, and long-grain brown rice. Cooking dry beans is far more economical than opening a can. It’s good to have the option. I keep a container of “refried” beans (that I make in the slow cooker) on the top shelf in the refrigerator to add to just about everything. Not only are beans good for us, but a daily spoonful feeds the flora and fauna in our bellies so we don’t suffer from the uncomfortable gas that can occur when we only eat beans once a week or so. I buy cans of beans, tomatoes, and tomato sauce by the case as well as a few other staples that we use all the time.
  1. A library of good vegan cookbooks. I have declared a moratorium on buying vegan cookbooks. I have about twenty, and that’s enough. Although… there is always something new from one or another of my favorite authors. There are cookbooks (and websites!) for every household. Vegan casseroles. Slow cooker recipes. Standard European dishes made vegan (French, German, etc.) Ditto with Asian dishes. I have learned the wonders of Indian spices. It took me a while to get the hang of vegan baking, but with the help of a great cookbook, and some advice from friends, I can now bake with the best of them without using dairy or eggs. I annotate every recipe, always improving on it for our tastes, and I highlight ones I like in the book’s Index, so I can easily find them again. These days I’m using a different cookbook every week, so I can get more depth of insight into the author’s way of thinking.

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  1. A group of like-minded friends. So this isn’t a kitchen staple, but it is a lifestyle necessity. When I first joined the ranks of the vegan, I found a Meetup (meetup.com) group in my home town and began going to the events. I found a great community of interesting and interested people, and I learned a lot. We watched videos on nutrition, on agribusiness, we cooked together, shared tips and tricks, talked about new foods to try, and what to avoid in the grocery store. This is where I learned about the convenience of the right appliance, and the best tried and true cookbooks. I learned more about nutrition in this group than I had learned in my entire life heretofore. I found my new guru in Dr. Michael Greger (www.nutritionfacts.org), and his fact-base nutrition information. My vegan friends are happy, fun, and the light of health shines in their eyes.

The vegan lifestyle is a good one. Healthy, planet-friendly, animal-friendly, and a good choice. With the right support of friends and the right kitchen tools, this way of life can be one of the best decisions you have ever made.

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Two Years Vegan

I embarked upon the vegan adventure two years ago today.

They say that the longer one is vegan, the more reasons one finds to stay vegan. I have found this to be true.

First, let me say that I do not miss animal protein one bit. No meat, milk, cheese for me. It was easy to give up. And I am convinced – without a shadow of a doubt – that what I am doing is reversing the heart disease I spent 60 years acquiring with my standard Midwestern meat, milk, and cheese diet. I have read that those eating the standard American diet have heart disease by the time they’re ten years old.

Let me also say that I effortlessly lost 35 pounds, bounced back up 5 pounds, and here I have stayed for over a year. I have never maintained my weight in my life. I was always dieting — gaining or losing. This seems to be my body’s weight, and I’m happy here. I eat everything I want (well, almost everything – I still have to watch my intake of bread and sweets), as much as I want, as often as I want, and my weight remains the same.

My cholesterol and blood pressure are down. I usually have two or three or four colds a year, but my immune system is so rock solid now that I haven’t had a cold in two years. Vegan food is much less expensive. All we eat are fruits and vegetables and grains and legumes. The least expensive food in the grocery store.

How is it that it took me this many years to find this lifestyle? Better late than never, I guess.

Food is delicious and nutritious and beautiful. There are amazing vegan restaurants in town, and while traveling, I never have to worry about finding vegan food, mostly because of the extensive directory of vegetarian and vegan restaurants on Happy Cow, but also because restaurants and chefs seem to have gotten the message. Recently, on a trip to Washington, D.C., when I asked about vegan options, I was actually brought a separate vegan menu! You just have to ask.

I came to this lifestyle for health reasons. I stay not only for health reasons, but because I see no reason to eat an animal. I love animals. I see no difference in eating a cow or a pig than eating my dog, and you know I would never harm a hair on sweet Jook. There are many animal activists in the vegan community who blast us with horrific images and information about how animals are treated in the meat and dairy industries. I don’t want to look at that stuff because it’s so disturbing, but my awareness has expanded, just because I hang out with vegans. Not everybody comes to this lifestyle for health reasons. And I truly appreciate the activists’ efforts.

I saw a statistic not long ago that said if everyone in America went meatless on Mondays, the carbon footprint effect would be that of taking 69 million cars off the road. That is the effect of the meat and dairy industry on our ecology and our climate. Add in antibiotics and meat-borne diseases, and the fact that no other mammal drinks milk after weaning – especially the milk of a different species – and going vegan begins to make really good sense.

I have joined a vegan Meetup group. This weekend, I am going to VegFest in Portland, Oregon. It is through these efforts that I have learned the right cookbooks to have, some tips and tricks, what meat-and-dairy-substitute foods taste good (vegan cream cheese, vegan cheddar, vegan sausages), how to bake without milk and eggs, etc.

My husband has been a very willing participant, and although he has not embraced the vegan lifestyle as I have, we maintain a vegan home (except for the salmon he catches – he prepares and eats that himself), he eats very little meat when we go out. Like as not, he orders from the vegan menu as well. He can tell the difference the past two years has made in his health.

Here are some resources, in case you’re vegan-curious.

  1. Nutritionfacts.org – Dr. Greger scours the scientific reports on nutrition and posts his findings. Don’t miss his informative, entertaining and enlightening hour-long Year in Review videos, Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day: Preventing Our Most Common Diseases, and From Table to Able: Combating Disabling Diseases with Food. These are available for free on his website; they’re also on YouTube if you want to stream to your television.
  2. The China Study – the most comprehensive study of human nutrition ever conducted.
  3. Forks Over Knives, the documentary film, available on Netflix.
  4. Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, the documentary film, available on Netflix. Very entertaining and inspiring. I hear Joe Cross has a sequel out now, FS&ND2, but I haven’t seen it yet.

You don’t have to go all-in. Start with going meatless on Mondays. Check out a vegan cookbook from the library and try a few recipes. Do a little research on the internet.

It won’t kill you. Quite the opposite, in fact.

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Adventures in Vegetarianism

Make no mistake: I’m a born carnivore. My diet has always been reasonably balanced, meaning meat, starch and vegetables with a big glass of milk. That’s the Mid-western way I was raised.

Then I had lunch with my son and his wife, and they had just taken a 7-day juice fast, and told me about a great movie, Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. I got the movie from Netflix. Loved it. Very inspirational. Got my juicer out of cold storage, cleaned it up and started juicing.  I mentioned it to a friend, and she said, “If you enjoyed that, you’d enjoy “Forks Over Knives.” Got that from Netflix, too. watched it, loved it.  I was convinced at that point that meat was not all that healthy for me, but what really knocked me out was that my husband, at the end of the film, said, “Let’s talk about our diets.” I’m a lightweight carnivore compared to Al, who hunts and fishes and brings home the well, not bacon, but goose, duck, salmon, and the occasional elk, venison and bison steak, roast and/or sausage.  If he wanted to make a change to his meat-eating ways, then maybe I ought to listen.

Then a trip to the doctor dealt the final blow. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, big number on the scale. What? I’d always been so healthy. Whoa. Not any more. I’m a little older now, though it’s hard to imagine, and apparently, things change.

So we went meatless. I went completely meatless, having seen the light in the doctor’s office, Al, almost so. Cooking became an adventure. I bought vegetarian cookbooks, consulted vegetarian friends, started frequenting vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Discovered the joys of miso. Discovered tempeh. Discovered seitan. Did not miss meat at all. Bought a treadmill.

Then, in my musings, I came across The China Study, purported to be the most comprehensive study of human nutrition ever conducted. I read it on the treadmill. Every day after I’d read a chapter, I’d run to Al, working on his fishing baits, and read the chapter to him. The one on heart disease. The one on diabetes. The one on nervous system breakdowns. The one on cancer. The proof is indisputable.

And suddenly, I was no longer just a vegetarian, I was a vegan. No more milk, cheese, or yogurt for me. Yikes. I’d always wondered why we drank so much milk, when no other mammals did after weaning. My cat used to like it, but then she’d puke it up fifteen minutes later. Cow’s milk causes those horrible ear infections in children…and more. Lots more. Milk no more. I bought a soymilk maker. Now instead of paying $4 for a quart of soymilk, I pay about $.29 for a quart of fresh soymilk.

Five months later, we’ve both lost over 20 pounds, fairly effortlessly. My cholesterol is down 30 points, so is Al’s. I’m a believer, and I feel great. I buy local, or eat fresh from the garden. The food we eat is beautiful on the plate and delicious on the tongue.

The other night on the news we watched a story about how some pork right now is infected with something or other. We just looked at each other and smiled.

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The Ultimate Diet?

I just watched “The Machinist” with Christian Bale.  Wow. This was not the handsome Christian Bale I have come to know and admire. This was an actor who went waaaay beyond what most actors do to prepare for a role. He lost 60 pounds. And, if you believe Wikipedia, this is how he did it:

He ate one apple and one can of tuna per day.

Holy crap.

I live in awe of people like Renee Zellweger, Tom Hanks or George Clooney who can gain or lose thirty pounds for a role, and do it effortlessly, or so it would appear. Zellweger went from “Bridget Jones” to “Chicago.” She shrugged and said “you just do the math.”

Math indeed. I know all about the math, and it doesn’t seem to help.

An apple and a can of tuna a day. Must have been one hell of a good apple.

Maybe a honeycrisp.

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