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Posts tagged ‘vegan’

It’s Not 99%, That’s for Sure

close up of a cows nose

mmm, nummy.

Have you heard about “nose to tail”? That is another movement to change how we eat. It is really simple, in theory. If you are going to eat meat, you should eat all of it, and not waste it. In our modern culture, this is rather silly, in that few of us will butcher and process our own meat.  In light of what we now know about good nutrition, it isn’t even sound, since that is why our forebearers made all that yummy, yet unhealthy sausage, to use up the less appetizing bits. The idea behind this is the idea that there are so many of us, and it takes so much land to raise meat, that getting us to use every bit is better ecologically.

Learning about this made me think about all the different movements out there to get us to eat healthier, help the earth, prevent global warming, or in some way live a more mindful life. I don’t think we need to go to the extremes that some movements promote.

We don’t even agree on what we need to do. I do think we all agree on recycling, unless the energy it takes to recycle creates to much carbon. We agree on using less, unless the economy suffers. We agree on using renewable resources, unless that renewable resource is controversal, like ethanol. Oh, but we do agree on green energy, unless they are putting a wind farm in your neighborhood. Sigh.

I have a friend who is convinced if she can get us all to go vegan, the world would be a better place. I don’t know that she’s wrong, We’ll never try it to find out. I won’t even do it. Do I think that eating less meat is a good thing? Of course. Meat should be the side dish, not the veggies. I had some shrimp tacos at Red Lobster that were out of this world. I gorged myself and probably ate 10 shrimp. The rest was veggies and bread. However, I live with a raving carnivore. I have gotten him to eat smaller portions, and occasionally have chicken, fish,soup or something other than straight red meat at a meal, but he still thinks two hamburgers is a serving. The funny thing is, there is a significant portion of the health community that would see bread as the problem, not meat.

My chiropractor just gave my husband some info on the paleo diet. I have a bunch of clients going gluten free.  I applaud people for taking steps to control their health, I just wonder why everything has to be so extreme. Just eating healthy is extreme enough. Put down the crueller and have fruit and oatmeal for breakfast. Have the Southwest Salad instead of the Big Mac. Have a small coffee with one cream and sugar instead of the latte, frappe whatever. Have pudding for desert instead of ice cream. Better yet, have a yogurt parfait, with homemade strawberry rhubarb sauce. Ok, that’s it, I’m outta here. There’s some of that in the fridge calling my name. I put some in my salad this morning and it was really good.

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There’s One Born Every Minute…

And your evidence is?

I was a strange kid, instead of reading romance novels or whatever passed for kid lit in our day, I read books written by naturalists and zoologists.  This gave me a strong bent towards science. During my teen years, I got interested in the occult, and read books both embracing it and debunking it, which led to a habit of always trying to find both sides of the story. I say all this to tell you that whenever a new health craze comes out, I’m interested, but skeptical. I like to wait and see what evidence supports the new claim(s). When faced with some new diet craze or exercise fad, I try to apply some common sense principles to cut to the heart of the matter.

  • Could applying this hurt me?
  • How costly is it?
  • How does it fit in with the general body of knowledge?
  • Does it contradict things I know to be true?
  • Does it claim too much?

So, if a new claim comes along, if it won’t hurt, isn’t costly, and I can’t see anything glaringly wrong with it, I might give it a try.

Real Life

So now that we’ve laid the framework, lets look at some real examples. This post was prompted by a Washington Post article stating that there is little evidence that alkaline water promotes health claims. I had heard some ads for the water treatment devices, and they are very costly. Like most of these things, they start with word of mouth advertising, along the lines of multi level marketing. Right away, anything that is sold that way makes me very leery. Especially when the people selling it are “true believers”, coming across like converts to a religion. The whole idea of acid imbalance in your body flies in the face of science. Your body is very delicate, and very good at regulating itself. That is part of why your electrolytes are so important, calcium buffers the ph in your blood, so it doesn’t get too acid when conditions warrant it. So getting back to my principles, it violates three of the 4 , as it won’t hurt you to drink it.

Some Fads go Mainstream

Lets look at some recent fads that are gaining traction. Low carb diets, vegan diets, gluten free diets, coconut oil, and blenders. Low carb diets started with Atkins, and have gone through many permutations. I don’t recommend any of the more extreme forms, and I don’t think they are a lifestyle diet, which is the real goal of a “diet”, to created a daily way of eating that benefits your weight and health. However, any diet that gets you to eat less white flour and sugar isn’t too bad. Just when they say to cut carrots- that’s getting foolish.

Vegan is popular, and it is too extreme to be very healthy. You can’t do it without modern supplements for your B vitamins. Also, any diet that extreme makes most people fall off it rather quickly. Done wrong, without paying close attention to the nutritional value of what you are eating, it can be very harmful.

Gluten free is one that I think will fade over time. There are a percentage of people who are gluten intolerant. It can be tested for. The rest are on a bandwagon. Most of the health benefits people claim who are not suffering from celiac disease come from cutting the empty carbs, which does benefit everyone. Cut baked goods- cookies, pie, pastry, bread- out of your diet and you’ll see the same benefit.

Coconut oil is now touted as the cure-all for everything. I’ve even started allowing a small amount into my diet, and will see if my cholesterol jumps next time. I doubt it does everything people say it does:

The health benefits of coconut oil include hair care, skin care, stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, dental care, and bone strength. These benefits of oil can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and its properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial and soothing properties.

That is from organicfacts.com. That goes against the last principle, of claiming too much.  I’m trying some, without going nuts on it in case it proves not to be true. I look at that one like vitamin D. Right now, people are claiming way to much for one lowly vitamin. Do I think vitamin D is good? Of course, but to hear some people talk, it is the cure for anything that ails you. All diseases don’t have the same root cause, so all can’t be cured by the same product.

People are buying blenders for their health. Think about it. You can’t eat these foods unless they are predigested? Sorry, I like blenders, but if you need a $500 blender to eat strawberries and spinach, there is something wrong. I blend my kale in a $25 bullet knockoff every morning and it turns out fine. Besides, I like chewing my food. The only reason I blend my kale is it is kind of tough, especially in my oatmeal. I wouldn’t do that if I was sautéing it. Enough said.

So, every time a new product, diet, or any other type of fad comes out, hear it out, weigh it against what you already know, and decide if the proposed benefits out weigh the risks. Just remember – the person selling it is a true believer, and often is making money off it, so of course they are all on board. Also, before you go buying products to improve your health, look at your baseline – what is your current diet and exercise regime? Could you just improve that, rather than go to some extreme diet?

Why I Won’t Become Vegan any Time Soon.

As I talked about in my last blog article, the Law of Unintended Consequences is one of the overriding philosophies of my life. We just don’t know what our actions will do until it is too late. It isn’t always bad, it’s just what we think is going to happen may not always be what does. Which brings me to my topic of veganism.

vegan emblem

Veganism will lead to fewer animals

One of my friends is a vegan, and she sends me articles with her reasoning. One of the pushes for veganism is animal welfare. If no one eats animals, there won’t be any inhumane farming practices. Which is true. There would be no reason to keep cows, chickens, pigs, goats or sheep if you are a vegan. On the downside, there would then be almost no cows, sheep, pigs or chickens. And that is the unintended consequence. If you are  a vegan for animal welfare, than you must think it is better for there to be less of them. Lets face it, raising cows is hard. No one will keep them as pets. They won’t revert to the wild easily. So, there just won’t be many. Pigs of course, will fare better. They revert quite easily, to become a menace and a nuisance. Sheep and goats might be kept as pets by some, but the numbers will dwindle mightily. And chickens? Yes, they have their devoted fans, but unless you eat eggs, they aren’t that fun as pets. Also, as I can attest to, they are extremely easy prey for any predator, making keeping them alive a challenge.

bull dozer

Hunters spend lots of money to avoid this.

What is the monetary value of wild animals?

If you believe that it is better to have fewer animals than to have them in captivity, than your veganism is realistic so far. But how about wild animals? There is the logic out there, based on the truth that we have hunted many animals to extinction or near extinction, that hunting and eating animals is always bad for them. That would be true if no other factors involved. However, unless your concern for animals goes to the extreme of wanting to bump off humans, the opposite proves to be true today. Today the biggest threat to animals is loss of habitat and overcrowding. If there is not enough food for the wild animals they starve, and if there is not enough room for them, then there isn’t enough food and disease can easily spread. How land is allocated depends on money. There is a LOT of money to be made in developing land for housing and businesses. Both farmland and wilderness are being eaten up by this factor. We all want our little piece of turf, if we can afford it. While millions do live in cities, millions more move to the ‘burbs, turning the ‘burbs into smaller cities and creating their own outlying suburbs. It is cheaper to build on empty land than to tear something down and build over, not to mention all the people who kick up a fuss when you tear the old thing down. So, all that “empty land” that was home to deer, grouse, turkey, fox, skunk, opossum, bluebirds, yellow jackets, etc., etc., now becomes someone’s house and they don’t want the deer eating their bushes.

Ducks unlimited logo Hunters are good for animals

What was my point with all that? Oh, yeah, hunters. Hunters want places to hunt. They also want those places to be filled with critters to hunt. Hunters spend a lot of money to get that. They either buy land themselves to preserve it, go in on a piece of property together, or give political contributions to organizations to lobby congress to preserve hunting areas and the wildlife therein. Two organizations have been huge in this effort, Wild Ducks Unlimited and the National Wild Turkey Federation. Read this link to  Ducks Unlimited, and this one to the NWTF if you’d like to learn more. Money talks. Without hunters, there would be far less wilderness areas for us to enjoy. Hunters today are an enlightened group, they spend a lot of time talking about the best way to ensure the health and survival of the species they hunt. Sure, there are always going to be a few idiots of the “shoot anything that moves” variety, but there are bozos in any organization. For the most part, hunters are bigger conservationists than any other group, because they are out there in nature and they want it to stay that way. Without hunters, and there would be very few hunters if they didn’t eat the meat, there would be fewer roadblocks to development.national wild turkey federation logo

calf with heart shaped white blaze and blue ribbon on neck.

Where do cute cows come from? Maybe farms?

Farmers are good for animals.

You hear the argument that it takes so many more acres to raise a cow than it does to grow the vegetables that a human could eat to stay alive. That’s great! That is that many more acres that aren’t being paved over or having a high rise  or strip mall put on them. And guess what? Many game animals depend on those farmers fields as part of their habitat. So if you are vegan for animal rights, buy a piece of beef from your local farmer and give it to a meat eating friend. That way, he won’t have to sell his farm to a conglomerate that will either put up a shopping center or add it to a mega factory farm where the conditions are inhumane. If you really care about animals, support humane farming practices and conservation organizations. Then there will be plenty of happy, healthy critters running around and eating the veggies in your garden.

cover for a children's book promoting veganism

Emotionalism, not reality. If you really loved them you’d support the conditions that support their flourishing.

To Vegan or Not to Vegan, That is the Question.

On top of a friend of mine going vegan, Venus Williams is too.  Vegan means nothing from an animal or fish, no eggs or dairy, on top of no meat. If you don’t care to read the article, here is a synopsis: Venus has Sjogren’s syndrome (pronounced show-grins), and this is an attempt to treat it. According to the article, vegan diets have shown some effect on fibromyalgia patients.  I don’t dispute that, but let me quote one sentence from the article:

In a show of sisterly solidarity, Serena has also chosen to follow Venus’ raw, vegan diet. That means both Williams sisters will be dining on whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains — nothing bottled, boxed or canned. And the raw distinction means nothing can be heated above 116 degrees or the nutritional value is believed to be compromised.

This is much more than a vegan diet. A raw diet is a very extreme diet by anyone’s standards. If it causes her relief, great. I don’t think most people would be able to stick with that for very long. Remember, the best diet is the one you can stick to. Also, notice one more distinction- nothing bottled, boxed or canned. There is where I think everyone could benefit from.  I’m not an absolutist, it’s winter, I can food myself and eat some canned food from the store. I eat mostly frozen, but there are some boxes in my cupboard.  Think of your diet as a continuum- from terrible- a night of pop, Doritoes, and Ding Dongs,-to great- a spinach salad, grilled salmon with almonds and an olive oil vinegrette, lightly roasted veggies with rosemary…mmmmm. But I digress. You get dozens food choices a day, from shopping, meal planning, preparation, eating out, snacking, etc. Plans or philosophies make it easier to make those choices for a lot of people. All of them cause us to make better choices, so they all work. Low carb, Paleo, Low fat, Atkins,  Vegetarian, Vegan and Raw are all diets that ban some foods, they all work for some people.

Go vegan if you want, but I would suggest that rather than ban or exclude food groups, you start thinking about what you eat, shrinking the portions, and banning sweets and deserts, rather than milk or eggs. You can make vegan muffins, which, in my opinion, is defeating the purpose.The great thing about a vegan or vegetarian diet is it makes you eat lots of vegetable, which is never a mistake. The best diets are made up of large quantities of veggies, no matter what else they change.

Most foods are a trade off, almonds have a lot of benefits, but are packed with calories. The dreaded meat and dairy- what the vegans are avoiding- are loaded with vitamins, protein, calcium and other benefits. However, they do have saturated fat and can trigger allergies. While you could avoid them completely, it may be better to treat them as condiments. A serving of meat should only be the size of your palm anyway. Think of that when you get that 1/2 a chicken at your next barbecue. Cheese? should only be the size of the last knuckle on your thumb. Think 1-2 squares from those premade cheese platters.

So I throw it out there- what are you going to do to improve your diet? Can you cut back on the harmful things, or is it easier to just ban them? Is it just easier to follow a premade diet, rather than think about all your choices? Does it make it easier to resist temptation to say  “I can’t have that, it has milk in it”, rather than just not having it since you don’t need the calories?

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