Monday, April 27, 2009

Your diet and Global Warming...what's the connection?

When John Robbins wrote his groundbreaking  book "Diet for a New America" in 1987, he showed us so many of the incredible consequences of an animal based agriculture. (see previous post)  I don't remember specifically if he went into the effects animal agriculture has on global warming specifically.  It seems like after 20 years since his book, that we would have learned something about all this, but it appears to not be the case. We are still raising and consuming animals to an alarming degree. Now with the focus on global warming, we are starting to hear about the dire consequences animal agriculture is causing in this area.

In 2006 a report published by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) showed us that that animal based agriculture causes more greenhouse gas emissions than all of transportation!.  This is not only from carbon dioxide, but the more severe gases methane and nitrous oxide.  The methane and nitrous oxide are generally created by the animals themselves (bodily functions) and the carbon dioxide from all the tractors used to produce the grains to feed them (15 times as much per pound as a plant based diet), the trucks used to transport them, the electricity for refrigeration...not to mention all the water used and wasted , as mentioned in the previous post.  The report also went on to say that animal agriculture  cause wide scale degradation of land and water.  Livestock  now take up 30% of the earth's entire land surface. (mostly permanent pasture but also 33% of the global arable land used for feed production).  Raising animals is a major contributor to deforestation as more and more land is needed for grazing and for growing grains to feed the animals, which as I've said before, is the most inefficient use of food there is.

Many people are writing and talking about all this more and more, yet it doesn't seem to be having much effect yet on global agriculture.  Sooner or later, some surmise, there  will have to be Government Mandates to control , decrease, or eliminate this form of agriculture. When the world leaders finally understand (if they ever do) that animal agriculture is killing the planet, then perhaps something will be done about it.

Here are some interesting articles on the subject, including the very recent article by Kathy of the great current thinkers and writers and activists concerning this entire subject

Live Stock a Major Threat to Environment

Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler

Environmental Implications of Modern Animal Agriculture: Save the Planet with your Fork

13 Breathtaking Effects of Cutting Back on Meat

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Healthy Diet Healthy Planet

This is the title of my blog and the "raison d'etre" for writing it.  I want to show the connection of what we eat to what  affect it has on the planet.  More and more is being written about this every day, in light of the global warming crisis. The connection of animal based agriculture and environmental destruction is inextricably linked.

Back in 1987, John Robbins wrote his ground breaking and prophetic book "Diet for a New America"  At the time, he might have been the first to clearly show the connections between raising animals for food and the environmental toll it took.  The details and statistics showed back then were staggering, and they have only gotten worse.

Some examples from the late 80's when the book came out:

Natural Resources:

*It takes 15 pounds of grain (fed to a cow) to produce one pound of beef.

*It takes an average of 2500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef.

*Amount of corn grown in the US consumed by livestock...80%

*Amount of soy grown in the US consumed by livestock...90%

*Number of people who will die (that year) from malnutrition:20,000,000.

*Pounds of edible protein that can be grown on an acre of land:
Green Beans 10,000
Carrots 30,000
Potatoes 40,000
Celery 60,000
BEEF 250

*Amount of US cropland producing livestock feed: 64%
*Amount of US cropland producing fruits and vegetables:2%

*Amount of US topsoil lost from cropland, pasture, rangeland , and forest land directly associated with livestock raising: 85%

*Number of acres of US cropland which could be returned to forest land if the US adopted a meat free diet and ceased exporting livestock: 204,000,000 acres.

*User of more than half of all the water consumed of all purposes in the US: animal agriculture.

*Number of gallons (in California) to produce one pound of:

-tomatoes 23
-wheat 24
-apples 49
-milk 130
-chicken 815
-pork 1630
-beef 5214

*amount of excrement in US by livestock (way under today's figures):
230,000 pounds per second!

*Amount of total antibiotics used in US fed routinely to livestock: 55%

And on and on...

I was once at a lecture where I heard the following example:

2500-5000 gallons...amount of water used by a person on a meat
centered diet
1300 gallons ...amount of water used by a person on a vegetarian diet
300 gallons...amount of water used by a person on a VEGAN diet.

The differences are remarkable. Yet, all the average person can think about to be an "environmentalist"
is to use low flow shower heads and low flow toilets and fluorescent bulbs, drive a Prius, and a host of other energy saving ,
earth saving, tricks and gimmicks and feel good things. Few of us 
think about the incredible effects on the planet as a result of what 
we are eating.

It's been said that Animal Agriculture is the single most devastating 
environmental activity caused by humans.

As this blog progresses, I will be going back and forth from health and nutrition
to the environmental aspects of how our diet is destroying the planet.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

"I Can't Believe It's VEGAN!"

Disclaimer!  I'm not really recommending you eat the foods on this list. I'm just putting this here to show you some products out there that really are Vegan (just in case...)

Many people think that it's too hard or even impossible to be on  a pure Vegan diet.  How can you get through the day and find things to eat?  What do you eat when you're at a restaurant (actually this part is really easy these days...more later)
It's no secret that most supermarkets now have "health food store" sections in them, along with much organic produce to choose from.  Some stock products ranging from soy/rice milks to bulk bins of foods most commonly found in health food stores (grains, beans, lentils, trail mix, etc)

But , at times, we just can't find the right thing to satisfy our cravings...or to give us that variety we want.  Occasionally, as we scour the labels of many packaged foods, we are stunned and surprised to find a comfort food/"junk food" that is actually Vegan. In fact, PETA  has an entire web site devoted to these foods  and listing them in detail by category. It's a great site to familiarize yourself with.

I in no way advocate nor recommend eating these foods. I'm putting it in here as merely information to show you that , at times, things don't have to seem so difficult, and there are many ways to satisfy that sweet tooth or bakery tooth in a pinch!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fish-Healthy? Environmental? Ethical?

The subject of whether to eat fish or not is vast!  Fish seems to have it's own separate niche in the field of nutrition, apart from red meat and chicken and other land animals.  It has great press and spin promoting all its wonderful healthy aspects. However...I don't agree.  And neither do all the plant based doctors and nutritionists.  There is much written about the negative effects of eating fish. This being due to the inherent make-up of fish (and shellfish). Then there is the toxic and contaminant part of the fish problem.  Then there is the incredible environmental toll that fishing and overfishing is causing to the oceans.  And finally, and always so important to me, is the ethical side of the  issue.

I will list a few really good articles and give their site links at the end of this blog, but I'll basically do a brief summary first of what is in them.

We'll start with the health and nutrition aspect of fish, as that is what most people are interested in.  A question was raised as to whether protein from fish is superior to meat.  In some ways, it might be, but in many other ways it's not. Which poison would you rather die from?  Fish or red meat or chicken or dairy?

To begin with, fish is mainly protein and fat with no fiber (zero). Some fish are extremely high in fat...some times as much as 60% of calories.  Along with this, fish are also high in cholesterol., and when we look at the values of cholesterol by calories (as opposed to weight) we find that fish is often twice the cholesterol of red meat and chicken and even pork. (per 100 calories, not per ounce)   A three ounce serving of bass has 80 milligrams of cholesterol, exactly the same as red meat.  (average being about 26 mg's per ounce)  Ideally , we should eat NO cholesterol.  Cholesterol is only found in animals and seafood. Plants have ZERO cholesterol. I've discussed earlier that we get far too much protein in our diets and should be much more concerned about getting less, especially animal protein (and fish protein). Fish, being high in protein (since it's made up of only protein and fat) is again contributing to an overly high protein diet, and using animal (fish) flesh again to be doing it.    There have been studies showing fish increases risk of prostate cancer, increases risk of heart disease, and even promotes breast cancer.  (see the articles by Dr. John McDougall "Fish Promotes Breast Cancer" and the article by Dr. Michael Greger : "Fish Consumption and Breast Cancer-A Warning"  

Everyone these days has heard of the toxic aspects of what's in fish now. Mercury contamination is probably the worst of what you'll be getting when you eat fish. Mercury is highly toxic to humans (kidneys, nervous system and even heart issues) Eating fish and shellfish is the largest cause of mercury levels in humans. Fish also tend to accumulate many other highly toxic waste products that humans dump in the oceans (PCBs and Dioxins and others)

Fish oil is very popular and even most GP doctors recommend it to patients to make sure they get all those good Omega 3' help prevent everything from heart disease to depression.  While there are definite benefits from Omega 3's, fish isn't the only source. A wide variety of plants can be used to get our Omega 3 needs, like flax seeds and flax oil, hemp , walnuts, other seeds and nuts, soy, beans , vegetables and grains. There is also the important aspect of the ratio of Omega 3's to 6's and 9's.  Omega 6's being the "bad oils". We are supposed to have a ratio of 4:1 (6's to 3's) but most on the SAD diet get 10 or 20:1 or higher.  We should focus on getting rid of the bad oils and put less focus on raising our Omega 3 levels, as we can get most of what we need with a whole foods plant based diet.

The environmental damage is staggering.  Most of the world fisheries are being depleted at alarming rates, and many are approaching the irreversible point of collapse.  Fishermen are bringing in smaller and smaller catches and many are looking for new lines of work.  A report came out in 2006 by by an international group of ecologists and economists stating that the oceans would run out of fish  by 2048  if current fishing practices continue.  If there are no fish, and if the oceans "die" then that will pretty much put an end to life as we know it (or knew it...)  If everyone on the planet decided to eat more fish instead of meat, the demand for fish would be so great that we'd reach that emptiness far sooner than 2048. (Here is a link to the article: We always have to think of the consequences of what we're eating, and eating fish is destroying the planet as much as any other human endeavor.

And finally, for this post, there is the ethical  question.  I've been trying to keep this entire blog mainly about the health and nutrition aspects of a plant based diet.  Environmental issues will also be a large part of the writings.  But fish are still living creatures and we have to realize and be aware of that , as much as whether we are eating baby lambs or baby veal calves or tortured caged  chickens. Fish really get a bad deal with all this since they are not cute or furry or cuddly and live in an environment out of our sight. But they are living creatures. They feel pain. They do not want to be killed or hooked or netted or eaten by us, and given the chance, will swim away and avoid capture. Decisions about things like this are personal. Most people, for some reason, look at fish as something there to be eaten for humans. Others look at them as creatures that exist for their own reasons, not to be interfered with by humans. I prefer the latter.

I have many articles posted about Fish on my site:

and on my personal counseling site:

Some interesting sites regarding much of the info I've presented in this post:


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Protein-To Combine or Not to Combine

There has a been a myth about plant proteins that has persisted on and on over the years...that plant proteins are "incomplete" and therefore need to be combined at each meal.  A worse myth , of course, is that they are incomplete and need to be supplemented with animal proteins.  Both are wrong and misleading.  In the book "Diet for a Small Planet"(1971), by Francis Moore Lappe,  the notion of needing to eat complementary plant proteins, or to combine proteins at each meal, was discussed or theorized.  It is probably one of the most steadfast myths that has ever existed in the field of nutrition.  Supposedly she came up with this idea by observation of many societies that did , in fact, have multiple plant protein sources in their diets, like the famous rice and beans scenario.  This idea was contested by scientists and nutritionists, and eventually in 1981, Ms. Lappe reversed her opinions about this...yet the myth still lives on.

In 1952, a study was done by William Rose to determine the requirements in humans of the eight essential amino acids.  They studied the values of these eight as found in unprocessed complex carbohydrates (as opposed to pure protein sources) and found that all eight existed in each plant food, in more than the minimum requirements set at the time.  In fact, some plant sources have a higher protein content (per calorie) than meat does.  It's important to distinguish nutrients per weight, versus nutrients per calorie...two completely different things.   Spinach is 49% protein per calorie compared to chicken which is actually lower per calorie (the rest being fats)  100 calories of broccoli supplies about 12 grams of protein, while 100 calories of steak supplies about 6 grams of protein. Broccoli has twice the protein content of steak PER CALORIE.  So why aren't people more aware of the high protein qualities of plants?  Much has to do with the brainwashing and spin put out there by the meat and dairy associations. Another more deceptive reason, is that all our charts are by weight (grams, ounces) which show more protein in animal products than plants.  (as opposed to nutrients per calorie)  A small or "normal" portion of meat , might be 6 ounces, which would have more protein in it than a normal portion of broccoli, which might only be 2 ounces, since it is so light in weight compared to animal flesh.  

Vegetables are clearly the winners when it comes to having the most nutrients per calorie!  Mother Nature obviously planned it that way.  Another point to remember is that many of the largest animals on the planet, all being vegetarians, get all the protein they need from plants.  Elephants, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, great apes, horses etc, all do fine with a plant based diet and get all the protein they need.  And note, that humans tend to eat land animals that are vegetarian in nature.  We certainly do get more nutrients from them than from carnivorous animals like the large carnivorous cat family for instance.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Protein-"How do you get enough Protein?"

In the past few posts, I started writing about dairy, from the viewpoint of when it started and from the viewpoint about how unhealthy it is.  I said that most plant based nutritionists would say it should be the very first thing to be eliminated in our diet, yet it is often the last thing to go for people who start eliminating animal products one by one.  

When I tell anyone that I'm a Vegan or on a plant based diet, I am always asked the number one question of all time  (in this subject) : "Where do you get your protein from?"  It's amazing that the average person thinks this is the most important nutrient in the world, and that if one is a Vegan or vegetarian, that they must surely be lacking in protein, and therefore open to a whole range of serious diseases.  The truth is that humans eating the SAD diet (Standard American Diet) are getting far too much protein.  The average plant based diet is approximately 70% complex carbs (the "good" carbs) , 15% fat, 15% protein.  That's not very much protein...but sufficient for proper health.  The reason people go around thinking we need so much is that we've been told we need a lot and have been sold a bill of false goods by the meat and dairy association over the years.  Doctors are not taught nutrition in schools, and doctors, as well as the average person out there, also think we need more protein than we do, yet most will admit the consequences of getting too much of it. If they're aware of these consequences then why don't they recommend a low protein diet?  The consequences of too much protein (animal protein) can include osteoporosis, kidney failure, kidney stones, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers (breast, prostate, colon to name a few).

There is a myth that plant proteins are incomplete.  That's what it is really, just a myth. I'll go into that soon enough.  Studies have shown that animal proteins can increase the risk of cancer while plant proteins do NOT.  

So when asked about where do I get enough protein, the answer is we get all we need from plants!  Grains, vegetables, beans, legumes, greens, seeds and nuts supply all the protein we need.  I've heard many a plant based nutritionist say we should be more concerned about how to get LESS protein than more.  Even many Vegans worry about it too much, or eat too much plant found in tofu, seitan, or tempeh.  We don't need any of these high density protein foods really...they are all processed, not found in nature in a pure and edible form, and not necessary to have in our diet.  People think we eat tons of tofu, as they always follow up their question about where do we get our protein from, with the statement "do you eat a lot of tofu?"  I usually say no, or almost none and that it's not necessary either.  

The high protein diet fads that seem to always come and go (Atkins being the most obvious) can cause serious overloading of the kidneys  leading to kidney failure in the short term, and atherosclerosis and other heart issues in the long term. Colon cancer is now recognized as being directly related to a high animal protein diet.  The simple explanation being that animal protein has no fiber (ZERO) and therefor does not move very swiftly through our bodies. The rotting flesh takes forever to break down and sits in our colon eventually and leads to colon cancer (simple explanation, but close enough)  I once heard a well known nutritionist, George Eisman, state that the correlation between animal protein to colon cancer, is as positive and closely tied as the correlation of smoking to lung cancer.  The odds and effects are almost similar.

Another well known plant based doctor told his audience to try to leave the word "protein" out of our vocabulary.  Forget about thinking about it and forget about worrying about it. If you eat a well balanced, nutritionally adequate plant based diet , you will be getting all the protein you need. Dr. McDougall has said that it is impossible to NOT get enough protein if one eats a well balanced nutritionally adequate plant based diet!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dairy-An Addiction?

Dr. Neal Barnard , president of PCRM-Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. wrote a very interesting book called Breaking the Food Seduction (available at PCRM...

In this book, Dr. Barnard goes into detail about how certain foods affect not only our taste buds, but also our brains.  Two of the most "addictive" foods are chocolate and cheese.  In the past, research was conducted which showed that milk has very slight, but often detectable traces of morphine in it.  They also found that small traces of codeine and other opiates could be produced in the cow's liver.  It's theorized that Mother Nature uses theses opiates as a calming and bonding effect on baby calves (and baby humans, as it was shown that similar results applied to human milk as well).

So if you've ever suspected or sensed that you're addicted to some foods, perhaps you really are!  The book goes into detail about all the possibilities and research that has been done in this area.

When speaking to people about plant based diets, it's very common to hear someone say "but I'll never give up my cheese!"   And  it's usually the very last thing to go, when converting to a full plant based diet.

Dairy- IGF-1 Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1

Cancer and the dairy connection. There are many reasons why dairy is more and more closely linked to cancer. The one I'll discuss here is IGF-1, or Insulin-Like Growth Hormone 1.  There are many articles on-line about this hormone so I'll just give a fairly simple explanation of what it is and what it does.  IGF-1 is a hormone produced by mammals in the liver and body tissues. It's main function is to promote cell growth and cell development.  IGF-1 levels increase dramatically with the addition of  recombinant bovine somatotrophin (rBST)...the controversial ingredient that is injected into cows to increase milk production.  But keep in mind that all  milk from cows has IGF-1, whether treated or not with rBST.  The levels of IGF-1 in humans are shown to increase as the amounts of dairy in our diets increase. Articles have been written stating that even very small increases in levels of IGF-1 in humans are linked to an increase in many types of cancers, most notably breast and prostate cancer.  In 1998, a study at the Harvard Medical School showed conclusively that IGF-1 was a major factor in prostate cancer.  Other tests done around that time concluded showed evidence of IGF-1 and it's link to breast and colon cancer.

Countries that consume the most milk are showing statistically that they have the highest rates of  breast and prostate cancer (and very high rates of colon cancer )  The more IGF-1 in the bloodstream, (due to rBST), the higher the incidences of cancer.  It's in the farmers' best interests to have each cow produce the maximum possible amount of milk.  Some countries have banned the use of rBST to increase production, but once again , please remember that all milk, even organic milk , had IGF-1 in it. It's part of the structure of milk, not an additive. If you drink milk, or consume dairy products, you will elevate the levels of IGF-1 in your body and you will be increasing the risks of many types of cancer.  There is absolutely no reason to use dairy products. They do more harm than good. Most people in the world do NOT consume dairy ( humans are lactose intolerant, some civilizations  more than others) We get all the calcium we need from plants and have no need of calcium from milk. As I explained in an earlier blog, Osteoporosis is a not a disease of lack of calcium but a disease of excess protein (the cause of so much disease in the US..excess protein, specifically animal protein as opposed to plant protein)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Dairy-What's wrong with it?


As I wrote about earlier, dairy is a fairly recent food in the human diet.  Humans started using it only after we began domesticating animals, and taming them so they would stand still and let us milk them.  It was all a process of learning the earliest forms of animal agriculture.  It was NOT given to humans as a gift from above. 

Dairy comprises an overly significant part of the Standard American Diet (SAD)  All the plant based doctors and nutritionists that I've ever read or heard speak have all said that Dairy is the first thing that should be eliminated from our diets.  And usually it is the last!  More and more evidence appears regularly that shows that dairy contributes to or causes many of our most serious diseases: Cancer, Heart Disease, Osteoporosis and Diabetes (to name of few of the worst)  Each disease is worthy of it's own chapter , and I will certainly give them their fair time and explanation is succeeding blogs.

Dairy is high in saturated fat, excess protein (animal protein) , and cholesterol (fat and cholesterol are two separate can have low fat with high cholesterol and low cholesterol with high fat) Diets high in these ingredients are prime candidates for cardiovascular disease.  Stroke is similar to heart disease. In simple terms, it is a clogging of arteries to the brain, as opposed to the heart.   When I refer to Dairy, I'm referring to ALL of it...milk, cheese, butter, ice cream, cottage cheese, cream cheese  etc. 

Cancer of the breast and prostate is closely related to consumption of dairy products. Cow's milk is basically a hormone delivery system which supplies vital nutrients and hormones for a baby calf, not a baby human. The composition of cow's milk and human milk is significantly different with human milk actually resembling rat's milk more closely than cow's milk. (protein, fat content  and other nutrients)  Most of the countries that consume the most dairy, have the highest rates of breast and prostate cancer (US, Scandinavia near the top)

Diabetes is closely linked with dairy consumption, especially in children. The insulin producing cells of the pancreas are affected (or destroyed) in children from ingredients in dairy. 

Osteoporosis is the disease that seems to have the best "press" about the virtues of drinking milk to build strong bones and prevent this crippling disease.  But the reverse seems to be the truth. Once again, the countries with the highest consumption of dairy have the highest rates of osteoporosis and hip fractures.  Osteoporosis is not a disease of too little calcium, but rather a disease of too much protein. Excess protein leaches calcium out of the body through the urinary system. Milk is high in calcium but also high in protein.  As we drink milk (and this is more true for later on in life) the excess protein in the milk pulls the calcium right out, and so no gain in calcium is seen.  It is better to get calcium from vegetables such as leafy greens (kale is a good source), brocolli,  and beans, to name a few.

There are many other problems caused by dairy that have lesser consequences than the above major diseases.  (allergies, colic, gastrointestinal issues, iron deficiency anemia, tolerance build up to name a few)  

Dr. T.  Colin Campbell, author of "The China Study"  (  once said that casein, found in dairy, is the worst ingredient humans ingest.  He shows in his book the direct links to cancer. You'd think the message would be more accepted by now with the general public, or at least within the medical profession.  But in this country, there seems to be no end to its popularity.  Dairy can be looked at as liquid meat.  It is not healthier than animal flesh, and should be reduced or eliminated from one's diet.

For more information about dairy, I recommend the incredibly comprehensive and informative site  of  Robert Cohen, the Not Milkman:

There is more information here, with links and articles from A-Z about dairy, than you've  ever thought could exist about the subject!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dairy-What about the calf?

This will be one of the  times in my overall blog that I'm going to talk about the ethical aspect of raising animals for food.  People often try to put an order to which form of animal agriculture is the worst for the animal.  I often hear egg layers in battery cages, foie gras ducks, female pigs in gestation crates, veal calves in veal crates, and dairy cows.   Dairy is certainly one of the  worst possible condition for all animals as it encompasses so many aspects of abuse and and slaughter. Ever since I learned about the "secrets" of dairy, 20 years ago, it's been my main issue that I've always felt needed the most exposing, as the real evils of it are really not understood by most people.  Everyone goes around thinking dairy is benign. When you tell some you're  Vegan or you're on a plant based diet, they always ask "What's wrong with dairy? They don't kill animals to make dairy, do they?"  Sorry to say they  do.  Even people who become vegetarian (as opposed to Vegan) still eat dairy products thinking it's "OK" because the cows aren't killed (and because they think they need the calcium and protein in milk)  So aside from dairy products being the worst food in the human diet, it turns out that dairy is also one of the worst situations from the animal's miserable life.

Here's the story of how dairy is produced and what we have to do to have a cow produce milk. First of all, a cow is a female mammal, like cats and dogs, giraffes, bears, what have you...and humans.  Human females do not have milk or lactate until they have gone through pregnancy and have given birth. The same is true for cows.  In order for a cow to give milk, she has to first be pregnant and then give birth to a calf.  The typical dairy farm (in the US or anywhere) is comprised of all female cows, since they're the ones that produce milk.  

With today's modern techniques, most cows are artificially inseminated. This assures the farmer of a "take" and the ability to buy a prize specimen, and have continuity in his production and lineage.  If it's the cows first time, they simply wait it out until she gives birth. If it's her second or third, then she's also milked during each pregnancy as she's in a state of constant lactation, with a short time off possibly.  So when her calf is born, they allow the calf to nurse for a day or two, to get the milk flowing then they take the calf away.  This is a VERY emotional and distressing event for both the mother and the baby.  No motherl wants to lose her baby, especially right after birth. Some farms don't even wait a day or two as they want to get the first drops of milk to sell for the increased collagen content.  (some people , incorrectly, think this is a "health food")  If the baby born is a male, he is of no use to the dairy farm. It doesn't pay to keep him around or to raise him for meat. Dairy cows are very different from beef/meat cows and do not have the same quality to their flesh for the more prime cuts (lower grades, yes)  The baby boy is immediately sold to a veal farm. Most people know about veal, and always tell you immediately "oh I don't eat veal, that's so cruel"  Well , by drinking milk and eating cheese, they are creating these veal calves...surplus male dairy calves.  The vealer comes and picks the calf up and takes him to his veal farm.

Most veal calves spend the next 16 weeks of their lives in a small wooden crate, 2 x4 feet, chained at the neck and unable to move. They can barely lie down and are often covered in their own feces. They are fed a liquid iron -free diet, which keeps them anemic and keeps their flesh white.  Hence the term milk-fed veal.   Since they never take a step , their leg muscles are weak and soft, which gives their meat that extra tenderness that veal lovers expect. After 16 weeks, these baby veal calves are trucked off to the slaughter house and are killed and packaged into veal and sold in the markets.  The life of a veal calf is certainly one  of the worst possible conditions for an animal to be in.

If the calf born is a female, she is kept in the herd and will replace an older female. Female cows are impregnated every year and are constantly either pregnant or lactating and always being milked. (and fed growth hormones and antibiotics and special grains or food so they produce way more milk than they were capable of before all this type of farming started)

A normal cow might live 20-25 years. But on a dairy farm, the typical age might be 3 -5 years before they ship HER off to the slaughter house also...the same slaughter house that kills beef cows.  A female dairy  cow is used for chopped meat, low grade cuts, pet food, soups etc.  There a are a hundred other things cows bodies are used for but I won't go into all that now. (The most obvious being leather)  Did you know that gelatin capsules and jello come from boiling down the hooves and horns of cow?   The young female calf will soon replace one of these aging cows and become a milk machine herself, then suffer the same fate. 

Impregnation,  birth, separation  of calf, baby males going to veal farms, and then ending up in the slaughter house herself.

All this because humans think they need dairy for it's nutrients?  All plant based doctors and nutritionists and specialists  will tell you that dairy is the first thing in the human diet that should go. Humans are  lactose intolerant. More humans on the planet do not eat dairy than do eat it.  Asians and Africans and other civilizations don't have dairy on the menu (unless they are becoming more westernized )  

Next blog we'll look at the health aspects of dairy.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Processed Food

As I stated earlier, the SAD diet is about 45% animal products and 45% processed food. What exactly comes under the heading of "processed" foods?  Many foods have non-food products in them  , like phosphoric acid. Other things lurking around in our food  are  ingredients we should always try to avoid like hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup.  And then there are all the artificial flavorings and preservatives.    Obviously all junk food would go into this category.  Twinkies, sodas, candy, pastries , hot dogs and other processed meats, canned foods, boxed foods, bottled foods, salad  dressings, frozen dinners, frozen desserts, chips , cookies...practically everything from a supermarket that is in or near the middle , or in an aisle, or on a shelf usually.   Stick to the fruit and vegetable area and you'll be better off.

Breakfast cereal is  processed, even from health food stores, if it's in the shape of flakes or rounds or whatever. A better breakfast choice would be oatmeal with some raisins or bananas in it.  A small amount of soy or rice milk (they're processed too!) If it's not sweet enough use Agave (pure sweet syrup from cactus)  Fresh fruit is a good choice for breakfast.  Any breads should be whole grain, not made with white flour.  Forget the bacon and eggs.

Juices, like orange juice are processed.  (and pasteurized and heated and shipped and stored) It's best to have fresh squeezed or a combination of fresh vegetable juice (of your choice)

Oils...not so healthy.  Even though they are not trans fats, and not solid at room temperature,and are cold pressed extra virgin,  they are frowned upon by all the top plant- based nutritionists and doctors, and I'll explain why in a post specifically about oils.

Sugar... It deserves it's own chapter. I read recently that the average American consumes about 149 pounds of sugar a year.  That's THREE large 50 pound bags!
One interesting trend that has been taking place over the years, is the proliferation of processed "healthy"  vegetarian and Vegan foods.  Almost every supermarket these days has a section of Vegan deli meats, fake cheese, frozen "chicken" nuggets, soy and rice and almond milk, soy ice-cream. It's easier than it ever has been to find Vegan foods wherever we go.  It's been said that the "crossover" food industry is the best thing that's ever happened in the Animal Rights movement.    Many animals lives are saved by being able to enjoy foods that taste like animals but are made from plants.  But many now question whether these foods are healthy also, just as the true junk food processed foods are deemed unhealthy.  In my opinion, they are far better than the equivalent animal product. There is still no cholesterol or saturated animal fats in them.  They definitely make  great crossover foods to help carnivores kick the meat eating habit.   But we should eat them sparingly, especially as we become more and more aware that unprocessed whole foods are healthier all around.  Eat as much whole , real food as you can, and supplement it with the crossover foods and Vegan processed foods as you see fit...but keep in mind that the less the better!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Don't be SAD...

SAD...the Standard American Diet.  What a disaster!  We should be eating a whole foods plant based diet for maximum health potential, and look at what most people in the US are eating. The SAD diet , depending on who you ask, is about 45% animal products, 45% processed food, leaving 10% for fresh vegetables and fresh fruit , whole grains, and salads.  Of this last 10% , the vegetable of choice is French Fries...with ketchup.  Most Americans are dying from this diet. So that leaves only 5% for "good" food.

The SAD diet is this:

High Saturated fats
High in Animal fats and flesh
Far too much Protein
High in processed foods
High in simple Carbs and sugar and corn syrup
LOW Fiber
LOW complex Carbs
LOW plant based foods
LOW in raw uncooked foods : i.e. fruits , vegetables healthy nuts and seeds

In other words, it's diametrically opposed to the proper healthy (healthiest diet):

Low fat

High complex Carbs
Low Protein
Whole Foods
Plant based

ANIMAL-FREE...forget about them!

 No wonder 65% of the population are obese, heart attacks are the number one killer, cancer is second and coming up fast, diabetes is rampant and showing up in younger kids more and more...and the list of  illnesses and diseases  goes on and on.

Studies and statistics have shown that the countries or populations that use the least amount of animal flesh and dairy and eggs have the lowest rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes etc.  Countries that consume the most dairy products tend to have the highest rates of Osteoporosis (US, Scandinavia)  Doesn't milk prevent osteoporosis? Apparently not. I'll discuss this in another blog.  Countries that consume the most dairy products also tend to have the highest rates of breast and prostate cancer.  Countries that eat the most animal flesh have the highest rates of colon cancer, rapidly coming up fast in the list of major killers.  Meat and dairy have no meat sits in one's colon and rots, increasing the potential for colon cancer.  The disease is very rare in people who eat a high fiber diet.

In future blogs I'll go into all these issues in more detail.  For now, try to start replacing some of your "bad" foods, slowly but surely, or ASAP, with some "good" foods.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Domestication of Farm Animals

Now , modern society has a never ending supply of domesticated tame animals to eat and to take milk and eggs from. Primitive humans , being hunter gatherers, were totally dependent on the success of a hunt. If things didn't go well, then they didn't have meat for a while, and lived more on a plant based diet, which many say was their predominant food source in the first place.

So when did this domestication start?  It's generally agreed that the first animals to have been domesticated and tamed and used for food were sheep, and then goats, around 9000 years ago.  That's a very short time in human history.  This is really when humans starting eating a much more substantial amount of meat compared to all the meat eating in earlier times.  Pigs , and cattle, started being domesticated around 7000 BC.  It's at this time that Dairy production started. In the wild, primitive humans couldn't count on killing lactating females, so might not have used dairy at all.  The female animals were killed for the same meat as the males.  

Why humans took such a liking to milk is still a bit of a mystery to me. I realize that milk was considered a valid and useful food. But I'm not sure where we developed the taste buds for it in the first place!  Much of the world's population is lactose intolerant.  Most Asians and Africans do not have dairy in their diet.  In fact, I read a few years ago , that more people on the planet did NOT use dairy than did.  This might be changing as our SAD Diet (Standard American Diet) seems to be taking roots all around the world.

As you all probably know and realize, no species in evolutionary history has ever used the milk of other animals in their diet.  AND , no species ever drank milk beyond childhood.  Milk evolved as the perfect food for the baby animals of their specific species, and became unnecessary as the animal began to age.  Humans have a very unique position, and a special claim to fame, therefore, in all of mammalian history,  for our proclivity to dairy products.  Dr. Klaper, well known Vegan medical doctor, once said in a lecture that I attended thatjust because humans started eating something 10,000 or more years ago, doesn't mean it's healthy...humans have been on a dietary experiment this whole time that has gone terribly wrong.

He also said one of my favorite statements I've heard in my 20 years of being Vegan. (and I'll repeat this later when I discuss dairy production"

...Every glass of milk has in it the blood of the mother and the tears of the calf...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Grains...good or bad?

Grains have become more and more a focus of nutrition these days, mainly due to gluten  and it's negative effects on our bodies (though there are many other arguments against grains besides the gluten issue).  I have three books at home about grains:

Going Against the Grain...Melissa Diane Smith

Dangerous Grains...Brady and Hoggan

Grain Dead...Dr. Doug Graham (Raw Foodist)

Most people start rolling their eyes if you tell them there might be some problems nutritionally with grains.

So are grains "the staff of life" or are they causing disease?

First of all, when did humans start eating them? They are not part of Primates' diet, so where and when did we learn to grow and eat them?  The average time given from the past is about 10,000 years ago, in the Fertile Crescent, the Dawn of Civilization...the onset of agriculture.  This is when colonies and tribes started changing from hunter-gatherers to agriculture, and formed permanent homes...and grew grains, and early fruits and vegetables , for the first time in human history. 10,000 years ago is a very short time of course.  Some say, that since grains were not part of our "natural" diet, we still have not evolved to the point where we can tolerate them very well. Others say that grains are perfectly fine and are a valid nutritional part of the modern human diet.

There is much written and conjectured about the earliest cultivation of grains. The main thing we should be interested in , relative to this entire blog about nutrition, is not where and when it all happened, but is it something humans should have started eating in such vast quantities, or at all?

Dr. Andrew Weil believes we should eat whole grains,, in their natural form, such as wild rice, quinoa, barley, millet and wheat berries. He does not feel we should be eating much processed grains (flours or puffed grains). He goes on to explain that whole grains have a low GI (Glycemic index) vs. refined grains which have a high GI...and that we should cut down on all products made with flour.  Other nutritionists say grains are very good foods , and some say we should eliminate them completely.

I will go into more detail about grains later on in upcoming blogs. The main reason I'm bringing them up here is for historical reasons. Since the subject was about primates' diets, then early primitive humans, then more evolved humans, then humans that exist's important to note when grains came into widespread use.  Human history changed when agriculture came into being. Grains played a very large role in agriculture (along with domestication of animals, storage of food, expansion of available foods due to cultivation, new products formed from plant and plant fibers and animals and their body parts)

The most common complaints we hear about grains are wheat allergy, and Celiac disease (which can be responsible for many serious ailments). But the books mentioned above, go into far more detail about many many more serious conditions the authors' believe are caused by grains.  I will talk about that later.

Next blog I will go into the domestication of animals and the onset of our use of dairy...for better or for worse.  (and it's pretty obvious that it's for worse!)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Primate Diets and Prehistoric Humans

When discussing the questions of what did primitive humans eat, we have to define "primitive"...there is a  difference between the diet of humans of 2,000,000 years ago with the diet of humans of 250,000 years ago.  The former, being closer to primates , based on time, not physiology, are a good starting point. But first a word about  primate diets...our closest ancestors.

Much of the following information can be found on the site of Vegetarian Resource Group:

 In general our primate ancestors were primarily plant eaters (as they still are) Some apes eat fruit only (frugivores, like Gibbons)  Gorillas  are mostly vegetarian, eating more greens and less fruit. Orangutans are full vegetarians.  Bonobos subsist on a pure plant based diet.  A completely RAW restaurant in NYC is named after these primates, as a recognition of the 

the restaurant offers. I've been there many times and love it!   (       Chimpanzees, our closest relatives, are supposedly 95% vegetarian. They have been known to kill other animals and even other primates, but some argue this is not for nutrition but more for territoriality or show of force.

So, are ancestors in the primate world are , for the most part, plant eaters.

But humans have eaten meat and continue to do so, whether it's healthy or not. Humans do fall into the category of Omnivore...but are closer to Herbivore in nature.  There is some evidence to show that earliest humans were almost fully vegetarians. Before the creation of tools, humans could only eat dead carrion when they ate meat, since humans are very poorly equipped to kill live animals (we can't run fast, we  don't have claws, we can't rip flesh with our teeth etc.)  It really wasn't until humans learned how to craft clubs and spears and other primitive tools, that the eating of meat increased greatly.

Another well documented website/blog concerning this subject is Vegan Life:

The author shows that while we can tolerate small amounts of meat, we are far more similar to herbivores than to carnivores.

Then there arealways  the people who state "But humans have always eaten meat"  This is not true.  Dr. John McDougall, ( well known plant based doctor  and expert on the relationship  between diet and disease, has stated, as have many anthropologists, that our ancestors of 4,000,000 years ago ate a mostly  vegetarian diet.   The hunting and killing and eating of animals is still a fairly recent development in human history.  And as I said earlier, humans had to scavenge for meat, and ate mainly carrion, prior to the use of tools.  When they were lucky enough to find the remains of a dead partially consumed animal.  And unfortunately, as they were "feasting" they often became prey to the real carnivores who killed and devoured them also.  It wasn't until much much later , when humans learned to control fire, that meat eating increased greatly. Some argue that this is "proof" that humans are not true meat eaters...since they couldn't kill meat without tools, and then didn't eat a lot of meat until they learned to cook it with fire...implying that raw meat just wasn't very palatable to our prehistoric ancestors either.

There are classic examples of human physiology that are always brought up to show why we were evolved to eat plants.  First there is our stomach acid, which is very low compared to true carnivores which is very high. A lion needs to break down the dead flesh quickly and get it started on it's way through it's body. 

 Our intestines are very long and convoluted...typical of herbivores. Lions' intestines are short and fairly smooth walled...both features allowing the rotting meat to get out as fast as possible.  Our jaw structure is more herbivore also. Herbivores tend to have rotating jaws for chewing , with flat grinding molars. Carnivores have jaws that only go up and down, and most or all their teeth are pointed for tearing and ripping.  They chomp off chunks of meat and then swallow the pieces without chewing.  Modern domestic house cats do the same.   Our teeth that are called "canines" are really NOT true carnivorous canines. It's more of a dental term designating where they are located.  Carnivores' canines stick out over the bottom jaw and are fully prepared to rip and tear into flesh. How many people have you seen with canines sticking out like that (other than in vampire movies)?
There are quite a few more physiological examples showing why we favor plants but I won't go into all of them here but will mention a few:  saliva, facial muscles, liver, kidney, nails and hooves vs claws,mouth opening to head size, and more)

So , to sum up the above, we are omnivores but with a preference to herbivorous behavior and diet.  And , as we will see later in this blog, the more meat we eat, the more unhealthy we become.  As John Robbins said in Diet For a New America, you don't get saturated fat and cholesterol and artery clogging ingredients from broccoli and brown rice.   We know 

meat and dairy can kill us, so is it smart to eat even small amounts of these animal products?  Personally I'd rather stay away from the completely.  But the rest of society and human civilization seems to have gravitated more and more to an animal based diet, and is suffering the consequences.  Just because humans started to eat meat  a few million years ago, does not mean they "evolved" to do so, nor is it for the better! (as we'll clearly see later on).

Monday, April 6, 2009

From Then to Now

I mentioned a few specific topics in the first blog , other than all the issues I discussed along with them. I'm going to give a brief outline here of the full range of this blog and what I'll be trying to discuss and explain. 

I'd like to start with this thought:

If large amounts of meat and dairy can kill us, then is it smart to eat even small amounts of these products?  Hardly, in my opinion.  You won't get heart disease from brown rice and broccoli!


Ancient times and early civilization:

Evolution...where did we come from?
Primates...what do they eat?
Early Humans...what did they eat?
When did meat eating start?
Human Physiology...Carnivore or Herbivore or what?
Dawn of Civilization and Agriculture
Grains...when did we start cultivating them?
Domestication of Animals
Dairy...when did this start?

Modern times:

How did we get to the modern SAD diet?
What is this diet comprised of?
Why is it so unhealthy?
Processed Foods
The China Study...Dr. T Colin Campbell
Modern Diseases
Heart Disease
Protein Obsession
Dairy Obsession
Carbohydrate Obsession
Factory Farming
Vegan Nutrition
Whole Foods Plant based diet
Raw Food
Myths about Vegetarianism
Doctors Practicing plant based nutrition
Other diseases A-Z

Effects on the Planet:

Animal Agriculture and the Environment
Cars or Cows? Both!
John Robbins "Diet for a New America"
Water usage, deforestation, pesticides, antibiotics, fossil fuels, desertification, top soil erosion
Cattle vs Wildlife
Kill the Wolves and Coyotes and Lions and anything that will kill a farm animal

I'm sure I'll keep adding to this list as I think of more subjects, but I'll stop here for now and begin the long journey from primate diets to current diets.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Vegan Nutrition

This is my first blog!  My goal in this  blog is to discuss as much information as possible about the benefits of a 100% plant based  whole foods diet.  I've been a "Vegan" for 20 years now and have learned quite a bit about all aspects of this lifestyle.  The reasons to go Vegan are stronger than ever in today's world.    My personal reasons for starting on this path were more from the ethical side of the issue. I became very involved in the Animal Rights movement 20 years ago and formed a group here in Woodstock , NY  (in 1989) called   WARM, inc...Woodstock Animal Rights Movement. This will not be a blog about Animal Rights but more about the Health and Environmental reasons for eating a  plant based diet.  Right from the very start of WARM, inc, it became obvious to me that the health benefits of a Vegan diet were enormous.  I truly believe it is the healthiest diet in the world...the healthiest way to eat for all humans...and the only way to sustain our growing population.  

I  will show how raising animals for food is the single greatest environmentally destructive activity that humans partake in.  But the primary reason for the blog will still be in the area of health, nutrition, diseases, and prevention.  I will discuss at length many of the questions that relate to this.  Evolution and diet of primates, human physiology, carnivore or herbivore, early human diets, development of wheat and grain in agriculture, when did dairy start, how did we get from there to here..."here" being the typical SAD diet-Standard American Diet-by far, the worst diet in the world , and how can we change and  what should we be eating?   Our diet is now comprised of about 45% percent animal products and 45% processed foods. Both of which, in my opinion, are causing a health disaster of epic proportions. That leaves about 10% for fresh fruits, vegetables, beans ,whole grains, nuts and seeds etc. But most people in the US don't even fill that 10% with the proper nutrition they need. We are literally eating ourselves to death, but not by hunger or starvation...simply by the foods we are eating that we think are "normal" or healthy.  Society thinks it's "normal" to die of a heart attack, the leading cause of death in this country.

If someone gets aids and dies from it, this news can , and often does, make the front page in papers.  But if someone gets heart disease or has a heart attack, we simply accredit it to being normal and part of life.   You have to die of something , don't you?  Cancer is on the rise now and that seems to be getting more attention as a worse thing to have than heart disease.  It can be scarier and more debilitating.   Everyone knows that heart disease is linked somehow to people think they should eat less red meat and less fats, but they replace this  with chicken, fish, dairy ,eggs and more processed and artificial foods. But many cancers are also caused by or directly related to , or enhanced by eating so much animal foods.  Diabetes falls into the same category. Countries that eat less animal products and less processed foods have far less diabetes.  The same statistics hold true for heart disease, many forms of cancer, stroke, osteoporosis, and most other major (and minor) diseases.   
Statistics show that  Obesity is an epidemic now in the US.  65% of all people are overweight and half of them are morbidly obese.  Obesity in itself can kill , but obesity also leads to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis and joint weakness, stroke, and all the other major killers.  Generally, overweight people who go on plant based diets start to lose weight very quickly.  Most people on a plant based diet are within the proper weight and are very healthy. They have lower cholesterol, lower LDL, lower rates of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. It's been shown in medical studies that a Vegan diet can even reverse heart disease and can halt some cancers and make some go into remission.  Vegan doctors claim they can cure diabetes and that it is a reversible disease.

So, to sum up for now, I'll be going into all these aspects of diet and health as they relate to plant based nutrition. I'll give you links to many articles by the top doctors and nutritionists in the field so you can see what others say about all this, and don't just take my word for it. 

The field of nutrition is very complicated and very contradictory. You can do a Google search and come up with articles proving a meat based diet is the healthiest diet to be on...and you can do a Google search and show proof that a plant based diet is the best...and then you have hundreds of hybrid diets and fads in the midst of all of this confusion.

There is only ONE real diet for optimal health , for all humans regardless of culture and heritage and location, and that is a 100% plant based whole foods diet.