Doctor’s orders?

“Let food be thy medicine.”

“You are what you eat.”

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

apple

We’ve heard these sayings before, but step into a doctor’s office and you’ll likely not be guided toward eating well. Doctors are great at things like diagnosing disease, performing surgery, and prescribing drugs. But I’ve learned that very few are trained in nutrition.

A vegetarian friend of mine who was low on iron started eating meat again—on her doctor’s orders! I told her cashews, kidney beans, quinoa, spinach and tempeh are all great sources of iron. Her doctor never told her that—or even recommended a supplement.

The doctor I saw last week for my checkup was just as bad. When he found out I’m vegan, he told me “it’s the riskiest diet.” He then recommended goat’s milk, since I can’t drink cow’s milk. I had to tell him goats are animals and their secretions aren’t vegan!

He told me to be careful because there are certain amino acids that are found only in meat. I said, “you mean protein?” He nodded. I asked him how cows and other herbivores get their protein. He referred me to a nutritionist.

The truth is, plants have protein. Plant proteins are referred to as “incomplete” only because they don’t match our human amino acid profile. But they are not “incomplete” when it comes to fulfilling our dietary needs.

Not all medical schools require training in nutrition, and the ones that do, require only a few hours. I’ve completed the Plant-based Nutrition Certificate program through eCornell, and while that doesn’t make me an expert, it has given me more nutrition training than most doctors have.

I worry for people who trust doctors blindly. For people considering veganism, a doctor’s warning like the one I heard might convince them not to try it. A whole-food, plant-based diet is a healthy choice—and most doctors aren’t aware.

There was a time when doctors recommended cigarettes as a way to relieve nerves. What doctors say about nutrition likely isn’t gospel. I’m on a quest to find a vegan—or nutritionally-aware—doctor.

Until then, here are a few good resources:

Dr. John McDougall
Dr. Michael Greger
Ginny Messina
Plant-Based Dietitian
PCRM

Premarin: A cruel way to fight menopause

Many women, upon reaching menopause, reach for prescriptions to treat their change-of-life symptoms.

Premarin is one of the drugs women are often prescribed as a hormone replacement therapy. It stands for PREgnant MARe unINe and it’s a cruel industry. Estrogen-rich pregnant horses’ urine is harvested from horses who are forcibly impregnated, confined to tiny stalls, and forced to wear painful urine collection bags. Horses’ water consumption is restricted so their urine is more concentrate.

horsesWhen foals are born, they’re often slaughtered, but sometimes replace their poor mothers on the urine collection line.

And did I mention it’s horse piss?

Most urine is collected at farms in Canada and North Dakota, but the industry is growing overseas too. Premarin is one of the most popular drugs prescribed today. Pfizer makes billions from it.

Premarin isn’t the only name to look out for. Avoid Prempro, Premphase, and Duavee as well. They’re also made with horses’ urine. If your menopausal prescription includes “conjugated equine estrogen” or PMU (Pregnant Mare Urine) just say no.

Controlling the symptoms of menopause

I get it. No one wants hot flashes, trouble sleeping, low energy, and all the other issues that goes along with a change of life. Lifestyle changes can help control symptoms: Go vegan and get exercise. Simple, yet effective. No urine ingestion needed.

If you really need medication, ask your doctor for a plant-based (phytoestrogens) or a synthetic alternative. Alternatives carry fewer risks too (Premarin increases the risk of breast cancer, heart attacks and strokes in women).

Resources

Humane Society article

Last Chance for Animals campaign

Havehest blog

Peta factsheet

Vegan Thanksgiving options

Being vegan doesn’t mean you have to give up Thanksgiving. In fact, a big portion of the dinner is probably vegan–or could easily be made vegan. As for the turkey? Swap out the carcass with a delicious vegan loaf!

When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of sharing precious time with family and friends. There’s no better way to show people how easy and delicious being vegan is. And if you can share your vegan food with others, they’ll know so much more about how to be vegan.

Here are some options for the holiday:

Host a dinner

Having dinner at your place guarantees you can make it an all-vegan meal and show others the joy of eating cruelty-free.

Mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, dinner rolls, soup, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie are all dishes that are vegan or easily can be. Substitute butter and milk with dairy-free options and you’re set. You can find lots of vegan recipes online–even for things like gravy.

feast

Field Roast, made from seitan (a wheat protein), and Tofurkey (made from soy beans), make delicious prepackaged loaves that easily take the place of a turkey on the table. Doing an online search for “vegan turkey loaf” will return great recipes for a DIY version.

Attend a dinner

There are two types of dinners I’ve attended. My favorite are ones hosted by vegans. I get to try all the food, and I get to spend time with like-minded people.

Attending a dinner with people who aren’t vegan is a great opportunity to bring a dish and show people you can still enjoy holidays and that vegan food is awesome! If being around a murdered turkey is too disturbing, plan to arrive for dessert–with your favorite vegan sweets!

Go to a vegan restaurant

Sometimes vegan restaurants will offer a Thanksgiving meal. You’ll likely have to make reservations in advance, but it will be worth it. It’s also a great chance to take friends who still eat meat and show them vegan options.

vegan feast

No matter how you plan to celebrate the holiday, have fun, be safe, and enjoy the vegan food!

 

Plant-based Diet 101

I just finished reading a book by Luke Jones. You might recognize that name: I featured Luke in my vegan profile segment recently. Luke runs the site Hero Health Room, a blog about plant-based living, sustainability, mindfulness and exercise.

Plant-based Diet 101

Luke recently published a book called Plant-based Diet 101: The Ultimate Guide to Healthy, Sustainable Eating Habits. I just finished reading it, and I highly recommend it–especially if you’re new to (or considering) a plant-based diet or if you’re a vegan who isn’t eating as healthy as you think you should (after all, cola and cookies can be vegan, but they’re certainly not healthy).

The book is very digestible (pun intended) and covers health basics like what to eat, what to avoid, and whether supplements are necessary. Luke covers costs, health concerns, and even topics like how to eat in restaurants and deal with skeptical friends and family members.

Luke has a great, conversational writing style, which made reading the book feel like a trusted friend was helping me. It’s not preachy nor is it judgmental. Of course I’m a proponent of a plant-based lifestyle and I sometimes want to bash people over the head with my ideas. Luke doesn’t do that. It’s clear that he’s researched the topic well (and has loads of references and resources to support his findings), but he allows readers to make their own decisions. I like how Luke shares a plan for easing into a plant-based diet and sets readers up for success.

The main focus of the book is health and wellness but Luke also addresses the environmental and ethical angles of eating a whole-food, plant-based diet. It’s an excellent primer.

You can download the book from Luke’s site. It’s only $5, making this the most affordable investment in your health that I can think of.

My evening with John Salley

I spent last night with John Salley.

No, wait. That doesn’t sound right! Last night, I attended “An Evening with John Salley,” a special event at Plum Bistro. The event was a fundraiser for Pasado’s Safe Haven and was also an opportunity for John Salley to share wines from The Vegan Vine with the crowd.

Salley collage

John Salley, as any self-respecting sports fan will know, is an NBA superstar. With four Championships under his belt, he’s played with the Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, and LA Lakers–that’s quite a resumé!

What you might not know, though, is that Salley is a long-time vegan, wellness expert, and animal advocate. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing his story, learning about how he connected with Makini Howell, owner of Plum Bistro, and also how became the owner of a winery. And not just any wine: Vegan wine.

vegan vine wine

Many people don’t think about animal products when they drink wine, but many wines are fined (or finished) with clarifying product that include gelatin (from cows or pigs), casein (a milk protein), albumin (from egg whites), or isinglass (from fish bladders). Now I’m a fan of voting with my dollar. So why support a company that uses animal products (even if they’re not in the final product)? There’s no need.

John Salley is such a genuine guy. You can feel his love for animals and people and being vegan when you’re in the room with him. He also happens to be really funny! I felt like I’d known him for a long time and even though I was a bit star struck, talking with him was fun and comfortable.

jean, john, steph and amy

Plum didn’t disappoint either! We nibbled on decadent vegan hor d’oeuvres and drank plenty of The Vegan Vine wine. All proceeds went to Pasado’s, a farmed animal refuge right here in Washington. Pasado’s fights against animal cruelty, helps pass animal laws (and enforce them) and is a sanctuary for abused and neglected who would have ended up on the dinner table.

I knew a number of people at the event and it was a great way to catch up with friends. Best of all, I didn’t know a lot of people. I love meeting vegans and that’s what I did. It was a great night all around–right to the very end when I won an auction item: an autographed (by Mr. Salley) bottle for Vegan Vine wine.

The event sold out in days, but you can ask for The Vegan Vine wine at your local Whole Foods. And if you ever have a chance to meet John Salley or hear him speak, don’t miss it! You won’t be disappointed.

Kite Hill Cheese

Another nail in the coffin of dairy.

Kite Hill vegan brie

I recently tried a vegan brie–yes, brie–by California-based company, Kite Hill. Kite Hill specializes in hand-crafted, artisanal, nut-based cheeses.

When you read that description, you might think “pricy,” but you can’t put a price on compassion. The wheel of brie was about $12 at Whole Foods–and worth every penny. Cruelty-free, rich and smooth. Just like “real” cheese. Because it is real! It’s made with macadamia nuts.

And, with such a rich product, a little goes a long way. I served the brie with crackers and apples. I went through about a third of it so I saved the rest for two other occasions. Wine and cheese nights are always fun to have and with this brie, everyone is happy.

I hope you get to try Kite Hill cheese. So many people tell me that their love of cheese is what prevents them from going vegan. With Kite Hill, you’ll know that no cows were harmed. No calves were denied a mother.

You can have your cheese and be vegan too!

Beyond Meat: Chicken-free strips

I spiced things up in the kitchen recently with Southwest style chicken-free strips by Beyond Meat.

I first learned about this company when I read a blog post about the future of food by Bill Gates. Gates is financially backing Beyond Meat, in part because he recognizes that increasing meat consumption is bad for the environment. The global population is growing, and as people become more affluent, they often transition to western-style diets. That’s neither healthy nor sustainable.

I searched for Beyond Meat at my local Whole Foods and ended up getting a couple of ready-made wraps for a picnic. So yummy! Until now, I hadn’t cooked with it, so I gave it a whirl.

ingredients

I made a simple stir-fry using red pepper, broccoli and zucchini, added spices and the Beyond Chicken strips, which I’d cut into cubes.

stir-fry in progress

Beyond Chicken is made primarily with non-GMO soy and peas. It’s a complete protein, has plenty of fiber, and isn’t loaded with fat or cholesterol (in fact, it has no cholesterol, saturated or trans-fat and is just 5% fat).

I served my stir-fry over a rice pilaf for a quick, simple, and delicious meal. I’m going to try their beef-free crumble next for a taco meal!

simple dinner

I like that technology is helping reinvent meat and that through technology we can harness plants to create healthy delicious meat alternatives. It has a lot of potential in developing nations too, not just on the plates of people in the developed world.

Biz Stone, vegan and founder of Twitter, is also financially invested in Beyond Meat. Perhaps the future of meat is vegan.