Vegan For Your Health
Ⓥ FOR THE EARTH | FOR THE ANIMALS | FOR YOUR HEALTH
 

Vegan Diets Healthier For Planet & People

The food that people eat is just as important as what kind of cars they drive when it comes to creating the greenhouse-gas emissions that many scientists have linked to global warming, according to experts.

Both the burning of fossil fuels during food production and non-carbon dioxide emissions associated with livestock and animal waste contribute to the problem.

The average American diet requires the production of an extra ton and a half of carbon dioxide-equivalent, in the form of actual carbon dioxide as well as methane and other greenhouse gases compared to a strictly vegetarian diet. However close you can be to a vegan diet and further from the mean American diet, the better you are for the planet.

The average American drives 8,322 miles by car annually, emitting 1.9 to 4.7 tons of carbon dioxide, depending on the vehicle model and fuel efficiency. Meanwhile, Americans also consume an average of 3,774 calories of food each day.

Energy used for food production accounts for a large percentage of fossil fuel use. And the burning of these fossil fuels emits three-quarters of a ton of carbon dioxide per person. That alone amounts to approximately one-third the average greenhouse-gas emissions of personal transportation. But livestock production and associated animal waste also emit greenhouse gases not associated with fossil-fuel combustion, primarily methane and nitrous oxide.

An example would be manure lagoons that are associated with large-scale pork production. Those emit a lot of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. While methane and nitrous oxide are relatively rare compared with carbon dioxide, they are--molecule for molecule--far more powerful greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. A single pound of methane, for example, has the same greenhouse effect as approximately 50 pounds of carbon dioxide.

Vegan diets are the most energy-efficient. Fish and red meat are the least efficient. Research also indicates that plant-based diets are healthier for people, as well as for the planet.

World Health Organization Declares Processed Meats Are Carcinogenic

Processed meats are now considered “carcinogenic to humans,” according to the World Health Organization.

Recent estimates by the Global Burden of Disease Project, an independent academic research organization, found around 34,000 cancer deaths per year worldwide are attributable to processed meat.

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) delivered a damning report linking meat consumption and cancer. IARC is the leading authority that determines the cancer-causing risks of exposure to substances. IARC classifies substances from Group 1 (carcinogenic to humans) to Group 4 (probably not carcinogenic to humans).

Processed meat, according to WHO, refers to “meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation.”

WHO states that most processed meats contain pork or beef, but processed meats may also contain other red meats, poultry, offal, or meat by-products such as blood. Examples of processed meat include hot dogs, ham, sausages, corned beef, and beef jerky, as well as canned meat and meat-based preparations and sauces.

Processed meat has been given a Group 1 classification, putting it in the same class of cancer risk as tobacco smoking and asbestos. Red meat has been categorized as a Group 2A carcinogen, “probably carcinogenic to humans,” the same classification assigned to the pesticide glyphosate.

The Group 1 category is used when there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans. In other words, there is convincing evidence that the agent causes cancer. The evaluation is usually based on epidemiological studies showing the development of cancer in exposed humans.

The recommendation was based on epidemiological studies suggesting that increases in the risk of several cancers may be associated with high consumption of red meat or processed meat.

In the case of red meat, the classification was based on evidence from epidemiological studies showing positive associations between eating red meat and developing colorectal cancer, as well as strong mechanistic evidence.

The IARC Working Group considered more than 800 different studies on cancer in humans (some studies provided data on both types of meat; in total more than 700 epidemiological studies provided data on red meat and more than 400 epidemiological studies provided data on processed meat). The IARC Working Group consisted of 22 experts from 10 countries.

Healthy Eating For Vegans

A vegan eating pattern is a healthy, responsible and humane option for you, the planet and animals. The key is to consume a variety of foods and the right amount of foods to meet your calorie and nutrient needs.

About Protein

Your protein needs can easily be met by eating a variety of plant foods. Sources of protein for vegans include beans and peas, nuts, and soy products (such as tofu, tempeh).

Sources of Calcium

Calcium is used for building bones and teeth. Sources of calcium for vegans include calcium-fortified soymilk (soy beverage), tofu made with calcium sulfate, calcium-fortified breakfast cereals and orange juice, and some dark-green leafy vegetables (collard, turnip, and mustard greens; and bok choy).

Simple Changes

Many popular main dishes are or can be vegan — such as pasta with marinara or pesto sauce, veggie pizza, vegetable lasagna, tofu-vegetable stir-fry, and bean burritos.

Enjoy a Cookout 

For barbecues, try veggie or soy burgers, soy hot dogs, marinated tofu or tempeh, and fruit kabobs. Grilled veggies are great, too!

Include Beans and Peas 

Because of their high nutrient content, consuming beans and peas is recommended for everyone. Enjoy some vegetarian chili, three bean salad, or split pea soup. Make a hummus filled pita sandwich.

Try Different Veggie Versions

A variety of vegan products look — and may taste — like their non-vegan counterparts but are usually lower in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol. For breakfast, try soy-based sausage patties or links. For dinner, rather than hamburgers, try bean burgers or falafel (chickpea patties).

At Restaurants

Most restaurants can make vegan modifications to menu items by substituting meatless sauces or nonmeat items, such as tofu and beans for meat, and adding vegetables or pasta in place of meat. Ask about available vegetarian options.

Nuts Make Great Snacks

Choose unsalted nuts as a snack and use them in salads or main dishes. Add almonds, walnuts, or pecans instead of cheese or meat to a green salad.

Get Your Vitamin B12

Vegans can choose fortified foods such as cereals or soy products, or take a vitamin B12 supplement if needed. Check the Nutrition Facts label for vitamin B12 in fortified products.

Vegan FAQ

WHAT WILL I EAT?

There are so many delicious vegan dishes to choose from that you’ll never be short of ideas. How about Indian curries, spaghetti, pizza, enchiladas, Chinese stir fry, sausage and mash, falafel, vegetable casserole and dumplings, sandwiches, wraps, samosas, quiche, soups, pasta and pesto, spring rolls, lasagne, spicy bean burgers, risotto, hot and sour soup, Thai green curry, Moroccan tagine…and don’t forget dessert! Vegans can enjoy sponge cake, ice cream, cheesecake, chocolate chip cookies and more that taste as good, as or even better, than their non-vegan equivalents. Rest assured that vegan food is just as tasty and varied as any other type of food.

You don’t have to be a genius in the kitchen or have loads of time to cook – quick and easy vegan meals include stir fries, pasta and sauce, chili, potatoes and burritos. If you do enjoy cooking, you can have lots of fun trying out new recipes and discovering new favorite ingredients and dishes.

WHAT ABOUT EATING IN RESTAURANTS?

Many restaurants offer vegan options and the choice is improving all the time. Some chain restaurants offer vegan options. Indian restaurants usually have a good selection for vegans, and Middle Eastern, Chinese and Thai restaurants often have vegan dishes as many of their vegetarian dishes do not contain milk or eggs. Just check with the staff to make sure there are no hidden animal ingredients, such as fish sauce in Thai food. Most restaurants can accommodate vegans even if vegan options aren’t on the menu. All you have to do is ask. You’ll often find that the cook or chef enjoys the ‘challenge’ of cooking vegan food for you!

IS VEGAN FOOD EXPENSIVE?

No more than any other type of food. In fact, meals based on vegan staples such as pasta, rice, beans and vegetables often work out cheaper than using animal products. Vegan meals in restaurants are often cheaper than the meat dishes. Products such as non-dairy milk, veggie burgers and vegan pesto are usually a similar price to their non-vegan counterparts and are available in most supermarkets. As with any type of food you can splash out on luxuries if you like, but that’s entirely up to you.

HOW CAN I MAKE SURE I REMAIN HEALTHY?

A balanced vegan diet meets many current healthy eating recommendations, such as eating more fruit and vegetables, whole grains and fiber and consuming less saturated fat and cholesterol. It can also decrease your chances of suffering from heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers. Well-planned vegan diets meet nutritional requirements for all age groups and stages of life.

WILL I NEED TO TAKE SUPPLEMENTS?

Vegans need to obtain vitamin B12 either from supplements or from foods fortified with it. Our bodies produce vitamin D by the action of sunlight on skin, so depending on where they live, it may be advisable for vegans to consume vitamin D2 during winter through supplements or fortified foods (particularly in northern countries). Other than Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D, all nutrients necessary for good health can be obtained from plant foods in adequate amounts.

WILL I MISS CHOCOLATE/PIZZA/ICE CREAM/CHEESE/CAKE?

No you won’t! There are vegan versions of or alternatives to many familiar foods, including all of the above. You will not have to give up that favorite food after all.

WHAT IF I EAT AT A FRIEND OR RELATIVE'S HOUSE? - I DON'T WANT TO BE 'DIFFICULT'.

Friends and relatives may not know how to cater for you at first but will soon get used to your new diet. To help them out:
  • Explain to them in advance what you do and don’t eat
  • Offer to take a dish to share with everyone
  • Offer to give them some recipes they could cook for you or suggest a few ideas
  • You may find that friends and relatives get into the ‘challenge’ of cooking vegan food for you and will look forward to having you to show off their latest efforts!

Top 10 Reasons To Be Vegan

People become vegans for a variety of reasons, including conscience, health, ethics and even family tradition. Veganism has become increasingly popular, while research has been providing support regarding multiple benefits of a plant-based diet. Animals, humans, and the environment all benefit from it. Below are the ten most important reasons to turn to veganism.

Nutrient-rich

Vegan diets provide significant amounts of several vital nutrients such as minerals (iron, calcium, etc.), vitamins, protein, and so on. Moreover, plant-based foods contain lots of fiber and are rich in antioxidants, while being low in saturated fat. This renders veganism ideal for fighting the majority of chronic conditions of the modern era, such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.  

Weight Loss

A lot of today’s chronic diseases can be traced back to obesity. Vegan diets are highly effective for people wanting to shed off excess weight. When you remove dairy and meat from your daily diet, your saturated fat intake goes down. Research shows that overweight people that switch to a vegetarian diet low in fat may lose up to 24 pounds in the first year alone.

Longer Life

Numerous studies have shown that vegans live longer than meat eaters by a large margin. Vegetarians and vegans live 3 to 6 years longer on average than their meat-eating counterparts. Switching to veganism from the typical American diet can result in a life extension of over 13 years. 

Lower Cholesterol

Meat, fish, eggs and dairy products are packed with cholesterol. By taking them out of your daily eating plan, you remove all the dietary cholesterol in one strike. Switching to a well-balanced vegan diet is your best bet to avoid cardiovascular disease, the chronic condition that is responsible for more than 1 million deaths per year in America alone. 

Strengthened Immunity

Veggies and fruits are rich in several phytochemical compounds that bolster your body’s immune defenses. When your immune system is fed with the antioxidants and nutrients that come with a vegan diet, it becomes stronger – defeating conditions like cancer. 

Disease Avoidance

There are several meat-borne illnesses that you steer clear of when you abstain from meat. Approximately 76 million people come down every year with a food-borne illness, of whom around 325 thousand end up in the hospital and almost 5 thousand die. The vast majority of these cases can be attributed to seafood, poultry, and meat.

Better Beauty

Your diet greatly affects the way you look. Most vegans enjoy a natural glow in their skin, and that’s not just by luck; fruits and veggies are behind this phenomenon. Removing meat from your daily eating habits cuts down blemishes, body odor, and foul breath. What’s more, your nails and hair also thrive on a vegan diet.

Eco-friendly

The evidence is clear that no-meat diets drastically reduce environmental destruction. Animal farming is the number one cause of water consumption, pollution, and deforestation. Animal agriculture has a higher greenhouse effect on the atmosphere than fossil fuel consumption. What’s more, a significant amount of fossil fuel is consumed during transportation and processing of meat and dairy products, loading the atmosphere with unneeded carbon dioxide. The meat industry is the leading cause of rainforest destruction, soil erosion, habitat loss, species extinction and dead zones in the oceans.

Economically Sustainable

Vegan diets do much more good than just keeping you healthy and protecting the environment; your wallet will thank you too. Americans eat about 200 pounds of meat on average per year, making up for 10% of their total food budget. By replacing meat with plant-based food, your annual food budget will go down by approximately 4 thousand dollars.

Peace Of Mind

To be truly healthy, you need to be truly conscious. You will achieve peace of mind when you realize that you are protecting the planet and other sentient beings by simply resisting the urge to satisfy your gluttony!

Tips For Vegetarians

Vegetarian diets can easily meet all the recommendations for nutrients. The key is to consume a variety of foods and the right amount of foods to meet your calorie needs. Nutrients that vegetarians may need to focus on include protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B12.

Protein

Protein has many important functions in the body and is essential for growth and maintenance. Protein needs can easily be met by eating a variety of plant-based foods. Combining different protein sources in the same meal is not necessary. Sources of protein for vegetarians and vegans include beans, nuts, nut butters, peas, and soy products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers).

Iron

Iron functions primarily as a carrier of oxygen in the blood. Iron sources for vegetarians and vegans include iron-fortified breakfast cereals, spinach, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, turnip greens, molasses, whole wheat breads, peas, and some dried fruits (dried apricots, prunes, raisins).

Calcium

Calcium is used for building bones and teeth and in maintaining bone strength. Sources of calcium for vegetarians and vegans include calcium-fortified soymilk, calcium-fortified breakfast cereals and orange juice, tofu made with calcium sulfate, and some dark-green leafy vegetables (collard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, mustard greens). Calcium supplements are another potential source.

Zinc

Zinc is necessary for many biochemical reactions and also helps the immune system function properly. Sources of zinc for vegetarians and vegans include many types of beans (white beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas), zinc-fortified breakfast cereals, wheat germ, and pumpkin seeds.

B12

Vitamin B12 is found in animal products and some fortified foods. Sources of vitamin B12 for vegetarians include fortified breakfast cereals, soymilk, veggie burgers, and nutritional yeast. B12 supplements are another potential source.

Tips for Vegetarians

 - Build meals around protein sources that are naturally low in fat, such as beans, lentils, and rice. Don't overload meals with high-fat foods to replace the meat. 
 - Calcium-fortified soymilk provides calcium in amounts similar to milk. It is usually low in fat and does not contain cholesterol. 
 - Many foods that typically contain meat or poultry can be made vegetarian. This can increase vegetable intake and cut saturated fat and cholesterol intake. Consider:
 - pasta with marinara or pesto sauce
 - vegan pizza
 - vegetable lasagna
 - tofu-vegetable stir fry
 - vegetable lo mein
 - vegetable kabobs
 - bean burritos or tacos

Substitutes

A variety of vegetarian products look (and may taste) like their non-vegetarian counterparts, but are usually lower in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol.

 - For breakfast, try soy-based sausage patties or links.
 - Rather than hamburgers, try veggie burgers. A variety of kinds are available, made with soy beans, vegetables, and/or rice.
 - Add vegetarian meat substitutes to soups and stews to boost protein without adding saturated fat or cholesterol. These include tempeh (cultured soybeans with a chewy texture), tofu, or wheat gluten (seitan).
 - For barbecues, try veggie burgers, soy hot dogs, marinated tofu or tempeh, and veggie kabobs.
 - Make bean burgers, lentil burgers, or pita halves with falafel (spicy ground chick pea patties).

Eating Out

 - Some restaurants offer soy options (texturized vegetable protein) as a substitute for meat, and soy cheese as a substitute for regular cheese.
 - Most restaurants can accommodate vegetarian modifications to menu items by substituting meatless sauces, omitting meat from stir-fries, and adding vegetables or pasta in place of meat. These substitutions are more likely to be available at restaurants that make food to order.
 - Many Asian and Indian restaurants offer a varied selection of vegetarian dishes.

AMA: Hospitals Should Provide Plant-Based Meals

The American Medical Association passed a resolution that calls on hospitals to provide healthful plant-based meals and eliminate processed meats. Processed meats are considered “carcinogenic to humans,” according to the World Health Organization.

The American Medical Association’s House of Delegates adopted the resolution co-sponsored by the Medical Society of the District of Columbia and the American College of Cardiology.

"RESOLVED, That our American Medical Association hereby call on US hospitals to improve the health of patients, staff, and visitors by (1) providing a variety of healthful food, including plant-based meals and meals that are low in fat, sodium, and added sugars, (2) eliminating processed meats from menus, and (3) providing and promoting healthful beverages."

Numerous scientific studies show that healthful, plant-based meals can prevent and even reverse heart disease, diabetes and obesity. The AMA’s second recommendation, to remove processed meat from menus, is also supported by strong scientific evidence. The World Health Organization warns that processed meats are “carcinogenic to humans” and there is no amount safe for consumption.

The Physicians Committee—a nonprofit of 12,000 doctors—commended the AMA on its leadership in improving hospital food environments.

"Hospitals that provide and promote fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans are likely to reduce readmissions, speed recovery times, and measurably improve the long-term health of visitors, patients, and staff," stated James Loomis, M.D., M.B.A., medical director of the Barnard Medical Center.

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) also recommends hospitals improve patient menus by adding healthy plant-based options and removing processed meats.

"Too many heart disease patients have had their recovery undermined by bacon and hot dogs on their hospital trays," stated Physicians Committee president Neal Barnard, M.D. "Hospitals that ban processed meats and promote plant-based meals will do a better job at helping patients’ hearts heal."

A study published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports also found that establishing hospital gardens for staff, patients and the community lowers obesity rates in the communities they serve and reduces public health disparities by providing easy access to fresh, healthy, plant-based foods.

The ACC’s and AMA's recommendations reflect the Physicians Committee's Make Hospital Foods Healthy campaign, which urges hospitals to improve patient and cafeteria menus by banning processed meats and offering more disease-fighting plant-based meals, and by hosting restaurants that offer only healthful, low-fat, cholesterol-free meals.

Veganics: Organics Meets Veganism

Avoiding pesticides is the reason why some people prefer organic food. Many believe that to be ecologically responsible food should be grown naturally. For others, the most important factor is the reassurance that the crop harvesting process did not expose farm workers to dangerous toxins. For many vegans, their main reason is to ensure that no chemical substances were used to grow their food that could cause the suffering and deaths of animals. However, at least for the time being, the majority of the food currently offered to consumers comes from a production system where animal exploitation – direct or indirect – is the standard, regardless of it being organic or not.

To keep growing crops, organic farmers need to return organic matter and minerals to the soil, like all farmers do. To avoid using chemical fertilizing agents, organic farmers often opt for animal products such as manure, blood, and fish and bone meal to restore the mineral content of the soil, which tends to deplete due to farming. Many of them use a rotation system known as ‘crop and livestock,' where the animals themselves are being exploited. Whenever animals or animal derivatives are used, it presupposes exploitation of animals. 

Veganic farming (also termed “vegan-organic”) is based on the belief that having animals exploited or killed is not a prerequisite to growing food. Veganic farmers abstain from using synthetic chemical products, GMOs, slaughterhouse-originating byproducts or animal manures. The point that nonhuman animals are a required component of organic farming is moot: commercial farmers, individual farmers, even farms sponsored by the government have been growing their crops without using animals or their derivatives for years.

In an 11-year study of veganic farming, where no animal manures were used to support crop yields, it was shown that competing insects and diseases posed no significant problems. Three different rotations of roots and cereals were used throughout the study. When animal manures would normally be used, farmers employed legume-derived green manures with nitrogen-replenishing properties instead. 

This study altered the perception of what it is to shift to organic farming. In the past, going organic meant replacing synthetic fertilizers with live animals; now, it is possible to shift to organic farming without needing to purchase and maintain livestock. As a consequence, a growing number of conventional farmers are shifting to veganic farming, which is good news for the environment as well as for nonhuman animals. 

Passing materials through animals to enrich the soil is an unnecessary process. From a physiological point of view, the only thing this process achieves is to waste energy which hinders its efficiency and sustainability as a food producing method. After all, there is nothing more in manure than the grains or grass already growing on the farm, simply passed through the animal’s digestive system.

That doesn’t mean that vegan organic farmers don’t watch for diseases and competing organisms – all farmers do. They do so, however, by completely avoiding the use of synthetic fertilizers or animals and their byproducts, choosing to help the soil develop a natural resistance. Veganic farming revolves around feeding the soil, which will, in turn, feed the crops.

To keep the ground fertile, veganic farmers may use compost made from plant-derived material. They also employ crop rotation. This contradicts conventional farming, which is based on monoculture, the practice of growing single crops over extended areas of farmland. As time passes, monoculture has the tendency to reduce output and foster disease. It also results in land devaluation for a varied population of animals. On the other hand, vegan organic farmers enhance biodiversity ensuring a healthy balance of insects, predators, and useful organisms. By making sure that plant life and wintering animals have ample habitat, the natural balance is maintained for years to come providing for many growing seasons, as well as respecting the lives of other organisms that share their land with us.  

Composts used by vegan organic farmers and gardeners may come from grass cuttings, vegetable peelings, spent hops, old hay, garden waste, comfrey, ramial, and even seaweed. This compost is supplemented with green manures. These are plants that are grown and then cut down, either to be mixed with the soil or left on it to decompose naturally.

Welcoming biodiversity and using disintegrating plant materials to grow crops is not a new concept. It’s where natural growth is based. Look at the forest, for example; its fertility is based on plants accumulating on the surface, without soil manipulation and the use of added animal manure. It was common knowledge among the ranks of early farmers. In fact, an entire period existed when no animal derivatives or animal manure was used for farming of any kind. 

An added benefit of avoiding the use of animals and their byproducts in modern farming practices is significant savings in fossil-fuels that are consumed in order to transport manure between places. Also, if no animals are present, maintaining vast pasture areas becomes obsolete, which means that these areas can become forests again. That is a win-win situation for animals, who also get their natural habitat back, besides not being exploited for our own purposes.

Our food is closely connected with the natural world. In cases where we can choose, opting for particular farming techniques will undoubtedly affect animals' – human and nonhuman alike – survival in terms of food, space, and environmental health. For this reason, the support of organic farming has always been of great importance for the diligent consumer. Supporting vegan organics takes that diligence a critical step ahead.

Eat More Fruits & Vegetables

We all know fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet, and a plant-based diet is good for the planet and its animals. But most people don’t eat enough of these healthy powerhouses. An easy way to make sure you’re getting enough of the good stuff is to find new ways to mix them into meals you already enjoy. And aim for making at least ½ your plate full of fruits and veggies.

Try increasing your fruits and vegetables by following these tips.

Getting More Out of Breakfast

Add fresh fruit to cereal, oatmeal, whole grain pancakes, or vegan waffles.

Getting More Out of Lunch

Add some vegetables to your veggie burger or tofu wrap, or have vegetable soup. Try adding chopped apples, pears, raisins, or other dried fruit to your salad. And don't forget beans—like black beans or chickpeas.

Getting More Out of Dinner

Steam or stir-fry some veggies to top off whole grain pasta or rice. Make shish-kabobs by putting vegetables on a skewer. Make a vegan pizza or sub with lots of veggies.

Getting More Out of Snacks

Blend fruits in a healthy smoothie. Cut up fruits and veggies and eat them with hummus or vegan peanut butter. Try a mix of unsalted nuts, raisins, or other dried fruit and your favorite whole grain cereal. Snack on popcorn or try some whole wheat, vegan pretzels.

Track What You're Eating

It’s important to keep track of the steps you’re taking toward nourishing your body with a healthier, vegan diet. By keeping track of what you’re eating—even for a couple of weeks— you may be able to identify patterns that are helping—or hurting—your goals for nourishing your body in a healthy way.

Don’t get too bogged down in the details. We all have those days where we get to the end of the day and realize we haven’t eaten the kinds of foods or the portions we know we need to lead the healthy life we want. By keeping track of what you eat over a couple of weeks, you may be able to get a better sense of your more general pattern of eating and identify areas of success (like eating lots of veggies), as well as places where you could make some improvements (like when you’re likely to mindlessly munch and fill up on empty calories).Think of tracking the foods you eat as a tool to help you reach your goals.

Vegans & Protein

Can the vegan (strict vegetarian) diet provide protein adequate for sound human health? This question continues to be asked despite the fact that a "yes" answer was given some three decades ago in a study reported by Hardinge and Stare. The question stays with us largely because animal products (meat, milk, cheese, and eggs) have been promoted (usually by the industries that produce and sell them) as the best source of protein. This dietary assumption is wrong and can even be harmful, as a quick study of the facts about vegetable protein and nutrition shows.

Protein is essential to human health. In fact, our bodies -- hair, muscles, fingernails, and so on -- are made up mostly of protein. As suggested by the differences between our muscles and our fingernails, not all proteins are alike. This is because differing combinations of any number of 22 known amino acids may constitute a protein. (In much the same way that the 26 letters of our alphabet serve to form different words, the 22 amino acids serve to form different proteins.)

Amino acids are a fundamental part of our diet. While most of the 22 can be manufactured in one way or another by the human body, eight (or, for some people, 10) cannot. These "essential amino acids" can easily be provided by a balanced vegan diet.

Non-animal foods can easily provide us with the necessary protein. Despite the claims of the meat and dairy industries, only 2.5-10 percent of the total calories consumed by the average human being needs to be in the form of protein. The rule of thumb used by the National Academy of Sciences Food and Nutrition Board is .57 grams of protein for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight. People under special circumstances (such as pregnant women) are advised to get a little more. Vegans should not worry about getting enough protein; if you eat a reasonably varied diet and ingest sufficient calories, you will undoubtedly get enough protein.

Eating too much protein can result in osteoporosis and kidney stones. Meat and dairy products raise the acid level in human blood, causing calcium to be excreted from the bones to restore the body's natural pH balance. This calcium depletion results in osteoporosis, or weakening of the bones. The excreted calcium ends up in the kidneys, where it often forms painful stones. Kidney disease is far more common in meat-eaters than in vegans, and excessive protein consumption has also been linked to cancer of the colon, breast, prostate, and pancreas. By replacing animal protein with vegetable protein, you can improve your health while enjoying a wide variety of delicious foods.

While just about every vegetarian food contains some protein, the soybean deserves special mention, for it contains all eight essential amino acids and surpasses all other food plants in the amount of protein it can deliver to the human system. In this regard it is nearly equal to meat. The human body uses about 70 percent of the protein found in meat and 60 to 65 percent of that found in soybeans. The many different and delicious soy products (tempeh, soy "hot dogs," "burgers," Tofutti brand "ice cream," and tofu) available in health and grocery stores suggest that the soybean, in its many forms, can accommodate a wide range of tastes. 

Other rich sources of non-animal protein include legumes, nuts, seeds, food yeasts and freshwater algae. Although food yeasts ("nutritional yeast" and "brewer's yeast") do not lend themselves to forming the center of one's diet, they are extremely nutritious additions to most menus (in soups, gravies, breads, casseroles, and dips). Most yeasts are 50 percent protein (while most meats are only 25 percent). Freshwater algae contains a phenomenal percentage of protein. One type is the deep green spirulina, a food that is 70 percent protein. It is available in tablets, powders, and even candy bars.

Protein deficiency need not be a concern for vegans. If we ate nothing but wheat, oatmeal, or potatoes, we would easily have more than enough protein. Eating nothing but cabbage would provide more than twice as much protein as anyone would need! Of course, an actual vegan would never want to be limited to just one food. The vegan diet can (and should) be full of a wide variety of delicious foods.

Vegan Children

Most people have been taught that children must eat animal flesh and dairy products to grow up strong and healthy. The truth is that children raised as vegans, who consume no animal products, including meat, eggs, and dairy, can derive all the nutrients essential for optimum growth from plant-based sources.

Consider this: Many children raised on the "traditional" American diet of cholesterol and saturated fat-laden hamburgers, hot dogs, and pizza are already showing symptoms of heart disease -- the number one killer of adults -- by the time they reach first grade. One epidemiological study found significant levels of cholesterol and fat in the arteries of most children under the age of five. Children raised as vegans can be protected from this condition. They are less likely to suffer from childhood illnesses such as asthma, iron-deficiency anemia and diabetes, and will be less prone to ear infections and colic.

A vegan diet has other benefits, too. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are more than 20,000 E. coli infections from meat every year in the United States. A vegan diet protects children from the pesticides, hormones and antibiotics that are fed to animals in huge amounts and concentrate in animals' fatty tissue and milk.

Nutritionists and physicians have learned that plant products are good sources of protein, iron, calcium, and vitamin D because they can be easily absorbed by the body and don't contain artery-clogging fat. 

Protein--Contrary to popular opinion, the real concern about protein is that we will feed our children too much, not too little. Excess animal protein actually promotes the growth of tumors--and most people on a meat-based diet consume three to 10 times more protein than their bodies need! Children can get all the protein their bodies need from whole grains in the form of oats, brown rice, and pasta; from nuts and seeds, including spreads such as tahini and peanut butter; and legumes, including tofu, lentils, and beans.

Iron--Few parents know that some babies' intestines bleed after drinking cow's milk. This increases their risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia since the blood they're losing contains iron. Breast-fed infants under the age of one year get sufficient iron from mother's milk (and are less prone to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Formula-fed babies should be fed a soy-based formula with added iron to minimize the risk of intestinal bleeding. Iron-rich foods such as raisins, almonds, dried apricots, blackstrap molasses and fortified grain cereals will meet the needs of toddlers and children 12 months and older. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, so foods rich in both, such as green, leafy vegetables are particularly valuable.

Calcium--Drinking cow's milk is one of the least effective ways to strengthen bones. Too much protein, such as the animal protein fed to children in dairy products, actually causes the body to lose calcium. In countries where calcium intake is low but where protein intake is also very low, osteoporosis is almost non-existent. Cornbread, broccoli, kale, tofu, dried figs, tahini, great northern beans and fortified orange juice and soy milk are all excellent sources of calcium. As with iron, vitamin C will help your child's system absorb calcium efficiently.

Vitamin D--This is not really a "vitamin" but a hormone our bodies manufacture when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Cow's milk does not naturally contain vitamin D; it's added later. Vitamin D-enriched soy milk provides this nutrient without the added animal fat. A child who spends as little as 15 minutes a day playing in the sunshine, with arms and face exposed, will get sufficient vitamin D.

Vitamin B-12--This essential vitamin once occurred naturally on the surfaces of potatoes, beets, and other root vegetables, but the move away from natural fertilizers has caused it to disappear from our soil. Any commercially available multivitamin will assure adequate B-12 for your child. B-12 is also found in nutritional yeast (not to be confused with brewer's or active dry yeast) and many fortified cereals.

Dangers Of Dairy

Children do not need dairy products to grow up strong and healthy. The director of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Frank Oski, says, "There's no reason to drink cow's milk at any time. It was designed for calves, it was not designed for humans, and we should all stop drinking it today, this afternoon." Dr. Benjamin Spock agrees that although milk is the ideal food for baby cows, it can be dangerous for human infants: "I want to pass the word to parents that cow's milk . . . has definite faults for some babies. It causes allergies, indigestion, and contributes to some cases of childhood diabetes."

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants under one year of age not be fed whole cow's milk. Dairy products are the leading cause of food allergies. In addition, more than two-thirds of Native Americans and people from Asian and Mexican ancestry and as many as 15 percent of Caucasians are lactose intolerant and suffer symptoms such as bloating, gas, cramps, vomiting, headaches, rashes or asthma. Many people become lactose intolerant after age four. For these people, animal proteins seep into the immune system and can result in chronic runny noses, sore throats, hoarseness, bronchitis and recurring ear infections.

Milk is suspected of triggering juvenile diabetes, a disease that causes blindness and other serious effects. Some children's bodies see cow's milk protein as a foreign substance and produce high levels of antibodies to fend off this "invader." These antibodies also destroy the cells which produce insulin in the pancreas, leading to diabetes. 

An estimated 20 percent of U.S. dairy cows are infected with leukemia viruses that are resistant to killing by pasteurization. These viruses have been found in supermarket supplies of milk and dairy products. It may not be merely coincidence that the highest rates of leukemia are found in children ages 3-13, who consume the most dairy products.

Eat Fruit To Save The Earth & Animals

A plant-based diet is the most dramatic lifestyle change you can make to help save the planet and its animals. It also provides a wealth of health benefits. People who eat more fruits and vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases. Fruits provide nutrients vital for health and maintenance of your body.

Nutrients
  • Most fruits are naturally low in fat, sodium, and calories. None have cholesterol.
  • Fruits are sources of many essential nutrients that are underconsumed, including potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, and folate (folic acid).
  • Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Fruit sources of potassium include bananas, prunes and prune juice, dried peaches and apricots, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, and orange juice.
  • Dietary fiber from fruits helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease. Fiber is important for proper bowel function. It helps reduce constipation and diverticulosis. Fiber-containing foods such as fruits help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories. Whole or cut-up fruits are sources of dietary fiber; fruit juices contain little or no fiber.
  • Vitamin C is important for growth and repair of all body tissues, helps heal cuts and wounds, and keeps teeth and gums healthy.
  • Folate (folic acid) helps the body form red blood cells. Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant should consume adequate folate from foods, and in addition 400 mcg of synthetic folic acid from fortified foods or supplements. This reduces the risk of neural tube defects, spina bifida, and anencephaly during fetal development.

Health Benefits
  • Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits may reduce risk for heart disease, including heart attack and stroke.
  • Eating a diet rich in some vegetables and fruits may protect against certain types of cancers.
  • Diets rich in foods containing fiber, such as some vegetables and fruits, may reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Eating vegetables and fruits rich in potassium may lower blood pressure, and may also reduce the risk of developing kidney stones and help to decrease bone loss.
  • Eating foods such as fruits that are lower in calories per cup instead of some other higher-calorie food may be useful in helping to lower calorie intake.

Tips To Help You Eat Fruits

General
  • Keep a bowl of whole fruit on the table, counter, or in the refrigerator.
  • Refrigerate cut-up fruit to store for later.
  • Buy fresh fruits in season when they may be less expensive and at their peak flavor.
  • Buy fruits that are dried, frozen, and canned (in water or 100% juice) as well as fresh, so that you always have a supply on hand.
  • Consider convenience when shopping. Try pre-cut packages of fruit (such as melon or pineapple chunks) for a healthy snack in seconds. Choose packaged fruits that do not have added sugars.

For The Best Nutritional Value
  • Make most of your choices whole or cut-up fruit rather than juice, for the benefits dietary fiber provides.
  • Select fruits with more potassium often, such as bananas, prunes and prune juice, dried peaches and apricots, and orange juice.
  • When choosing canned fruits, select fruit canned in 100% fruit juice or water rather than syrup.
  • Vary your fruit choices. Fruits differ in nutrient content.

At Meals
  • At breakfast, top your cereal with bananas or peaches; add blueberries to pancakes; drink 100% orange or grapefruit juice.
  • At lunch, pack a tangerine, banana, or grapes to eat, or choose fruits from a salad bar. Individual containers of fruits like peaches or applesauce are easy and convenient.
  • At dinner, add crushed pineapple to vegan coleslaw, or include orange sections or grapes in a tossed salad.
  • Make a Waldorf salad, with apples, celery, walnuts, and a low-calorie, low-sugar salad dressing.
  • Add fruit like pineapple or peaches to vegetable kabobs.
  • For dessert, have baked apples, pears, or a fruit salad.

As Snacks
  • Cut-up fruit makes a great snack. Either cut them yourself, or buy pre-cut packages of fruit pieces like pineapples or melons. Or, try whole fresh berries or grapes.
  • Dried fruits also make a great snack. They are easy to carry and store well. Because they are dried, ¼ cup is equivalent to ½ cup of other fruits.
  • Keep a package of dried fruit in your desk or bag. Some fruits that are available dried include apricots, apples, pineapple, bananas, cherries, figs, dates, cranberries, blueberries, prunes (dried plums), and raisins (dried grapes).
  • As a snack, spread vegan peanut butter on apple slices.
  • Frozen juice bars (100% juice) make healthy alternatives to high-fat snacks.

Make Fruit More Appealing
  • Many fruits taste great with a healthy dip or dressing.
  • Make a fruit smoothie with fresh or frozen fruit. Try bananas, peaches, strawberries, or other berries.
  • Try unsweetened applesauce as a healthier substitute for some of the oil when baking cakes.
  • Try different textures of fruits. For example, apples are crunchy, bananas are smooth and creamy, and oranges are juicy.
  • For fresh fruit salads, mix apples, bananas, or pears with acidic fruits like oranges, pineapple, or lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.

Fruit Tips For Children
  • Set a good example for children by eating fruit every day with meals or as snacks.
  • Offer children a choice of fruits for lunch.
  • Depending on their age, children can help shop for, clean, peel, or cut up fruits.
  • While shopping, allow children to pick out a new fruit to try later at home.
  • Decorate plates or serving dishes with fruit slices.
  • Top off a bowl of cereal with some berries. Or, make a smiley face with sliced bananas for eyes, raisins for a nose, and an orange slice for a mouth.
  • Offer raisins or other dried fruits instead of candy.
  • Make fruit kabobs using pineapple chunks, bananas, grapes, and berries.
  • Pack a juice box (100% juice) in child lunches instead of soda or other sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Look for and choose fruit options, such as sliced apples, mixed fruit cup, or 100% fruit juice in fast food restaurants.
  • Offer fruit pieces and 100% fruit juice to children. There is often little fruit in “fruit-flavored” beverages or chewy fruit snacks.

Keep It Safe
  • Rinse fruits before preparing or eating them. Under clean, running water, rub fruits briskly with your hands to remove dirt and surface microorganisms. Dry with a clean cloth towel or paper towel after rinsing.
  • Buy organic fruits whenever possible.
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