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Kale bubble

6 Feb

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Have we reached kale bubble yet?

Anyone who has been reasonably in the loop on health trends has seen this “nutrient dense” green powerhouse applied to every recipe under the sun, from sushi (see: Uchi’s Yokai Berry) to chips (see: Rhythm Chips) t0  juice bars (see: One Lucky Duck in NYC).

The people behind the kale public relations campaign touting the benefits of kale and its health properties are doing an outstanding job. Look, I eat lots of kale and while agree that there is little doubt that kale does have tremendous health properties (rich source of vitamin C, K, A, loads of fiber, iron, and calcium) there are numerous other forgotten greens, vegetables, and superfoods that kale has overshadowed:

  • Bok choy
  • Sea greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Turmeric
  • Spirulina/Chlorella (sea algaes)
  • Wheat/Barley grass

Personally, I am still waiting for sea vegetables to get their due praise such as kombu and dulse. Japanese people eat them and don’t they have like the highest life expectancy in the world?

In the mean time, enjoy this spoof on “kale fad diets” by Healthy Choice Frozen Yogurt. The good news is that the big boys (multinational corporations) are watching the kale trend and clearly pushing back with marketing health products of their own. It shows we have come a long way on our countries’ path towards a culture of health prosperity.

Always going for glory,

Craig

Do vegans cause environmental destruction?

17 Jan

Let me preface by saying that I personally do believe there’s much validity to adhering to a vegan diet, or as I prefer to call it, a Non Animal Protocol (NAP), as a pathway to longterm health. Yes, there are numerous studies purporting the benefits of eschewing all animal products (see China Study et al).

However, some important facts have come to light regarding regarding the crop burden and carbon “foodprint” caused by our ever-growing hunger for these worldly food stuffs, particularly quinoa and soy (two major players in many vegan/vegetarian diets due to their respective protein contents).

Food fun facts:

  • Soy production is now one of the two main causes of deforestation in South America
  • In Lima, quinoa now costs more than chicken due to global demand increasing prices
  • In rural areas of Bolivia and Peru, market pressure forces once biodiverse lands to become more monoculturistic due to demand for quinoa and soy alone
  • Farmers in South America can no longer afford to purchase the crops their growing in their own lands
  • World food security, at the local level becomes threatened by global demand for these unique crops, leaving the locals in the dust, increasing risk for poverty

An anecdote: A hyper-conscious individual who eats only plant-based foods for “sustainability,” eats mounds of soy and quinoa in Vermont for years. He hears a news report about global poverty in Peru and vows to be a “part of the change.”  He then travels on a mission trip to Peru (where both quinoa and soy crops are grown), to combat local the poverty for a few weeks, and then returns home and continues eating the same diet he has always consumed, oblivious still the world impact this local decision is making.

It fascinates me that we believe that by eating such plant-based foods, we reduce our own “carbon footprint,” when the reality is that, the food system is now way more complex that we could have ever fathomed. In today’s hyper connected economy, all of our decisions can have a global import.

Yes, we should all eat more consciously and open our minds to the possibility that maybe eating all foods, animal or not, are actually the least impactful on our respective environments.

Some things to posit while eating consciously:

  • Eat foods grown locally in your particular area to reduce global burden
  • The best ecological systems include the raising of meat (see Dan Barber)
  • Eat consciously and be aware of who grew your food
  • Ecological conditions should (help) dictate personal diet
  • Ecological resources can point towards eating meat and produces better global, market conditions

I’ll leave you from a quote from Dan Barber, Chef and Owner of Blue Hill Farm and Restaurant:

“There is no healthy ecological system that I’ve ever seen that doesn’t include animals — there just doesn’t. Because the manure from the animals is a free, free ecological resource that amends the soil that gives you better-tasting and healthful vegetables. ”

Sources:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/16/vegans-stomach-unpalatable-truth-quinoa

http://www.slate.com/articles/video/conversations_with_slate/2012/03/chef_dan_barber_on_why_vegetarians_should_consider_eating_meat_video_.html

Non Animal Protocol (N.A.P)

27 Jul

When you hear the word, Vegan, what comes to mind?

The crunchy hippie with dread locks?

The conscientious young child who likes her bug collection too much to eat meat?

The rise of the vegan has been something of a health trend to watch for some time. Now, it has become a near mainstream approach for preventing and reversing heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. President Clinton, ultra marathoners Scott Jurek and Rich Roll, celebrities abound are all vegan converts. All moral arguments aside on eating animals, research proves this diet can actually lead to better health outcomes.

I posit that the inherent connotation that vegans eat as such to preserve animal rights is beginning to shift, medically speaking. A diet once reserved for “pansies,” hippies, animal rights activists, and the like has become a “prescribed” approach by doctors as a means to improve poor health.

Books like The China Study, works by Dr. Dean Ornish, and The Engine 2 diet are redefining how we view veganism. Social norms are changing dramatically as a result of this push to get vegan mainstream.

As such, I believe veganism should receive a new name, a fresh start, that properly defines this seismic diet shift.

Non Animal Protocol or NAP for short. Not only would a new name help continue to drive society to “eat more plants,” but it would also continue to allow doctors to use this approach medically to improve their patients outcome. No longer would patients recoil in terror at the sound of their cardiologist and rheumatologists recommending veganism as a prescription for health.

On a side note, I eat animals (in moderation) but understand the value in that a Non Animal Protocol could facilitate societal acceptance and progression towards improving health outcomes and general wellness of the population.

What are your thoughts on redefining veganism?

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Health is simple: Walk around + eat plants

31 May

Extremism in  health is rampant. Fad diets are garnering lots of attention and research. Food advocates are going full-on locavore, shunning any food that does not come from within 20 miles of their home or grown in their own backyards. Vegans are mainstream, even calling their veggie-endeavors “plant strong,” and prescribing “green” drinks for their alkalizing properties. These approaches to health are all fantastic for those who have the means, education, and capacity to stick to them. The overarching health problems remain and obesity is still the massive public health problem of our generation.

Why has health become so extreme, complicated, and confusing?

Some of the recent “foodumentaries” that have come out over the past few years display an interesting trend:

Extreme health protocols as a means to health. 

Some examples include: Drinking only juice for months at a time (no chewing here!), never eating another piece of bread (gluten is toxic for everyone!), eating meat only (saturated fat is actually good for you!), or eating things that never had a “face or mother” (red meat kills and dairy makes you fat!).

As a population, we are on a crash course with rampant obesity.  In another five years, more than half the population will be obese and diabetic with the potential to bankrupt our entire health care system and to cripple our economic development.

I posit that the beauty of health lies in its simplicity.   Walk around,  and eat some fruits and veggies!  Recent research actually shows that by watching less T.V. and eating more fruits and vegetables  people can dramatically improve their health. In short, simple lifestyle changes can lead to dramatic health results.  

I harken back to Michael Pollan here: “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.” But I might alter this a bit:

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Walk around. And easy on the T.V. watching.”

You might even occasionally imbibe a cold beer or nice glass of red wine.

Always Going for Glory!

@Cesteinfeld

The real food groups

8 Mar

Let’s make something clear off the bat. The new “my plate” put forth by USDA as recommended food groups and daily allowances has come a long way from the old food “pyramid.” The new my plate is much more cohesive and appears to be less influenced by large industry. Fruits and vegetables make up 50% of recommended daily food intake. Grains and protein make up the other 50% with additional dairy as a side dish.

While the old pyramid showed pictures of the food groups through images of cheese, apples, steaks, etc., the new plate leaves much to be interepreted as far as specifcially what types of foods to eat within the given groupings. Clearly, there must be more to eating than blindly eating “fruits, veggies, meat, dairy,” right?

Common questions:  What kind of veggies and fruits should I eat? Which cuts of meat are most healthful? Is dairy healthy for me?  The “plate”  put forth by the USDA leaves much to be interpreted.

My real food groups:

1. Green leafy vegetables:  Greens contain (most) all the vitamins and minerals you will ever need (magnesium, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber to name a few) and are nature’s multivitamin. This means eat anything seasonal that you can find and throw it in your pastas, soups, eggs, and whatever else you cook. You can find seasonal greens year round. Kale, collard greens, spinach, arugula, chard & bok choy. Eat 3 cups of greens and you will probably live longer.

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2. Sulfur rich vegetables: These are sometimes called cruciferous veggies and they’re absolutely essential for proper brain function, immune support, cancer prevention, detoxification, proper organ function (liver and kidney) and additionally they power mitochondria, the energy powerhouse of every cell in your body. These veggies include onions, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, and garlic to name a few.

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3. Colorful vegetables: You may have heard about phytonutrients, polyphenols, and antioxidants, well eating some colorful veggies will be the ultimate way to ensure you are reaching your daily antioxidant levels. A few of my favorites are bell peppers, yams & sweet potatoes (loaded with potassium, and retinol by the way), tomatoes, carrots, grapes, and lemons (another great detox food).

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4. Wild Fish: Fish contain omega-3 fatty acids (another hot one you’ll hear about in the news). There are plant-based ways to obtain omega-3 fats, but they do not contain, DHA, a critical fatty acid that helps develop the brain, jaws, and keep the myelin functioning well to prevent aging and cognitive decline. Important caveat, the smaller the fish, the less likely chance you’ll have to worry about mercury contamination due to bioaccumulation. Stick with wild caught salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring. If you do not have access to fish, then try supplementing with a molecularly distilled fish oil. I once read a bumper sticker in Santa Monica that read: “Eat fish. Live Longer.”

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5. Grass fed, pastured meats and eggs: Here is where you will get the bulk of your protein, creatine, conjugated linoleic acid, omega-3 fats, and the loads of iron. Why grass fed? Because the meat industry is a unscrupulous  (see Food, Inc., anything by Michael Pollan or Marion Nestle) and it’s probably best to avoid factory farmed meats due to hormones, steroids, and risk of food borne illness.  You may even try incorporating  occasional organ meat in the diet as it is extremely rich in minerals, creatine, coenzyme q10, iron, otherwise hard to obtain nutrients (See: Mark’s Daily Apple on Offal).

While vegan living may supply sufficient nutrition with extreme care to diet, eating the occasional animal protein remains the surest way to prevent sever nutritional deficiencies and keep energy levels high.

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6. Seaweed and sea veggies: There’s a reason the Japanese have an average lifespan of like 150 years old (or 80-something) and they might be on to something by eating loads of sea vegetables in their diet. Why are these so critical? They contain not only iodine, but they are essential for removing toxins from the body (which whether we believe it or not are all exposed to on a daily basis through pollution or otherwise), proper functioning of the thyroid, and insulation of the myelin to prevent cognitive decline. Throw some into a soup, stir fry, make a seaweed salad or even toss some in your eggs.

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Noticeably absent: Dairy and “complex carbohydrates.”  Dairy inflames the body’s mucous membranes and casein (an amino acid found in all dairy) has been linked to increased cancer and tumor growth (see: The China Study for reference). Areas of the world that do not consume dairy actually have less incidences of osteoporosis and less gastrointestinal cancer rates as well.

On carbohydrates: They are fine in moderation, but the problem being that most are difficult to digest due to the amino acids gluten and leptin and, almost all are genetically modified (wheat, soy, corn). Stick to brown rice, lentils, rye, quinoa, and occasional wheat but these for me are on the outside looking in of my real food groups.

I’ll be delving deeper into each of these food groups via my blog and potentially even crafting an entire book based on the above categories with recipes as well. Go ahead, superfood yo’self!

What are your “real” food groups?

Always going for glory!

Craig E. Steinfeld

@cesteinfeld

cesteinfeld [at] gmail dot com

Food Advocates: Aren’t we fighting the same fight?

24 Feb

Señor Bacon or Monsieur Tofu?

A growing trend in the food world continues to amaze me.  People involved in the “organic,” local, slow or whatever “food movement” they define themselves as a part of (myself included) are either for eating as much animal protein as possible, or for eating zero animal product at all (paleo vs vegan).  Those in favor of eating animals believe that it sets the world on a more “sustainable” course and improves everyone’s health. Those against eating animals believe, well, the same thing.  Both argue the same outcomes with diametrically opposed means and there substantial evidence backing both claims (see: The China Study or Why We Get Fat) .

Essentially, both parties are two sides of the same coin, bordering on Food Extremists. Food Extremist: Those believing their ideology on food and nutrition is the be all, end all for all modern disease, world problems, and that by doing so, set the world on a “sustainable” course.

There must be a middle ground in order to create lasting societal change. Is it not ok to eat both sustainably, humanely produced meat some days, and opt for vegan lifestyle on other days?  At the end of the day, we all want:

  • Improved transprancy in the food system
  • Improved farming and livestock practices that improve our own health and the welfare of the planet
  • Profitable business practices that also create positive health outcomes for the population
  • Solutions for the modern-day chronic diseases that burden society

I recently engaged John Durant, perhaps the preeminent caveman/blogger from hunter-gatherer.com, and advocate of the paleo diet and “living wild in the modern world” (see: Paleo Kick for 21 days) in a twitter talkback with Mark Bittman, NYT writer, cookbook author, and advocate for sustainable food and [occasional] veganism. I was surprised by the vitriol involved in the talk-back relating to which ideology was superior.

Let’s not be elitists about this! Afterall,  we are all fighting the same fight against the SAD (Standard American Diet) and the current problems that task society. Can’t we all just hold hands and shop at the farmers market together?

I’ll leave you with a quote from the man himself, Michael Pollan:

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.”

Now that’s something we should all agree on.

Always going for glory!

Craig E. Steinfeld

@CESteinfeld

Paleo kick for 21 days

16 Jan

I’m submerged in full on paleolithic, caveman onslaught for a solid 21 days. Eating nothing but meat, nuts, berries/fruit, vegetables, and the occasional mound of quinoa. Doing primal style workouts in minimalist shoes in the vein of crossfit. I have been consuming a diet extremely high in fat, not just any old fat, but “saturated” fat but low in sugar and any refined or processed products! I have not dared to even touch, or look at a piece of bread.

The goal:

To merely experiment without fear,

To test my own limits

To explore the human diet

To see how athletic performance is affected by the paleo craze

Paleo Resources:

Recipes :Paleo Meal Plan

Primal Blueprint

Robb Wolf: The Paleo Solution

AGG!

Craig Steinfeld

@CESteinfeld