Not So Random Thoughts and Recipes

Monday, February 28, 2011

Misinformation and confusion about the vegan diet

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) shared this link on their Facebook page, 9 Pros and Cons to Going Vegan - will this strict diet work for you -- AARP. My guess is that the person who posted this link on PCRM's page failed to read the entire article. In response, I posted this comment on PCRM's Facebook page:
"Unfortunately AARP contributors to this article are woefully uninformed about the vegan diet. If one eats a plant-based diet rich in dark leafy greens, legumes; garbanzo, lentils, etc. and that includes nuts and seeds; sesame (in Tahini) almonds, Brazil nuts, you have better access to calcium than with an omnivorous diet. Dairy is acidic and one way your body neutralizes acid is to draw calcium from bones. There are numerous sources for well researched information about a vegan diet; Campbell, McDougall, Fuhrman, Ornish, Esselstyn, Barnard, why use comments from uneducated sources? Am I missing the point on something here?"

It's no wonder there are people that still consider eating a vegan diet 'fringe' when there is this type of misinformation floating about on the Internet. Any 'diet' or way of eating can be hazardous to your health if the foods you eat are not varied enough, ample enough, and are not good quality food. Transitioning to a vegan diet can seem daunting but there are so many great cookbooks and recipes online that it's easier than ever to make the change. 

Last summer a friend told me she went vegan because her doctor recommended the change. Her doctor felt it would be a key factor in clearing up a lot of her health issues. My friend finds her new way of eating freeing and totally enjoyable. She says she feels great and cannot imagine ever going back to her previous diet.

The subtitle to the AARP article is; "It's trendy and healthy, but will the strict diet work for you?". Sadly, the author of the AARP article, Monica Bhide, has written with a negative bent that will likely limit the very people this way of eating could help the most, seniors. 

According to Wikipedia, the word 'vegan' was coined in 1944 by Vegan Society founder, Donald Watson and his wife Dorothy. 67 years is a long time to be "trendy". . . . .

Day 9

“Honey, how ya feeling?” I asked my husband last night. “Good . . . . are we done for now?” He replies. He tells me that if I want to understand more I’ll need to ask him pointed questions. It’s late, I can't think of any interesting questions right now, so I let the conversation fade.

I want to write about my cats. More specifically, what I feed my cats. Actually, I have a  confession . . . my cats are not vegan. The two cats I still have are vicious hunters. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about my contribution, the food that I provide. 

Several years ago I began feeding three of my cats raw food in an effort to buoy the health of one of my guys, ‘Grey Guy’. ‘Grey Guy’ dropped from a robust 11 pounds down to 6 pounds in less than a month. He remained spunky and had the appetite of a moose but he couldn’t get enough food to satisfy his hunger. I started buying ready-made raw food from ‘Feed This!’.  For over a decade I’d fed all fourteen of my rescued feral cats dry food from Costco.  Putting all of the cats on a raw food diet was beyond my budget constraints so it was ‘Grey Guy’, his buddy, ‘Grimmie’, and my son’s cat, ‘Sunny’ that got an entirely raw diet. Through the research of my friend and neighbor, we chose ‘Feed This!’ to prepare and deliver the raw, frozen food every other week. It was simple but the transition for the cats wasn’t flawless. I continued with ‘Feed This!’ for several months and then began making my own raw cat food.

My original recipe was about 50% vegetables and 50% ground turkey and chicken livers. Food preparation took me nearly three hours twice a month. It was always a struggle to get the cats to eat consistently but ‘Grey Guy’ thrived on this new raw diet. His eyes brightened, his dull coat became thick and lustrous and he started putting on weight. Fast forward a couple of years and a majorly stressful move from our very rural, quiet home of twenty two years. Two months after we moved ‘Grey Guy’ disappeared. We never saw him again.

Now I understand that ‘Grey Guy’ was most likely afflicted with hyperthyroid. Hyperthyroidism is fairly easy to diagnose with a simple blood test. My son’s cat, ‘Sunny’ was recently diagnosed with hyperthyroid and she gets half of a crushed pill in her food twice a day. During my research of this disease I learned more about what to feed cats on a raw food diet. Cats are not able to digest carbohydrates like human animals. They also don’t do well with any of the night shade family of vegetables like garlic, potatoes-including sweet potatoes, or onions. To a large degree I was adding all of these veggies except onions. 

Cats, unlike humans, are true carnivores. They do best on dense protein - meat. Amongst vegans there is great controversy on this subject but I’ve not made my decision lightly. Through extensive research and the urging of my vet, my cats are now eating a meat heavy diet consisting of raw ground turkey, raw chicken livers, and eggs. None of which I eat or want in my kitchen. The mixture is supplemented with Taurine and vitamins but no veggies or rice. I grind the chicken livers, crack and separate the eggs, and dawn the surgical gloves to hand mix and package up eleven pounds of food twice a month. Contributing to the suffering of animals for whatever reason is unthinkable to me yet twice a month I participate. Twice a day I open a container of pain and suffering and I apologize.

The world is not a perfect place. Human beings are fallible.  I am committed to being a better person; to be more supportive, to be more compassionate and loving, and most of all, to be more empathetic and non-judgmental. Some days I do better than others.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day 5

Today was a good day for my husband. He's been getting lots of sleep and that's supportive to regenerative health. 

Turns out he didn't eat any leftovers last night, we ate them tonight. He just doesn't want to be bothered with even the simplest modes of cooking right now. What he did eat for dinner last night was, dates, almonds and cashews.  I'm happy he ate the organic raw almonds . . . . 

                     Credit Sam Mohyee
I had dinner with my son last night at Mi Pueblo on Kentucky, in Petaluma. Our regular waitress was there with her sweet smile and cheery demeanor. I had the veggie enchilada with rice and beans, and my son had his usual, a veggie burrito. The food at Mi Pueblo has been consistently good and that makes it one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in Petaluma.

Credit: my kid
After dinner we headed over to Starbucks on the boulevard for tea. My son had a chai tea soy latte, I had a vanilla Rooibus soy latte. We caught up on what's happening in our lives and talked about our upcoming weekend. I enjoy our time together . . . he's a great kid.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day 4 . . .

My husband is tired today. When I rolled out of bed this morning and headed to Pilates class, he slept in. When I got home he got up and made himself a green concoction of ground up dehydrated greens and psyllium. He drinks this goo to jump-start his digestive tract which has been assaulted by sugar and caffeine. He’s feeling fuzzy-headed and rather lack-luster. His body is slowly detoxing and this may go on for a few weeks but the most uncomfortable part should pass after about a week. He’s not comfortable driving while he feels ‘fuzzy-headed’ so I’ll be doing the driving this week or until he’s clear-headed again.

I’m spending the evening with my son so my husband is on his own for dinner tonight. He has great leftovers . . . wish him luck . . .

Just for fun . . . Rock and Roll Vegan Abs:

Los Angles Times article on Def Leppard’s lead guitarist, Phil Collen,,0,3023932.story is an inspiring read. Collen has been a vegetarian for 27 years and recently became a vegan. This article focuses on his fitness, namely his freaking amazing abs. Collen is a great role model for us over 50 middle-agers who have no intention of giving up and becoming couch potatoes.

I gave birth to my son nearly 15 years ago. I had an emergency C-section. As my doctor stitched up my hip-to-hip incision she excitedly announced, “you have the most amazing abs I’ve ever seen”. Mind you, this was after 42 weeks of pregnancy and at nearly 41 years of age so I was pretty jazzed to hear this enthusiastic pronouncement from my doctor. 

I do have to admit that even in midlife my abs are in decent shape. I attribute this to great genes, exercise, and a vegan diet. Yoga and Pilates are king. My husband and I take a weekly yoga class with Yusuf Erskine D.O. Dr. Erskine’s class is therapeutic exercise based on classic Hatha yoga including restorative poses. We love Yusuf. I also take a Pilates class once a week with Sophie Phelps In Sophie’s class we primarily focus on ‘core’ work and it kicks my butt but I love the results.

Fit abductor muscles don’t just happen, it takes work. Like Phil Collen, I’m pretty proud of my abs, but I’ll let Phil do the flash.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day 3

While I whipped up dinner, my husband relaxed on the sofa and watched a documentary on his laptop.

Meals here are pretty straight forward. Our main course is nearly always a big green salad. I use baby greens from our local Laguna Farm, CSA, several leaves of romaine, shredded raw beets and carrots, and slice up an avocado, all organic and all from Laguna Farm except for the romaine. I squeeze the juice of a Meyer lemon from my mom’s tree, some local Napa County olive oil, and a bit of crushed raw garlic (from Laguna Farm) to lightly dress the salad. Pretty simple.

We enjoy some hot food in the Winter. Tonight I cooked my husband’s favorite lentils which I rinsed, soaked and let sprout overnight. I lightly sauteed two yellow onions, 3 leeks, and five cloves of garlic in sunflower oil. I then added a rounded teaspoon of ‘Better Than Bouillon’ organic vegetable bouillon, rinsed lentils, and enough water to barely cover the legumes and veggies. I brought the water up to a slow boil then turned it down and simmered for 20 minutes till tender.

Alongside our lentils we had quinoa which I rinse and soak for 15 minutes then rinse and drain. Soaking loosens up the outer coating of saponin, which will leave a bitter taste if the quinoa is not soaked and rinsed first. I add one cup of quinoa to two cups of fresh water and a little veg bouillon and a bit of olive oil, stir and let simmer for about 15 minutes until the water is absorbed.

This meal is highly alkaline. I’m never stumped about what to fix for our meals. I typically buy what’s in season with the exception of some fruits. I buy most of my produce from Laguna Farm in Sebastopol so I know it’s farmed bio-dynamically and is freshly harvested when I pick up my weekly box at the farm.

The closer you stick to whole foods the easier food preparation becomes. I still buy crackers and such but less and less as time goes by. I don’t like the wasteful packaging and the way I feel after eating processed foods. I’m considering buying another dehydrator as we do enjoy wraps year round and I don’t like buying store bought wraps in plastic packages.

So far my husband is doing pretty good. It seems that the most difficult thing for him today is adjusting to no caffeine. He’s kinda feeling punky but this too will pass (as mom always says). I think he’s amazing . . .

Vegetarian, animal activist, environmentalist girl falls in love with meat-eating hunter . . . 

My friends and family were a bit taken back when I started dating my husband several years ago. One close friend did not understand how our relationship could withstand the dichotomy between my boyfriend's hunting animals and my commitment to saving them.

I never judged my husband's choice to hunt. It was his passion until he met me. Now, he says, he 'hunts' me . . . I am his passion. He hasn't hunted since our first date. I never asked him to stop, he's never agreed to stop. 

When we began dating, I told my future husband that I was vegetarian, he said, "great! I've always wanted to eat that way." He had a stint with the veg lifestyle as a young man but for lack of 'partnership' in his quest, he went back to eating a sugar laden, carnivorous diet.

When we met he weighed in at about 210 lbs. with a 6' 2" large boned, muscular physic. His face was 'puffy' and his skin and hair dull but he was gorgeous and I adored him. Because he was motivated by love, my future husband stopped eating candy bars and drinking soda and in less than 2 months he dropped 40 lbs. His face was sculpted, his hair was thick and glossy, and he had abundant energy . . . he looked like an Adonis and he felt fabulous.

In the Spring of 2004 I was diagnosed with Melanoma. My husband encouraged me (pleaded with me might be a better verb) to follow an alkaline diet based on the guidelines of Dr. O. Robert Young from his book, 'The PH Miracle'. My husband stayed on a mostly alkaline diet for several months and dropped down to his high school weight of 165 lbs.  I began at a weight of about 114 and went down to 108 (at 5' 5"). We both felt healthier and more energetic.  It didn't last for long. I stayed vegetarian and about 75% raw, my husband came home one day with a bag of candy bars and soda. Throughout his life my husband has struggled with his sugar and caffeine 'addiction'. His weight jumps up rapidly when he makes a choice to add sugar and caffeine back into his diet. I've been through this roller coaster ride with him a few times. In 2005, after reading 'The China Study' I decided to go one step further to eating vegan. My sister-in-law and I began with a one week challenge; no dairy, no eggs. I've never looked back.

On Sunday, my husband tossed out the bags of licorice and boxes of See's candy. He dumped out the plastic bottles of Mountain Dew and threw away the half empty bags of kettle corn. He's off sugar and caffeine and I am thrilled.

We are on this journey together. I love him, I want to live a long, vibrantly healthy, active life with him. Supporting my husband in his quest gives him the 'partnership' he desires and gives our marriage a 'zest' that I crave. Doing this together has me feel a connection with my husband that is diminished when he is on (what I see as) a self-destructive path.

We agree that journaling about and sharing our experiences will help us both stay focused on our progress. We hope that publicizing our journal might also help others who are struggling with food addictions or health issues to feel some sense of 'partnership'.  So we begin . . .