Author Archives: Vegetarians of Washington

Vegetarians in Brazil?

There’s a vegetarian revolution in Brazil. Vegetarians in Brazil? Yup.

While Brazil is famous for its meat and for burning down the Amazon rainforest, the number of vegetarians in Brazil is increasing rapidly. The number of vegetarians in Brazil has doubled in the past six years, which has given rise to a booming plant-based industry that is seeking to make meatpacking plants obsolete. Are you ready for this? 30 million people, or 14 percent of Brazilians, reported being vegetarian or vegan in 2018.

“We’re going through a revolution,” said Bruno Fonseca, a co-founder of New Butchers, one of several new Brazilian companies that make plant-based versions of animal-based protein, including burgers, chicken breast alternatives and even salmon.

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Remembering Famous Vegetarians

This month we remember Martin Luther King, and the black vegetarians who have contributed so much to the civil rights movement. Let’s also remember other great vegetarians who have contributed to civil rights, or the development of a better life for us all, throughout American history.

Cesar Chavez poster

Cesar Chavez poster image

Many people are surprised to learn that Cesar Chavez, who led a movement for Latino worker rights, was a vegetarian, motivated by his compassion for animals. He said, “I became a vegetarian after realizing that animals feel afraid, cold, hungry and unhappy like we do. I feel very deeply about vegetarianism and the animal kingdom.”

Similarly, founding father, Benjamin Franklin, Susan B. Anthony, who played such a prominent role in women’s suffrage, and Clara Barton, the great humanitarian and founder of the American Red Cross, were all vegetarians.

Top chef goes vegan for Veganuary

Spike Mendelsohn – celebrity chef

Spike Mendelsohn, a celebrity chef who’s an alum of the popular series Top Chef, is going vegan for Veganuary and urges everyone to do the same.  He’s been promoting vegan diets for over a year, through his vegan fast-food chain, PLNT Burger, which he started in 2019 in Silver Spring, MD.   He has now expanded to 7 locations inside Whole Foods Markets and in 2021, he plans to open several stand-alone restaurants.  His menu features Beyond Burgers topped with Follow Your Heart vegan cheese , mushroom bacon and guacamole.

He talked about the popular Veganuary campaign, saying “Veganuary is the perfect opportunity for anyone looking to move towards a healthier diet or reduce their carbon footprint to enjoy more amazing plant-based food this year. I’m joining my vegan wife Cody and millions of others around the world this month to show people how delicious, easy and fun a vegan diet can be.” 

“Veganuary is here to encourage and support anyone who wants to try vegan,” Veganuary’s US Director Wendy Matthews said. “We are grateful to work with restaurants like PLNT Burger who make our mission significantly easier for the growing number of conscious consumers in the US by offering delicious, satisfying, sustainable options.”

Unilever moves toward plant-based foods

Another corporate giant, Unilever, has read the writing on the wall and is entering the plant based food industry. Unilever is a huge company, owning many well-known food products such as Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, Lipton’s Tea and Hellmann’s Mayonnaise. So it’s a big deal when they announced that their sales target for plant-based foods would be around $1.2 billion by the year 2027.  This ambitious target is part of the company’s Future Foods initiative which commits the food giant ‘to make healthier and sustainable food affordable for everyone.’  It has also pledged to continue lowering calorie, salt and sugar content in its products.

In an online statement, Unilever wrote, “Animal agriculture is known to be the second-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions after fossil fuels. [It is also] a cause of deforestation, water and air pollution, and biodiversity loss….Reducing our meat consumption is essential… We know that a diverse, plant-based diet is better for our health and the health of the planet. But if we want people to make the switch, we need plant-based options to be more accessible, affordable, and appetizing.” Unilever added that its sales target will result in a ‘wider range of vegan and vegetarian’ options.

The president of Unilever’s food and refreshment business said that the initiative will help the ‘world figure out how we can eat more plant-based…that way we may not lose the planet.’  She noted that in most developed countries, plant-based foods are currently only 5% of meat or dairy. Some predictions say that this could go to 50%.  Of course we hope that it goes much higher than that!

Vegans breathe easier

Getting COVID 19 makes it hard to breathe but at least it doesn’t affect many children, and a vaccine is being distributed. There’s no vaccine for asthma, but a plant-based diet helps those who suffer from asthma to breathe easier.

Childhood asthma continues to be a major public health problem worldwide. Adults get asthma too. The western, meat-centered diet, may partly explain the “asthma epidemic” in the United States.

What is asthma? Asthma is a disease in which your airways narrow and swell and may produce extra mucus and inflammation. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, a whistling sound (wheezing) when you breathe out and shortness of breath. For some people, asthma is a minor nuisance. For others, it can be a major problem that interferes with daily activities and may lead to a life-threatening asthma attack.

Eating meat increases the risk of wheezing, a symptom of asthma, in children. Meat also increases the risk of disturbed sleep from wheezing and the risk of exercise induced wheezing. Inflammatory compounds found in cooked meat have been found to give rise to a heightened risk of childhood wheeze. These compounds, known as advanced glycation end products, or AGEs for short, are by-products of high temperature cooking, such as grilling, frying, or roasting, with cooked meat being a major dietary source.

What if someone already has asthma? One study on people with asthma receiving long term medication, who were placed on a vegan diet for a year, found that in almost all cases medication was able to be withdrawn or drastically reduced. There was a significant decrease in asthma symptoms with 71% of patients reporting improvement at 4 months and 92% after a year.

However, you can reduce your risk of getting asthma in the first place by eating more vegetables and whole grains. A study lowered the risk of getting asthma by 42% for those eating more vegetables and 54% for those eating more whole grains, while consuming dairy increased the risk by 93% and intake of cured meats such as salami, pastrami and bacon, was associated with worsening asthma symptoms by 76%.

This is not surprising since asthma may, in part, be an autoimmune disease. People who follow a plant-based diet have lower levels of inflammation, and lower risks of other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. It’s time that every doctor recommended that children avoid animal products and that their asthmatic patients try a plant-based diet.

Paying for meat’s damage to the environment

The production of meat and dairy products are causing a fortune’s worth of damage due to their effect on global warming. While estimates vary, up to 51% of all greenhouse gases are said to be produced as a result of animal agriculture.

Here’s something to think about. What would happen to the price of meat and dairy products if we included the cost of the damage done by the greenhouse emissions generated from raising meat and dairy? It turns out that the prices would go sky high. It’s estimated that the price of meat would increase by 146% and the price of dairy would rise by 91% if we charged food production companies for their impact on climate change, while the cost of plant-based foods would increase by only 6%. As you can see there’s a big difference.

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Meghan Markle invests in Oat milk latte company

Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex who is married to Prince Harry, has followed a mostly plant-based diet for several years.  She recently announced that she will invest an undisclosed amount in a vegan start up Clevr Blends, which is selling instant SuperLattes made with oat milk.  Clevr is a woman-led company focused on offering specialized wellness products that contribute to a healthier planet and a more just society.  They offer a number of different flavors of instant lattes, where you just add water. In addition to oat milk powder, they use coconut milk powder, monk fruit (a natural, no-calorie sweetener) and various spices. They use only organic or non-gmo ingredients and are working diligently on improving the sustainability of their packaging.

Markle said “This investment is in support of a passionate female entrepreneur who prioritizes building community alongside her business.  I’m proud to invest in Hannah’s [the owner’s] commitment to sourcing ethical ingredients and creating a product that I personally love and [that] has a holistic approach to wellness. I believe in her and I believe in her company.”

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Let’s have dinner together – Wednesday Jan 20, 6:30pm

People eating at a circular table
8 people sitting at rectangular dinner table

At our regular Monthly Dining Events, we’ve held catered dinners and had the opportunity to sit together with others while enjoying a delicious vegetarian (egg and dairy free) dinner.  That’s not currently feasible in person at present, and yet people are craving community more than ever in these challenging times, so we invite you to join us online on the 3rd Wednesday of each month.   Let’s have dinner together!

We can share good conversation online, eat dinner or nibbles as you wish while we meet, and of course, we’ll have our popular monthly speech on an interesting vegetarian topic by our president, Amanda.

Please join us! This is a free online event, but please register beforehand for your personal link. We’ll look forward to seeing you there!

Register for this event

Seven myths that need busting

There is plenty of misinformation and myths that cause needless confusion about vegetarian diets, as people try to justify their meat-eating habits. For some people it’s only myths that keep them from the health benefits, environmental advantages and the compassion of  a vegetarian diet. So, let’s do some myth busting!

Myth 1 – It’s unnatural to follow a plant-based diet.

We evolved as plant-eating beings. Meat eating is comparatively recent in human history. Our bodies have inherited 35 million years of plant-eating primate evolution. We only started eating meat out of desperation when living in colder climates, where there was insufficient plant-based food to get through the winter.

While the way we get our food has changed in recent years, our bodies remain the same. These days, the grocery stores are full of plenty of options and we no longer need to choose between eating meat and starvation. While we can get away with eating small quantities of meat, when we eat large quantities of meat over many years, our health suffers.

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A perfect storm created Covid-19

The COVID 19 pandemic seems to have arisen from a perfect storm. Eating animals, wearing their fur, keeping wild animals in zoos, and having an unnatural relationship with nature have created the perfect storm. With human to human transmission, that storm has become a hurricane.

COVID 19 is a zoonosis. Zoonotic diseases are illnesses that can spread between animals and people. The flu and Ebola are also zoonoses. While scientist are still trying to understand the origin of the virus, it appears that it originated in bats. Bats are eaten in China and so are pangolins. The virus could have infected people directly or through intermediate animals, possibly pangolins or a combination of both. It begs the question, what are we doing eating these animals? Is it worth the amount it is costing us and the rest of humanity?

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