Category Archives: Book Excerpts & Recommendations

Soil Erosion – the silent environmental catastrophe

Say No to Meat Book CoverThe following is an excerpt from our book, Say No to Meat, by Amanda Strombom and Stewart Rose. This book includes answers to all the questions you may have about becoming a vegetarian, and is invaluable to new and existing vegetarians alike!

How does raising livestock cause soil erosion?

It’s hard to get excited about dirt but our lives depend on it. The crops can’t grow without soil and without the crops we all face starvation. Soil is formed through a natural process of wind and water on the earth, but this is a slow process. For example, in Iowa it takes 200 years to form one inch of topsoil. Plants and vegetation bind the soil together, but when those plants are removed, due to grazing or farming crops to feed animals, there is nothing to stop the soil from being washed or blown away. In Iowa, soil is being removed 30 times faster than it is being formed.  85 percent of all soil erosion in the United States is due to raising livestock. With 56 billion farm animals raised in the world each year, and one third of the habitable land being used directly or indirectly to raise them, scientists are sounding the alarm as massive soil erosion continues unabated. In parts of the US, China and sub-Saharan Africa, the result of soil erosion has been that what was once valuable farming land is now desert.

Vegetarian Living – How to include more fruits and vegetables in your diet

Say No to Meat Book CoverThe following is an excerpt from our book “Say No to Meat“, by Amanda Strombom and Stewart Rose, published by Healthy Living Publications.  This book includes answers to all the questions you may have about becoming a vegetarian, and is invaluable to new and existing vegetarians alike!

How can I include more fruits and vegetables in my diet?

Take veggies seriously. Vegetables are an important component of your diet, and most of us don’t eat enough of them. The American Cancer Society advises us all to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day, and many researchers suggest 8 to 10 servings per day would be optimal. The only way to achieve this is to plan each meal to include several servings of fruit or vegetables.

For breakfast, focus on fruit. A smoothie (see Protein-Powered Fruit Smoothie recipe) is a great way to get plenty of fruit into your diet, as you can include bananas and whatever fruit you have on hand. Alternatively, a glass of orange juice, and a piece of fruit on the side of whatever else you have for breakfast will get you started on meeting your fruit requirement for the day.

For lunch, try to include a couple of different vegetables with the meal. This may mean that you include some greens, cucumber slices, and red pepper sticks in your sandwich. Choose romaine or red leaf lettuce or spinach rather than iceberg lettuce, which has little nutritional value. Baby carrots, zucchini and red pepper sticks are great to dip into hummus or other dips. Coleslaw (see The Great American Coleslaw recipe on page XX) is a delicious option in a pita pocket, and vegetable soups are always a good choice. A piece of fruit makes a great dessert.

For snacks, choose a piece of fruit, dried fruit in trail mix, and baby carrots as quick, easy options.

For dinner, choose an entrée which has plenty of vegetables included, and add more if you can. For example, if you buy a prepared vegetable pizza, there will be a few small pieces of vegetables included. Top up the pizza with extra vegetables – sliced mushrooms, zucchini, red peppers and some frozen peas and corn are easily added to give extra nutrition and fiber. In addition to the entrée, aim to always have at least one steamed vegetable and a salad bowl on the side. Good choices for steamed vegetables include greens such as kale, collards or chard, green beans, and broccoli, although any vegetable you like is a good choice. Remember that variety is important, so try to vary your choice of vegetables from one day to the next.

Main Street Vegan – a book review

It’s hard not to get excited about this book. It’s hard not to fall in love with it. Victoria Moran’s latest book, titled Main Street Vegan – Everything You Need to Know to Eat Healthfully and Live Compassionately in the Real World, is sure to be a winner.

We were excited by innovations such as the chapter on finding the method of switching over to a vegan diet that works best for you, rather than the usual one way fits all. “Vegan one day at a time”, “vegan one food at a time” and “vegan at home” are just a few of the strategies offered by the author for the reader to choose from. There’s even a “vegetarian for now” strategy for those just getting started on the veg journey who haven’t reached vegetarian yet.

Also exciting is the forthright way the author confronts the myths and misinformation that abounds about some foods, such as the false fears being spread by the soy bashers and the false promotion of unique health benefits of fish. She doesn’t shy away from such real world considerations such as fitting vegan food choices comfortably into your budget, and she is not afraid to make specific recommendations and evaluations about specific brands of foods and other products which are so helpful to those just starting out.

We loved the way Victoria wrote the book for real people and what it takes to switch over to the vegan way, in uniquely human terms. “To become a Main Street Vegan yourself”, says the author, “you’ll call on your courage, your flexibility, your sense of adventure, your willingness to learn, and your ability to rise to a challenge.” We loved the way she wrote in a personal style instead of “to whom it may concern,” the impersonal tone found in so many other books today. Victoria gets up close and personal, revealing her own switch over to vegan which did so much to help her in her own weight loss struggles. We also loved the recipes, arranged throughout the book, that use everyday ingredients but yield especially delicious dishes of every kind.

In short, this book is a treasure trove that will reward the reader with one gem after the other, and we recommend it wholeheartedly. Victoria Moran is an author, motivational speaker, corporate spokesperson, and certified holistic health counselor (HHC, AADA). Her latest project, Main Street Vegan is published by Tarcher/Penguin and has been endorsed by such luminaries as Russell Simmons, Moby, and authorities such as Neal Barnard MD, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Among Victoria’s ten additional titles are the best-selling Creating a Charmed Life (in thirty languages), and the plant-based weight-loss classic, The Love-Powered Diet: Eating for Freedom, Health, & Joy. A vegan for twenty-eight years, Victoria wrote Compassion, the Ultimate Ethic, the first book on vegan philosophy ever published by a major publisher, as her college thesis in 1985.

Environmentalists in Deep Denial

ImageWith Earth Day just around the corner, we can’t help but lament the depth of denial most of the environmental community is in when it comes to the issue of animal agriculture and meat. There are some notable exceptions, such as the World Watch Institute who says, “The human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future — deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease.” But, on the whole the environmental community has chosen to remain comfortably unaware of the facts connecting our food choices with environmental sustainability, and several attempts by us to get the environmental movement engaged have resulted in a lackluster response.

The global environment has never been more challenged than it is today, so this failing on the part of the environmental community is especially tragic.  And, to be fair, many vegetarian groups and vegetarian books don’t give enough attention to this vital subject either, instead preferring to just focus in on health and or animal welfare with environmental issues only getting brief mention if any.

To help both groups in their advocacy we offer excerpts from our latest book, Say No To Meat! The 411 on Ditching Meat and Going Veg.  Good planets are hard to find, so let’s all do our part to spread the word that the food you choose to eat is probably the most significant environmental choice you can make!

How does eating a vegetarian diet help the environment?

Massive is the only word we can think of when it comes to the damage to the environment caused by raising livestock. Since one third of all the habitable land in the world is used for raising animals (or for growing crops to feed them), it’s not surprising that the animal agriculture industry has such a massive impact on our environment. Farm animals require huge amounts of feed, and the fertilizers and pesticides used to grow that feed are made from or using oil. Raising farm animals takes enormous quantities of fresh water for drinking and for growing their feed, and fossil fuel to power all the equipment, transportation, refrigeration and freezing that raising meat requires. Livestock produce greenhouse gases and emit water pollutants from their wastes and require evermore land to live on, resulting in ecological destruction.

You can make a big difference by the food choices you make. By choosing to follow a vegetarian diet, you are reducing the demand for meat and other animal products. This in turn has an impact on how many animals farmers decide to raise, how much resource they use, and how much pollution will be caused. While the impact of one person’s dietary change may seem small, as more and more people make this choice, the effects really add up. If everyone were to go vegetarian, there would be no need for a meat industry at all, and environmental problems such as global warming, water pollution and rainforest destruction would be drastically reduced.

Why does animal agriculture use so much oil?

It’s amazing how much oil is used to produce meat. In fact, agriculture uses 17 percent of all the fossil fuel (oil, coal and natural gas) in the United States, with meat production responsible for the majority of that portion. There are several reasons for this. One reason is that most animals are raised in so-called factory farms, where their feed is grown elsewhere and shipped in. These animals consume enormous quantities of crops–in fact about 70 percent of all the corn and 80 percent of all the soybeans grown in the United States are fed to farm animals. When we consider the fossil fuel used for meat production, we also have to take into account all the fuel used to manufacture fertilizers and pesticides, and to water, harvest, and ship those crops throughout the animal’s entire lifetime, as well as that required for the transportation and slaughter of the animals, plus the shipping and refrigeration of the meat. All that fuel adds up. Grass-fed animals use less fuel, but these animals use so much land that it’s not practical to feed America’s meat habit this way.

Going vegetarian saves oil. Plant based foods are simply grown, harvested, shipped and eaten directly rather than wastefully being funneled through a farm animal first. Much less refrigeration is usually required for plant foods than animal products. But the big advantage is that it takes only a pound of grain to make a loaf of bread, whereas it takes over 17 pounds of grain to make a pound of beef, requiring much more fossil fuel.

We’re not kidding when we say that if you are still eating meat we would rather you drive your car to get places rather than walk!  Professor David Pimentel of Cornell University explains it this way, “It is actually quite astounding how much energy is wasted by the standard American-style diet. Even driving many gas-guzzling luxury cars can conserve energy over walking—that is, when the calories you burn walking come from the standard American diet!” So if you are an environmentally-conscious consumer looking to cut down on your use of fossil fuel, a non-renewable resource, switching to a vegetarian diet is a great place to start.

How is global warming affected by eating meat?

Global warming just may be the most serious environmental threat in human history. It’s caused by the production of large quantities of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. These gases trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere and so contribute to the over-warming of the planet. Many scientists are very concerned that this warming is causing the glaciers and the polar ice-caps to melt, which is gradually causing a rise in the sea-levels. Low lying lands are at risk of being permanently flooded, causing many people to lose their homes and farm land. In other parts of the world, changes in weather patterns causing droughts will occur, causing famine. If the world continues to produce or increase global warming gases at the current rate, there will be an environmental catastrophe which could lead to the death of millions of people.

In the previous question, we saw just how much fossil fuel is consumed in the production of meat, and this of course is a major source of carbon dioxide. But the animals also produce carbon dioxide when they breathe, and many produce huge quantities of methane as flatulence and from their manure. Methane is 21 times more effective than carbon dioxide at heating the atmosphere. Since there are 56 billion farm animals raised for food in the world each year, (eight times the human population), you can see that added together, they must produce a huge share of the greenhouse gases which are causing our planet to warm up.

Get ready for this one. According to a recent United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Report, raising livestock causes more global warming than all the cars, buses, trucks, airplanes, boats and ships in the world put together. It turns out that whether or not you eat meat is much more important than whether or not you have a fuel-efficient car, whether or not you carpool or take public transportation, whether or not you buy local, whether or not you travel for vacation or stay closer to home.

Nothing is more important in the fight against global warming than becoming a vegetarian. In a recent report from the World Watch Institute, animal agriculture and the meat industry were found to generate 51 percent of the greenhouse gases. That’s more than all other sources put together.

By switching to a vegetarian diet, you can single-handedly reduce greenhouse gases by 3,267 pounds per person per year. If enough other people to follow your lead, the biggest source of greenhouse gases would be removed, and global warming wouldn’t be the impending crisis that it is today.

How does the use of water to produce meat cause problems?

You might think, especially if you live in the Pacific Northwest where it feels like it never stops raining, that water is no big deal.  But if you live in a drier place, like California, Arizona, or further afield in parts of Africa, Asia and Australia, water is a really big deal. There are continual debates, arguments, even battles, over how to share out scarce water resources, from local rivers and streams, between different groups of people. Fresh water is needed for basic human needs like drinking and washing. It’s used for industry, agriculture and in some places for hydro-electric power, and it’s used for recreation (fishing, boating) and watering lawns and golf courses. In dry parts of the world, where there is not enough water to go around, major compromises have to be made. Often these compromises are decided by who is willing to pay the most, and so poorer people lose out on what should be a basic human right, access to clean, fresh water.

Watering crops and grassland to be able to feed farm animals is a huge waste of water. By some estimates, it takes 5214 gallons of water to keep all the crops watered to feed a cow, and give it enough to drink, per pound of beef produced. Compare that to growing wheat or tomatoes or lettuce, which need less than 25 gallons per pound of food. When countries choose to raise animals for food, rather than feed their people crops directly, they are wasting precious fresh water which is desperately needed for other uses.

Since meat in western countries may come from many different sources, it’s very difficult to track down where the meat you eat has been raised, and where the crops it was fed were grown. But every time you choose a vegetarian meal, you can be sure that you are saving someone a substantial amount of water, which can be put to a more productive use.

How does raising animals cause ecological destruction?

Raising farm animals and harvesting fish is the single biggest cause of ecological destruction on both land and sea.  On land, ecological destruction is caused by overgrazing, causing soil erosion and desertification, and by the destruction of natural habitats, such as the Amazon Rainforest. In the oceans, industrial fishing causes massive disruption of the food chain and the underwater ecology of our oceans.

The fires burning in the Amazon are so bright the astronauts can see them from space.

Cattle ranchers in Brazil, which is now a major meat-exporting country, set these fires to clear land to raise beef, and to raise crops such as soybeans to feed the cows. In only 10 years an area twice the size of Portugal, the country which originally colonized Brazil, was burned down mostly just to clear land to raise beef. And in Central America, half their rainforest has already been destroyed in order to raise farm animals. Rainforest destruction is a continuing tragedy. The rainforest is home to many rare plants and animals which are losing their habitat and at risk for extinction. In addition, once the forest has been cleared, the land is particularly susceptible to soil erosion.David Kaimowitz, Director of the Center for International Forestry Research, doesn’t pull any punches when he says, “Cattle ranchers are making mincemeat out of Brazil’s rain forests.”

Fishing is destroying the ocean’s ecology. Long nets used by industrial fishing boats catch many non-food species of fish which are then thrown back dead or dying. These species, which have been killed for no useful purpose, are removed from the oceanic food chain causing massive ecological destruction. Fish farming also generates a lot of waste. These fish are held in pens and are fed huge amounts of concentrated protein pellets. The leftover pellets, and the waste from the fish themselves, sink to the bottom of the ocean, generating bacteria which consume the oxygen that shellfish and other bottom-dwelling sea creatures need to survive, thus destroying their habitats.

What can I do about it?

The power is in your hands. Animal agriculture, and the crops needed to feed them, is a huge industry which causes untold damage to our environment. Every time you choose a vegetarian meal instead of a meat-based one, you are helping to limit that damage and taking a powerful step towards a more sustainable world.

This was an excerpt from the environmental chapter of Say No to Meat: The 411 on Ditching Meat and Going Veg by Amanda Strombom and Stewart Rose.

Winning the Battle of the Bulge

Besides saving money, winning the battle of the bulge is the other most popular New Year’s resolution. And, there’s little wonder why, with two thirds of all Americans now either overweight or obese.

There are three phases to weight loss: getting your diet started, working the diet to your goal and transitioning to everyday eating for long term results. Every endeavor starts with a single step, and since New Year’s Resolutions are all about beginnings, here’s our our top recommendation for getting started on your journey to victory in the battle of the bulge.

In 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart: Boost Metabolism, Lower Cholesterol, and Dramatically Improve Your Health, PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., shows you how a vegetarian diet will help you drop pounds, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and improve blood sugar—in just three weeks. He also provides three weeks of recipes, nutrition information, and cooking tips, as well as inspiration from celebrities, including a foreword by Alicia Silverstone, tips from Biggest Loser’s Bob Harper, and advice from NBA champion John Salley.

This book is a powerful tool on its own, but what makes the Kickstart program even more advantageous is the online portion that goes with it. From webcasts and teleclasses to daily messages from famous doctors, and from social media such as Facebook to additional recipes and nutritional advice, this online program is truly special. You can check it out by visiting pcrm.org/kickstarthome/

What’s even more special is the way Dr. Barnard combines sound scientific principles of weight loss with a caring and compassionate attitude. In fact we’re so impressed with this doctor, we’ve invited him to be a speaker at this year’s Vegfest! We invite you to come down hear him speak and meet him in person. And best of all, he’ll answer all your questions.

Eat Vegan on $4 a day

Happy New Year one and all!  January is New Year’s resolution time, and since the economy continues to struggle along to recovery, many are resolving to redouble their efforts to save money. Vegetarians of Washington is here to help with a review of the latest tool in the battle of the budget:  Eat Vegan on $4 a Day by Ellen Jaffe Jones.

This book needed to be written. This is a book for our times. This book dispels a myth held by far too many that you can’t eat healthfully while still eating affordably, and it’s the most practical tool we’ve seen in a long time to help with eating on a budget.

In these difficult economic times, more and more people are looking to save money in their weekly food budget. Many people are also under the misimpression that it costs a lot of money to follow a healthy diet in general, and a vegan diet in particular.  This eminently practical book goes through the basics of thrifty shopping and follows up with daily and weekly menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks of delicious vegan meals along with recipes for each dish. I especially liked that each meal is completely priced out at average grocery store prices.

Practical to its core, the recipes mostly use commonly obtainable ingredients found in most ordinary supermarkets. However, if you have access to a natural food store so much the better! You’ll find valuable tips on how to save money on your long time favorite “health foods” and organics.

Going far beyond bulk bin basics, I can just see many retailers and manufacturers cringing as the author reveals any number of industry “secrets” so as to enable you to save even more money and find bargains in a wide variety of circumstances. I liked the fact that recipes were thrifty but fun. There’s no sense of sacrifice or austerity, so even the most well-heeled reader will find the recipes attractive.

This book accomplishes its goal so well that after reading it you’ll never think it’s too expensive or difficult to follow a veg-diet again.  We won’t hide our enthusiasm for this book! In fact we liked it so much, we’ve invited the author so much we invited her to our upcoming Vegfest. Check back for speaking and book signing times closer to the event.

Calling all Veg-Friendly Healthcare Providers

Here at Vegetarians of Washington, we are often asked for recommendations of vegetarian or veg-friendly healthcare providers.  If you are a healthcare provider of any kind, licensed in the state of Washington, and you are either vegetarian or vegan yourself, or you consider it to be a very healthy choice for your patients to make, we encourage you to contact us to let us know of your qualifications, your specialty, your practice location and contact information, and your experience with vegetarian and vegan diets.  We will compile this information into a helpful list which we can share as needed.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) publishes an excellent book – A Nutrition Guide for Clinicians, which is a comprehensive, portable medical reference manual.  It covers nearly 100 diseases and conditions, including risk factors, diagnoses, and typical treatments. Most importantly, it provides the latest evidence-based information on nutrition’s role in prevention and treatment, including an in-depth examination of general nutrition, macronutrients, micronutrients, and nutritional requirements for all stages of life.  In addition, it describes helpful ways to talk with patients about dietary changes.  If you’d like to have all the latest nutritional information at your fingertips, you may find this book very helpful.  It is written for clinicians, so it provides all the medical details you’ll need for almost every common situation.

The PCRM has also put together a website http://nutritioncme.org/ which offers free online Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits to healthcare providers who study the educational materials on their website.  It is well-designed with the latest nutrition information to help bring any healthcare provider up-to-date with the scientific evidence showing how our food can help heal many common diseases.

If you need a movie to recommend to patients who could benefit from a change in their diets, or a quick introduction yourself to some of the recent research which has uncovered the many health benefits of a vegetarian diet, the new movie Forks over Knives is now available for free instant download from Netflix, for downloadable rental ($3.99) or purchase ($9.99) or as a DVD ($14.99) from Amazon.com.  You can also recommend our books The Vegetarian Solution, by Stewart Rose, or Say No to Meat, by Amanda Strombom and Stewart Rose, as good sources of valuable information about the health and other benefits of changing your diet. For patients who are new to healthy food, our latest book In Pursuit of Great Food: A Plant-Based Shopping Guide, could be very helpful for them.

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