Tag Archives: vegan

Local news – Cafe Red reopens, new vegan grocery

Café Red, a coffee shop located on Martin Luther King Jr Way in South Seattle, recently reopened with a fully plant-based menu.  The co-owners, Jesiah Wurtz and Haley Williams, are making a renewed commitment to community, with goods from local vegan companies.  They are both vegan themselves, and feel that South Seattle is lacking in places to buy great vegan food.

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College meals are going plant-based

Sodexo Food Service

Sodexo, a giant food service company, is increasing its plant-based offerings at hundreds of college campus cafeterias over the next few years, with the goal of reducing their carbon footprint by 34%.  They are aiming for 42% of the menus to be plant-based at hundreds of colleges and universities by 2025.

The push to move toward more plant-based menus is being driven by an initiative between Sodexo and its longtime partner Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which has been helping Sodexo to update their menus and animal welfare policies over the past 15 years. 

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Shaquille O’Neal goes vegan

Shaquille O'Neal
Shaquille O’Neal in 2017

Retired basketball star Shaquille O’Neal has announced that he’s going vegan, during a May 2 interview with Rip Michaels, host of the show Urban Eats & Treats.  He had previously followed a high-protein, low-carb diet, but he’s realized that following a vegan diet, including vegan versions of many of his favorite junk foods such as cheeseburgers, gives him many advantages, including enabling him to continue to eat the way he prefers, while avoiding packing on too many pounds.

At 7-foot-11, and 320 pounds, the former NBA star is now 50 years old and wants to look after his health, while still enjoying his favorite foods.  He has discovered that is possible, by frequenting a vegan restaurant in Atlanta where he can get a cheeseburger without the guilt.  He used to think that a healthy diet consists of salad, steak and fish, but finds that eating vegan food helps him feel lighter and more energized, and healthier than he used to feel.

For breakfast, he enjoys a vegan smoothie, with blueberries, peanut butter and bananas, inspired by vegan NFL star Tom Brady.  Shaq joins many other vegan athletes who have discovered the benefits of a plant-based diet, including female athletes such as tennis champion Venus Williams and soccer star Alex Morgan.

Avoiding dementia – new research

Dementia is a scary disease, so we all want to do everything we can to avoid it. One recent study showed that vegetarians have a 38% lower risk of dementia. We already knew that part of the reason was that vegetarians have, on average, a much lower prevalence of risk factors such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol and lower levels of markers for inflammation such a C-reactive protein, but now new research shows there’s an additional reason.

Investigators found that individuals with the highest blood levels of lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin were less likely to have dementia, even decades later than their peers with lower levels of these phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are nutrients found in plant foods besides vitamins, minerals and fiber, that nourish our bodies and are the focus of a lot of medical research.

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Vegan options for the Coast Guard

Green beans being cooked at the Coast Guard Academy

The U.S. Coast Guard’s Yorktown Training Center has embraced vegan food options in its dining facility. From passionfruit panna cotta to Beyond Bolognese, students at the training center can now delight in high-quality vegan dishes. They launched the vegan program during COVID-19, when vegan trainees were unable leave the base to seek alternative food sources, with Petty Officer 2nd Class Ian Swoveland, a culinary specialist, serving as the brains and hands behind these dining options.

The menu is so popular that it attracts more diners than just the vegan students. Since Yorktown is one of the largest Coast Guard training centers in the country, the success of its vegan meal program is sure to have an impact on other locations. We have previously reported on other military installations offering vegan options, but overall there’s a lack of vegan options across U.S. military dining facilities and in rations. Sometimes a military member is forced to bring their own food to the field to self support, due to lack of options due to a lack of vegan Meals Ready to Eat (MREs).

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Local vs vegan – which is better for the planet?

Many people advocate buying local as a way to reduce the greenhouse gases causing climate change. Buying from local or regional farmers who grow and raise your food, so that it doesn’t have to be shipped a long distance, saves the CO2 used in transportation, but in fact doing so only saves about 10 percent of the total greenhouse gases that are generated in growing and processing most of the food we eat, according to an expert who has analyzed where most of the climate impact of our food comes from.

It’s the kind of food that ends up on the truck that determines the carbon footprint, explains Sandra Noonan, the Chief Sustainability Officer of Just Salad, a restaurant chain, and it is one more reason to switch to a plant-based diet. Supporting local farmers is always a good idea, but it doesn’t have a huge impact on our carbon footprint, since most of the greenhouse gases generated in producing food happen earlier than the final step of trucking it to your local market or store.

More important from a sustainability point of view than how far it has travelled, is what the food actually is. The big advantage here goes to plant foods. One new report published by Stanford University says that by shifting away from meat and dairy, we could lower our climate impact by 68 percent.

Buying locally sourced beef is almost never going to be a better option than shifting to a plate of all vegetables, legumes, fruit, and whole grains. Locally raised beef is still worse for the environment than buying broccoli or lentils that was grown further away and had to be shipped across the country to your store, although of course, locally grown plant foods are best of all.

Now, companies like Just Salad and others are adding labels to ingredients and the food they serve up, that shows the environmental impact of our dish, how much CO2 was burned, and methane was released in the growing, harvesting, processing, and transporting of our food from soil to bowl and beyond. It’s here that consumers will see the big difference between plant foods and animal foods. Let’s hope these new labels will help encourage more people to switch to plant-based options.

Illinois requires plant-based school lunches

The state of Illinois has passed a bill (HB 4089) in both houses, that requires a school district to provide a plant-based school lunch option to those students who submit a prior request to the school district.  It now just awaits the governor’s signature.

“All students deserve the opportunity to have a well-rounded, nutritional meal at school that meets their dietary needs,” said sponsoring senator Dave Koehler, D-Peoria. “For some kids it may be the only substantial meal they get that day, and they need to be able to make the most of it.”

We’ve written before about the New York City school district requiring Meatless Mondays and now Vegan Fridays, championed by mayor Eric Adams. Some schools in the NYC district have gone even further by providing only vegetarian lunches every day of the week.

While we wish that school lunches were plant-based for all students, Illinois has taken a good first step, enabling those students who want to have a healthy and animal-free lunch to get one.  

Asthma – the latest science

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

Asthma is the most common chronic disease of childhood. The prevalence has been increasing at an alarming rate and has more than doubled in the last decade. Over 9 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with asthma. That’s a lot of children. There are few things more upsetting than a sick child.

What is asthma? Asthma is a disease in which your airways narrow and swell and may produce extra mucus and inflammation due to a hyper response to things that don’t really cause infections such as respiratory allergens. 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.

Studies show that vegetarians have a reduced risk of asthma. Plant foods contain special substances called phytonutrients that can reduce inflammation and act as antioxidants which help give vegetarians an advantage.

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. Milk has also been implicated as increasing the risk of asthma through a different mechanism.

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%.

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.

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 fully plant-based diet. See our professional level article on asthma.

Vegan chocolate market growing

Pascha chocolate bars

The vegan chocolate market is experiencing very strong growth. In the last two years, leading chocolate brands including Hershey’s and Cadbury’s have launched vegan chocolate bars, as consumers continue to seek out dairy-free options for health, environmental, and reasons of compassion. According to a new report, it’s a sign of things to come as the vegan chocolate market should reach $1 billion in sales globally by 2027.

The vegan chocolate and vegan “milk” chocolate market was built by small companies such as Zazubean, Pascha and Theo just to mention a few. It’s notable that a selection of sugar-free vegan chocolates are now available, with herbal sweeteners such as stevia. After seeing their success, larger companies are entering the market. Cadbury’s has made the announcement that it was launching a vegan chocolate and Hershey’s announced the launch of its oat milk chocolate bars last year.

“Millennials and the working population are highly adopting the vegan culture, which is estimated to surge the demand for [vegan chocolate]” reads the report. Data continue to show that consumers are not only seeking out sustainable and healthier options, but they’re willing to pay a premium for products that are responsibly sourced and sustainable. Consumers are also shifting away from dairy for health reasons. An estimated 65 percent of people suffer from lactose intolerance. In some Asian demographics it can be as high as 100 percent, according to a 2017 study. The report predicts America will drive the bulk of the sales, even as countries like the U.K. have been leading the shift to plant-based food overall. According to the report, “The growing vegan population is anticipated to surge the market growth,” reads the report.

Raising vegan kids – what you need to know

There are many benefits to raising your kids on wholesome plant-based foods.  It sets up a child for a lifetime of healthy habits. Many people are surprised to learn that the disease process that causes so many chronic diseases in adults start in childhood. You can help your child prevent many diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and several forms of cancer. At the same time, you are teaching your child to care for the animals and the earth through their food choices.

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