Tag Archives: vegetarian

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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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.

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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Ukrainian trend toward vegan

A Ukrainian vegan dinner

Our hearts go out to all those suffering and for all the destruction in the Ukraine. While, understandably, most news is concentrating on the war, we thought this might be a good time to highlight the growing veg trend in the Ukraine.

There are 2 million vegetarians and vegans in the Ukraine and there are an increasing number of vegetarian restaurants to go to and plant-based products to buy. The magazine Vogue Ukraine proclaimed 2020 “the year of the vegan.” Indeed, it has never been easier to be vegan in Ukraine, and it will be a promising country for creating both a powerful veg movement and a competitive marketplace for plant-based foods, once this war is over.

Go Green plant-based steak

Recently, the Ukrainian company Go Green entered a crowded vegan food market, introducing the first plant-based steak produced in Ukraine. According to the company’s website, the steak looks and tastes like real marbled beef meat. The company also sells other popular plant-based products like vegan ground meat and patties that taste and smell like real beef or fish.  In the future, Go Green plans to introduce soy-based cheese and vegan meatballs.

You can find quite a number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Kyiv, the capitol, and in other major cities throughout the country such as Odessa on the Black Sea, Kharkiv, the second largest city, Dnipro in the middle of the country and Lviv in the western part. In fact we were surprised at the number of veg and veg friendly restaurants in the Ukraine.  In the restaurants, typical Ukrainian made plant-based foods are offered, but you’ll foods from other parts of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.

The Ministry of Healthcare of Ukraine finally declared veganism as a healthy and appropriate diet for all stages of life. There’s also active animal rights groups in the Ukraine. We hope the country is able to hold onto these vegan and vegetarian trends sufficiently to reinvigorate them in the future.

Prostate Cancer – you can do something to help yourself!

Man eating salad 2OK, you guys, and the gals who care about them, we need to talk about a disease that’s all too common – prostate cancer! The good news is that there’s something you can do to prevent it, and even help treat it if it’s a mild case in its early stages. Let’s start with prevention first.

The risk of prostate cancer in vegetarians is less than half that of non-vegetarians. While plant-based foods have been shown to decrease the risk of prostate cancer, animal-derived foods increase the risk. Intake of saturated fat and cholesterol found in animal-derived foods are independent risk factors for prostate cancer, contributing further to the higher risk that non-vegetarians have. Read more

Frances Moore Lappé

Frances Moore Lappé receiving a Humanitarian Award from the James Beard Foundation

If we can see further today it’s because we’ve been standing on the shoulders of giants. This is certainly true of the veg movement. One of those giants is Frances Moore Lappé, author of the wildly popular book, “Diet for a Small Planet”, which came out 50 years ago and yet even today its influence is still being widely felt.

Lappé explained that a vegetarian diet was much better for the planet and was healthy for us. Ms. Lappé was 25 and attending graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley, when she began to question her life’s purpose. Like many in her generation, she was inspired by the ecological movement that led to the first Earth Day.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis – Veg Diet helps

Rheumatoid-Arthritis handsRheumatoid Arthritis (RA) hurts. Nearly 3 million Americans suffer from it. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect more than just your joints. In some people, the condition also can damage a wide variety of body organs, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels. An autoimmune disorder, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body’s tissues. There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. There are treatments, but many have significant side effects.

Following a plant-based diet can reduce your chances of getting RA. One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, comparing those who followed a vegetarian diet to those who ate meat but otherwise followed a healthy lifestyle, showed that those following a vegetarian diet reduced their risk of getting Rheumatoid Arthritis 50%. Read more

Ultrathon runner wins on vegan diet

Harvey Lewis

Ultrathon runner Harvey Lewis, 45-years old, won the most recent 135-mile Badwater endurance race, on a vegan diet.

Badwater is the most demanding running race offered anywhere on the planet. The race starts at 280 ft below sea level in California’s Death Valley, and finishes up at 8300 ft on Mount Whitney.  Lewis completed the race in under 26 hours, despite 100 degree heat. He has won this race before back in 2014, and has completed the race 10 times, with top wins half of those times. He credits plant-based nourishment for his endurance and athletic performance.

In 1996 at age 20, Lewis decided to become a vegetarian after his mother suffered a stroke at age only 54, which caused him to reassess the culture of the modern Western diet. Following a trip to the Australian rainforest for college credit and an overarching love for animals, Lewis considered his existing habits and their impact on his overall quality of life, as well as the impact on the planet.

More recently in 2016, he went fully vegan. He says being vegetarian, and now vegan, gives him the “necessary ingredients for my body to bounce back quickly from punishing endurance events.” He admits his daily nutrition varies significantly from his race-day intake, particularly for a 24-hour race. On a regular day, Lewis enjoys black bean burgers, traditional ethnic foods like Indian and Korean cuisine, and mango smoothies.

However, during lengthy races, he snacks on Clif bars and cran-razz shot bloks, Peppermint Patties, Coca-Cola, pizza and avocado sandwiches. For a race in the heat, like Badwater, Lewis relies on liquid calories, namely Clif hydration drinks and Coca-Cola. Lewis was featured on a No Meat Athlete podcast describing his Badwater win and race-day nutrition.

Several other ultrarunner athletes prefer plant-based diets, including a former member of ours, Scott Jurek, who co-authored a memoir called Eat & Run detailing his experiences with ultrarunning, going meatless in 1997, and becoming vegan in 1999.

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