Tag Archives: vegetarian

Covid and plant-based diets

We’ve been getting a lot of questions about following a plant-based diet and COVID. There are some things a plant-based diet can do it and something it can’t.  It turns out that a plant-based diet can significantly reduce the severity of COVID.

In one study, looking at doctors and nurses, a plant-based diet reduced the chance of getting a severe or moderate case by 73%, which we think is saying a lot.  Compare this to those individuals following “low carbohydrate, high protein diets” such as Atkins and others, which are typically high in food that comes from animals, who had an almost 4 times greater risk of moderate-to-severe COVID. Another study showed that among the elderly, those following a non vegetarian diet had 5 times the risk of having a severe case of COVID.

So what’s up with this? We think there are two things at work. A plant-based diet has been shown to reduce inflammation. Part of the damage COVID does is by inciting extreme inflammation. Studies have shown that those following a plant-based diet have a lower baseline level of inflammation. Second,  people with chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, have been shown to have worse outcomes when infected with the COVID virus. People who follow a plant-based diet have, on average, much lower rates of these diseases. Lower levels of baseline inflammation and lower rates of chronic disease combine to give vegetarians and vegans the edge.  

Can a good diet prevent you from getting COVID in the first place? Here the effect of the plant-based diet is much less pronounced. One study showed only a 9% reduction in the risk of getting infected in the first place. Based on the evidence, vaccination is very strongly recommended for the general public.

While 9% isn’t much of a reduction, with a disease as widespread as COVID it can still make a difference in preventing illness. A 73% reduction in the risk of getting a severe or moderate case of COVID makes a huge difference in reducing suffering and saving lives.

New York City Hospitals serve plant-based meals

All 11 hospitals run by New York City will now serve plant-based meals by default.

The move came after diet-change-focused nonprofit, The Better Food Foundation, partnered with New York City Hospitals and the Mayor’s Office. The foundation aims to aid healthcare organizations in improving health outcomes while cutting carbon emissions, and decreasing food costs.

The hospitals serve three million meals for lunch and dinner each year. While meat options will still be available to those who want them, the hospitals are offering plant-based dishes for every meal.

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Diets that fight global warming

The food we consume has a massive impact on our planet. According to one analysis, based on UN data, the diet that helps fight global warming the most, by having the least greenhouse emissions, is the vegan diet followed by a vegetarian diet. You can see how the different diets stack up when it comes to global warming in the graph below.

Bar chart
How much CO2e (in billions of tonnes, or Gt) would be saved if the whole world switched to each of these diets. Terms as defined by CarbonBrief. Data: IPCC.

When it comes to global warming we need to move fast if we are to avoid the worst consequences of global warming. A switch to a plant-based diet may be just what we need to avoid the worst consequences of global warming.

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Live longer with plant-based diet

A young adult in the U.S. could add more than a decade to their life expectancy by changing their diet from a typical Western diet to an optimized diet that includes more legumes, vegetables, whole grains and nuts, and less red and processed meat, according to a new study.

Gains are predicted to be larger the earlier the dietary changes are initiated in life. For older people, the anticipated gains to life expectancy from such dietary changes would be smaller but still substantial. The message is clear. You’re never too young to start on a plant-based diet, and you’re never too old to benefit from it.

According to the study, young people starting out at age 20 could, on average, add 10 years to life expectancy for women and 13 years for men. Starting at age 60, it could add 8 years, on average, for women and 9 years, on average, for men. Even 80-year-old women and men could add 3 years, on average, to their life expectancy.

This should come as no surprise. The Journal of the American Medical Association says that diet is the number one risk factor for disease in the United States. Among the 10 leading causes of death (before COVID) are heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease, all of which a plant-based diet can help prevent and treat.

According to the study, an optimal diet had substantially higher intake than a typical western diet of whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and nuts.  Yet, many doctors treat nutrition as a side issue. Of course, they were offered little to no training in medical school.

Of course, we don’t say that nutrition is the only relevant factor in life expectancy. For instance cigarette smoking has a large impact, along with access to medical care. Nevertheless, the nutritional effect  on health is considerable and offers a wide ranging opportunity for increasing life expectancy.

America is thirsty

America is thirsty. But there’s something powerful we can all do to help quench that thirst.

First, let’s unpack some stats. 43% of the U.S. and 51% of the lower 48 states are currently in drought. 234 million acres of cropland in U.S. is experiencing drought. 130 million people in the U.S. are currently affected by drought this week. It’s a big problem.

What can we do about it? After all we can’t change the weather. True, but we can change what we eat and it turns out that may be more effective than anything else. Eating vegetarian foods saves a huge amount of water because producing meat is so water-intensive compared to plant foods.

Unfortunately, local officials seem to be unaware of this. They suggest, among other things, that we install low-flow toilets, cut down on the length of our showers, and remember to turn off the faucet when brushing our teeth.  All of which is fine but it’s rare that any of them suggest that we take a look at what we eat, despite the fact that what we eat has a huge impact on the amount of water consumed overall. So, let’s do some math and add up the potential savings.

It takes about 5,200 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef, about 1,700 gallons of water to produce a pound of pork and about 800 gallons of water to produce a pound of chicken, when considering both the water needed to grow the crops to feed them as well as their drinking water.  Now let’s say on a given day that a person chooses to eat a 4 ounce serving of beef, a 4 ounce serving of pork and 4 ounce serving of chicken in a day.  They would use up about 1,300 gallons of water in the beef production, about 420 gallons of water in the pork production and 200 for the chicken production, giving a grand total of 1,920 gallons of water in just one day.

On the other hand, it takes about 530 gallons of water to produce a pound of soybeans, about 370 gallons of water to produce a pound of corn and about 230 gallons of water to produce a pound of wheat. Now let’s say a vegetarian chooses to get his nutrition from plant sources such as tofu, wheat and corn and uses 4 ounces of each ingredient during the course of the day. He would use up about 132 gallons of water through soy production, about 92 gallons of water on raising corn and about 59 gallons on the production of wheat, giving a grand total of 283 gallons of water. He therefore saves 1,637 gallons of water over the meat-centered diet every single day.

Compare this to common recommendations for water conservation. One can save about 10 gallons a day by using a water efficient toilet, 2 gallons of water a day by using an efficient bathroom faucet, 25 gallons of water a day by taking shorter showers and using an efficient nozzle, 4 gallons of water with an efficient dishwasher, and 16 gallons a day with an efficient washing machine, giving a grand total of 57 gallons of water per day.

Now saving 57 gallons of water is a day is good, and it is right that those savings are pointed out.  However, the greatest impact is from the 1,637 gallons that could be saved by switching to a plant based diet. Here in the Northwest, many people may understandably be less concerned with saving water than in other areas of the country. But consider that much of our food comes from those other regions, and that even here in Washington, much agricultural land is in the center of the state which receives much less rainfall.

Switching to a vegetarian diet is a change that has a powerful effect on the environment. In addition to saving large amounts of water, our diets help save the rainforests, reduce soil erosion and water pollution, and fight global warming.  A vegetarian diet is the single most environmentally friendly lifestyle choice a person can make and is so delicious that it will leave a good taste in your mouth too.

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.

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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.

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