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 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.
A new law in New York state came into effect on December 6 that requires all hospitals in the state to make a vegan option available for every meal they serve. All meals and snacks must include an option that is completely free from animal products and these options must be available at no extra cost. They must include the plant-based options on all written materials and menus.
This is very exciting because it gives physicians the opportunity to discuss with their patients the power of a plant-based meal to prevent and treat diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and many other chronic conditions. More than 1.5 million New Yorkers have heart disease and diabetes, and these account for 40 percent of deaths in the state. COVID-19 comorbidity figures indicate that a large proportion of those who have died from the virus have conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes, so anything that can be done to encourage plant-based eating will help reduce the risks of these comorbidities.
Anya Taylor-Joy, the 24-year old actress who is a chess champion star in the popular Netflix mini-series, The Queen’s Gambit, has been vegetarian since childhood. She was born in Florida, but grew up in Argentina and London. At age 16, she was spotted as a potential model by a talent scout while walking outside Harrods, a department store in London, and through her modelling work she met and signed on with an acting agent. By 2015 she was rising to prominence as an actress and since then has taken lead roles in several movies and TV series.
Anya recently told Harper’s Bazaar magazine that she’d been vegetarian since she was 8 years old. She has dipped in and out of being vegan, which she got into because she says it’s the most ecologically-conscious choice you can make.
Recently, some people have been touting grass-fed beef as eliminating all the problems associated with meat, or as an equivalent alternative to going vegetarian. Don’t fall for it. Grass-fed beef is still bad for us, the environment and, of course, the cows.
Let’s take a look and see what some leading veg-authors have to say on the subject and then make a few observations of our own. Read more
Bethenny Frankel, best known for her multi-season appearance on the reality show Real Housewives of New York, has vowed to stop eating meat to support her 10 year old daughter Bryn Hoppy, who wants to be a vegetarian. “Bryn wants to be a vegetarian because she loves animals, so she’s asking me to do it with her,” Frankel shared.
Frankel starred in the popular Bravo reality series Bethenny Getting Married, later retitled Bethenny Ever After, which documented her engagement and marriage to Jason Hoppy, and the birth of her daughter Bryn. While the couple subsequently split, Bethenny and Jason are raising Bryn jointly. Bryn has disliked meat for most of her life, and Frankel has supported her by replacing the meat in dishes with meat-less substitutes.
While Frankel has not publicly vowed to avoid all animal products, she has been sharing vegan foods that she’s enjoyed with her social media followers. In 2018, Frankel embarked on a summer-long vegan food adventure, which included vegan mushroom tacos at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Beverly Hills. Her decision to completely stop eating meat seems to be another step on this journey. As we always say, proceed at your own pace and do the best you can, Bethenny!
The American sprinter, Elijah Hall, says: “Changing my diet was the best decision I could have made.” The athlete made this decision to ditch meat and dairy from his diet a few months ago because “he’s on a mission” to win. Hall adds, “the effects that it’s having on my body is amazing. Becoming a plant-based athlete has opened many doors to my health and my training.”
Hall holds records in the indoor 200 meters and was training for the Tokyo Olympics that were scheduled to take place this month, but was postponed a year due to the pandemic. Last year, Hall said he took the entire summer off to train, “Took the summer off to get it right… Let’s get to it !!” When it comes to track and field, a plant food diet means getting it right!
Dr Chan Hwang scans the carotid artery of a Vegfest attendee.
Heart disease is still the number one cause of death for both men and women. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. A plant-based diet can reduce your risk of a heart attack by 40%. If you wish your doctor knew about this, we want you to know that we do too! That’s why we wrote a letter to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. They published an Expert Consensus Decision Pathway on the role of non-statin therapies for lowering LDL Cholesterol, but they “forgot” to include the plant-based diet! We told them about their omission, and we published it as an open letter, complete with references to all the latest research on the topic. Read more
In an interview, Starr revealed he went vegetarian after attending a bullfight in Spain. Since then, the musician has been admired for his graceful aging. Former drummer for The Beatles, Ringo Starr, recently revealed the secret to “staying young” and maintaining high energy levels. Speaking to music and pop culture magazine Rolling Stone, Starr commended his vegetarian diet for helping him stay “so young and active.” Starr says, “I am a vegetarian, I have broccoli with everything and blueberries every morning. I just do stuff that I feel is good for me.”
The musician, who is 80 years old, spoke about how he keeps up with his busy life, including the launch of his new coffee table photo book “Another Day in the Life,” and an upcoming tour with the All Starr Band, when the virus lifts. The All Starr Band is 31 years old and still going strong as is fellow Beatle, Paul McCartney, also a vegetarian.
“You’re a busy man these days,” Rolling Stone interviewer Rob Sheffield said to Starr. He asked the rock star how he maintains the lifestyle. “I think staying active keeps you young,” Starr said, adding that he works out with a trainer. But diet also plays a role; the drummer highlighted that he follows a vegetarian diet and includes broccoli “with every meal.” Many have pointed out that he looks even younger than his son. Keep up the good work, Ringo!
More good news about the benefits of a plant-based diet! A new study shows that following vegetarian diet reduces the risk of stroke. We’ve been reporting on the many health benefits of vegetarian diets for lowering the risk of disease such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer and colon cancer. We can now add reducing the risk of stroke to the growing list. This is important since stroke is the fifth leading cause of death for Americans. Read more
A plant-based diet doesn’t just reduce your risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetics, but has benefits for the health of your thyroid as well. The thyroid gland is critical for maintaining a healthy body. Thyroid hormones have functions ranging from control of metabolism, heart beat and reproductive function.
Millions of people in America suffer from hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, most commonly in the form of Grave’s disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis which are autoimmune diseases. Those following a plant-based diet are much less susceptible to autoimmune diseases in general and thyroid disease is no exception. Vegans have been shown to experience a 22% lower risk of hypothyroidism, and a 51% risk of hyperthyroidism.
However, there are a few things those following a plant based should do for optimal thyroid health. Most vegans get enough iodine in their diet, but many don’t!
Iodine deficiency can lead to a variety of medical problems at all ages. This is a special concern for pregnant women. Children of mothers having an iodine deficiency during pregnancy may have mental retardation, deaf mutism, spasticity and short stature. Congenital hypothyroidism due to iodine deficiency is the most common cause of preventable mental retardation in the world. Iodine deficiency may also be a factor in the development of breast cancer, so consuming sufficient iodine may help protect against this all too common cancer.
It’s important to get enough iodine your diet. There’s usually enough iodine in the different foods we eat. Some foods that are a good choice for iodine include black eyed peas, navy beans and whole wheat bread. If you’re not on a sodium restricted diet, iodized salt, as is commonly sold in the supermarkets, can be very helpful and has a good track record of preventing iodine deficiency. However, the salt in commercially prepared food is not iodized.
It’s also important not to get too much iodine. Seaweed can contain high levels of iodine. It’s fine to eat various kinds of seaweed as long as it’s in moderation.
The message is clear. A plant-based diet will reduce your risk of both hyper- and hypothyroidism. Getting an adequate amount of iodine will enhance the health of your thyroid gland even further.