Friday, October 31, 2008

Notes on Dr. Gregor's Presentation

Well, Marc and I barely made it on time to Dr. Gregor's talk on Monday (we had a pseudo emergency when our cat bit his tongue so bad that there was blood everywhere!), but we did and I'm so glad. It was extremely educational and entertaining—educataining?

Anyway, he presented his facts in the style of a game show: he would have everyone stand up, ask a multiple-choice question, and everyone who got the answer wrong would sit down. He did this with a series of questions each round, until only one or two winners were left, each of whom would receive his CD with the presentation on it.

Here are some of the interesting facts I learned, all of which he showed the scientific data for:

A handful of nuts a day cuts the risk of hear attacks by half. Worried about the fat and calories? Don't be; studies showed that, amazingly, the addition of a handful of nuts did not cause any weight gain at all. The most healthy nuts are pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, and almonds, in that order, which I was happy to hear since pecans are my favorite and I love walnuts, pistachios and almonds too! Surprisingly, roasted nuts are more healthy than raw.

Supplementing vitamins E, A, and beta carotene increase all cases of mortality! Luckily I don't do any of those. However, vegans, vegetarians and even most meat-eaters need to supplement vitamin D (although many San Diegans may get enough from the sun, you would need 15-30 minutes a day, between the hours of 10a-2p without sunscreen). If you don't get that (I don't), you should take 4000 I.U. of vitamin D a day. I will be getting some on my next grocery store trip.

As most of you probably (hopefully) know, B12 is a must supplement vitamin for vegans. What you may not know is that even meat-eaters need to supplement this since animal products are not a good reliable source of B12.

Alfalfa sprouts are better left at the grocery store, because of the risk of salmonella. Although they only caused 100 cases of salmonella in the U.S. last year (as compared to 182,000 caused by eggs), it was also found that 1 in every 67 containers of alfalfa sprouts had E Coli (as do 1 in every 91 burgers), so skip them and go for the broccoli sprouts instead. Interesting fact about broccoli sprouts: they provide strong levels of UV protection when rubbed on the skin. So strong, in fact, that after they were rubbed on an arm, washed off, and then the arm was exposed to high levels of radiation a week later, they still protected it! This makes me want to rub broccoli sprouts all over my face, tee hee. You can read more about it here:

Not only is coffee not bad for you, but two cups a day are helpful. However black tea is much healthier, green tea is even better than that, and white tea (a certain processing of green tea) is best. Roiboos and honeybush are also good, and chamomile tea fights cancer, but yerba mate is NOT good. It contains high levels of carcinogens similar to that of fried chicken—yuck!

Here's some news about soy I was happy to learn: tofu cuts diabetes risk in half, helps with weight loss, and cuts cholesterol. Worried about a possible link between soy and breast cancer? Not only does soy cut the risk of getting breast cancer, but when a study was done on women with breast cancer, it cut their risk of dying in half. Yay, soy! I was very relieved to hear of this after some of the bad press soy has gotten lately. I still limit myself to only two or three meals containing tofu per week, but at least I don't have to feel guilty about that. Another surprising fact: tempeh is even healthier than edamame beans in their natural state, due to something that occurs during the fermenting process. So what about the bad press soy has been getting? Dr. Gregor explained that a lot of those tests are done on rats and other unfortunate animals, and are therefore irrelevant to its effect on humans (for instance, cow's milk was found to be healthier than soy milk for mice in one study but that was because soy milk lacks something needed to help them grow fur; since we don't grow fur, we're better off with soy). All the studies he presented as evidence were conducted on humans.

For those of you who are not yet vegan or concerned with the health of a non-vegan family member or friend: dairy is extremely harmful to human's health. It's the number one source of saturated fat and cholesterol, and additionally has a high concentration of pus and manure, which the dairy industry thinks is ok since they pasteurize it. Personally, I don't care for cooked pus and manure any more than the raw kind, so that's not acceptable to me! Dairy also is linked to an increased risk of Parkinson's disease.

Some other interesting facts for the non-veggies: pregnant women who eat meat reduce the fertility of their baby boys. The breast milk of veggie moms has only 1-2% of the toxins meat-eating moms' milk has. (I am so thankful that my mom, who was not vegetarian, refrained from eating meat while pregnant with me.)

There are high levels of fire retardants found in beef, dairy, bacon, fish and chicken (chicken having the highest levels by far). Don't ask me how they got there!

Once and for all, there is no such thing as healthy fish. This concerns me as I have so many friends who don't eat red meat or poultry but continue to eat fish. It actually is more harmful to the human body than other meats for the following reasons:

One can of tuna has the same amount of mercury as 100 vaccines, and methyl mercury increases the risk of heart attack among other things.

Think you're safe because you only eat sushi grade fish? Think again. The average (not highest) amount of fecal bacteria found on sushi is 90,000 mg (30,000 is the maximum allowable, although I can't remember who allows it).

Factory farmed fish are much higher than wild caught fish in PCBs, DDT, dieldrin and other cancer-causing chemicals. But all fish, farmed or wild, are dangerous in levels of mercury.

Dioxin, one of the most harmful chemicals known to science (and yes, it causes cancer), is rampant in fish. I'm going to quote here to put it in perspective:

The major sources of dioxin are in our diet. Since dioxin is fat-soluble, it bioaccumulates, climbing up the food chain. A North American eating a typical North American diet will receive 93% of their dioxin exposure from meat and dairy products (23% is from milk and dairy alone; the other large sources of exposure are beef, fish, pork, poultry and eggs). In fish, these toxins bioaccumulate up the food chain so that dioxin levels in fish are 100,000 times that of the surrounding environment. The best way to avoid dioxin exposure is to reduce or eliminate your consumption of meat and dairy products by adopting a vegan diet. According to a May 2001 study of dioxin in foods, "The category with the lowest [dioxin] level was a simulated vegan diet, with 0.09 ppt.... Blood dioxin levels in pure vegans have also been found to be very low in comparison with the general population, indicating a lower contribution of these foods to human dioxin body burden."

You can see some great charts and read more here:

Alright, enough bad news! Let's assume you're already vegan (or about to go vegan after reading the facts above). There is nothing beneficial in fish that we can't get from other sources without the toxins. Golden algae (which is grown in a pristine environment) is a great source of Omega 3s and DHA and it's more sustainable and of course, bloodless. Compassion for the animals really pays off! There are lots of good brands that offer this supplement.

Moving on to antioxidants: Walnuts, cloves and oregano are great sources of these. Here are the top 12 on the antioxidant list:

1. Acai berries
2. Goji berries
3. Artichockes
4. Cinnamon
5. Apples
6. Cranberries
7. Pears
8. Pecans
9. Black Plums
10. Pomengrantes
11. Blueberries
12. Cocoa powder

Dried fruit is healthier than juice, and golden raisins are healthier than regular.

Red onions are way healthier than yellow or white. I used to only use them for salads, but now I'm going to switch to them for cooking too.

Beans are great antioxidants. The top three are:
1. Black beans
2. Lentils
3. Red Kidney beans

The healthiest mushrooms are porcini and button in that order. And did you know that portabella mushrooms are just button mushrooms, all grown up? I didn't!

Apples are great, readily available and affordable antioxidants. Red Delicious are the best, with Granny Smiths a close second.

Steamed broccoli is healthier than raw! I was so happy to learn this as I much prefer it that way. Apparently the steaming boosts the absorption of the nutrients. Someone asked if enzymes of veggies are lost in the cooking process. Dr. Gregor said, yes, they are, but we have our own enzymes and we don't need the enzymes of vegetables. Interesting...

Similarly, tomato sauce is healthier than raw tomatoes, another happy fact for me since I love the former and can't stand the latter.

And to conclude, my favorite fact from the whole presentation: as we age, our DNA get breaks in their structure. Eating plants protects DNA and meat breaks it. A recently concluded study showed that vegetarians at age 65 have the DNA of meat-eaters at the age of 25!

Special thanks to Dr. Gregor for a fabulous presentation. Happy halloween to all! (By the way, pumpkin is also a great antioxidant...)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Vegan Nutrition Lecture this Monday

I'll keep this one short but sweet—just wanted to let you all know that there is an event on Monday evening (October 27th) called "The Latest in Human Nutrition 2008." Michael Greger, M.D. will be speaking at the Health Services Complex, in the Coronado Room from 7:00p until 8:30p, with vegan refreshments being served at 6:30p. The event is free, although donations will be accepted. The address is 3851 Rosecrans St., San Diego 92110 and you can call 619-583-9522 if you need more info. You can also find out more about Dr. Greger here: and the event is sponsored by Last Chance for Animals.

OK, that's it for now but hope to see you there, and in case you can't make it, I'm sure I'll be blogging about what I learn there. Ciao!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Vegan Feather Earrings

So I've been loving the beautiful feather earrings I've been seeing a lot lately, but I was concerned about getting any; after all, how would I know that the feathers came from a cruelty-free source? I decided to check one of my favorite jewelry shopping sites,, and found some gorgeous feather earrings by an artist named Heather (her shop is Smoobage's shop). I emailed her to see if she knew whether or not the feathers she used were indeed vegan.

Not only did she reply quickly and honestly, saying that she wasn't sure where the main source of her feathers got them, but she went to the trouble of ordering some gathered, moulted feathers and made a whole line of vegan earrings! She gave me first dibs on a pair that I fell in love with (although it was very hard to decide, as they were all so beautiful), but there are many others to choose from (the ones pictured above are available here). Once again, I am amazed by the willingness of others to cater to my strict ethical code. Who says style can't be compassionate?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Vegan on the run...

Well, as always, I've been busy. Although I'm done with school, I went to Philly for a visit during my short one-week break, and then classes started (the ones I teach), and here we are again. However, I do have some veg news to share with everyone.

I have a new favorite vegan restaurant: Horizons in Philly. I went there with my friends Wendi, Susannah and Josh and we had a delicious meal. The service, atmosphere and pacing of the courses were also excellent. Too bad it's so far away! But if you happen to be in the vicinity, you must check it out.

Sometimes it's not easy finding good eats when you're traveling. But I had the great luck of staying at Susannah and Josh's for a couple nights and experiencing their amazing vegan and mainly raw cuisine. Josh made the best miso soup I've ever had (no exaggeration!) and Susannah made a yummy pesto that we used in wraps. They even make their own almond milk, and I will be trying to make it myself soon. I'll let you all know how it goes... 'til then, bon appetit and thanks for thinking of the critters!