Category Archives: Vegetarianism

What is the ultimate cooking show? “A Vegan Mashup”!

Where would you turn for a Vegan TV cooking show that teaches you just how easy and quickly you can make the best most nourishing meals for yourself and your family? Well, the answer of course is, RIGHT HERE! After hosting four seasons of Delicious TV’s Totally Vegetarian on Public Television and over 140 VegEZ podcasts I am personally very pleased and excited to announce our  newest, fun filled and most inspiring food television production to date! Welcome to Delicious TV’s Vegan Mash Up! This fantastic six episode season of 1/2 hour vegan cooking shows will feature four chefs instead of one. Three will be regulars (Terry Hope Romero, Miyoko Schinner and me, Toni Fiore) and one will be a surprise chef! You know, there are so many talented and energetic Vegan foodies out there that this new format will give you, the viewing audience, more variety and delicious recipe ideas than ever before.

But we need your help and support to make this happen! Delicious TV is currently raising funds for television production, post production and marketing. Check it out at http://www.indiegogo.com/Delicious-TVs-Vegan-Mashup. With a minimum of $10 (of course more is sublime), your help gets us closer to delivering this new, fresh and delicious cooking series to public television for your viewing pleasure! Follow the indegogo link above, give what you can and help spread the word through your friends, social networks and even in your holiday gift giving! Our goal is to pull together 6 fabulous episodes that are not only Totally Vegan but will totally knock the socks off all those tired meat based cooking programs on mainstream television. Please help make Vegan Mashup happen!  – Toni Fiore

The mighty strawberry

strawberry1

For a little red fruit, the strawberry is a superhero

Cultivated as early as the 17th century, even its botanical name calls to mind something wonderful: fragraria. Did you know that strawberries are considered to be a “false fruit” and that the plant belongs to the rose family? With only 49 calories per cup (4 of those calories from fat) and offering 149% of the daily requirement of Vitamin C, why wouldn’t you reach for these luscious red beauties during their season – in the east, that season is now. So go on, indulge – it’s good for you!

Strawberry Nutrition Information and the fruit’s history and lore from the Illinois Cooperative Extension. Find out why red fruit is so good for you.

John McDougall, MD – Letter to the Editor – NY Times

This is an interesting article forwarded to me by a good friend. It’s frightening how prevalent mis-information is and how easily it invades the mainstream media. Anyway, it is certainly worth the read and a response. Until I can get the link active, just cut and paste it into your browser.

John McDougall, MD – Letter to the Editor – NY Times
The New York Times today (May 21, 2007) carried an Op-Ed piece about the dangers of a vegan diet, titled “Death by Veganism,” that deserves an immediate response:

Here is the link to the original article: Death By Veganism by Nina Planck

Planck, who is identified as a food writer and expert on farmers markets and local food, wrote this article about the case of a recent murder conviction of parents who starved their 6 week old child to death by feeding him a diet of apple juice and soy milk. She writes on her web site, “Among many sources for this piece, I interviewed a family practitioner who treats many vegetarian and vegan families.”

This is the link to the article about the child’s death: Couple Guilty of Assault in Vegan Case

And finally, here is the 150 word letter to the editor that I sent to the New York Times (chances of publication by the newspaper are obviously small):

Nina Planck’s article condemning vegan diets contains serious errors concerning the adequacy of plant foods. Plants do contain all the essential amino acids in adequate quantities to meet human needs, and even those of children (Millward). Vitamin D is not found in milk or meat, unless it is added during manufacturing. Sunlight is the proper source of this vitamin. Plants manufacture beta-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A. The original source of all minerals (including calcium and zinc) is the ground. Plants are abundant in minerals; and they act as the conduit of minerals to animals. The scientific truth is protein, essential amino acid, mineral, and vitamin (except for B12 which is synthesized by bacteria, not animals) deficiencies are never caused by a diet based on whole plant foods when calorie needs are met. Ms. Planck’s distortion of nutritional science is a serious matter that needs to be fixed.

Reference: Millward DJ. The nutritional value of plant-based diets in relation to human amino acid and protein requirements. Proc Nutr Soc. 1999 May;58(2):249-60.

Additional comments not sent to the newspaper.

Nina Planck writes: “You cannot create and nourish a robust baby merely on foods from plants.”

The scientific truth is: Babies at 6 weeks of age require human breast milk and any other diet means malnutrition. Imagine if the exact opposite approach killed an infant with a formula made of pulverized beef and cow’s milk, would this have received similar worldwide press? I believe the case would have been properly considered child neglect (intentional or not) and have gone unnoticed except for those intimately involved. People love to hear good news about their bad habits so the tragedy of the death of an infant caused by misguided parents who fed their infant apple juice and soy milk for the first 6 weeks of life has been used to justify eating meat and drinking cow’s milk.

Nina Planck writes: “Protein deficiency is one danger of a vegan diet for babies. Nutritionists used to speak of proteins as ‘first class’ (from meat, fish, eggs and milk) and ‘second class’ (from plants), but today this is considered denigrating to vegetarians.”

The scientific truth: Confusion about our protein needs came from studies of the nutritional needs of animals. Mendel and Osborne in 1913 reported rats grew better on animal, than on vegetable, sources of protein. A direct consequence of their studies resulted in meat, eggs, and dairy foods being classified as superior, or “Class A” protein sources and vegetable proteins designated as inferior, or “Class B” proteins. Seems no one considered that rats are not people. One obvious difference in their nutritional needs is rat milk is 11 times more concentrated in protein than is human breast milk. The extra protein supports this animal’s rapid growth to adult size in 5 months; while humans take 17 years to fully mature. The world’s authority on human protein needs, Prof. Joseph Millward, wrote the following: “Contrary to general opinion, the distinction between dietary protein sources in terms of the nutritional superiority of animal over plant proteins is much more difficult to demonstrate and less relevant in human nutrition.” (References in my April 2007 newsletter.)

Nina Planck writes: “The fact remains, though, that humans prefer animal proteins and fats to cereals and tubers, because they contain all the essential amino acids needed for life in the right ratio. This is not true of plant proteins, which are inferior in quantity and quality – even soy.”

The scientific truth is: Proteins function as structural materials which build the scaffoldings that maintain cell shapes, enzymes which catalyze biochemical reactions, and hormones which signal messages between cells, to name only a few of their vital roles. Since plants are made up of structurally sound cells with enzymes and hormones, they are by nature rich sources of proteins. In fact, so rich are plants that they can meet the protein needs of the earth’s largest animals: elephants, hippopotamuses, giraffes, and cows. You would be correct to deduce that the protein needs of relatively small humans can easily be met by plants. (References in my April 2007 newsletter.)

Nina Planck writes: “Yet even a breast-fed baby is at risk. Studies show that vegan breast milk lacks enough docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, the omega-3 fat found in fatty fish.”

The scientific truth is: Only plants can synthesize essential fats. Any DHA found in animals had its origin from a plant (as alpha linolenic acid). The human body has no difficulty converting plant-derived omega-3 fat, alpha linolenic acid, into DHA or other n-3 fatty acids, supplying our needs even during gestation and infancy.

Reference: Langdon JH. Has an aquatic diet been necessary for hominin brain evolution and functional development? Br J Nutr. 2006 Jul;96(1):7-17.

Mothers who eat the Western diet pass dangerous loads of environmental contaminants through their breast milk to their infants. Meat, dairy, and fish in her diet are the source of 80% to 90% of these toxic chemicals. The cleanest and healthiest milk is made by mothers eating a starch-based vegan diet.

Nina Planck writes: “A vegan diet is equally dangerous for weaned babies and toddlers, who need plenty of protein and calcium.”

The scientific truth is: Infants should be exclusively breast fed until age 6 months and then partially breast fed until approximately 2 years of age. Starches, fruits, and vegetables should be added after the age of 6 months. The addition of cow’s milk causes problems as common as constipation and as devastating as type-1 diabetes. (See my May 2003 newsletter on Marketing Milk and Disease.) Adding meat to an infant’s diet is one of the main reasons all children raised on the Western diet have the beginnings of atherosclerosis by the age of 2 years.

Nina Planck writes: “An adult who was well-nourished in utero and in infancy may choose to get by on a vegan diet, but babies are built from protein, calcium, cholesterol and fish oil.”

The scientific truth is: Babies are ideally built from mother’s breast milk initially and then from whole foods. Hopefully, parents will realize that the healthiest diet for the entire family (after weaning) is based on starches with the addition of fruits and vegetables. (Vitamin B12 is added to the diet of pregnant or nursing mothers and after 3 years of following a plant-based diet strictly.)

Nina Planck has been allowed by the New York Times to exploit the tragedy of a family and to spread commonly held, but scientifically incorrect, information on human nutrition. The author and the newspaper should be held accountable. Hopefully, the end result will be that people desiring the truth will take the trouble to look at the evidence. If this were to be the case, then this New York Times article could be the beginning of long overdue changes in the ways people eat. Write and tell everyone you know that the New York Times has done a sloppy job, and damage to the public, by allowing harmful lies to be spread – especially when you consider that Planck’s message promotes a diet known to cause obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, and major cancers.

John McDougall, MD

Mock-meats

Mock-meat

TVP or “mock-meats” are getting a lot of attention these days, and for good reason. With up to eighty percent less fat than lean animal meats, these products lend themselves remarkably well to many recipes that traditionally use beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, or pork. In fact, some of the most popular recipes on our website are made with TVP and we get a lot of mail with questions about how to use these products.

Mock-meat sales at college cafeterias have more than doubled in the past few years and general market sales are expected to reach record highs by 2008. There are a number of companies that produce these meat alternatives and they have improved taste and texture significantly. Their popularity is understandable, as they provide a low fat meatless option to transitional vegetarians or flexitarians who desire kicking the meat habit, but are not ready to walk away from many of their favorite, traditional meat-based dishes.

At first, I was a bit ambivalent about using mock-meat, but I must admit that I enjoy not only the culinary challenge of preparing it, but also the positive response of diehard meat eaters to dishes prepared with TVP. Consuming meat replacers a few times a week will make a huge difference to your overall health while helping reduce the negative impact a meat-based diet has on animals and the environment. It’s a win win situation, no matter how you look at it.

Vegetarian Kids

Vegetarian Kids

I was reading a few prominent internet articles this week about nutrition and promoting healthy foods for kids. Over ninety percent of the recipes suggested in the articles contain dairy and cheese, swap out chicken for beef, and promote substituting turkey for just about everything except shampoo. America’s ongoing romantic relationship with meat and dairy is both disturbing and dangerous. The idea that one might consider eating meat or dairy free at least three times a week is a concept that pushes people into panic mode. However, amidst all of this chaotic and conflicting information, I was heartened to learn that there has been a remarkable increase in college student demand and desire to eat vegan and vegetarian.

Nearly one quarter of college students are vegetarian and sales of vegetarian meals at Universities doubled between 1998 and 2003 and continue to grow. This is good news and very telling. Conversely, while these future consumers are busy helping create a multibillion dollar mock meat industry there is little response and advice from mainstream nutritional “experts” to assist parents in preparing and creating meatless meals at home that address this current trend. Despite the fact that we still find it a challenge to sell the concept of an all vegetarian cooking show, it appears, when we look at the facts, vegetarians might just turn out to be a powerful economic force to be reckoned with.

Texture Tips

Texture Tips

One of the most important elements people seek in food, especially vegetarian food is texture. From the moment we begin eating solid food, texture plays an extremely important role in our diets and our palates. Taste is equally important, but how food “feels” remains an issue for many. Consequently, tofu, beans, and other vegetables are given a bad rap while fried and processed foods are touted everywhere.

One of our goals is to show our viewers how easy it really is to change and increase the texture and palatability of soy and vegetable-based dishes. Simple adjustments like choosing whole grain breads versus soft white, adding nuts and whole grains to vegetables, and roasting foods instead of boiling can make a huge difference not only nutritionally but in our mindset. Old habits die hard and diet is no exception. In fact, diet is one of the most difficult things of all to change because our choices are so often steeped in family tradition.

If you want to add texture to your diet, nuts are a wonderful and easy way to begin. Adding toasted nuts to pasta sauces, cereals, desserts, and vegetable dishes not only adds terrific texture but necessary vitamins and protein as well. Another way to get more texture into your food is the use of whole grains. Millet, buckwheat groats, and quinoa are easy to prepare, delicious, chewy and nutritious ways of getting your grains and boosting the texture of just about anything you add them to. These wonderful grains can be eaten at just about any meal, added to baked goods, soups, muffins, meatless burgers, combined with rice, or simply eaten on their own as side dishes. Lately, I’ve been using kasha frequently in my recipes. It cooks quickly, in fifteen minutes or so, has a wonderful nutty taste, supplies more than 20% of your daily fiber, is loaded with B vitamins, protein, and amino acids. I usually make a double batch and use leftovers during the week. Having it ready to go increases the likelihood that you’ll use it. Stored in the refrigerator, cooked grains should last up to seven days. So when you make your resolutions to eat healthier be sure to put nuts and whole grains on top of your list. It’s so easy you’ll wonder why you waited all year.

A New Direction

A New Direction

Frequently I’ll catch health and nutrition news on television. Unfortunately, it’s been the same report for the last ten years: our health continues to decline. Apparently Americans are just not listening. And sometimes it seems that whoever is involved in developing new food programming has been left out of the loop entirely. Obesity and obesity-related health issues have reached epidemic proportions among adults and children in the US. Why is it that it’s still virtually impossible to have access to solid common sense food information? Do we need to learn five thousand different ways to deep fry a turkey, make whole cream all butter potatoes, pasta literally buried under a mountain of cheese and a ten egg bread pudding that utilizes day old doughnuts in place of bread? How can anyone really think Americans need more creative ways to deep fry or pack our arteries with more fat, butter and meat? If you pay a little attention, it’s absolutely astounding how much truly harmful nutritional information crosses our television screens in a day, let alone during “the holidays.”

Moderation is the hallmark of the Mediterranean diet and one of the biggest reasons Europeans are in much better physical shape than we are. Yet I know – since we’ve been on the air – that there are a great many Americans out there seeking help, advice, and encouragement to assist them in incorporating healthier foods and a more balanced approach to their daily diets. Clearly, mainstream television food channels are obviously not committed to offering solid nutritional options to their viewers. In fact, they do for food what music videos do for music. Packaged properly, just about any idea can be sold.

Delicious TV’s Totally Vegetarian will continue working hard to meet the challenges of adequate funding for our program and I hope you – our viewers – will continue to support our mission and goals by requesting our new season through your PBS stations. In the words of Gandhi, “We have to be the change we wish to see in the world.” After all, our lives depend on it.

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Around the holidays, the media is full of suggestions about how to relax and make things easy on ourselves. Many of the stresses we’re attempting to reconcile revolve around entertaining, but we can safely add diet and family issues into the mix. Often it’s a tangled web of all of the above. Admittedly, I struggle like everyone else and, as a vegetarian, problems can unfortunately center on the food I’m preparing, or the foods I’m not preparing: that is, the enormous turkey and all the high-fat trimmings of a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

At some point in our recent history, Thanksgiving became entirely focused on consuming turkey which (sadly) now symbolizes the holiday. The tradition of Thanksgiving – of being with loved ones and giving thanks for all our blessings – struggles to maintain that original intention. I’m increasingly aware of how “the holidays” are morphing into something more superficial and hectic than ever before. In fact, these days it’s all too common to see Christmas promotions right next to the half price Halloween candy.

So, while modern American culture keeps throwing us curve balls, keeps turning up the heat and attempting to diminish all that we should truly be thankful for, including our food choices, I urge you to keep the faith. From all of us at Delicious TV’s Totally Vegetarian to all of you: wishing you peace, health, and the best vegetarian holidays ever.

What About Eggs?

What about eggs?

Over the years, I have significantly cut down on my use of eggs for a variety of humane reasons, yet I understand that eggs are, and will most likely be, a part of many diets, whether you call yourself a vegetarian or not.

I would like to note here the difference between Certified Organic Free Range Eggs that come from hens that run free and are fed organic feed and the less expensive commercial supermarket eggs that come from hens fed a commercial diet and raised in battery cages. The difference between organic and non-organic animal products is significant, not only because of the deplorable conditions in which caged egg-laying hens are kept, but also the effect these conditions have on the animals, the eggs themselves, and the people who consume them.

The difference between organic and non-organic eggs is startling. Eggs provide two fatty acids: omega-6 and omega-3 and those are best when delivered in equal ratios. When you have too much omega-6 and too little omega-3, this imbalance leads to a variety of health problems. Some of those problems may include, overall physical inflammation, high blood pressure, depressed immune function, weight gain, an irritated intestinal tract, and a tendency to form blood clots. Organic Free Range Eggs, that come from hens who roam free and eat green plants and insects, produce eggs that have the perfect ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, a balance of 1:1. On the flip side, commercial supermarket eggs produced from hens living in horrific conditions, fed mainly grains, and administered antibiotics in a factory-farm environment, have a ratio closer to 15 or 20:1.

While the cost to the consumer’s pocket is almost double to buy free range organic eggs, the cost to his or her health of not buying organic is much greater. If consumers demand changes in the conditions of hens kept by mainstream egg producers and large commercial suppliers, I guarantee in time, things will change. In most of Europe, battery cages have been banned for health and humane reasons. Surely, we in America can rise to this occasion. But until we do, my solution is to urge you to consume fewer eggs, which is a good thing anyway, and only buy free range organic eggs. Labels can be deceiving, so if possible, buy locally-produced eggs so you know where the eggs come from and how the chickens are kept. If I can’t get local eggs, I simply don’t use them. And it’s much easier than you think.

Knowledge is power. The more we know about our food and food sources and the more control we take over our own diets, the more power we have to create positive change for ourselves and the world around us.