ASK ANY QUESTION
Recently I started the 21 Day Wellness Cleanse from Kathy's book and I have seen some benefits in terms of weight loss but am having trouble fighting cravings for alcohol and meat. Just wondering if you could share some advice and tips to help us avoid the temptations of these items?
Answers in this section are by Kathy:
Are organic dairy farms any better than regular insofar as cruelty?
All of the answers are directly from Dr. Neal Barnard, President, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, unless otherwise indicated.
How much protein do I need and where is the best place to get it?
A plant-based diet easily provides all the protein the body needs. There is no need for meat, dairy products, or eggs for protein, and you are better off without them. Vegetables, grains, and beans give you plenty of protein, even if you are active and athletic. And there is no need to eat these foods in any special combinations. The normal mixtures of food people choose from day to day easily satisfy protein needs.
For people who like technical details, protein is made up of amino acids. Each amino acid molecule is like a bead, and many amino acids together make up the protein chain. There are many different amino acids, and all of the essential ones are found in plants.
And by all means, do not fret about protein grams or feel any need to count them. But if you are interested in the numbers, simply divide your body weight (in pounds) by three. That gives you an approximation of the number of grams of protein your body needs, plus a margin for safety. So, for example, for a person who weighs 120 pounds, 40 grams of protein is more than enough on a daily basis. Some experts believe that the actual amount of protein required is actually much less than this figure.
The bottom line is to have a healthful mix of vegetables, beans, whole grains, and fruits, and protein takes care of itself.
Where do I get iron if not from red meat?
The most healthful sources of iron are "greens and beans." That is, green leafy vegetables and anything from the bean group. These foods also bring you calcium and other important minerals.
Vegetables, beans, and other foods provide all the iron you need. In fact, studies show that vegetarians and vegans tend to get more iron than meat-eaters. Vitamin C increases iron absorption. Dairy products reduce iron absorption significantly.
To go into a little more detail, there are actually two forms of iron. Plants have nonheme iron, which is more absorbable when the body is low in iron and less absorbable when the body already has enough iron. This allows the body to regulate its iron balance. On the other hand, meats have heme iron, which barges right into your bloodstream whether you need it or not. The problem is that many people have too much iron stored in their bodies. Excess iron can spark the production of free radicals that accelerate aging, increase the risk of heart disease, and cause other problems.
So while it’s important to avoid anemia, you also do not want to be iron overloaded. It’s probably best to have your hemoglobin on the low end of the normal range. If your energy is good and your hemoglobin and hematocrit are at the low end of normal, that is likely the best place to be.
Having said that, you will want your doctor to review your laboratory results and to track them over time. If your hemoglobin and hematocrit are dropping, that may be a sign of blood loss. That can be from benign causes, such as menstrual flow, but can also reflect more dangerous health issues, such as intestinal bleeding.
What is the best source of calcium, and how does it compare with dairy?
The same green leafy vegetables and legumes that provide iron are also good sources of calcium, for the most part, and absorption is typically better from these sources than from dairy products. One common exception is spinach, which has a great deal of calcium, but it’s absorption is poor, unlike broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale and other common greens, which have highly absorbable calcium.
If you like, you can also use calcium-fortified products such as breakfast cereals and juices, although these products provide more concentrated calcium than is necessary. It pays to put some thought into keeping your bones healthy. Studies have shown that the following factors are helpful in building and maintaining strong bones:
Getting plenty of exercise. Studies have concluded that physical exercise is the key to building strong bones (it's more important than any other factor). For example, a study published in the British Medical Journal that followed 1,400 men and women over a 15-year period found that exercise may be the best protection against hip fractures and that "reduced intake of dietary calcium does not seem to be a risk factor." And Penn State University researchers found that bone density is significantly affected by how much exercise girls get during their teen years, when 40 to 50 percent of their skeletal mass is formed.
Getting enough vitamin D. If you don't spend any time in the sun (about 15 minutes on the face and arms each day is enough), be sure to take a supplement or eat fortified foods.
Eliminating animal protein. For a variety of reasons, animal protein causes calcium losses.
Limiting salt intake. Sodium tends to cause the body to lose calcium in the urine.
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. People who eat lots of vegetables and fruits are less likely to have bone breaks. Part of the reason may be that they contain vitamin C, which is essential for building collagen, the underlying bone matrix.
Not smoking. Studies have shown that women who smoke one pack of cigarettes a day have 5 to 10 percent less bone density at menopause than nonsmokers.
What's the scoop on soy?
Soy products have been around for thousands of years and are a dietary staple in many regions of Asia. Research has shown that people in these regions have lower rates of heart disease, breast and prostate cancer, fewer hip fractures and fewer hot flashes. In addition, dozens of clinical studies have supported health benefits of diets rich in soy.
Some have raised the question as to whether soy has untoward effects. Happily, these concerns have been set aside. Girls who consume soy products in adolescence have about 30 percent reduction in breast cancer risk as adults. Women previously diagnosed with breast cancer have a significantly greater survival if they include soy in their diets, compared with women who tend not to use soy products.
However, if a person is uncertain or simply does not want to include soy, I always remind them that a vegan diet does not mean joining the Soy Promotion Society. A vegan diet can mean many things: a Latin American tradition with beans, rice, and tortillas; a Mediterranean tradition emphasizing vegetables, pasta, beans, and fruit, etc. Soy products come from an Asian tradition and are totally optional.
I hear so many concerns about soy, so here are a few of the tweets and blogs that might help you make your decision about whether or not to eat it (I certainly do!).
Soy Tweets and Blogs
1) More info on how soy doesn't affect men’s sexuality.
2) Soy does NOT have a feminizing effect on men.
3) This is a FANTASTIC piece on soy. Must read and pass around.
4) Among women with breast cancer, soy food consumption was significantly associated with decreased risk of death & recurrence.
5) Major study just came out says that plant-based diet likely curbs breast cancer risk. Says veg-fruit-soy is supreme!
6) Finally!! The soy controversy has some clarity! Incredibly interesting piece.
7) Men who eat soy have less lung cancer! Same true for breast and prostate cancer. Pretty amazing.
8) Soy protein does not adversely affect sperm of healthy men.... I post a lot on this because there is so much misinformation
9) Soy proven to help lower recurrence of breast cancer
10) Another solid study on soy, saying it's definitely good for breast cancer survival and NO need to advise against.
11) Here's an in depth look at every health implication of soy. Looks good, so enjoy!
What if I think I’m allergic to soy?
Again, eating a diverse diet of whole grains, beans and legumes, fruits and vegetables will give you everything you require in terms of protein. As for allergies, in some cases, they will change over time. For example, it is very common for children to have allergies that disappear as they get older, and that occurs in adulthood, too. Also, quite often, allergic responses diminish when people stop consuming dairy products. For example, a person who is allergic to cats or as asthma symptoms in response to pollen will find that these symptoms diminish when they leave dairy products aside.
Where can I get my Omega 3's if not from fish or fish oil?
ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is a basic omega-3 fat that can be converted in the body to the other omega-3s the body needs. ALA occurs in small amounts in beans, vegetables, and fruits, and this should be all the body needs. If more is desired, it is also found in walnuts, soy products, and, in high concentration, in flax seeds and flax oil. If these are used, there is no need for more than minimal amounts.
If you are looking for more, for whatever reason, health food stores sell vegan omega-3 supplements.
Is it ok to eat eggs, health wise? What about just egg whites?
There are major health issues with eggs. First, the yolk is where cholesterol lurks—more than 200 milligrams in one egg. That’s more cholesterol than you’ll find two quarter-pounders. There is also about 5 grams of fat in a single yolk.
Egg white is essentially solid pure animal protein. Its main problem is that the kidneys have trouble eliminating animal protein by-products. An 11-year Harvard study showed that kidney deterioration is accelerated by animal protein (for anyone who has already lost any degree of kidney function), whereas plant protein does no harm to the kidneys. It also tends to cause the body to lose calcium, just as other animal proteins do.
If it is hard to believe that there really is so much fat, cholesterol, and animal protein inside a single egg, keep in mind that an egg contains all the parts to make a complete chicken. The building blocks for the beak, bones, feathers, and everything else are inside that egg when it is laid, and they simply rearrange before the egg hatches. The cholesterol is used to build cell membranes, among other things, and there is, of course, no fiber, complex carbohydrate, or other healthful ingredients, because they are not part of a chicken’s biochemistry.
Will a plant-based diet affect my blood sugar?
Yes, avoiding meat definitely helps improve blood sugar. People who avoid meat are much less likely to develop diabetes and those who avoid all animal products are even less likely to do so. And, in clinical trials, people who make these same diet changes have dramatic improvements in blood sugar control. The most comprehensive study was our NIH-funded study, but other teams have found similar results. In 2010, the American Diabetes Association reported, as part of its official Clinical Practice Recommendations, that vegetarian and vegan diets have “metabolic advantages,” and one of the key ones is improved blood sugar.
I am an insulin-dependent diabetic. How do I follow your cleanse diet without overdosing with insulin or passing out into diabetic coma?
Diabetes is obviously a serious condition, and a healthful diet is key to its management. If by “insulin-dependent diabetes” you means type 1 diabetes, you will continue to need insulin injections regardless of the diet you follow (that is, a diet change cannot eliminate your need for medication), but a low-fat vegan diet is the best way to minimize insulin doses and to reduce the risk of complications. If you have type 2 diabetes, a low-fat vegan diet is the diet of choice. It offers the best chance of reducing or eliminating your medications, and will help prevent complications.
Many people with diabetes are nervous about the fact that a plant-based diet increases their carbohydrate intake. The answer is not to turn to fatty, high-protein foods that increase the risk of cardiovascular and renal complications. Rather, the answer is to choose whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits, focusing on low-glycemic index foods (ie, those that have minimal effect on blood glucose). The details are found in Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes.
I am just beginning to eat vegan but am experiencing a lot of gas; how do I deal with this?
If the problem is gassiness, beans are a common culprit. They should not be excluded from the diet, however, because they are great sources of protein, calcium, and iron, among other nutrients. But if you are new to beans, it is good to have them in small portions and always very well cooked. A well-cooked bean is very soft, with no hint of crunchiness. As time goes on, your digestive tract adjusts, so a bean that may cause a problem today may be better tolerated later on.
Also, cruciferous vegetables can cause indigestion for some people. The answer is simply to cook them well. This group includes broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage, among others. It is common for people to eat them raw or only slightly cooked, but they can easily cause gassiness or bloating. Cook them well, and the problem usually disappears. Later on, you can experiment again with less-cooked vegetables.
On the good side, rice is very easily digested, and a great food to emphasize. Brown rice is best. Also, cooked green, yellow, and orange vegetables are very easily digested.
Fruit vary. Some people do very well with raw fruit; others have more difficulty at first. If you are new to any particular fruit, you might have smaller servings at first, then gradually increase.
Digestive enzymes, such as Beano, can be used, but are usually unnecessary.
I am new to eating a plant-based diet but am nervous on the amount of carbohydrates I feel I am eating…coming from the Atkins diet, I am very aware of counting carbs. What should I do?
Keep in mind that the thinnest people on the planet—and who have the least diabetes—eat high-carbohydrate diets. That is, people in Japan and China and, of course, vegetarians tend to be slim and healthy.
The key is to think about which carbohydrate foods are best.
The first key is to choose those that are lowest in added fats. So rice is better than a cookie, and a baked yam is better than a baked potato that is drowning in butter and sour cream—and better than French fries dripping with grease.
Second, use the glycemic index. You’ll find all the details in Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes, but here it is in a nutshell.
Instead of sugar, have fruit. Yes, fruit is sweet, but it has little effect on blood sugar.
Instead of white and wheat breads, favor rye or pumpernickel.
Instead of white baking potatoes, have yams and sweet potatoes.
Instead of typical cold cereals, have oatmeal or bran cereal.
Rice and pasta are fine. Although whole-grain pastas are best, even white pasta has a low glycemic index. The real issue is to skip the meat and cream sauces, and stick to a low-fat tomato sauce.
I cannot see how I can get enough of B vitamins, vitamin D and iodine from a vegan diet. The only option I see is to take vitamin supplements which don’t seem natural to have to take. How do I make sure I am getting all of the nutrients I need?
Actually, vegans generally have better overall vitamin intakes, compared with meat-eaters. Meat has essentially no vitamin C and is low in many other vitamins, as well. In contrast, vegetables, fruits, and legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) are vitamin-rich. In controlled studies, people switching to vegan diets typically increase their intake of several vitamins, and reduce their intake of the undesirables—saturated fat and cholesterol, in particular.
Two vitamins deserve special comment:
Vitamin B12 is made, not by plants or animals, but by bacteria. Animal products contain B12 made by the bacteria in their intestinal tracts. A more healthful source is any common multiple vitamin. B12 supplements are also widely available.
Vitamin D normally comes from the sun. About 15 minutes of direct sunlight on your face and arms each day gives you all the vitamin D you need. However, if you are indoors much of the day or live in an area where sunlight is limited, it is important to take a supplement. Any common multivitamin is fine. Most foods have little or no vitamin D. Certain fish have rather small amounts of vitamin D, but they also harbor cholesterol, mercury, and other things you don’t want. Surprisingly, mushrooms (eg, shitakes and chanterelles) contain vitamin D. Five dried shitakes provide roughly 5 mcg of vitamin D. You’ll also find it in fortified soymilk.
Nowadays, some health authorities recommend high vitamin D intakes—up to 2,000 IU (50 mcg) per day, because of its reputed cancer-fighting properties. To get there, you’ll need to take a vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is plant-derived, while vitamin D3 , or cholecalciferol, typically comes from lanolin in sheep’s wool.
Iodine is easily available in iodized salt, but is also found in some types of seaweed.
I was wondering if you had any thoughts on those of us that seem to need animal products in our life. I know many feel that this isn't true; however I am an athlete and workout for a living and feel much better after I have a little dairy and meat.
I was also wondering what your opinion is on “Eating Right for your Blood Type.”
From Kathy: As for the blood type diet, I am an O positive, which they say means I should be eating meat. I've never felt healthier or been slimmer since becoming vegan! And I know many other vegans who are also thriving with their diets. Also, here are a couple of athletes who switched to a plant based diet:
Mac Danzig - UFC Fighter
Rich Roll - Ultraman
They sure look healthy! And there are many, many world class athletes who attribute their success to a plant based diet; simply search for them on the web and they will show up.
Is it healthy for kids to eat a plant based diet?
In the 7th edition of Dr. Benjamin Spock’s Baby & Child Care—the last edition published during Dr. Spock’s lifetime—he spelled out some good advice for children’s diets. He recommended that children be served plant-based diets—vegan diets—and that, to deal with finicky eaters, the best approach was not to arm-wrestle with children, but rather to simply find healthful foods children will eat. For example, children may not like cooked spinach, but they will like fresh spinach as part of a salad. They often are not keen on more exotic vegetables, but they are fine with corn, carrots, green beans, etc.
Virtually all children like the following:
Legumes: baked beans (okay to add cut-up veggie hot dogs), lentil soup, split pea soup, peas, bean burritos, bean tacos
Vegetables: carrots, green beans, vegetable soup, salads
Grains: rice, whole grain bread, oatmeal, cold cereals with soymilk or rice milk, corn, vegan pizza, spaghetti with chunky tomato sauce
Fruits: apples, bananas, and all others
Meat analogues: veggie burgers, veggie hot dogs, etc. The soy-based ones have a cancer-preventing effect for girls, and are healthful for all children.
It is also important to provide a pediatric multiple vitamin.
PCRM also has a book, called Healthy Eating for Life: for Children, which is very detailed.
I have had breast cancer; are soy foods ok to eat for me?
Several recent studies have been very reassuring about soy products. Girls who have soymilk, tofu, or similar products on a regular basis during adolescence have about 30% less risk of developing breast cancer as adults, compared with those who tend not to have soy products. And a large JAMA study of women previously treated for breast cancer showed that they benefited, too. Those who consumed soy products regularly had about 30% reduced risk of recurrence, compared to women who did not include soy products in their routines. They also had significantly reduced mortality. So the evidence so far is strongly in favor of soy’s benefits.
Having said that, soy products are completely optional. A person who adopts a plant-based diet from a Mediterranean tradition would favor vegetables, fruits, pasta, and beans. From a Latin American background, it would mean beans, rice, tortillas, and plenty of fruit. Soy products reflect an Asian tradition. They have many attractions, but a person who, for whatever reason, prefers to skip them can certainly do so.
Does soy cause hypothyroidism, or is it bad for my thyroid?
Studies show that soy products do not cause hypothyroidism. However, it may be that foods, including soy, can slow the absorption of iodine, which the body uses to make thyroid hormone. It’s a good idea to include iodine-containing foods, such as seaweed or iodized salt, in your routine. Sometimes foods can also slow the absorption of medications, including those used to treat thyroid conditions. Because medication needs change over time, doctors monitor thyroid blood tests and adjust doses accordingly.
Recently I started the 21 Day Wellness Cleanse from Kathy's book and I have seen some benefits in terms of weight loss but am having trouble fighting cravings for alcohol and meat. Just wondering if you could share some advice and tips to help us avoid the temptations of these items?
From Kathy: As for the cravings, they will pass. The more good substitutes that you find and like, the easier it will be. If you don't think you have an issue with gluten, there are many "meat-like" options out there... try Gardein which has a whole line of frozen and refrigerated things that look and taste like chicken and beef. These products can be found in the refrigerated deli section or in the freezer section. Otherwise, enjoy Mexican food with beans and avocado, or Indian food with curry and veggies. You can also try vegan and vegetarian restaurants in your area. There, you will see many people who have similar interests, which will assist you in sticking with your path! Also, get the temptations - whatever they are - out of your house, and focus on the short term (one day at a time). This way, you won't worry about the future, and in the meantime, your tastes and cravings will be shifting gradually. As for alcohol, try reading my section on addiction in Quantum Wellness; there is a wealth of information on how to move away from the habit.
I’m experiencing caffeine withdrawal. How long does it take to get over the absence of caffeine?
From Kathy: Withdrawal usually doesn't last for more than a week, if that. Try this to make the process easier:
Week 1: 2 parts regular coffee, 1 part decaf
Week 2: 1 part regular coffee, 2 parts decaf
Week 3: All decaf!
This will gradually wean you off of the caffeine. After that, try moving to herbal tea on a regular basis. Also, be sure to exercise even though it’s probably not what you feel like doing; it really helps.
What happens after the cleanse is over? What next? Also, can you extend the cleanse past 21 days?
From Kathy: When you’re done with the cleanse, I’d follow the other dietary recommendations in my book, including little or no meat, coffee and alcohol in moderation, and so on. I recommend doing the cleanse once or twice a year.
And yes, you can definitely extend past the 21 days; often, people make this - especially the non-animal part - a way of life.
Is this cleanse safe for children/teenagers to do?
Vegetarian, especially vegan, diets are excellent for children. A diet of whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits is very healthful for children, greatly reducing the risks of weight problems, heart disease, cancer, and other problems later in life.
Planning is important for any sort of diet, of course. You’ll want to be sure that children get adequate calcium, which is found in beans, greens, and many fortified foods. Also, it’s essential that children take a multiple vitamin.
Here is a link to the PCRM Website on raising vegetarian kids. http://www.pcrm.org/health/veginfo/veg_diets_for_children.html
PCRM also has a book—from a few years ago—in our Healthy Eating for Life Series, called Healthy Eating for Life for Children, as well as booklets on this subject that we’re glad to send out.
Is it safe to do the cleanse when pregnant?
While a woman is pregnant, dietary advice should come from her physician, with an eye toward any issues that may require individual attention. For example, sometimes women run low on iron later in pregnancy, and supplementation would best be individualized.
As a general rule during pregnancy, the diet would consist of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains, and would be certain to take prenatal vitamins. B12, for example, is essential.
Alcohol is to be entirely avoided during pregnancy. I would suggest not implementing a gluten restriction during pregnancy, because most women have some difficulty sorting out how to get adequate intake as they implement this restriction.
Is it safe to do the cleanse while nursing? Is it healthy for a pregnant or nursing mother to eat a plant-based diet in general?
The cleanse is medically sound, so you should have no problem. I would not worry about giving up gluten, however, since you might have a more challenging time finding protein (seitan, and many faux meats have high quality protein made from wheat). Here is what the ADA says on vegan/vegetarian diets and pregnancy:
“Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life-cycle including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence. Vegetarian diets offer a number of nutritional benefits including lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, and animal protein as well as higher levels of carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate, antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, and phytochemicals. Vegetarians have been reported to have lower body mass indices than non-vegetarians, as well as lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease, lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer.”
-American Dietetic Association position paper on vegetarian and vegan diets
What sweeteners are allowed on the cleanse?
From Kathy: Agave nectar and stevia are allowed on the cleanse, but try to go light on everything. Stevia is best.
I’m a bit confused regarding the cleanse--- you mention the elimination of gluten and wheat but many recipes and menus in the back of the book use wheat, pita, and other items not allowed on the cleanse. What recipes and menus can I use?
From Kathy: You may be looking at the recipes in Quantum Wellness rather than The Quantum Wellness Cleanse book. The first book features vegan recipes, whereas the cleanse book features recipes that are both vegan and cleanse appropriate.
Do you have a shopping list available for the cleanse?
-Irish steel cut oats (for most people, this is tolerable insofar as gluten; unless you are particularly sensitive, ok to use), mixed grain hot cereals, gluten and sugar (maple, honey, etc.) free
-Flax crackers-Gluten free bread (vegan)
-Sweet potatoes, yams
-Grains: brown or wild rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth, corn, buckwheat
-Nuts: almonds, walnuts, cashews, soy nuts, macadamia nuts, filberts, etc.
-Seeds: sunflower, pumpkin, sesame
-Nut or seed butters: peanut butter, almond butter, tahini, cashew butter (unsweetened)
-Vegan butter (earth balance, soy garden)
-Non-dairy protein powder (Solaray strawberry is a tasty sugar free one), also others that are pea, rice, and soy based are good
-Beans and legumes: black beans, lentils, chickpeas, lima beans, adzuki beans, black-eyed peas, edamame, fava beans
-Tofu-Tempeh-Vegetarian meats: burgers, sausage patties, "meat crumbles", "chicken" patties (there are not a lot of faux meats that are gluten-free so do be sure to check)
-Pasta sauce (no sugar added)
-Vegetables: kale, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, asparagus, brussel sprouts, zucchini, eggplant, collard greens, butternut, spaghetti, and acorn squash
-Mushrooms: shitake, hen of the woods, etc. (grilled, they make a great centerpiece for a meal)
-Salad "fixins": arugala, raddichio, endive, mixed greens, peppers, avocado, tomato, etc.
-Fruits: apples, cherries, peaches, blueberries, goji berries
-Lemons, limes for sparkling water cocktails. A splash of unsweetened pomegranate juice
-Rooibos tea, herbal teas
-Rice, almond, hemp, soy milk (unsweetened)
- Stevia, agave nectar to sweeten smoothies, milks, cereals, etc.
-Extra virgin olive oil, expeller pressed organic canola, high-oleic versions of sunflower and safflower oils-Garlic, ginger, tamari, Himalayan crystal salt, pepper
-Flours to cook or bake with: bean, pea, soy, potato, buckwheat, tapioca, nut and seed, arrowroot
-Soy cheese (no rennet or casein)
-Frozen spinach (to throw into smoothies… you won't even taste it!)
-Flax seed oil, freshly ground flax seeds
-Vegetarian stock for cooking
-Pre-prepared foods at health food stores are often tasty and nutritious. Visit the "raw" section and deli/salad bar area
Answers in this section are by Kathy:
Are organic dairy farms any better than regular insofar as cruelty?
Organic farms vary hugely on animal welfare grounds, and some do a somewhat better job than regular factory farms. But all organic farms cause suffering and death, and many organic companies are simply factory farms with a good PR job.
Specifically regarding dairy, on virtually all farms, organic or otherwise, calves are taken from their mothers soon after birth so that humans can take the milk meant for the calves. This is a wrenching process; there are so many testimonials about calves screaming and mother cows bellowing as they are torn apart from each other. Male calves are either confined to veal crates to be slaughtered after just weeks of life (there would be virtually no veal industry if it wasn’t for the dairy industry’s need to get rid of male calves) or are raised for beef, while female calves are used to replace old “dairy cows”. Cows used for milk are killed after just 4-5 years when their production declines, a fraction of their natural lifespan. At the slaughterhouse, many cows are still conscious when their throats are slit and they are dismembered. Everything in this paragraph relates to organic dairy farms as well as regular factory farms. So drinking any kind of dairy supports the abuse and death of these gentle animals. And many organic farms simply exploit major loopholes and keep cows in factory farming conditions while still enjoying the price premium that organic brings.
How does eating meat supposedly cause global warming?
From The Quantum Wellness Cleanse:
According to United Nations scientists in a recent 408-page scientific analysis of raising animals in order to eat them, eating meat, dairy, and eggs is "one of the....most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems at every scale from local to global" and "should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity."
Land degradation: More than 90% of the Amazon rainforest cleared since 1970, or about 45,000 square miles, is now being used by the meat industry, either for grazing or to grow crops to feed farmed animals. That forest is like a giant sink which holds in the carbon dioxide. When it is cut down or burned, the carbon dioxide is released in massive amounts, thus contributing to global warming. And here in our country, 260 million acres of our forests have been cleared to grow crops to feed farmed animals as well.
Climate Change: Animal agriculture causes almost forty percent more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, and planes in the world combined. (That figure just stunned me.) The digestive processes of farmed animals (including their excrement, which is 130 times that produced by the U.S. population), combine to release staggering amounts of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. The carbon footprint of processing animal foods is far higher than that of plant foods because of the additional energy-intensive steps: processing and shipping feed crops, slaughtering animals, dismembering and processing their bodies, freezing their bodies for shipment, etc. – all of this requires an awful lot of oil and electricity. Environmental Defense explains, “If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains, for example, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.” So celebrate the good you’re doing by eating chicken-free for three entire weeks!
Air pollution: In Texas alone, feedlots produce more than 14 million pounds of particulate dust which "contains biologically active organisms such as bacteria, mold, and fungi from the feces and the feed." And a report by the California State Senate states that "studies have also shown that [animal waste] lagoons emit toxic airborne chemicals that can cause inflammatory, immune, irritation, and neurochemical problems in humans." On top of that, the EPA reports that 80% of the toxic gas ammonia in the U.S. comes from farmed animal excrement. It is said that if you walk into one of these huge factory farms, the ammonia nearly knocks you off your feet and it's nearly impossible to breathe without your lungs burning. New Yorker reporter Michael Specter visited a chicken shed in Maryland, and described the experience this way: "I was almost knocked to the ground by the overpowering smell of feces and ammonia. My eyes burned and so did my lungs, and I could neither see nor breathe….”
Water shortage and pollution: Animal agriculture is one of the main causes of water shortage in the western U.S. in that it requires between 3 and 11 times the water of an equal amount of soy. Copious amounts are needed to raise feed crops, provide animals drinking water and wash away feces and urine. And then the run-off from factory farms is laced with feces, bacteria, hormones, and antibiotics which can dangerously effect our arable soil and potable drinking water. The high levels of nitrogen from the animal feces along with the crop fertilizers (most crops are fed to farmed animals) devastates life in local waterways by promoting algae blooms, thus creating what are called "dead zones".
Loss of biodiversity: As more land is used for grazing and to grow feed crops, native birds and mammals are pushed to the brink. In addition, the oceans are being devastated by commercial fishing. A recent alarming study found that 90 percent of large fish populations have been exterminated in the past 50 years because of large scale fishing. In many areas, it's like clear cutting the ocean floor. And fish farming just exacerbates the problem, as ocean fish are caught and fed to fish in fish farms. It takes several pounds of ocean-caught fish to produce a pound of farmed fish flesh.
Here are two more articles for more information:
Vegetarian is the new Prius
Livestock and Climate Change
Isn’t eating meat an essential part of human evolution? How can you say we aren’t meant to eat meat?
Dr. T. Colin Campbell, professor emeritus at Cornell University and author of The China Study, explains that in fact, we only recently (historically speaking) began eating meat, and that the inclusion of meat in our diet came well after we became who we are today. He explains that "the birth of agriculture only started about 10,000 years ago at a time when it became considerably more convenient to herd animals. This is not nearly as long as the time [that] fashioned our basic biochemical functionality (at least tens of millions of years) and which functionality depends on the nutrient composition of plant-based foods."
That jibes with what Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine President Dr. Neal Barnard says in his book, The Power of Your Plate, in which he explains that "early humans had diets very much like other great apes, which is to say a largely plant-based diet, drawing on foods we can pick with our hands. Research suggests that meat-eating probably began by scavenging--eating the leftovers that carnivores had left behind. However, our bodies have never adapted to it. To this day, meat-eaters have a higher incidence of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other problems."
I’m ready to try to give up some meat due to what I’ve heard about factory farm abuse. Should I give up red meat first, since cows are treated the worst?
Although many people tend to stop eating red meat before they give up chicken, turkey, or fish, from a humane standpoint, this is backwards. Birds are arguably the most abused animals on the planet, and birds and fish yield less flesh than cows or pigs, so farmers and fishers kill more of them to satisfy America's meat habit. If you choose to give up meat in stages, stop eating chickens and turkeys first, then fish, and then pigs and cows. Some will suggest that cattle are the worst for the environment, but that seems like hair-splitting to me. As I discussed in my articles on the Huffington Post, the Amazon rain forest is being cut down to grow soybeans to feed chickens; it's chicken and pig farms that are poisoning the Atlantic Ocean, and vastly more energy is required if we eat the chickens who are fed grain rather than eating that grain directly.
I can relate to your comment in the "High Net Worth" segment that giving up hamburgers was much easier than giving up leather goods (and fur). There is SO much information about the diet aspect--but comparatively little about replacing leather goods with vegan alternatives. What did you decide to do with your leather goods? How have you dealt with making decisions about whether to wear silk and/or wool? Some of the vegan alternatives are quite harmful environmentally, so how did you weigh the purchase of a new pair of PVC shoes versus giving away perfectly usable leather goods?
The way I have done everything is to lean into the changes, gradually and incrementally. If upon realization that I wanted to go vegan I had to change everything, I would surely not have been able to stick to the new ways. It would have been too overwhelming. With food, I gave up eating one animal at a time. With shoes and belts, I started looking for items that were not made from leather. I made it a sport to find new discoveries, whether pvc faux leather from the African vendors on NY street corners, or fabric bags from Le Sport Sac, or little finds from Target or PayLess. Occasionally I will treat myself to Stella McCartney. There are also wonderful websites like AlternativeOutfitters or Matt n Nat which carry all kinds of shoes and accessories. I am leaning toward wearing less wool now, making sure I don't buy Australian wool (they do muelsing there). As far as how I make my decisions re what is more harmful, not buying into cruelty is at the top of my list. While pvc might not be perfect, at least an animal didn't suffer horribly to produce it.
I have heard you and others talk about “Meatless Mondays.” Why should I give up meat one day a week? How could this help in any way?
If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would save:
● 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost 4 months;
● 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise fed to livestock, enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year;
● 70 million gallons of gas--enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined with plenty to spare;
● 3 million acres of land, an area more than twice the size of Delaware;
● 33 tons of antibiotics.
If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would prevent:
● Greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 1.2 million tons of CO2, as much as produced by all of France;
● 3 million tons of soil erosion and $70 million in resulting economic damages;
● 4.5 million tons of animal excrement;
● Almost 7 tons of ammonia emissions, a major air pollutant.
My favorite statistic is this: According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads. See how easy it is to make an impact?
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