If you’ve been buying and eating more (or only—yay!) whole, plant-based foods, you’ve no doubt learned that freshness and seasonality can sometimes be a problem. Are you picking through the apples to find ones that aren’t bruised? Do you dig in the back of the packaged arugula for a bag with a later “best by” date? Do you swear at the unripe strawberries you discovered hiding under the plump, red ones on top of the box you brought home? Is that what’s bothering you, Bunky? Well, maybe you ought to try growing your own. And Earth 911 has a terrific and timely article, with a super spiffy illustrated chart, that will point your not-so-green thumb in the right direction. The best foods for your health, categorized as easy, moderate, and hard to grow, with tips that will help ensure your success. So why not give it a goji?
It’s been a while since we recommended a Michael Greger video, and in Dr. G’s case, a while is too long. So here’s a recent one that is especially useful in providing a scientific summary of the progress—or rather the lack of progress—we Americans have made in changing our diets for the better. It seems that the Standard American Diet is not going down without a fight, and it might even be winning. Dr. Greger shows how even our very modest goals have come up short. But there’s some hopeful news, too, in the form of a new True Health Initiative, backed by a huge contingent of scientists, and it’s definitely worth checking out as well.
We were eating plant-based for our health already. So it only made sense that we would be better equipped to fend off the assault of Covid-19. And now we have the data to confirm it.
As if the health effects of eating animal products weren’t bad enough, now we’re learning what they are doing to the very air we breathe. Another fascinating study, summarized in Science Daily, examined air quality-related health impacts from food in the U.S. “Poor air quality caused by food production in the U.S. is estimated to result in 16,000 deaths annually, 80% of which are related to animal production,” according to researchers from five highly-regarded universities, whose work was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “The study shows that, per serving, the average air quality-related harm of red meat to human health is two times greater than that of eggs, three times greater than those of dairy products, seven times greater than those of poultry, 10 times greater than those of nuts and seeds, and at least 15 times greater than the average of other plant-based foods.” Do you think maybe it would help if we all protested by holding our breath until we turned blue?
Science Daily recently reported on a new study of 20,000 individuals who were tracked for a correlation between heart disease and consumption of red and processed meat. Of course, many studies have looked at this association before, and this latest observational study confirmed a definite connection once again. What made this new study unique is its use of imaging measures from cardiac MRIs in the analysis. Researcher Dr. Raisi-Estabragh said: “The findings support prior observations linking red and processed meat consumption with heart disease and provide unique insights into links with heart and vascular structure and function.” For the summary and links to the original research, see the link below.
The Science Daily article linked below summarizes new research into the growing problem of disease being transmitted from animals to humans. We’ve all become aware of this issue because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it appears that the problem will only get worse if we don’t make some major societal changes. In this case, the researchers were looking specifically at staph infections in pigs raised on factory farms in North Carolina. They concluded that the pigs may be getting the staph infection originally from humans. They then easily pass the infection among themselves in their crowded conditions, where it continues to mutate and develop new strains with resistance to the antibiotics that are routinely given to the pigs. These new strains, with their immunity to antibiotics, are then transmitted back to humans. The implications of this cycle go well beyond staph and pigs, of course, illustrating how critical it is for public health to eliminate the crowded conditions on factory farms that necessitate the irresponsible use of antibiotics.
There are two parts to the phrase “whole food, plant-based” (WFPB), which is the shorthand guide for a healthy diet. The PB part is pretty simple to figure out: plants can be food; animal parts and fluids shouldn’t. But the WF part is trickier. The word processed is often used to help clarify this, as in “avoid heavily processed food.” But even though it’s obvious that an apple picked right off the tree is an unprocessed whole food, is applesauce heavily processed? And if applesauce is OK, how about an apple fritter? Well, we just discovered an article from last year that helps sort out the processing question. It describes four classifications of processed foods, how they are sometimes combined, and where the greater health danger lurks. Although, in the end, processing is a continuum without a clear boundary between healthy and unhealthy, we think this classification is helpful and worth reading. Spoiler alert: apple fritters—not good.
We just shut the door on a year that set the all-time world record for the spread of misinformation. We’ve never shaken our heads more in disbelief about how much unsubstantiated and unbelievable information large segments of the population were willing to accept as truth. And that’s just in the political realm. Information about plant-based health is every bit as susceptible to being manufactured or misrepresented on media platforms that can multiply their reach faster than you can say, “Protein, really?!” Thankfully, we have several decades of science to fact-check with and many experts to help us stay sensible in the face of the all the nonsense. And here’s another one we just discovered, from over on the other side of the pond. The site is called Viva! After a first scan of the contents, we think it might be a good place to visit regularly. Maybe you will, too. Dr. Justine Butler blogs there on health issues, and the link below is her latest, describing and explaining away a widely publicized story of a failed vegan attempt.
Full article: https://viva.org.uk/health/dont-listen-to-the-nonsense/
We nominate PREDICT for acronym of the month. It stands for Personalized Responses to Dietary Composition Trial, which is the name of a new study published in Nature Medicine on the relationship between gut microbes and diet. The study identified microbes that correlate for good or ill with the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. And the study subjects who ate plant-rich diets had more of the good microbes, no surprise to us. There was even a higher correlation between health and these good microbes than between health and genetics. Prof. Tim Spector of King’s College London, who founded PREDICT, points out, “When you eat, you’re not just nourishing your body, you’re feeding the trillions of microbes that live inside your gut.” For a dinner party that size, we definitely want to invite and feed only our friends.
In the struggle to move from niche movement to the mainstream, vegans should be delighted to hear of supportive statements coming from mainstream consumer brands. After all, those corporate giants often have a lot to lose if their cash cow (no pun intended) product lines come under threat from plant-based alternatives. So when the CEO of a major producer of traditional food products takes the Veganuary pledge and encourages all his employees to do the same, is it a sign that a tipping point has toppled? That’s what Marco Settembri, CEO of Nestlé Zone EMENA (Europe, Middle East and North Africa) has done, and he’s not alone, as you can discover in the Plant Based News article linked below. In the past, vegans have opposed many of these firms, including Nestlé, for products and practices antithetical to the values of health, humaneness, and sustainability. So a little suspicion would be understandable. But if changing the world for the better is our goal, do we have anything to lose, really, by applauding the good intentions for change that anyone professes, regardless of their history? It’s something to consider, maybe over a hot cup of Nescafé—but hold the Carnation creamer.
Each December, Klaus Mitchell and his colleagues at Plant Based News produce a documentary film that chronicles the year’s vegan news. We always look forward to this annual release because it provides a high-quality, fact-based review of the growing popularity of the plant-based lifestyle, worldwide. Although the film covers current activities in animal welfare and environmental issues as well as health-related news, we’re using our Health News page to tell you about it because 2020 has been so dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. At less than an hour run time, “Vegan 2020” is densely packed with information and inspiration. It’s well worth watching and recommending to friends and loved ones as well.
Video on YouTube: https://youtu.be/ExOPTFRcR5I
In our enthusiasm for following the “whole” part of our whole food, plant-based diets and therefore avoiding processed foods, is it possible we have been overlooking the benefits of dried fruit? If we’re careful to read the labels and avoid the ones with additives, those delicious raisins, apricots, and other fruits in their dehydrated form can be a perfect snack or topping. Here’s a summary of some research from a Penn State study in ScienceDaily that makes the case quite convincingly.
Just as predicted, as societies are becoming more prosperous, they are adding more animal products to their diets. And as they do that, they get sicker. China is a great example. Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition and summarized in ScienceDaily focused specifically on long-term egg consumption in China and found a significant correlation to diabetes. The authors looked at a group of 8545 Chinese adults who participated in a health study from 1991 to 2009, a period when the number of Chinese people eating eggs nearly doubled. They found that those who ate one or more eggs per day were 60% more likely to develop diabetes.
“Health is a gift we give ourselves, and it comes beautifully wrapped.” – Anonymous
When we think of health reasons to adopt a whole food, plant-based diet, what usually comes to mind are deeply serious issues, like reversing chronic diseases, conquering obesity, and increasing longevity. But there are some—dare we say—superficial reasons as well. We’re talking about the body’s largest organ, skin. And while a plant-healthy diet may make us feel better, and while we may know that our insides are working better, our skin is the most obvious way we can look better, too. It should come as no surprise that one of the worst foods for our insides is also a prime offender of our outsides: dairy. And that our skin will improve right along with the rest of our bodies when we avoid foods that cause inflammation. Charlotte Pointing’s article in LIVEKINDLY (link below) explains all this, as well as profiling Dr. Niyati Sharma and her plant-based Inside Out Dermatology clinic in Melbourne, and providing a list of the top five foods for healthy skin.
Full article: https://www.livekindly.co/vegan-diet-healthy-skin
We’ve been saying it all along, based on an abundance of peer-reviewed studies. And now the weight of evidence is even greater, as an international team of researchers recently found a molecular-level link between the consumption of some animal products and cancer. The study, published in the BMC Medicine journal, found that the immune systems of people who eat meat and dairy produce certain antibodies in the blood in response. Scientists have known for some time that these antibodies increase the risk of cancer, especially colorectal cancer, but new technology has only recently been developed that allowed this research team to identify the molecular-level link between the creation of these antibodies and the consumption of red and processed meat and dairy. ScienceDaily has a more thorough summary of this research at the link below.
More and more plant-based professional athletes are being held up as examples of the power of diets free of meat and dairy. It’s not just because they’re often celebrities and influencers, but also because their lifestyle completely destroys the myth that meat equals muscle or that milk “does a body good.” Their livelihoods depend entirely on bodies in peak physical condition, able to perform at the highest competitive levels and rebound quickly from fatigue and injury. So the idea that they would even consider experimenting with a diet that goes against “common knowledge” would normally be considered foolhardy. But the science is unambiguous, and now more and more pro athletes like the Charlotte Hornets’ Bismack Biyombo are rewriting the tired old marketing-driven nutritional narratives. Read his story on the LIVEKINDLY site at the link below, and don’t miss their embedded nine-minute video profiling other vegan athletes, too.
People have been eating more red grapes (and drinking more red wine) ever since scientists identified and promoted the health benefits of one of their components, resveretrol (RSV). And before long, RSV supplements popped up like cabernet corks all over the market (there are now over 100), apparently because it’s more convenient to pop a pill in one’s mouth than a grape. Anyway, some scientists in Tokyo figured they would see if there were other “novel active components in functional foods” that might also be identified for their beneficial properties. A recent ScienceDaily article reported on their results, and the big winner appears to be a phytocompound cousin of RSV, called pterostilbene (PSB), which is plentiful in blueberries and does a very good job of reducing inflammation.
This is great news, of course, especially for folks with serious inflammatory conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). But we always find it interesting to see what different people do with great news. In this case, the author of the article glowed “that PSB is an extremely promising anti-inflammatory agent to fight IBD” and that “it is easily absorbed by the body, making it an ideal drug candidate!” Now we have nothing against drugs—or supplements, for that matter—that provide cures or relief from disease. But what we need now, before the drug store shelves are overrun with PSB supplements, is a study to determine how effectively inflammation can be reduced by just eating the blueberries themselves. Or does that study already exist? When we have some time, we might watch some of the 18 videos Dr. Michael Greger recorded that contain references to blueberries and inflammation (not to mention heart disease, diabetes, brain health, and mood). In the meantime, we’ll keep having blueberries at breakfast and red grapes at lunch, just to be safe.
Why is it that one of the best harbingers of that cozy autumn feeling is winter squash? Go figure. Anyway, thanks to Kat Smith at LIVEKINDLY, we now have eleven great reasons to take those gourds from the front porch or the dining room display into the kitchen. Each variety (like the Red Kuri squash pictured here) has its own mix of health benefits, which are described in the article along with its unique identifying characteristics and flavor, and even tips on how to prepare and roast it*. Let’s eat!
*Avoiding oils? Try substituting water, vegetable broth, or aquafaba.
For many, rap music is an acquired taste. How appropriate, then, that one of the most successful rappers in the music business is such a beloved advocate for acquiring the taste and health benefits of a vegan diet. We’re talking about Common, of course, and we’re thrilled to hear about the new YouTube channel he launched recently, called Com+Well. Through interviews and interactions with practitioners of all forms of healthy living, he’s expanding the reach of the plant-based message in a gentle and genuine way to many who may have never heard it. Regardless of whether or not rap is your thing, don’t miss watching his introductory video to hear his personal story and to feel good about the future of healthy living for all of us.
Com+Well channel: https://www.youtube.com/Thinkcommon
A young woman is eating a standard diet, including meat. One day she realizes that she doesn’t like the way she’s been feeling and decides to try giving up animal products for a while to see if that makes a difference. She immediately feels a lot better physically and at the same time is learning more about animal rights issues, so she decides to make the change permanent. But in this case, it wasn’t the standard American diet she was giving up, it was the standard Nigerian diet. And Tomi Makanjuola wasn’t just satisfied with her own improvement, she’s showing the world that healthy, plant-based eating is not stereotypically limited to any culture. As a London-based chef and cookbook author, Tomi has a thriving catering and cooking class business, created and runs The Vegan Nigerian internet platform, and can boast 30K social media followers. Hers is also one of four stories featured in an Upfield-sponsored mini-documentary series, A Better Plant-Based Future, which we highly recommend for all four vegan profiles. And click the link below to read Tomi’s interview in Bustle. She’s inspired us (and made us hungry!), and we bet she will do the same for you, too!
Vegans and vegetarians should already know that they need to be aware of their B12 vitamin levels. But according to Tufts University research cited in a recent article at LiveKindly.co, B12 deficiency is affecting up to 40% of all Americans. The article is recommended reading as a good introduction to this essential vitamin, including how to get enough. For plant-based people a B12 supplement is nearly always necessary, preferably one in a spray or lozenge that is dissolved under the tongue. Also, note that Dr. Michael Greger has several excellent videos on B12 on his nutritionfacts.org website, including “How to Test for Functional Vitamin B12 Deficiency,” which warns why a blood test alone might not give you the full picture of your B12 needs, and what to do about it.
Yes, there is a societal stigma about veganism, and faunalytics.org has the supporting data. That doesn’t mean, of course, that going plant-based dooms us to a life of ostracism and loneliness; there are lots of ways we can follow our health and ethical values while maintaining existing relationships and participating in cultural traditions. Not to mention the joy of connecting with a large and growing community of plant-based people with whom we’re bound to share many values and interests. Still, it’s helpful to know the extent of the stigma, so we can best prepare ourselves and know how to advocate for better understanding. And faunalytics.org has summarized a wide range of research on this phenomenon. In addition to their concise and readable summary, they’ve provided links to the specific studies, which examine vegan stigma from the unique standpoints of people from different races, body weights, sexual identities, and more.
Full article: https://faunalytics.org/veganism-stigma-and-you/
Got climate anxiety? And it’s getting worse? You’re not alone. And according to the experts, as described in this article by Kells McPhillips on wellandgood.com, that can actually be a good thing. It’s spurring more people to act, for one thing, and goodness knows we need that. And it also means that we’re developing a more emotional connection to the planet. Given how difficult it has proven to get people to accept the logical, scientific evidence for climate change, a strong, world-wide emotional groundswell would be more than welcome. But we don’t need to suffer from this anxiety, if there’s something we can do to make us feel that we’re part of the solution. And eating plant-based is just about the perfect step each of us can take, because the benefits to the planet from our avoiding animal products in our lives is huge. Plus, the physical health benefits are just as dramatic. Read the full article for the full story, including links to the research.
We just heard about this new TV series, and we can’t wait to check it out. Two of today’s biggest rock stars travel the world to hang out, rock, and share plant-based meals with the likes of Kevin Smith, Moby, and the crew of the Sea Shepherd. It’s called Highway to Health, and you can put this trip on your GPS later this year.
It’s well known that switching to a plant-based diet significantly reduces cholesterol levels and the risks of many chronic diseases. And now there’s evidence that the elimination of blood-based iron in this switch may also lengthen lifespans. A research study published in Nature Communications and summarized by ScienceAlert looked at data from over one million people and controlled for many other factors to pinpoint excess iron as a likely cause of decreased longevity. “We speculate that our findings on iron metabolism might also start to explain why very high levels of iron-rich red meat in the diet has been linked to age-related conditions such as heart disease.”
The author of The China Study, and one of the most influential experts on plant-based nutrition has provided his thoughts on one very important way we can all fight Covid-19. In an article dated 25June2020 on his Center for Nutrition Studies website, Dr T. Colin Campbell drew on his many years of field and laboratory research, which showed that people eating a plant-based diet have more antibodies than those eating animal products: “Switching to a whole-food, plant-based diet should lessen the severity of disease symptoms while simultaneously increasing COVID-19 antibodies, a win-win effect.”