Tag Archives: vegan

What do I do with hummus?

Going vegan can be bewildering for many people. You’re discovering all these enticing new foods, and you have no idea what to do with them. In particular, you’re seeing hummus everywhere but have no idea what to do with it.

Hummus is a spread or dip made from chickpeas, garlic and tahini that is a mainstay of Middle Eastern and eastern Mediterranean cuisine, and can be used in many different ways. There are countless varieties of hummus, some that are very lemony, some more garlicy, and some that are very spicy.

While many people just use it as a dip for chips or bread as an appetizer, you can make some delicious, more elaborate meals from it.

Here’s some suggestions.

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A hummus-chickpea-arugula wrap: Just use a tortilla wrap or pita bread and stuff it with hummus, chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, tahini sauce, harissa(Tunisian hot pepper sauce), olives, fresh parsley, lemon juice and black pepper. The hummus is there, it just got buried under all the other ingredients. Not only is this very tangy and delicious, it’s also very nutritious.

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Not in the mood for a wrap? Another suggestion is to make a hummus platter with stuffed grape leaves(dolma), tomatoes, romaine lettuce, tahini sauce, hot sauce, lemon juice, and black pepper. Another delicious, easy to make(unless you make the dolma from scratch) Middle Eastern meal that’s totally vegan.

This barely scratches the surface of all the things you can do with hummus, and Middle Eastern cuisine has so much to offer vegans. Have fun!

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3 types of people who are ruining social media – and what you can do about them

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Social media plays an increasingly important role in many people’s lives around the world. It’s not just a great way to stay connected with people you already know, it’s also a terrific way to make new connections with people who share your interests. For some people in isolated areas or with rare hobbies, it is the only way to connect with others.

Unfortunately, there are many people who use social media as an opportunity to abuse or scam others.

I admit it was a little difficult deciding how many troublesome types I wanted to list; I settled on 3 since these 3 broad categories include a lot of sub-types. These 3 groups are by no means mutually exclusive, so you may have the misfortune of running into that rare specimen who is all 3. In no particular order, here they are:

The Multi-level marketer

Practically everyone is familiar with the multi-level marketer(MLM) AKA network marketer, and their spiel about financial independence, being on a permanent vacation, and making money from home, among other things. What makes them so annoying is that this is all they ever talk about and they are always looking to recruit you, so you can recruit everyone you know, so they can recruit everyone they know, and so on. And of course you make money from everyone you recruit as well as everyone they recruit. Sounds like a pyramid scheme, right? That’s because it is!

Almost everything the network marketer tells you is a lie. Don’t believe anything they say in their promotional videos or postings about how they have money coming out of their ears, their eyes and their, never mind. Studies show that over 90% of the people who get recruited by these pyramid schemes lose money.

What really makes network marketers a pain on social media is their nasty habit of infiltrating a wide variety of groups, clubs and chats for the sole purpose of trying to recruit others. All too often, and depending on how successful their infiltration is, they can have a poisonous effect on the group, resulting in division and conflict.

Besides this, MLMbots that deal in supplements frequently make dubious and at times dangerous health claims for their products. Here’s an example of an MLMbot pushing some juice product that according to them has miraculous healing powers:

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What to do about them: I always block any multi-level marketer who follows me. If someone I follow becomes a multi-level marketer, I quickly unfollow and block.

People who are fed up with MLM spreading like wildfire and burning their friends and family on social media are increasingly taking a stand against it. The extreme sleaziness, dishonesty and cult-like nature of MLM pushers has inspired a growing and vibrant anti-MLM movement on the Internet.

As part of its tireless anti-MLM campaign, Timeless Vie has recently launched an MLM-free logo for businesses and groups to use to declare themselves MLM-free. This means a zero tolerance policy when it comes to MLM in their group or business. Try pushing MLM as a member of their group and you get the boot.

Besides Timeless Vie, there’s Ethan Vanderbuilt, another crusader against scams in general and MLM in particular. Be sure to follow him on social media and subscribe to his newsletter. Other anti-MLM sites to check out include MLM Syndrome, which is devoted to exploring MLM psychological conditioning, and also Lazy Man and Money, a consumer advocacy site which also frequently exposes MLM. Also check out The Not Quite Fairy-Tales of Elle Beau blog, for insights from an ex-MLM-bot turned MLM critic.

Understand that trying to convince an MLMbot that they are involved in a scam is pointless. Believe me, I’ve tried.

Educate yourself and spread the word!

The Bully

It’s difficult to overstate how big of a problem cyber-bullying is. It is a plague on social media to the extent that some people who have been victims of bullying have canceled their social media accounts. We’ve all either been on the receiving end of it or know someone who has. Cyber-bullying can take many forms: insults, threatening messages, defamatory smears or even attempts at ruining a person’s reputation. The 2 biggest motivations for bullying are the bully simply gets their kicks from putting people down, and the other is to get someone they disagree with to shut up.

Many bullies think their insulting remarks are the height of comedy. Some may even claim to be “comedians”. Sadly, there are online forums where this vile behavior is encouraged. All-too-common misogynistic bullies revel in making insulting remarks about a woman’s intelligence or looks. Some women-haters even go as far as to make constant rape or death threats against their intended targets. It’s a similar situation with racist bullies and bullies that target religious minorities and people with special needs.

In the political and media arena, it’s not uncommon for bullying tactics to be used against political opponents. If an activist, politician, or political operative has a large enough social media following, it’s relatively easy to inspire their followers to harass an opponent to silence them. If the harassment is persistent enough, this tactic can unfortunately be very effective. Even well-respected scientists have been cowed into silence by this ploy.

When called out for their behavior, it can be nauseating watching a serial harasser and their defenders claim their execrable actions are protected by the First Amendment. However, the First Amendment doesn’t give anyone carte blanche to hurt others or destroy reputations. Whether or not the bullying you’re experiencing is a prosecutable offense can vary by country and jurisdiction. If you are being victimized, know your rights.

The best way to deal with bullies and harassers is to block and report. Do not interact with bullies, or attempt to get an apology, since this will only encourage them. Use anti-virus/malware software in case the bully turns to hacking, and be extra careful with passwords. Call the police about stalking, death threats or rape threats, consult lawyers about defamation.

For more information about how to deal with this, visit the National Bullying Prevention Center, and Stand for the Silent. For more information on sexual harassment: Sexual Harassment on the Internet.

Get involved and know your rights!

The Faker

It’s hardly a startling revelation that a very large number of people, probably a majority, tell white lies about themselves online and off. Most of the time this is probably harmless, but at least a few people take lying about themselves to such an incredible level of deceit that their entire online persona and reputation is built on nothing but lies. This, my friends, is the creature known as the Faker.

There is a significant amount of overlap between the multi-level marketer and the Faker. Just about all the multi-level marketers you encounter online are essentially Fakers, pretending they’re making a ton of money, pretending the products they are pushing are unique, top-of-the-line products, and perhaps most importantly, pretending to be your friend.

But not all fakers online are promoting pyramid schemes; indeed, some aren’t even interested in money, so this deserved it’s own category.

There’s a bewildering number of sub-categories of Fakers crawling around social media these days, it would be difficult to do justice to this subject. So I decided to narrow it down to two sub-types, due to the number encounters I’ve had with them over the years. These two sub-types are fake athletes and disease fakers.

For obvious reasons, the fake athletes I am most familiar with are fake runners. Every now and then while reading a running site or on social media, a story pops up about a runner who has been exposed as a fake, or someone a lot of people are suspicious about.

What these fake runners who fake their way to marathon or ultra-running glory all seem to have in common is this extreme desire to become famous. They are so desperate to turn their name into a valuable brand they will invent stories out of whole cloth about incredible distances they’ve run day after day, while providing scant evidence for their athletic feats. It’s no surprise that they will often buy followers on social media to make themselves look a lot more famous than they really are.

Astonishingly, some of these con-artists often manage to not just attract a cult following, they also become sponsored, and will sometimes run for a charity. Skeptics who ask questions are routinely demonized by the Faker and his rabid followers.

A little detective work and the fake runner is exposed; like a pin pricking a big balloon, he is quickly deflated. All but a tiny number of his followers abandon him and the sponsors run as far away from him as possible. Instead of fame, all the fake runner has achieved is a permanently damaged reputation before fading away into oblivion.

If you suspect a headline generating runner of being faker, a great place to report this is Let’s Run. The Let’s Run community has exposed a bunch of fake runners over the years. Marathon Investigation is another good site for reporting cheats.

Of all the things a person can do to get attention, faking disease is arguably the lowest. Keep in mind that not all disease fakers are in it for the money, some just want the attention.

Disease fakers have a method of infiltrating groups either related to the disease they are pretending to have or something entirely different. They will tell one lie after another in their game of emotional manipulation to make you pity them. Unless these people made big news and attracted a lot of donations, it can be difficult to expose their con. If the more skeptically-minded start asking questions, they may start to claim they are very close to death.

If you suspect anyone of faking a disease, be on the look out for any inconsistencies. If one catastrophic event happens one right after the other, be very suspicious. If they have trouble answering simple questions, they are very likely a faker. Just ignore and block them. It’s not a good idea to try to publicly expose them unless they are asking for money.

These fakers poison social media by making everyone who has dealt with them a lot more cynical and apprehensive. Add bullies and the multi-level marketing zombies to the mix, and social media looks like a very depressing place where you can’t trust anyone. However, by being very selective of who you follow, and knowing how to effectively deal with negative or dishonest people on social media, it can still be a valuable resource.

Have you dealt with these types of people before? What type of people do you consider to be the most troublesome on social media, and how do you deal with them?

Related article:

MLM and Social Media

 

Vegan whole wheat blueberry muffins recipe

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One silver lining of all the nasty weather we’ve been experiencing lately is that I have more time to bake. Everyone who knows me knows I love blueberries, so what could be better than baking my own whole grain blueberry muffins that are not only perfect for breakfast but also a great snack? The combination of blueberries and a little maple syrup makes these just sweet enough to be enjoyable by most, though probably not sweet enough to be a dessert treat. A good source of protein, fiber and so fruity and spicy, they’re a great way to start the day.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds(egg replacer/thickener)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil(I used canola)
  • 1 and 1/8 cups soy milk
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon clove
  • 1 and 1/2 cups blueberries(fresh or frozen)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  1. Preheat over to 375F
  2. Combine all wet ingredients into 1 bowl and mix thoroughly, adding blueberries last(for this recipe I made a puree of about half the blueberries with my blender and the rest were whole, but this is optional).
  3. Combine dry ingredients into 1 bowl and mix
  4. Now combine all dry and wet ingredients and mix thoroughly
  5. Scoop the batter into muffin cups in muffin tray, about 3 tablespoons each, or enough to fill 1/2 to 2/3 of the muffin cups
  6. Put in oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 375F until muffins are golden brown or you can smoothly stick a toothpick in and out of the muffins without any difficulty
  7. Cool for 10 minutes before serving

This should be enough to make 10 large muffins. Feel free to add a little more spice if you like muffins extra spicy. To make them even tastier, you can add vanilla if you want. Similar recipes I’ve seen also include lemon or orange zest(or even orange juice or apple juice), or even apple cider vinegar, all of which I see as optional.

The batter consistency should be thick, but if you find it a little too thick and hard to work with, add a little more soy milk. If it’s too liquidy, add more flour. These came out better than expected though I think I’ll add more spice next time. Enjoy!

15 Years of Being Vegan

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It’s official! I have been a vegan for 15 years. Looking back through the mists of time, I vaguely remembered that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to function at all for a year as a vegan, let alone eventually thrive and joggle sub-4 hours marathons. It wasn’t easy at first, but after about 6 months I got used to it and there was no turning back. My going vegan doesn’t change the fact that billions of animals are still getting slaughtered every year for meat, for fur, and in labs, but it’s my own small way to not contribute to this endless horror and hopefully help move things in the right direction.

If you are interested in going vegan, here’s some resources and advice gained from being a vegan for 15 years: First, check out Vegan 101: Planning Healthy Vegan Diets so that you’re up to speed with what you need to know to be a healthy vegan. Not sure what you’re going to eat every day? Then here’s a 21-Day Vegan Meal Plan from the PCRM. Oh She Glows also has tons of vegan recipes so that you never run out of ideas. It’s an exciting time to be a vegan, with so many options out there and growing.

When people come to me for advice on being vegan, I give them advice that is practical, easy to follow, and science-based. Practicality does not mean sacrificing nutrition or flavor, it simply means making the diet and lifestyle easy to stick to for people with busy lives. Rice and beans, pasta and vegetables, oatmeal, and peanut butter(or tahini) and jelly sandwiches are what I commonly eat. I admit I sometimes overdo it with the peanut butter. Tofu is a great source of protein and very versatile.

Whenever possible, buy food in bulk to save money, cook in bulk and don’t believe the fear-mongering about microwaves. You don’t need to buy organic. You don’t need to learn the origin of every food ingredient overnight to see if it is vegan or not, so don’t stress yourself out over this. Take your time learning about these ingredients.

Take a B-12 supplement. You may also require iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, and vitamin D which you can get from some vegan supplements or enriched foods. You can get omega 3s by eating flaxseeds and walnuts. In my experience, people who fail at veganism were probably deficient in one or more of these vital nutrients. They either weren’t supplementing or they weren’t eating enough nutritious, well-balanced meals.

A little over 10 years ago I came down with anemia for a few months, even though I regularly ate high iron plant foods. An iron supplement quickly reversed this and I was back to my regular rigorous athletic activities. Keep in mind that plant iron is much more difficult to absorb than animal derived iron and that vitamin C helps you absorb more iron. Consult a doctor or dietitian before taking anything to ensure you are getting the proper dosage from a reputable source.

Last but not least, ignore the fads. Fad diets come and go, but veganism at its essence is no fad. These overly restrictive diets make it so difficult to stick with the lifestyle that they greatly increase your chances of becoming an ex-vegan, and believe me, I know a lot of ex-vegans. What fads am I referring to? I mean rawfoodism, “clean” eating, paleo-veganism, macrobiotics, gluten-free, alkaline diet, oil-free, “detox” diets, as well as countless hybrids of these pointless distractions. Also, don’t buy into the hype about “superfoods”. My 10 Things That Aren’t Necessary For Being a Healthy Vegan goes into detail about why these diets are nonsensical and potentially harmful.

If you are eating a balanced whole food vegan diet, these fad diets do nothing to improve your diet or make you healthier. By and large, these diets, which have nothing to do with veganism, are based on pseudoscience and virtually no reputable health professionals recommend them. Ignore, or better yet, laugh at the pesky food police on social media who are quick to castigate anyone for adding olive oil to food or eating processed food or nuts in moderation. The gurus who promise perfect health are best avoided.

By following the advice offered above, and embracing science and critical thinking, you shouldn’t have any major issues adjusting to a vegan lifestyle. This is really all you need to know to get started. I hope you found this information useful. If you think I left out something important, please leave a comment. If you have any questions please post something in the comments or email me, I love to help people transition to a more cruelty-free lifestyle.

 

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I took this a few weeks ago during an 18 mile joggling run. The water is the Long Island Sound.

 

 

Documentary about the Vegan Joggler

Thanks to a very talented group of students from Bronxville high school for producing this short film. Although I kind of liked being this mysterious figure and this makes me a lot less of one, I’m still glad I got to share my story since a lot of people find it inspiring. I was very impressed with the finished product, especially the music. I rarely mention the horrible backstory that lead me to take up joggling because it was eons ago and now my joggling is so intertwined with my veganism that I almost forget how it all started.

If you like stories about passion and perseverance, then this is for you. All credit for the documentary goes to Ohto, John George, and Scott; I didn’t film or edit this, that was all their work. There are no special effects. I hope all you fit-freaks and even non-fit-freaks around the world find it informative and inspiring.

5 More Things That Aren’t Necessary For Being a Healthy Vegan

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The long-awaited sequel is here! The post I did back in November of last year titled “10 Things That Aren’t Necessary For Being a Healthy Vegan” was so popular(a big thanks to everyone who shared it), I decided to do a followup. Many things were left out because I didn’t want the post to be too long, so I prioritized the most common things that I believe are problematic. Here are 5 more things you don’t need to be a healthy vegan:

1) Eat alkaline

This form of pseudoscience has a following both within the vegan/plant-based community and misguided health nuts among omnivores. It overlaps to a large extent with rawfoodism, though isn’t necessarily the same thing. The idea behind this diet is that most people eat diets that are too “acid-forming”, and that an acidic environment inside the body can lead to serious diseases, including cancer.

By eating an alkaline diet, you are helping to prevent this unhealthy acidic environment in your body and the diseases it causes. Some advocates go even further and claim it can be used to treat serious diseases. Basically, eating alkaline means consuming lots of fresh fruits and vegetables(since they are generally alkaline), which is excellent advice, though alkaline gurus recommend it for the wrong reasons. There is virtually no scientific basis to this type of diet. You can’t do much to alter your PH through diet, and your body works hard to make sure your PH stays within a very limited range to keep you healthy.

Some medical conditions can lead to a significant shift in PH, which can be dangerous; the medical conditions associated with a PH imbalance require urgent medical care. Assuming you have this type of problem, you cannot fix it through diet. There is no good reason whatsoever to embrace this fad diet and its idiotic restrictions.

2) Give up all grain including bread

One of the hallmarks of disordered eating is avoiding perfectly healthy food for irrational, pseudoscientific reasons. It’s disturbing witnessing all the over the top fear-mongering on social media concerning soy foods, olive oil, cooked food, and even staples like grain and bread. Grain-free is yet another ridiculous, unnecessary restriction that greatly increases your chances of failing at veganism. It’s no coincidence that the zealots pushing this “grain is poison” madness are very often rawfoodists, though they have allies among the paleo, high meat/protein crowd.

At its most basic, the idea behind this type of dietary restriction is that grains will ruin your health because we supposedly didn’t evolve to eat them. Grains cause obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and Adam Sandler movies. As always with pseudoscience based restrictions, there is virtually no evidence for these claims, except that in a generic sense there is a grain of truth to it. Eating too much of anything can lead to health problems, not just grain. Yes, grain isn’t perfect, it contains “toxins” like phytates, but there is no such thing as a “perfect” food or a “perfect” diet. If you had to abstain from something because it contains small quantities of “toxins” and therefore falls short of perfection, you’d have to give up everything and end up starving to death.

Now while a minority of the population are better off restricting carbs or eating high-protein, this approach doesn’t appear to benefit most people. This fad is best ignored. Grain won’t harm you when consumed in reasonable amounts; whole grains are one of the cornerstones of a healthy vegan diet.

3) Focus on super foods

The most important thing you should realize about “super foods” is that this is purely a marketing term, not a special class of food recognized and recommended by reputable health professionals. That said, there’s nothing wrong with eating them, just don’t get carried away with thinking there is something magical about them.

What you really should be focusing on is eating a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. The wider the variety, the better. The criteria for deciding what is a “super food” is usually pretty arbitrary and changes with time and what is fashionable at the moment. Since antioxidants are all the rage right now, “super foods” very often have a high antioxidant content. All too often, the evidence showing some unique medicinal effect for a certain “super food” is weak or preliminary, but that doesn’t stop health guru authors, supplement pushers, and retailers from hyping them. Again, “super foods” can be part of a healthy diet, but there’s no good reason to consume them in supplement form.

Ignore the hype and just eat several servings of fruits and vegetables every day – darker, more colorful ones are generally more nutritious.

4) Go macrobiotic

The popularity of the macrobatic diet waxes and wanes. Right now, this Japanese type diet doesn’t seem all that popular, but all it would take to make it popular again is a major celebrity endorsement. Macrobiotics isn’t a vegan or vegetarian diet(it usually includes fish) but it comes close, so it is easy enough to make it vegan.

For the most part, a macrobiotic diet is pretty healthy(though it can be salty), at least when you compare it to the way most Americans eat. It emphasizes fruits and vegetables, legumes(especially soy), and whole grains. So what’s the problem?

The problem is that macrobiotics is an overly restrictive diet based on pseudoscience. Although it gets a lot of things right, it does so for the wrong reasons. An important feature of macrobiotics are these arcane, complicated food combining rules, the purpose of which is to properly balance the “yin and yang” elements of food to help you achieve optimum health. For example, perfectly healthful members of the nightshade family like potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant are excluded from this diet because they are considered too “yin”. It really should go without saying that there is no scientific basis to “yin” or “yang”; you could be missing out on a lot of nutritious foods if you follow these nonsensical rules.

There really is nothing macrobiotics can add to an already healthy plant-based diet except unnecessary restrictions, so there’s no good reason to embrace macrobiotics.

5) Go paleo

Finally, the diet that combines the best of both worlds, with incredible health benefits reflecting this best of both worlds approach. However, does it live up to the hype?

The paleo diet, which mimics the way our caveman ancestors ate is thought by proponents to be the ideal human diet since we evolved to eat this way. Or at least that is what paleos want you to believe. In essence, the paleo diet is really just the latest iteration of high protein dieting; it’s more or less a successor to the Atkins diet.

The central idea to paleo is that if you want to be optimally healthy, eat like a caveman. That’s because cavemen ate the way nature intended us to eat, we “evolved” to eat a paleo diet. Since cavemen didn’t eat processed foods, the paleo diet excludes processed foods like refined sugars, oils, etc. This is generally a good idea, though some people get a little too carried away with this. Paleos also typically eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and don’t consume dairy, so it should be easy for vegans to go paleo, right? Only if you ignore the fact that paleos typically eat a lot of meat and generally forgo grain and legumes, and that the diet is followed purely for health reasons.

To me, there’s always been something very oxymoronic about this “paleo-vegan” phenomenon. After all, a great way to describe the paleo diet is “wholefoodism for meat-lovers”. People who think paleo and vegan are compatible or combine well are usually clueless hipsters obsessed with all things trendy. I struggle to think of two things more antithetical than veganism and paleoism.

A lot of half-truths, distortions and pseudoscience underpin the paleo philosophy, but I’m mainly concerned here with how paleo-veganism is often promoted as an improved version of veganism by paleo-vegan adherents. In a lot of ways, it’s certainly healthier than the way most Americans eat, but does it offer anything to vegans?

As far as I can tell, it doesn’t offer anything to vegans except unnecessary restrictions which puts them on a slippery slope to disordered eating. Like I said before, a small percentage of the population may benefit from minimizing grain and carbs, and eating more high protein foods, but one need not go paleo to accomplish this. If you eat a whole food vegan diet, embracing paleo is largely redundant, since you’re already excluding dairy, and eating lots of fruits and vegetables. Science doesn’t suggest that paleo-vegans are healthier than regular vegans, or that this is the best diet.

In my opinion, just ignore this fad or anyone who fancies themselves as a reborn caveman. We already knew that eating fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole foods was good for us, and that dairy isn’t necessary, well before paleo came along.

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These are just 5 more things that may screw up your vegan diet, on top of the 10 from the previous post. I could have easily added several more to this list, but it starts getting repetitive. I write these lists because I am troubled by all the bad health advice that encourages disordered eating being spread on the blogosphere and social media. I run into ex-vegans all the time and I usually find they embraced a type of extreme diet based on lots of terrible advice and/or unnecessary restrictions like those on this list. Vegans shouldn’t be made to feel guilty by fellow vegans for not following some “perfect” version of a vegan diet, when there is no good reason to follow this “perfect” diet. I want veganism to be as practical and evidence-based as possible, not difficult and esoteric.

Pseudoscience and misinformation does nothing to help vegans improve their health, or for that matter, in case you’ve forgotten, live an ethical lifestyle that does not exploit animals, which is all that veganism is supposed to be about.

Related articles:

Is the “alkaline diet” legit? Does meat cause cancer because it’s acidic?

There’s no such thing as a superfood. It’s nonsense.

 More Trouble for Antioxidants

Stop Confusing Veganism with Clean Eating (and Pass Me That Vegan Donut…)

Veganism adrift – Why we shouldn’t be so quick to praise “vegan” celebrities

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Painting by Ludolf Bakhuizen

As a vegan, I am angry. I am angry because the word “vegan” has been diluted to near meaninglessness by weight-obsessed pseudo-vegan celebrities, and the cult-like adulation they receive from a large part of the vegan(or rather “plant-based”) community. It seems every time a celebrity goes on a mostly plant-based diet purely for vanity reasons, the usual suspects promote them as the ultimate vegan role model. As a way to promote veganism, this approach pretty much always backfires for the vegan community, at least for those who do it for the animals(as if there are other types of vegans; more on that latter). The foolishness of this spectacle is nauseating for vegans who know better.

It turns out that Beyoncé, the “vegan” role model du jour doesn’t just wear fur, she still still eats meat. A “vegan” who eats meat? Personally, I always thought the fur thing and the fact that she said she was doing it simply for weight-loss disqualified her from having anything to do with veganism. Still, this didn’t stop the vegan non-thinkers brigade from proclaiming Beyoncé as the new vegan idol.

Many vegan activists claim when celebrities go vegan or near-vegan, even though it is almost always temporary, insincere, and not for ethical reasons, this helps spread the word about veganism. I see things very differently. It’s already a lost cause if the veganism the celebrity is promoting is a temporary crash diet motivated purely by vanity or health reasons, since that isn’t what veganism is about in the first place. It’s not just a fad diet, it’s a lifestyle concerned with reducing animal suffering and is a life-long commitment. Or at least, that’s what it used to be about, before the plant-based health-nutters appropriated the term “vegan”. While I realize there’s a lot of overlap between health-conscious people and ethical eaters, this doesn’t change the meaning of “vegan”. Of course, if a celebrity does go vegan for ethical reasons, that’s great, and they could be useful for promoting the vegan lifestyle.

The only things these celebrity worshiping antics accomplish are confusion and further diluting the message of veganism. Ultimately, vegan celebrities make unreliable role models because all-too-often, they revert to their old meat-eating ways, giving the impression that veganism is difficult to stick to. And this isn’t just a hazard of health veganism, since some ethical vegans may also give up on veganism for whatever reason.

In the very least, I think the semantic issues could easily be resolved if people who go “vegan” exclusively for health reasons called themselves “plant-based” or “strict-vegetarian”; leave “vegan” for ethical eaters. It is, in essence, a word that describes an ethical lifestyle, not just a diet.

Related:
Does Beyoncé really understand what veganism is about? by SCOTT LAJOIE

The New Dietary Guidelines and Running versus Joggling

It seems almost everyone I know is talking about the new dietary guidelines. In large part, this is because they significantly depart from the old recommendations, such as eating a low-fat diet to reduce heart disease risk. This is no longer recommended, since science has found that the type of fat is more important than total fat. They still recommend reducing saturated fat, and reducing meat and animal food consumption to help achieve this. They also recommend reducing animal food consumption for environmental reasons.

Ultimately, what do the new recommendations mean for vegans? Ginny Messina RD has written an excellent post on the new dietary recommendations, The 2015 Dietary Guidelines, What Will They Mean for Vegans?, and I suggest you read it. Her most important point, which I am in full agreement with:

It doesn’t really impact my own advocacy for animals, though. I know very well that findings on nutrition and health are always changing. I know that nutrition research is far more conflicting than concurring. And I don’t see much point to building advocacy around facts that may change tomorrow.

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On the subject of joggling, Alex Hutchinson has written an interesting article titled Brain Plasticity in Endurance vs Skill Sports in Runner’s World. Actually, the article doesn’t mention anything about joggling or juggling, but the study he cites implies some extra benefits for joggling over running. I’ve always wanted to know if skill sports were better for brain plasticity than endurance sports, and it seems this article tentatively suggests they are. Of course, any aerobic exercise is good for the brain, but it appears that dancing, or figure skating(or any exercise that involves more complex “gross motor skills”) may provide some extra benefits over running. The same could probably be said about joggling, though I must admit that I am very biased. I also suspect that trail running may be slightly more beneficial for brain plasticity than road running.

So when it comes to exercise, go beyond just trying to improve your endurance or speed, try challenging your coordination and balance in novel ways. The more you learn, the easier it is to learn new tasks, and the better it is for your brain.

Update: Alex Hutchinson wrote an even more interesting follow-up article to the article posted above a few weeks later titled Fighting Cognitive Decline with Dodgeball and Juggling. In this follow-up, he actually does mention juggling as an example of an exercise that involves “gross motor skills” that may provide additional brain benefits over endurance exercise, but not joggling. He wrote this follow-up after he got an email from Nicholas Berryman(a physiologist at the Quebec National Institute of Sport) in response to the first article, who cited 3 scientific papers.

While the cognitive benefits of cardio, and strength training to a lesser extent are already established, and their mechanisms largely understood(increased blood-flow to the brain and increased nerve growth factors when it comes to cardio) according to Hutchinson:

What Berryman pointed out is preliminary evidence for a third mechanism, triggered by gross motor training – things like balance and coordination training, or even learning skills like juggling.

While this is all very fascinating, it is already known that learning just about any skill causes changes in the brain. Learning certain skills, like learning a new language, or learning to play an instrument, is associated with preventing or slowing cognitive decline in many studies. This leads to the question: Does juggling benefit the brain in ways that cardio alone can’t? Besides this, does learning gross motor skills that involve improvements in coordination and balance(juggling, or rock-climbing), benefit the brain more than learning to play an instrument, or learning to play chess?

As Hutchinson points out, the preliminary evidence for additional benefits of gross motor skills is encouraging. However, in the mean time, we shouldn’t have to wait for definitive answers before taking dance or juggling lessons, or going on a rock climbing adventure, if only for the fun of it.

Metacognition in Scrub Jays

Scrub Jay in Flight

Scrub Jay in Flight by Lyle Troxell

A common faulty justification for eating and exploiting animals is that humans are so much “smarter” than all other animal species. “Animals are dumb so it’s okay to eat them!” so many meat-eaters proclaim. This of course is absurd; even if it was true, this still doesn’t justify harming animals. Carry this reasoning far enough, and it justifies making meals of humans who are mentally challenged. Besides this, it seldom makes sense to do interspecies intelligence comparisons(it’s difficult enough comparing humans when it comes to intelligence). Each species evolved as intelligent as it needed to be, based on the unique environment it evolved in. Some species are “smarter” or more “talented” at some things than others.

Increasingly, it appears that certain cognitive traits that were once thought to only occur in humans also occur in other species. Metacognition, or “thinking about thinking”, is something humans do on a regular basis. This ability helps us solve problems, philosophize, and plan for the future, among other things.

Recent research reported in Scientific American suggests that a small species of bird called the Scrub Jay may be capable of metacognition. As Watanabe, one of the researchers put it, “some birds study for a test like humans do.” I suggest reading the entire article to understand the experiment they used to arrive at this conclusion.

If this is true, this is yet more evidence that the human mind isn’t so different from other animals after all.

Excellent cannibalism talk by Diana Fleischman

If you are interested in cannibalism, or biology in general, you should listen to this Cannibalism Talk by evolutionary psychologist Diana Fleischman. I didn’t realize just how many sub-types of cannibalism there were before I listened to this. She doesn’t just cover human cannibalism, she also discusses cannibalism in many other species, and explains why this behavior evolved. Some species will even eat their own offspring! After all, as she often says, the flesh of your own species is the best possible multi-vitamin.

Some of what she says made me feel nauseous, while other parts were funny. For those of you who don’t already know, Fleishman isn’t just a scientist, she’s a vegan. I think this gives her some deep insights into cannibalism that non-vegan biologists may have trouble understanding. I highly recommend listening to this talk and reading some of the well-researched articles on her Sentientist blog. All of them are gems. Her blog is one of the best science-based vegan blogs out there.