Thursday, July 29, 2010

So.. wait... what DO you eat??

I get this question all the time when people find out I'm vegetarian, even more often when I'm attempting to be vegan. In case you aren't sure what the difference is, I will take a moment to try and explain. It isn't cut and clear what qualifies as vegetarian versus vegan; ask one person and you may get a different answer than you would from another. For me, being vegetarian means eating no meat (and yes, that includes seafood). So dairy products, eggs, and honey are fair game. When I'm vegan, all animal products are off limits. No meat, eggs, dairy products (cheese, milk, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, etc.), honey, or gelatin. Also, whey and casein are both animal proteins so I stay away from them. To me, beingvegan is not just a diet, it is a lifestyle. I refuse to buy items made from an animal product (ivory, pearl, leather, silk, fur, feathers...). Unfortunately, there are so many different animal products and byproducts that it's really difficult for me to make sure I do not buy something made with one. This is when I remind myself that I just need to do the best I can and it will make a difference. I tend to float somewhere between vegan and vegetarian.

Okay, so what DO I eat? Lots of really good stuff! A good vegan diet will be well balanced and varied to ensure you get the nutrients you need.

Protein will come from:
- legumes (soy, black, kidney, pinto, lentils...)
- soy products (tofu, tempeh, milk, yogurt, cheese)
- seitan
- nuts and nut butters
- whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, barley, buckwheat, oats...)
- veggies (greens have the most typically)

Iron will come from:
- soy products (beans, tofu, tempeh)
- legumes (lentils, lima beans)
- quinoa
- greens (swiss chard, spinach)
- enriched vegan breads, cereals, pastas
*Plant derived iron is not as easily absorbed as animal derived iron. Vitamin C helps us absorb the iron found in a plant based diet. A few sources of vitamin C include tomatoes, papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, strawberries, and citrus fruits.

Calcium will come from:
- greens (bok choy, collards, spinach)
- whole grains
- beans
- broccoli

Fiber will come from:
- whole grains
- legumes
- nuts and seeds
- fruits
- veggies

B12 will come from:
- fortified foods or supplements
* Vitamin B12 is essential for our health. Unfortun
ately, animal products are the only food proven to naturally have it. Because of this, some vegan foods have been fortified with it and B complex vitamins can be easily found. I take a supplement every day.

I am not picky when it comes to food. I have been known to cook a big pot of brown rice and black beans and eat it at least once a day for a few days. I will add some steamed vegetable on the side. I snack on raw nuts throughout the day and throw an apple in there at some point. Because I work nights, I don't tend to eat breakfast foods in the morning or lunch/dinner foods later in the day. I eat whatever sounds good no matter the time of day. I try to eat "the colors of the rainbow." The different colors of fruits and veggies have different nutrients... so eat them all! I always have a vegan snack bar with me too (currently, it's Treo).

I may not have the most exciting diet but it was just as boring when I ate meat. It is definitely possible to have amazingly delicious vegan foods!

Monday, July 26, 2010

You Are What You Eat

The saying “you are what you eat” has been around for I don’t even know how long. According to this, by eating animal products you are a cow, pig, chicken, fish, or any other animal you choose to eat. I’m going to go beyond the obvious and say that you are also fear, pain, and often times infection. I read somewhere that when you consume meat, you are consuming all of the fear and pain that the animal experienced at the time it was slaughtered. It seems ludicrous but let me explain...

Much like humans, the body experiences changes when in a stressful situation. In this case the situation is being slaughtered. The body goes into a fight or flight state and numerous chemicals are released. Two predominant ones are cortisol and adrenaline. The chemicals remain present in the animal’s tissue even after death. They are still present in the meat when you eat it. These chemicals lead to changes in our body. Although we receive benefits from these chemicals when present in appropriate levels, higher levels have consequences. Excess cortisol leads to high blood pressure, decreased bone density, blood sugar imbalances (often increased blood sugar), decreased amount of muscle tissue, decreased immune response, and increased abdominal fat. Having too much adrenaline circulating in our bodies can also increase blood pressure; decreased digestion also occurs.

As far as infection goes, many of the animals found on factory farms have infections due to the poor sanitary conditions they are forced to exist in. Because of this, you are consuming not only the organism causing the infection, but also the antibiotics the animal is given. In fact, many of the farm animals are routinely treated with antibiotics to decrease the risk of developing an infection (hello multidrug resistant organisms!).

While we are on the topic of ingesting whatever the animals have been given, let’s talk about hormones. Many of the factory farms give their animals growth hormone to make them grow bigger, faster than Mother Nature intended. When consuming animal products, we also consume the growth hormones which will in turn make you grow bigger than you would have otherwise. Once we stop growing up, we grow out if ya know what I mean. So now we have cortisol and growth hormone wanting to increase the fat we have (hello obesity epidemic!).

To sum it up, raising livestock is bad for the environment (as discused in Three Ways to go Green) and eating it is bad for your body.

Stay tuned to read about my experience with being vegan!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Three Ways to go Green

There are many ways to be green. Hopefully, one would choose to be green in all aspects of life. I know it is what I strive to do. When new to the green scene, it is easiest to choose one faucet and then go from there. I am definitely no expert and have plenty of room to learn. However, I have read some books and done some research.

From what I found, there are three main areas of the green movement. Here they are:

  1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
  2. Love animals, don’t eat them.
  3. Choose organic.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

This one encompasses a lot and is open to interpretation. Implementing this concept into one’s life to any extent will make an impact. What is great about it is it can be so easy. I could write for a very long time on this topic and not get tired of finding ways to reduce, reuse, and/or recycle. I love this concept so much that my best

friend constantly points out any item with the symbol to me, suggesting I should buy it. Yesterday, it was a pair of earrings (No, I did not buy them). I plan on writing a post

devoted entirely to this topic. Because I know all of you are itchin’ to get started on being green, I will give you a few tips on how to do this.

  1. Buy a reusable water bottle and stop using the plastic, disposable ones. Caution: stay away from ones with Bisphenol A, more popularly known as BPA. BPA is a chemical found in some plastics that gets into whatever is contained in the plastic (water or food) and then is consumed by us. There has been talk about the negative effects that this may have on us. From what I have found, the results of the studies are inconclusive as of now. To be safe, I’d say steer clear until it can be proved that BPA isn’t harmful. There are 7 types of plastic. Type 3 and sometimes type 7 contain BPA. The plastic number can often be found on the bottom of the bottle. Because of the controversy surrounding BPA, many companies have started adding “BPA free” to the packaging making it easier for consumers.
  2. Reuse paper. Instead of tossing the newspaper or magazine after reading them, use them to clean instead of paper towels or to protect fragile items when packing. Print on both sides of the paper rather than just one. You can even buy recycled paper!
  3. Recycle at home and/or work. Many cities have a recycling program that involves someone coming and picking up your recyclable materials in the same manner that your trash is picked up! Call your city or look online for a list of what can and cannot be recycled. Information on recycling in Phoenix, Arizona can be found at

* Benefit: Not only will you be friendly to the environment, you will save money!

Love animals, don’t eat them.

This is my personal favorite. Your diet can be green too! You don’t have to love animals to choose to not eat animal products. As I wrote in my “About Me” section, I have always been a bit of an animal rights activist. Although this influences my choice to abstain from eating animals, there are many other reasons for a plant based diet. Remember my mention of global warming in the last post? The United Nations has identified that raising animals for food is one of the largest contributors to global warming. Find out more about this at Some of you may be thinking “Well the cows are already there, why not eat a hamburger?” or perhaps you are thinking, “How can me not eating this hamburger/

piece of chicken/slice of bacon make a difference?” YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Every choice you make, has an effect. The more often you make that choice, the greater the effect. In the article I hyperlinked, the UN does not tell us that we should all stop eating meat to fix the global warming problem. Doesn’t it make s

ense though? If we stop eating the product these factory farms are producing, they will decrease the amount they produce thus leading to a decrease in green house gas emissions. If the idea of giving up all animal product is too daunting for you, try not eating meat for just one day each week. It makes a difference. More about this topic to come.

*Benefit: A plant based diet is cheaper than an animal based diet... yet another way being green will save you money!

Choose organic.

When a product is labeled “organic” it basically means what it is made out of was grown/raised naturally and without added chemicals. In regards t

o produce, pesticides were not used and the crop was not genetically engineered or altered. When it comes to animal products, the animals were not treated with antibiotics or hormones and were fed organic feed. It may come as a surprise to some of you that what is considered “organic” is not the standard. Unfortunately, what is “normal” would scare many of you... maybe even make you vomit if you have a weak stomach. Organic produce may not look as pretty as nonorganic produce but it is how nature intended it to be. A lot of produce is genetically altered to look better. The pepper/apple/lettuce/name any produce item was created in a lab to look how we have told farmers we want it to look. Society as a whole has become so vain that we cannot even eat a piece of fruit that has a discoloration even if it tastes the same (maybe even better!). For the same reason, crops are sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals that get into the soil which then gets into our water. We are bombarded with chemicals that we are not meant to ingest. Scary, huh? Maybe there aren’t numerous studies published stating the negative effects that come from all of this, but I would rather err on the side of caution and stay as chemical free as possible. What about you?

Many grocery stores have special labels or even entire sections to make organic produce identifiable. To be labeled organic, it has been certified by one of a few agencies. The packaging on the product will most likely have the label of whichever company certified it. Take a look on the packaging/tag and see what you find.

Unfortunately, organic products tend to be more expensive because it is more expensive for the farmers to maintain the produce and is more labor intensive. So buy organic when you can. For produce, if there is a thick skin or peel around the part that you eat, the fruit/veggie itself will not have as many of the chemicals in it. An example would be you peel a

banana. The thick peel helped protect the part you eat from the chemicals it was treated with. On the other hand, a strawberry does not have a peel and fully absorbs the chemicals from the soil. Moral of the story: buy organic strawberries and not bananas if you have to make that choice.

*Benefit: Our bodies are faced with less foreign cells allowing our immune system to focus on fighting invading organisms such as bacteria and viruses... perhaps you will not get sick as often.

This was a long one. I hope it was as easy for you to get through as it is for me to talk about it! All three of these topics deserve more time and will get it at some point. For now, I hope I provided enough information to help ya’ll start going green. Even if it’s just dropping that soda can or water bottle in the recycle bin rather than the trash bin.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The low down on what this blog is all about...

Hello everyone!

I have been considering starting a blog for quite some time. I have always enjoyed writing and recently found a topic I am passionate about: the environment. If you read my “About Me” section you will find out how I stumbled across this passion. My daily schedule is often hectic and changes constantly. I work 12 hour night shifts three days a week and try to maintain a life during the day. Because I am often running around and exhausted, it can be a challenge to make the greenest choices possible. I do what I can and don’t stress if I mess up along my path to decreasing my carbon footprint on good ole Mother Earth.

I hope to provide information on what it means to be green and how to make simple, green choices every day.
Why go green? Here are some reasons that might motivate you...

1. Air pollution is getting out of control! Yes, it gives Phoenix beautiful sunrises and sunsets but it is doing awful things to our lungs.
2. The availability of clean water is decreasing. In fact, around 40% of the world’s population doesn’t have enough water to meet daily needs. Many of us don’t think twice about leaving the water running while brushing our teeth... hmmm...
3. Global warming! It can be confusing and I will do my best to explain it in a later post. For now, know that the temperature of the ocean is continually rising and will effect us all. Okay maybe not us directly... but think of future generations please!

Feel free to email me if you have a question on any information I present or have a topic you’d like me to address!

Remember... treat every day like it’s Earth Day! (I love that line... the Environmental Protection Agency came up with it first though).