Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Lessons from a rare fruit (Gayle King could use this)

May 22, 2013

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Over 8 years of weekly trips to the farmer’s markets, our little one has developed a radar for the few cherished weeks out of every year, happening now, when Persian mulberries come into season.

So prized are these long, delicate, garnet-beaded fruits, it is rumored that they are often bought up seaside by savvy members of the Persian community as they come into harbor from import.

For good reason.

Not only is the mulberry’s flavor other-worldly, they are complex organisms. We have 46 chromosomes, the mulberry has 308—making it a highly adaptogenic plant—it can survive in harsh climates and is thought to help us do the same, physically and emotionally. Get that in your belly! (Read more about the benefits here). You probably have mulberries in your neck of the woods. FIND THEM.

Rare access to this mysterious heaven-sent fruit has provided our family a yearly ritual of extra special farmer’s market food-worship. Together, we’re aware and appreciative of the seasons and our farmers. We share the excitement and beauty of the find with friends. Akira can articulate the flavors we taste (I’ve met kids who don’t know their last names, let alone how to analyze flavor!). We feel lucky all together for the bounty we experience and relish this almost entirely unexamined food! Is that not worth $8? It’s cheap when you think about the exchange!

Veganism is often called “restrictive,” “limiting,”—even “traumatizing”! But what we experience is utterly the opposite—and only with a fraction of the fruits and vegetables that exist in the world!

Last week, vegan firefighter Rip Esselstyn appeared on CBS Morning News to talk about his new book My Beef With Meat. The first thing Gayle King says is, “All I can say to you, Rip, is you’re taking away my happy.”

Clearly, she’s never had mulberries. 😉

What fruit or vegetable brings your family joy, and why? Leave a comment below and MEMORIZE it for the next time a Gayle-King-a-like comes at you.



Every Day Is Earth Day When You’re Vegan

April 22, 2013

Last night, on my way back to Los Angeles from a successful event at VegMichigan’s VegFest, our plane flew over the tracked flatlands of Nebraska, the massive, snow-capped Rocky Mountains, and the shifting landscape of the Grand Canyon. Quite a show.

From my window seat, I felt a heart-pang of pride in America—not only for the stunning beauty of her drastically differing terrains, but for the people who actually—ACTUALLY!—care to be her proper stewards. Fresh from having met crowds of vegan moms, dads, kids, aunts, uncles, teachers, and librarians, democrats and republicans, people of all races and ethnicities, the feeling was truly heartfelt. Sometimes I feel like no one cares at all—in other moments, I am stunned by just how much people care.

As the sun set, I snapped the picture above through my window—a tiny moon rising above the fray of so much good and evil. If we can all rise above the ruckus to be our highest selves (everything is much clearer from that angle), if we can picture our home from highest point in the sky, maybe we can bring a little more of that heaven down to earth. Happy Earth Day…every day.

How to Make Healthier Choices with Zero Effort

April 17, 2013

When I meet someone new, it’s inevitable that just past introductions, we end up talking about healthy living. It’s not just L.A., I swear. I see guys I never imagined would give two shits about inner health suddenly buying juicers!  Everyone is seeking a higher quality of life through the simple intangibles—health and personal development, namely.

I think with our economy in the gutter, we’ve shifted our priorities and we’re seeking control where we can find it—in our personal lives. Like I imply in my children’s books, we’ve arrived at a time that holds profound potential since the only way to change the public realm is through individual agency anway! We’re over chanting “hope” and “change” to our politicians. We’ll just do it ourselves. If a broken economy is what it took to get our priorities straight, then it needed to break.

So with interests and markets shifting, I am really excited to be the May 2013 curator for a resource that allows anyone to make healthier choices with ZERO effort…meet Conscious Box!

This affordable service delivers a boxful of products to your doorstep every month. The first time I got mine, I received raw vegan chocolate bars I’d never heard of, chemical-free laundry detergent, a biodegradable non-toxic toothbrush, and other items that have become pantry staples. Sign up now (you pick the frequency) and you’ll get some of my personal favorite products in the May vegan box. Or if you’re like me and you’re constantly recommending healthy products to your family and friends? Just have a box sent to their doorstep.

Know someone who would love Conscious Box? Send them this link:

Happy receiving!

See you in Michigan April 21!

April 16, 2013


This is my favorite lecture yet! I promise you haven’t heard one like this. I can’t wait to meet all the vegheads in Michigan and find out what work you all have been up to…so be there! Let’s make this the largest VegFest Michigan event ever! Early tix available at a discount.

White People Wednesday: A Vegan Expat Shares Her Feelings

March 6, 2013
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Do you own Vegan Cooking for Dummies? No refunds!

The confession letter I would have preferred from vegan expat author Alexandra Jamieson:

•I’m no longer vegan.
•I believe in the good of veganism but I’ve decided to oblige my cravings for meat.
•The values I have preached can not be reconciled with the violence required to take the life of an animal on my behalf.
•I accept the contradiction.
•I will be donating the royalties from Vegan…for Dummies to Farm Sanctuary in perpetuity.

Instead, her letter hit me with—this is the only description I have—a tsunami of whiteness. A boatload of faux-spiritual, pop psychobabble about her “truth” and happiness, along with an “it’s-not-me, it’s-my-body” argument to displace any agency in the matter. It’s Manifest Destiny, it’s eugenics, it’s fundamentalist religion—everyone’s got God on their side. Except those being preyed upon.

I accept that some people depart. I don’t accept the justification. Even if you want to, you can’t die on a  diet of nutrient-dense natural foods. It can’t be the protein or the texture of meat that Jamieson missed—because by all measures those can be replicated to a level of placebo—I suspect it was the idea, the culture, and the “forbidden” that was nagging at her. If, in the wake of her cravings, she had written a public letter in which she confessed her cravings for meat, asked for ideas, or promoted ways to deal, she would have been overwhelmed by the support and compassion she implies her now-critics lack. That level of candidness would have been a better qualifier of the “honesty” Jamieson is being lauded for now. But she didn’t decide to keep it real during her cravings for a reason—she really didn’t want any advice or encouragement to stay vegan. She wanted to do what she wanted without interference. Same story from dominant classes throughout history—and no amount of soft-spoken, aha-moment, self-congratulatory rhetoric hides it.

When Jamieson advertises “Lose the Cravings” on her site, I guess she means give in to them (I’m sure she would still draw the arbitrary line at Twinkies, however). Great coaching for addicts.

Eat Meat = Get Played

February 12, 2013


Sometimes our vegan passion gets mistaken for aggression. It’s only because we’re urgently trying to share what we know with you! If we didn’t care, we’d do what meat companies do—we’d keep you in the dark. When news like the #horsemeat found in Tesco’s Spaghetti Bolognese hits, guess who isn’t surprised? Vegans. What have we been trying to tell ya?! Your meat isn’t what you think it is. Eat animals? Get played. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Stand Up For Yourself (Or, Creating Happiness at Work)

February 5, 2013


As an artist, graphic designer, writer, and someone who slips into “the zone” and stays there all-day-what-happened-it’s-4pm-I’m-still-in-pajamas, I can easily be on my butt for eight hours at a time. I love what I do, but our human bodies are designed for far more than small finger-extensions. We are built for survival in the wilderness—for reaching, bending, picking, twisting, climbing, squatting, ducking, walking, and running (although, I know, who even wants to survive this Earth without Instagram?).

Some days I just don’t make it to dance class or yoga…and I end up feeling like a squished marshmallow walking on two toothpicks. With a sunburn from the computer screen.

But who doesn’t sit too much these days? Every freakin’ part of life runs through the computer, it’s crazy. I can’t take it anymore. So, inspired by friends who came before me, as well as a chiropractor’s advice, I did something to change.

I raised my desk. I am writing to you while standing, looking ever-so-slightly up at my monitor, my keyboard comfortably on a riser at my fingertips. Suddenly, I have a spine. My legs are moving, my core is engaged, my neck is long(er). You can do this too, don’t argue! It is an option, whether you work in an office or at home. Start a revolution where you work. Let me tell you, this is a life-changer. Now I take breaks to sit or even squat (easier in pajamas) instead of breaks to stand. At the end of the day, I feel all around solid—more carrot-like than marshmallow.

So go. Stand up and browse the heck out of Pinterest for “standing desk” ideas. Google automatic desk options, search for risers at office supply or home-organization stores (in the cabinet and closet areas), or build your own raised contraptions using boxes, cinderblocks, or inexpensive wood planks from a hardware store. I don’t need to list the benefits, you can imagine them—from your heart, spine, and neck, to your core strength, neurological systems, and fat-enzyme efficiency, your whole body will benefit from getting up offa’ that thing. Stand and deliver!

Voting or Veganism?

September 10, 2012

Man, America! We are a jaded bunch! The feeling in the air is thick, especially after the 2012 party conventions.

Polls show that the motivated voters who turned out in record numbers in 2008 aren’t even sure they’re voting this time, let alone who they’d vote for. The tremendous buzz of 2008’s “Hope” and “Change” has dwindled—first down to a hope for change and then just a change in hope altogether. Bring up Obama and Romney and you’re bound hear responses like the (actual) quotes we’ve collected in the last few days:

“What’s the difference?”
“Puppet on the left or puppet on the right?”
“Douche bag or shit sandwich?”
“Both parties are controlled by the New World Order, so it doesn’t really matter who gets in.”

To me, this tepid glass of almond milk still looks half full. The negative public responses confirm that people have been doing their homework. The atmosphere of resistance proves the democratization of information in our era. Streaming live at the tip of everyone’s fingers is access to unreported news, underground information, alternative health remedies, and exposés on our most powerful industries and decision-makers. The John Robbins-Michael Moore-Enron-9/11-InfoWars-Monsanto-bailout era has caused truth-seekers to dig deep and share widely.

With the mass-use of technology, we all know something about marketing now. In an age where it’s obvious when politicians are bought and sold and only giving us a sanitized, polished, PR-spun version of the truth—or straight up lying through their teeth—it’s crucial to wield our political power in the most effective ways possible. I believe the voting booth is still powerful—at the very least in sending the message that the masses of us are still alive and kicking. Even if they shred our ballots, they’ll still know we showed up to be contended with.

But better than the voting booth, I believe that going vegan is the most effective and powerful tool of our time.

Regardless of our elected officials, there are 7 billion people on Earth making choices every second. We can choose to pressure, starve out, or bolster local and global economies through our habits, practices, and dollars. Veganism is inherently tied to issues of animals, health, chronic disease and healthcare, water supplies, GMOs and biotech, global food distribution and world hunger, the environment, land, sea, and air degradation, climate change, natural disasters, energy and war, immigration, labor, and workers’ rights, womens’ rights and feminism, racism and classism, outsourcing…the list goes on. No meal, no purchase is neutral. By making vegan choices, we can reach every major industry and every corner of the earth.

So. DO vote at the booth in the 2012 Elections. DO occupy politics. But even more importantly, occupy your mouth. Go vegan.

Food Fighters: Organic Farmer Janet Brown

July 27, 2012

Janet Brown, Allstar Organics

As farmers market geeks, we hit up as many as we can, recently Marin County’s Sunday morning market at the Civic Center. I got to chat it up with the regal Janet Brown, co-owner of AllStar Organics, which produces heirloom tomatoes, antique roses, herbs, salts (OMG, the best!!!), and now a line of organic hydrosols and essential oils.

Most flavorful, aromatic salt EVER.

AllStar Organics Hydrosols,

In Marin, Janet is a pioneer food-fighter—a founding board member of the area’s first organic marketing association, Marin Organic, Chair of the Marin Food Policy Council, and former Program Officer for the Center for Ecoliteracy. She was one of few growers who hosted a visit from sustainable agriculture advocate Prince Charles in 2005. Basically, she knows what’s up, from the inside out. Whenever I am lucky enough to come into contact with people like her, I dig for the truths the public never gets to hear.

There are various, long-existing organic certification programs. How did the standards of organic certification change when the USDA implemented the national standard in the 1990s?
The USDA National Standard superseded all previous existing organic standards. Today, there is only one, unified, USDA National Organic Rule that covers all aspects of organic production and distribution. All organic certifiers certify to the same standards. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is charged with reviewing  the current organic rule, and recommending changes and upgrades when  necessary. The goal of the USDA Organic Program is to protect and maintain the integrity of United States organic standards to the benefit of the organic farmers, organic consumers, and the USDA Organic Program itself.

May a farmer exceed the USDA standard? What standard does AllStar Organics hold itself up to?
An organic farmer is free to farm in any way that at least meets the standards of the USDA Program. For many, the USDA rule is a floor, not a ceiling. Many organic farmers are operating organic systems that are extraordinarily sophisticated, elegant, smart and mature. Based on their own body of knowledge about crops they farm, their own special conditions, and their own sense of design and aesthetics, their entire enterprise may exceed any formal requirement of the USDA  program. Farming is a means of self-expression for the farmer. Examples of this are: returning optimum amounts of organic matter to the soil each year, having a regular mineralization program, improving soil biotic life, using more heirloom and open-pollinated varieties or crops, leaving hedgerows and flowering borders as nectar
sources, conserving water whenever possible, diversifying the farming  operation, selling more of the harvest directly, opening the farm to the public, etc. Allstar meets the USDA requirements for certification, and, like most organic farmers, we also work hard on those things that we care  about, whether or not the rule requires it.

When we see non-certified stands with signs that read “No pesticides” or “No spray, no chemical fertilizers,” might their food be as clean as certified organic products, or is this a claim used to distract buyers from other detrimental practices they may be utilizing?
Certified organic farmers go through inspections, pay multiple fees, fill out quite a bit of paperwork, and go through multiple more inspections to prove that they are meeting the USDA requirements in order to be able to call themselves organic.

There is no other organic certification. Signs that say, “Certified delicious,” “Certified California Grown,”  “Certified Clean” are attempts to cash in on the obvious value of the organic enterprise. They’re really distractions—claims without weight—and end up confusing the shopper at the market. If it matters to you, the organic label is your only real assurance that the food you buy does not contain chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, germination accelerators, waxes, GMOs, irradiation, reconditioned sewage sludge, fungicides, and other contaminates.

What are the most important questions to ask growers to ensure we’re buying from the cleanest, most sustainable stands possible?
The organic grower should have a certification document displayed on their stand at the market. You can ask how far away the farm is from you. You can ask about diversity and variety. Taste is always a good indicator of something being done well. Fresh is a critical component to nutrition.

Some people complain that organics are “too expensive” (but we notice they get their nails done every week). Can you explain why purchasing organic products is such a worthy investment?
When you buy organic products, you are supporting a system of production that is designed to avoid harm to the environment. That’s good for the food you eat, but also for the air you breathe, the water you drink, and the world you live in. It is possible to eat your values. Simply seek out and choose the food that is produced consistent with the values and ideals you say you support. You can build the food system you want one mouthful at a time.

Americans have become accustomed to the price of cheap, subsidized food. The small increase in price for organic represents the true cost of producing the food and bringing it to market. It is an unsubsidized system that is one of the most admirable joint enterprises I know of. The organic system was built between the organic farmers and the eating public, and it is sustainable.

NOTE: If you care about organics and GMO-labeling, please support and follow the progress of California’s Prop 37, the Right To Know Initiative (Nov. 2012), which will require the labeling of genetically modified foods. If it wins, California will be the first U.S. state to set this precedent…and maybe your state is next?

Media Reality Check: Nutrients and Veganism

May 22, 2012

On nearly every single one of my major media appearances, the network has felt it necessary to consult “the other side”—a doctor, a psychologist, or a nutritionist (personally, I think veganism is inherently the other side). Not one of these talking heads has been a vegan representative—as if none exist to consult. In each instance, these folks have reinforced the public with the same exact biased messages that continue to justify the standard American diet:

“It’s hard to get protein, B12, calcium, and fat on a vegan diet.”
“Vegans have to be extra careful…”
“Vegan diets are dangerous…we absolutely need the nutrients we get from animal foods.”
“Meat-free diets can cause deficiencies…”
“Kids may become malnourished.”

So, we know where conventional medicine stands, and frankly, they’re about twenty years behind doctors doing plant-based-diet research. Their facts are so distorted and empty, it’s actually shocking. But like I’ve said before, the majority of opposition can be explained by fear, ignorance, and industry collusion. So let’s clear up some of these concerns with a few reality-check points:

Seek experienced advice: You wouldn’t take swimming lessons from someone who never learned to swim. Don’t take advice from any doctor or nutritionist who is not a successful vegan themselves. Current conventional medicine is not based on healthy people who have found solutions, but rather sick populations with unnecessary chronic disease caused by normalized unhealthy habits. Most doctors simply don’t stay current on the most advanced vegan research and protocols. Their work is more geared towards alleviating symptoms, not healing the root cause. Seek out the best medical and nutritional advice in the field from the likes of Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. Gabriel Cousens, David Wolfe, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Jameth Sheridan, and Dr. Michael Greger. Also, books by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, Victoria Moran, and Brendan Brazier.

The SAD food pyramid vs. the plant-based pyramid: The nutritionists and conventional doctors (many have as little as six hours of nutritional training) that oppose or caution against veganism seem to base their advice on the standard American diet (SAD) food pyramid. To be clear: with veganism, we are not talking about the standard American food pyramid minus meat and dairy (this leaves nothing upon nothing). A plant-based pyramid has an entirely different arrangement of food groups that provides for all of our human needs for macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants). By exploring a plant-based pyramid and vegan nutrient recommendations, everyone will reap the benefits of finding micronutrients the American public is generally  deficient in.

The ANDI Chart: The Aggregate Nutrient Density Index rates the micronutrient quality of foods on a scale from 1-1000, taking into consideration vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. Kale and mustard greens: 1000. All animal products fall in the 30s or below. If you are eating a variety of whole foods, you are most likely already getting all the macronutrients you need (carbs, protein, fats). It’s time for everyone to focus the bulk of their diets on foods that provide micronutrients the average person is not getting. Conventional doctors and nutritionists need a reality check on who “needs to be careful.”

Chronic disease: Studies continue to show the link between chronic disease and consuming animal products. Let’s look at the trajectory for kids in this country:
•50% or more of Americans adults are on pharmaceutical medication.
•20% of children ages 2-19 are obese.
•30% of girls are getting their periods by age 8.
•The Center for Disease Control lists cancer and heart disease as the two leading causes of death.
These maladies are all exacerbated, if not caused, by eating meat and dairy. The standard American diet has been given its chance and it has proven to be a disaster. One hundred years ago, people only became ill in the last few months of their lives. Today, the average person will experience at least a decade of disease and unnecessary suffering. For many, transitioning to a plant-based diet at a young age will be a life-saving choice.

Protein: The average American gets too much protein (remember, extra is stored as fat). Many people don’t know that proteins are simply chains of amino acids, and that plant proteins contain all essential amino acids. The vegan pyramid provides a healthy amount of protein with a lower biological value than animal products, which prevents IGF reactions (insulin-like growth factors that trigger cancer and tumor growth). According to the USDA, children need about .4 grams of protein per healthy pound of body weight. For kids ages 4-6, that only amounts to about 15-20 g. protein per day! One piece of sprouted whole grain toast (4 g. protein) with a couple tablespoons of almond butter (6 g. protein) and you’re half, or more than half-way, done by breakfast. Protein is not hard to find in a plant-based diet.

B12: Conventional nutrition will tell you that vitamin B12 can only be found in animal-products. This is factually skewed and distorted. B12 is neither an animal-based nor plant-based micronutrient, but bacteria-based. If we were all eating foods pulled straight from the ground, we would be getting sufficient amounts of B12 in the grooves of our veggies, for example. If people are getting B12 at all from meat, it is because the animal ate grass and stored B12 in her gut—B12 is not inherent to the flesh. But most animals are not grass-fed these days. B12 is crucial for everyone, but the reality is that 50-90% of meat-eaters are deficient in optimum levels of B12, too! NO ONE EVER MENTIONS THAT! I eat lots of nutritional yeast and spirulina and my levels are in the normal range after 9 years of veganism, but because everyone seems to absorb B12 differently, the only accurate test is an MMA blood or urine test. If your levels are low, add B12-fortified foods into your diet along with a sublingual B12 (kids love them, they’re tiny and sweet). The methylcobalamin type is the most absorbable. Everyone can benefit by exploring the vegan pyramid because our research may shed light on nutrients everyone needs.

Fat: Fats and essential fatty acids are crucial, especially for children—but we want good fats that do not carry along the negative side effects that animal products do. Our brains live in 80% fatty tissue, so including raw organic fats in our repertoires is vital for all kinds of biological functions (some experts posit that our prehistoric advances in brain size may have been due to the fat content in the meat we hunted, not the protein). We also now know that vegans who eat nuts and seeds live longer than those who don’t. Choose excellent sources of raw, organic fats: olive oil and olives, seeds, nuts, nut and seed butters, algae oil (long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids), flax oil, hemp oil, walnut oil, coconut and coconut oil (healthy saturated fat), and avocados, for example. Note: new studies show that eating saturated fats together with Omega-3 fats doubles the absorbency of the Omegas, for example coconut oil and algae oil together.

Calcium: Animal products are a relatively poor source of calcium compared to leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, and bok choy. Meat and dairy have an acidic PH, causing calcium to be leeched out of our bones into our bloodstream in order to alkalize our system. Studies (i, ii, iii) are now showing that the countries with the highest intake of dairy products also have the highest rates of osteoporosis. Even more important than the amount of calcium in a food is the amount we absorb (we absorb 60% of calcium from broccoli—VERY high). Calcium from plants is more bioavailable to our bodies and comes without harmful side effects like IGF (insuline-like growth factors) that trigger growth of tumors, cancer, and cell mutations. We know for a fact that toxins bioaccumulate up the food chain, so if one is eating meat or dairy, even from organic cows, you are ingesting an exponentially higher amount of toxins including PCBs, dioxins, and even radioactive particles. There is nowhere in the world that is untouched by these toxins, they are being found in the fatty tissue of polar bears. Calcium absorbency also depends on magnesium (which meat and dairy have very little of compared to plants). Fifty to 75% of the general public is also magnesium deficient. The best sources for maintaining a healthy balance come from a plant-based diet (and lucky for us, raw chocolate is one of the highest sources of magnesium on Earth!). Remember that the cow gets her calcium from eating grass.

Vitamin D: Fifty to 90% of Americans are deficient in D—this isn’t just a vegan problem. A 2007 study showed that even 50% of  young, healthy Hawaiian-island surfers lacked sufficient D due to immediate showering post-session. Supplemental D3 comes from lanolin, aka “wool grease,” a waxy substance secreted by sheep’s glands, the collection of which is a gross and abusive industry. Supplemental D2 is plant-based based, but it is unclear whether it provides absorbable amounts to sufficiently increase D serum. Mushrooms are now known to produce D3 and there are comapanies at work to provide mushroom-based D3. Source of Life brand claims to have such a product, but I have not verified its ingredients. With exposure to sunlight, our skin produces D on its own in a matter of minutes or  hours (depending on location and skin color), but it takes several hours for our bodies to absorb those oils—so spend some time in the early or late sun and don’t wash off!

In the words of the great Chuck D of Public Enemy, don’t believe the hype. Reality checked.

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