The subtitle to a fantastic article by Michael Pollan pretty much sums up just about everything we believe when it comes to diet:
Watch here as one Wisconsin family in the heart of America's Dairyland bucks the system and eschews as many animal-based food products as they can. This site includes lists of our favorite nutrition-related books and articles, recipes, personal stories of diet and lifestyle changes, links to humane charities we support, our favorite magazines, links, newsletters, and more!
We switched to a vegetarian diet in August, 2006, and haven't look back since. For Scott, the enlightenment came while reading to Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation. The lengthy section on slaughterhouses was the turning point. Additionally, the free lunch at Scott's office helped him try new fruits and vegetables and made the transition easy. He still had dreams about eating meat for the first year or more! These pages are less now about the journey and more about the experience collected over the years as vegetarians. The guide to vegetarian restaurants in Milwaukee is the highlight of the area as it appears to get the most traffic and show up the highest in the search engine.
Scott lasted posted his bloodwork statistics back in August, 2007. It's been quite a while, so here's some recent measurements as well as what it was in 2004 before becoming a vegetarian:
|Statistic:||Sept. 2011:||Sept. 2004:||Optimal:|
|Cholesterol||143||186||Less than 200|
|HDL Cholesterol||45||42||Greater than 32|
|LDL Cholesterol||77||125||Less than 130|
|Chol./HDL Ratio||3.2||4.4||Ratio less than 4.5|
|Triglicerides||103||97||Less than 150|
|Glucose||98||97||Between 50 and 99|
Aside from the glucose, everything remains in a far improved state and in extremely positive territory. And, this was achieved without a single bit of medication!
Sometimes, when people find out that we eat a plant-based diet, then think about how hard it would be for them to give up meat. I tell people that they have to just do whatever suits them best. I suggest that instead of thinking about going vegetarian cold turkey (no pun intended), that they should consider a Meatless Monday. Mario Batali shocked carnivorous foodies by announcing in May, 2010, that he would be joining the campaign and going meat free on Mondays. By forgoing meat one day a week, our meat consumption is reduced by 15%. Cutting out meat one day a week is the equivalent to keeping your car off the road for 1,000 miles a year.
There's a pretty slick little interactive graphic at AnimalVisuals.org that lets you see the number of animals killed in the production of chicken, eggs, beef, pork, milk, vegetables, fruits, and grains. It even has buttons to let you see how the graph changes when considering slaughtering versus harvesting.
Hey, no more Big Macs for Bubba — who would have thought that Bill Clinton would have switched to a mostly vegan diet? Oh, and on the right side there is a bit of what I'd call vegetarian humor from www.TheFrogMan.Me.
I don't know if this counts as vegetarian humor, but this picture of a rather "beefy" guy from the Relentlessly Optimistic blog is still funny.
If that hasn't frightened you enough, one of my favorite nutrition docs, Dr. McDougall, posted this month about why cancer screening is not worthwhile. I don't know if I've totally bought into this yet but read the article entitled Early Detection Testing? and see what you think.
It's not as if we need validation of our vegetarian lifestyle after 5+ years at it, but reading an article titled 100 Percent of Fish in U.S. Streams Contaminated with Mercury defintely makes me wonder why anyone wants to take a chance on fish these days all for the sake of the very few nutrients it has that are available elsewhere without the fat, cholesterol, and uhh, well... mercury.
I'm not one for endorsing products, but we've found one that seems to be a decent one if you must eat processed food. Clif Bars are made with 70% organic ingredients and appear to be mostly dairy-free. These may even be good options for those wishing to avoid gluten, but don't hold me to that. One thing that impressed me was that their Clif Z Bars that they market to kids are not marketed to kids for the usual questionable reasons but based on the fact that they've actually limited some of the nutrition in them so as not to over-burden developing bodies with too much of a good thing. Their site has a document called Figuring Out Food Labels For Kids that shows how to read the food labels and convert the daily values to what they would be for kids. We don't think about it often, but you know, all those daily values on the food labels are strictly for adult-sized bodies.
I just got around to reading Time magazine's August 31, 2009 issue with the article America's Food Crisis and How to Fix It. It's not bad, although there's nothing that I hadn't heard in it before but a fact that stands out from the article is:
According to the USDA, Americans spend less than 10% of their incomes on food, down from 18% in 1966. Those savings begin with the remarkable success of one crop: corn.
Meanwhile, this month's issue of Consumer Reports had an article on page 19 entitled "How Safe is that Chicken?" that follows up on their January, 2007 investigation that made headlines. The results were still stunning: campylobacter was in 62% of the chickens they tested, salmonella was in 14%, and only 34% of birds were clear of both pathogens. If you want to cook chicken then it has to be at least 165°F and you must prevent raw chicken or its juices from touching any other food. At least with vegetables, some washing and scrubbing is all that is needed, but then again, they are not prepared in "fecal soup" (see Eating Animals, an incredible book we just read by Jonathan Safran Foer).
Anyway, they're worth reading while you're viewing wild photos related to good reasons why you shouldn't mess with nature.
There have been a lot of hot topics lately. Here's some good reading of what may be alternative views to some:
We're ending this posting with something found on the "Bitten" blog from the NY Times. Mark Bittman's October 19 posting shows the top 10 best-selling grocery items for the 52 weeks ending June 14,2009. Here they are, and prepare to be shocked (or not):
Here are a couple of recent articles worth checking out:
And, not that we necessarily agree with this image, I've included it here just to show that we always try to have a good sense of humor about things.
Earlier this week, President Obama gave a detailed speech to Congress outlining his ideal plan for health insurance. I feel the need to stress the word insurance when it keeps getting called a health care plan when really it is just another option for health insurance coverage. In any case, one of our favorite part-time columnists, Michael Pollan, wrote another fantastic piece for the New York Times entitled Big Food vs. Big Insurance.
Pollan knows his stuff, and some of the statistics he's gathered are mind-boggling. What I like so much about it is that it talks about the "elephant in the room" that no one really wants to address, and that is the SAD, or Standard American Diet. In the article, Pollan relays that people still have to take personal responsibility for their own health care. Pollan states:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three-quarters of health care spending now goes to treat "preventable chronic diseases." Not all of these diseases are linked to diet — there's smoking, for instance — but many, if not most, of them are.Wow...most of our health care spending is now on preventable disease?! It gets better, because in the next paragraph, Pollan writes:
We're spending $147 billion to treat obesity, $116 billion to treat diabetes, and hundreds of billions more to treat cardiovascular disease and the many types of cancer that have been linked to the so-called Western diet. One recent study estimated that 30 percent of the increase in health care spending over the past 20 years could be attributed to the soaring rate of obesity, a condition that now accounts for nearly a tenth of all spending on health care.
Pollan is in favor of the health care bill because pre-existing conditions go out the window, and competition comes in. Those factors will pique the interest of health insurers as "health insurance companies will promptly discover they have a powerful interest in reducing rates of obesity and chronic diseases linked to diet." The image I've referenced in this posting is from a bold new campaign in New York City to stir up interest in reducing soda consumption and possibly even a tax on soda. What do you think -- is this going too far in the interest of the nation's healthcare bills or is this in line with what we're already accustomed to considering that we pay specific taxes other vices such as cigarettes, alcohol, and even gasoline?
Whoa, Wisconsin, you're looking a bit...larger these days. The Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services has issued a new report on Wisconsin Obesity and Physical Activity Data. The results are in, and it turns out we're...well, let's just say that we're not thin. In fact, according to the DOH:
Why is this happening to us? Is it the government's fault for subsidizing corn for so many years and thereby creating cheap HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup) that has led to cheap but unhealthful calories? Are the supermarkets to blame for putting those cheap calories in the center, and at eye level when you have to circle the perimeter of the grocery store in order to view the healthful produce? Is it the societal pressure to buy a big house far away from the cities, coupled with the commonplace automobile which means we simply drive to our destinations now instead of walking or biking?
Is it the dangerous combination of salt, fat, and sugar, that is now present in the processed foods we eat, which are so tempting, especially given the fast pace of life today? Perhaps the restaurants are at fault, with their oversized portions and their weak children's menus that fail to offer any "adult" food such as vegetables and instead continue to treat our children as if their taste buds would only accept some type of chicken nugget, pizza, or burger?
I actually am curious. Write back with your thoughts and I'll gather them up for a future posting.
A recent Dilbert that was humorous:
Also from Scott Adams is a recent blog posting called The Common Crisis in which he skillfully relates the following crises all back to food: economic crisis, water shortages, global warming, health care, and energy.
There's a fantastic transcript of an interview with popular food author Michael Pollan over at AlterNet. He hits some of his usual points as he often does when pushing a book but I liked how he revealed some new things in this interview. Here are some highlights that I feel are pretty wild:
- "Don't Buy Any Food You've Ever Seen Advertised". This seems to be Pollan's new mantra (behind his earlier mantra of "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."). Ninety-four percent of ad budgets for food go to processed food. Think about it: you never seen an advertisement for carrots or broccoli.
- Don't eat any food that comes with a health claim. It sounds counterintuitive, but if you're worried about your health, that is not the healthy food. The healthy food is in the produce section. It's sitting there very quietly, without budgets to do this research, without budgets for marketing, without packages to print health claims on.
- The reason we have a School Lunch Program is to get rid of this incredible overproduction of American agriculture. We're using our children as a disposal for excess: cheap ground beef and cheese and all these corn products. Under the School Lunch Program we feed our kids chicken nuggets and tater tots in school. We're using the School Lunch Program to teach kids how to become fast-food consumers.
- The Centers for Disease Control estimates that of the $2 trillion we're spending on healthcare in this country, $1.5 trillion is for the treatment of preventable chronic disease. Now, that's not all food, because you have smoking in there, too, and alcoholism. But the bulk of it is food. Food is implicated in heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and about 40 percent of cancers.
He also commented on the concept of taxing soda, Obama's pick for Secretary of Agriculture, and how our love for cheap pork has led to raising pigs in such confined quarters that disease such as the current swine flu rapidly mutates into a virus we haven't seen before.
Ever wonder what a feedlot looks like? Click on the image to see a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation).
If I got the link correct, then the left-hand frame shows the overhead of a bunch of lots and the right-hand
frame shows the street view of one of the feedlots you can zoom in on. That's a lot of big animals in one confined space
(and notice how there's no grass for them to eat).
This one in Grand View, ID is supposedly the largest in the U.S. (world?) by heads of cattle. This is where your beef comes from. Zoom in and look at all those cattle.
The November version of Dr. McDougall's newsletter had a great imaginary conversation between President-Elect Obama and a hypothetical Surgeon General Dr. McDougall. I don't agree with all of Dr. McDougall's steps that he'd take as Surgeon General, but I think that most of them are great ideas:
A recent article in the New York Times on June 11 entitled Questions on U.S. Beef Remain prompted me to write up the following quick quiz. See how many you get correct.
Ready for the answers?