Tag Archives: vegan health

Starch Solution Is Our Past and Future

It’s no secret, the 65 year-old Dr. John McDougall said, that food is the reason he’s now a better windsurfer than he was 35 years ago, when he attended medical school and did his residency in Hawaii.

The purpose of McDougall’s lecture for the Vegetarian Society of Hawaii last week was to enlist vegans in a common goal: “to build a future we can all live with–and stop battling among ourselves”. This is the topic of his new book, The Starch Solution. Continue reading

Why Reading Food Labels Isn’t Enough

Friends and relatives often question “can you eat x or y” on your vegan diet? Many people can barely comprehend not eating meat and fish, let alone dairy products, eggs, and honey–of all things.

Fewer people understand what a vegan diet has to do with avoiding processed foods–such as white rice, white pasta, white bread, and sugar–or even vegetable oils.

These measures are the guidelines of a whole-foods plant-based vegan diet, such as that endorsed by Rip Esselstyn’s Engine 2 Diet, and displayed in Del Sroufe’s Forks Over Knives cookbook, containing healthy vegan recipes by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Julieanna Hever, and others.

Bottom line is, while many processed foods may be technically vegan or “accidentally vegan” as PETA refers to products with no animal-based ingredients, they are unlikely to be “accidentally healthy”.

And while you may relax your standards on a rare occasion–when dining out or visiting friends–you’ll surely feel better long-term by keeping tempting vegan junk foods out of your grocery cart, and out of your house.

When analyzing packaged foods, I often refer to nutritionist/dietitian Jeff Novick’s rules and guidelines for  telling the difference between a health food vs what’s really healthy for you:

Rule #1-Never believe anything on the front of the package…ever!

Rule #2-Always read the Nutrition Facts Label and the Ingredients List.

Novick gives guidelines for fat, sodium, white sugars and refined sugars, and refined carbohydrates–4 things commonly abused in the United States.


Daily fat requirement–in order to avoid essential fatty acid deficiency–is only 3 to 5%, while the typical American intake is 35%!

Calculate fat % by dividing calories from fat by the # of calories


Daily sodium requirement is 500mg/day; aim for no more than 1 calorie: 1mg of sodium


Novick says that–since the Nutrition Facts panel lists “total sugars” only–you cannot determine natural sugars (such as in fruit) versus added sugars. Therefore, refer to the ingredients listing in order to avoid all added sugars (at least, he says, sugars should not be among the first 3 to 5 ingredients)


The “Nutrition Facts” panel does not tell the reader anything interesting about carbohydrates, Novick says. Therefore, refer to the ingredients list, and SEEK OUT the desirable terms “whole” or “sprouted” and AVOID the words “wheat”,” white”, “durum”, “semolina”, “bleached”, “unbleached”, “artichoke” and “enriched flour”.


Aim for products that carry >3g of fiber per 100 calories

To apply Novick’s technique, let’s take a package of Nabisco Newtons Fruit Thins stashed in a typical SAD household. The box touts “8g of whole grain per serving”, “made with real fruit”, “blueberry brown sugar”, and “natural flavor”.

Sounds so wholesome, someone might even mistake them for a “health food”! OK, I admit it: I finished off the bag, without thinking…

Continue reading

Finding Vegan Inspiration for Radiant Health

The recently concluded Veganpalooza 2012 had me glued to my chair for hours at-a-time. Co-hosted by Dr. Will Tuttle, author of World Peace Diet, and Steve Prussack, host of Raw Vegan Radio, the tele-summit was the largest vegan educational event ever, with 12,000 listeners.

Distinguished speakers included well-known vegan authorities Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Neil Barnard, Rory Freedman, Cherie Soria, Kathy Freston, T. Colin Campbell, Rip Esselstyn, as well as others previously unfamiliar to me, such as Dr. Gabriel Cousens, Dr. Brian Clement, Dr. Milton Mills, Gabrielle Heaver, and Rich Roll, dubbed “One the 25 fittest men in the world” by Men’s Health Magazine in 2009.

Whether the information is familiar or you’re hearing it for the first time, Veganpalooza awakens you to just how much there is to learn about vegan living, from animal rights and diet to ecology and spiritual and physical vitality. The positive energy fed my feeling of optimism there is growing momentum for shifting to a plant-based diet.

As a long-term vegan, I didn’t need convincing that a plant-based diet is the healthiest for humans, for animals and the planet. Veganpalooza’s numerous medical experts reiterated that nobody needs animal foods to be healthy, and anyone and everyone can thrive on a vegan diet.

The most inspiring speaker for me–as a marathoner and would-be triathloner– was the 45 year-old Roll, with amazing athletic achievements since turning vegan following  a “health-scare” five and-a-half years ago, including completing the Epic5 Challenge consisting of five Ironman triathlons on 5 Hawaiian islands within 7 days. Continue reading

How to Stop Worrying about Cancer (and Other “Stuff”)

If you’re here, you’ve probably got some worries–about diet, at least. Perhaps you’ve also got bigger worries that have prevented you from thinking about what you eat.

Many people considering a whole foods plant based diet have done so out of concern for their own health or that of a loved one.

My own worries about getting cancer (statistics show almost 40-50% of Americans will) were greatly relieved by taking major action: quitting all animal products and adopting a whole foods plant based lifestyle.

While it may seem difficult to eat healthfully yourself, there is often more stress and worry involved if you’re taking care of others. Particularly when healthy food is automatically equated with bad taste.

Fact is, many people think their diet is already healthy enough and–though they may not admit it–accept the chances they may suffer from cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other preventable diseases rather than give up their favorite foods.

Recently, when worried by my decision to return to the U.S. after over 20 years in Japan, a friend suggested I read the Dale Carnegie classic, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” I had read the book twice 25 years ago–once as a student and again as a graduate assistant for Dale Carnegie Training–but you wouldn’t have known it.

There is a saying that “To know something and not to do it, is not to know.” Similarly, having read and forgotten something is the same as not having read it. Continue reading

Who Do You Trust for Nutrition Facts?

Everywhere and almost every day, we overhear misinformation and confusion about diet and nutrition…

  • The healthiness of various dietary fats and processed oils invites controversy
  • In Starbucks, a customer inquires about which breakfast is healthiest
  • Others worry whether: Japanese seaweed is safe from radiation pollution, microwaves ovens can damage our health, or flouridated water is beneficial for us?

If you shun pharmaceutical remedies and look to nutrition to prevent, treat and cure illnesses, you may often disagree with your doctor–and rightly so–when most are minimally schooled in nutrition and have little interest in preventative medicine.

While you can’t always rely on your doctor, the FDA, USDA, the ADA, the American Heart Association, the New York Times, you can count on Dr. Michael Greger to make sense of nutritional science.

I could listen to Dr. Greger’s entertaining nutritionfacts.org videos–he produces a new one every day–all day long. While other doctors treat illness with pharmaceutical medicine and surgery, Dr. Greger believes that nutrition is the cornerstone of proper health care.

Dr. Greger (Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the U.S. Humane Society), decided to pursue medicine after his grandmother reversed her “terminal” heart disease and lived 31 years longer than expected–till the age of 96–with a change in diet.

I was thrilled to meet Dr. Greger and have a chance to ask him my own nutrition questions, when he visited Honolulu in April to speak to the Vegetarian Society of Hawaii.

Considering attending a raw culinary school, I wanted to know whether enzymes in raw foods are really beneficial… Continue reading

Eat Healthy and Save Money on Vacation

If your normally healthy diet goes out the window when traveling, you’re not alone.

Regardless of the type of diet you follow, temptation begins the instant you leave home. While the airlines have practically eliminated free snacks and in-flight meals, the airport, timezone changes, the waiting, lack of routine and accountability–especially when traveling alone–can all wreck your discipline.

When I heard the upscale Embassy Suites Waikiki offered a nightly evening manager’s reception, I pictured eating green salads, antipastos, and raw vegetables I had often found in Hilton’s Asian properties.

It took me 2 days to realize the happy hour’s “rotating menu of snacks” alternated between a variety of salty junk foods (peanuts, pretzels, party mix and chips), which–try as I might–I couldn’t resist shoveling onto my plate. What’s worse, I still ate a normal dinner afterward, in order to feel satisfied.

I had to make sure this situation would not continue, or I would certainly be in store for big weight gain during my vacation.

How does a traveler stay healthy, when it seems so much is out of your hands??

  • First of all–it may sound obvious–but don’t select a vacation destination just because of its unbridled eating opportunities. Your subconscious mind is more powerful than you think.
  • If you have a choice of hotels, check around ahead of time and choose one that offers fresh foods containing plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Continue reading

Awaken Your Inner Vegan!

Part 2 of a guest post by Jim Dunlop, a loyal reader, frequent commentator, and self-declared “flexitarian”. I hope Jim’s story inspires you–wherever you are–to begin taking steps to improve your diet and health today.

Once I finally realized that meals didn’t need to be centered around meat, I started examining the health benefits of a vegetarian diet. William certainly expressed his firm convictions gained from Dr. Campbell’s “The China Study”, and the results are compelling. I also found the Meatless Monday website a very practical resource. It explains the movement’s historical significance–having been part of a massive WWI consumption reduction campaign by Herbert Hoover–and how mainstream medical professionals agree on the benefits of going meatless. The website stated “Going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic, preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel.”

“That’s awesome!” I said to myself. “If going meatless only one day a week can have those kinds of benefits, then how much MORE could I benefit my health if I went meatless TWO days a week… What about THREE? Four? Okay… Let’s not get TOO carried away here…” And yet, it was then I had a second epiphany — another “aha!” moment… If we eat three meals a day, many of us already eat one-third of our meals meatless.  I’ve never been one to eat much meat at breakfasts, and I know many devout carnivores who don’t, either… Cereal, oatmeal, toast, eggs, fruit, are all commonly eaten breakfast foods without an once of meat anywhere in sight! Well, if we are already eating ONE meal meatless, all we have to do is extend that same kind of thinking to two more meals, and the next thing you know, you have a meatless DAY. Repeat this the next day, and before you know it, you have a meatless WEEK. It’s all just one small step at a time.

Fast-forward to year-end holidays, Continue reading

Awakening The Vegan Within

When I encourage others to adopt a whole foods plant-based diet, my job is infinitely easier when they are receptive and eager to learn, with a high “teachability-index”, that combination of willingness to learn and willingness to accept change.

Although Jim Dunlop is still in progress toward a 1oo% plant-based diet, I’m happy to play some small part in his journey, and I’m honored to run Jim’s personal story here:

Waking up every morning shivering in my cold, uninsulated house, it’s almost comforting to think back and recollect the summer that just passed when it all began. The sweltering heat in Yamanashi, Japan felt especially brutal with everyone taking special measures to conserve energy after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that took out one of Japan’s nuclear power stations, thus causing shortages on much of the main island of Honshu.

I’ve never been anything but a carnivore. Really. Growing up with traditional Czech parents transplanted to southern Alberta, Canada (where beef producers are about as proud as Texans), I don’t think I ever had a single meal that didn’t somehow involve meat, or dairy for that matter. In fact, if you try Googling: “Czech +vegetarian” your computer will start audibly laughing at you.  So after I moved out on my own, went to college, got married, and eventually moved to Japan — another land of meat-a-plenty, I never even thought about it. I simply just kept cooking and eating what I’ve been used to my whole life.

Imagine my bewilderment then, waking up one day late July, having lost any and all desire to eat meat. It’s almost as if my body just told my brain, “Brain, you know what? We’ve had enough. How about something different for a change? We demand new dishes!” Continue reading

Craving a Wholesome Sweet? Try Halvah, the Ancient Candy

My mother used to buy halvah bars when I was young, believing it safe to keep the adult-tasting treats in the refrigerator–that was until I discovered just how delicious they were. After growing up and turning vegan, I rediscovered the wholesome snack.

Halvah of all varieties has been cherished all over the world for at least 3000 years, and is considered “food of the gods” by some accounts. The 2 main types are flour-based and nut-butter based. This sesame-based recipe is my favorite because it contains no animal products or sugar, instead using dates for sweetener. Note that many store bought halvah bars contain dairy products and eggs, so always check labels carefully.

I ground the sesame seeds into tahini without using any added oil, as per the original recipe. The food processor got very warm, and you may need to let it rest a while as you go. Unless you have a high-speed blender, you may prefer to purchase tahini instead of making it from scratch.

The recipe is quite flexible. You can adjust the number of dates you use depending on how sweet you like it (I used about 10 dates per 250g of sesame seeds), as well as stir in any kind of nuts and dried fruits you like. I added some tart dried cherries and vanilla syrup to a recent batch, and it came out tasting like a cherry pie!

While halvah is more nutritious than the typical candy bar, be aware it is far from low-calorie. According to the recipe’s author, it has 528 calories per 100g, and 70 percent of calories from fat. Portion control (and sharing) is advised, or you may devour the whole batch (1600 calories) before you know it.

Yet another reason to avoid added oils

Recently, in the course of looking for recipes using the natural sweetener and wonder food lucuma, I discovered one for butterscotch tahini bars containing tahini and coconut oil, a popular ingredient in raw vegan diets. Continue reading

Kyoto Yakiniku-ya Gives Birth to Vegan Cafe

The ultimate result of Tai-ichi Matsuda’s battle with his conscience is great news for Japanese diners, and animal lovers everywhere.

It all began when the owner a popular south Kyoto yakiniku-ya (Korean-style barbequed meat restaurant)* went searching online for a family pet, and landed on some animal rights web sites.

For the first time, Tai-ichi learned about the way breeders and pet shops abused animals, how meat production is cruel to animals and pollutes the environment, and that eating animal products was harmful for one’s health, too.

Like most people, he had always believed we needed meat to survive. But the more he learned, the more he questioned his values and came to understand a vegan lifestyle was the right path for him. Within a week, Tai-ichi proceeded to give up meat and fish, quickly followed by eggs and dairy products.

He had kept it a secret for a month, before his wife became suspect. “Why don’t you eat meat any more?” she asked. He feared telling her, especially since the yakiniku-ya had been their livelihood for 10 years. Thankfully, Atsuko (along with his 3 young children) agreed to share his vegan crusade, yet doubted the former meat-lover would stick with his decision for long.

But while Tai-ichi never questioned his own ability to stay vegan, deciding the fate of his yakiniku restaurant consumed him with worry and depression for months.

Continue reading