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Posts Tagged ‘Vegan’

Daniel Foggo

Daniel Foggo

In 2008 a child in Lewisham was taken to hospital after collapsing at home where doctors alerted social workers to the case. They suggested that the child’s meat and dairy free diet caused him to have rickets, being low in various nutrients. Social workers then got a restriction order preventing the family ‘snatching’ the child from hospital suggesting that neglect leading to malnutrition had caused the illness.

The mother said

“They implied we had selectively starved one of our children. They twisted things, saying we were vegans even though we eat fish. We don’t eat dairy because asthma runs in the family and that can make it worse, but we are not vegans. We were told by social workers that they had obtained an emergency protection order in case we tried to snatch our son from the hospital, which was quite ridiculous.”

Social services continued to attempt to take the child into care but failed and eventually the child was removed from the at-risk register. While this case highlights various problems within the care protection and justice systems (legal aid was stopped because the case was considered unwinnable), it also questions the efficacy of raising children on ‘restrictive’ diets. Are the risks too great for children to thrive on a vegan diet?

Amanda Baker from the Vegan Society thinks not. She pointed out that health problems from bad diets can occur for children regardless of their diet ‘type‘. Besides, there are many health benefits associated with a vegan diet that children following regular diets lack.

When I first became vegan, many years ago I bought the excellent Vegan Nutrition by Gill Langley and later Plant Based Nutrition for Health from the Vegan Society. Either or both of these arm parents with sufficient information to very successfully bring up a vegan child. The Langley book has an entire section on child nutrition from a vegan perspective both before and after conception! There are also guides for parents wanting bring up kids on vegan diets available at the Vegetarian Resource Group and the Vegan Society.  

I read these books years ago and absorbed the general message rather than strict guidelines. Variety is key to healthy living. Get plenty of fruit and vegetables of various colours, mix your pulses, and go for whole foods rather than processed rubbish. EAT A WIDE RANGE OF HEALTHY FOODS, COOK FOR YOURSELF.

Of course we’re not all angels and we will take the easy options at times but as the Vegan Examiner points out vegans are more likely to cook food than take the TV dinner ready meal option. This diet provides children with a greater number of pro’s than cons in comparison to others with ‘regular’ diets. There’s no need to go into the health benefits of the vegan dietsuffice to say there are plenty of benefits not least reduced risk of obesity, a growing problem for children in Western societies.

The case referred to is a terrible injustice derived from prejudice or at the very least misinformation. This case is surely illegal under Harman’s Equality Law, the social workers in this case really need to learn from their mistakes so this nonsense doesn’t have to be repeated with another family wasting time and money while causing huge upset.

As a general point, I dislike the term ‘restrictive diet’. I have mentioned before that becoming vegan, rather than restricting what I ate opened up a whole new world of options. That really is the way to do it, in my opinion.

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The sun has been out and when that happens I always start thinking salad and for the first one of the summer I rustled up a special carrot salad, but without raisins. I just can’t bare them in salads.

I always used to go for the simple cucumber and tomato style salads of my youth but since becoming vegan I’ve been way more experimental.

One of my favourite responses to any variety of stock statement people give when they find out you’re vegan, is related to being experimental in a salad sense

“What do you eat?”

“Pips and leaves” is my tongue in cheek reply. Pips and leaves would be considered experimental up until quite recently.

“It opens up a whole new world of different foods to try, it’s easy” is my more serious response. And of course it does.

If I hadn’t become vegetarian, in the first instance, I’m not sure I would have even tried red peppers. Eventually, maybe, but this was the catalyst to trying a lot of vegetables and other veggie foods. Becoming vegan and living in Balsall Heath expanded this out look and my veggie world exploded!

But back to my salad. I just used things I had in

  • red onion
  • two carrots, grated
  • some white cabbage
  • plenty sesame seeds
  • sprouted organic mung beans
  • ground organic hazelnuts
  • garnish – olive oil, organic cider vinegar, dash of soy sauce, plenty lemon juice and salt
First Salad of the summer

First salad

It’s a bit like a posh coleslaw but I would’ve added more seeds (pips) and some spinach leaves if I had them. I didn’t so I just chopped all the veg up nice and small and combined the lot. It was lovely and along with the sunshine made me think summery thoughts…..

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Agave plant

A while back I wrote about agave syrup and it’s use as an alternative to processed sugar. After writing the post I came across a fair amount of opinion opposed to the use of commercially derived agave syrup. There is some debate as to whether the claims for it being a wonder food are just hype.

For example, the food renegade dislikes agave, and suggests it has an unhealthy nutritional profile. On the other hand, there are plenty others out there who disagree with the renegade’s argument.

I’ll try to present an abridged version of her rather rambling attack.  Firstly, she suggests that the method of producing commercial agave syrup, involves chemicals and is different to that used by Mexicans when they produce miel de agave. Fortunately, all the agave syrup I’ve seen in the UK (it maybe different in the US) is organically produced and so cannot involve chemicals in the production process. This is pointed out in the comments where the renegade waves this aside by saying that the process is not traditional and so should be avoided!

The post then goes on to consider the low-GI aspect of agave. This oxymoronic aspect is explained by agave syrup consisting of 95% fructose, much high than corn syrup (55%) which is used to sweeten ‘soda’ and other sweet foods, certainly in the US it seems. Fructose is stored as fat rather than being converted to glucose before being used by the body, similar to alcohol. Therefore it does not affect blood sugar at all.

Fructose is good when naturally occurring in fruit but bad, says the renegade, when it is produced through a refining process. A report in the Huffington Post says the following

Fructose — the sugar found naturally in fruit — is perfectly fine when you get it from whole foods like apples (about 7 percent fructose) — it comes with a host of vitamins, antioxidants and fiber. But when it’s commercially extracted from fruit, concentrated and made into a sweetener, it exacts a considerable metabolic price – Dr Jonny Bowden,  Huffington Post

Caloric intake

recommended Caloric intake

The renegade supports the ‘metabolic price’ view by quoting some research that shows that a high intake of both fructose and glucose increase fat, more visceral fat in the case of fructose, and detrimentally alters the metabolic profile of the fructose intakers. All very scary but I do have a problem with the study. Participants consumed 25% of their caloric intake from the fructose or glucose drink while on the nine week study. Apparently, that’s average in the US! Seems like a huge amount to me.

This is really where the argument against agave begins to falter. Why on earth would you consume that amount of the stuff! Studies like this are commonly used to ‘diss’ fructose, the Fructose information centre says that these studies

are based on poorly conceived experimentation of little relevance to the human diet, which tests unphysiologically high levels of fructose as the sole carbohydrate, often in animals that are poor models for human metabolism. The consequences of such exaggerated diets are predictably extreme

Even Dr. Bowden says that agave is okay now and again. I think the take home message is that any sweetener you use should be consumed sparingly. Omit sweetener from your tea/coffee and use it in recipes that are laden with ‘good stuff’ to lessen the amount you need and provide nutritional value.

Previously, I mentioned that I add it to porridge, along with other ‘good stuff’ but that’s only if it is required. For example, dates and dried fruit or banana’s are often sufficient to sweeten porridge without the need for agave. I personally think if you are looking to use agave you are sufficiently health minded to not consume anything close to 25% of your caloric intake from any kind of sugar at all.

Fructose Glucose Total Sugar Cals per 100g Glycemic Index
Table Sugar 50% 50% 97% 500 58-65
Honey 38 to 42% 35 to 40% 80 to 84% 304 46-83
Date Paste 32% 34% 70 to 80% 270 103
Corn Syrup 55 to 90% 45 to 10% 100% 370 62
Agave Syrup 47% 17% 64% 308 30

Furthermore, as agave is sweeter than glucose and sugar you need to consume relatively less than other sweeteners. One report shows that agave is actually lower than sugar and corn syrup in total sugar, calories and GI index (see table above)!

Overall I’d say that there’s no need to believe the hype, while there is also no need to overdo ANY sweetener.

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As a result of the Veg Wars I mentioned on here a while back, I ended up with more mangoes than I could handle. So I decided I’d try to make some sorbet, on the hoof. I didn’t research it at all I just went ahead with my recipe. I peeled and pureed four large mangoes added juice of a lime and plenty of ginger (another abundant Veg War buy). Then froze it. This worked quite well although it’s not sweet enough, a little agave syrup would probably help.

Today I made a lovely variation on standard fruit salad, which can be a bit ordinary. Out of a tin you always get that weird looking cherry thing that is far too artificial to be of use. An old friend of mine, many years ago, used to make amazing sandwiches, tons of different salad vegetables and condiments. He said if you wanted a decent butty you needed to put effort into the preparation. Wise words, I’ve applied this theory to the fruit salad.

I had one juicy pear left over that needed using and chopped it up nice and small with an organic pink lady apple. Then chopped up three kiwi fruit and mixed them together. As an afterthought I threw in some chopped organic dates, from Planet Organic, to add some sweetness to balance the tangy kiwi. I put the whole mixture in the fridge to chill for a few hours. Before serving I chopped up and stirred in a Pomegranate, Blueberry and Oat Fruitus bar and added the mango ‘sorbet’.

Frosty Easter Fruit Salad

As I mentioned above the sorbet needed some sweetening but overall the fruit salad was a series of delightful Easter flavour explosions. Yee-ha!

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When I was a kid Milky Way was the sweet you could eat between meals without ruining your appetite. Not an option now but what exactly can you eat to keep you going when you’re out and about? Well here’s a couple of healthy snack ideas you could try.

There’s two new, well at least new to me, fruity health bars that are really very good. Both are luxurious flavour sensations available in several styles.

The first of these is the ‘nakd’ range, which has three flavours – Berry Cheeky, Apple Pie and Cocao Loco. Made from fruit, oats and nuts these bars are stunning. The berry and apple flavours are fantastic, but the choccy one is amazing, it’s like eating a chocolate pudding from school, or something. The beauty is they are 100% raw, ‘smooshed’ not baked, wheat, dairy and GM free! You gotta love the ingredients of the Berry Cheeky bar

  • Raw dates
  • oats
  • raw raisins
  • raw peanuts
  • apple juice
  • raw raspberries
  • raw almonds
  • raw walnuts
  • raw strawberries
  • hint of natural flavour

great stuff. And apparently the obligatory best before is before your friends nick ’em, which you had better look out for.

They even have an ad for Animal Aid on the multi-pack box and on each bar wrapper, which shows their ethical side. I really like these, they really are a bit cakey, muffin-ish or a bit like flapjack.

Made by Natural Balance Foods, there are a number of other healthy snacks available, I’ll be trying more of these when I get the chance. They are not cheap in the Health Food shop, but you can order from there site at a significant reduction. Definitely recommended.

Fruitus bars, a healthy snack idea!

The second bar range is ‘fruitus’, from Lyme Regis Foods. As the name suggests these these are fruity, but also nice and chewy. The Summer Fruits one has a good old tang and really gets your mouth going. Lush. They also do Pomegranate, Blueberry and Oat bar, which is another tang-ilicious sensation but a little more cakey and delicious. A ‘vegan’ label would be useful but I’m probably being a bit fussy. Again, highly recommended.

Lyme Regis Foods are clearly a bigger operation than Natural Balance Foods and as such the website is not quite so jolly. If that kind of thing bothers you just go nakd.

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Animal Aid have a campaign called Meat Free Monday, easy for me and incidentally for nearly all of my family. However, I do have friends who eat meat who may be open to being nudged towards a meat free Monday.  The video is very good clearly getting the message over. I can see no reason why anybody would argue against the message, but then I do agree with it, so that part is once again very easy.

The original Press release for Meat Free Monday describes the short film and its message. Simply, as “world leaders….. failed to agree…. meaningful initiatives at the recent Copenhagen Climate Change Conference” the film is a call to action for individuals to make a difference to climate change by dropping meat one day a week and they do have a point. It’s all well and good recycling using energy efficient light bulbs but what about energy efficient eating! With minimal personal investment, beyond light bulbs and recycling, a real difference can be made.

There are some pdf packs with leaflets and booklets, or you can order some for distribution from the campaign page. The booklet has some basic recipes and information for the meat free beginner, which may come in handy, while the other bits and pieces can be put up in local shops and noticeboards.

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Harriet Harman Equality BillIn the recent post on the Vegan Manifesto I mentioned I hadn’t heard that vegans rights were going to be considered a matter of equality so I had a little look. It seems that Harriet Harman is a fan of equality, which is nice.

Of course I’ve heard of her but I didn’t realise quite how ‘important’ she is. From her site

In 2007 Harriet was elected as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. She has since been appointed by the Prime Minister to serve as Chair of the Labour Party, Leader of the House of Commons, Secretary of State for Equalities, Minister for Women and Lord Privy Seal.

So perhaps it’s not so surprising she is into equality.  The proposed Equality Bill singles out vegans as meriting protection from religious discrimination.

The draft code says

A person who is a vegan chooses not to use or consume animal products of any kind. That person eschews the exploitation of animals for food, clothing, accessories or any other purpose and does so out of an ethical commitment to animal welfare.

But the code adds that beliefs must “attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance”, clearly veganism complies to this caveat which would rule out protection from discrimination for the likes of Jedi-ism (Star Wars based religion).

It seems that the press is hinting that the ‘super-quango’ (the Equalities and Human Rights Commission) involved in preparing the Equality Bill are a bit ‘loony left’. But a spokesman from the commission explained:

This is about someone for whom being vegan or vegetarian is central to who they are. This is not something ‘thought up by the commission’.

‘Parliament makes the law, the courts interpret it and the commission offers factual and proportionate guidance to organisations where necessary. We are providing guidance on the implications of the equality bill.

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