Profile: My Vegan Vouchers

Profile: My Vegan Vouchers

Making Veganism Mainstream – One Voucher at a Time

My name is Joanne, the founder and operator of My Vegan Vouchers.

I remember as a child, questioning what the meat was on my plate. I was a ‘good girl’ and ate was I was told to eat and put it out of my mind that it was once a beautiful animal.

When my children also questioned what was on their plate, I told them they ‘needed’ to eat meat for the nutritional benefits as society would have us believe.

As I aged and developed Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis, I was told by my GP that’s ‘it’s part of life’ but thankfully one of my daughters commenced studying Nutritional Medicine and with her inquisitive mind and compassionate soul, she insisted that I give up meat for my health.

Naturally, I felt so much better and with a little research and education about the meat and dairy industry, there was no looking back after deciding to eat a plant based diet. From there it was a no brainer to stop using ALL animal products including leather etc and living a vegan lifestyle.

As my eyes opened and my soul remembered it’s compassionate side, I became determined to share my passion and encourage others to see the truth rather than follow blindly because ‘that’s the way we were raised’ and ‘that’s how we have always eaten’.

One day, I was browsing through a voucher membership I had and was dismayed that there was no option to browse a vegan category. That’s when I dreamed of My Vegan Vouchers, with “Savings on All Things Vegan” and realised I could match vegan customers to vegan businesses, creating a win-win scenario.

I decided that wasn’t enough because we need to influence non-vegans to try our lifestyle and consider a healthier option and preferably appeal to their compassionate side to help them become aware of the truth about their meat and dairy.

My Vegan Vouchers is a win for everyone! The animals, Vegan business owners, Vegan consumers and our planet!

So, I currently live in Sydney but hey, I’m not stopping there. There’s a world of vegans and vegetarians ready to go one step further, so why not spread Veganism worldwide?

My aim is to make Veganism mainstream and an easy lifestyle to lead. Yes, LEAD! Let’s lead the way! It takes passion and determination to lead others and I’m leading! Making Veganism Mainstream, one voucher at a time.

my vegan vouchers logo

My Vegan Vouchers – an International Business Opportunity

No longer is a vegan business the only one of its kind. Competition is getting stronger and your business needs an edge that the others don’t have.

Let me introduce you to this exciting opportunity.

My Vegan Vouchers is a web-based, local and international voucher service which benefits both your business and your customers.

Your participation sends a message to local and international vegans that you value their business and are supportive of the vegan community.

At NO COST to you, My Vegan Vouchers will promote your business to vegans locally (and all over the world if it suits your business) and entice them to visit you rather than your competition. Veganism is a growing lifestyle and vegans love to support each other in any way we can.

To be included, your business provides an introductory incentive which is designed to motivate My Vegan Vouchers members to purchase from you.

Customers who have a positive experience with you, will result in positive word of mouth advertising within the vegan community and are likely to return as full paying customers.

According to Nielsen’s 2013 Trust In Advertising report, 84% of consumers trust family and friends when recommending products.

You design your offer, how many times it can be used, be it once or numerous times. The terms are yours. We do ask that your offer is different and slightly better than any you offer the general public or what you currently offer through any other voucher service.

Unlike other voucher groups, My Vegan Vouchers will not take any commission from you or charge you for your participation, we will be paid by the subscriber for our service and the subscriber will deal with you directly.

Business types associated with My Vegan Vouchers include: Food, Services, Trades, Fashion, Health and Beauty, Travel and Accommodation, Homewares and anything that fits the vegan lifestyle and is cruelty free.

Wholesalers are also included which means that your business could benefit from a wholesale discount with another business in My Vegan Vouchers.

We welcome non-vegan businesses offering vegan options, encouraging new business opportunities.

As a business owner associated with My Vegan Vouchers, you will also receive your own free subscription and will benefit from advertising via social media, vegan newsletters and associations, paid and unpaid advertising to promote your business.

Let everyone, including locals, online shoppers, wholesalers, and travellers, know where you are and how to find you.

It’s easy…Register now at My Vegan Vouchers.

Joanne Lauthier

vegan vouchers business card

 

 

Veg Network’s My Vegan Vouchers Offer

Veg Network is committed to promoting the vegan lifestyle and vegan enterprises, and is proud to promote and support My Vegan Vouchers.

If you register as a customer, you will receive free shipping on any size order you make from my shop. This offer is only available through My Vegan Vouchers, so register online today!

Tom Perry

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My European Vegan Vacation

My European Vegan Vacation

Vegan on Vacation: My Experience

A few years ago I had the good fortune to visit Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Italy. I had never been to these beautiful countries, where I did not expect to find the vegan foods I’m used to, such as soy milk and meat alternatives. Eating well as a plant-based vegan turned out to be not nearly as difficult as you might imagine.

at Yamm

Vegan Delights en route from Melbourne

Our journey from Melbourne to the small town of Novi Knezevac in Serbia lasted a total of 32 gruelling hours from doorstep to doorstep. We left cold, wet wintry Melbourne and arrived at hot, humid 40-degree (104 Fahrenheit) Serbia – more climactic contrast than culture shock!

We flew on Qatar airways, which included a 2- hour stop stopover at Doha airport in Qatar. The service on Qatar airways was excellent, and the meals were surprisingly edible. We had requested vegan meals (vegetarian, dairy & egg free) on all flights. Each meal featured a small hot dish in an oblong container roughly the size of a shallow margarine tub. During the fight I ate such fare as Thai red curry with rice, ratatouille-style veggies with rice, or steamed potatoes, silver beet and mushrooms. The extras typically included small square containers of salad and fruit salad, along with a small round bread roll with canola margarine, jam, and water or orange juice.

This may not sound like much, but was more than adequate when sitting for several hours on a cramped aircraft seat. I drank plenty of water as well, and kept my coffee consumption to a minimum.

Tom’s Travel Tips:

  • Order the vegetarian/vegan (egg/dairy-free) option when flying overseas: it’s light, relatively food-safe and, importantly, free of animal products.

When we arrived at my wife’s (ethnic Hungarian) family’s house in Serbia, we were treated to some real home-style Hungarian cooking.

 potato pasta

Healthy Hungarian Vegan Cooking

On our first night my wife’s auntie made us eggplant schnitzels, roast potatoes, crumbed cauliflower and garlicky cucumber salad with iced tea, mineral water and a tiny shot-glass of Palinka – clear but fiery Hungarian spirits (brewed from apricots) – all delicious.

The next morning, after a fitful jet-lagged sleep, I enjoyed a simple, hearty breakfast of thick, crusty bread, peanut butter, home-grown tomatoes – blood-red, dripping with juice and flavour – yellow peppers, and some tasty local vegetable-tofu pate-like spread. This was washed down with plenty of water and home-brewed black coffee (no sugar, of course).

Our first few days in Novi Knezevac, or ‘Torok Kanizsa‘, as the local Hungarians call it, were spent catching up on sleep and avoiding the oppressive heat. We had the fan on high rotation and drank many tall glasses of ‘vizi‘ – water – as well as mineral water and cold, sweet ice tea.

My wife’s side of the family are salt-of-the-Earth people; warm, welcoming and hospitable. They provided bucket loads of organic, home-grown or local market-bought fruit and veggies. These included tangy-sweet grapes off the vine; nectarines that explode with ripe, succulent flesh in your mouth; tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn, onions, and the biggest cantaloupe I have ever seen; more like a yellow pumpkin than a rock melon!

lecso

 

Vegetables In Season With Plant Protein

I continued to enjoy breakfasts and midday meals consisting of slabs of crusty white bread, tomatoes, capsicums/peppers, onion, soy spread/pate (made with olives, olive oil and sunflower seeds), and, my perennial favourite, peanut butter (the one ingredient brought from Melbourne). I didn’t have any margarine or other spreads – this food was too flavourful to need it!

For one of our dinners I started with a bowl of green bean and vegetable soup. This was followed by a plate of ‘Lecso‘, a savoury dish made from peppers, onion, tomato and garlic, served with piles of steaming ‘Nokedli‘, a home-made pasta-like food made from flour (pictured).

Ever resourceful – as all great chefs are – my mother-in-law whipped up some very ‘finom‘ (tasty) rissoles from nut-meat (canned peanut/wheat based meat-substitute we bought from Melbourne), breadcrumbs and garlic. These were gratefully consumed with mashed potatoes, broccoli, and tomato and onion salad. Of course the next day more of these rissoles were devoured in crusty bread with chunks of juicy tomato, washed down with mineral water.

Tom’s Travel Tips:

  • Drink plenty of water, making sure it’s clean – use bottled water if necessary.
  • Take some plant protein food with you as a precaution, such as beans, nuts, or peanut butter.

Keeping Fit and Healthy on a Vegan Vacation

Tom at TiszaWe did plenty of sleeping and resting while in Torok Kanizsa, but we also went on long walks around local historical sites, and along the nearby river Tisza (comparable to the Murray river in northern Victoria where I grew up – without the gum-trees and sulphur-crested cockatoos!). To keep up my fitness regime, I managed to get a couple of jogs in, along the banks of the Tisza. What is it they say about mad dogs and Englishmen out in the noon-day sun…or is it Australians?!

The food was so healthy and filling that I found I didn’t over-eat, and hardly had any junk food at all, such as cake, cookies, and chips (except for one night that some family members drove us to Sobodka, where we stopped off at the Golden Arches and I succumbed to some Macca’s fries, washed down with icy coke that tasted much too good than it should’ve!).

One night my wife’s auntie cooked up a pile of ‘nagyon finom’ (very tasty) ‘krumplis teszta’ (potato pasta – see above). I enjoyed 3 helpings of this with steamed broccoli, tomato & onion salad, and the obligatory bread with soy spread.

Another savoury dish my mother-in-law made featured mushrooms, peppers and onions cooked with paprika, and onion salad made with olive oil and a little sugar. Naturally this was accompanied by more hunks of crusty bread and soy spread!

Tom’s Travel Tips:

  • Eat lots of fruit and vegetables, especially locally grown or bought.
  • Keep exercising every day if possible, even just walking, or jogging, swimming or cycling if you’re fit enough and enjoy it.
  • If you stray a little from your healthy plant-based diet, don’t sweat it; you’re meant to relax and enjoy yourself while on holiday!

breakfast spread

Vegan Eating in Budapest

From Torok Kanizsa we drove to the 2000 year-old city of Pecs (pronounced ‘Petch’), and went further on to stay with my wife’s cousin in Vecses (pronounced ‘Vachesh’), just outside Budapest, Hungary’s biggest city and capital.

My wife’s cousin and her husband are very friendly and fabulous hosts. For breakfast one morning we enjoyed a real home-made treat: a dish of peppers, tomatoes, avocado, and black olives, cooked in Croatian olive oil (see pictured). This was served with crusty, locally-baked bread, Hungarian cheese, and a little salami (for the non-vegans!). Naturally, I enjoyed the vegetable dish with some bread, and organic green apples freshly picked off the tree in the lush backyard garden.

That day we visited Buda Var (old Buda), overlooking the beautiful blue Danube , and enjoyed dinner al fresco at a nearby restaurant. After checking the menu for vegan options, I ordered pancakes with vegetables. I ate this with brown bread and salad with tomato, cucumber, lettuce and pickled cabbage.

The next day in down-town Budapest, we had lunch at the ‘Fatal’ restaurant. Despite the name’s unfortunate English meaning, we lived to tell the tale (in Hungarian ‘fatal’ – pronounced ‘fo-tahl’ – is  a wooden dish).

I didn’t eat from a wooden dish, but a pan on a wooden tray. I enjoyed mushroom gulyas (goulash) with nokedli (freshly made pasta). My wife had crumbed mushrooms with vegetable rice.

soy milk

Vegetarian/Vegan Convenience Food in Hungary

If you like soy milk in your coffee or cappuccino, don’t expect it in most European cafes. At one cafe when I asked if they had soy milk I received a blank stare in return. I had to settle for an ‘Americano’ coffee, or what I would call a ‘long black’ (most black coffees are ‘expresso’, which is typically a double-shot of caffeine in a little cup).

At the local Aldi supermarket we discovered some frozen vegetarian/vegan food: soya sticks, veggie medallions, crumbed mushrooms and vegetarian nuggets. These are good for kids or quick, easy meals with salad or vegetables.

At Aldi we also bought some vegetable pate made from potato and onion. This tasted great on bread rolls with tomato and fresh basil.

From Vecses we took a ‘rail jet’ train (top speed 220 kmh) to Mosonmagyarovar, a picture-postcard town in northwest Hungary, near the borders of Slovakia and Austria. Our superb hosts there (close family friends) treated us to cream of broccoli soup with dried chickpeas, and lecso with zucchini, onion, tomato and paprika (all home-grown) with rice. We also consumed some soy sausages and later some ‘soy salami’ which our hosts had kindly purchased for us at a German supermarket in Slovakia.

Tom’s Travel Tips:

  • Look (or ask) around for plant-based food alternatives. You may find them in unlikely places, including local markets and supermarkets.
  • Whether eating out or in, choose available healthy plant-based foods and have less-unhealthy fats such as avocado or plant-based spreads or pates.

From Mosonmagyarovar we took another rail jet train across the Austrian/Hungarian border to Vienna. Vienna is a feast of magnificent palaces, museums, cathedrals, art and sculptures, and surprisingly veg-friendly.

Yamm food

 

Once we’d checked in to our hotel on the Ringstrasse in central Vienna, we walked a few blocks to discover a trendy all-vegetarian eatery, ‘Yamm’. Yamm is a buffet-style restaurant that offers an eclectic range of fresh, healthy vegetarian dishes (see plate of vegan goodies pictured). Rather than select your meal from a set menu, you load up a plate with whatever you choose from the buffet. You then take your plate to the counter where you are charged by the weight of your plate, rather than your specific food choices.

Each buffet dish has ingredients identified, including categories such as vegan or gluten-free. Like a veritable kid in the lolly shop, I eagerly stacked my plate with a cornucopia of plant-food delights, such as seitan steaks, falafels with 4 different flavours of hummus, couscous balls, burghul salad, beetroot salad, rosemary potatoes and more (see photo). If you’re looking for healthy vegan food, the variety and fresh, wholesome flavours of Yamm are highly recommended.

The service was good, the atmosphere relaxed and informal, and it only cost me and my wife about 32 euros in total to eat very well (not including drinks). I only hope that a ‘Yamm’ restaurant is available in Australia as well as Austria in the not-too-distant future!

Other types of vegetarian food in Austria included pasta and vegetable dishes. These are often accompanied by Viennese rolls, which are more like fine white cake than bread. White bread is not as healthy as wholemeal, but I found that Viennese rolls are too addictive to say no to. They were melt-in-your-mouth delicious on their own, and didn’t certainly didn’t need any margarine or butter.

gnocchi pesto

Vegan Eating in Venice and Rome

The following day we travelled by train for 11 hours to Venice, which afforded us breathtaking views of the magnificent Austrian Alps. Our stopover at Innsbruck was cold and rainy, a welcome change from the European summer. We bought a thick, crusty rye-bread salad roll with juice at Innsbruck train station as a quick healthy dinner on the move.

The Grand Canal and Piazza San Marco at Venice were spectacular, but I couldn’t say the same about the food. We had been warned that the pizza in Italy was fairly basic, with a hard base and not much topping compared to what we are used to in Australia. This advice proved correct. The vegetarian/vegan pasta selections were also limited, and varied in quality. A mushroom fettuccine that my wife ordered in a cafe in Vactican City was barely edible, yet on the plus side they did have a ‘Manhattan Vegetariano’ burger which was packed with lettuce and onion and pretty tasty.

When we reached Rome on the last leg of our travels together the quality of the meals we had seemed to improve. As we did in Vienna, we walked several blocks and visited many famous landmarks, such as the Trevi Fountain, where we literally tossed in our 2 cents worth (Euro cents, that is!).

For our last restaurant dinner in Rome my wife had pesto tagliatelle tossed in walnut meal and a little olive oil. I ordered a selection from the buffet of grilled eggplant, sun-dried tomato, chicory greens and assorted salad and antipasto (pictured), with a bowl of fruit salad for dessert. This was the culinary highlight of our stay in Italy, and a fine way to complete our whirlwind European tour.

Tom’s Travel Tips:

  • When eating out, look for menus that offer a vegetarian/vegan selection, or at least a selection of healthy vegetable and salad dishes.
  • Don’t just catch trains, buses and taxis – do plenty of walking around a given city, town or location. You are more likely to find hidden culinary treasures; you’ll get some valuable exercise and build up a healthy appetite.
  • Eat a full range of healthy plant-based vegan foods; enjoy the occasional indulgence, and happy travels!

Tom Perry

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7 Reasons Why Moderation Doesn’t Work

7 Reasons Why Moderation Doesn’t Work

Everything’s All Right In Moderation?

About 3 years ago I was advised to make significant changes to my diet by a nutritionist, due to my need to lose some weight and reduce my high cholesterol levels. I was advised to cut right down on fats, eat less highly-refined and processed foods, and eat a lot more whole plant foods. A family member responded to this advice with a familiar saying, “oh, but everything’s all right in moderation.” We’ve all heard this clichéd remark at some time, and it sounds quite reasonable, doesn’t it? Eat a little bit of this; drink a little glass of that. No harm done, eh? The problem is that this can be a huge barrier to positive change.

Thinking about this ‘everything in moderation’ idea made me realise why so many people fail to reach their goals. Goals for sustainable weight loss, eating more healthfully, cutting out harmful influences, getting fitter.

excellence mediocrity

7 Reasons Why Moderation Doesn’t Work

  1. Moderation breeds mediocrity, and mediocrity never brings outstanding results. When advice is given to promote real, lasting, positive change, how often have you heard someone say “take moderate action”? Doesn’t sound very inspiring, does it? To be, and keep motivated to progress, you shouldn’t accept mediocrity, or the Aussie attitude of “rough enough is good enough”. In most cases, it’s not.
  2. Moderation doesn’t help change habits. When someone tries to give up smoking, they are advised to quit, period; not to smoke “moderately”. When an alcoholic wants to get off the booze, moderation is not going to cut it. A heroin addict is never advised to “shoot up in moderation”. If you carry a lot of excess weight, a few less chips or donuts or melted cheese toasties, or whatever your personal vice is, is not going to create a slimmer, healthier, more energetic you.
  3. Moderation avoids taking big steps to create big change. Small steps can be fine at first to help lay the foundation for good habits, but in the long run big steps are better to create a momentum to effect change. Why? Big steps bring you closer to the desired change, quicker. Big steps make a powerful statement, and psychologically prepare you to break ingrained habits. If you want big results, you need to take bold, decisive action.
  4. Moderation is avoiding risk – when in reality it’s the risk of living and being much healthier. Now, by taking bold action I don’t mean that you take potentially harmful risks, or that you don’t follow sound medical advice. It doesn’t mean that you won’t sometimes falter, and find it difficult to stay on track to your goals. But it does create a mind-set to break unhealthy habits and replace them with healthier ones.
  5. The truth is, the ‘moderation’ excuse is really about resisting change and holding on to the status quo. Dietary habits are rooted in family and cultural norms, and the thought of changing them may be to threatening some; even offensive. Change can be uncomfortable at first, but if it means ditching negative practices and embracing health and vitality, the rewards can be life-transforming.
  6. Moderation can mean poor diet and lifestyle choices. Significant change in dietary terms means not just cutting down, but cutting out foods that are detrimental to your health and weight loss goals, and especially foods that you simply don’t need. Foods such as animal fats, animal products, butter, margarine and oils, and highly processed foods high in fat, sugar, and chemicals, such as commercially produced bread, buns, processed meats, dairy products, and others. Focus instead on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and legumes. You’ll experience a big change for the better, both in your weight loss and enhanced metabolism.
  7. The ‘moderation’ mind-set can be harmful, even deadly. When someone has serious health issues, like my recent (very) high cholesterol and blood pressure, a little moderation in lifestyle change is simply an admission of failure, which could potentially have a fatal outcome.

In a video by Dr Michael Greger from Nutrition Facts, “Everything in moderation. Even heart disease?” Dr Greger is critical of the mainstream health advice of keeping cholesterol levels below 200 mg/dl. He believes that medical authorities are withholding the full truth about heart disease to avoid recommending lifestyle changes that some might see as too drastic (or not ‘moderate’ enough!).

According to decades of data from the Framingham Heart Study, 35% of heart attacks occur in people who have cholesterol levels between 150 mg/dl and 200 mg/dl. And so a target level of only around 200 mg/dl ensures that millions of US citizens will die of coronary disease.

As Dr Greger puts it, “If the coronary artery disease epidemic is seen as a raging fire, and cholesterol and fats are the fuels, the American Heart Association has merely recommended cutting the flow of fuel. The only tenable solution is to cut off the fuel supply altogether – by reducing cholesterol levels to those proven to prevent coronary disease.”

The ‘moderation’ advice is misguided at best; and at worst, downright dangerous. It allows people to justify and keep following bad habits, while the reality is many people do not consume unhealthy foods ‘in moderation’.

Obesity continues to increase, and is now considered the most serious health issue facing the developed world. Obesity and being overweight pose a major risk for chronic diseases including Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke and certain forms of cancer. My country, Australia, is today ranked as one of the fattest nations in the developed world. The prevalence of obesity in Australia has more than doubled in the past 20 years; becoming the single biggest threat to public health. An article in Web MD referred to the US obesity epidemic as “astronomical”.

Clearly, the ‘everything in moderation’ advice isn’t working for our obesity epidemic.

What’s the alternative?

How to Switch from Moderation to Motivation

What do you do, then, if you want to give up or reduce your consumption of meat, dairy, eggs, sweets or junk food? Or perhaps you want to start working out regularly, drop a dress size (or two!), or just start eating healthier? What mindset and motivational words help you the most?

Author and motivational expert James Clear talks about attempting one key change at a time, creating small habits that lead to larger ones, and focusing on the behaviour, not the outcome.

In another one of his articles, James writes that the very words we use when we set out on a quest to eat healthier or exercise more make a difference. Maybe a big difference! As James says, saying ‘no’ to unnecessary commitments and daily distractions can help you to focus and recover, while saying ‘no’ to temptation can help you stay on track and achieve your health goals.

In one study, a group of students were split into two. One group was told that when faced with temptation, they would say “I can’t do X”, while the other group was told they would say “I don’t do X”. When offered the choice between a chocolate bar or a granola health bar, 61% of the “I can’t do X” students chose the chocolate bar, while only 36% of the “I don’t do X” went for the chocolate.

The same researchers formed a group of 30 women for another study, that were split into 3 groups of 10, and told to think of a long–term health and wellness goal that was important to them. If they felt tempted to lapse on their goals, the first group was told: “just say no”; the second group was told “I can’t…miss my workout today” (for example), and the third group was told to implement the ‘don’t’ strategy, such as “I don’t miss workouts”.

After 10 days of implementing these strategies to meet their health goals, the women reported their findings:

  • Group 1 (the “just say no” group) had 3 out of 10 members who persisted with their goals for the entire 10 days.
  • Group 2 (the “can’t” group) had 1 out of 10 members who persisted with her goal for the entire 10 days.
  • Group 3 (the “don’t” group) had an incredible 8 out of 10 members who persisted with their goals for the entire 10 days.

gym room

Why “I Don’t” Works Better Than “I Can’t”

As James explains, “every time you tell yourself “I can’t”, you’re creating a feedback loop that is a reminder of your limitations. This terminology indicates that you’re forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do.”

However, adds James, “when you tell yourself “I don’t”, you’re creating a feedback loop that reminds you of your control and power over the situation. It’s a phrase that can propel you towards breaking your bad habits and following your good ones.”

According to Heidi Grant Halvorson, the director of the Motivation Science Center at Columbia University, “I don’t” is experienced as a choice, so it feels empowering. It’s an affirmation of your determination and willpower. “I can’t” isn’t a choice. It’s a restriction, it’s being imposed upon you. So thinking “I can’t” undermines your sense of power and personal agency”.

So next time you’re offered food you know you shouldn’t eat, or you think of avoiding exercise, don’t think “a little bit in moderation is okay”. Just try saying: “I don’t eat that” or “I don’t skip workouts”, and let me know how it works for you!

Tom Perry

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Organic – Is It Really Worth It?

Organic – Is It Really Worth It?

What Actually IS Organic?

We’ve all heard the term ‘organic’, and seen its label on produce and food products.

The short definition of organic reads: “(of food or farming methods) produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial chemicals.”

According to the Victorian (Australian) government’s Better Health Channel:

  • Organic farming is the production of food without the use of synthetic chemicals or genetically modified components.
  • Organic foods are not necessarily completely chemical free, but the pesticide residues will be considerably lower than those found in produce manufactured with synthetic chemicals.
  • Organic farming is better for the environment and more sustainable

Are Organic Foods Chemical-free?

Short answer: no.

The Better Health Channel tells us that Organic food “may be grown on land not previously used for organic food production and, therefore, might contain chemical residues. However, the pesticide residues in organic food are considerably lower than those found in foods produced with synthetic chemicals.”

Organic Food Certification

Organic farms can only be certified after they have been following organic farming principles for 3 years. The word ‘organic’ is not regulated in Australia. Australian domestic organic standards are not mandated, and certification is voluntary so it’s important to buy food from certified growers.

Don’t be fooled by the words ‘organic’, ‘natural’ or ‘chemical-free’ if the proper certification labelling from one of the seven Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) accredited certifying organisations is not displayed.

Why is Organic More Expensive?

Organic food is usually more expensive than conventionally-produced food. This is because:

  • Organic farming usually operates on a smaller scale
  • Supply and demand for organic food is relatively lower than that of conventional food – as demand for organic food increases, the costs of production, processing, distribution and marketing will decrease
  • Production of organic food is more labour intensive
  • Organic farmers keep their crops natural and use compost and animal manure, which is more expensive to ship
  • Without herbicides, pesticides and other chemicals, organic crop yields are typically smaller.
  • Acquiring organic certification can be expensive and organic farmers must pay an annual inspection/certification fee
  • Organic crops take longer to grow as they don’t employ the use of growth hormones and their crops are not genetically modified.

US Organic Certification

According to the US organic.org website, “Before a product can be labelled “organic,” a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.”

The USDA has identified for three categories of labelling organic products:

  1. 100% Organic: Made with 100% organic ingredients
  2. Organic: Made with at least 95% organic ingredients
  3. Made With Organic Ingredients: Made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients with strict restrictions on the remaining 30% including no GMOs (genetically modified organisms)

Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may list organically produced ingredients on the side panel of the package, but may not make any organic claims on the front of the package.

Is Organic Really Worth The Cost?

Most vegans and vegetarians are typically big supporters of organic farming. Intuitively, this seems like the right thing to promote. The question arises then, should we be focusing not only on encouraging people to eat more vegetables, fruit, and healthy, natural plant foods, but also on buying (often more expensive) organic produce as well?

Dr Michael Greger of Nutrition Facts addressed this question in a series of videos.

Are Organic Foods more Nutritious?

Hundreds of studies comparing organic to conventional produce didn’t find significant differences for most of the traditional nutrients like vitamins and minerals. The conclusion was there is no strong evidence to support the perception that organically produced foods are more nutritious. The studies, did, however, find higher levels of phenolic phytonutrients, which are cancer-protective anti-oxidants. It could be argued, though, that simply by purchasing an extra serve of conventional produce (usually cheaper than organic); the same levels of phenolic phytonutrients could be obtained for around the same cost.

Are Organic Foods Safer?

As Dr Greger puts it, “…organic foods may not have more nutrients per dollar, [but] consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria”.

Studies have shown that although the risk of consuming food poisoning bacteria was the same with organic or conventional meat, exposure to multi-drug resistant bacteria, resistant to multiple classes of antibiotics was lower with the organic meat.

What Of Pesticide Residue On Plant Foods?

According to Dr Greger, “There is a large body of evidence on the relation between exposure to pesticides and elevated rate of chronic diseases such as different types of cancers, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and ALS, as well as birth defects and reproductive disorders, but they’re talking about people who live or work around pesticides.”

Measuring the levels of pesticide residue running through the bodies of both children and adults after alternating between a predominantly organic and conventional diet, found that “eating organic provides a dramatic and immediate protective effect against exposures to pesticides commonly used in agricultural production”.

These dietary studies showed that during the week with mostly organic consumption, pesticide exposure was significantly reduced – by a nearly 90% drop in exposure.

Dr Greger concluded, “Consumption of organic foods provides protection against pesticides”.

However, does protection against pesticides mean protection against disease? Currently, we don’t have the studies to prove this either way. In the meantime, consumption of organic food is a logical precaution.

vegetables

Are Organic Foods Healthier?

As Dr Greger observes in this video report, “by eating organic we can reduce our exposure to pesticides, but it remains unclear whether such a reduction in exposure is clinically relevant”.

In some studies, organic consumers report being significantly healthier than conventional consumers. However, they also tend to eat more plant foods, less soda and less alcohol, processed meat or milk, and just eat healthier in general. No wonder they feel much better!

Dr Greger notes that the “Million Women Study in the UK was the first to examine the association between the consumption of organic food and subsequent risk of cancer. The only significant risk reduction they found, though, was for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma”.

Certainly, studies have shown that higher levels of pesticides have been linked to higher incidence of conditions including ADHD, testicular cancer and birth defects. It is unclear, though, whether the increased pesticide levels were due to other factors such as higher consumption of animal products and environmental exposure by farm workers.

To date, there haven’t been, according Dr Greger, any ‘interventional trials’, comparing people raised on organic diets compared to those raised on conventional diets – except for, as Dr Greger drolly observes, studies done on fruit flies!

woman with veggies

Organic Food Benefits – Overrated or Underrated?

For 25 years pesticides have been classed as probable carcinogens, potentially damaging our DNA, genes or chromosomes. Most of the damage, however, seems to be done to the farm workers in close contact with these chemicals. Exposure to pesticide residue on produce is at levels well below acceptable limits.

There is still scientific controversy about the safety of pesticide levels, even under the safe limit. Cadmium levels, about half that in organic produce, is another highly toxic heavy metal that accumulates in the body and may be linked to phosphate fertilisers used in conventional crops.

On the flip side, the ‘organic’ food market has grown substantially over the years, and isn’t always a guarantee of health. People may falsely judge organic Oreo cookies, for example, as having less calories than regular Oreos, and believe there is less need for exercise when consuming these ‘organic’ junk foods.

People tend to overestimate the nutritional benefits of organic food, and overestimate the risk of pesticides. In the US they erroneously believe that as many people die from pesticides residues on conventional foods as die from motor vehicle accidents. Some buyers of organic food might think that eating conventional produce is almost as bad as smoking a pack of cigarettes! The danger of this type of thinking is that it could lead to an overall decrease in fruit and vegetable consumption.

According to a study cited by Dr Greger, if half the US population increased their fruit and vegetable consumption by just one serving a day, an estimated 20,000 cancer cases might be avoided each year. Even if you allow for an additional 10 cases of cancer caused by the pesticide residue ingested due to the extra fruit and vegetable consumption; that represents potentially 19,990 fewer cases of cancer each year!

I’ll leave the last word on this subject to Dr Greger:

“We get a tremendous benefit from eating conventional fruits and vegetables that far outweighs whatever tiny bump in risk from the pesticides, but hey, why accept any risk at all when you can choose organic? I agree, but we should never let concern about pesticides stop us from stuffing our face with as many fruits and vegetables as possible”.

What do you think? Do you make a point of always buying organic, or is it is something you occasionally do, depending on price and convenience? Let me know in the comments below.

Tom Perry

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Vegan Or Paleo – Which Should You Choose?

Vegan Or Paleo – Which Should You Choose?

What Has Paleo In Common With Veganism?

Veganism is not simply a healthier way of life, it’s an ethical philosophy that rejects the exploitation and death of animals to provide food, clothing and other products, which can be readily obtained from other sources.

Veganism is not interested in what humans might have eaten tens, or even hundreds of thousands of years ago.

Vegans are against modern agricultural methods that enslave literally billions of animals in cages, stalls, and dim, stinking sheds – conditions which would be considered outrageous by most people if dogs or cats were raised and killed in the same way (although in some countries, sadly they are).

 

Paleo Has The Following In Common With Veganism:

  • Consumption of fruits and vegetables are encouraged under the Paleo regime.
  • Healthy fats from nuts, seeds and avocados are supported by Paleo (along with fish and ‘grass-fed’ meat)
  • Avoidance of dairy products
  • Like whole-food veganism, Paleo advocates for natural, fresh, unprocessed foods, (and where animals are consumed, they are meant to be ‘wild’ or ‘free-range’)

A few people, notably Dr Mark Hyman, have even taken the Paleo principles and merged them with Veganism, creating a hybrid Paleo-Vegan or ‘Pegan’ diet!

Interestingly, apart from rejecting grains and grain products, Paleo is anti-coffee, anti-alcohol and anti-processed meats like sausage or bacon. So no more beer and pizza nights boys…and people call vegans party-poopers! They don’t even allow peanut butter and jam on wholewheat toast chased down with a black espresso – one of my favourite breakfasts!

Like veganism, Paleo is pretty strict in its own way, even (unlike veganism) cutting out whole food groups like grains and legumes.

The term ‘vegan’ was coined when Donald Watson and five others formed the British Vegan Society in 1944. So how did Paleo get started?

Where did Paleo come from?

Conan the VegetarianI loved watching ‘The Flintstones’ when I was a kid (showing my age, I know!). This cartoon, set in the stone-age, was a pioneer sitcom reflecting 1960’s suburban life in America, and poked fun at the vain, lazy, and self-absorbed Fred Flintstone; long before Homer Simpson existed.

But did I believe that ancient humans actually lived like that?

Of course not!

It’s a natural human tendency to idealise or romanticise the past, especially when it’s so far back in the mists of time.

The ‘Paleo’ diet is a really a food fantasy cleverly marketed as dietary ‘cure-all’ harking back to a mythical stone-age past. It’s been around for quite a while, too, in some form or another.

In his 1975 book ‘The Stone Age Diet: Based on in-depth Studies of Human Ecology and the Diet of Man’ Walter L. Voegtlin argued that that the ancestral human Paleolithic diet was that of a carnivore — chiefly (animal) fats and protein, with only small amounts of carbohydrates.

In 1988 S. Boyd Eaton, Marjorie Shostak and Melvin Konner published a book: The Paleolithic Prescription. From the end of the 1990s, some medical doctors and nutritionists promoted a return to a so-called Paleolithic (pre-agricultural) diet.

In 2002, Dr Lauren Cordain, who holds a doctorate in physical education, published his bestselling book “The Paleo Diet” that summarised research on the subject and provided practical advice on “the diet you were designed to eat”.

So, was Fred Flintstone and his buddies really hairy-chested hunters of woolly mammoths? While it’s true that Fred worked at the Slate Rock & Gravel Company in the town of Bedrock, the short answer is ‘no’.

Problems with Paleo

The Paleolithic period is the earliest period of human development, and lasted from 2.6 million years ago to about 12,000 years ago, across many continents, and during a wide range of climatic conditions (including a few ice ages). Apart from the huge variations in time, location and climate, there are several other anomalies with Paleo that were detailed in a Scientific American article:

  1. Put simply, true Paleo foods are not around anymore, and certainly not in your local supermarket. Almost every species commonly consumed today—whether a fruit, vegetable or animal—is vastly different from its Paleolithic predecessor. Animals and plants used for consumption have been genetically bred and modified to increase production and favour preferred features (such as bananas without seeds) to such an extent that it is now impossible to eat like a human from the Paleolithic period – short of taking a historical ride in a time machine!
  2. Contrary to Paleo proponents’ claims, Paleolithic humans did eat grains and legumes, and may have even cooked them. Recent research out of Italy shows that humans were eating grains well before modern agriculture. Marta Mariotti Lippi and her colleagues at the University of Florence found traces of oats on an ancient grinding tool in Southern Italy dating 32,000 years ago, about 20,000 years before farming was developed. Lippi says this isn’t the only instance of evidence pointing to ancient people eating starch. “In Central Italy they ate starch from cattail,” Lippi said. “In the Middle East, starch from wild wheat. In Russia and Moravia, they were eating starch, but we do not know which plants they processed.” And don’t forget, legumes and whole grains are excellent sources of fibre, protein, and other phyto-nutrients that form part of a healthy diet.
  3. Humans have evolved since 12,000 years ago, in contrast to Paleo lore, which teaches that our eating preferences are stuck in the stone-age. Genetic mutations, such as a tolerance for dairy in some populations, blue eyes, some people evolving extra copies of the amylase enzyme so they can more easily digest starches, have all occurred with the last 5,000 to 10,000 years. It is clear our bodies are easily capable of evolving fast enough in 12,000 years to accommodate new foods.
  4. Paleo diets can induce weight loss, but in an unhealthy way. Too much animal fat and animal protein can lead to a host of health problems. According to vegan dietitian Amanda Benham;

“Any diet [such as Paleo] that requires animals to be slaughtered, exploited or kept in captivity has something seriously wrong with it from an ethical viewpoint. Also I don’t recommend them on health grounds. They encourage unhealthy eating patterns such as high consumption of animal products (such as meat and eggs), which are loaded with saturated fats and cholesterol and devoid of fibre and other beneficial plant components. In the long run they unsustainable and any weight lost is readily regained.

“Another problem with diets high in animal products is that they have a much larger environmental footprint than plant-based diets. Producing food from animals requires a much greater use of resources such as land, water and fossil fuels than producing food from plants. It is also a waste of food itself to get our calories and protein from animal products, as many more times the amount of protein and calories from plants must be fed to animals than is actually produced. Also, raising cattle and other ruminants for meat and/or milk production is a major contributor to global warming via methane gas production.”

Our true Paleo history

In a Scientific American article Rob Dunn, science writer and biologist in the Department of Biology at North Carolina State University, argues that when taken too literally such diets are ridiculous.

One problem is deciding which group of ancestors to take our dietary advice from. Are the stone-age diet gurus Neanderthals, Homo Erectus or the Flintstone Family (Brontosaurus ribs anyone)?

If we look at our closest ape relatives, chimpanzees, the answer to our dietary past is clear – it was mostly vegetarian. Chimpanzees do sometimes kill and devour a smaller animal like a monkey. However the proportion of the diet of the average chimpanzee composed of meat is small, less than 3% by mass. As Rob Dunn notes:

“The majority of the food consumed by primates today–and every indication is for the last thirty million years–is vegetable, not animal. Plants are what our apey and even earlier ancestors ate; they were our paleo diet for most of the last thirty million years during which our bodies, and our guts in particular, were evolving.”

So, to return a healthy, halcyon ancient diet regime Rob Dunn has more advice:

“If you want to return to your ancestral diet, … you might reasonably eat what our ancestors spent the most time eating during the largest periods of the evolution of our guts, fruits, nuts, and vegetables—especially fungus-covered tropical leaves.”

Hmmm – perhaps we’ll leave the fungus-covered leaves out of our green salad for now…

Rather than dwell too much on what our ancient ancestors ate, the key question is, what is the healthiest option right now, today? Whether you eat meat or meat alternatives, it is clear from mainstream nutrition advice that most of our diet should consist of fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and complex carbohydrates (including whole grains).

Tom Perry

References:
PCRM Power Plate
Dr Fuhrman’s Food Pyramid

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