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 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.


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

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

PCRM Power Plate
Dr Fuhrman’s Food Pyramid

The Special Carb Guaranteed to Improve Your Health and Weight Loss

The Special Carb Guaranteed to Improve Your Health and Weight Loss

We’re often told these days that carbs are bad for us. That carbs – or carbohydrate foods – will make us fat, and that we should limit their consumption. We’re also told that it’s protein foods that fill us up – not carbs. Well, I’m here to tell you this is completely wrong.

What if I told you that there was a special carb only found in plant foods that is guaranteed to:

  • Help you feel full for hours
  • Aid in digestion
  • Reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and high cholesterol
  • Help flush fat out of your system
  • Add texture to food
  • Keep you regular
  • Has no bad side effects
  • And, (maybe best of all) contains ZERO calories?

Would you want to get some of this? What would you be willing to pay for this magical food ingredient, which sounds almost too good to be true?

green okraAs it turns out, not only does this fantastic food component exist abundantly in nature, it costs you virtually NOTHING! So what is this magic ingredient, the big F-Bomb for health and weight loss? The answer is simple: fibre (or, if you’re in the US, fiber).

According to research published in The Journal of Nutrition the ‘secret’, proven way to prevent weight gain or even encourage weight loss without dieting is, of course, to consume more fibre.

As reported in a recent ‘Eating Well’ article, researchers at Brigham Young University in Utah followed the eating habits of 252 middle-aged women for nearly two years and found that those who increased their fibre intake generally lost weight. Women who decreased the fibre in their diets gained weight. The research scientists found that increasing fibre by 8 grams for every 1,000 calories consumed resulted in losing about 4½ pounds (2kg) over the course of the study.

While it helps you feel full, “fibre has no calories,” says Larry Tucker, Ph.D., lead researcher and professor in the Department of Exercise Sciences at Brigham Young.

How Much Fibre Should You Eat?

The USDA recommends 14 grams of fibre for every 1,000 calories consumed by healthy adults. So a person eating 2,000 calories a day should aim to get at least 28 grams (or more) of fibre daily.

Most Australians do not consume enough fibre. On average, most Australians consume 20–25g of fibre daily, whereas the Australian Heart Foundation recommends that adults should aim to consume approximately 25–30g daily.

Dr Neal Barnard of the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) advises that “Fiber plays a key role for digestion, weight loss, and cancer prevention, and can even increase lifespan!…I recommend a dietary intake of 40 grams of fiber per day—while most Americans are only getting 10-15 grams.”

You could easily meet or exceed the recommended amount of daily fibre by eating the following healthy plant foods over the course of a day:

  • ½ cup oatmeal (3 grams fibre)
  • 1 small banana (3 grams)
  • ½ cup cooked red or black beans (7 grams)
  • 1 small apple (5 grams)
  • ½ cup lentils (8 grams)
  • and ½ cup blueberries (3 grams)

Dangers Of A Low-Fibre Diet

The current fad for high-protein high-fat diets promotes reduced consumption of healthy plant foods such as beans, whole grains and fruit. Reducing the amount of fibre-rich, whole plant foods in your diet is dangerous to your health. Disorders that can arise from a low-fibre diet include:

  • Constipation
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Diverticulitis
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Heart disease
  • Bowel cancer

Note that animal products have no fibre at all, so the more meat, dairy and eggs you consume, the less room in your diet for this important food component.

What Is Dietary Fibre?

Dietary fibre is a type of complex carbohydrate made up of the indigestible parts or compounds of plants, which pass relatively unchanged through our stomach and intestines. Other terms for dietary fibre include ‘bulk’ and ‘roughage’, which can be misleading since some forms of fibre are water-soluble and aren’t bulky or rough at all.

Unlike other food components such as fats, proteins or carbohydrates that your body breaks down and absorbs, your body doesn’t digest fibre. Rather, fibre passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine, and colon, and out of your body.

Types Of Fibre

According to Nutrition Australia, there are three different types of fibre, which have different functions and health benefits:

  • Soluble fibre – includes pectins, gums and mucilage, which are found mainly in plant cells. This type of fibre dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. One of its major roles is to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Good sources of soluble fibre include fruits, vegetables, oat bran, barley, seed husks, flaxseed, psyllium, dried beans, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, lentils, peas, and soy products.
  • Insoluble fibre – includes cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin, which make up the structural parts of plant cell walls. A major role of insoluble fibre is to add bulk to faeces and to prevent constipation and associated problems such as haemorrhoids. This type of fibre promotes the movement of waste material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk, which helps with constipation. Good sources include wheat bran, corn bran, rice bran, the skins of fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, dried beans and whole-grain breads and cereals.
  • Resistant Starch – passes through the small intestine and proceeds to the large intestine where it can assist in the production of good bacteria and improves bowel health. Resistant starch is found in under-cooked pasta, under ripe bananas, oats, cooked and cooled potato and rice.

Health Benefits Of Fibre

ALL types of fibre are beneficial to the body and most plant foods contain a mixture of different types. However, the amount of each type varies in different plant foods. To receive the greatest health benefit, eat a wide variety of high-fibre (whole plant-based) foods.

Individuals with high intakes of dietary fibre appear to be at significantly lower risk for developing:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • and certain gastrointestinal diseases.

Increasing fibre intake lowers blood pressure and serum cholesterol levels. Increased intake of soluble fibre improves glycaemia and insulin sensitivity in non-diabetic and diabetic individuals.

Why Fibre Is Important For Healthy Weight Loss

  • High-fibre foods require more chewing time, which gives your body time to register when you’re no longer hungry, so you’re less likely to overeat.
  • A high-fibre diet tends to make meals feel larger and linger longer, so you stay full for a greater amount of time.
  • High-fibre diets also tend to be less “energy dense,” which means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food.

Your Best Food Choices For Fibre

Your best choices for fibre are healthy whole plant foods. These include:

  • Whole-grain foods, including wholegrain breads and cereals
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Beans, peas and other legumes
  • Nuts and seeds

Remember, fibre is only found in abundance in relatively unprocessed, whole plant foods. Refined or processed foods such as canned fruits and vegetables, pulp-free juices, white breads and pastas, and non-whole-grain cereals are lower in fibre. The grain-refining process removes the outer coat (bran) from the grain, which lowers its fibre content, as does removing the skin from fruits and vegetables. As Dr Greger advises, it’s much healthier to get your fibre from whole plant foods, rather than from supplements.

6 Ways To Fit Fibre Into Your Food

  1. Bulk-up at breakfast. For breakfast choose a high-fibre breakfast cereal such as rolled oats or a whole-grain cereal. Or try baked beans on whole wheat toast
  2. Have the whole grain. Choose breads that list whole wheat, whole-wheat flour or another whole grain as the first ingredient on the label. Have brown rice, wild rice, barley, whole-wheat pasta and bulgur, instead of white rice and pasta.
  3. Vegify your meals. Add fresh or frozen vegetables to soups and sauces. For example, mix chopped frozen broccoli into prepared spaghetti sauce or toss fresh baby carrots into stews.
  4. Love your legumes. Lentils, beans, and peas excellent sources of fibre. Use lentils and beans in curries, stews, salads, Mexican dishes and soups.
  5. Go fruity. Apples, bananas, oranges, pears and berries are all good sources of fibre.
  6. Plant-power snacks. Instead of cookies, cake or chocolate, snack on fresh fruits, raw vegetables, low-fat popcorn and whole-grain crackers. An occasional handful of nuts or dried fruits also is a healthy, high-fibre snack, although be aware that nuts and dried fruits are high in calories.

High-fibre foods are not only important to assist and sustain weight loss, but they’re good for your health. Be careful adding too much fibre to your meals at once, however, as this can lead to intestinal gas, abdominal bloating and cramping. Gradually increase your dietary fibre over a period of a few weeks. This allows the natural bacteria in your digestive system to adjust to the change.

Finally, drink plenty of water. Fibre works best when it absorbs water, making your stool soft and bulky.

Enjoy loads of fibre-rich plant-foods. You won’t go hungry, you’ll feel great, and you won’t stack on excess weight either!

Further Information sources:

Tom Perry

The Surprising Health Benefits of Beans You Need to Know

The Surprising Health Benefits of Beans You Need to Know

Beans Means Health

red lentilsBeans, pulses and legumes have had a really bad rap over the years. The popular opinion of these foods has traditionally ranged from ‘fart-food’ to bland, unappetising stodge favoured by the ‘alternative lifestyle’ brigade, or as cheap, last resort food of the destitute. This is a great shame, because beans are actually packed with texture and flavour, and they are powerhouses of nutrition. Everyone should, as far as possible, eat beans every day.

Does anyone remember the infamous scene in Mel Brook’s Western-spoof ‘Blazing Saddles’, where the cowboys sit around the camp fire, taking turns passing gas after scoffing pans of beans? Or the anarchic 1980’s English black-comedy series ‘The Young Ones’, where the dour hippy character Neil regularly exhorts his house-mates (without success) to eat his revolting-looking lentil stew?

So what’s the big deal about beans, you might wonder?

Beans, pulses, or legumes are an excellent source of:

  • Soluble fibre
  • Antioxidants
  • Protein
  • Complex carbohydrates
  • Vitamins and minerals such as: copper, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium and zinc.

Beans are low in fat with a low glycaemic index. They also help you to lose weight, lower cholesterol and triglycerides. Beans are cheap, filling, tasty, and incredibly versatile. If any food deserves the over-used title of ‘super-food’, it would have to be beans!

Black Beans Vs Beef (per 100 grams) – source: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

  • Black Beans: 130 calories  | Beef: 270 calories
  • Black Beans: Total fat: 0 grams | Beef: 18 grams
  • Black Beans: Saturated fat: 0 grams | Beef: 7 grams
  • Black Beans: Cholesterol: 0 grams | Beef: 80 grams
  • Black Beans: Fibre: 8 grams | Beef: 0 grams
  • Black Beans: Iron: 2.9 micrograms | Beef: 2.3 micrograms

The Year of the Pulse

International Year of PulsesIt wasn’t well publicised, but the United Nations declared 2016 as the International Year of Pulses. All around the world people were encouraged to take the ‘Pulse Pledge’, organise ‘Pulse Feasts’ and share their commitment to consuming pulses on social media and YouTube.

As it says on the Pulse Australia website, pulses (including beans) are excellent sources of carbohydrate and protein. For example, chickpeas contain up to 24% protein, and are richer in phosphorus and calcium than other pulses.

Faba (Fava) beans and broad beans are also good sources of carbohydrate and protein, low in fats, and having a crude protein content ranging from 24 to 31%.

Let Them Eat Lentils

let them eat lentils

Far from being ‘new-age’ fare for hippies, lentils are an ancient human food, appearing around 9,500 to 13,000 years ago. You might have seen green or red lentils, but did you know there are about 14 different types?

Lentils have the second-highest ratio of protein to calorie of any legume. They are rich sources of nutrients including folate, thiamine, phosphorus, iron, zinc and fibre.

Lentils are widely used throughout South Asia, the Mediterranean regions and West Asia. Lentils feature in the national dishes of many countries, including Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, India and Pakistan. In Italy and Hungary, eating lentils on New Year’s Eve traditionally symbolizes the hope for a prosperous new year, most likely because of their round, coin-like form.

According Dr Michael Greger, of Nutrition Facts, and author of ‘How Not To Die’, “Legumes may be the most important predictor of survival in older people from around the globe”.

In an article by Dr Greger he reports that “researchers from different institutions looked at five different cohorts in Japan, Sweden, Greece, and Australia. Of all the food factors they looked at, only one was associated with a longer lifespan across the board: legume intake. Whether it was the Japanese eating their soy, the Swedes eating their brown beans and peas, or those in the Mediterranean eating lentils, chickpeas, and white beans, legume intake was associated with an increased lifespan.”

As for the common concern about beans and legumes increasing farts, Dr Greger says people’s concerns about excessive flatulence from eating beans may be exaggerated. He refers to a recent study, (profiled in his video Increased Lifespan from Beans) which involved adding a half-cup of beans every day to people’s diets for months.  While the vast majority of people in the study experienced no symptoms at all, only a few did report increased flatulence. Even among the small percentage that were affected, 70% or more of the participants felt that flatulence dissipated by the second or third week of bean consumption. So the message is keep eating beans, and your body will gradually get used to it.

Health Benefits of Eating Beans and Legumes

  • Beans can prevent heart disease
  • Beans can fight cancer
  • Beans can lower cholesterol
  • Beans can help you lose weight
  • Beans can reduce risk of diabetes
  • Beans can prevent constipation
  • Beans are a great source of protein, complex carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins and minerals

Medical doctor and nutrition expert Dr Joel Fuhrman calls beans “the ideal carbohydrate”. Dr Fuhrman advises that beans protect against colon cancer and diabetes, stabilize blood sugar and help you feel full – assisting with weight loss:

“Since beans are high-nutrient, high-fibre, and low-calorie, you can eat them in large quantities without the danger of weight gain. The high fibre and resistant starch content of beans also makes them very satiating, allowing you to feel full longer and stave off food cravings; these properties make beans an effective weight loss tool. Those who regularly eat beans have greater intakes of minerals and fibre, have lower blood pressure, and are less likely to be overweight than those that don’t consume beans.” – Dr Joel Furhman

Soy Beans – Protein Powerhouse

super soySoy beans are native to China, where they have been cultivated for over 13,000 years. The ancient Chinese regarded soy beans as a necessity for life. Soy beans are now the most widely grown and utilised legume worldwide, mainly as a result of being used (in GMO form) for feeding animals bred for human consumption (a shocking waste of land, water, food and resources).

soy beansIt’s important to remember that, despite the controversy about eating soy, soy beans are an extremely nutritious member of the legume family.

Soy beans have the distinction of having the highest percentage of protein of any bean, and they have all necessary amino acids for humans. In other words, soy beans contain ‘complete protein’, that is as usable as protein found in meat and eggs.

According to the Victorian Government’s (Australia) ‘Better Health Channel’ soy beans are a good source of antioxidants, including phytoestrogens such as isoflavones. There is evidence to suggest that that a soy-rich diet helps reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, because the phytoestrogens act like a mild form of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Reductions in the rate of hot flushes associated with soy consumption vary from 1.9 % to 45 %.

A meta-analysis of 41 clinical trials found that 20 g to 61 g of soy protein (found in two to three serves of soy products) can significantly reduce total blood cholesterol levels, LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and triglycerides.

Other possible health benefits of whole soy foods include:

  • lowered blood pressure
  • improvements to blood vessels, such as greater elasticity of artery walls
  • reduced risk of osteoporosis
  • protection against various cancers, including those of the breast, colon, prostate and skin
  • management of endometriosis
  • anti-inflammatory effects.

As Dr Neal Barnard of PCRM advises, consumption of simple soy products, such as tofu, tempeh, edamame, or miso, are probably better choices than highly refined soy foods.

Different bean varieties (click on the hyperlinks for more information):

Eat Beans – Not Beings!

eat beans not beings

Eat at least half a cup to a whole cup of beans every day – you can add a beans to your salads; or eat baked beans (navy beans) on wholemeal toast; make bean burgers, a bean loaf, or mix beans into your soup, stew or casserole. You can also consume beans as bean salsa, or bean dip.

Enjoy your fill of healthy, life-sustaining beans, and bean appetite!

Tom Perry


Why Low-Carb Diets Can Do You Harm

Why Low-Carb Diets Can Do You Harm

The Great ‘Low-Carb’ Con

What if I offered you a piece of buttered white bread with a serving of french fries? Or, alternatively, a salad made with spinach, tomatoes, carrots, and kidney beans? Which one do you think would be healthier for you? The answer seems obvious, yet all these foods are carbohydrates or ‘carbs’.

As dietitian and plant-based nutrition expert Jeff Novick, says:

“I can’t think of anything that creates more confusion and is more misunderstood than carbohydrates.”

sardinesLow-carb fad diets such as Atkins and Paleo have gained a lot of attention (and sales) from the general public, hungry for solutions to our ever-growing obesity problem. The basic premise is the same – cut right down on carbohydrate foods such as bread, potatoes, beans, pasta, even fruit, and focus mainly on animal protein and fat, with some vegetables thrown in.

The idea with these diets seems to be that if you fill up on protein-rich foods such as eggs and meat, you won’t crave the foods such as bread, pastries and sweets that supposedly make you fat.

Certainly there are reports of some people losing weight on these diets, and then extolling their virtues. On the flip side, anything to do with grains, legumes and even soybean products have been demonized as causing weight gain, high cholesterol, and intolerance’s (particularly gluten). This anti-grain anti-legume stance appears to me to be a vague attempt to revert back to a mystical, mythical past where he-men with spears and six-packs hunted down mastodons with Amazonian women applauding from the sidelines. The problem is, it’s all a giant con.

The fact that the vast majority of animals bred and killed for food are genetically mutated, artificially inseminated, and in many cases housed in filthy, cruel and unnatural factory farms (a relatively recent development), doesn’t seem to concern people who are happy to reject established grain crops that have been cultivated and consumed for many thousands of years (long before anyone had heard of an ‘obesity epidemic’).

Why You Should Ditch Low-Carb/High Animal Fat and Protein Diets

1. Eating too much meat and animal fat is bad for humans, period. Excessive meat and egg consumption has been linked to a host of health problems, including some cancersheart diseasehigh cholesterol, and stroke.

  • Although most of us are omnivores, our teeth and digestive system are much closer to those of herbivorous animals. Too much meat in our system, along with not enough fibre, clogs up and causes a toxic reaction, which simply does not happen with true carnivores like cats or dogs, with their much shorter digestive tract and strong stomach acid. Saturated fats and cholesterol from animal products further clog our arteries and lead to atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke.
  • A study reported by ABC News in March 2014 showed that consumption of animal-based protein is linked to an increased risk of early death for people in their 50s and early 60s. The study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, found that more than 6,000 American adults between the ages of 50 and 65 with diets high in animal protein were 74 percent more likely to meet an untimely end than those who consumed less animal protein or got their protein from non-animal sources. For deaths due to cancer, the risk was four times higher. Eating plant-based proteins like nuts and beans seemed to reverse the unhealthy trend.

According to Dr Joel Fuhrman, “Animal protein also elevates IGF-1, which is not only associated with cancer, but cardiovascular disease as well. High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets have now been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death.”

Plant-food nutrition expert and guru Dr T. Colin Campbell, in his book ’The Low Carb Fraud‘, outlines some of the unsavoury side-effects of a low-carb diet: more headaches, bad breath, constipation, and muscle cramps. Even more alarming was a report on the low-carb diet and health, referred to by Dr Campbell in his book, which was a summary of 17 studies published in January 2013 involving 272,216 subjects. According to this report a low-carb diet showed a statistically significant increase in total deaths.

2. Avoiding fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes means you are less able to avoid disease and premature death.

A study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress and reported by the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicinedaily intake of fruit may decrease the risk of heart disease by as much as 40 percent. To quote from the PCRM News site, researchers followed 451,681 participants for seven years and found that in addition to reducing the risk of heart disease, daily fruit consumption reduced the risk of dying from heart disease and stroke by 27 percent and 40 percent, respectively, compared with less than daily fruit consumption.

  • Another study published online in the European Journal of Nutrition found that reducing dietary fat while increasing carbohydrate intake is best for people with type 2 diabetes. Researchers followed the diets of 1,785 type 2 diabetes patients as part of the TOSCA.IT Study, and found that an increase from less than 45 percent to 60 percent or more in complex carbohydrate intake lowered all levels of triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and HbA1c. They also found that increasing fibre and lowering added sugar intakes also had positive effects on cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
  • A meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Cardiology and reported by PCRM found that adding whole grains to your diet may protect against our biggest killer, heart disease. Researchers summarized results from 18 studies that included 400,492 total participants, of which 14,427 had diagnosed coronary heart disease. The studies showed that people who ate the most whole grains experienced a lower risk for heart disease when compared to those who consumed the least.

3. High carb whole plant food diets are best for weight loss.

A diet high in unrefined carbohydrates is best for weight lossVegetables, whole fruits, beans, and whole grains provide a huge variety of tastes, textures, and natural fibre packed with life-sustaining nutrients. Studies show that reducing fat and eating whole plant foods is better for boosting your metabolism and losing weight than cutting carbs.

  • Good carbohydrates include nutrient-rich, naturally low-calorie vegetables and fruit, which, due to their high fibre, high-water content, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phyto-chemicals, should form the bulk of your caloric intake.

Good Carbs vs Bad Carbs

burgerBy way of definition, ‘bad carbs’ are made from highly processed ingredients, such as refined white flour and sugar. Think donuts, muffins, cookies and cakes. They are made from flour with much of the fibre and goodness stripped out, and often mixed with loads of animal fats in the form of butter, milk and eggs. It’s unlikely that anyone would promote these types of foods as appropriate for healthy weight loss, let alone a healthy diet.

‘Good carbs’, on the other hand, refer to relatively unrefined or whole foods, foods such vegetables, beans, chickpeas, fresh fruit, quinoa, buckwheat, barley, and oats. This list would also include wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta and brown rice. For good carbs think of foods close to, or within their natural state, and naturally high in fibre, and low in fat and sugar.

The truth is that rather than avoid carbs, we should base our diet on whole-food carbohydrates. These provide a host of health benefits, as well as being a major source of energy. Based on my research, medical advice and experience, I advocate a whole-food plant-based diet, following classic 80-20 principles. By that I mean, basing your diet roughly on 70-80% good, high-fibre carbohydrates, including fresh vegetables and fruit, beans, legumes, whole grains, and 20% fats and plant protein.


Dr Campbell summarizes the benefits of the WFPB – Whole Foods Plant Based – diet, which provides “an exceptionally rich bonanza of anti-oxidants, complex carbohydrates, and optimum intakes of fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals; many of which contribute to disease prevention.”

Carbohydrates, available almost exclusively from plants, provide the body with the most efficient form of energy, and is the only source of fuel for the brain. Whole-food carbs include the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet: vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains, seeds and nuts. Foods that all of us should base our diet on.

Tom Perry

The Secret Of Eating Well To Lose Weight

The Secret Of Eating Well To Lose Weight

Lose Weight Without Starving & Supercharge Your Health

Can you really eat plenty of food, lose weight without counting calories, and achieve optimum health? The answer is an emphatic YES!

Let’s be clear: I don’t believe in ‘diets’. I don’t subscribe to diet pills, supplements, and ‘meal replacement’ shakes either. These are short-term solutions to a bigger health issue, and essentially designed to sell you products – for a profit.

I do believe in a holistic, healthy plant-based lifestyle, which includes supercharging your health with a kaleidoscope of unrefined plant foods; not starving yourself or counting calories, and maintaining a healthy weight.

This means you don’t have to waste your money on expensive diet products, diet food or programs, or sign up to an expensive gym membership you may hardly ever use. Instead, I recommend eating lots of healthy, low-energy dense food, drinking plenty of water, and exercising for about half an hour every day – which might be as simple as a gentle walk.

Follow the examples in these four articles and you too can experience the miracle of whole-food plant-based eating. People of all ages can benefit, and it’s never too late to start.

Join in a local plant-based diet group (or start your own), or go online to connect with like-minded people, or find a supportive health coach or dietitian to help you make the change.

Read about Karen Coker, who founded Plant IQ: Maine Advocates for Plant-Based Living.

Or Wendy Williams, who recently turned 52 and looks better than ever after losing 50-pounds on her vegan diet.

Or vegans and vegetarians in a recent study who tended to lose weight twice as fast as meat eaters.

Or Shania Twain, who looks fabulous at 51.

Once you make a commitment to eating healthy and giving up foods that age your body and promote disease, you’ll feel – and look – so good, you’ll never look back!

New Group In Cape Elizabeth, Maine Creates a Plant-Strong Community

vegetable dish

A former journalist, Karen Coker, and Health Coach Kirsten Scarcelli have formed Plant IQ: Maine Advocates for Plant-Based Living.

“The scientific evidence is that a whole-food, plant-based diet can not only prevent some of the major killer diseases we suffer from, it can also reverse them,” Coker said. “That’s particularly true of heart disease and Type II diabetes.”

“On this type of diet, people can experience a difference in as little as 10 days,” Scarcelli added.

Click here to find more about the inspiration for Plant IQ, and how they help their members to make the switch to healthy plant-based eating.

Wendy Williams Weight Loss on a Vegan Diet

Wendy Williams

Wendy Williams is an American media personality, actress, comedian, author, and a daytime talk show host. She hosts the nationally syndicated television talk show, The Wendy Williams Show.

“I don’t belive in fad diets and crash diets. I don’t believe in diet pills, I don’t want my heart to race out of my chest.” – Wendy Williams

So exactly how did former confessed-food-addict Wendy lose 50 pounds and come to feel ‘fantastic’? Click to read about Wendy’s amazing personal transformation.

Veggies Lose Weight at Double the Rate of Meat Eaters

healthy weight loss

A new study shows that what you leave off your plate can be as important as what you eat. People who avoid meat tend to lose twice as much weight as their carnivorous counterparts.

“The reason why vegetarians tend to be better dieters is the switch away from meat also leads to people embracing a healthier lifestyle.”

Click here and find out why veggies are so far ahead in the weight loss stakes than meat eaters by reading more in this article..

Fit and Fabulous at Fifty-One

Shania Twain

Country superstar Shania Twain defies her age by looking toned and beautiful into her fifties.

“Shania, who became vegetarian in 1993, has praised the anti-aging health and weight loss benefits of her plant-based diet, saying it gives her more energy and stamina.”

Read this article to learn more about Shania’s diet, fitness and beauty secrets.

Did you enjoy these articles? If you want more juicy news items like these delivered straight to you inbox, sign up for my newsletter today and you’ll receive your FREE copy of my e-book ‘The Ultimate Plant-Based Resource Guide’.

Tom Perry

10 Big Fat Lies About Fat

10 Big Fat Lies About Fat

Drowning in junk foodIs Animal Fat your Friend?

Have you read that eating lots of fat – especially animal fat – is good for you? That it’s only sugar or refined carbohydrates that put on weight and fat is your friend? Some bloggers and ‘gurus’ consider the term ‘low-fat’ as an anathema; totally wrong. It’s low-fat, high-sugar foods, they say, that really make us fat and sick. Some online marketers not only claim that fat doesn’t make us fat, but neither does overeating! I think it’s high time these and other big fat lies were called out…

10 Big Lies About Fat

1.      Bad, refined carbs are full of sugar, not fat! Truth: foods such as cakes, doughnuts, cookies, etc. are typically not only full of refined flour and sugar, but fat – and often animal fat as well, such as butter, eggs, and dairy. No one is saying that highly refined, high-fat high-sugar foods such as these are good for you, or that they have any place in a healthy diet. But don’t focus solely on the sugar without acknowledging the fat content.

2.      Fat Fills You Up! Truth: if the ‘fat fills you up’ concept were true, then most people would only want half a Big Mac, or a small fries instead of a large serve. In fact, the opposite is true. Fatty, salty (and sweet) foods are addictive, and people who like them tend to eat way too many calories at a sitting. Have you ever seen a ‘low-fat’ burger or pizza joint? Or a bunch of skinny people loading up on McDonalds, Pizza Hut or KFC? Fats are calorie dense but without fibre, which does help fill you up without adding extra unwanted calories.

3.      People are eating less fat and more carbs, but still getting fat! Truth: In Australia, for example, Bureau of Statistics data shows Australians are eating less fruit and vegetables than ever before, with teenagers the most likely group of people ditching fruit ‘n’ veg for fast (fatty) food. Also in Australia, people are eating 30 percent less grains than they did 3 or 4 years ago, despite increasing obesity rates. Rather than eat less fat, people are eating more fatty fast food than ever before.

According to the Australian Cancer Council, “Fast food consumption in Australia has increased dramatically in recent years, with the average household spending 28% of its food budget on fast food and eating out.

The Dietitians Association of Australia notes that fast or take away food is high in saturated fat, salt and energy (calories), and low in fibre, vitamins and minerals. They advise that “frequent consumption of foods that are high in energy, salt and saturated fat can put you at higher risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure”

Australians are consuming between 36-41% of their energy from discretionary foods that are high in saturated fat, sugar, sodium and low in fibre, vitamins and minerals. This is NOT a low-fat diet. This is a recipe for a dietary disaster!

4.      You need cholesterol and saturated animal fat in your diet! Truth: You don’t need saturated fat, cholesterol or trans-fat in your diet – period! Contrary to what some bloggers, marketers and self-styled ‘gurus’ might tell you, there is no dietary requirement for these weight-gaining, heart-clogging fats – not even the vegetable oils which, although a healthier option, do have some saturated fat in their composition. The most common sources of these nasty fats are animal products and commercially baked goods. Avoid these fats, as I do, and you’ll be much better off.

5.      Eating more fat actually helps you lose fat! Truth: There are far more calories, or energy in fats, as there are in carbohydrates or protein. One gram of fat gives you nine calories of energy, which is over twice that (four calories) provided by carbohydrates or protein. Currently 34 per cent of Americans are obese, and another 34 per cent are overweight. In Australia, 3 in 5 people (63%) are overweight or obese, and the numbers are growing along with our bellies. Excess weight, especially obesity, is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, some musculoskeletal conditions and some cancers. When advising on the type of diet to avoid weight gain and reduce risk of heart disease and cancer, nutrition experts such as T. Colin Campbell  and Dr Dean Ornish recommend a dietary fat intake no greater than 10-15%. Fat is calorie-dense, and all too easy to consume in the form of butter/margarine, fried foods, oils, lard, and the fat inherent in meat, eggs and dairy products. If you want to immediately reduce your calorie load to help you lose weight, lose the fat!

“In a strictly controlled metabolic study by Hall, et al. researchers showed that cutting calories from fat may help with weight loss more than cutting calories from carbohydrates. Even keeping all calories equal, the group with less fat intake lost more body fat.” – Thomas Campbell, MD.

6.      Health nuts want to get rid of all fats! Truth: Your body needs some fats. Fat helps with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals like carotenoids. Fat is also a major source of energy, like carbohydrates and protein. The only fats you need are omega-3 and omega-6 fats, which cannot be made by your body, and so they must be supplied through your diet (source: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine).  Omega-6 fats are derived from linoleic acid and are found in leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains, and vegetable oils (corn, safflower, soybean, cottonseed, sesame, sunflower). You should eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids every day. Adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids may take more planning to obtain than omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats are used in the formation of cell walls and assist in improving circulation and oxygen uptake. For adequate omega-3 intake the recommended daily amounts are 1.1 grams for women and 1.6 grams for men over the age of 14. The principal omega-3 is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), can be found in many vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and fruits. This is then converted into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenonic acid (DHA) by the body. This makes ALA the only essential omega-3 fatty acid, and the best source of ALA is ground flaxseeds. Fish oil, while a source of EPA and DHA omega-3s, can include unstable molecules that may oxidise and unleash dangerous free radicals.

7.      Eskimos ate loads of animal fat from fish, and they were healthier than us! Truth: According to a study in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, diets high in fish do not promote a healthy heart, and may increase risk of heart disease. The diets and health of Eskimos and Inuits in Greenland and North America were analysed by researchers in a review of ten different studies. Researchers found that Eskimos in Greenland have similar rates of heart disease, an overall mortality rate twice as high, and a life expectancy 10 years shorter, compared with non-Eskimos. Compared with non-native populations, North American Inuits have similar if not higher rates of heart disease. The authors conclusion was that an “Eskimo diet” has previously been wrongly identified as heart healthy and that such a high-fat diet is better labelled dangerous.

8.      You need fish oil for Omega 3 Fats! Truth: Flaxseed (flax) is the richest source of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) containing 50 – 60% omega-3 fatty acids, and lignans (powerful anti-oxidants), that researchers have found helpful in preventing heart disease, protecting against inflammatory disorders and certain cancers, and lowering your cholesterol. Flaxseeds add a mild, nutty flavour to a variety of foods and are an excellent source of fibre, high quality protein and potassium. Did you know that the omega 3 fatty acids obtained from fish that humans eat originally comes from the algae the fish eat? Extracting DHA and EPA omega 3 fatty acids from algae means you’re getting it straight from the source – clean and green.

There are several benefits by taking omega-3 supplements from a plant (algae) source, including:

  • You get all the benefits of fish oil omega-3, without concerns about impurities, contaminants, or of course diminishing fish stocks – this is a fully sustainable source of omega-3, and much more environmentally friendly.
  • It’s better for everyone, including vegans, vegetarians, pregnant and breastfeeding women.
  • Research indicates that pure algae-sourced omega-3 is more effectively absorbed by the body than fish oil.
  • The balance of DHA and EPA fatty acids is at least as good, if not better than fish oil in terms of health benefits, and superior to Flaxseed Oil.

9.       Cholesterol in foods like eggs don’t raise your blood cholesterol! Truth: As Dr Michael Greger from Nutrition Facts explains, despite dodgy research and false claims from the egg industry, the fact is cholesterol in eggs DOES increase both ‘bad’ LDL and ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.

Furthermore, according to Dr Greger, “choline from eggs appears to increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, and death,” and that “..consumption of eggs increases the susceptibility of LDL cholesterol to oxidation.”- another major risk factor for heart disease.

On his website Dr Greger has also explored carcinogenic chemicals and viruses in eggs, industrial pollutants, and salmonella. Eggs ARE the perfect food…for growing chicken fetuses.

10. Animal fats like ‘grass-fed butter’ are health foods! Truth: First of all, it’s nonsensical to say that refined, processed animal fats like butter can be fed grass – only living, breathing herbivores can! Grass-fed or not, saturated animal fats are not health foods – quite the opposite. Saturated fat, predominantly found in animal products, causes the liver to produce more cholesterol. Unsaturated fats do not have this effect.

“Eating foods that contain saturated fats raises the level of cholesterol in your blood.  High levels of blood cholesterol increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.  Be aware, too, that many foods high in saturated fats are also high in cholesterol – which raises your blood cholesterol even higher.” – The American Heart Association

Good News on Fat

healthy plant foodsWhole plant foods are ideal for health and weight loss, according to Julieanna Hever, the Plant-Based dietitian, in her book ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition’. As Julieanna explains, whole plant foods are high in fibre and water content, which help to make you full without adding extra calories. They are also naturally nutrient-dense, including vitamins, minerals, complex carbs, protein, phytochemicals and antioxidants, yet low in energy density, or calories. The clear message is, if you want to eat foods to maximise your health and minimise your fat and calorie intake, choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and legumes.

The truth is, fat is one of the macro-nutrients, and you do need some fat in your diet. It is the source of the fat, and the quantity that determines whether it supports good health or not. I recommend consuming (sparingly) whole plant food sources of fats, rather than refined fats and animal fats. This can be as easy as having avocado with tomato on whole wheat toast, ground flaxseeds or chia seeds on oatmeal porridge, or a handful of raw walnuts sprinkled on a green salad.

Tom Perry



Soy Bad…Soy Good?

So Good soy milkI was a bit taken aback recently when I went to buy a litre of soy milk. The lady serving me commented “oh, I heard that stuff is bad for you!”

Wait,…what? Who would think it’s not only ok, but almost their duty to warn a perfect stranger – about to buy one of their shop’s goods – about the dangers of soy! Anyway, I smiled and told her that I’d drunk this ‘stuff’ for years (since about 1983 for the record!) and it was perfectly healthy.

Apart from the dubious practice of making negative comments about a customer’s product choices, this demonstrated to me the power of propaganda against certain plant foods. And yet, I can’t really blame her. It seems that on a regular basis there’s some crack-pot article or online diatribe about the many ‘dangers’ of the humble soybean.

Recently, on some website called ‘Real Farmacy’ (whatever that means!) they posted an article with the hyperbolic title of ‘This “healthy” food can cause Brain Damage and Breast Cancer- You Should stop eating it IMMEDIATELY‘ – by long-time anti-soy campaigner Dr Mercola.

To summarize, some of the allegations listed were that:

  • Over 80% of soy is genetically modified (while that is true, most commercial soymilk brands state ‘GM free’ on their cartons and some brands are also certified organic);
  • The isoflavones in soy cause breast cancer (according to nutrition expert Dr Joel Fuhrman, “…it appears that isoflavones have a number of anti-cancer effects that are unrelated to their ability to bind the estrogen receptor”)
  • Plant estrogens found in soy, called phytoestrogens, can lead to infertility and  breast cancer in women (again, Dr Fuhrman advises: “Overall, the research suggests that soy intake helps to protect against initial breast cancer development (especially postmenopausal breast cancer), breast cancer recurrence, and breast cancer mortality.”)

Other articles against soy make all sorts of sensationalist claims, and would have the nutritious soybean and its food derivatives cast as a toxic villain of international conspiracy – or ‘soy-spiracy’ – proportions.

Some of the other main claims against soy are that:

  • Soy causes malnutrition and digestive distress
  • Soy increases the risk of cancer and heart disease
  • Soy consumption is linked with immune system breakdown, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders and infertility.

Soy Doesn’t Stop You Having Babies

baby boyThe last claim of soy causing infertility has no basis in reality. I have been a vegetarian – and now vegan – for 35 years, and successfully produced 4 children. A vegan brother of mine, another big soy consumer, has 3 big healthy boys. None of the vegetarian or vegan men I know of or have heard of have experienced any fertility problems. That is not to say it has never happened, but there is not a shred of evidence to show that men (or women) who consume high levels of soy have greater fertility problems, on average, than the rest of the population. Indeed, the huge populations of big soy consumers in Asian countries such as China and Japan would suggest this claim is more than a little fanciful!

Soy Is Safe For Kids

The anti-soy lobby’s claim (led by Joseph Mercola) that we are damaging our children by feeding them soy is not supported by the evidence.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, in their policy statement on Use of Soy Protein-Based Formulas in Infant Feeding, states that:

“in term infants whose nutritional needs are not being met from maternal breast milk or cow milk-based formulas, isolated soy protein-based formulas are safe and effective alternatives to provide appropriate nutrition for normal growth and development.”

A 2005 study compared the nutritional status and growth of 168 infants who were allergic to cow’s milk and were fed either soya-based infant formula or hydrolyzed whey formula. In both groups, nutrient intake and growth were ‘within reference values’ – in other words, they grew normally (Seppo et al., 2005).

All four of my children had soy formula as babies, and still enjoy soy milk on a regular, daily basis. All are healthy and developmentally normal; in fact taller than average for their age.

Soy Protects Against Cancer

Most evidence suggests that soy protects against many types of cancer, rather than increases the risk of it. Consider these facts:

  • The average Japanese person consumes 50-80 grams of soy food daily
  • The average American eats 5 grams of soy a day
  • Japanese people have much lower rates of colon and lung cancer than Americans
  • Japan has the lowest rate of death from heart disease for men in the world, and the second lowest for women
  • American women are 5 times more likely to die from breast cancer than Japanese women
  • American men are 5 times more likely to die from prostate cancer than Japanese men

As noted in an online article by Neal Barnard M.D, Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC:

“…regular consumption of at least a modest amount of soy products cut the risk of recurrence [of breast cancer] by 25 percent.”

Dr Joel Fuhrman advises that:

“…a 2009 meta-analysis of studies on soy and prostate cancer found that higher soy intake was associated with a 26% reduction in risk.”….and also: “soy foods are not only associated with decreased risk of hormonal cancers, but also lung, stomach, and colorectal cancers.”

Dr Michael Greger, the plant-based nutrition expert, says that:

“…one study showed regular consumption of just one cup of soy milk daily lowered overall mortality among breast cancer patients by up to 38%.”

Soy Good For You

As Dr Barnard explains, studies show that soy protein is “highly digestible”.

Dr Barnard also says that soy foods “do not cause thyroid problems in people with normal functioning thyroids”, and that, despite the presence of some phytates in soy, studies show that “calcium [in soy products] is absorbed as well as calcium from cow’s milk.”

The good news is that tests have shown that soybean protein is equivalent in quality to protein found in beef, milk and egg white. Soybeans are packed with iron, zinc and calcium; are high in fibre; low in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol.  Their polyunsaturated and omega 3 fats help lower blood cholesterol and prevent blood clotting.

Want more proof of the health benefits of soybeans?

The Truth About Soy’s Health Benefits

The Australian state of Victoria government’s Better Health Channel (with information produced in consultation with and approved by Deakin University here in Melbourne) states that:

“Soybeans are members of the pea (legume) family of vegetables…and contain hormone-like substances called phytoestrogens that mimic the action of the hormone oestrogen. The health benefits of soy for menopausal women could include fewer hot flushes, protection from coronary heart disease (CHD) and lowered risk of osteoporosis.

This website lists all the other health benefits of soybeans:

  • high in fibre
  • high in protein
  • low in saturated fat
  • cholesterol free
  • lactose free
  • a good source of omega-3 fatty acids
  • a source of antioxidants
  • high in phytoestrogens.

tofuThe incredibly versatile soybean can be consumed in a myriad of forms, including miso; soy breads and cereals; soy cheese; soy milk; soy flour; soy grits and soy flakes; soy meats; soy pasta; soy sauce; soy snacks; soy bean oil; tempeh; Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP); tofu, and tofu desserts such as soy ice-cream and yoghurt.

As always, for optimal health I recommend that you focus mainly on whole soybeans, or foods made with whole soybeans, and traditional soy foods with minimal processing, such as tempeh and tofu.

“The soybean contains all of the essential amino acids, as well as an impressive list of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Micronutrients in rich supply in soy include: calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, C and zinc. Fiber and omega-3 and 6 fatty acids are also present in soy.” – Holly Wilson, MD

Meat-Eaters Eat The Most Soy

With all the anti-soy propaganda around, perhaps the ultimate irony is that people who eat pork, beef, chicken, dairy and fish indirectly consume the most amount of commercially farmed soy.

According to online reports by the soy industry, “about 85% of the world’s soybeans are processed, or “crushed,” annually into soybean meal and oil.”  Nearly all (98%) that soybean meal is further processed into animal feed. Most of the oil (95%) is consumed as edible oil; the rest is used for “industrial products such as fatty acids, soaps and biodiesel.”

So, if you genuinely want to boycott the commercial, GM soy crop industry, you have only one choice: avoid consuming edible oils (better for your health anyway) and to go vegan!

Final Word On Soy

I urge you to pay no heed to the ‘chicken littles’ who would convince you the sky will fall down if you consume some tempeh, soymilk or tofu. I have happily consumed soy products for over 30 years, and as part of a healthy, balanced diet I, and my family, can heartily recommend them (just quietly, so can billions of other people all over the world, too!).

Bean appetit!

Tom Perry

Further References:

The Book of Tofu, by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi

All You Need to Know About Soy – Sanitarium Health Food Company

Soy Miracle, by Earl Mindell

The Simple Diet Switch to Help You Live Longer and Age Slower – Without Pills or Potions

The Simple Diet Switch to Help You Live Longer and Age Slower – Without Pills or Potions

The Dietary Fountain of Youth

man with spadeWant to live a long time with your health and mental faculties intact?

Want to keep your youthful looks and vigour well into middle, and even old age?

If you answered yes to these questions, you’re not alone. According to Transparency Market Research the anti-ageing market is estimated to be worth USD$191.7 Billion globally by 2019.

In our youth-obsessed culture it seems there are no shortage of products and procedures to help make you look and feel younger – at a price.

But what if you’re not interested in cosmetic surgery, pills or supplements, botox, and anti-ageing creams and potions? Is there a natural, inexpensive way to reverse the ageing process and stave off the modern diseases that kill so many of us?

The answer is yes, and the answer is diet-related.

According to the Plant-based Dietitian, Julieanna Hever, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition,

“One of the worst things you [can] do is assault your body every day with anti-nutrients: animal protein, saturated fat, hydrogenated fats, dietary cholesterol, and processed foods.”

Best-selling author of ‘Eat to Live‘ and other books, Joel Fuhrman, M.D., says:

“Scientists have discovered a link between animal protein and cancer in both laboratory and human epidemiological studies, and reducing one’s consumption of animal protein slows the ageing process.”

Plant Foods for Better Skin

girl with appleWhen we think of improving our skin, we usually think of moisturisers and other cosmetics. But rather than focus on what we put on our face, we should first consider what we put in our mouths.

Whole plant foods are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants to help our skin have and maintain that youthful glow. Think foods such as walnuts, ground flaxseeds, avocado, brazil nuts, tomatoes, kale, spinach, bell peppers, blueberries, citrus fruits, broccoli, almonds, pomegranates, carrots, beans, sweet potato, lentils, watermelon, whole grains and pumpkin.

How Telomeres Relate to Aging

Each of us has 46 strands of DNA in each of our cells. These strands are coiled into chromosomes with a ‘cap’ at the end of the DNA strand which are called telomere. As we age these telomeres are shortened. When they die, we die.

“As scientists continue to examine the complex role of telomeres in the ageing process and the role they play in our health, we have come to understand that shorter telomere length is associated with biological ageing and lifestyle-related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and cancer, and premature death.” – Dr Joel Fuhrman

In a study by Dr Dean Ornish, it was discovered that a whole-foods, nutrient-dense, plant-based diet increased telomerase activity that is associated with slowing down the ageing of our cells.

“Telomerase is an enzyme that rebuilds the telomeres at the end of our cell’s DNA. Scientists believe that if we can slow down the loss of our DNA’s telomeres, we can slow down the aging process, allowing us to live longer.” – Dr Linda Carney

Foods that accelerate the ageing process and shorten telomeres:

  • Processed meats
  • Fish
  • Saturated fat (found primarily in meat, eggs and dairy products)

Foods that slow down the ageing process and boost the activities of telomeres:

  • Whole plant foods high in fibre and vitamins – fruits and vegetables (peppers, carrots, spinach, tomatoes, and root vegetables had the highest correlation to increased telomere length)
  • Regular exercise helps too!

The Dangers of IGF-1

As Dr Joel Fuhrman advises, IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor – one) is one of the body’s important growth promoters during fetal and childhood growth. However, later in life IGF-1 promotes the ageing process.

In adulthood, reduced IGF-1 levels are associated with reduced oxidative stress, decreased inflammation, enhanced insulin sensitivity and longer lifespan. On the flip-side, elevated IGF-1 levels have been shown to promote the growth, proliferation and spread of cancer cells, and are linked to increased risk of several cancers.

Foods that Raise IGF-1

  • Meat, including poultry and seafood
  • Dairy products
  • Refined carbohydrates, like white flour, white rice, and sugars

Plant Food Power Prevents Disease

root vegetablesOf the 63% of deaths worldwide due to chronic diseases and conditions in 2008, poor diets were a major contributory factor according to the World Health Organization.

The national or regional rates for main types of diseases such as certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes type 2, are considerably lower where plant-based diets are more common, compared to areas where animal-based diets are more prevalent.

Why plant-based diets are good at preventing disease

Mounting medical evidence shows that a plant-based diet supports longevity and good health. A balanced, varied whole-food plant-based diet protects health because:

  • It’s high in fibre.
  • It provides adequate protein for growth and repair.
  • It’s high in antioxidants that are critical to neutralizing free radicals that cause ageing and chronic disease, including cancer.
  • It’s high in vitamins and minerals.
  • It’s low in saturated fat that promotes heart disease and increases ageing

Our biggest killer disease

What is the biggest killer in our society? Is it suicide, substance abuse, violent attacks, car accidents, or cancer? These issues often receive major media coverage and sympathy, and rightly so. However they don’t kill the most people.

For most wealthy, western countries like my country, Australia, the largest single cause of death is the same – heart disease, or cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Consider these grim statistics:

Australia (data source: The Australian Heart Foundation):

  • Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in Australia, killing one Australian every 12 minutes, and claiming the lives of 45,600 Australians (almost 30% of all deaths)
  • Affects one in six Australians or 4.2 million
  • Lower socio-economic groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and those living in remote areas had the highest rate of hospitalisation and death resulting from CVD in Australia

United States (data source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):

  • About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year – 1 in every 4 deaths
  • Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack
  • In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 42 seconds.
  • Coronary heart disease alone costs the United States $207 billion each year in health-related costs

Heart disease – a global disaster

It is not only affluent English-speaking countries that have high rates of heart disease though. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), heart disease is a global problem. Of the top 10 leading causes of death worldwide, the number 1 is – you guessed it – cardiovascular disease.

Interestingly, when you compare the leading cause of deaths for low income countries to that of middle income, and especially high income countries, heart disease is more prevalent with a higher income.

This implies a relationship between diet and lifestyle of affluent countries contributing to an increase in heart disease. Which leads us to the key lifestyle factors to help prevent heart disease.

Lifestyle Factors to Reduce Risk of Heart Disease

Eat a heart-healthy diet – which is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and trans-fats, low in salt & sugar, and high in fibre-rich whole-grains (such as oats and barley), unsalted nuts (such as almonds and walnuts), legumes, soy products, beans, vegetables and fruit. Use fats sparingly, and include those found in whole foods such as raw seeds, nuts and avocado.

  1. Eat a heart-healthy diet
  2. Quit smoking
  3. Maintain a healthy weight
  4. Exercise regularly – 30 minutes per day
  5. Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption
  6. Reduce salt intake
  7. Control diabetes
  8. Manage stress

Fat, cholesterol and L-carnitine

meatWe already know that the saturated fat and cholesterol in meat (and eggs) can contribute to increased cholesterol levels and blocked arteries. Recent research suggests another reason why red meat can be dangerous in your diet if you have high cholesterol or are at risk of heart disease.

According to a study published in the prestigious journal ‘Nature Medicine’, a compound in red meat called L-carnitine is associated with the build up of plaque in arteries that causes heart attacks, strokes and vascular disease.  (Fish, poultry, milk and other dairy products are also good food sources of L-carnitine).

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic found that the compound in meat, L-carnitine, is converted by the liver into a chemical called TMAO, Trimethylamine N-oxide. TMAO is found in abundance in red meat and crustaceans, and as an ingredient in energy drinks, energy pills and some weight-loss products. TMAO is also known to increase heart disease and hardening of the arteries, also called arteriosclerosis which is a known indicator of heart attacks and risk of strokes. Eggs are also implicated in studies as a leading source of TMAO.

According the leader of the study, Dr Hazen, chronic ingestion of carnitine fundamentally shifts the metabolism of cholesterol.

“It’s changing it in a way that will make you more prone to heart disease,” he said. “Eating carnitine causes more cholesterol to be deposited onto artery walls, and less to be eliminated from the body”.

The researchers found that adults who avoid meat and eat fewer animal products produced much lower concentrations of TMAO in the blood compared with the meat eaters.

As a result of these research findings, doctors are giving warnings about excessive consumption of red meat.

In Australia these warnings especially apply to kangaroo meat, which for a long time has been considered to be one of the healthiest meat choices because of its low fat content.

Executive chairman of Obesity Australia and Professor of Medicine at Monash University John Funder said given that kangaroos had more L-carnitine per gram than any other red meat. Professor Funder recommended that consumers be wary of excessive consumption of kangaroo meat.

What is known that plant foods such as soy and wheat do not contain other known factors in heart disease, such as high levels of saturated fat, cholesterol or L-carnitine (on the contrary, soy is known to help lower cholesterol).

Why take the extra risk with a high consumption of red meat, or supplements with added carnitine or TMAO when you can get plenty of protein and other nutrients from healthy plant food alternatives?

Cutting the Big C

The second biggest killer in our society, after heart disease, is cancer.

Eating red meat (beef, pork, and lamb) is associated with increased rates of cancer and heart disease. The American Cancer Society recommends eating a healthy diet for the prevention of cancer “with an emphasis on plant foods.

Foods high in animal protein, including meat, eggs and dairy products, may also contribute to increased cancer risk. When we consume too much animal protein, the body increases its production of the hormone IGF-1. As noted, elevated IGF-1 levels have been shown to promote the growth, proliferation and spread of cancer cells, and are linked to increased risk of several cancers.

eggsPlant based diets can also protect against the formation of blood vessels that feed cancerous tumors (angiogenesis). The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), published a report in February 2011 explaining how many cancers can be delayed or even prevented through a balance of regular physical activity and a plant-based diet.

Dietary choline in eggs has also been linked to the progression of prostate cancer. Studies have shown that men who eat 2.5 eggs or more a week have an 81% increased risk of lethal prostate cancer, compared to men who had less than 0.5 eggs per week.

6 ways to prevent cancer

Researchers with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine published six dietary guidelines for cancer prevention in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

The six dietary recommendations to reduce risk of several types of cancer are:

1. Limit or avoid dairy products to reduce risk of prostate cancer.

One glass of milk each day increases risk of prostate cancer by 10 percent. Consuming two glasses of milk each day increases risk of prostate cancer by 60 percent.

2. Limit or avoid alcohol to reduce cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon and rectum, skin, and breast.

One drink per week increases risk of mouth, pharynx, and larynx cancers by 24 percent. Two to three drinks per day increase risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent.

3. Avoid red and processed meat to reduce risk of cancers of the colon and rectum.

Each 50-gram daily serving of processed meat, equivalent to two slices of bacon or one sausage link, increases risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent.

4. Avoid grilled, fried, and broiled meats to reduce risk of cancers of the colon, rectum, breast, prostate, kidney, and pancreas.

Certain heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are associated with cancer of the colon and rectum. HCAs form in cooked skeletal muscle, increasing with higher cooking times and higher temperatures. When ingested, HCAs can disrupt DNA synthesis.

5. Consume natural soy products, such as edamame, to reduce risk of breast cancer.

A global study shows women who consume 11 grams of soy protein each day reduce risk for both premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancer by about 30 percent.

6. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to reduce several forms of cancer.

The fiber and phytochemicals available in fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, help reduce overall cancer risk—while a Western diet (high amounts of meat and fat with minimal amounts of fruits and vegetables) doubles the risk.

Thanks to PCRM for this list.

Foods that protect against cancer:

  • Diets high in fruit may lower the risk of stomach and lung cancer.
  • Diets high in non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, and beans, may help protect against stomach and esophageal cancer.
  • Eating oranges, berries, peas, bell peppers, dark leafy greens and other foods high in vitamin C may also protect against esophageal cancer.
  • Foods high in lycopene, such as tomatoes, guava, and watermelon, may lower the risk of prostate cancer.
  • Beta-carotene, present in dark green and yellow vegetables, helps protect against lung cancer and may help prevent cancers of the bladder, mouth, larynx, esophagus, breast, and other sites.
  • Selenium is found in whole grains and has the same antioxidant effects as vitamin C and beta-carotene. Vitamin E also has this effect. Caution is advised in supplementing selenium, which is toxic in large doses.
  • Cruciferous (broccoli, kale) and Allium (garlic, onion) vegetables seem to be the most potent anti-cancer vegetables

NOTE: Please always see your doctor for advice or treatment for cancer or any other illness.

Medical Studies Show the Power of Plant Food

Numerous studies over the last few decades have shown that people whose diets include a large intake of plant foods tend to have a lower risk of chronic disease. The reasons are many:

  • Plant-based foods are naturally rich in antioxidants, which help eliminate free radicals that damage cells and cause chronic inflammation.
  • Dr. Dean Ornish’s research showed that eating a very low-fat, plant-based, vegetarian diet and other lifestyle changes could, in fact, reverse heart disease. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn also succeeded in arresting and reversing heart disease in patients who were seriously ill.
  • The Adventist Health Study-2 found that vegetarians had a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
  •  There is also compelling research indicating that eating meat causes the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract to produce a compound that may increase the risk of atherosclerosis (clogged arteries).

Go Veg – Live Longer

healthy heart foodA study published on the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) website shows that people who follow a vegetarian diet can enjoy an almost 12 per cent lower mortality rate than their meat loving counterparts.

Dr. Michael Orlich of the Loma Linda University Medical Center in California, the lead author of the study report, noted that vegetarian diets have clear beneficial effects in the prevention of chronic diseases and the improvement of longevity in humans.

More than 70,000 Seventh-Day Adventist participants were interviewed by researchers in this study. Those who identified as vegetarians were categorised included vegans (eating nothing but plant foods), lacto-ovo vegetarians (eating plant-foods as well as dairy products and eggs), and semi-vegetarians (eating mostly plant-foods but also some animal products like fish and poultry).

Over a six-year period researchers followed the study group to determine differences in mortality. They found that over a one year period five to six per 1,000 vegetarians had died compared to seven per 1,000 meat eaters. Importantly, this study yet again confirms that people who eat mostly plant-based foods are less likely to develop chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and certain forms of cancer.

“Vegetarian diets are associated with lower all-cause mortality and with some reductions in cause-specific mortality,” the authors concluded.

The point with following a plant-based vegan diet is not just a slower ageing process or longer life, but one marked by less obesity, less disease, and more enjoyment of all the things in life that are not just good, but good for you, animals and the planet.

Tom Perry


10 Myths about Meat and Milk Alternatives

10 Myths about Meat and Milk Alternatives

Meat and Milk Alternatives: Even Better Than the Real Thing

alpro soymilkIf you’re shopping for a quick, convenient, healthy meal for you and your family, do you consider (or prefer) alternatives to meat and/or dairy products? Vegetarian or vegan ‘meat’ or non-dairy milk sounds like a contradiction in terms – to some people.

I think in terms of health, environmental sustainability, animal welfare and, yes, taste, they are (to quote a U2 song), ‘even better than the real thing’.

If you are into, say, veggie hot dogs, soy cheese or almond milk, prepare for some backlash. There are a lot of negative attitudes about meat and dairy substitutes, and most of these attitudes are based on prejudice and misinformation. I thought it was time that some of these ‘myths’ were exposed and explored, to set the record straight!

10 Myths about Alternatives to Meat and Milk products

1. Only animal products are called ‘meat’ and ‘milk’Truth: vegetarian or vegan foods cannot escape some parallels with animal foods. The dictionary calls the edible kernel of a nut “nut meat”. Coconut milk is, well, coconut milk, as is coconut cream, and the edible layers of endosperm inside the coconut is called its ‘flesh’. Simply by using the words ‘meat’ or ‘milk’ in describing a vegetarian or vegan food in no way suggests some sort of sell out, or even anything necessarily ‘bad’. (Interestingly, and instructively, from the mid-1980s the animal food lobby in Australia successfully prevented soy milk using the word ‘milk’ for many, many years, and it could only be commercially referred to as ‘soy drink’).

2. Meat and milk alternatives are ‘new-age’ fad-foodsTruth: many alternative vegetarian protein foods have a very long, distinguished history. Wheat meat, or wheat gluten, or Seitan, was developed by Chinese Buddhist vegetarian monks from the 6th century (wheat meat, is a food made from gluten, the main protein of wheat. It is made by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starch granules have been removed, leaving the sticky insoluble gluten as an elastic mass which is then cooked before being eaten – source: Wikipedia). Tempeh, a traditional protein food made from whole fermented soybeans, originated in Indonesia in the 12th or 13th century. Tofu, a food high in protein and iron was invented in China by the Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), is made by coagulating soy milk and pressing the resulting curds to make ‘bean curd’, i.e. Tofu. Interestingly, the word ‘curds’ in turn refers to a dairy product obtained by ‘curdling’ or coagulating cow’s milk with rennet or an acidic substance such as lemon juice or vinegar.

Wikipedia tells us that: ‘Plant milk has been consumed for centuries in various cultures, both as a regular drink (such as the Spanish horchata) and as a substitute for dairy milk’.  Like meat and other animal products, milk substitutes also don’t require animals to be exploited (e.g. multiple forced pregnancies and death of male ‘veal’ calves) to obtain the milk.

3. Meat and milk alternatives are highly processed junk foodTruth: some meat and dairy substitutes are highly processed, with loads of ingredients, while some, such as seitan or tempeh, or soy milk made from whole, non-GM soybeans, have minimal processing. Beans, for example, could be considered one of the healthiest foods, and a protein substitute for meat (soy beans have ‘complete protein’, equivalent to meat and eggs). I recommend reading food labels carefully and avoiding any products with a high-fat and high-sodium content.

While it is important to eat from a variety of whole foods, including vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains, meat and dairy substitutes are generally much superior nutritionally to their animal counterparts. My family, including my four, strapping, healthy kids (vegetarian from birth) all enjoy meat and dairy alternatives, such as veggie burgers, nuggets or hot dogs, and soy milk (including soy formula as babies). They are high in protein, and often include such important nutrients for vegans/vegetarians as iron, zinc, calcium and vitamin B12. These are valid, nutritious foods, without the animal fat, cholesterol, lactose and protein that can contribute to heart disease, digestive problems and cancer.

4. True vegetarians or vegans shouldn’t eat or want meat or milk alternativesTruth: I didn’t give up meat because I didn’t like the taste or texture (although even if it was cruelty-free now, I couldn’t stomach it after 35 years abstinence). I gave it up because I didn’t want to eat dead animals. Much later I discovered the delights of such fare as tofu, falafel, tempeh and lentils, almond milk and oat milk, but having come from a small country town, at first I could only relate to protein foods that could easily replace the meat I grew up eating. I simply could not have made the transition to vegetarian then later vegan without meat and dairy substitutes, and they are still a valid way of people making, and maintaining that transition.

5. Meat and milk alternatives are fake foodTruth: many people incorrectly refer to meat or dairy alternatives as ‘mock’, or ‘fake’. I purposefully do not use terms like ‘mock’ or ‘faux’ or ‘fake’ meat, or ‘mock’ or ‘fake’ milk for soy or other non-dairy milk. These are derogatory terms that cater to non-veggos’ prejudice against anything that is different to what they consume. Just as a fake bank note cannot be used (legally), and a fake plastic steak cannot be eaten, the word ‘fake’ implies that something is counterfeit, or not useful in the same way as the original. The word ‘mock’ also has negative connotations, meaning ‘to attack or treat with ridicule, contempt, or derision’. The fact is, most, if not all the criticism of animal-free alternatives are based on misinformation and propaganda – convenient myths to defend the meat, milk and animal product industry.

6. Only hippies, hard-core vegans or ‘health-nuts’ are into meat and milk substitutesTruth: the meat-substitute industry is big, and growing bigger. An online article noted that even the meat industry is looking to jump on the bandwagon (surely the ultimate case of ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’?!). This article noted that one-third of Americans are choosing to leave meat off their plate more frequently, and that over the past 10 years, the annual per capita red meat consumption in the US fell 15% to 101 pounds. Research referred to in the article values the global meat substitute market at $3.4 billion in 2014, with an annual growth rate of 7.5%, reaching $5.81 billion by 2022. It is estimated that meat substitutes or alternative proteins could make up one-third of the entire meat market by 2050.

A recent news item here in Australia indicated that so-called ‘alternative milks’ are continuing to rise in popularity.

Ms Lauren Magner, an analyst from IBISWorld, said in this article that due to the rise of the alternative milk market (in particular soy and almond milk) the industry is now worth about $150 million. The same article noted that US consumers are turning away from traditional dairy products ‘in droves’.

“This figure has been growing quite quickly over the past five years as the popularity of alternative milks has grown, and we have expected 6 per cent per annum growth over the past five years,” she said.

A global market analyst Mintel study recently found that while sales of alternative milks in the US rose by 9 per cent in 2015; dairy milk sales decreased by 7 per cent, costing the US industry $17.8 billion in lost sales.

7. Meat alternatives taste like cardboard or dog food – Truth: In another online article, titled Fake Meat So Good It Will Freak You Out, one of the founders of Twitter, Biz Stone, a vegan of over ten years and potential investor in ‘Beyond Meat’, commented on the vision of Beyond Meat’s founder Ethan Brown:

“My first reaction was, if I was given this in a restaurant, I’d get the waiter to come over and ask if he’d accidentally given us real chicken. It has a plumpness to it, what they call a ‘mouthfeel,’ like a kind of fattiness.

“I’d rate Beyond Meat as being 90 to 95 percent as realistic as chicken, but in every other way, it’s superior. It requires far less energy to produce, it’s got no saturated fats, no antibiotics, and no animals are harmed in the process.”

I accept that taste is a subjective, personal and cultural aspect of human experience, and that some people, even including some non-meat eaters, don’t like the taste of certain meat alternatives. That’s perfectly understandable and normal. However, now it’s fair to say that there is a large enough range of meat substitutes, ranging from traditional foods like tofu to gourmet vegan sausages, to suit most palates.

In terms of taste, texture, and type, meat substitutes have come a long, long way from basic ‘TVP’ mince (Textured or texturized vegetable protein (TVP), also known as textured soy protein (TSP), soy meat, or soya chunks is a defatted soy flour product, a by-product of extracting soybean oil. It is often used as a meat analogue or meat extender. It is quick to cook, with a protein content far greater than meat – source: Wikipedia).

8. Meat and milk alternatives don’t have the variety of the ‘real’ thingTruth: the US and UK have a huge range of substitutes for beef, chicken, sausages, hotdogs, burgers, milk, cheese and convenience meals, including Beyond Meat, Gardein, Impossible Foods, Goodlife, Redwoods, Linda McCartney Foods and many more.

Here in Melbourne, Australia, we have access to a huge variety of meat alternatives, many of which are vegan (check labels – there is often egg-white used as binders in these products, for example). These include Sanitarium’s ‘Veggie Delights‘ range; Fry’s Vegetarian ‘meats’ range; Quorn’s veggie meat selection (all Quorn foods contain mycoprotein as an ingredient, which is derived from the Fusarium venenatum fungus and is grown by fermentation. The fungi culture is dried and mixed with egg albumen, which acts as a binder, and then is adjusted in texture and pressed into various forms – Quorn now has a vegan range); Zoglo’s Vegetarian Choice range and Vegan Perfection’s imported veggie meat substitute products. Importantly, many of these products are available in your local supermarket, and some in certain health food stores.

When I first gave up cow’s milk there were no plant milks or dairy substitutes in the local supermarket. Now, more and more people are choosing dairy alternatives for their smoothies, baking, or cream in their coffee.  It’s as now as easy as grabbing some almond, soy, rice, oat or coconut milk and you’re good to go. Other non-dairy alternatives such as vegan cheese have also come along way, with a plethora of quality varieties now widely used and available.

9. Meat and milk alternatives are too expensiveTruth: meat substitutes can range from incredibly cheap, such as beans, lentils and falafels, to higher-priced speciality foods, including gourmet meat and cheese analogues. It depends on a number of factors, including whether the products are imported or made locally, and how big the market is for the product.

I remember when I first went vegan in the early 1980s, soymilk – only available from some health food stores – was over $3.00 a litre – way out of my student price range! Now, well over 30 years later, I can get regular soymilk for a little over a dollar (Australian) per litre in my local supermarket. Meat, on the other hand, has gone way up in price since I ate meat in the ‘70s; except for chicken. Prime cuts of meat, particularly red meat, are not cheap, and in many cases far more expensive than the less processed whole-food plant protein sources such as beans, nuts and grains.

10. Meat and milk alternatives are for wimps who can’t handle the ‘real thing’Truth: there are plenty of super-fit and strong athletes, including some male athletes, who only consume vegan protein foods. For example, Patrik Baboumian, an Armenian-German with 50-cm biceps is one of the strongest men in the world, holding world records in log-lifting and dead-lifting (in September 20, 2015 Patrik officially beat his own world record by completing the ‘yoke walk’ with 560kg!). Patrik went vegetarian in 2005, then vegan in 2011. Patrik’s main protein sources are: soy-milk, soy-protein-powder, tofu, nuts and beans. He famously stated in 2013:

“Almost two years after becoming vegan I am stronger than ever before and I am still improving day by day. Don’t listen to those self-proclaimed nutrition gurus and the supplement industry trying to tell you that you need meat, eggs and dairy to get enough protein. There are plenty of plant-based protein sources and your body is going to thank you for stopping feeding it with dead-food. Go vegan and feel the power!”

David Carter is a huge US NFL defensive lineman, now known as the ‘300 pound vegan’. David needs a lot of (non-animal) protein for his size and his sport, which comes from many different sources, including rice and beans (which together make complete protein); whole grains like millet, quinoa, and couscous; supplements like spirulina and hemp protein; and nuts, which give him one of his favorite ingredients, cashew cheese made with nutritional yeast. Says David of his diet:

“People ask me if I want to get a steak and I tell them I actually don’t eat that, or any meat or dairy. They’re usually thinking, ‘Wait, you’re supposed to be small and weak.’ But of course they can’t say that when they’re looking at me.”

The truth is, plant food and drinks rich in protein that are vegan/vegetarian substitutes for meat and dairy products are abundant and hugely diverse. They can include more natural foods like beans, rice and nuts, and also more processed foods like veggie mince, protein supplements and plant milk and cheeses.

I would love to hear about your favourite meat and dairy alternatives, and how you incorporate them into your recipes and everyday meals. Let me know in the comments, or send me an email!

Tom Perry


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