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Vegan is the ‘new green’ for Earth Day

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By Heather Moore

Earth Day, April 22, falls on a Meatless Monday this year, so people will have a double incentive to eat vegan meals. Vegan is the “new green.” You can do more for the planet by going vegan than you can by recycling, using cloth bags, taking short showers and walking to work. These actions are important and worthwhile, of course—but if you’re serious about saving the environment, you should opt for vegan foods instead of animal flesh.

Meat just has no place on an Earth Day menu. According to the United Nations (U.N.), meat and dairy products require more resources and generate more greenhouse gasses than do plant-based foods. Fortunately, a recently released U.S. Department of Agriculture report suggests that meat consumption is on a steady decline in the United States. Per capita meat consumption has fallen for four straight years, according to the most recent statistics. The 6 percent drop between 2006 and 2010—the largest decline since recordkeeping began in 1970—indicates that many Americans are fed up with meat.

Several U.S. cities, including Aspen, Colo.; Durham, N.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; and Washington, D.C., have even issued proclamations about eating less meat. And for good reason. Meat contributes to major health problems, including cancer, heart disease, strokes, diabetes and obesity, as well as serious environmental issues, including climate change, pollution and deforestation. Researchers from the University of California–Riverside claim that cooking just one charbroiled burger causes as much pollution as driving an 18-wheeler for 143 miles.

A new Gallup poll shows that 58 percent of Americans “personally worry” about climate change. Worrying, though, really won’t do much good—but going vegan will. According to Loma Linda University researchers, vegans have the smallest carbon footprint, generating 41 percent fewer greenhouse gasses than meat-eaters and 13 percent fewer than vegetarians.

A NationalGeographic.com report shows that vegans use less water, too. The average vegan indirectly consumes nearly 600 gallons of water a day less than the average meat-eater. U.N. officials have urged everyone to go vegan to conserve resources and combat climate change. Some scientists even predict that people will have to go vegetarian by 2050 in order to counteract ever-burgeoning environmental problems.

Let’s not wait until the planet is parched and extreme weather is a daily occurrence before we change our eating habits. Let’s continue eating less meat—or preferably, none at all. Great-tasting vegan foods are widely available. The National Restaurant Association says that vegetarian entrées are a “top 10” hot trend, and many ballparks, including Safeco Field in Seattle and Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, are offering new vegetarian and vegan options this year.

Bill Gates and Biz Stone, the cofounder of Twitter, are investing in innovative new vegan companies, including Beyond Meat and Hampton Creek Foods, which makes Beyond Eggs. These and other companies are creating vegan meat, egg and dairy-product options that are animal- and eco-friendly, cheaper than the “real thing” and just as tasty.

Vegan foods are also cholesterol-free and generally low in saturated fat and calories, and each vegan saves more than 100 animals every year. Plus, if everyone goes vegan now—in commemoration of Earth Day—we’ll all be in good company.

Heather Moore is a staff writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

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Eat vegan to beat breast cancer—doctor’s orders

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By Heather Moore

Now that National Breast Cancer Awareness Month has begun, many doctors and nutritionists are dishing out dietary advice to help women ward off the deadly disease. After reviewing the latest research, responsible medical experts, including those with the American Cancer Society and New York’s Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care, have come to a consensus: Women should eat a plant-based diet rich in phytochemicals, which fight inflammation and knock out carcinogens. This invaluable advice should shift our focus from wearing pink to eating green—in other words, to eating wholesome vegan foods.

While fruits, vegetables, beans, grains and soy foods contain cancer-fighting phytochemicals, all that animal-based foods have to offer are cholesterol and cancer-causing substances, including concentrated protein, hormones and saturated fat. As many as one-third of common types of cancer, including breast cancer, are linked to excess weight and inactivity, and it’s much easier to maintain a healthy weight if you eat vegan foods. They tend to be low in fat and calories, unlike fatty animal-based foods, such as hamburgers, chicken and cheese. Studies even show that vegans are nine times less likely to be obese than meat-eaters and that vegans are about 40 percent less likely to get cancer than nonvegans. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that October is also World Vegetarian Awareness Month.

A Washington State University professor recently identified more than 40 plant-based compounds that help slow the progression of cancer. His findings, which are published in the journal Cancer and Metastasis Reviews, support the claim that people who eat a plant-based diet are less likely to get cancer.

High-fat animal-based foods raise estrogen levels, accelerating the growth of cancer cells. In contrast, plant-based foods tend to keep estrogen at a safe level. Researchers with Boston University tracked more than 50,000 African-American women for 12 years—1,300 of them developed breast cancer, and 35 percent of the cases were estrogen receptor-negative, a highly aggressive form of the disease. The women who ate at least two servings of vegetables a day were 43 percent less likely to develop highly aggressive breast cancer than those who ate less than four servings of vegetables per week. Women who eat carrots and cruciferous vegetables, in particular, seem to have a reduced risk of breast cancer.

The lead researcher noted that high vegetable consumption offers significant health benefits, including protection against cancer. This conclusion is hardly an earth-shattering revelation, but it should give both men and women some food for thought. People who are concerned about cancer—or heart disease, diabetes and other health conditions—would be wise to choose vegan foods.

Another study, conducted by the University of Utah, found that women who eat healthy “native” Mexican foods, including beans, spices and tomato-based sauces, have a 32 percent lower risk of breast cancer than women who eat a typical Western-style diet, which is heavy in meat and cheese.

Dr. T. Colin Campbell, who stars in the acclaimed documentary Forks Over Knives, says that “no chemical carcinogen is nearly so important in causing human cancer as animal protein.” He urges people to eat vegan meals in order to prevent cancer and other common diseases. More doctors should follow his example. While many physicians can perform mastectomies, administer chemotherapy and offer other important medical services, the ones who give patients preventive dietary advice will ultimately be the real lifesavers.

Heather Moore is a staff writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Season’s eatings: How to avoid the holiday spread

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By Paula Moore

If you’re like most people, the turkey probably wasn’t the only thing that got stuffed on Thanksgiving. The average person consumes an extra 600 calories per day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s and gains 1 pound during the holiday season. That doesn’t sound like much until you remember that most of us never lose that extra weight. The weight stays on throughout the winter and keeps adding up, year after year. For people who are already overweight, the news is even more depressing: Overweight people tend to gain 5 pounds or more during the holidays.

But you can help fend off the annual holiday spread with one simple strategy: Stick to festive meat- and dairy-free treats and avoid calorie-dense, artery-clogging animal-based foods.

Vegans—people who consume no meat, dairy products or eggs—tend to be slimmer than meat-eaters and more likely to stay slim even during the season of eating.

A British study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that vegans have a significantly lower body mass index than meat-eaters; vegetarians fall somewhere in between. When researchers at the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine asked overweight patients to try a low-fat, vegan diet, not only did the patients lose weight without counting calories—they also kept the weight off during the holidays.

So how bad can some traditional holiday fare be? Let’s look at the numbers. Just one cheese straw contains a third of your daily limit for saturated fat—and who ever ate “just one”? One bite-sized cheese ball can contain more than 500 calories, more than half of your daily limit for cholesterol and almost a day’s worth of total fat. Shrimp cocktail may look harmless, but this perennial party favorite is a cholesterol bomb waiting to happen. A typical serving of shrimp contains two-thirds of the daily maximum for cholesterol.

One serving of prime rib contains 45 grams of fat—and that’s before you add seasonings or a sauce. Turkey is loaded with even more fat and cholesterol than many cuts of beef. A turkey leg contains more than 700 milligrams of cholesterol and more than 1,600 calories—40 percent of which are derived from fat.

And before you toast the season with a glass of eggnog, consider that one cup of this sugar, cream and egg concoction can contain 19 grams of fat and more than 20 grams of sugar. Factor in the risk of salmonella in raw eggs, and eggnog might not be such a good idea.

Eating plant-based foods has other benefits too. The American Dietetic Association, the nation’s largest group of nutrition professionals, found that vegetarians have a lower rate of heart disease, diabetes and cancer than meat-eaters, in addition to a lower rate of obesity. And vegans don’t just give their health a boost—they save more than 100 animals a year from immeasurable suffering.

With so many people trying vegan foods these days, you’re bound to find delectable vegan options—such as savory vegetable pot pie, baked acorn squash drizzled with maple syrup, wild mushroom pâté, roasted pumpkin soup, chocolate mousse tart and vegan eggnog—on the holiday buffet. By consciously choosing these good-for-you foods instead of mindlessly munching your way through the holidays, it is possible to survive the season without feeling deprived or packing on unwanted pounds.

And if you should happen to overindulge, it’s never too late to get back on track. Just make eating vegan your number one New Year’s resolution.

Paula Moore is a senior writer for The PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510. For vegan holiday recipes, visit http://www.PETA.org.

America the meatless—we’re one step closer

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By Heather Moore

America just got a little bit greener. Earlier this month, Aspen, Colo.—John Denver’s “sweet Rocky Mountain paradise”—became the first city in the U.S. to launch a comprehensive Meatless Monday campaign. Local restaurants, schools, hospitals, charities and businesses, including the Aspen Valley Hospital, the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Aspen Elementary School, have signed on to promote plant-based meals on Mondays.

For our own health and the health of the planet, the rest of us should go meat-free as well—at least for one day a week.

According to Dawn Shepard, who is heading Aspen’s Meatless Monday campaign, Aspen is a very health-conscious community, and residents are also concerned about the environmental costs of meat production. A 2010 United Nations report revealed that meat and dairy products require more resources and cause higher greenhouse-gas emissions than do plant-based foods.

Shepard says that if everyone stopped eating meat one day each week, it would reduce carbon emissions as much as would taking 25 million cars off the road for a year. Chris Weber, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pennsylvania’s Carnegie Melon University, has pointed out that not eating meat and dairy products for one day a week has an even bigger impact on the environment than buying local foods every single day of the year.

In an effort to save the environment and animals, a growing number of people—not just in Aspen but across the country—are swearing off meat, at least on Mondays. A May 23 FGI Research study shows that 50 percent of Americans have heard of the nationwide Meatless Monday movement, which was started in 2003 by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. That’s up from 30 percent just six months ago. At least 27 percent of consumers who know about the campaign have opted to eat less meat as a result, and a significant percentage of people would like to see Meatless Mondays promoted in restaurants, fast-food chains, supermarkets and cafeterias.

At the rate things are going, they may soon get their wish. This month, the board of commissioners in Durham County, N.C., officially proclaimed Mondays as “Meatless Mondays.” Last year, officials in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., passed resolutions urging people in those cities to choose plant-based meals on Mondays. City schools in Baltimore have been observing “Meatless Mondays” since 2009, and in February 2010, Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer proposed that all New York City public schools follow suit. Several schools have followed his recommendation.

This January, Sodexo, a leading food-service provider, began offering a weekly plant-based entrée option to the 900 hospitals and 2,000 corporate and government clients that it serves in North America. Vegetarian Day observations and activities are also taking place in Israel, Australia, the U.K., Finland, Belgium and other parts of the world.

We’re off to a good start—especially in Aspen—but the Meatless Monday campaign needs to keep on snowballing throughout the country. Americans eat twice as much meat as the average person worldwide. Not surprisingly, we spend more money on health care than does any other nation. Unlike vegan foods, which are cholesterol-free and generally low in fat and calories, meat is high in saturated fat and cholesterol and contributes to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.

While going vegan is the best way to save the planet and to save lives—our own and those of animals—people who aren’t yet willing to stop eating meat entirely can still help by not eating meat for at least one day a week.

If you’re already observing Meatless Mondays, try extending your efforts to Tuesdays too. Or help Meatless Monday campaigners reach even more people by telling everyone you know about the initiative. It will help bring us all a bit closer to that “sweet Rocky Mountain paradise.”

Heather Moore is a staff writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.