• Challenge: Plant Power

    A vegan diet scores high for health benefits, but requires dietary education
  • Could you resist that hearty ham and egg breakfast or a mouth-watering rack of barbecued ribs in favor of a strictly plant-based diet? Dedicated vegans do it every day, some because of their belief in proven health benefits, while others are motivated by a strong commitment to a way of life that believes in compassion and kindness towards all animals. Veganism is more than just a diet. It is a philosophy and a lifestyle.
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    • A Gradual Approach to Going Vegan
      If you want to try going vegan or vegetarian but are not ready to jump in with both feet, below are some suggestions from the Mayo Clinic that will help you get started.

      Ramp up. Each week i...
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      A Gradual Approach to Going Vegan
      If you want to try going vegan or vegetarian but are not ready to jump in with both feet, below are some suggestions from the Mayo Clinic that will help you get started.

      Ramp up. Each week increase the number of meatless meals you already enjoy, such as spaghetti with tomato sauce or vegetable stir-fry.

      Learn to substitute. Take favorite recipes and try them without meat. For example, make vegetarian chili by leaving out the ground beef and adding an extra can of black beans. Or make fajitas using extra-firm tofu rather than chicken. You may be surprised to find that many dishes require only simple substitutions.

      Branch out. Scan the Internet for vegan/vegetarian menus. Buy or borrow cookbooks. Check out ethnic restaurants to sample new vegan or vegetarian cuisines. The more variety you bring to your diet, the more likely you'll be to meet all your nutritional needs.

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      WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A VEGAN AND A VEGETARIAN?

      A vegan does not consume any animal products or by-products, which may include honey or yeast. A vegetarian does not consume meat, poultry, fish or seafood. There can also be semi-vegetarians, ovo-lacto vegetarians, ovo-vegetarians and lacto-vegetarians based on consuming various animal products (such as eggs, dairy, seafood or fish) typically excluded in a pure vegetarian or vegan diet.

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      MORE ON PLANT-BASED EATING:

      A READING LIST

      "Healing the Gerson Way"

      by Charlotte Gerson

      "The China Study"

      by T. Colin Campbell, PhD

      "Eat to Live"

      by Joel Fuhrman, MD

      "Excitotoxins, The Taste that Kills"

      by Russell Blaylock, MD

      "Green For Life"

      by Victoria Boutenko

      "12 Steps to Raw Food"

      by Victoria Boutenko

      "The Hallelujah Diet"

      by George Malkmus

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      HELPFUL LINKS:

      Rogue Valley Vegans

      www.roguevalleyvegans.com

      Southern Oregon Vegetarian-Vegan Group

      www.meetup.com/Southern-Oregon-Vegetarian-Vegan-Group

      Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

      www.pcrm.org

      The China Study

      www.thechinastudy.com/the-china-study/about/

      Scientific Studies on the Vegan Diet

      science.naturalnews.com/Vegan_diet.html

      International Natural Hygiene Society-The Case Against Veganism

      naturalhygienesociety.org/diet2.html

      Beyond Milk and Honey: The Vegan Controversy

      www.starchefs.com/cook/features/veganism-health-debate

      www.vegan.org

      www.veganism.com

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      FROM VEGETARIAN TO VEGAN:

      ONE WOMAN'S CANCER RECOVERY

      One of the most powerful arguments in favor of the plant-based diet is from research regarding cancer prevention and recovery. Medford dog sledder and cancer survivor Allyson Griffe feels strongly that her vegan diet had a positive influence on her recent recovery from breast cancer.

      "I believe that we all have cancer cells inside us," Griffe says, "and certain factors activate them. As a vegetarian, I ate a lot of cheese and dairy products. That was what I turned to for protein. I love those things a lot, but then I read the "The China Study" which talks about the casein in milk and how that can activate and help cancer to grow and spread, so I believe that that may have been a factor. When I got diagnosed with cancer in 2011, I became a vegan."

      Whether it's off-season practice mushing or skimming over snow-covered trails, Griffe says sledding and tending to her team of rescue huskies can be very demanding energy-wise. "The dogs do most of the work, but I have to get them and the equipment there, get them harnessed, and sometimes I have to pedal to help them uphill. I do really well as long as I'm eating a variety of food and getting the things I need for good nutrition."
  • Could you resist that hearty ham and egg breakfast or a mouth-watering rack of barbecued ribs in favor of a strictly plant-based diet? Dedicated vegans do it every day, some because of their belief in proven health benefits, while others are motivated by a strong commitment to a way of life that believes in compassion and kindness towards all animals. Veganism is more than just a diet. It is a philosophy and a lifestyle.
    Plant-based diets and reduced health risks
    "It's really a very easy system," says Medford physician Miven Donato with Dolphin Health and Education. A doctor of physical therapy and chiropractic, he specializes in nutritional metabolic therapy. "People think they have to cross a huge gulf to make the change, but if you make that challenge for yourself, even for 30 days, you'll see the benefits immediately."
    According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), vegans and vegetarians tend to have a lower incidence of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, kidney stones, gallstones and asthma. Also, vegans are generally significantly thinner, their blood pressure levels are lower, and they have lower blood cholesterol levels than vegetarians, and much lower levels than those who eat meat.
    The true vegan excludes all meat and animal products from their diet, including milk, cheese, eggs and honey. In the strictest sense, vegans do not use any items that contain animal products, such as candles, wool, leather or manufactured goods that have been tested on or harm animals. They value the health benefits of eliminating saturated fats, cholesterol and toxins common to animal products, especially those fed growth-inducing supplements and antibiotics, which health experts have linked to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity.
    Supersizing our waistlines
    Not so long ago, getting enough food to survive required some hard work. Humans burned a lot of calories hunting, fishing and farming. Today, we can drive through the nearest fast food restaurant and gobble a fat-laden 2,500-calorie meal in one sitting with no more effort than reaching for our wallet.
    "Our society has become so obese and it really doesn't have to be that way," says Laurie Gadbois, a Medford nutritionist and Food for Life instructor. "Diabetes, cancer and heart problems are all things that can be prevented if not reversed."
    The average American consumes about double the protein her or his body needs, according to the PCRM, most of which is high in fat and saturated fat. In support of a plant-based diet, they state that as long as the diet contains a variety of grains, legumes and vegetables, protein needs are easily met.
    The American Dietetic Association has stated that well planned vegan diets can be healthy during all stages of life, from infancy through adulthood, including pregnant women and athletes. In fact, according to the PCRM, vegan diets are the healthiest, but even with the more traditional diet, research shows the health benefits increase as the amount of animal products consumed goes down.
    The phrase "well planned" is at the foundation of a nutritionally sound plant-based diet. Gadbois says that people sometimes think they are eating healthier just because they are eliminating meat, but without some knowledge of how to bring a variety of plant-based components into the diet, it is just as easy to eat food that is high in fat and low in nutrients on a vegan diet.
    "In my opinion, a plant-based diet is a healthier way to refer to a vegan diet," says Gadbois. "You can be vegan and still eat a junky, unhealthy diet of potato chips and donuts, all the processed foods. But when you say plant-based, that really means whole foods." Gadbois teaches people how to shop for, plan and prepare meals. "In my classes, I don't talk about restricting the diet. I want to open people's eyes to all these new things you can add that you might not be familiar with."
    No meat, no power?
    A common misconception about a meatless diet is that it lacks protein, especially as required for a physically demanding lifestyle. Not so, says extreme distance runner Joseph Chick, who has been a vegan for eight years. "I became vegan after learning about the practices of the food industry and the treatment of the animals we consume," says the Ashland resident. "The more I learned and continue to learn, the more I am committed to this choice."
    Lack of animal protein doesn't limit Chick's energy level or his ability to excel in the sport he loves. Because of the extreme demands on his body, Chick supplements his daily smoothie with vegan proteins. "When I became vegan, I had finished two marathons," Chick says. "Since then, I have finished over 20 marathons, and moved up to ultra-marathons, which is any race over 26.2 miles long." Chick has finished 16 marathons in the past two years and recently completed his first 100-mile race. He feels his times are continuing to improve, as is his recovery time, even as he gets older.
    Making the switch
    For traditional meat eaters, going vegan can mean big dietary changes. There are two schools of thought when it comes to making this transition: One is jumping in, all or nothing, and the other is to ease into it by gradually replacing meat dishes with more plant-based meals.
    "I've taught a lot of vegan classes," says Donato, "and the one thing I have noticed is that the people who do the best are the ones who switched overnight. The ones who said they would just gradually improve their diets—while I see a rationale for that because they don't want to make a sudden change—these people get stuck somewhere along the line where they don't have enough motivation over time to make the change."
    A vegan diet includes all grains, beans, legumes, seeds, vegetables and fruits. Although this may sound like a limited number of food sources, there is no shortage of inventive vegan recipes that combine these foods to create tasty and healthful meals. This does require some education in how to use ingredients the more traditional diet may not include.
    "Sometimes people feel overwhelmed, like they have to throw out everything in their cupboard," Gadbois says. "And some people do that—jump in with both feet and feel great—but there are other people who approach it differently."
    Nutrition pointers
    For all those who praise the benefits of clean eating, support of the vegan diet is not unanimous and arguments can be found both for and against. Some maintain that humans have consumed saturated fats from animal products for thousands of years and that a certain amount of fat in the diet is necessary. There are several nutrients that are found in abundance in animal products, but exist in only a handful of vegan foods. Therefore, critics argue, while it is possible to get all of the essential nutrients on a vegan diet, it is extremely challenging.
    The Mayo Clinic recommends being especially mindful of sources of vitamin B12, calcium, iodine, iron, zinc, vitamin D and omega-3 fats to ensure getting sufficient protein and nutrients. Sources include flaxseed, soybeans and walnuts for omega-3; dark green vegetables for calcium; and foods high in vitamin C to boost iron absorption.
    Reeducating our taste buds
    Gadbois admits that substituting only vegan sources of protein can take some adjustment. "I think you have to retrain your taste buds if you're used to eating fast food and processed food because your taste buds have just been bombarded by artificial flavoring, way too much salt, sugar and spice, just to make it taste good."
    In her cooking classes, Gadbois focuses on quick and easy recipes with no bizarre ingredients. "I want to meet people where they're at, not beat them over the head with being a vegan. I feel that if I can encourage people to add more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains into their diet, that's good. Just start with maybe one healthy meal a week if that's what you need to do."
    Thanks go to the Medford Food Co-op, which supplied the ingredients of a balanced vegan diet, including whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Cindy's T-shirts were provided by Café Press (cafepress.com) and Zazzle (zazzle.com) which both have extensive vegan/vegetarian-themed product options.
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