Category Archives: WELLNESS

Are Plants Sentient Beings?

How many times have we vegans heard those who eat animal flesh ask us the following? “You talk about having a diet and lifestyle where you avoid killing any living thing, but what about plants?  Plants are living things and you kill them.” It seems like they would like to make a case about the futility of being a vegan, since we vegans are committed to eating only plant-based foods and plants want to live as much as any animal does. In other words, they wish to imply that if we’re all destined to be murderers anyway, what difference does it make who or what we’re murdering, or whether it’s a plant or an animal?

Are Plants Sentient Beings?

But what they fail to realize is that plants are qualitatively different from humans and sentient non-humans. And although plants are certainly alive, they are not sentient. Plants do not have interests. There is nothing that a plant desires, or wants, or prefers because there is no mind there to engage in these cognitive activities. When we say that a plant “needs” or “wants” water (or sunlight), we are no more making a statement about the mental status of the plant than we are when we say that a car engine “needs” or “wants” oil. It may be in my interest to put oil in my car. But it is not in my car’s interest; my car has no interests.

A plant may respond to sunlight and other stimuli but that does not mean the plant is sentient. If I run an electrical current through a wire attached to a bell, the bell rings. But that does not mean that the bell is sentient. Plants do not have nervous systems, benzodiazepine receptors, or any of the characteristics that we identify with sentience. And this all makes scientific sense. It would indeed be a cruel creator that would evolve plants to have developed sentience (to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively) when they cannot do anything in response to an act that damages them? If you touch a flame to a plant, the plant cannot run away; it stays right where it is and burns. If you touch a flame to a dog, the dog does exactly what you would do – cries in pain and tries to get away from the flame. Sentience is a characteristic that has evolved in certain beings to enable them to survive by escaping from a noxious stimulus. Sentience would serve no purpose for a plant; plants cannot “escape.”

This is not to suggest that we humans cannot have moral obligations concerning plants, but we certainly do not have moral obligations that we owe to plants. That is, we may have a moral obligation not to cut down a tree, but that is not an obligation that we owe to the tree. The tree is not the sort of entity to which we can have moral obligations. We can have an obligation that we owe to all of the sentient creatures who live in the tree or who depend on it for their survival. We can have moral obligations to other humans and non-human animals that inhabit the planet not to destroy trees wantonly. But we cannot have any moral obligations to the tree; we can only have moral obligations to sentient beings and the tree is not sentient and has no interests of its own. There is nothing that the tree prefers, wants, or desires. The tree is not the sort of entity that cares about what we do to it. The tree is an “it.” The squirrel and the birds that live in the tree certainly have an interest in our not chopping down the tree, but the tree does not. It may be wrong morally to chop down a tree wantonly but that is a qualitatively different act from shooting a deer. Try this; at your next dinner gathering, chop a head of lettuce in front of your guests. It’s pretty much guaranteed that you will get a different reaction than if you were to chop the head off a live chicken while it was trying to escape.

Stay tuned, coming up next, “Transitioning from Vegetarian to Vegan”

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Violence and Compassion in Veganism…

Compassion is generally defined as the awareness of suffering, and is most often accompanied by a desire to alleviate that suffering. The indisputable fact of biology that non-human animals possess the capacity to suffer is also a matter of pure common sense. Non-human animals strive to avoid pain and their reactions to it, just like we humans do, and even though they do not have the ability to express it in spoken language it still remains immediately recognizable as suffering. We human beings do not have a monopoly on suffering, and it is compassion that enables us to realize that the capacity of non-human animals to suffer is analogous to our own.

In order to be truly compassionate, consideration for, plus a desire to alleviate the suffering of all animals, both human and non-human, is imperative. Then it will naturally follow that we must not abuse or mistreat any animal (human or non-human). If we accept this as true, then we must also embrace the notion that abusing animals by proxy is also completely incompatible with a compassionate existence. It will not suffice to merely refrain from direct acts of abuse or violence toward animals; we must also withdraw any of our support, morally, ethically and practically, from those activities. There really isn’t any appreciable difference between committing an act of violence ourselves and paying someone else to do it on our behalf? After all, commissioning an act of violence is the moral equivalent of committing that act.

“No matter how much a person distances themselves from the act of violence that they have paid for or persuaded someone else to perform on their behalf, will that distancing extricate them from the moral implications of the deed itself.”

The truth that the production of meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy involves tremendous suffering on the part of tens of billions of animals each and every year is both inescapable and incontestable. In just the USA alone, eight-billion chickens are slaughtered for human consumption every year. Consider this: by the time you finish reading this sentence; over two-thousand chickens in the United States alone will have had their throats slit in order to satiate the gastronomic preferences and appetites of humans. It is directly opposed to the principles of compassion to condone or in any way support violence and cruelty, especially on such an enormous scale. Simply stated, any diet that includes meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy is altogether incompatible with the desire to lead a compassionate life. There is no avoiding the fact that such a diet must rely on (actually it is inseparable from) the abuse and slaughter of those creatures who are at our mercy. The abuse and slaughter of non-human animals for the sensory pleasure of humans who consume meat and dairy is completely and undoubtedly irreconcilable with the basic premises of compassion.

Those of us who are concerned with cultivating compassion in ourselves and in others must not allow our notion of “mercy” to be restricted to our own species, but instead we should extend our sphere of compassion to all sentient beings by living a cruelty-free, vegan life-style while relying entirely on nutritionally dense plant-based foods for our dietary requirements.

In order to cultivate compassion it is required that we be mindful of our intentions and that our intentions be consistent with the basic precepts of compassion. Mindfulness of this kind requires constant and continuous effort and although lapses of attention are unavoidable, the devotee of mindfulness and compassion must avoid consciously exempting or excluding any part of their lives or their behavior from the practice. And there is no logic whatsoever in the idea that mealtime should or would provide us with three opportunities a day to disengage our mindfulness and insulate ourselves from the suffering of others. Actually it is just the opposite; whenever we sit down to eat, we are making a conscious choice: either to alleviate suffering or to perpetuate it. Whenever we are motivated by compassion, that choice is perfectly clear.

Stay tuned, coming up next, the question, “Are Plants Sentient Beings” will be considered in respect to the common assumption that plants have feelings too.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

The Spiritual Aspects of Veganism (Part 2)…

At the onset, let it be known that no one can tell you what is right (or wrong) for you to do  in absolute terms. When it comes to your diet you must follow your own discernment when determining what you need to consume, and under what terms. That will be your spirituality. But let’s keep an open mind and be honest with ourselves.

One good reason to be a proponent of veganism is the lack of interest in paying other people to do things for you that you wouldn’t readily do for yourself. This means that veganism is a lot about facing up to the truth. A lot of people prefer to turn their heads in regards to what goes on throughout the meat industry. And; quite apart from the insane cruelty that goes on in modern factory farms (slaughter aside), how many among us would actually have the wherewithal to slit an animal’s throat, gut it, skin it and butcher what was left?

There are plenty of people who’d prefer not to think about the fact that what they are eating is a dead animal or parts of a dead animal’s corpse. They find to put it like that is distasteful (even though it’s the truth). These people only eat cuts of meat which don’t look like any creature they know or recognize.

In our society we rename the flesh of animals to further disassociate ourselves from living beings. We call dead pig meat “pork,” dead deer meat “venison,” dead cow meat “beef” and meat from dead sheep “mutton.” It’s like we are using a different names to make us think that what we are eating is something different from the animal it comes from. In the supermarkets, packaging has tried its best to make meat look desirable and delicious and only by making the parts appear quite unrecognizable from the whole animal, as they did when alive.

Veganism is all about sensitivity. There are still a few people who choose to go out and kill animals for food. That way, they know that they are eating meat out of choice and not by default. There’s not much to say to these people except to honor and respect their choice. However, it is hard for some of us to imagine killing animals for food if you have reached a certain level of sensitivity. How is it possible to maintain sensitivity and still succumb to the needless violence which a true omnivore’s diet entails? Reason dictates that you’ll either change what you do, or you need to suppress your sensitivity to be able to continue.

As we evolve spiritually, it just seems right to actively aim to develop sensitivity and compassion towards all sentient beings. Sensitivity literally is having your attention focused in your senses rather than your thoughts. When we get too stuck in our thoughts, we tend to become what we “think” we are, rather than what we really are, and we “think” about what we experience rather than directly experiencing it in the here and now. Thoughts are all too often reflecting on the past or anticipating the future. This can bring a lot of suffering, although sometimes that can be a subtle thing to realize.

Don’t just aim to become sensitive because someone (me or anyone else) told you that you “should.” Let your heart show you your true path, allow inspiration to be the stimulus to prompt the nurturing of sensitivity and watch as that leads to real joy and happiness and truth.

Explore for yourself – Veganism as a spiritual practice 

Stay tuned, coming soon: “Violence and Compassion in Veganism”

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

The Spiritual Aspects of Veganism (Part 1)…

Attracting Negative Energy:

So the question arises, why would anyone consciously attract negative energy? Well from a metaphysical standpoint, it’s generally because there is a sort of withdrawal (or contraction) from the delicate world of sensitivity, and that contraction most often is generated by either addiction or fear.

Negative energy in the world is elusive, and is mostly unknown to the majority of people and this is because one of the more common modes of negativity is deception. Basically some “vampiristic” astral spirits (and even some people here on Earth) need negative energy in the form of anger, conflict, fear, etc. And, they need to create it in others to be able to feed.

Negative energy is known to have the quality of addiction. Its deception is meant to make you believe in that you’re dependent on it, offering “poisoned” treasures which make it hard to break free. Negative energy numbs positive emotions, keeping you in a state of dullness and apathy. This apathy enables  you to ignore pain and suffering, but in the long run it is actually what is causing the majority of your pain and suffering.

With proper awareness, we can intuitively sense that it is the world of negative energy which has created a powerful lobby out of the meat industry; by getting government subsidies to make meat and animal products seem cheaper than they really are, by brainwashing people into believing they need animal protein (when they don't), and by stirring up hysteria and dread about veganism being unnatural by conjuring up a long list of nutrients which animals are supposedly better sources of than plant-based foods.

Mindfulness enables us to sense emotions in meat. When you eat animal flesh, you’re also eating the negative energies it contains, including those produced by the animal’s screams as it’s on its way to slaughter. (And from a physical perspective, consider that negative emotions spawn toxic chemicals, too).

The Spiritual Aspects of Veganism

In closing, let’s look at how veganism can really make a difference.

Die hard meat eaters will argue that “veganism won’t make any difference.” And this rational helps them because they don’t want to give up meat anyway, and they also refuse to believe that there is any environmental damage caused by raising animals for food.

It’s hard to imagine all of the suffering animals in the world? Even if you really care about them it will continue to remain hard as long as they remain in your head, because the only place you can express love and caring is here and now, in your senses and feelings and not through your thought-stream. Use your head to remain aware and mindful, then follow your sensitivity, and rest assured that the outcome will be good. In fact, the purpose of following your sensitivity is not entirely about the outcome, in and of itself, but to promote sensitivity simply for its own sake.

Keep in mind that you are not separate from those around you, and whatever you do, including the lead which you take, and the energies which you transmit (both consciously and subconsciously) will only help to bring about change. Whether it’s for the good, or for the bad, it’s your choice. Furthermore it’s your responsibility whether you take it up the challenge or not, because our constant influence on the world that surrounds us is not something that we can renounce.

Stay tuned for The Spiritual Aspects of Veganism (Part 2).

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Effects of a Plant-Based (Vegan) Diet on Mental/Emotional States…

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older (this is 18% of the population). Depression also has a major impact, affecting 9.5 percent of the adult population, accounting for $83 billion in lost productivity each year. It's not uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression or vice versa. Approximately one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

Sadly, one of the most obvious (yet under-recognized) factors in the development of major trends in the declining state of mental/emotional health in America are the roles of diet and nutrition. The body of evidence linking diet and mental health is growing at a rapid pace. Diet’s impact on short and long-term mental/emotional health is a solid indicator of the fact that food plays an important contributing role in the development, management and prevention of specific mental/emotional health problems; especially problems such as anxiety/stress, depression, schizophrenia, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Over 65% of those healthy individuals who do not report daily mental health problems eat fresh fruit and/or drink fruit juice every day, compared with less than 1/2 of those who do report daily mental health problems. This pattern is almost identical for those who regularly eat fresh vegetables and salad.

More and more nutritionists are now claiming that empty carbohydrates are often to blame for contributing to negative feelings, including anxiety, depression and feelings of anger. When compared to individuals who eat healthier foods like fruits, leafy greens and legumes, those who consume packaged or processed foods are often mentally unbalanced, emotionally unsettled or irritated more easily. Nutritionally-sparse diets filled with processed foods, refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, trans-fats, etc. have been directly associated with a host of unstable mental/emotional health issues. In addition, those who indulge in animal products are often known to exhibit more violent and aggressive tendencies.

Foods that help control anxiety, stress, anger and other conditions that lead to depression and other problems are almost always plant-based. As a matter of fact most plant-based foods are known to help keep negative mental emotional flare-ups at bay. A great example is leafy greens, which have high vitamin “C” content, an antioxidant known to fight stress. Leafy greens also contain magnesium, a nutrient responsible for relaxing muscles and reducing anxiety.

According to a study published in the March/April issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion, an 18-week, plant-based dietary intervention program boosts employee productivity, while alleviating symptoms of anxiety, depression, and fatigue.

Researchers with the non-profit “Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine” placed GEICO employees with a BMI (body/mass index) of 25 or above, or who were previously diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, on a low-fat, low-glycemic, high-fiber vegan diet. The study participants experienced overall productivity and measurable improvements in anxiety, depression, fatigue, and general health, according to the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) and the Work Productivity and Activity Impairment Questionnaire. Study participants also lost an average of 10 pounds, lowered LDL cholesterol by 13 points, and improved blood sugar control (if they had type 2 diabetes).

Effects of a Plant-Based (Vegan) Diet on Mental/Emotional States

During the study, healthful vegan options, including vegetable hummus sandwiches, seasonal leafy green salads, and black bean chili, were available in employee cafeterias. And because their menu featured a variety of fruits and vegetables, it was nutritionally-dense and rich in vitamins and minerals. Study participants favored healthful carbohydrate-rich foods, including brown rice, steel cut oats, and rye bread, which help regulate serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin helps control mood.

One of the study authors, Neal Barnard, M.D. says: “The same foods that curb the risk for obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, may help boost overall mood.” The study authors also hypothesize that when individuals improve their physical health, they may become more physically and socially active, increasing their mood and overall quality of life.

“Helping employees improve their health through a plant-based dietary intervention is a win-win situation for employees and the company,” notes Dr. Barnard. “Who doesn’t want to feel great, increase energy, and maximize productivity in the process?”

Stay tuned… Coming soon… More articles on the spiritual/mental/emotional aspects of a vegan diet and lifestyle.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

The Ethics of Veganism…

It's easy and highly tempting for most omnivores to believe that the meat they eat is ethical, that these “food animals” have lived full, happy lives and that they have experienced little to no pain or fear at the slaughterhouse. Yet sadly, the truth is that all living creatures (including those labeled “free range” or “organic”) fear death, just as we do. No matter how these creatures are treated when alive, they all experience the same fear when it comes to slaughter.

This realization leads to ethical considerations which become a powerful long-term motivator for plant-based (vegan) diets. But the welfare of animals is not all there is regarding ethical eating and lifestyle. In addition to animal cruelty we’ll take a brief look at environmental and human rights issues in this article…

  • Animal Cruelty: To meet the modern demands for most meat and dairy products, intensive commercial farming methods have nearly taken over the industry. It’s quite obvious that meat production involves the slaughter of animals, which is reason enough for some people to give it up altogether. But in addition to this, these intensive farming methods also often result in appalling animal cruelty before and up to the moment the animals are killed. Cows, pigs, fowl and other animals that are raised for food are generally being kept in crowded and filthy conditions with injuries left untreated and with no access to sunlight or the outdoors. Opposition to the killing of animals is a common reason cited by vegetarians and vegans, but it’s often overlooked by vegetarians that dairy production also involves slaughter. Milk cows are forced into a vicious cycle of continuous pregnancy so that they will produce milk for human consumption. Their female calves are either slaughtered immediately or used to replace their mothers in the dairy herd, while many of the male calves end up in veal crates; a horrible fate characterized by confinement, darkness, malnutrition, and slaughter.
  • The Environment: Another big reason people for people transitioning to a plant-based diet is to protect the environment. Vast deforestation is taking place in South and Latin America to make room for cattle grazing plus soy and grain cultivation. 97% of the crops are being grown to feed animals for meat or dairy production. Another environmental concern is the methane discharged from farm animals which contributes 18% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Human Rights: Meat and dairy production also impacts on human rights; while people in impoverished countries are starving, over one third of the world's total grain production is being fed to farmed animals in rich, industrial countries. Because of the commercial demand for animal feed, an average Western meat-based diet uses 4 ½  times more land than would be required for a vegan diet and 2 ¼ times more than for a simple vegetarian diet.

Once you embrace the ethics of veganism, there is really no alternative way of living and eating. This seems to be especially true for those who embrace an animal rights ethic. If you agree that animals are not here for human use, veganism is really your only dietary and lifestyle option.

Adapting a plant-based (vegan) diet is easier than ever before because veganism is becoming increasingly more main-stream. More and more people from all walks of life are discovering the many benefits of eating and living this way.  

So perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves, if it is now possible to live a life that involves delicious food and drink, delivers better health, leaves a smaller carbon footprint and avoids killing or harming of other creatures, then why don't we?

Stay tuned…Coming soon…The next series of articles will cover the spiritual/mental/emotional aspects of a vegan diet and lifestyle.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Snacking – Vegan Style (W/Bonus Recipe)…

Having quick, simple, healthy and vegan-friendly snacks on-hand doesn’t have to be hard by any means. Actually, with a little planning, it can be quite easy. It’s really fun and simple to keep your fridge stocked with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, a sure way to get most of the nutrients you will need to keep your body and mind fueled. Combining your produce with nuts, nut butters and seeds will make your snack even more substantial. These snacks are not just for strict vegan, but for anyone looking for some handy, healthy snacks. Naturally, fruit and veggies are great snacks and should be at the top of anyone’s snacking list. However, here’s a list of other snack ideas.

Some of the Healthier Vegan Snack Ideas:

  • Vegan yogurt with granola or fruit
  • Baked tofu, store-bought or homemade
  • Tofu jerky
  • Pretzels
  • Rice cakes with peanut butter or jam
  • Edamame
  • Granola
  • Kale chips
  • Vegan trail mix
  • Sweet potato fries
  • Pita and hummus
  • Pita and baba ghanoush
  • Dates (watch these, very high in calories)
  • Apples, bananas or celery with peanut butter or another nut butter
  • Nuts, sunflower seeds
  • Applesauce
  • Dried fruit
  • Granola bars or protein bars
  • Banana chips
  • Dehydrated fruit leathers
  • Crackers with olive tapenade
  • Chips and salsa
  • Chips and guacamole
  • Veggies with goddess dressing
  • Cucumbers with vegan sour cream
  • Frozen grapes
  • Soy nuts
  • Popcorn (really good with nutritional yeast)
  • Sesame sticks
  • Graham crackers (not Honey Grahams)
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Crackers with pesto
  • Chips with bean dip (store bought or homemade)
  • Homemade granola bars
  • Bagel with peanut butter, hummus or guacamole
  • Vegan muffins
  • Vegan brochette

A Bit Less Healthy Snack Ideas:

  • Vegan ice cream
  • Vegan cookies
  • Vegan deli meats wrapped with vegan cheese
  • Frozen hash browns, French fries or tater tots
  • Vegan chocolate
  • Vegetarian pepperoni slices
  • Fried or baked zucchini chips

*Note: It’s best to avoid vending machines, though the snacks served by them may be convenient, the vegan options (if there are any) are often lacking the nutrients you need. They’re also not the best sources of energy.

Tips:

  • Make an extra large (or double) batch of muffins, and cookies, etc. and freeze them.
  • Clean and cut your fruits and veggies for the week ahead and put them in the fridge until you’re ready.
  • Soak your nuts and seeds in advance and dehydrate them and they’ll be ready to grab and go.
  • If a dip will be part of your weeks’ snacks menu, prepare it ahead of time and refrigerate.
  • When planning your meals for the week, plan your snacks also.

Bonus Recipe:

Vegan Cheese Dip

  • 1 Can – 15½ oz. Great Northern, Navy or Cannellini Beans (drained)
  • ½ Cup – Roasted Red Pepper (or Pimiento)
  • 3 Tbsp. – Nutritional Yeast
  • 3 Tbsp. – Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 3 Tbsp. – Sesame Tahini
  • 1 tsp. – Sea salt
  • 1 tsp. – Yellow Mustard
  • 1 tsp. – Onion Powder or Granulated Onion (not onion salt)

Put everything in a food processor and blend until smooth. Can be stored in fridge for up to a week.

Stay tuned…Coming soon…The next series of articles will cover the spiritual/mental/emotional aspects of a vegan diet and lifestyle.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Supporting Evidence for Vegans

There's plenty of scientific evidence to justify a transitioning to a plant-based diet, and it seems the stories of personal transformation; curing a host of diseases, losing unwanted weight, manifesting an active lifestyle are the things that make the biggest impression.

There will always be plenty of ready-made excuses for those who have lost their battle with leaving behind an omnivore’s diet; they fill food networks with dreadful accounts of fatigue, illness, hair loss, anxiety, diminished sex drive, and mental/emotional breakdowns after they have quit consuming animal products. The problem with their accounts, and one they almost all have in common, is that those who made the vegan leap and failed, did so with a lack of diligence sufficient to understand intelligent veganism. One can dine on fast foods, processed foods, and all sorts of junk foods and wash them all down with soda and still call themselves a vegan. Many backsliders have evidently tried to do exactly that.

There are even those who turn to veganism in order to support serious eating disorders (E.D.s), and this type of unintelligent choice can represent a dangerous slide from health to pathology. Anorexics/manorexics and orthorexics (a controversial new disorder compulsively avoid foods thought to be unhealthy or unnatural) are examples of those who opt for a strict vegan diet for all the wrong reasons. By making proper and intelligent choices veganism can be used as a effective tool to recover from all types of E.D. including anorexia, bulimia and orthorexia.

There are piles of documentation and books, such as The China Study, and whether you choose to believe them or not, there's no disputing the fact that a diet rich in plant-based, un-processed, un-altered food is a smart diet. Undeniably there are countless healthful consequences of a well informed vegan diet and lifestyle. Even so, we are bombarded by endless excuses for why someone simply cannot go vegan, but the assertion that veganism, when done properly, is not healthy; well that’s just plain bunk.

It often seems the most persuasive evidence supporting a healthy vegan diet is anecdotal. The vegans, who eat and shop intelligently, are paragons of good health. Regardless of whether they’re young or in their 50s, 60s, and 70s they rock on with glowing intensity, often looking much younger (in some cases as much as 20 years) than they actually are. Many of these vegans have conquered afflictions such as obesity, chronic disease, depression, and an array of food-related disorders by exclusively eating a delicious and nutritionally dense diversity of plants. If there's a single lesson to be learned from seasoned vegans, it’s that this diet empowers.

Above and beyond anecdotes, there's considerable scientific evidence showing that veganism is a wise way to eat. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics claims that a well-planned vegan (and vegetarian) diet is "healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases." And please note that this is a much more cautious assessment than many studies suggest.

According to a less restrained study; "vegan diets are effective in treating and preventing several chronic diseases." The adaptation of a low-fat vegan diet can substantially mitigate the impacts of type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and Parkinson's disease. Veganism reduces the risk of colon cancer. Vegans have a better "antioxidant status" than non-vegans. Veganism is more effective at combating obesity than almost all other prescribed diets. Veganism has been shown to significantly lower risk factors associated with cardiac disease.

There are also transformations initiated by a healthy vegan diet that extend far beyond physical health. For those who so desire, their plant-based diet can be a potent political criticism of our broken food system. We're looking at a diet for which the ultimate beneficiary is the individual. In no way does healthy veganism serve the corporate or industrial gods. In fact, it counters their greedy interests. Veganism keeps these executives up at night. As long as people keep eating meat, they're happy, even if it costs their animal eating customers their health, not to mention the animal cruelty involved.

Consider the prospect of simultaneously giving corporate food executives nightmares while achieving personal dietary empowerment. At the same time you’ll lower your carbon footprint and minimize animal suffering. If this has any appeal, then veganism is for you. But here's the catch, you have to do it right, and doing it right means consuming a wide variety of nutrient-rich plant-based foods and following the simple nutritional guidelines outlined HERE.

Stay tuned…Coming soon, “Snacking – Vegan Style”

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Vegan Baking – Without Dairy or Eggs (W/Bonus Recipe)

Most of us have a sweet tooth, and especially a weakness for baked goods. The problem is for many vegans, it’s tough working baked sweets into our diet, because dairy and eggs are found in most recipes for cakes, muffins, cupcakes, cookies and even such items as pancakes and waffles.

The good news is it’s not that hard to substitute eggs and dairy in baking. Here are some recommendations.

Dairy:

Milk is commonly used to add liquid and fat content to a baked recipe. Unless you are making whipped cream, milk isn’t all that important to the structure of most baked goods and it’s quite easy to substitute.

Any dairy milk can easily be substituted with non-dairy milks in baking. Common alternatives are soy, almond, cashew, rice and coconut milk. Good to keep in mind: soymilk tends to be sweeter than dairy milk, and full-fat coconut milk can be a bit creamier than regular whole milk.

Non-dairy milks can quickly be used to make a buttermilk substitute. Suppose you need 1 cup “buttermilk”; here’s how you would make it: Place 1 tablespoon lemon juice, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, or white vinegar in a measuring cup. Add enough non-dairy milk (of your choosing) until it reaches the 1-cup line; stir with a fork or whisk. Allow mixture to rest for 5-10 minutes. Voila, you have your vegan buttermilk! The juice/vinegar adds a flavor similar to buttermilk and also curdles the milk allowing it to become slightly thicker. Just as with its dairy counterparts, non-dairy milks with higher fat content will create thicker buttermilk.

An easy way to substitute heavy whipped cream is by using full-fat coconut milk. Simply chill the can overnight and remove the separated solid cream. Using a mixer, whip the solid cream on high with a ¼ cup to ½ cup of powdered sugar (depending on the sweetness desired). The coconut milk cream will become firm and hold stiff peaks, just like whipped heavy cream.

Solid fats like butter and margarine are sometimes integral to things like puff pastry, pie crust, shortbread, croissants, Danish pastries and certain cakes.  If you’re lucky your local supermarket or health food store will carry Earth Balance Products (look for buttery sticks and buttery spreads). Although it is possible to make your own vegan butter, just go to this site.

Eggs:

The function of using eggs when baking is to contribute to structure and incorporate air when beaten. Some surprising ingredients can be used to replace eggs and still provide firmness. For whole eggs there are a number of great options here.

  • A banana can be used in place of 2 eggs.
  • Mixing 1 tablespoon of flax meal with 2 to 3 tablespoons of water, and leaving the mixture to sit for 5 minutes will create a jelly-like substance known as a flax egg, a great substitute in baking.
  • ¼ cup plain mashed potatoes can also be to replace one egg in a recipe.
  • ¼ cup of pureed pumpkin can stand in for a single egg in baking, depending on the flavor of your recipe. ¼ cup of non-dairy yogurt can be a healthy substitute for a single egg in baked goods.
  • Tofu is a great option in recipes that call for several eggs. Whip or blend soft tofu and use ¼ cup of the mixture to replace each egg.
  • EnerG Egg Replacer is an awesome store bought mix (also available online) and my favorite egg substitute. This product can be used in almost all recipes where eggs are needed with great success.

Bonus Recipe – Vegan Chocolate Cake

For the cake:

  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup warm water (you may substitute warm coffee for this)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon white or apple cider vinegar

For the glaze

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons margarine or vegan butter substitute
  • 2 Tablespoons soy milk
  • 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  • Prepare the Cake. Preheat oven to 350F (177C). In an 8 x 8 inch square pan, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt with a fork. Add the water or coffee, vanilla extract, vegetable oil and vinegar. Mix the ingredients together. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool on a cooling rack.
  • Prepare the Glaze. In a small saucepan bring the sugar, margarine, soy milk and cocoa powder to a boil, stirring frequently. Simmer for 2 minutes, remove from heat and stir an additional 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  • Glaze the Cake. Pour the glaze onto cake and let it cool for one hour.

Stay tuned…Coming soon, “Dining Out – A Vegan guide”

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Eliminating Dairy from Your Diet (W/Bonus Recipe)

There are tons of health and ethical reasons to avoid dairy products. Looking at the health side, countless people who’ve quit dairy discovered that their chronic congestion, digestive problems, ear and other upper-respiratory infections, acne and other issues that compromised their optimal health disappeared within a few weeks. Consider going completely dairy-free for a month and see how significantly your quality of life improves.

Nutritionally speaking, dairy is pretty much bad news everywhere you look. Nearly half of the calories in whole milk come from fat, and almost all of its carbohydrates come from sugar, all in the form of lactose, to which many people are intolerant and can’t properly digest. Even worse, the fat in dairy products is every bit as saturated as the fat in beef and most other meat products. Additionally, dairy has absolutely no fiber and no iron. And if all that weren’t enough, you might wonder why the FDA refuses to answer the question about the amount of pus (a buildup of dead leukocytes, aka white blood cells) in dairy products.

Looking at the ethical side, most commercial dairy cows are never allowed to graze outdoors; they’re confined to cramped stalls on factory farms. Although a cow is meant to live about twenty years, practically all dairy cows are sent to slaughter before they turn five because the overall milk production of aging cows can’t come close to that of a younger animals. Commercial dairy cows are impregnated every year in order to maximize their milk production, and their calves are commonly sold to the veal industry. So if you, like more and more people every day, are opposed to this type of inhumane treatment; they’re chained at the neck so they can’t turn around or move more than a step forward or backward. All they can do is stand up and lie down. This is done so that they don’t develop muscles so that their meat stays very tender. These young calves never get to play or graze or feel the sunshine on their backs, or be with their mothers. They spend their entire lives in the dark in little stalls until they’re big enough to be killed and turned into veal; usually around 16 weeks old (about 4 months).

For detailed information about the dairy industry’s cruel farming practices, see Jonathan Safran Foer’s awesome book Eating Animals.

Also, A highly recommended documentary, "The Perils of Dairy"

How to Go Dairy-Free:

If the idea of suddenly removing all dairy products from your diet seems daunting, try easing into it.  Make a note of the dairy products you currently consume: chances are that there a few such foods you love, but a dozen or so others you might eat regularly but you’re not really crazy about. So, get rid of all the ones you can do without and you’re more than halfway to being dairy-free! But the real key to success in eliminating dairy from your diet involves not as much cutting them out, but instead, replacing them with superior non-dairy alternatives.  And luckily, there are all sorts of non-dairy products on on today’s market shelves that are truly great tasting and healthy:

  • Butter: "Earth Balance" and "Soy Garden" are excellent vegan alternatives.
  • Yogurt: Made from soy, coconut and almond milks, various vegan brands available.
  • Milk: Soy, rice, almond, coconut, and even hemp seed milks are becoming widely available, not only at natural food stores but also at many supermarkets.
  • Cheese: There are several non-dairy cheeses on the market, but always check the label for casein or sodium caseinate.  Casein is a milk protein that is used in some soy cheeses. Happily, two of the best non-dairy cheeses, "Daiya" and "Wayfare," are vegan. Both brands are widely available in the United States. Also, try “Go Veggie” vegan Parmesan cheese alternative.
  • Ice Cream: There are a number of excellent brands made from non-dairy milks currently on the market. “So Delicious,” “Purely Decadent” and “Tufutti” make vegan versions of many delicious ice cream products, and you won’t even be able to tell the difference! Plus don’t forget about sorbets, which tend to be vegan (check the label) and are lighter and often more flavorful than ice cream.
  • Cream Cheese and Sour Cream: Once again, there are vegan alternatives. “Follow Your Heart,” “Daiya” and “Tofutti” make superb vegan versions of cream cheese and sour cream, which are available at many natural food stores and supermarkets. 
  • Mayonnaise: There are also several vegan brands of mayonnaise, including a wonderful and widely-distributed product called “Vegenaise.”.
  • Coffee Creamer: Now there’s no need to put dairy cream products in your coffee: "So Delicious" and "Silk" are two companys that make vegan creamers that blend perfectly into coffee.

Bonus recipe! Fettuccini Alfredo, the vegan recipe everyone thought was impossible, and WOW, is it ever good!

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 ounces pasta (fettuccini, linguini, spaghetti or fusilli)
  • 3 Tbsp. (30 ml) olive oil
  • 1 small shallot (or onion)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
  • 4 Tbsp. all purpose flour (slightly rounded)
  • 2 cups (420 – 480 ml) unsweetened, plain almond milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4-6 Tbsp (20-30 g) nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/3 cup “Go Veggie” vegan parmesan cheese (plus more – reserved for topping)
  • 1 cup canned green peas (if frozen, cook al dente)
  • Red Pepper Flake (reserved)
  • 1 Tbsp. Earth Balance (reserved)

Instructions:

1. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add olive oil, shallot and garlic, stirring quickly to ensure it doesn’t burn.

2. Next, reduce heat slightly and add 4 Tbsp. flour and whisk to combine. Cook for about a minute and then add almond milk 1/4 cup at a time (adding 1 3/4 cups total, working up to 2 cups) and whisk to prevent clumps. Cook for 2 minutes.

3. Transfer to a blender and add salt, pepper, vegan parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and blend on high until creamy and smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed – you want it to be pretty cheesy and salty so don't be shy.

4. Add pasta to a large pot of boiling, well-salted water and cook according to package instructions. Drain and cover to prevent drying.

5. Return sauce back to skillet and cook on medium heat until it bubbles, then reduce heat to low and cook until thickened, stirring frequently.

6. If sauce is too thick, add a little more milk. If too thin, scoop out some sauce in a 1/2 cup measuring cup and whisk in 1-2 tsp. arrowroot flour. Whisk to combine and add back to sauce. Repeat as needed until desired consistency is reached. Taste and adjust (if necessary).

7. Once sauce is ready, add pasta, cooked peas, Earth Balance and toss. Cook for 1-2 minutes to warm through, and then serve with additional vegan parmesan cheese and red pepper flake.

Stay tuned…Coming soon, “Vegan Baking – Without Dairy or Eggs”

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500