Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Study-Red Meat and Processed Meat Increases Death Risk: Really?

I thought this was already well-established, but for for the skeptics out there, this is one of the largest and most comprehensive studies to date on meat consumption and mortality (death rate) from disease. The study, "Meat Intake and Mortality: A Prospective Study of Over Half a Million People," was published in the esteemed journal Archives of Internal Medicine this month. Click here for the full abstract.

UPDATE 5/5/09: Jane Brody published a really well-written story on this in the New York Times -- take a look.

Investigators studied a half a million people aged 50 to 71 (at the outset), looking at their diets and their ultimate causes of death. They specifically were looking for a connection between intakes of different types of meat (red, white, and processed) and risk of cause-specific mortality (meaning, which diseases did they get that led to their deaths?).

Over ten years, deaths and their causes were recorded. The main finding was that the higher the red meat and processed meat intake, the greater the risk of dying from cancer, heart disease, and just dying in general.

Interestingly, white meat consumption was not shown to have any association with these risks, but that certainly does not mean that the fountain of youth is hidden in your McNuggets. Certainly red and processed meats contain more saturated and trans fat than white, and that can explain at least part of these results. I am skeptical that white meat is in any way protective -- I have noticed in general that people who eat a lot of poultry also eat lots of salads and vegetables, so this may account for the lack of association. Whatever the explanation, no study has ever shown an increased risk of death or disease from including more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans, so vegans still have the best competitive edge.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Vegan Nachos Supreme

My family's tummies are very happy tonight after this special Sunday treat: vegan nachos. There's absolutely nothing missing from this indulgence except the usual suspects in the typical version: cholesterol, saturated and trans fat, and other junk. This vegan version is made with organic, natural ingredients and is just as delicious and satisfying as it looks. And it's really easy to make -- we took the convenience short cuts (pre-made guacamole, packaged sour cream, canned beans, etc.) It's a fantastic family delight, and kinda fun to share with your S.O. with a couple o' beers.

Dina's Nachos Supreme
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 package of Smart Ground Mexican Style
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • shredded Follow Your Heart Nacho Style "cheese"
  • natural tortilla chips of your choice
  • shredded lettuce
  • chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1 can jalapeno black beans or plain black beans
  • 1 can organic "refried" pinto beans
  • salsa of your choice
  • guacamole
  • Sour Supreme tofutti no hydrogenated oil sour "cream"

Chop up the onion and saute it in the olive oil for a few minutes. Add the veggie Ground, salsa, chili powder, and saute until it's hot. Heat up the black beans (if unseasoned, add a whole lot of cumin and other seasonings of your choice) and refried beans on the stove or in the microwave. That's it! Now just assemble the remaining ingredients. Either put it all together like they do at the pub, or, put everything in little bowls and have folks take what they want, how they want it. You can substitute taco shells for the chips and make tacos instead.

Calories in this meal can add up quickly, so if you're watching it, go easy on the chips, cheese, and sour cream, be liberal with the veggies and beans, and moderate with the guac and ground. You can also stretch it to save calories, by including additional chopped raw veggies like bell peppers, cucumbers, and shredded carrots.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

MTV serves up a Side of Truth

Compassion Over Killing is doing a great job making restaurants rethink their offerings. This commercial, which is being aired nationally by MTV, is making an impact.

This article from QSR (Quick Service Restaurant magazine), entitled "Will a MTV Commercial Negatively Affect Your Sales?", shows the commercial and explains the reasons Compassion Over Killing gives for creating these commercials. The article is interesting in that it is geared towards quick-serve restaurant owners (like fast foods and fast-casual), and it's informative without a lean (positive or negative).

Hopefully, this commercial, as well as other efforts such as consumer demand, will result in more vegan items appearing on menus. As that happens, more and more people will opt for these choices, and there will be less meat consumed overall. It's a win-win-win: for the restaurants, for the consumer's health, and for the animals.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A big apple

No, this time I'm not talking about New York City; I'm talking about a ginormous mutant apple that we recently found at Whole Foods. (This picture was not doctored up other than blurring my little guy.) Believe it or not, it was really crispy and sweet; the three of us dipped slices in almond butter and we were good for several hours.

Apples, even though best in season (the fall), are available all year round. Local ones are usually best, not only because we're all trying to decrease our carbon footprint, but also because they've been exposed to the least abuse via transport and temperature changes. I prefer organic to conventional, because those pesticide residues not only hide out on the skin (especially the dimpled parts), but those toxins land on the whole tree and seep into the ground, becoming part of our ecosystem: in the soil where the trees grow (making the INSIDE of the apples affected with the pesticides, not just the skin), in the groundwater, and on the foods eaten by birds, deer, and small mammals.

Does an apple a day keep the doctor away? No one is really sure (but I do enjoy following this blog -- written by a woman who eats an apple every day). But it certainly can't hurt to follow this advice. Apples are chock full of both types of fiber, but is a particularly good source of soluble fiber, the kind that helps lower your cholesterol. This fiber, called pectin, also provides bulk and digests slowly, helping us feel fuller longer. Apples also have antioxidants called flavonoids, which protect the heart even further and may help decrease inflammation.

Here are my 5 favorite ways to eat apples (other than simply "out of hand"):

1. Slice it up and dip into almond or peanut butter.
2. Chop into small pieces, grab a couple of spoonfuls of raisins or currants, and cook along with whole breakfast grains like oats and barley. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts and eat.
3. (This one is great for apples that are past their prime but not "bad.") Dice into cubes and place in small pot. Add a bit of water, cinnamon, and some agave nectar and simmer for 8-10 minutes. While apple cooks, soak a handful of raisins in hot water. When apple is done, drain raisins and toss with cornstarch. Add raisins to apple mixture and boil for a few seconds, until thickened. Use as a topping for whole-grain waffles or pancakes, or as a whole grain crepe filling.
4. Slice thin, sprinkle on cinnamon, and dry in a desiccator.
5. Throw apple slices into a vita-mix with 1/2 frozen banana, 1 cup frozen berries, and 1 cup hemp milk.