I am not sure how this whole thing started. It might have something to do with my friend Amy Lee and her Kitchen Wisdom. It could be that I was needing to eat more tofu to stave off the impending hot flashes one gets upon the onset of peri-menopause. I was also looking at ways of losing some of the weight I had gained while working at the old company. It could also be the result of over-indulgence from our recent trip to France.
Meanwhile, Michelle had been doing all this research in ways to improve and optimize her athletic performance. Mostly to stay in shape (rather than to enter a race or some other competitive event). She had already subscribed to various fitness magazines like Oxygen and Shape (as opposed to my Food & Wine, Gourmet, Sunset). She downloaded and/or purchased books like The Truth About Abs, and The Clean Diet, and she is no stranger to protein shakes and vitamins and the likes.
But it wasn’t until I started reading Michael Pollan (“Food Rules”, “In Defense of Food”, and “The Omnivore’s Dilemna”), and and Michelle started reading Brendan Brazier (“The Thrive Diet”), that we decided to alter our eating habits a bit. I forgot how many “rules” there are in the book “Food Rules” — less than 100, I’m sure — but they were simple and made sense. On a gut level, when I read a rule, I would nod my head and thought, “Yup, of course that made sense”. I don’t remember which rule now, but one said something about eating smaller quantities, most of it vegetables. I like vegetables to begin with, so that was not shocking news by any stretch of the imagination. However, when Michelle started reading excerpts from “The Thrive Diet” to me, there were several things I never thought of. And they also have that gut-level “that makes sense” reaction. I should note that the author (Brendan Brazier) is a ironman athlete who has performed very well over the years (placing 1st or near the top in many events). He is also a vegan. (Although Amy did poopoo the notion that somebody can be a vegan and perform well athletically. Which is exactly the point of his book.)
We had already started to move towards a more veggie-friendly cuisine, when Michelle read yet another book: The China Study. The book detailed the many studies they conducted, unmistakingly linking nutrition to heart disease, diabetes, obesity and even cancer. China had provided the funding for this research, because they could not get the approval for such studies in the United States. It would have brought down the meat and dairy industry, and all the auxiliary industries that service these two western dietary staples: trucking, butchering, refrigeration, packaging. Millions and millions of dollars would be at stake.
Remember country-western Grammy-winning star, k.d. lang? She was a vegetarian (not a big deal) who spoke against the cattle industry (a very big deal) in her famous “Meat Stinks” promotional video for PETA. (“We all love animals, but why do we call some of them pets and some of them dinner? If you knew how meat was made, you’d probably lose your lunch. I know, I’m from cattle country-that’s why I became a vegetarian. Meat stinks, and not just for animals but for human health and the …”) All the radio stations banned her songs after that. Even in her hometown in Alberta’s beef country, the proud plaque saying “Home of k.d. lang” was angrily removed. I don’t think she has ever regained any of the former warmth and popularity she once enjoyed.
Ultimately we will never know with 100% absolute and undeniable certainty whether meat (in particular, beef and products containing casein) causes all these ailments. But going on cultural observations (mine, mostly, since I grew up in various countries), and that gut feeling, I would offer that eating less meat is much healthier.
There’s another aspect to this, and that is to reduce our impact on the environment. Vegetables can be grown efficiently in much less space than it would take to raise a herd of cattle. Add to the fact that the methane from cows (I’m not kidding) are further contributing to the ozone hole.
We decided, after reading all these various books, we would try this approach: our diet will consist of about 80% vegetables and grains and seeds and legumes (in other words, stuff that is not meat), and the other 20% meat. We also decided to incorporate a few items into our everyday diet. The nutritional contents of these items are unbelievable. Some of them can be considered “whole foods”, and have been used in the NASA program.
- Sea vegetables. This site provides a lot of information about seaweed, as well as a wide variety of products. Or you can purchase seaweed at your local asian market (see previous post called “Kaisou Salad”.) It makes a great snack!
- Hemp seed, oil, milk. It’s not the same as marijuana (you don’t get high or stupid), although I must admit a sort of delight in throwing that word out as part of our diet. You can find hemp in your local Whole Foods or other health food stores. Or you can get it from Canada. Hemp oil cannot be cooked at high temperatures, so it’s best to use in salad dressings. It has a nice nutty flavor.
- Coconut oil, for high-temp cooking. You can find it in any local health food store. Contrary to the image of “oil”, it is actually solid at room temperature.
- Chlorella, as a supplement, because it is a complete protein and an excellent source of chlorophyl. There is strong supporting evidence (dating as far back as the Stanford studies in th 40s) of its health and healing effects.
- Tofu. Because I love it. I like it in stir-frys and soups. I even like it in dessert (asian style, with sugar ginger sauce). Get organic, non-GMO, because it’ll taste better, and you’ll feel better buying non-genetically-modified foods.
If I make anything vegetarian yummy, I’ll post the recipes. (I’ll still post “meat” recipes, too. We’re not going vegan anytime soon, if ever.)