Practicing Non-Harming Toward Yourself and the World



How to save hundreds of thousands of lives

According to this article from Reuters, 400,000 people in the United States will die of heart disease in 2010. A study conducted in the U.K. determined that “around half of those deaths could be averted if people ate healthier food and quit smoking.” The researchers blame poor diet and exercise for contributing to heart disease, obesity, cholesterol, and diabetes.

The article states that “Two-thirds of U.S. adults and nearly one in three children are overweight or obese — a condition that increases their risk for diabetes, heart disease and other chronic illnesses.” Those are shockingly high numbers of Americans who are unhealthy.

If you live off unhealthy food and you hardly ever exercise, chances are you’re not going to be very healthy. It isn’t hard to change your habits, but it does take a little motivation.

First, stop eating meat. A vegan diet is naturally low in fat and high in nutrients, without all the artery clogging cholesterol (cholesterol is only found in animal products). As an added bonus, you’ll also decrease your chances of food borne illnesses like salmonella.

Second, move! I’ll admit that I hate exercises like the ones I had to do in high school – push ups, jogging, sit ups, etc. The trick is finding an exercise program that is fun. I enjoy yoga and kickboxing, and I’m looking for belly dancing classes. If you have fun doing it, you’re more likely to stick with it.

When you transition to a healthier lifestyle, you’ll feel 100% better. I know I did after losing 60 pounds. Wanna see the difference living healthy made?

From 200+ lbs just a year ago... my current 135 lbs.

(Btw – that’s my super-ridiculously tall brother).

I lost weight and became healthier by exercising, eating healthier foods and eliminating empty calories, and being mindful of how I treat my body. Whereas I used to be lethargic, moody, and sick, I’m not energetic, happy, and rarely get ill. I feel amazing compared to just a year ago.

If you take the initiative to change your lifestyle for the better, I promise you’ll enjoy life more once your healthier.

Baltimore Schools: Meatless Mondays

Schools in Baltimore are about to have more compassionate Mondays. Baltimore City schools are joining the Meatless Monday program, the first school system in the country to do so on a regular basis. Every Monday the school system will serve it’s 80,000 students a vegetarian meal (sadly the program isn’t vegan-food inclusive, though introducing vegetarian food is a start in the right direction).

It is important for all school systems to incorporate vegetarian and vegan options in their cafeterias on a regular basis, not just one day per week. While I think it’s great that Baltimore is trying out the Meatless Monday program, I think back to my own school days and remember how hard it was to be a vegetarian at my high school.

I stopped eating meat in the tenth grade. Not vegan yet – I still ate plenty of dairy. I went to a decent-sized high school, and the cafeteria was always super crowded – to the point where standing in line meant you only got 10 out of 30 minutes to actually eat. The meals were horrendous. Before I became a vegetarian, my typical school lunches would consist of a half-cooked chicken sandwich, a slice of greasy pizza, or a huge-ass chocolate chip cookie. By not eating meat, I was reduced to the cookie, or french fries, or canned vegetables left on a heating plate. We didn’t have a salad bar, no vegetarian option (such as a veggie burger) was ever offered, and the school officials couldn’t care less what we ate.

Needless to say, being a student at my high school meant not eating healthy during the day. I’ve gotten a little off-topic I guess, but I just feel it’s really important to feed our nation’s children a nutritious, healthy meal at least once a day. And adding more vegetarian and vegan options to the menu is a great place to start.

Swine Flu

pig-factory-farmsI wanted to wait a little while for things to pan out before I wrote about the latest worldwide pandemic, the swine flu. So far in the United States, 286 people in 36 states have been affected by this new influenza strain, which originated with pigs farmed in Mexico. However, despite the fact that the World Health Organization raised the pandemic alert to a level 5 alert on a scale of six, some Mexican officials in charge of dealing with the flu have begun to say that things might be slowing down. Apparently, even though people have been panicking and even Vice President Joe Biden made the statement that he didn’t want his family taking closed-in public transportation or travelling, the flu is not as bad as most people perceive it to be. Most US cases have been mild, and if the WHO does happen to raise the alert level to a 6, “that would be a statement about the geographic spread of the virus, not its severity.” That’s not to say people shouldn’t take certain measures to ensure their health, like eating foods that boost your immune system and washing your hands, but don’t freak out.

What is unfortunate is that much of the media is still dancing around the fact that the reason this virus is threatening us is because of humanity’s desire to eat animals. Factory farming, where animals are bunched so closely together with little circulation of air and with little to no decent sanitation, is just a breeding ground for dangerous diseases such as the swine flu. It is unlikely that we would see these viruses arise in a world where people depended on a herbivorous diet.

I was quite happy to see that The Times confronted this fact in a recent article:

…once humans invented farming and learned to cultivate animals, we made a bad situation much worse. All at once, chickens, ducks and pigs – which never had much to do with one another – began living cheek to jowl in high numbers and often unsanitary conditions. Farm families and people working in live markets then began mingling with the critters. That’s a pathogenic speed blender, and the viruses have taken full advantage of it.

If people were seriously concerned with how to diminish viruses and diseases such as the swine and avian flu, they must first realize that factory farming is the main culprit. Only by removing factory farming will we be able to ensure more healthy lives to all the people in this world.

Calcium myth

Some people like to argue with vegans that we do not get enough calcium in our diets because we don’t eat dairy. However, a group of vegan Buddhist nuns allowed themselves to be studied along with non-vegan women. The outcome was that the vegan nuns had the same bone density as the non-vegans.

“For the 5% of people in Western countries who choose to be vegetarians, this is very good news,” said Professor [Tuan] Nguyen. “Even vegans, who eat only plant-based foods, appear to have bones as healthy as everyone else.”

“Bone health in vegetarians, particularly vegans, has been a concern for some time, because as a group they tend to have a lower protein and calcium intake than the population at large.”

“In this work we showed that although the vegans studied do indeed have lower protein and calcium intakes, their bone density is virtually identical to that of people who eat a wide variety of foods, including animal protein.”

This is interesting because so many people relate healthy bones to high levels of calcium found in dairy products. But this study shows that you can follow a vegan diet and still get enough calcium to make your bones strong.

Vegan Buddhist Nuns Have Same Bone Density As Non-vegetarians: Buddhist Channel

Food Safety Not Improving

Not that it’s any surprise that food is not safe, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, our nation’s food safety is not improving.

“This highlights the urgent need to overhaul our food-safety system,” said Erik D. Olson, director of food and consumer product safety at the Pew Charitable Trusts. “In some cases, there are early indications that progress may be reversing for some diseases. The children and elderly in our families are most at risk, and it is our duty to better safeguard them.”

Roughly 76 million people in the United States suffer food-borne illnesses each year, 300,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die, according to estimates by the disease centers. Children younger than 4 are sickened by food more than those in any other age group, but adults over 50 suffer more hospitalizations and death as a result of food-related infections.

The fact that the food we may be buying in grocery stores could kill us is scary as hell. I’ve never wanted to plant my own garden so bad in my life (and, as a matter of fact, I will be this summer once I’m home from school!). People should be furious at the government for not protecting us better – it is the FDA’s responsibility to protect us from dangerous food products, and they aren’t doing a very good job. Especially when they can’t figure out where the diseases are coming from much of the time.

Teen Vegetarianism=Eating Disorder

The Times has an article called Is Vegetarianism a Teen Eating Disorder? that discusses the link between eating disorders and teenagers who test out a vegetarian diet. First, just let me say that I am definitely not an expert on such a topic, and everything I write is just my opinions regarding this topic. Overall, the author of this article cites a study that has concluded that teenage vegetarians are unhealthy, are hiding behind claims of animal rights and environmentalism to mask their eating disorders, and that vegetarians are prone to binge eating.

The following paragraph made me cringe, especially because of the annoying ridcule the author displays:

For one thing, many young “vegetarians” continue to eat the white meat of defenseless chickens (25% in the current study) as well as the flesh of those adorable animals known as fish (46%), even when they are butchered and served up raw as sushi. And in a 2001 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers found that the most common reason teens gave for vegetarianism was to lose weight or keep from gaining it. Adolescent vegetarians are far more likely than other teens to diet or to use extreme and unhealthy measures to control their weight, studies suggest. The reverse is also true: teens with eating disorders are more likely to practice vegetarianism than any other age group.

Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t people who have eating disorders and use vegetarianism to lose weight. And eating disorders are terrible and obviously those suffering should seek help. However, just because teens say losing/controlling their weight is a main reason for the shift in their diet does not mean that it is necessarily a bad thing. Vegetarianism is healthier than an omnivorous diet, and people learn this though veg*n outreach campaigns. Trying to be healthy is a good thing, and even though there are people who take it to an extreme, it’s unfair to group them together.

The article points out that vegetarians are far more prone to binge eating than meat-eaters. The reason is almost comical: “It could also be that vegetarians are hungrier in general and somewhat more prone to bouts of binge eating.” Uh, sure. We’re all just super-duper hungry because we don’t overdose on protein. They’re probably trying to link binge-eating with eating disorders, but it’s still a poor argument.

The main reason I wanted to highlight the Time’s article was because of this:

The authors suggest that parents and doctors should be extra vigilant when teens suddenly become vegetarians. Although teens may say they’re trying to protect animals, they may actually be trying to camouflage some unhealthy eating behaviors.

If someone you know has an eating disorder, please, please get them help. But I fear that an article such as this will scare parents and others to such an extent that they take it to an extreme, even fighting with their newly veg*n children. I think it is important to talk about eating disorders, but this article makes it seem like animal rights/environmentalism/real health concerns just don’t exist. What do you think?

New e. coli strain that exclusively targets meat-eaters

Omnivores have something new to worry about besides their artery-clogging, diabetes-prone culinary lifestyle. A new strain of e.coli targest meat-eaters exclusively.

The bacterium – a strain of Escherichia coli – makes a toxin that does its worst by latching onto a sugar molecule that humans don’t have naturally. We can, only acquire it by eating red meat or dairy products.

The researchers who discovered this new danger thinks the acid the new strain of e.coli attaches itself to, GC, could be responsible in part for other meat related illnesses, such as “cancer, heart attack, and autoimmunity.”

New Scientist – Toxic bug has meat-eaters in its sights

China’s Food Contamination Spreads

China’s melamine problem isn’t just with milk anymore. There are now signs that the dangerous chemical has spread to animal feed supplies. Eggs were the first warning that the problem was more serious than the Chinese had previously thought, and recalls have been issued. Officials may now have to test all animal products and any foods containing animal ingredients.

Melamine is a dangerous chemical that caused kidney stones and renal failure. So far, more than 50,000 children have gotten sick after drinking contaminated milk, and there have been at least known deaths.

The reason for the contamination is China’s lack of effective regulation. From the New York Times:

Government investigators have blamed the dairy scandal on a group of rogue milk and melamine dealers who they accuse of intentionally adding melamine, which is commonly used to produce plastic and fertilzer, to milk supplies as cheap filler in order to save money.

High-ranking government officials, including the head of the nation’s quality watchdog, have been fired in the wake of the recalls and Beijing has acknowledged that “lax regulation” contributed to the scandal.

China’s melamine problem is an example of why we need to know where our food comes from. The same goes for the food we feed our companion animals, after last year’s animal deaths from contaminated pet food. Shop local, organic, or even better, grow your own.

Not only is this scary for people eating animal products, China’s lack of regulation and concern for well-being and safety is terrifying. Their economy is growing exponentially and in a not-too-distant future China will be the richest nation in the world, followed by India, with the United States coming in at third. However, they still make money by exploiting workers in sweatshops, their human rights record is hugely disappointing, and no other nation will dare confront them because of money made through trade. Not to mention that the United States has been borrowing money from China, which means we essentially can’t confront them on their human rights, animal welfare, and safety abuses.

Canadian Meat Recall

Toronto’s Maple Leaf meat plant is recalling all of their products due to the bacteria listeriosis. So far, there have been at least four deaths, with 17 more being investigated. Unlike e-coli, many people are unfamiliar with Listeria monocytogenes.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),  listeriosis is “a serious infection … [that] affects primarily persons of advanced age, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems.”

This is just one more meat recall that should alert people to the dangers of the unsanitary and unsafe factory farming industry. The animals carry this bacteria without appearing to be ill, and thus they are routinely killed and packaged. Which doesn’t help the people who die.

CDC: Listeriosis General Information

News Source

Goji Berries

Photo from HowStuffWorks

Goji berries, also called wolfberries, are found in central Asia, primarily Tibet, China, and Mongolia. Some people say they’re one of the most nutritious foods available, and I certainly won’t disagree. According to goji berries improve health in the following ways:

  • “protect the liver;
  • help eyesight;
  • improve sexual function and fertility;
  • strengthen the legs;
  • boost immune function;
  • improve circulation; and
  • promote longevity”

I had my first goji berry a couple of years ago, and although I cannot attest to any of the long term health benefits, my short term health is amazingly improved. I usually eat a handful everyday, and after ten to fifteen minutes I get an incredible energy boost and I’m more focused on what I’m doing. I’ve never come across any literature on goji berries that give these improvements, so I can’t say that it’s the same for everyone, but I was instantly convinced about their benefits.

There are only two drawbacks to goji berries that I see: first, the environmental impact. Goji berries must travel thousands of miles before reaching American health food stores. Second, their cost. Goji berries are almost abnormally expensive. For example, I paid $25 for 18oz at a local health food store. However, I still believe they are definitely worth the cost.

Where to buy:


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