Vegan Bytes #13: Strawberries and Swine Flu

Welcome to the newsletter that focuses on helping you learn more about veganism and how to apply it to your daily life. The Vegan Bytes Newsletter is dedicated to keeping you up-to-date with the world of food, and answering your vegan nutrition questions.

In this issue...

*Thoughts: Swine Flu's Link to Factory Farms
*Nutritional Reminder: What Should I Be Eating?
*Your questions: "Is soy bad for me?"
*Recipe of the Month: Strawberry Shortcake
*New pages... Now YOU can share your opinions


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Swine Flu -- Blame It On The Farms

Right around this time last year we were all talking about tainted tomatoes. Now we're all concerned about catching swine flu. What few are reporting is that there actually is a link between the two...

...factory farms.

As long as we keep animals penned in unspeakably cruel and dirty conditions, and as long as we offer no veterinary services to farmed animals, and as long as we lace their food with antibiotics and hormones, those animals are going to keep getting sick.

When they get sick, they are going to develop more immunities to the antibiotics in their diets and their illnesses will continue to mutate and pass to humans. Those humans are going to go to their doctors for antibiotics and will keep finding that the strain of illness they have is not treatable because they are resistant to all antibiotics on the market.

As is, it's an endless cycle. It's dangerous beyond what we can imagine right now.

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." ~Albert Einstein

Last year the tomatoes were contaminated with salmonella from animal feces that was sprayed onto crops as "fertilizer." The real reason it was sprayed is because there's nowhere else to keep the thousands of tons of feces made every day by animals on factory farms, an industry that has no required sanitization system.

Was it really the tomatoes, or was it the jalapenos? We were never really able to pin down the culprit plants since the fertilization practice was exercised on so many plants in so many areas.

Humans do have control over this process and we do have options.

The biggest thing we could do is to reduce our consumption of animal products. The animal agriculture industry is the way it is because as a whole, humans have asked for it. Of course, part of that we can't be wholly blamed for-- it's hard to resist the eternal media and commercials for the "other white meat, "what's for dinner," and for the "healthier" meat of chicken. But we need to take more control over what we want.

If more people became vegetarians, the demand for animal products would decrease and the animal agriculture industry would change. With fewer animals to "process," workers would slow down at every step, spending more time on animal care, and allowing more careful control over the slaughter process. Right now, there just isn't time to do anything properly.

The other thing we can do is keep talking about it. Share it. Forward this newsletter to people who might listen. Discuss it with your coworkers. People need to know that it's not the pigs' fault for catching some weird flu and passing it along. Other people need to know it's preventable.

Vegans worldwide talk about the connection to factory farms, but the international media is slow to pick up on stories like this. You can even write letters to your newspaper and encourage them to cover the story. Ultimately, don't be afraid to make a difference.

"Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little." ~Edmund Burke

"What Should I Be Eating?"

One of my best friends recently told me she's worried she's not getting enough nutrients from her vegan diet. She's vegan more for the more unselfish reason that she thinks it's unethical to eat animals. While I'll take any reason for people to eat more plant-based diets, I admire people who don't worry as much about how much healthier the vegan diet is than the regular, meat-filled diet.

So, in dedication to her, here's a quick reminder about what we should be eating...

According to the vegan food pyramid, we need:

  • 6-11 servings of whole grains (1 serving= 1/2 cup oatmeal, 1 oz dry cereal, 1 slice bread)
  • 3-5* servings vegetables (1 serving= 1 cup raw, 1/2 cup cooked, 1/2 cup juice)
  • 2-4* servings fruits (1 serving= 1 cup raw, 1/2 cup juice)
  • 2-3 servings fortified dairy substitutes (1 serving= 8 oz milk, 1/2 cup yogurt)
  • 2-3 servings beans and seeds (1 serving= 1/2 cup cooked beans, 4 oz tofu/tempeh, 1 oz seeds)
  • Use vegetable oils, sweets, salt, and nuts sparingly

  • *Some sources vary on amount of vegetables and fruits. You can't go wrong eating a diet based on plant products, so you can certainly eat more than this suggestion

    Rather than forcing yourself to measure and count, I like to keep this general tip in mind:

    • When designing lunch and dinner, imagine the plate is split in half. Half should be filled vegetables, preferably a variety of them. A quarter should be beans and a quarter should be whole grains. Dessert should be fruit-based.

    Don't skip breakfast! You've heard that a million times, but it's so important. You should eat within 1.5 hours of waking to stimulate your metabolism, and whole grains and fruit are great for breakfast.

    And remember to listen to your body. It knows better than anyone else what and how much of it you need to be eating. We aren't use to listening for cravings, but we can learn to become most trusting. Your body won't beg you for a cheeseburger. Your mind might, but it's influenced by outside sources.

    The only supplement you need to worry about when you eat a healthy vegan diet is vitamin B-12 which doesn't naturally come from plant-based products. Vitamin B12 deficiencies are rare but harmful, so you do want to take precautions against them. Many vegan foods are fortified with B12, but you should also consider taking a weekly vitamin to make sure you're covered.

    I also highly recommend eating flax seeds to make sure you are getting plenty of omega-3 fatty acids. Imbalance in fatty acids are common and throw off the hormones in your body, but can go way off balance with some vegetarian diets. I add in a few tablespoons of ground flax daily and I find it improves my skin, hair, and mentrual symptoms.

    Hope that helps, BF!

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    Vegan Chemical-Free Gas Remedies
    The one negative drawback to eating a vegan diet is that you often eat more fiber than the typical person. Doesn't sound negative, right? Well, it can be for your digestive system. Never fear though... I have researched and found several amazing, natural, chemical-free gas remedies.

    Take A Fruit Bouquet Workshop
    Fruit Bouquets are a creative way to show someone you care, without having to cut flowers or buy chocolates. Take this workshop to learn how to make your own fruit baskets, including pineapple daisies, chocolate-covered strawberries, and grape tulips.

    Learn All About Nut Cheeses
    Vegan cheeses are abundant in grocery stores across the world, but most of them are still lacking something. Tree nut cheeses are the fabulous and new (somewhat) addition to the vegan world, and their flavor is unparalleled.

    "Is soy bad for your health?"

    Dear Cathleen,

    I have been hearing a lot about hormonal problems with soy. I drink soy milk every day and propably have some sort of tofu every other day. Is there anything I should be careful of. Do you think the whole soy bean thing is a spoof or real.

    ~Jenna, Arizona

    Hi Jenna,

    That's a great question! This is a hotly debated topic. Some people take the position that all soy is bad, others differentiate between soys, and some think it's all incredibly healthy for you. Check out a page on the topic here and join the discussion here.

    I personally fall somewhere in between. I think the soy to eliminate is the genetically modified soy that is grown mostly for livestock, and the processed soy that is added to processed foods (like soy lechitin, TVP, soy protein isolate, soy powders, etc). What's ironic is that people eating meat-based diets actually consume more soy than those of us who stick to plant proteins because of all the added soy in processed foods.

    Asian cultures have been eating soy as their dominant protein for thousands of years, and they never have the health problems that Westerners have. Also, from what I understand from my research, it appears that fermented soy products are extremely healthy for us. Those are things like tempeh, miso, natto, and even fermented soy sauce.

    As of right now, it seems we don't have a definite answer as to the benefits or drawbacks to soy, but I am sure within a few years we will get to the bottom of it. I would love to hear your opinion on the comments page.

    I hope that helps!


    Recipe of the Month

    Strawberry Shortcake

    It's strawberry season on the East Coast and there's nothing like strawberry shortcake on a warm spring night. I like to use left-over fresh strawberries that may be slightly past their prime. Remember to look for organic strawberries since the "conventional" type absorbs pesticides and are some of the most contaminated fruits.

    Soyatoo makes a convenient soy whipped cream, and you can also make a whipped sweetened sliken tofu topping. We've even eaten this without any whipped cream-- just strawberries and biscuits. It's delicious any way you serve it!


    2 c. all-purpose flour
    1 Tbsp. baking powder
    1/2 tsp. salt
    4 Tbsp. cold vegan margarine, cut into small pieces
    2 Tbsp. sugar
    3/4 c. cold nondairy milk
    1 pint strawberries
    1 Tbsp. sugar for strawberries
    vegan whipped cream


    Preheat oven to 400°F.

    Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.

    Add in margarine pieces and pulse (or use hands to pinch it) until the margarine is combined. The mixture should look like small pebbles.

    Add the nondairy milk and stir just until combined.

    Knead the dough gently on a lightly floured surface until it is soft.

    Split the dough into two equal circular pieces and roll or pat the dough until it reachs about 3/4-1 inch in thickness.

    Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.

    Once the dough is in the oven, cut the strawberries into thin pieces and mix in the sugar. The strawberries will develop a sweet juice as the dough is baking.

    Allow the dough to cool completely before assembling your shortcake.

    Layer the shortcake with biscuits, strawberries, and whipped cream, saving a few strawberries for decorating the top.

    Serves 8.

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