Vegan Bytes #28: Vegans Have Higher EQ (Empathy Quotient)

Welcome to the insider group of subscribers! Our newsletter focuses on helping you learn more about veganism and how to apply it to your daily life. Vegan Bytes is dedicated to keeping you up-to-date with the world of food, answering your vegan nutrition questions, and providing you with ideas on ways to spread your lifestyle beliefs.

In this issue...

*Introduction: Study Shows that Vegans Are More Empathetic
*Vegetable Spotlight: Tomatoes are the Magical Summer Fruit
*Vegan Ebooks: Vegan Meal Plan for Summer and More
*Question: More Thoughts on Vegan Cheese
*Question: "How can I find cruelty-free pest control?"
*Recipe of the Month: Black Bean and Grilled Pineapple Salsa
*Hidden Pages: Pages Created Just For You
*What's New?: What's new on Vegan Nutritionista?

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Study Proves Vegans Are More Empathetic


In June 2010, PLoS One released a study that showed that vegans and vegetarians have more empathy toward both human and animal suffering than omnivores do.

If you're like many vegans, you probably take this as confirmation that you’re not a hippy nutcase and that you are making a good decision by choosing not to eat animal products. It also seems to disprove the popular anti-vegan notion that vegans only care about animals and don’t care about human suffering.

For non-vegans, this study could come across as slightly insulting. After all, is it trying to say that if you eat meat, you are a bad, uncaring, unfeeling person?

For what it's worth, I don't believe this study shows that people who eat meat and dairy are insensitive. Nor do I believe that it shows that non-vegans will never come around because they are just physiologically different than vegans.

The way I interpret the data is that it shows that people who really know and have thought about what animals go through to become food are more connected to that suffering. Those who don’t know the truth haven’t really thought about the suffering and therefore haven’t activated that part of their brain yet.

Though I have no way to test this personally, I believe almost everyone (except those who are truly sick and incapable of real empathy) has the capacity to care about another being’s suffering; it’s just a matter of them learning about it and connecting to the emotion.

Once you really know how animals-born-for-slaughter are treated, it is incredibly hard to turn your back on the information and to continue eating those animals.

The scientific hypothesis that prompted the study was that vegans and vegetarians experience empathy differently than omnivores because they choose to eat they way they do based on ethical beliefs. What the scientists did to test their hypothesis was they measured people’s empathy quotient (EQ) with a 60-question test, and then they measured their brain activity with an fMRI while showing them images of human and animal suffering (as well as neutral images for control).

What they found was that vegans and vegetarians have higher levels of activation in the areas of the brain that are related to empathy (anterior cingular cortex and left inferior frontal gyrus). They found that the images of animal suffering activated the areas of the brain associated with self values (the medial prefrontal cortex).

The study also found that there were certain areas of the brain that were activated only among the vegetarians and vegans who viewed the images of suffering. The areas of the brain activated ONLY by vegetarians and vegans are those associated with distinguishing self from others. It seems to prove that vegetarians and vegans are almost able to personally feel the pain of others' suffering.

There was a difference between the vegetarian and vegan EQs, but the scientists found the difference slim enough to be unimportant.

What the study does not show is whether those parts of the vegetarian and vegan brains were different genetically from birth, or whether the brain developed to accommodate their higher EQ later in life. The study also doesn’t show whether people continue to have the same brain response over time, or after many years. So, while it's not completely conclusive, it is very interesting.

Some omnivores might look at this study and think, “well, vegetarians are just wimpy and worry about their feelings too much. I’m too big and strong to worry about suffering, so I should keep eating meat.” I tend to feel like that reaction doesn’t promote learning and growing.

Real growth is about considering things that are inconvenient and uncomfortable, measuring them against our values, and if they seem to align with our beliefs, attempting to change our lives around those new ideals.

If you are a vegetarian or vegan (or even if you make an attempt to reduce your consumption of animal products), you can feel good about knowing that you likely have a higher ability to empathize with others. In order to help others, all we can do is to continue putting the information in front of people so they know the truth about the food industry and animal production, and we can hope that the empathy-related areas of the brain begin to activate and real change will come.

You can read the actual results of the study here:


Tomatoes are the Magical Summer Fruit


The fruit of the summer, the tomato, is the focus of this month’s nutritional tidbit. Not only are tomatoes fantastically delicious, but also they are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Lycopene is one of the tomato’s greatest assets; it’s an antioxidant that helps flush free radicals out of the body and can even fight against the formation of cancer calls and heart disease. While some vegetables lose some of their health benefits when cooked, tomatoes actually develop more lycopene when cooked, and even more when cooked with a fat (such as olive oil).

Tomatoes are also full of vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, molybdenum, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, and tons of other healthful components.

A few hints on buying tomatoes… choose organic whenever possible as tomatoes absorb tons of pesticides. Also, I’m always amazed to learn how many children are turned off to tomatoes at a young age because they try the mealy, flavorless versions that many big grocery stores provide. The delicate but intense flavor of a fresh, ripe tomato straight from the farmers’ market is hard to deny, so do everyone a favor and buy local tomatoes in season (as they are right now).

And remember, never store your tomatoes in the fridge. When cooled, tomatoes develop a mealy texture and tend to lose a lot of their flavor. Keep them on the counter out of direct sunlight.


Vegan Nutritionista Downloadable EBooks

Vegan Meal Plans for Summer Vegetables

Spring Meal Plans
The new summer vegetable meal plan ebook is available and is getting great reviews! It focuses on seasonal spring and summer vegetables like kale, lettuce, carrots, peas, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, blueberries, and more! Just like in the original Vegan Nutritionista meal plans, the menus include 66 recipes for full dinners for 4 work weeks complete with nutritional information, tips, and many pictures. No repeats! Get your Vegan Meal Plan for Summer, now for just $9.75.

Vegan Meal Plans

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Vegan Meal Plans is a complete meal plan for one month vegan weekday dinners. It includes 64 recipes, pictures, nutritional information, grocery lists, and tips and techniques. Everyone from those beginning a vegan diet to those veterans who want fresh menu ideas love this ebook. It focuses on fresh, local, and seasonal vegetables and uses all normal ingredients-- no fussy or gourmet skills needed. Download a copy for only $9.75 here.

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Just the Menus Ebook Package allows you to have both Vegan Nutritionista meal plans, one for the fall/winter and one for the spring/summer at a discounted rate. Download your copy for only $16.99 here.

Vegan Grocery List

This massive, complete vegan grocery list is the only one you'll ever need. Print out copies of it to hang on your fridge, and then mark what you need as you go throughout the week. Download a copy for only $0.99.

A Fresh New Vegan You

A Fresh New Vegan You is a complete look at why people go vegan, including information about factory farms, the environment, and the health benefits. It provides details on how to go vegan, and offers basic vegan nutritional advice, as well as information on vegan pregnancy and raising vegan children. This ebook combines all my vegan research into one easy, convenient location. Download a copy for only $27 here.

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More thoughts on Vegan Cheese


Last month’s newsletter article about cheese really struck a cord with many readers and I got some great responses and ideas to share with you all.

Response 1:

Awesome! Thanks so much for the speedy reply! And for the helpful tips in the newsletter -- for someone who has had to give up all dairy (thanks to asthma), today's newsletter was timed perfectly!!! I've lived without diary long enough now (about a year) that I'm ready to try some of the cheese alternatives.

I found what you said about waiting to be absolutely true -- when I first gave up dairy, the non-dairy substitutes tasted awful (I wanted them to taste like dairy!), but after all this time, I'm finding that I don't really remember what cheese, sour cream, butter, and cream tasted like! I'm now enjoying substitutes for milk, cream, butter, and cream cheese, but haven't experimented with other cheeses at all since my first disastrous foray into cheese alternatives. =) I'll definitely look into Daiya and Dr. Cow.


Response 2:

This is not really a question, but, I was reading about detoxing from cheese. This is also extremely difficult for me. I was turned on to nutritional yeast flakes to substitute for cheese. They give foods you might normally eat with cheese a hearty and subtle flavor. Just wanted to pass this on. Thanks!


I have a question about the cheese. I had bought Veggie brand cheese at the local grocery stores and than saw that casein was an ingredent. I did give up cheese entirely for the last month or so. My question is, will the amount of casein in Veggie cheese be re-addicting? -Bonnie

My Answer:

That's a really good question, and I don't actually know the answer. I'm guessing you got the green pack of Veggie Shreds cheese? I don't know how you felt about the flavor of it, but that's one of the ones I personally am not a fan of. Also, it's technically a vegetarian cheese because it does have the casein in it; vegan cheeses do not have that. Do you have any health food stores nearby that you could try out? Or perhaps check and see if your local grocery has other brands other than the Veggie Shreds... I ran into exactly the same problem when I was first giving up cheese and was dismayed to see the casein.

Thanks for the information. I didn't like or dislike the Veggie shreds, it's just that when I saw the casein in it, I threw the bags I had in the freezer and went without cheese. I figured that if I had to have cheese, I'd use it.

I have done alright without cheese. It is definitely the hardest for me to give up. I had some detox effects from doing it and not with other dairy or meat. I don't really want to go back. I have found some vegan cheeses at the local health food stores, just a little pricey. But if I have to have cheese, I guess it is worth it.

Did you ever notice that almost every dish at most restaurants everywhere have cheese in them? It's like all of America just lives on meat and cheese ONLY. -Bonnie


"Where can I find cruelty-free pest control?"



We have ants in our office. My husband and I are the owners, so we will decide what to do about this. We've stopped eating in the office and removed all the food we were keeping here. The ants even ate holes in packages of granola bars and stuff like that! They aren't swarming really, but they are still prowling around. I'm getting bit too! I do not believe in spraying insecticide everywhere and killing every last living thing in the place. What do other vegans do about bugs?


Great question! This is a big deal with many vegans around this time of year because while most of us adore animals and want to do no harm, we also don't really want to live with bugs inside our homes. If you simply can't co-habitate any longer, here actually are a few great, easy options for cruelty free pest control.

In some cases they will help deter insects and some other options help to humanely remove "pests" from inside your home/business. I know your main concern is ants right now, but I'll include a few other cruelty free pest control options.

1. Depending on your tolerance for the smell, garlic is a great way to control ants from coming into your building. You can rub a clove of garlic along the perimeter of either the cabinets, the door stop, the windows, or any other point of entry. Hot peppers also do the same trick. Just make sure not to touch your eyes afterwards!

2. Plant spearmint, peppermint and/or pennyroyal plants right outside your building in order to deter ants from coming inside. You could also try the essential oils of these herbs inside along the areas of entry to deter the insects. (Flies are also turned off by mint and basil).

3. For other flying insects like mosquitos, citronella oil is an amazing deterrent. You can use candles from the store, or you can make your ownbug repellant from equal parts citronella, lavender, and clove oil. Those are often sold very cheaply on the internet and you can make a huge batch that will last quite a long time.

4. Moths are also deterred by garlic. You can hang some by your doors to discourage entering the building.

Read my other tips on cruelty-free pest control here.


Have unresolved questions about veganism? Join in the discussion on our site by asking and answering questions, as well as commenting on other answers. It's fun and helpful!


Recipe of the Month:
Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa

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This outstanding salsa recipe is a creation of my cousin's fiance, Jimmy. My cousin was bragging on facebook about the amazing dinner her fiance made one night and I knew you would all want to hear about it. Jimmy made this recipe up from scratch, and so he had to guess a bit on the exact measurements. Make sure to season to your tastes and don't be too stringent on the measuring. This is the type of dish that's amazing on a summer evening, and will always taste best when using fresh, local ingredients. Thank you, Jimmy!


  • 4 ears of corn
  • 1 15 oz. can of black beans (or 2 cups freshly cooked)
  • 1 quart of pineapple
  • 1 medium jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 medium red onion, chppped
  • 1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper and salt, to taste


Roast the corn in their husks until blackened. You can start the pineapple on the grill at the same time, and grill just until you can see grill marks on the pineapple.

Once the corn has cooled, cut the husk off the cob, and then cut the kernels off the cob. Chop the pineapple into smaller pieces.

Place the freshly cut corn and pineapple into a bowl with the beans, jalapeno, onion, and cilantro. In a small separate bowl, combine the vinegar and red pepper, and then whisk in the olive oil. When the liquids are combined, pour them over the other ingredients. Taste and season with salt and pepper.


Secret Vegan Nutritionista Pages

Vegan Bytes Insider Password

The following pages are created just for Vegan Bytes Insiders... they are special hidden pages that only you can see, and it's my way of thanking you for reading each month.

The following pages are password-protected and will require a password from you. This password will change occasionally and you will always find the most current password in the most current Vegan Bytes Newsletter.

p.s. case sensitive

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.


Whats new

Like many websites, Vegan Nutritionista is constantly growing and changing, and if you signed up for this newsletter a long time ago, you might not have read our new information. Our blog page keeps you up-to-date with new articles on the site.

Click here to go to our blog for updates on the site.

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Vegan Essentials

Vegan Essentials is one of my very favorite places to shop for vegan supplies. They have everything from clothes and shoes to vegan cheese, and their prices are the best around.

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That's all for this month!! I hope you enjoyed reading it.

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