Archives for posts with tag: Vegan nutrition

After the initial excitement of the first month, and keeping myself motivated by blogging about it, I had some struggles, but now I feel like I’m really getting into the swing of it and I’m feeling well.

This week I’ve had some blood test results back from my GP.  I’d told them that I’d been eating a Vegan diet for 2 months and that I’d like them to check my nutrient levels and anything else relevant.  The bloods results have come back absolutely fine.  It’s great to know that I’m nourishing myself properly.  The same is true in my acupuncture appointments as well: there were a couple of weeks when my acupuncturist said I was a bit ‘blood-deficient’, but that has now passed and I’m back to showing healthy signs.

I had some issues with stomach pain that felt like bad indigestion pain, and that, coupled with a significant mood slump during the second month had got me feeling quite worried.  These are the things I’ve learned which are helping me to take better care of myself and which have alleviated the problems:-

  • I’m really taking care to eat a varied diet and not repeat foods over several days.  I can’t eat beans 2 days in a row without feeling some kind of bad consequence!  So, I don’t do it anymore.  I really mix it up with the legumes, having as wide a variety of beans and peanuts as possible, and make sure that I have tofu meals on days in between, and sometimes have days where I just make a really good salad with some nuts and seeds for the protein.  I find I really like, and eat quite a lot of Tahini.  I also find that lentils and peas are much gentler on my digestive system.  I eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, and also plenty of carbs, mostly whole grains.   I seem to need more bread/pasta/couscous etc. to soak things up than I did when I was an omnivore.
  • Although I’m eating a lot, I’ve learned to eat in smaller meals and to space meals out regularly without large intervals in between.  It turned out that whenever I had stomach pain it was usually because I’d over-eaten, or eaten too fast, and on a very empty stomach.
  • I’ve worked on my Omega 3-6-9s, eating a variety of seeds, oils and fortified soya milk, and I’m also taking a Vegan omega oil supplement.
  • I’m taking a Vegan multivitamin to take care of vitamins B12 and D among others.
  • I’m trying to eat dark foods: dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale, dark beans, seaweed, dried figs, dark red fruits, to help ‘build blood’ (in Chinese medicine terms) and also boost nutrients like calcium and iodine.
  • I’m eating plenty of fruit, something fresh every day and lots of delicious dried fruits, and crystalized ginger.
  • I’m exercising regularly and riding my bike all over the place now that spring is here and it’s more pleasant to be outside.
  • I’m drinking plenty of water, and have reduced caffeine, as this also seemed to be contributing to the problems I was having with stomach pain and low mood.  It was kind of like, when I’d cut out all the dairy products that were clogging my system, I felt the other problems more, but now they are starting to heal.  I find that although I still enjoy the experience of drinking coffee, the after-effects of it are not so nice, and so I only have it occasionally now.
  • I’ve been having fun with Vegan baking.  The best result so far is the lemon cake pictured in the previous post, but the use-up-the-going-off-bananas cake came a close second 🙂

All these things have helped.  I’d also say, there has probably been a strong link between my emotions and my digestive system during this time, and, as I’ve started to assimilate the changes I’m making and to relax more, I’ve started to feel well again.  In the early weeks I don’t think I’d taken account of what a significant change this is, not only in terms of eating habits, but in what it means philosophically, and this was actually quite a shock to the system – in the fullest possible senses of that idiom.

Two books have helped me a lot.  The first has been great in helping me get nutritional things sorted out, because it makes clear, helpful suggestions and even includes some daily eating plans, which have helped to show me I’m on the right track.  It’s an American book, but I still found it quite readable as a Brit.  I just need to find out what a ‘Sloppy Joe’ is and I’ll be quite conversant!  (Doesn’t sound very nice, ‘Sloppy Joe’….  What is it?)  Here’s a link:-

http://www.veganoutreach.org/veganforlife.html

The second book is ‘The World Peace Diet’ by Will Tuttle.

http://worldpeacediet.org/

This is a philosophical book which deconstructs the way we live now and have lived historically, and makes a very convincing plea for a worldwide revolution in attitudes towards other species and the way we have used them.  It addressed a lot of the things that I had started to think and feel prior to reading the book, and reading it has re-assured me that I’m not going barmy in feeling the way I feel.  There are plenty of others around who would like to see a change to gentler, more co-operative living, both between humans and with animals.  Read it.  It’s well-argued and sincere.  It makes a lot of sense to me and has strengthened my belief that our planet desperately needs some big changes and, if we have the insight and courage to make them, humans will be healthier, happier, and have a future.

Another thing happened which cheered me enormously, in an odd way.  It was that I set out to go to The Northern Vegan Festival, which was being held in Manchester.  When I got to the venue, the crowds were queuing round the block. In the end I never got in, because I couldn’t be bothered to wait, but it made me realise that I’m definitely not alone!  How exciting that so many people are making, or at least exploring, Veganism as a way of life!

It’s been a while since I’ve written here.  That’s partly just because things have been busy lately, but it’s also because it’s been quite a confusing few weeks.

After the initial euphoria of making it through a month with The Vegan Pledge, I had a sudden drop in mood and a period of soul-searching – ‘What’s this really all about now I’m not meeting a challenge any more?’, ‘Do I really want to make this a permanent lifestyle change?’ etc.

I’ve been feeling emotionally shaky and finding my reactions are all over the place: tears, temper, belly laughs.

Something which has surprised me is that I thought I would feel good about making a choice that takes me out of some of the cycles of cruelty upon which our current way of life is built, but that hasn’t necessarily been the case.  As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, it sometimes feels like an almost impossible task to choose ‘good’ food, by which I mean food the production of which hasn’t at some point had a negative impact on somebody somewhere.  For example, where do the cacao nibs I blithely snack on, to get the benefit of their ‘superfood’ properties, really come from? How were they harvested?  Did the workers get paid ok?  Was a village destroyed to plant a plantation to feed health obsessives thousands of miles away?  I worry about this stuff.  But, my life isn’t such that I can grow my own food, and so I have to buy food from others and therefore be part of a cycles of production and consumption.  I’m not sure if soya beans are really any ethically cleaner than processed meat, although at least there’s not the actually fact of an animal’s miserable life and stressful death to contemplate.  I don’t like the thought of human miserable lives either.  And that’s where things have really been biting recently.  In some respects my body and mind feel much clearer, and that is making things come through more hurtful, more shocking.  Now it upsets me more than ever to see people being horrible to each other and there have been times when stuff I’ve seen on the street, or in the bus, or on the news has made me literally flinch or weep.  Both conscious horribleness and apathetic obliviousness upset me.  I never liked it before and now it seems even worse.  I don’t feel like a strong, able person who is taking a positive choice.  I feel in shock.

Because it’s been quite dark sometimes it’s made me realise I need to watch my nutrition and make sure I’m not lacking anything that might be contributing to this drop in mood.  I’ve booked to see my GP later this week and I’m taking supplements now which should help keep up the levels of B vitamins.

I’ve also tried to talk with people about it, and vegans on the web have been brilliant, sending all sorts of advice, about food, about the psychology of change, and offering friendship and support.  I’m grateful for this.

I had one day where I ‘fell off the wagon’.  I’d come home hungry and had nothing readily available to eat in the house and was also in a bit of a low mood.  What I did have was a packet of shortbread and raspberry biscuits, which I’d not thrown out as they’d been given to me as a gift before I chose to go Vegan.  I’d been keeping them to offer to guests sometime.  Anyway, in a state of fairly mindless misery I opened up the pack and ate 5 of the biscuits.  It didn’t help lift my mood, and I just felt sad, both that I’d broken my Vegan commitment, and that I’d treated something which had been given as a gift so mindlessly.  It wasn’t a good evening.  I managed not to let it lead to anything further, however, and was back on track with my next meal and trying my best to take care of myself.  I also talked to some good people who helped me to keep things in perspective.  I can get over-earnest about things at times.

So, for now, I’d like to thank all those who are patiently putting up with me as I work through this stuff, and also say that I’m looking forward to having some fun doing things I love over the next few weeks.  It’s Easter, and even if it is cold, spring is on the way.  I’ll be doing some dancing and visiting a new place in Manchester which is supposed to be good for Vegan food – ‘The World Peace Cafe’.  Maybe I’ll see you there.  Oh, and I’m looking for a recipe for a great Vegan cake to celebrate the Easter/Spring holiday, so if you’ve got a good recipe, get in touch.

I’m almost into my 3rd week of eating Vegan now.  These are the things I’m finding hard.

Eggs

The only thing I’m really missing is eggs.  Eggs, scrambled or boiled, were my favourite breakfast food, which I used to have a couple of times per week.  I also used to enjoy the occasional omelette as a simple supper.  I am starting to really miss these now.  Sitting down to breakfast this week with Dan and his little boy, as they tucked into their boiled eggs and toast soldiers, left me feeling a bit miserable.  I’m trying to vary my breakfasts, but they are generally cereal or toast based due to speed and convenience.  I’ve had toast with either p-nut butter or beans, and museli/granola with a variety of toppings, always trying to get some kind of protein and extra nutrients into the meal.  I’m beginning to tire of these breakfasts however.  I need to experiment with some new breakfast ideas, but it’s hard to find the time, and I don’t have a blender, which seems to be a kitchen staple of many Vegan cooks.

In just over a week’s time I’ll be going to visit an aunt at the weekend.  She keeps chickens, who are ex-battery hens that have been rescued and re-homed.  She has about 5 of them.  They are essentially pets, but when they’re laying, she eats the eggs.  I know that the chickens have a good home with this woman, whose Dad was a vet.  Are we really contributing to their suffering by taking their eggs away?  I would so much like to eat those eggs!

Yes, I would so much like to eat those eggs, which happen to be the potential for another creature’s child.  Doesn’t sound quite so good put like that.

I would like to eat them, but I’m choosing not to, because I’ve chosen to be Vegan, which means not treating another species as if it exists for my use.

In relation to the mainstream supply of eggs, I am appalled that we still have caged farms in this country, and agree that so-called ‘Free-Range’ or ‘Organic’ egg production can be still be highly industrialized and doesn’t look like a good experience for the birds involved.  I wonder, if I kept my own chickens, would that be such a bad thing?  Here are links to a couple of articles which show what Gentle World have to say about eggs:-

http://gentleworld.org/a-chickens-relationship-with-her-eggs/

http://gentleworld.org/whats-wrong-with-backyard-eggs/

When I was little I had a grandpa who had made his living from rearing free-range chickens, and I used to enjoy spending time with him, helping him to feed the birds and clean out the hen houses.  As a child it never occurred to me to ask what happened to the little boy chicks, or the hens once they stopped laying, and although I remember spending a lot of time around the hens and collecting eggs, I don’t remember noticing a hen looking distressed and looking for her egg after it had been taken away, but, I realise now, that’s because it never occurred to me to look.  I took the egg and moved on, I didn’t stay to see what happened next.

So, I’m struggling with a desire for eggs, but I understand the arguments for not eating them, so I’m persevering.

Nutrition

I’ve been feeling a bit tired this week.  It could be the helping-to-care-for-5-year-old-boy factor, but I’m aware that I don’t really know whether I’m nourishing myself ok at the moment.  To be fair, I didn’t know this when I was an omnivore either, and most of the time I didn’t care (and have suffered a few health problems, namely obesity, as a result).  I’m been very aware this week, however, that I’ve not managed to get much variety into my diet, which is one of the key aspects of eating Vegan.  For example, I’ve not had as many leafy greens as I think I need, and my protein sources have been a bit limited.

Last night I had my regular Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture appointment and my Acupuncturist told me that my tongue suggested that I am currently a bit “blood deficient”.  One of the main foods for balancing this is meat.  Others are dark beans, dark greens, prunes, seaweeds, and some grains.

So, I’ll be off to the nearest wholefood shop tonight for a long-overdue visit to stock up on some nourishing items and a couple of supplements in order to be on the safe side.

It’s also time to get to grips with tofu, which is something I’ve been avoiding, because previous cooking experiences with it have resulted in a soggy mush.  I need to get over my fears and learn how to cook tofu in a palatable way.  I know when I’ve had it in restaurants, firm and well-flavoured, it can be fantastic.  How do you re-create this in your own kitchen?

Conscience

I started to watch ‘Earthlings’ last week.  It’s a documentary feature film made by, among others, Joaquin Phoenix and Moby, who are practicing Vegans.   It’s Vegan propaganda, if you will.  Using hidden cameras to look at the myriad ways humans use animals, it is uncompromising and distressing viewing.  I didn’t get very far, and switched off not too far into the film.  I know all this stuff, right?  I know we kill animals to make our lives easier.  I know we violate their bodies in painful ways to further our own ends.  I know this, and I don’t want to have it shoved in my face.  And that’s just it.  I don’t want to face up to the reality of what it means to be a human and at the top of the food chain.  If I did, I would have to do something about it, accept responsibility for my actions, grow up, stop being a child in the great cosmic laboratory and realise that what I do has consequences.  It seems like a heavy burden to take on.  A large part of me would like to keep my mind’s eye closed.

If you’d like to watch the film, it’s freely available on the internet.  It is an unflinching look at sickening, real violence.  www.earthlings.com

If you search through internet forums and discussion groups about the ethics of eating or not eating animals, you’ll find plenty of ranters on both sides, and one of the most common rants in favour of eating meat is that we’ve earned our position at the top of the food chain by virtue of our intelligence, and opposable thumbs, and shouldn’t have any qualms about this.  I don’t really buy this argument.  The way I see it, humanity is in a constant state of evolution.  That’s not a positive or negative term, it simply means things keep changing.  We’ve gone from struggling to survive and having to gather and hunt our own food, to becoming a fantastically successful species who have evolved to such a level that many (although certainly not all) humans have the luxury of choice about how to live their lives.  This leisure has been achieved through us using our ingenuity to invent things to do work for us.  We are now at a stage where we have knowledge, technology, and the capacity to industrialize almost any aspect of life.  That doesn’t mean that it is healthy to apply this indiscriminately.   I am just as horrified and upset by what I see of the way humans behave towards other humans.  It doesn’t surprise me that we have the capacity to be so unaffected by animal suffering when we are capable turning a blind eye to so much that happens to other members of our own species.  I regularly chat with people who think it’s great to get clothes really cheaply, and don’t seem to care what may have happened to make the clothes so cheap.  I wouldn’t be without my mobile phone (despite the fact that I’m of the pre-mobile generation and was in my mid-twenties before mobile phone use became common). The last time I renewed my contract and got a new phone, I ignored the knowledge I’d acquired from watching an arts performance by some asylum seekers in Manchester, that my handy little communications device uses rare minerals, the mining of which is one of the root causes of the brutal conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where people are raped, mutilated and murdered every day.

One of the things I want most is to belong.  I want to exist, without too much bother, in the group of humans I happen to have been born into.  It is an inconvenience to me to have to spend my time, thinking, reflecting, choosing, and acting a certain way, if it goes against the grain of what the majority of those around me are doing.  Yet, the conscience-voice is there.  Part of our humanity is this: our capacity to reflect and to choose, which suggests to me that what we do after reflecting is significant, our actions matter as one of the ingredients of the universe.  That is why we have this faculty.  That is what morality is.  If some people hadn’t ‘gone against the grain’ in various societies throughout history, we’d still kill humans for entertainment like the Ancient Romans did, and still use humans as slaves.  Oh, but we still do that, even though we think we’ve stopped.  It’s an on-going task to bring about change, and it boils down to the will of the human heart.

I think being non-violent is the hardest thing to be.  It doesn’t come easily.  Eating Vegan isn’t turning me into someone who is can joyfully and positively choose not to use animals, it all feels a bit overwhelming, and a bit of an effort.  Watching films like ‘Earthlings’ makes me feel despairing about the nature of the human, and plenty of people would say it is counter-intuitive to not accept your own nature.

A question I’ve been asked regularly is, “What would we do with all the animals if we didn’t farm them?  Would you like a countryside that looked very different?”  I don’t have a clear answer for that.  I wouldn’t like a countryside full of fields of vegetables if their mass-production resulted in poor working conditions for humans and degradation of the natural environment.  I’d miss seeing cows and pigs around in the fields.  I don’t know that it would be such a bad change, however.  Like many things, if it could be managed sustainably, then it could be great.  I’m very much in favour of the use of scientific knowledge for sustainable development.  Just because I can’t quite imagine how the ‘brave new world’ might be, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth exploring.

Sometimes in my life I’ve met people who have filled me with optimism and a buzz of creative joy, the idea that you can live counter-culturally and contribute to your society.  The doom-sayers and cynics haven’t stayed with me, but I’m bit pessimistic myself.  I think what I need right now if to live in the (Vegan) moment and not worry too much about the ‘big picture’.  I need an injection of positivity and can-do inspiration.

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