Jack Norris is a Registered Dietitian and President of Vegan Outreach. Jack won VegNews magazine’s Columnist of the Year award for 2003 and 2004. He writes a nutrition blog at JackNorrisRD.com. He is the author of Vitamin B12: Are You Getting It? and maintains www.VeganHealth.org. He co-founded Vegan Outreach in 1993. Vegan Outreach produces Why Vegan and other booklets. Their Adopt a College program directly hands booklets to over 500,000 students every semester. In 2005, Jack was elected to the Animal Rights Hall of Fame. Jack earned a degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Life University (Marietta, GA) in 2000 and performed his dietetic internship at Georgia State University in 2001.
Virginia Messina, MPH, RD is a dietitian and public health nutritionist specializing in vegan nutrition. She has a degree in nutrition from Douglass College of Rutgers University and a master’s degree in public health nutrition from the University of Michigan. Ginny publishes widely on topics related to vegan diets for both health professionals and the public. She has twice co-authored the American Dietetic Association’s Position on Vegetarian Diets, and is co-author of a textbook on vegetarianism written for health professionals and nutrition students. She has worked as a dietitian for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), taught nutrition to dietetics students at the university level, and was the director of nutrition services for a medical clinic serving 50,000 patients at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Ginny serves on advisory boards to PCRM and the Vegetarian Resource Group. A long-time vegan herself, she seeks to share the best and most up-to-date information on vegan nutrition and to make ethical eating an easy and realistic option for everyone. She writes about a variety of issues related to health and animal rights on her blog www.TheVeganRD.com and at the National Vegan Examiner at www.examiner.com and consults with a variety of organizations on nutrition. In addition to her work as a vegan dietitian, Ginny volunteers at the local animal shelter, serves as a board member of a local spay/neuter outreach organization and of the national advocacy group Alley Cat Rescue, and spends her leisure time feeding feral cats, reading, gardening, and learning piano.
TRANSCRIPTION PART I
Caryn: It’s All About Food With Caryn Hartglass, Wednesdays at 3pm on the Progressive Radio Network. Hello, I’m Caryn Hartglass and this is It’s All About Food. Hi, I hope you’re having a great day, I am and I am the host of the show, It’s All About Food. I have a new nonprofit called Responsible Eating and Living, which you can find more about at Responsible Eating and Living.com. I really enjoy my Wednesdays here at the Progressive Radio Network, where I get to talk about my very very favorite subject, food. The wonderful thing about food is that we can make some really tremendous, powerful impact on the world and our own personal environmental and health simply by what we choose to eat and what I’m learning more and more everyday is that the foods that I love to eat, the foods that I choose to eat, plant based foods are not only the best for my health, but the best for the planet and certainly the kindest for the other living species we share this planet with. Ok so, if you have any concerns or confusions or questions about eating a vegan diet, eating a plant based diet, if you’re going to have any imbalances or this that you think you can’t get on plant foods and you need to eat animal foods, we are going to be talking to two super experts today Jack Norris and Virgina Messina. I have some very, just a little brief bio about them both, so brief because they both done so much and were going to talk about that during the hour. Jack Norris, RD, is co-founder and president of Vegan Outreach. His website Vegan Health.org is considered to be the best source of vegan nutrition on the web. He lives in Oakland California and Virginia Messina serves,… is also, an RD and an MPH, serves on the advisory boards for the Vegetarian Resource Group and the Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine and she lives in Port Townsend Washington and they’re the co-authors of this new book, Vegan For Life: Everything You Need To Know To Be Healthy and Fit On A Plant Based Diet. Welcome Jack and Ginny to It’s All About Food.
Jack: Thank you Caryn.
Caryn: Hi, how are both of you doing?
Virginia: Just Fine
Jack: Doing Good
Caryn: Gosh, I’m always saying my phrases of technology. There’s nothing greater than to be able to talk to people in different places all at the same time. We just had a little earthquake over here yesterday. Everything’s ok in Oakland and Port Townsend?
Jack: I think so.
Virginia: We’re the ones who are supposed to be having the earthquakes.
Caryn: We all need to shake things up a little bit.
Virginia: I guess so.
Caryn: Just to get balanced and you’ve been shaking things up for several decades now.
Virginia: All for the best.
Caryn: So how is it, that the two of you teamed up to write this terrific book?
Virginia: Jack and I’ve been colleagues and friends for a long time. We’ve worked together kind of over the internet and over email on a variety of topics related to veganism and we were just hoping it was time for this book, that so many people are interested in vegan diets but have so many questions about nutrition and about how to plan diets healthfully that we decided to team up and write the book that was going to answer all of their questions.
Caryn: Great, Did you want to add anything to that Jack?
Jack: No, I think Ginny covered it.
Caryn: Ok, Well the great thing today and I think you mentioned it too in the book. You said things are very different now than there were twenty 30 years ago, at least when I started on the vegetarian and vegan path and they’re certainly more foods available in the supermarkets and it’s just a joy now, to go into the bookstores and some of them actually have vegetarian and vegan sections filled with books.
Caryn: We need more of these books and its great that you have this new book to offer and to put on those shelves.
Jack: Great, thank you
Caryn: Now the thing is, you know I talk about this all the time, I’m sure you do too and the question seems to be the same and they may become a little more sophisticated over time and we’ll touch on some of them, but the popular questions like you covered in your book are protein and calcium , soy safe, and a couple of nutrients, big vitamin b12 and some of the other ones and what we need to know about them and were going to try and cover some of the highlights from those things. The first thing, I wanted to jump into is, I’m not going to go over the question, where do you get your protein? Ok I’m over… I’m done with that question but what seems to be a little more interesting now, is that, is the plant protein the same as animal protein and what’s the ….The things I’ve been hearing more now are about complete protein versus incomplete protein and it’s a funny thing because that’s something that started, I think when Frances Moore Lappé came out with her book Diet for A Small Planet in the seventies. Then she kind of recounted some of the things she had said about complete and incomplete protein in her revision of that book, maybe 10 years later or whenever it was. Can we talk about complete and incomplete protein with respect to plant foods especially?
Jack: I love to talk about proteins. There are some differences between plant and animal protein in general. The first thing, I guess we should note is that all plant foods accept for fruit do have all the amino acids in somewhat significant amounts but some are deficient in 1 amino acid and it depends on what foods you’re talking about. Legumes tend to be on the lower end from methionine and other plant foods tend to be on the low end for lycine doesn’t mean they don’t contain any it just means that they’re lower in proportion. Frances Moore Lappé was totally off, when she suggested that we need to combine protein to make up for these differences but she thought you had to do it at each meal and we later learned that you can do it throughout the day, which people are naturally going to do in most cases anyway. The only time that a vegan should run into problems with protein, would be if they’re eating either not enough calories to maintain their bodyweight or if they have avoided foods that are high in lysine, in other words, legume products and also quinoa fits in there as a food high in lysine it’s not a legume product. Some people. It’s not real common, but some people do avoid all beans and all soy foods and in those cases they could come up short.
Caryn: I can’t imagine it and I don’t know why they would want to do it but this a wide world and I’m sure you can find something of everything so there are probably people out there that do that.
Jack: A lot of times it maybe people just getting into the vegan diet that never eaten bean products their whole life.
Caryn: Which is really amazing because in the rest of the world, beans have really sustained people, especially people in poverty for so long. How did we get away from eating beans in this country?
Jack: We came to rely on meat…
Caryn: Oh meat…yeah, the other protein.
Jack: People don’t know to put legume products in every diet and you know, when people try a vegan diet is that you just eat vegetables and that’s how they can get off of this path. In some cases people get gas from eating beans so they may have avoided them for that reason and then some people think that soy foods are dangerous so they avoid them so, some combination of those factors could cause someone to not eat legume products.
Caryn: Now we’re talking about the amino acids that are called essential amino acids, which the human body cannot create so we need to ingest them in order to build bigger protein molecules. Now I remember that there were eight and now I am seeing that there are nine. Is it eight is it nine? Is it eight at some days and nine other days?
Jack: Some are conditionally considered conditionally essential. In other words, if you’re getting low amounts of some of the other essential amino acids, then one could become conditional. I do see the different ones listed. I see different. I can’t think of the word now sometimes you will see a list of amino acids and one will be thrown in there as conditionally essential.
Virginia: But you know Caryn, we don’t want vegans to worry about that too much. They don’t need to worry about individual amino acids and in our book, we give some very basic guidelines for meeting protein needs. The only thing that you need to do is make sure your meeting calorie needs, eating a variety of foods and including some lysine rich foods in your diet, which are soy products, legumes and quinoa and is long as people are doing that, they’re going to have the amino acids covered.
Caryn: You know, I’m so glad you said that. I appreciate this book because it explains things but then once you read it and know that you can do it, I think eating this way is simple and you don’t have to think “My God am I getting enough valine today or what’s my hystidine level like. As long as we’re getting a variety of primary of whole plant based foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains legumes, nuts and seeds. The body is so smart and it has its stores and then go to the store and pull out whatever it needs to build whatever it needs.
Caryn: Very good, and I’m glad Jack, you mentioned the gas with beans and I noticed you had a discussion, a little brief mention about the benefits of the gas or the sugar from the beans that creates gas and how that’s beneficial for lowering the risk of colon cancers. There’s always a positive side to anything that may seemingly be annoying.
Virginia: That’s right the sugared that are in beans, they encourage the growth of the certain type of bacteria in the colon and that bacteria is associated with a lower risk of colon cancer but it’s kind of hard to convince people that that’s a good thing when they’re suffering from gas, you know when gas is uncomfortable and painful. So we do give some tips, in the book for incorporating more legumes into your diet without suffering from the side effects that some people experience.
Caryn: And walking after eating. We need to move more. We don’t think about what’s really inside of our bodies and our intestines and how long they’re supposed to be inside of us, they’re like super long and they’re all knotted and twisted up and just moving; kind of pushes things along and relieves so many problems.
Virginia: Right that’s right.
Jack: If someone does have problems with gas and beans, there is a vegan supplement that you can take, digestive enzyme to prevent the gas. I think it’s called Beanzyme.
Jack: Beanzyme, let me look that up.
Caryn: Okay, because I remember there are some out on the market that are not vegan with gelatin in them, I don’t know how good they are. I heard mixed reviews on them.
Virginia: The other thing that people can do is just to soak beans several times. Soak them and discard the water and soak them again and if you do that a few times it leaches those sugars out of the beans… the ones that cause the gas problems.
Caryn: Right and just incorporating a little about on a regular basis helps the body understand the beans a little more and starts to make adjustments.
Virginia: Yeah, as Jack says, most people in the United States are not used to eating beans. It’s a foreign food for most of us so adding them to your diet gradually can be really helpful.
Caryn: Well I love beans. I eat my beans and there are so many of them and what’s wonderful about them is that there so satisfying and if you’re trying to lose weight and you just want to feel satisfied beans really do it.
Virginia: They do.
Caryn: Ok, let’s move onto b12 and you really are singing the praises or the necessity throughout this book. It just keeps coming, oh yeah, and don’t forget b12 and now a commercial by b12 and don’t forget about your b12 and it’s an important message because so often we read something and we say that’s important and then we forget about it or we read something and we need to hear something over and over again until we get it right. This is a very important message.
Virginia: It is and unfortunately, some vegans have not heard the message and sometimes believes that their going to get enough vitamin b12 just by eating organic vegetables that haven’t been washed thoroughly. There’s just a belief system that b12 from the soil adheres to the vegetables or sometimes people think that fermented foods like miso are good sources of b12 and the research shows that you really can’t get enough active vitamin b12 from those foods, from organic foods and from fermented foods. Vegans need to take a supplement or use fortified foods in order to get enough vitamin b12.
Caryn: Well, from reading some of the books that you’ve written it sounds like everybody should be supplementing or at least people over a certain age should be supplementing with b12 so it’s not just the vegan problem.
Jack: The Institute of Medicine recommends that anyone over the age of 50 get half of the RDA for b12 through supplements or fortified foods because once you reach that age, your ability to extract the b12 from animal products goes down. However, I do want to emphasize there is some what of a myth in vegan circles that b12 is not a specific problem for vegans it’s a problem for everyone and that isn’t really the case. Plant foods generally don’t contain vitamin b12 so unless you’re getting fortified foods or supplements, you’re likely to run into trouble. I think it’s very important that vegans realize this is something they do need to pay attention to. It’s not hard to solve at all.
Virginia: No, it isn’t.
Jack: You need to make sure that you’re solving it.
Caryn: When did..do you know the history behind b12 and when we started realizing it was important ?
Jack: I know some of the history. In the mid forties is when it was discovered. It was isolated. You know for a while there were a number of vitamins that were considered to be vitamin b… they didn’t realize at the time that there was different vitamins. That’s how you ended up with vitamin b1 and 2 and 3. It was a 9 for a while and now and b12. They finally isolated B12 in the mid forties and that enabled them to cure people who had pernicious anemia which is a … when someone can’t absorb b12 in the normal route and what happens if you end up getting this large blood cells and which is anemia. It’s a different form of iron deficient anemia. They weren’t able to cure that until they discovered vitamin b12 and when they did, they were able to start curing people with pernicious anemia. That’s basically the history of it.
Caryn: Ok, Well it’s just unfortunate, but it’s true with everything that there’s so much misinformation and misunderstanding, so I’m glad you’re talking about it in here and anybody that’s listening get your b12. Just one thing too, one more thing on b12 and this is, the kind of b12 because I wasn’t aware because I was been getting the cyanocobalamin and so that’s the form I get but then there’s…. we make that into another form. You can get the form that we make but it’s not stable or something like that. I wasn’t aware of that.
Virginia: Yeah, It hasn’t been, it hasn’t been studied quite as much as cyanocobalamin and there some indication that some supplements of methylcobalamin are not quite as stable so we could see more research on that and until we have the answers to that, Jack and I are recommending cyanocobalamin.
Caryn: Well, one of my favorite places to get b12 is nutritionally yeast. Redstar nutritionally yeast and I love putting it in so many different foods and I just ordered a five pond bag of it and I can’t wait for it to come from bulkfoods.com, I think. Yeah bulkfoods.com, they have a good deal on Redstar nutritional yeast in bulk.
Virginia: One thing you want to make sure the type of nutritional yeast that is grown on a b12 rich medium, Redstar mix of brand of nutritional yeast called Vegetarian Support Formula.
Caryn: Right, that’s the winner. Yeah, very important and of course you can get b12 from fortified foods as well. I’m not particularly, just personally, I’m a fan of fortified foods. I like to have all of my foods just as simple as possible and then I mix the things that I think that I need, but that’s just my own little personal nuttiness. Okay. let’s just jump to calcium for a minute because that’s another one of the big ones. “Where you get your calcium? ” You know again, it’s a nutrient that every ones concerned about not just vegans and vegetarians and this is one of the things that always drive me crazy and probably you too. We have a crisis going on in the United States and it’s extending out to the rest of the world. The standard American diet is an epidemic and it’s creating all kinds of horrific chronic illness that’s preventable and reversible and it’s destroying our environment. It’s just a nightmare and yet it seems when we talk about a vegan diet, everybody’s like where you get this and where you get that instead of focusing on what everybody is eating today and they’re not getting the nutrition they need and their getting too many things that they shouldn’t be eating. It’s just a crazy sci-fi movie that we live in.
Virginia: I think that what this shows, is that no matter what type of diet you eat there are certain things that you need to pay attention to. Certainly vegans, have allot of health advantages…a lot of things we don’t need to worry about like cholesterol or saturated fat and we get plenty of fiber much more easily but because it’s a different way of eating from the way most Americans eat and the way most of us grew up eating, there are nutrients that we need to give some attention too.
Caryn: And calcium is one of them.
Virginia: Calcium is one of them. Just because most people are used to getting it from dairy foods and don’t realize that they’re good plant sources of calcium.
Caryn: Well. One of my favorite foods is dark leafy, green vegetables and I know that I get some of my calcium from those guys.
Caryn: Just like all those big muscle-ly animals get their calcium and their strong bones from all the green leaves and green grasses that they eat. Ok, let’s see, another vitamin that’s big in the news is vitamin d and everybody seems to be connecting it to every major chronic disease today saying that vitamin d deficiency is apart of it. What’s interesting too, I was reading on your blog, Jack about a….. okay, I have to back up a little bit but there are… There’s vitamin d3, which comes from animals and vitamin d2, which is synthesized and it’s not an animal form.
Jack: It’s not an animal form. It’s usually made from yeast, exposing yeast to sunlight.
Caryn: Ok, right so synthesized from yeast or grown from yeast.
Jack: It’s not unnatural, the yeast synthesize it. It’s… yeah it comes from yeast not animals.
Caryn: Right, and so there may be a plant form of vitamin d3?
Jack: That is correct. The company called Vitashine, it’s in Britain, just recently developed a process of getting vitamin d3 from lichen and so they should have a supplement available in the next few weeks, is my understanding, You can get.. now I don’t necessarily think that people need vitamin d3 over vitamin d2 but in some cases, once in awhile, we come across people who have a stubborn case of vitamin d deficiency and vitamin2, doesn’t seem to be increasing the levels effectively and in those cases, I would recommend that they try vitamin d3. For the most part ….vegans do not need to worry about getting vitamin d3 versus d2 and if your in the sun regularly everyday then you also do not need to worry about getting vitamin d through your diet but I think that’s unusual these days and I should point out that you can’t wear sunscreen for… basically the rule is you need to be in the sun when sunburn is possible without sunscreening and it depends how much of your body surface is being exposed to the sun. If it’s your arms or your face then it would be about 15 minutes or a little bit longer if your dark skinned or older up to an half an hour. You really, because of skin cancer concerns, you shouldn’t stay out in the sun when you can possibly get sunburn for more than half the time it would take you to get sunburn. Sorry about all of these qualifications.
Caryn: No but it’s really interesting and important that you qualified that the sun…. where you can get sunburn. It needs to be that time and that strength, just not stay in it that long.
Jack: Right, exactly. I like to spend… just when I get a chance to lay out in the sun for about 8 minutes and lay for another 8 for my back and I’m not sure how much vitamin d I get from that, but I’m guessing it’s quite a bit and I’m actually getting my vitamin levels tested in the next few days so I’ll know at that point, how well it’s going.
Caryn: I know. You know that’s interesting that you’d bring up getting your vitamin d tested and I wanted to ask about this and that is… you talk about a number of different nutrients in this book and some of them are a little more unknown to people like DHA and vitamin d. Vitamin d’s getting more popular for people to get blood tested for because we’re realizing how important it is but to check our DHA levels. I remember asking a number of doctors saying I wanted it done and they looked at me like huh?
Jack: Well, there’s only three labs that test DHA levels in the United States at this time and so it is not a common test and I don’t necessarily recommend that people…. I don’t think you need to run out and get your DHA tested. I think it’s a good idea to get vitamin d tested because so many people have found themselves to be deficient. That’s for vegans and non vegans alike. I think if you’re going to the doctor and getting a check up anyway and they’re going to be doing blood test, I would throw in vitamin d as well just to make sure that it’s at a decent level but DHA is something…it’s controversial as to whether vegans even need to be supplementing with DHA but we think people should as a safety measure but i don’t think you need to run out and get your DHA levels tested. It’s not even clear what that tells you if you were to do it. I mean if it was an extremely low amount then it’s probably the indication that you should be supplementing but, generally, it’s not well…. testing DHA levels is not a well developed science at this point. I’m sorry to dominate the conversation Ginny, do you have anything to add?
Virginia: That’s ok, I just wanted to add that some people believe that they don’t need to supplement… that they just need to monitor their blood level and get vitamin d and vitamin b12 tested periodically to make sure that its not too low and we really advised against that. Nutritionist supposed to be preventative. You don’t want to wait until you have a deficiency and then start to supplement. As Jack said it is a good idea to get your vitamin d levels tested but whether you’re getting blood levels tested of anything or not we highly recommend taking these supplements … vitamin d if your not getting no sun exposure, definitely vitamin b12 and probably DHA.
Caryn: Right, I guess the thing behind the DHA, since it isn’t… we need to know more about it, is that some people have told me it’s expensive to get it.
Virginia: It is.
Caryn: And the vegan version is expensive, put that in quotes, I mean it depends on what you value and you know people spend a lot of money some things that I think are totally like “what” and you know when it comes to health and feeling good, I don’t think I can do enough.
Jack: A DHA supplement cost about four designer beers at a brewery every three months.
Caryn: There you go, I love that.
Virginia: I recommend a dosage that’s going to be small and it’s just several times a week. We recommend 200-300 micrograms of DHA every 2 or 3 days. Even though it’s expensive a bottle of that supplement will go along way.
Caryn: Right, I guess the hardest part for me is the kind that I have is refrigerated. Are they all refrigerated?
Caryn: Yeah and I forget about it when it’s in the refrigerator.
Virginia: You have to put a little post it note on your computer.
Caryn: There we go. I’m going to do that. Okay, we need to take a quick break and I have so much I want to talk to you two about so can you stay with us and we’ll be right back? Thank you.
Transcribed my Marci Skinner, 11/10/2013
Transcription PART II
Caryn Hartglass: Hello I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s all about food. And I’m speaking with the co-authors of “Vegan for life – Everything you need to know to be healthy and fit on a plant based diet”. And that’s Jack Norris. He’s got a website at norrisrd.com and Ginny Messina whose website is theveganrd.com. Both of them are excellent resources and I invite you to check them out and read everything that’s there and we’ll quiz you on it later. So Okay. Yes Jack.
Jack Norris: Yeah, I was just going to say that I’d be scared for you to quiz me on it later.
Caryn Hartglass: Ok well we are quizzing you right now. OK. I just wanted to talk about the social part of it now of the vegan scene because I think the hardest part for people is dealing with the real world. And that means your partner, your spouse, your children especially if they’re teenagers and that means if you wanted to transition to a plant based diet and dealing with everyone around you who doesn’t or if someone in your family wants to and you don’t know if that it’s a good idea and don’t know how to do it. And then that expands to the school, the office, so many things. So we are learning from this book of yours that its perfectly healthy to eat a plant based diet. Do you have any advice for people that are dealing with the people around them?
Ginny Messina: Well, it depends on so many factors and certainly the world is becoming much more vegan friendly although it depends on where you live and depends on your family and your social circles but there are so many vegan foods that are considered to be pretty mainstream now. For example, Hummus is a food that I didn’t eat while I was growing up. I’d never heard of it.
Caryn Hartglass: Isn’t that amazing? It is everywhere
Ginny Messina: It is everywhere now. The first time I had it I thought it was something exotic and now it is something that everybody seems to have in their lunch box.
Caryn Hartglass: And in case some people don’t know, Hummus is made from a beeeean!
Ginny Messina: It’s a great way to introduce beans in your diet. So I think that you know when you’re in situations where you are dining with people who are not vegan or you need to prepare food for non vegans – sticking with things that are a little bit familiar and some really simple things like pasta primavera or pasta with marinara sauce, lentil soup. There are all kinds of dishes that are familiar and comfortable to non vegans and when you concentrate on those, it is pretty easy to come up with meals that make everybody happy.
Jack Norris: They are pretty common foods that everyone eats.
Caryn Hartglass: There are so many easy to simply modify and get the meat out or keep the cheese off. And that’s a good thing.
Jack Norris: Peanut butter and Jelly. Peanut is considered a legume. Another bean! They are very high in protein.
Ginny Messina: We love peanut butter.
Caryn Hartglass: Now, I just want to say one thing about peanut butter. My peanut butter consists of peanuts. Many people if they turn the label around on JIF and Skippy will read a lot of foreign words they cant even pronounce. Peanuts might be in there somewhere. But I think peanut butter should just be peanuts and maybe peanuts and salt. I am not a salt fan but that’s it
Jack Norris: Most grocery stores do carry more natural branded peanut butter than what we’ve mentioned.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. They’ve been around a long time but I still find JIF and Skippy in some people’s pantries.
Jack Norris: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: A lot of them. And they have that evil hydrogenated oil in there.
Ginny Messina: The old natural peanut butter doesn’t have any trans fat so that’s always a good choice.
Caryn Hartglass: Now, OK. I know for me, the reason that I started eating plant foods, I was a teenager and I didn’t want to kill animals and I know that’s an important piece for both of you as well. And Jack Norris: you have had those incredible vegan outreach pamphlets that have changed so many people
Jack Norris: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: and just tremendous what a little thing can do. I am sure it wasn’t little to put it together but it just spread like wild fire. So I would have liked it to spread a lot more because we’ve got a long way to go in terms of making factories farming a thing of the past.
Jack Norris: Right. We are making good progress. I mean it is is too slow but if you look at history and advances for animals have actually been coming on relatively quickly in the last couple decades. When you look back to say the civil rights movement, you know the civil rights act was just passed in the nineteen sixties and now we are well on our way to making Veganism into a fairly household word and most places – even if people aren’t eating vegan at least know the term and talk about it. So and as you mentioned earlier, all the new vegan foods in the stores and the vegan restaurants, we’ve really made a lot of progress.
Caryn Hartglass: I know that it depends on how you look at numbers in terms of seeing what the changes are. Certainly there are more people in the world today and as the other countries China and India especially, as they become more developed, they are changing their dietary habits and unfortunately they are not changing them for the better and they are increasing their animal food intake and so we see an increase of factory farmed animals. While at the same time there are more people that are choosing to eat more plant food, it is kind of an interesting contrast of things that are going on at the same time. But lets just stick with the United States. What are some of the good things that have happened with respect to factory farming?
Caryn Hartglass: Are there any? Let me rephrase that question. People and there are different organizations that promote legislation that may improve the animals condition while in factory farms and I am not sure how either of you feels about those issues. Personally I just want to see it all go away if possible.
Ginny Messina: I want to see it go away too and that is certainly, definitely the goal of those of us that are involved in vegan activism. In the meantime because factory farming is so pervasive, I personally feel that it is important to do everything possible to improve conditions for animals, to reduce their suffering in any way that we can and hopefully some of these changes also drive the prices for animal food up which may encourage people to choose more plant based meals. But the most important thing that has happened is that people are aware of factory farming now and they weren’t ten years ago because of the undercover investigations. We have a whole chapter in our book about factory farming and about how these animals suffer on modern farms and that is the most important thing, the aware ness about where our food comes from.
Caryn Hartglass: People need to know that if they are eating animal foods, meat, chicken, fish, dairy, eggs, something like 99% of them are grown in ways where animals suffer and I am not just talking the final slaughter where they are killed. It is their whole life and some people think that when they eat organic or when they eat kosher foods that the animals are treated a lot better. You talk a little bit about the slaughter process of kosher foods in your book and but aside from that the animals that are raised for kosher meats still don’t live their lives in a better situation.
Jack Norris: That’s true. For the most part, they would come from factory farms.
Caryn Hartglass: So the religious law talks about how the animals are supposed to be slaughtered but ideally, the whole point of the law is so the animals experience any pain and really minimal suffering and that’s not happening.
Ginny Messina: No, its not. A lot of it has to do with volume, with numbers. Even with the best intentions, the number of animals that are killed for food is just so high that it is impossible to protect their interests in any way in the slaughterhouse.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. Well it’s important for people to know about this. I can’t think about it for too long because then I can’t really do my work because it is so horrifying.
Ginny Messina: But we can all be vegan.
Caryn Hartglass: We can all be vegan.
Ginny Messina: And make a difference that way.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: And you make this point in the book. There are just some things we don’t know about nutrition. There is a lot we do know. But there are some things we don’t have the answers for. And So much of the research, it is really truly hard to figure a lot of things out. It is expensive to do studies. But also this reductionist concept of just isolating one nutrient to see what it does. Our bodies don’t work that way. They work in harmony with lots of different things. And it is really hard to study that, many different variables and see how they affect our health. So there is just a lot we don’t know. But what do we know and I want to think that one thing that is really clear if we are not certain that vegan diet is the ideal diet, we do know that a diet based in plant foods is best.
Ginny Messina: Right. And we talk about that a little bit in Vegan for life. The fact that eating a diet that is low in saturated fats and high in fiber is the healthiest way to eat and that is a diet based on plant foods. So we know that it is important to eat mostly plant foods for your health and from an ethical perspective we recommend eating all plant foods because then you are not contributing to the suffering of any animals.
Caryn Hartglass: And the environment.
Ginny Messina: And the environment.
Caryn Hartglass. Yes. It is just crazy what is going on today. I was talking to Mia McDonald last week and her organization, Brighter Green and it is just is heart wrenching to hear that as we are learning that animals foods are not good for us and our health is declining in the United States to see these other countries wanting to be just like us. Only just like us maybe ten or twenty years earlier, before we knew some things that we know today.
Ginny Messina: It is up to us to redefine the western diet.
Caryn Hartglass. Yeah but How do we change the standard American diet so it doesn’t spell fad? Something like STAR we can us an acronym like that. I’m going to have to work on that. “Standard Terrific American Regimen”. Stay tuned. OK. Now, what about kids and teenagers who are really picky eaters. You have some discussion about some diets and menus for them.
Ginny Messina: We do. We have some menus for kids and some food guides for vegan children and we also have some information – some really fun information for families that have raised their kids as vegan and how well they have done. Jack has some photographs of those children on his website. One thing to keep in mind is that, being a picky eater or kids that are picky eaters, that is a universal problem for all parents. All parents have trouble getting their kids to eat enough vegetables and that is not unique to vegans at all. So we give some hints for getting more protein rich food in children’s diets. Jack had mentioned peanut butter. That is a great choice and hummus or any kind of a bean spread. Those are good choices for kids as well. Kids like pasta, whole grain muffins, fruits, trail mix. There are a lot of foods that are familiar, that you will find in most households that are really good vegan choices.
Caryn Hartglass: Good. Well, I can’t really say because I don’t have children so I cant truly speak on this subject. I just know that I remember when I was a teenager….enough said. I made things very challenging.
Jack Norris: I do get frustrated at times that often a woman will be vegan and as soon as she becomes pregnant she goes back to eating animal products. So there seems to be this persistent idea that you cant be vegan and have a healthy child and that is simply not the case. And if anyone out there is interested in more info, Ginny’s website veganhealth.org has a section on real vegan kids whose mothers were vegan during pregnancy and again our book has a section on that.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s truly important and I know that these individual stories are just anecdotes but they are important to read and to note that they exist. Because I think that when we use the word anecdotal I realize that it means individual stories and so we have to be careful when we look at that information. Either someone is promoting it to try and promote a way of life or a diet but no matter what especially with somebody we know who has been doing some things and doing well with it, it is information that we can’t ignore.
Ginny Messina: Right. And I think that these stories of real vegan children that are in veganhealth.org, I think that people will be very reassured when they see those if they are uncomfortable or have questions about raising vegan kids, to think that these kids have done well and they look great. The pictures are fantastic. I think that that’s going to reassure most parents that a vegan diet can be healthy.
Jack Norris: And although there is not a ton of research on it. There has been one study done. It is quite old now. But there was a vegan commune. I think that study came out in the early eighties. Ginny is that right? That’s right.
Caryn Hartglass. You talk about it in your book.
Ginny Messina: We do.
Jack Norris: And so there is research backing up the idea that people can have vegan pregnancies and vegan infants and children and they’ll be healthy. In addition to the anecdotal reports we have.
Caryn Hartglass: right. Well I know many and they are all thriving so there are certainly more and more of them and they are getting older and I’ll be really curious to see how they’ll fare in adult life. Most of the ones I know are in their teens or in their twenties and they are all gorgeous. Simply inside and out.
Caryn Hartglass: OK. We just have a few minutes left and I just had something that’s slipped my mind which is not a good thing. Maybe I need more B12. Are there any other highlights in the book that we didn’t talk about that you think are important.
Jack Norris: Ginny, do you have anything?
Ginny Messina: well you know, just to that people know, the book does cover almost every circumstance of the life cycle. We talk about planning healthy vegan diets for pregnant women, for breast feeding and for kids starting from infancy all the way through adolescence. We also have a pretty thorough chapter on sports nutrition or nutrition for people that are involved in exercise and sports and want to follow a vegan diet. We have tips on how to do that and also information on how to eat on a budget. Information for older people, people over the age of 50 who might have some different nutrient needs. We address those from a vegan perspective.
Caryn Hartglass: It is really good that you touched on all of those different subjects. Especially for seniors, a lot of times, I hate this expression but you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I apologize to all those. For those older people who have changed their diets, it is amazing what I’ve seen and I know that some of them really well. All the weight they’ve lost, the tone of their skin has changed! The clarity in their eyes has improved and it is just amazing how the body can really change so quickly when we give it the nutrition it needs and take away the toxins it doesn’t like.
Ginny Messina: I see a lot of people adopting plant based diets as they get older and they are worried about heart disease and weight gain of course, and plant based diets can be a good healthy way to prevent those kinds of problems along with exercise and just an overall healthy lifestyle.
Caryn Hartglass: Now you are both registered dieticians and I don’t know remember where each of you studied. But I still know a lot of dieticians today and especially new ones that are coming out still don’t have the information. Well, at least information promoting or supporting plant based diets. I know that maybe there is some improvement but I still speak to a lot of dieticians today that just don’t know a lot of information.
Jack Norris: Well, vegan diets are not the specialty of most dieticians as they come out of school. The discipline has moved towards encouraging more plant foods than it was in the past but they are not a vegan advocacy organization by any means.
Caryn Hartglass: We still have more work to do.
Caryn Hartglass: We are learning that we have these epidemics in this country – Diabetes and heart disease and when you go to their website they all say we have to eat more fruits and vegetables. They could go a lot further.
Ginny Messina. They could go a lot further and they do encourage many of the right things – Higher fiber intake, reducing intake of animal foods and eating more plant foods. But it is definitely not a vegan perspective. It might be a perspective that encourages a more plant based diet but it is not vegan.
Caryn Hartglass: Ok. I just had one last question. And that is the USDA recently came out with a new “my plate” – “choose my plate”. What do you think about that?
Jack Norris: Ginny what do you think about it? Laughter
Ginny Messina: I think it was certainly a step in the right direction. It does encourage people to fill up 75% of their plate with fruits, vegetables and grains and that’s a really good thing. It allows for plant proteins in place of meat proteins if people want that. For me the kind of the sticking point is the little dairy group that is on the outside of that group. I think that is just an old fashioned way of thinking about meeting calcium needs. One of the things we emphasize in our food guide is that all of the food groups include foods that are good sources of calcium.
Caryn Hartglass: Right I remember reading that and that is so important that we don’t have to and maybe it is a good way to summarize this. You don’t have to be a dietician. You don’t have to know…be a specialist in nutrition. You just have to eat a lot of varied fruits and vegetables. Lots of colors, stay away from the junk. And For the most part you will be getting most of the nutrition you need and you might need to supplement one or two things especially B12 but it is not that difficult.
Ginny Messina: no it is not.
Caryn Hartglass: Well Ginny and Jack Norris: Thank you so much. Please visit jacknorrisrd.com and theveganrd.com and check out the book “Vegan for life – Everything you need to know to be healthy and fit on a plant based diet”. Thank you so much for everything that you do. I’ve learnt a lot.
Jack Norris/ Ginny Messina: Thank you so much for having us
Caryn Hartglass :Okay, so I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’ve been listening to Its all about food. Thank you so much for joining me. Eat some beans today and have a delicious week. Bye Bye.
Transcribed by Sameer Verma, 11/7/2013