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February 2002

GREETINGS

All who attend potlucks, please note: at our last potluck the concern arose that we end up eating a bit late for many (since people tend to show up over about half an hour, and there may then be some discussion before we actually get to the food. It was therefore the consensus to slightly alter our potluck time. Starting in February, we will begin assembling at 5:30 PM rather than 6, and we will actually begin eating at 6 PM sharp. Plan to arrive at 5:30, and then if you’re a few minutes late you won’t miss anything. If you plan for 6, and get there at 6:30 figuring that we’ll just be getting started – as has generally been the case in the past – you may find the table less full than you expected.

I have been in touch with Marie Greenfield at the Outpost, and we will definitely be doing our usual informational tabling at both Outpost locations in honor of the Great American Meat-Out; our event will take place on March 23, the Saturday following the first day of Spring. Details will follow; as soon as I have them, the publicity will begin and you can volunteer to help. It was pointed out to us at the January potluck that if we send a packet of flyers to the main library, they will distribute them to all its branches!! In addition, I may investigate talk radio shows that might wish to have one or two of us on as guests in the week or so before our event.

We got an e-mail the other day from a person who found our website but seemed to have no other way to communicate with us. For anyone out there in this situation, further information about MARV can always be had by phoning Louise and Chuck at (414) 962-2703, or Jody and David at (414) 764-7262. There is now a phone number on the masthead – but we realized that the masthead is not reproduced on the version of this newsletter that appears on the website. I will henceforth make a point of ensuring that a phone contact always appears in the text.

M.A.R.V. ACTIVITIES

Sunday, Feb. 3, 5:30 PM, regular potluck at the Forgach residence in the community room of Algonquin Manor, 5005 W. Bradley Rd. Look for the Algonquin Manor sign on the south side of Bradley Rd. (414) 355-4089. Focus on Middle Eastern foods.

Sunday, March 3, 5:30 PM, regular potluck at Jean Groshek’s, 2531 N. Dousman, (414) 265-2366. Topic is how to use uncommon grains.

Saturday, March 23, Great American Meat-Out informational tabling at both Outposts. We’ll need volunteers to help with this event – call 962-2703 to join the fun.

Sunday, Apr. 7, 5:30 PM, regular potluck – we need a host for this one. Call 962-2703 to volunteer.

Macrobiotic potlucks

Feb. 17, 5 PM, at Lisa and Marty Meissner’s, 5522 W. Wright St., Wauwatosa, 453-7326.

March 17, at Pat O’Neill’s, 2431 N. Bartlett, 964-9759.

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

"A farmer says to me, ‘You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make bones with’; and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying his sys-tem with the raw materials of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerks him and his lumbering plough in spite of every obstacle."

-- Henry D. Thoreau, Walden, 1854

NEWS

This month I saw two different general guides to keeping healthy, one focusing on tactics for the aging and the other on women, and both featuring dietary advice. The one about aging, in the Outpost Exchange for Dec-ember, started with the assumption that we slow down and experience reduced organ function as we age (I acknowledge that most of us do slow down, yet I wonder if this is a physiological inevitability or a mere cultural expectation). In any case, advice for remaining healthy as we age is highly veg-friendly: eat more fiber from vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and seeds; eat some protein but not too much and mostly from "lighter" sources such as soy and nuts; get a bit of good fats such as olive and flax seed oils; make sure to get adequate liquids and exercise; and make sure to get enough vitamin D, calcium, and B-12 – the latter from supplements even if you’re not vegan, since older adults tend to absorb dietary B-12 less well than youngsters.

An article in the December Healthwise looked at new food products that advertise themselves as boosting women’s health, and its message was skepticism. While acknowledging that women have special needs for adequate folic acid, calcium, vitamin D, and iron, it pointed out that high-priced supplemented products are not necessarily a best, or even a good, source of these nutrients, and some of them are merely fortified junk food. Another issue discussed in the article was soy; the author cautions that most of the mainstream processed foods that mention soy as an ingredient to sell their pro-ducts don’t have enough of it to count. Similarly, it warned that package boasts of antioxidents, energy-boosting vitamins, and heart-healthiness can be gross exaggerations of what that food item could actually do for you. Calcium, on the other hand, is mentioned as a need that fortified foods may help with. In sum, you’re still better off eating a good array of whole foods, which include dark green leafies (for folacin and calcium), vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and other whole foods including soy, rather than spending money for processed, high-sell items. And this advice is reinforced by a report in the NY Times which pointed out that there is no real regulated certification of vitamin-mineral supplements, so that what they claim may or may not be what you actually get from them.

Other interesting nutritional news includes an announcement that Medicare will start to cover nutrition counseling and therapy – a welcome sign that people may start being told to eat lower on the food chain to preserve and restore their health, under government aegis, no less. Perhaps the recent surgeon general’s warning that obesity is now challenging tobacco as a cause of illness and death among Americans has something to do with it. We’ll see whether the nutrition counseling given will mention a study published this January in the journal Can-cer, which indicated that diet is a strong factor in breast cancer; specifically, it found that the higher the percentage of daily calories derived from animal products in a person’s diet, the higher the breast cancer mortality, while the more calories were derived from plant products the higher the survival rate.

Other Bad Animal Foods news included the continuing flap about meat inspection, with a government audit criticizing new USDA rules on the same day that the Bush administration announced plans to expand that new program, and a letter to the NY Times editor justifying the USDA’s competence despite a court ruling that it cannot shut down a meat-packing plant just because it fails inspections for salmonella. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) did a survey which found that most people do not know that animal feces on carcasses is a cause of food-borne illness, and is demanding that the USDA place biohazard warnings on all American raw meat products.

For the first time in these pages, we do have a report of a plant food being dangerous: the CDC has issued a warning about the danger of getting food poisoning from raw sprouts. When one reads between the lines, it becomes clear that this stems from situations where either the seeds, or the water used in sprouting them, were contaminated with animal feces; in other words, if you can trust your seed source and sprout your own sprouts with clean water, you should still be safe.

And on the other hand, plant foods are still good for you in many ways.

Health Science ran an article on avocados, pointing out that although they are very fatty, their fat is the beneficial monounsaturated kind, while they also contain good amounts of folate, vitamin E, and several desirable antioxidents. In a similar vein, the Fall ’01 Vegetarian Voice had an article about the nutritional wonders of hemp seed (high in protein) and its oil which has an ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. (Try health-food stores for products.)

A Delicious Living article on herbal protection from disease included mention of garlic as well-proven and highly effective, both as an antibiotic and to stimulate the immune system.

In a similar vein, the recent Prevention magazine ran an article on foods that fight colds and flu, though this one focussed on foods that contain "probiotics" – live bacterial cultures which both boost immune system function and alleviate the effects of antibiotics if they’re needed. Vegetarian sources are cheeses, yogurt, butter-milk, and kefir, while vegan sources include miso, sauerkraut, tempeh, and soyyogurt.

Another tip in that magazine was that fruits have been found to help lung function. A third was an Australian study which found that 100% whole grain bread eaten for breakfast was so much more filling and satisfying than white bread that it actually reduced caloric intake for the day (as well as furnishing much better nutrition). An earlier Prevention, meanwhile, had reported on the effects of various foods on one’s levels of free radicals (suspects in a variety of ills from aging skin and eyes to causing cancer): while orange juice (full of vitamin C) lowered them, sugar and sugary foods, and fatty animal foods were the items that raised free radicals the most.

The most recent Good Medicine (the PCRM publication) reports on a huge prospective European study on cancer and nutrition, which has now found that: higher levels of vitamin C (found in many fruits and vegetables) correlate with lower incidence of heart disease, stroke, and cancer; greater fruit and vegetable intake is associated with lower rates of colon and digestive tract cancers; and eating preserved meats is linked to getting colon cancer.

It’s therefore nice to know that the American Dietetic Association has announced that appropriate vegan diets are perfectly adequate for children.

DIALOG

The hoopla about the safety of soy is still with us. John Robbins’ response is the most recent, and it analyzes and thoroughly debunks the article by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig which seems to have been the original source of much of the consternation.

For example, the allegation by Fallon and Enig that soy protein is less digestible than ani-mal protein is explained with the acknowledgement that cooked soybean protein is indeed a little bit less digestible – but that this does not apply to soymilk, tofu, tempeh, etc. Charges that soy inhibits mineral absorption similarly turn out to be vastly exaggerated by the anti-soy crusaders; in fact, soy does contain phytates which could have that effect – but in such small amounts that one would have to eat al-most nothing but soy to see an effect. Robbins further points out that most of the anti-soy "evidence" comes from studies of animals fed large amounts of concentrated soy protein, even though animal studies very often do not apply to humans, nor do normal human soy-eating habits correspond to the studies’ exposures.

Robbins does express concern about eating concentrated soy supplements, and also about eating large amounts of bioengineered soy (which is inevitable in the U.S. unless you seek out organic or "non-GMO" soy foods). But he points out that the anti-soy people turn out to be advocates of a meat- and dairy-heavy diet, or dairy industry flaks. And he easily refutes their contentions by pointing out the many health advantages of soymilk over cow’s milk.

THE VEGGIE TABLE

It has been occasionally requested that we publish recipes, and when no restaurant review is available (and space permits) I can do so.

This one came from the American Farmland Trust, and is most delicious.

Roasted Winter Squash Soup With Herbs

Ingredients: 3 lbs. winter squash, olive oil, salt and pepper, 6 whole sage leaves, 2 finely chopped onions, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1 T chopped sage, 1 T chopped parsley, ½ T minced rosemary, 2 qts. vegetable stock.

Directions: 1. Preheat oven to 400F. 2. Cut squash in half and remove seeds. Place squash, cut side down, on baking sheet and tuck whole sage leaves under them. Roast until tender, about 30 minutes. Remove squash from its skins and set aside, reserving the pan juice. Discard the sage leaves. 3. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil a few minutes. Add herbs and stir until fragrant. Add roasted squash (partly mashed if preferred) and stock and pan juice, stirring to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes. Thin if needed. Serve hot, garnished with sage leaves.

This extremely fatty but yummy-sounding recipe is from Vegetarian Voice.

Hemp Guacamole

Ingredients: 2 lge. ripe avocados (peeled), 2 T lime or lemon juice, 2 med. tomatoes, finely chopped, ½ t. salt, ¼ cup shelled hempseed 1.5 tsp fresh cilantro. Directions: Mash the avoca-do with a fork, add the citrus juice, then add the other ingredients.