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December 2005


GREETINGS

Our PreThanksgiving Feast has taken place. We had just about 150 people, a delicious and varied vegan spread, and a good time all around. Thanks go to Jean Groshek, Mary Brennan, Jean Horvath, Josephine, Cindy Juds, Barbara and Stan Weiss, Nancy Steinhage, Kathleen Mohr, Wanda Embar, Gary Sapiro, Judy Strampe, Dustin Paluch, and Mary Beth Koenigs, and extra especially to !Jody Johnson!

We did make money, enough to fund us for the coming year, though a bit less than might have been hoped due to the fact that nearly everyone preferred to bring a dish to pass and therefore pay $5 per person instead of $10. Perhaps next year the fee structure should be $6 and $10 instead – if we had done that this year, it would have brought in an extra $130 with probably no extra hardship for anyone. What do people think?

Another interesting note came from the comment cards. Three different people wrote that they wished we would hold more south side events, since driving to the Riverwest potlucks is out of their bounds but they would like to join us more often. Do people think we should try to do things in Bay View and South Milwaukee and other such places more often? Where? Would that be as well as our regular potlucks or instead? What do people think?

Give us your feedback on these issues (and anything else) by calling me (Louise) at (414) 962-2703 or Jody at (414) 764-7262.

In any case, now that winter is upon us, it’s time to start thinking of spring, and the Great American Meat-Out on the first day thereof. Come to the potlucks and/or call us with your ideas about that.

M.A.R.V. ACTIVITIES

Sunday, Dec. 4, 5 PM, regular potluck at the Friends’ Meeting House, 3224 N. Gordon Pl. in Riverwest (from Humboldt Blvd. go east on Auer a few short blocks to the parking lot.). A McDougall video will be shown.

Subsequent regular potlucks will be on Jan. 8, Feb. 2, and March 2.

Other veg-friendly potlucks

The next macrobiotic potluck will be at Allen Owen’s place, 5310 W. Loomis Rd. in Greendale, on Sunday, Dec. 18 at 5:30 PM. Phone (414) 421-1725.

The Urban Ecology Center is advertising a vegetarian potluck on Thursday, Dec. 15, at 6:30 PM. Their address is 1500 E. Park Pl. just west of N. Oakland Ave. on the east side; phone (414) 964-8505.

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

There is No Mad Tofu Disease.”

-- new bumper sticker from the Syracuse Cultural Workers “Tools for Change” catalog

(scw@syrculturalworkers.com)

NEWS

There were a couple of big stories this month in the Bad Animal Food News department. One of them involved various maneuverings around beef. A Japanese panel (heavily pressured by the U.S) ruled U.S. beef safe to import again, even as the Bush administration is looking to lift the last restrictions on importing Canadian beef into this country. Meanwhile, Wisconsin State Farmer ran a whole article on how good “crisis management” helped keep Americans eating their beef despite last winter’s discovery of a case of mad cow here. Is it all enough to make one wonder about how well governments look out for citizens? Especially in the light of a Nov. 9 Government Accountability Office report which stated that testing of feed given to cattle is inadequate to keep contaminated feed out of the system. But we don’t need mad cow disease to worry about beef: there was also a news item about a recall of over 94,000 pounds of frozen beef patties made by Quaker Maid Meats, due to the possibility of e. coli contamination. And a new European study confirmed that the more red and processed meat one eats, the higher one’s risk for colorectal cancer.

Another big and ongoing story focused on bird flu, which seems to be mostly a problem of people being in close contact with birds raised for food. Japan repeatedly announced plans to slaughter huge numbers of chickens to try to prevent an outbreak, while Thailand, Indonesia, and China reported cases of humans with the disease. On this side of the Pacific, the Wisconsin state government, the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture are all getting set to combat a disease which has not yet appeared here, and which one person opined would not be likely to arrive, since wild birds that might carry it could not easily transmit it to the birds raised for food here: most such animals spend their lives confined indoors. In fact, it is generally acknowledged that risks of a great human pandemic from this bird disease are really quite low, yet that hasn’t stopped public officials from raising fears about it.

Two other news items I saw related to milk – a vegetarian but not vegan food. One discussed Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board ideas to get more kids to drink more milk, including trying to introduce flavored milks into schools on the grounds that this would both sell more milk and be better for kids than soft drinks and sugared fruit drinks. The other news item worried about an FDA proposal to adulterate cow milk by allowing processors to use milk from other creatures than cows for making dairy products such as ice cream and sherbet.

Prevention had a couple of items about bad foods that were not necessarily meaty. One pointed out that the high fructose corn syrup found in most processed foods these days is extremely fattening, and probably part of the reason for this country’s obesity epidemic. The other reported that public school cafeteria favorites are not good nutrition: school principals reported that kids tended to choose cookies, cakes, and other baked goods, pizzas and ham-burgers, French fries, chips and similar salty snacks, and sodas and sugary fruit drinks.

On another note, the Associated Press distributed a story about people who get all their food by scrounging through garbage. After all, stores often throw out food that is perfectly edible but at or near its “sell-by” date. And these folks call themselves “freegans” in a combination of “free” and “vegan.” In fact, not all are vegan or even vegetarian, but one doctor with the Humane Society has posted safety tips on their website (www.freegan.info) which warn freegans to avoid meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy, as well as cut melon and unpasteurized cider and juice.

Meanwhile, there is, as always, much good news about plant foods. Cranberries and sweet potatoes are featured produce this month, and not just for their seasonality and good taste. Cranberries are full of cancer-preventive, heart-healthy antioxidents, as well as tannins that keep bacteria from sticking to cells and thus protect gums, intestines, and the urinary tract from infections. Bright orange sweet potato flesh contains loads of beta-carotene (from which your body makes immune-system-enhancing vitamin A), plus vitamins C and E and plenty of antioxidents, fiber, and potassium –yet they’re low in sodium and calories, and don’t make your blood sugar jump despite their sweetness. What more could anyone ask?

DeliciousLiving ran an article on type 2 diabetes, which included a list of strategies for preventing it: eat carotenoids (found in orange, red, pink, and yellow produce); eat chromium-containing foods such as broccoli, mushrooms, whole grains, and brewer’s yeast; get vitamin D from exposure to sunlight and/or D-fortified milks including soy; and get vitamin E from dark green leafies, avocados, nuts and seeds.

An item in Prevention noted that women who eat little meat are only half as likely to be over-weight as omnivores – and vegans are two-thirds less likely. And Prevention also ran an interesting article on common mistakes people make in trying to choose foods that are healthy. For example, buying “multigrain” foods with-out reading the ingredients label right may give you a combination of several refined grains: to eat well you need to look for “100% whole grain” on the label. Bottled water laced with vitamins may not have enough vitamins to be worth it – while containing many empty calories; water plus good food or a multivitamin is a better choice. Similarly, veggie chips are seldom much more nutritious than potato chips, unless the vegetable is the only ingredient, and fruit leather “made with real fruit” is usually not made with enough of it to count (plain dried fruit, on the other hand, is just as sweet and is in fact nutritious). “Less salt” products are often not enough less to make a difference, though “low in sodium” products may be better. Fat-free milk is often recommended (for those who drink cows’ milk at all) -- but it turns out that if the container is glass or translucent plastic, light shining on it can break down vitamins A, B2, D, and E and even amino acids; cardboard containers should be chosen. Granola bars are basically candy, not food – and definitely not a good substitute for break-fast. That healthy glass of wine or beer can contribute to high blood pressure if taken on an empty stomach. And frugally reheating restaurant leftovers should be done only in a microwave-safe glass or ceramic bowl; other substances including many take-home containers leach nasty chemicals into the food when microwaved.

Prevention ran an item that reported on a new Tufts University study which found that eating empty carbohydrates (i.e., refined grains and sugars) increased the risk of developing cataracts, while a Harvard study found that eating at least 3.5 servings a day of high-antioxident fruits and vegetables lowers cataract risk. On a different note, another article reported on different teas. Black, green, and newcomer white teas all contain disease-protective poly-phenols and antioxidents, but white tea is least refined and has the most of these, while black tea has healthy theaflavins which form when the polypehnols ferment.

Finally, DeliciousLiving featured some less-used grains: barley, oats, amaranth, quinoa, and teff. Most of these tend to be eaten as whole grains, and are full of protein (amaranth, quinoa), iron (teff, quinoa, amaranth), and/or calcium (amaranth, teff), while barley and oats help lower cholesterol, and all improve overall health and reduce disease risk.

DIALOG

Many years ago, when I was pregnant with my daughter, and the spate of nutritional research that gave rise to the Food Guide Pyramid was barely a gleam in a few nutritionists’eyes, and all we had was the Four Food Groups (half of which were animal foods), one – and only one – of many Eating For Pregnancy books that I read suggested getting all one’s nutrients from food rather than relying on The Prenatal Multivitamin Pill. This book was the guideline that I ended up following – but the only way I could do that was to make a point of eating good nutrient-dense food and avoiding empty calories most assiduously. It was a starting point for me in my nutritional journey. I switched from white flour bread to 100% whole grain, and from white rice to brown. I taught myself not to consider it a proper meal unless there was a fruit or vegetable in it (typically a fruit at breakfast and at least one vegetable each with lunch and supper, plus fruits or vegetable sticks for snacks). This still wasn’t always five to nine servings per day – but it was an improvement. I first learned from this book that dark green leafy vegetables are a special and important food category in them-selves, and began to make a point of eating them. And so, without even focusing on it, I began the switch from a Standard American diet to a whole foods one. My next epiphany came about four years later, when I harvested my first set of organic green beans from my garden and was shocked at how different they tasted from commercial ones. Better, I soon felt, but not what I’d grown up with. And then, of course, I married the vegan, and gradually left meat-eating behind.

For a long time, my eating habits were distinctly eccentric for our society. But society is catching up to me. The market for organic foods is exploding, for one thing, still showing double-digit growth each year. And more and more over the past three or four years, nutritional research is catching up with what I’ve been doing for so long. Finally, research is finding that whole foods provide necessary fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are lacking from refined foods. Finally, the phytochemicals in produce and tea (phenols, sulfanimides, antioxidents, etc., etc.) are being touted for all kinds of health-enhancing effects – and it ‘s being recognized that refining out one or another of these substances often fails to pro-duce the same health effects as eating the whole food. Finally, attention is being paid to fiber, and the fact that fiber is best gotten by eating whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. Finally, vegetarianism’s health benefits are surfacing in research findings, and being reported. And there are new discoveries, such as the difference between good fats and bad fats, and the value of omega-3 fatty acids – and these too indicate that whole vegetarian organic foods are the way to go. I feel sooo vindicated.

I have certainly had a stiff lesson lately in the fact that even the best diet and lifestyle does not guarantee perfect health. What I’m sure it does do is promote the best health that you can have given your circumstances, and certainly decreases greatly your risk of much disease. And when disease does strike, that healthy diet favors the speediest recovery possible.