Friday, January 26, 2007

Question everything...assume nothing.

As a responsible consumer, I read the labels on my food items, both ingredient listings and nutritional breakdowns, trusting that by doing so, I am selecting the healthiest products for myself and family.

Apparently, I have been misled.

In her January 16th column entitled The Enlightened Eater (
The National Post), Rosie Schwartz, a registered dietitian wrote about the designation "whole grain" which one sees on breads and cereals. According to Canada's Food Guide we are encouraged to consume as part of our daily food intake, several servings of grain products AND to select products which are made with WHOLE grains. By definition a whole grain is made up of the bran (outer shell), the endosperm (the "guts" of the grain) and finally the germ (the embryo part that if fertilized will sprout the next generation). As Ms. Schwartz explains, "'s this whole package - the germ, the bran and the endosperm, in the proportions naturally found in the grain - that have been shown to offer a defense against disease."
Brace Canada, allowable by legislation, producers are labeling "whole wheat flour" but using a grain that has had "about 70% of the wheat's germ removed"! Out with the bath water (or whatever process is used) are a percentage of antioxidants, B vitamins, fibre, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals and healthy fats. An explanation given to Ms. Schwartz by an industry insider was that this modified whole grain was more in keeping with the consumer's taste preference.
This revelation was news to Ms. Schwartz and other dietitians she approached.

I am certainly surprised and frustrated by this. What choices do I have? If I make my own bread, it too would not contain a whole grains because the "whole wheat" flour I buy is also modified? Ms. Schwartz did say that submissions could be made to Health Canada about this very issue, however, I did not receive a reply to my email inquiry to her, whether or not anyone could make a submission.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Osteoporosis & Non-dairy Calcium Sources

Recently, on a visit to the doctor's office, I was informed that my last bone density test had revealed that I had a pre-condition of osteoporosis in one hip and the other was borderline. My physician knowing I am following a vegan diet and quite adamant about it, prescribed 1200 mg of calcium and 800 mg of Vitamin D daily. I left the office with her advice that, if next year's bone density did not show improvement then medication would be discussed.
Shortly thereafter, I purchased a vegan calcium and vitamin D supplement. I'm not great about taking pills of any sort and these calcium pills were daunting. I would hold the "horse pill" in my hand, encouraging myself on to take a big gulp of water and pop the pill in. Well, down it would go but always sideways which wasn't too comfortable. Oh and yes, one other minor discomfort....calcium supplements are known to cause gas and constipation. Lovely.
Next attempt was with a liquid supplement. Not bad. Tasty even. But still with the feisty duo of "gas and constipation".
Well, I am now relegating the calcium supplement to once maybe twice a week. Instead, I am vowing (you are my witness') to bump up the non-dairy food sources of calcium on a daily basis.

  1. I will eat from the following choices daily: dark green vegetables - broccoli, bok choy, kale; beans, tofu (made with calcium), tahini, sesame seeds, almonds, figs, seaweeds, fortified soya milk and orange juice.
  2. I will take a Vitamin D supplement daily (800 mg)
  3. I will increase my weight bearing exercise (free weights, walking).
  4. I will maintain or possibly decrease my 2 coffees/day and 1 tea/day.
  5. I don't smoke or drink, but apparently, both cigarettes and alcohol have an affect on our calcium reserves.
Some interesting points regarding this whole issue:

  • N. America has one of the highest consumptions of dairy products AND one of the highest incidences of osteoporosis.
  • A high animal protein intake can affect the body's ability to retain calcium and is accumulative over a lifetime.
  • Calcium fortified soya milk does not contain excessive protein, hormones and antibiotics as does milk (the hormones and antibiotics injected by farmers into their dairy cattle to fight different maladies such as mastitis).
  • Soya phytochemicals (isoflavones) may assist in the PREVENTION of osteoporosis by reducing the loss of calcium from our bones.
  • For more interesting facts about milk and its effect on our bodies visit, the Toronto Vegetarian Associations website (Cow's Milk).

I received some interesting mail this week in a round about way. I love mail, even junk mail. Just looking at this particular piece of mail was thrilling in itself, because of the round about way it came to me and where it came from.
With some anticipation, I opened the envelope and found inside a bumper sticker for my car from the organization Mercy for Animals ( situated in Columbus, Ohio.
The label reads " Boycott Cruelty At Every Meal".
Thank you to whomever - I appreciate the gesture. Once the ice falls off my car the sticker will go on one of my car windows!

Monday, January 8, 2007

Some wise words to consider when you sit down to your next plate of food...

John Daido Loori's quote is poignant to compassionate consumption. He
is talking about the Five Contemplations that are said before every meal
in a monastic setting. First we contemplate whether, due to our
conduct, we are deserving of the food. Secondly, we become aware of the
suffering and hard work that has gone into the food we eat; the
suffering of the animal, human, and the plant. Third, we eat only those
foods which contribute to good health; food is medicine. Fourth, do we
pile the food on the plate as an act of greed, or do we put too much
food on our plate and not eat it all so that it is wasted? We take only
enough food. Fifth, we recognize that this food is nourishing us so
that we can cultivate and walk on the Dharma Path, in order to help all
sentient beings.

So, through these contemplations we see that the bean sitting on our
plate truly is a miracle.

Thich nu Tinh Quang

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Spinach Orange Yam Soup

One of my Christmas gifts this year was a new vegan cookbook, ExtraVeganZa by Laura Matthias. I have been trying recipes out of this extraordinary cookbook basically from the moment I received it. The results taste and look extravagant but are simple enough for use everyday. I prepared this soup tonight after getting home from work - the little bit of extra time it took to prepare the ingredients was well worth the end result.

Spinach Orange Yam Soup
(from ExtraVeganZa by Laura Matthias)


  • 2 T oil, 1 medium onion finely chopped, 2 medium yams, thinly sliced, 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped, 1 Tbsp fresh gingerroot, 1 Tbsp sea salt, 1/4 tsp dried dill weed, 3 c water, 1 bunch fresh spinach, 1/3 c orange juice, freshly squeezed.


In a medium pot, fry the onion, yams, garlic and gingerroot in the oil on medium-low heat. Stir the ingredients so that they do not stick to the bottom of the pot. When the onions become translucent, stir in the salt, dill and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Blend this mixture on high until a creamy and smooth consistency is reached. You may need to do this in two batches, depending on the size of your blender. Pour all of the blended soup back into the pot. Add the spinach and orange juice and cover the soup, allowing the spinach to wilt in the steam. Serve immediately. (Serves 4.)