an apple a day! (image by 7thsens)

An article in the July Issue of Food Nutrition & Science states that a veg diet can be more nutritious than one containing animal products. The study, conducted by Eastern Michigan University, found that—surprise!—a vegetarian diet can be just as nutrient dense, if not more so, as a meaty meal plan. In fact, the study found vegetarians to have higher levels of fiber, Vitamins A,C and E, folate, calcium and iron (yes! iron!) than non-vegheads.

Founder of Food Nutrition and Science Phil Lempert describes the study results as fascinating, going on to state that only six percent of the population meets their daily goal for vegetables, so even those who aren’t interested in going vegetarian can improve their health by…drum roll please…piling more veggies on their plates.

Veg out, everybody!

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I just finished reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, and boy, did it fuck me sideways!

I thought I knew things about things! I mean, obviously I knew many terrors of factory farming, one of the largest reasons I don’t eat meat! But I can’t really stomach all those scary PETA videos so I don’t watch them because they give me nightmares, like the time in college I had to drop anatomy because I developed severe anxiety over the thrice weekly cadaver lab where I had to slice and dice an old dead lady that reminded me of my Nani!

Anyways, I love Foer’s fiction which was part of the reason I picked up the book. I once listened to Everything is Illuminated while driving to Va, and it may just have been the hilarious accents the guy reading the tape put on, but those 8 hours flew by. Foer, a life-long on again off again vegetarian (commitment issues!), starts researching factory farming after the birth of his son, as he is wondering what to feed him—meat, or no meat?—and where the food comes from. At the start of his journey Foer is a locavore, picky about where his meat comes from, but still eating it. By the end, he is a full on vegetarian. The book has some startling statistics, and it will be hard for me to hold my tongue the next time one of my good intentioned friends says “oh I only eat fish because they have no feelings.” (People don’t like to hear about their food being tortured, so I usually don’t rant about animal abuse  unless provoked…)

The title of the book states not only the obvious, that we eat animals, but also that WE are ANIMALS that EAT. It has great themes about food as the bond between people and traditions and families, about the importance of sharing a meal together and what it symbolizes, and a sprinkling of amusing anecdotes and Foer’s general easy-reading style of writing. Also, the first chapter makes a convincing (satirical) argument on why, common sense-wise, if we were to eat any animals, it should be dogs! Outrageous!

For some reason, whenever I refer the book to people I call it Feeding Animals instead of Eating Animals. I even wrote it a few times in this post and had to correct myself! I suppose I like the image of me at a happy farm feeding a sweet big-eyed cow some grass rather than me with a steak on my plate. Anyways…

Read it! Go!

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"Try my sausage!"

Last week two PETA activists lobbying to racing fans at the Grand Prix covered an interesting angle. While handing out meat-free sausages, the girls (dressed in sexy racing outfits, of course) explained to spectators that eating a vegetarian diet makes for better bedroom moves. Well, sort of.

“Animal proteins can block blood vessels and arteries to all organs, not just the heart, and result in a breakdown in the bedroom,” explained PETA’s Melissa Galianos. “So we’re encouraging people to get their protein from vegetables.” Their clever tie in for racing and vegetarian sausages? The activists hold signs reading “Rev Your Engine—Go Vegan!” The girls claimed that a vegan diet is better for the libido than taking sex drugs.

Of course, there will always be haters. The Dignified Rant blogger Brian J. Dunn posted about the occurrence on Sunday. His verdict? “Meat wins!” He continues with

Face it, vegetables are good. I eat them. But no vegetable can match the joy of eating even a cheap fast-food burger let alone an expensive cut of meat. I’m not ashamed of being at the top of the food chain–I’m grateful.

While Dunn covers the “joy of eating meat” and bangs his chest over making it to the top of the food-chain (no judgements!),  he sidesteps the actual claim made by the pleather-clad PETA gals, which is that remaining meat-free is better for your libido and will lead to squeaky clean arteries, resulting in a Viagra-free life in the boudoir. How is your sex life, Dunny?

Also, totally unrelated but check out this sweet-ass (literally) PETA ad featuring Jack Ass star Steve-O:

Released into the public domain by PETA.

Image via Wikipedia

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As I mentioned earlier, the Taiwanese vegetarians follow the Buddhist vegetarian diet, Su vegetarianism. I noted that the diet cuts out all animal products but also onion, garlic and other fetid veggies which are thought to unsettle the tummy. Well, having avoided them for a few weeks I saw only one major difference; no gas! Not that I am a particular gassy person in general, but (and I hate to break any hearts with this news shock..) everybody farts.

Anyways, I asked my mother–who had been eating a Su veg diet for two weeks longer than I had– how her stomach was holding up, and she said she noticed the exact same thing. Coincidence? I think not. So, after an exhausting couple of flights from Taipei to Honolulu, and then Honolulu to Hilo, my mother and I sat down to a delicious dinner of Thai coconut soup and green papaya salad, with tons of onion and garlic. After crossing stories again in the morning, well I can just say we had a particularly gassy evening.

So, while Buddhist monks claim to cut out fetid veggies because they keep the stomach from settling and disrupt meditation, I now know they mean they didn’t really want to sit for 10 hours a day with a rumble in their tumble and the scent of garlic oozing out of their pores. And even worse, no one wants to be meditating next to a farty monk all day…

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On our second day in Wulai, a small village outside of Taipei, Greg and Chao took my mom and I to a vegetarian slow food restaurant. The literal translation of the restaurant’s name is “vegetarian face,” which I found amusing. This style of restaurant is reservation only, so that the exact amount of food–over 10 courses!–can be prepared. The courses are meant to be eaten slowly, and are served in small portions. All of these mini-meals were extremely delicious and the entire meal took us nearly three hours. Greg tried his best to translate what each dish contained, but some ingredients were difficult to name in English and the chances of me being able to recreate any of them is minimal. My favorite course was a tofu and mushroom dish that the chef recently won an award for.

Tomato with something delish--and beautiful!

Award winning tofu topped with mushroom--only two ingredients Greg was able to translate!

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Earlier I mentioned that China Air has a great vegan meal option for in-flight dining. When I called to request the special meal, the representative asked me if I would like the western  or eastern vegetarian option. I tried explaining “vegan,” but there was a bit of a language barrier and I didn’t seem to be making much headway. Finally I said “no dairy!” and the woman (probably irritated by now) replied with “ahh, eastern vegetarian!”

To be a vegetarian in Taiwan means following a stricter dietary path than the typical  western vegetarian. Not only do eastern vegetarians, also known as Su vegetarians, not eat any animal products (dairy included) they also avoid onions, garlic, shallots, leeks or other fetid vegetables. This is because this type of vegetarianism began with the buddhist monks, and ingesting fetid vegetables is thought to keep the stomach from settling, therefore disrupting meditation.

Since vegetarianism is extremely popular in Taiwan, and being vegetarian here basically means being vegan, it has been delightfully easy for me to find delicious things to eat here. This is actually the first time I have ever traveled and found that locating my next meal doesn’t cause a headache for both me and my travel companions. In Italy and France it was nearly  impossible to find veggies that weren’t stewed with meat or smothered in cheese, and the language barrier made it even harder. On my cruise to Bermuda, I never even ate off the boat because it was so difficult to find things to snack on.

Here in Taiwan, I can eat at nearly any restaurant, many of which are vegetarian only. I can eat unique street food (still hoping to try something called ‘stinky tofu‘), enjoy delicious desserts (my favorite so far is called Mochi, made of rice or millet and stuffed with different fillings) and of course, have as much rice and noodles as I could possibly stand.

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