Tag Archives: milk

Snips and Snails and Sentience

It happens pretty often when I tell people I’m vegan that people dream up a scenario where I’d have to eat meat. “Would you eat meat if you were stranded in an Arctic wasteland?”

Yes, actually, I would. I would eat Brent if it meant one of us would survive (sorry, Brent). But that’s not what’s happening here. Being vegan is a choice that I make every day, every time I walk into a supermarket, a restaurant or a cafeteria.
I make that choice because it’s better for my body, it’s better for the planet and last but not least it’s better for the animals. Fortunately for those of us who find that thinking and learning feel good, life is full of grey areas.

There are things I don’t eat but not because of my primary reasons for being vegan. Things like honey. I don’t think that bees suffer when we steal their hard earned honey. I doubt their sentience… or at least that they can suffer the way a fish does when it suffocates or a cow does spending her life chained to he wall of a concrete barn as we steal her babies and milk. I simply prefer maple syrup. I’m from the Northeast, what can I say.

I don’t eat shrimp, I also doubt their sentience. I don’t eat them because shrimping destroys seahorse habitat and as a long time SCUBA diver I can assure you that seahorses rock. I guess that fits into my ‘environment’ category. Oh well…

I also don’t eat mussels or escargot but I can’t really justify it in the regard that I don’t think that they are sentient, I don’t believe harvesting them destroys the environment and I don’t think they’re bad for my body (though all molluscs contains cholesterol, so it might fit into my personal health category)

So you might be wondering why I’m going on about things that aren’t vegan that I don’t eat for random reasons. There are 2 things I wanted to throw out there to get an idea of how other vegans respond to these issues. Lab grown meat is a phenomenon that would produce cruelty-free meat. Would you eat it if it were commercially available? I know a lot of vegans who would love to eat bacon from time to time. How does this compare? Would the resources be better spent elsewhere?

The other question is something that comes up when I talk to people who are crazy about the paleo diet. Why does the paleo diet ignore insects, worms and other bugs? Eating bugs is a major component of many diets by domesticated and wild humans alike… except in Westernized cultures. Our closest living relatives (evolutionarily speaking) also eat a diet consisting largely of bugs and foraged fruits and vegetables. I’m talking about chimpanzees. They’re kind of amazing… like seahorses. As a vegan, would you eat bugs? Chocolate covered ants? Fried grasshoppers? Are they as capable of suffering as mice? They’re environmentally friendly and inexpensive to grow relative to meat. They can even be grown on lawn clippings, rotting wood and other things humans often consider to be waste. They’re also nutritious. Personally, I doubt their sentience but that remains up for debate. Thoughts? Recommended reading?

This is Christie, signing off.

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Gadgets for Budgets!

I managed to find a used soy-milk maker for $30 bucks (SoyQuick, retails for about $120) on eBay a few weeks ago and we’re pretty excited about the end products. It’s definitely a device that can help your budget and keep you from heading to the store late at night for a carton of milk.

The first step fr this particular machine is to soak and wash the soybeans. We soaked for 8 hours (instructions call for at least 4 hours to overnight). Ours needs about 1/2 cup of beans.

The next step is to fill the basin to the fill line with water (we used distilled water) and the cup with beans and then we put it on the counter and pressed the button. It heated the water and ground up the beans and before we even expected it, we had made our own soy-milk. It was incredibly easy and as you can see the machine is kind of deadly looking: perfect for my favorite guy to make his contribution to kitchen life.

The end product consists of 2 things: a cup of spent beans (above) and the milk itself (below). Not all of the beans got ground so we might use a little less than 1/2 cup next time and see if the milk is as awesome, maybe a heaping 1/3 cup.

Based on our preliminary work with the machine, our *very* conservative estimate is that we can get about 3 gallons of soy-milk from a 26 ounce bag of organic soybeans that we bought for just under $5. That’s a STEAL! You can also use almonds, cashews, flax seeds (which I’m particularly excited about) or whatever kind of beans, seeds or nuts make your day. If you’ve got an allergy and can’t risk cross contamination, this might be your bag. I’m also excited to add carob, cocoa and maca to flavor our milks and add extra nutrients.

I’m also trying to figure out what to do with the ‘waste’ product from making soy-milk which is the cup of spent beans. I’m hoping that they can be incorporated with the pulp that results from making vegetable juice to make crackers that are vegan, gluten-free and loaded with fiber instead of calories.

This is Christie and Brent, signing off!

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Milk : It does a body bad.

In a discussion with a fellow student at BJJ, they admitted that they knew that consuming meat was not in line with what they thought was right. They also stated that in addition to meat, they’d be fine saying goodbye to cheese. But what made me cock an eyebrow was when they said ‘But milk? There’s no way I could go without it.’

I would encourage them to try for a few reasons (read : I’ll try to keep this quick and non-preachy).

1) Milk comes from pregnant, nursing cows. Outside of the moral and ethical implications of this happening at large dairy farms, there are direct physical consequences. First, your getting hormones from a pregnant cow. That includes estrogen that would otherwise make you grow fabled soy-mewbs as some media outlets would lead you to believe. Also, the mother cow produces proteins that are there to encourage and strengthen a bond between it and its offspring (ie – introduce addiction). Humans and other breast/teat feeding species do the same, but by drinking cow milk you’re getting addicted to cow boobies. And you’re growing cow boobies. Weird.

2) Milk increases bone loss and osteoporosis and other bad juju. Calcium is awesome when it comes to making and strengthening bones. Acid is not good for your bones. Most milk products weigh in on the acidic side of the pH chart. Large quantities over a long period of time good bones does not make. At all. The science lies in how your body sacrifices minerals like calcium to help neutralize the acidity. More than bones, an acidic environment is a great place for skin problems, allergies and GI problems to root and thrive. A plant based diet, on the other hand, will help keep your body riding the alkaline wave your body craves.

3) Milk is mucous forming. Now, I like to hawk loogies and snore like a diesel engine as much as the next person, but excess mucous isn’t really my bag. For one, it can introduce respiratory issues. What’s more is it can affect sleep and increase ones susceptibility to seasonal allergies. The bottom line is that by eliminating dairy, you can breathe easier than if you eat a block of cheddar and chase it with a gallon of 2% before bed. Don’t do that, by the way.

There are scads of other reasons not to eat dairy. To me, hormones, acidity, and mucous clock in as top factors in deterring me from consuming dairy. I hope you learned something through this post, and if it’s all old hat to you, hopefully it will help aggregate conversation with someone you know who refuses to give up the moo juice.

Peace, my vegans.

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Isoflavones vs. Steroids. Vegetables vs. Animals.

“Doesn’t soy contain estrogen?” People ask me this question a lot, especially when I mention that I don’t eat dairy. I call this “the milk talk”.
I’ll apologize in advance – I’m a biochemist so that will color my explanation… or maybe make it so colorless that you fall asleep. Anyways, what people are talking about when they say soy has estrogen in it is that soy contains compounds called isoflavones and flavones. All plants have them. These compounds are ‘estrogen-like’. This is what isoflavones and flavones look like in a simple chemist’s line drawing (think: stick figures for molecules, they don’t actually look like that). You don’t need to know what any of this means, just note the similarities and differences between all 4 drawings in this post.

Isoflavones and flavones aren’t one specific compound: they’re a group of compounds with similar structures, not unlike the group called steroid hormones. Estrogen and testosterone are both steroids.
I hope you’ll notice that estrogen and testosterone are much more similar to one another than to the flavone or it’s isomer (OMG you just learned some organic chemistry!). You might also know that estrogen and testosterone have very different effects on the human body: one makes you grow muscles and chest hair and the other makes you grow breasts and smooth skin. If you surmise that flavones and isoflavones have different effects too, then you’re correct: there is interest from the scientific community in flavones and isoflavones as treatments for cancer (and heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis). Research suggests that various compounds in the group of known isoflavones and flavones are effective for treating and preventing the very cancers that estrogen and testosterone are known to promote.
Additional fun fact: withdrawal from estrogen causes PMS. Withdrawal from testosterone causes ‘roid rage. Withdrawal from isoflavones and flavones has no documented symptom.
So you might be asking yourself, “Why is she going on about estrogen?” or maybe even. “well, dairy milk doesn’t have any hormones in it. I buy organic.” Really? Are you sure about that?
Where do you think dairy comes from? Cows.
All cows: male, female, young, old? Female cows.
How do you get a lady cow to make milk: motivational posters? Nope, you impregnate them.Then their levels of estrogen skyrocket, but not just estrogen. Progesterone and eventually prolactin will also show up in a pregnant cow’s secretions: from urine to (you guessed it) milk.
But there isn’t very much hormone in dairy milk, right? The concentration doesn’t matter, you don’t need a lot.
Why? Steroids (and all hormones) operate in something scientists call “signal cascade”. I would describe it as chemical chain letters: each cell that gets the signal (1 hormone molecule), sends copies to all of it’s closest friends and a few not-so-close friends.
If you’re really thinking, you might ask yourself, “Doesn’t pasteurization destroy it?” Well, pasteurization occurs a no more than 72C/160F (Wikipedia). Dessicated estrol begins to break down at 245C/473F (according to my Merck manual). Just throwing that out there.
This is what I’m really getting at: if you’re worried about the estrogen-LIKE compounds in soy, why haven’t you considered the actual estrogen (and progesterone) secreted by the [recently] pregnant cow whose milk you’re drinking? Anyways, I prefer almond milk – fewer calories.
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