Friday, August 6, 2010

Healthy Foods Myths?

Here is a good, sane article on the health effects of Raw Food Vegan Diets.  Too often I see folks in a vegan-type health lifestyle who fall prey to superstitions and pursue (usually expensive) purist paths of one sort or another.  In that light, I have a few questions. (Caveat: I am setting aside the "ethical vegetarian" concern about avoiding animal foods. That's a discussion of another sort--I'm thinking mostly about health.)

How are liquid aminos nutritionally superior to traditional soy sauce? I realize the sodium content is lower, but equivalent to lower-sodium soy sauce. Where do these aminos come from, besides the high-priced health-food store?

The article discusses raw food enzymes, but I wonder about how the process of long dehydration (even at low temperatures) really preserves any nutritional content better than other methods of cooking.

Are the fats in nuts and avocado SO superior to the fats in oils that a free hand with nut purees and such is really better for us than a bit of olive oil or other oil (or even butter!)?

The same goes for cheeses--recently I've seen on at least one blog that folks are excited about a new vegan cheez (great spelling!) that will make their meals look and taste just as cheesy as the SAD meals, but with nutritional superiority (I assume).  I wonder whether the intensive processing that goes into making such a product results in something that is inherently nutritionally superior to regular old cheese (or a lower-fat version)?

It seems to me that creating vegan versions of omni foods sometimes goes to the point of ridiculousness, especially for those vegans who aren't really watching the calories. It reminds me of the tradition I once heard of whereby strictly-vegetarian Buddhists create mostly tofu-based foods that mimic animal foods to the point of looking just like a fish on the plate, for example.

Is it REALLY that important to substitute stevia or a pureed date for a tiny half-teaspoon of sugar in my fresh-picked blackberries from the garden?

How much of the "current practice" of many vegans and vegetarians is powered by the marketing power of product manufacturers?

I won't even get into the "organic" thing, but that's a particular interest of those who really focus on whole foods. Seems like some marketing gets in there, too! My husband the scientist (with work in toxicology and DNA damage and repair) is not impressed with the superiority of organics in many cases, though he's happy to avoid treating things in our garden when possible!

I'm trying to eat nutritarian for health reasons, so my recipes often include small amounts of things many purists eschew (what a great word!) when I don't see a real advantage to the vegan alternative, though it's certainly others' prerogative to make those substitutions.  And I feel like a bit of a slacker when I post those ingredients, too! :-)


  1. Oops. I should have referenced the original source of that article:

  2. I agree that the vast majority of vegans don't seem to eat any better than omnis and in some case eat worse by using a plethora of articifical chemical filled products.

    In my opinion seeds, nuts and avocados are superior to oil because they are a whole food (not processed like oil) and contain fiber, vitamins and minerals. But these foods can be abused like anything else.

    I bought Daiya cheese once. It went bad before we used it all. That should tell you something. It tasted good but the ingredients were a little troublesome the more I thought about it.

    I could comment on all the issues your brought up put I don't think that would be appropriate. Nutrition tends to be a very personal thing that people get as worked up over as they do politics or religion. In the end I think if you are happy with the state or direction of your health than what you are doing is working for you. Just my opinion.


  3. Ali, thanks for your thoughts. I was thinking of you as I wrote what I did, but mostly because I think you're serious about doing "real research" in to the things you decide AND because I know your health situation makes a need for more radical things than I feel necessary. In any case, you were not the folks I was talking about who worry/irritate/confuse me. ;-)

  4. Sadly there is much misinformation on the blogosphere. It used to confuse me too, you aren't alone.

    If you ever have any questions about anything I am doing feel free to ask. As you said I have probably researched it thoroughly, LOL. My nickname at home (The Nutrition Nazi) is very well deserved. ;-)


  5. Before you posted that last note, Ali, I was thinking of what I wanted to say now: I appreciate your blog more than probably most of the nutrition-related ones I subscribe to--your photos and recipes are gorgeous and inspirational. And you inspired my dehydrator purchase! I made blackberry leather yesterday for the first time. And later in the afternoon I fried a fuse in my blender trying to make your improved peanut butter! I finally finished it in the mixer and it's great! :-)


I'd love to know what you think of these or if you have suggestions for improvements!