Food = Energy

Food = Energy

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Is apple browning really worth GM'ing?

Tuesday morning was just like any other morning (I'm a creature of habit. What can I say?). I woke up to my alarm, turned it off before Val could mumble something (of annoyance) at me, and proceeded with the usual: prep coffee, brush my teeth, wash my face, feed the cat, yada-yada-yada. But when Val did finally awaken and eventually find herself on the couch getting in her morning dose of news happenings online, she brought to my attention something that did quite disturb my usual morning routine of relaxation: the USDA has approved, for the first time, genetically modified apples. My world turned upside down. Okay, so I don't need to be so dramatic and the world certainly isn't going to end. But GM'ing apples? Whyyyy...

Why would the USDA approve the genetic modification of apples you ask? Great question, and I am quite ashamed with the answer: to prevent the natural browning of apples that occurs upon being bruised or exposed to the air. 

Is this occurrence really that troubling to people that 1) scientists needed to spend over 10 years studying how to safely prevent this from happening at a genetic level and 2) the Department of Agriculture felt compelled to permit the production and commerce of GM apples--a food so traditional (and pure, in my mind) to the American diet as to beg the question: Is there now no longer a food that would be protected from such genetic tinkering?

The browning of apples is a natural process. It's as natural a process as it gets. 

I get that people don't like looking at, let alone eating, browning apple slices. I further understand that parents and schools would possibly have an easier time getting children to eat sliced apples were it not for the fact that they start to brown after just a couple of minutes. (This article suggests the same.) This is the same reason why some companies (e.g. Mott's) add preservatives to pre-sliced apples and sell them in small plastic packages to distribute to various industries such as fast-food chains and schools. Potatoes have also been modified to prevent bruising, but according to this NY times article, there was a more just and primary reason for the modifying (not sure my feelings change regardless):   "The potato’s DNA has been altered so that less of a chemical called acrylamide, which is suspected of causing cancer in people, is produced when the potato is fried." 

Okay, so cancer-causing chemicals is one thing (although the key word in that quote is "suspected"), but to modify an apple to simply prevent bruising is just too far in my book. What's more, based on what I've read, I have to side with the critics who argue that it is not clear, and may not be for a while, if this GM process of Okanagan Specialty Fruits, the company responsible for this whole thing, will lead to adverse effects for these apple consumers--humans, insects, and animals alike. This article in The Guardian is another good resource for news of this recent USDA approval.

There are two quotes from a few of these resources I read that I'd like to close with: 

The first is from the this article on Biology Fortified. The author closes with this question posed to her readers:  "Remember that fresh fruit tray that this post started with? Which would you prefer – apples treated with chemicals or heat, apples bred to brown a little more slowly, or apples engineered to silence the enzyme that causes browning?" 
My response: How about "None of the above"? Give me my apples as naturally as they come. If I find one a bit bruised or with a bug hole in it, then I'll just put it back and grab another. I don't need GM apples.

The second quote is from The Guardian article I mentioned just above. Director Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association believes, “This whole thing is just another big experiment on humans for no good reason." 

I couldn't have said it better myself.

To be sure that you are buying the most natural produce in the grocery store, check those omnipresent stickers that you sometimes forget to remove before biting into your afternoon snack. This Consumer Reports link sheds some light on what those PLU codes included on this stickers mean. 

Most notably: A five-digit code that starts with an 8 means the item is genetically modified. The annoying part is that PLU codes are not mandatory so you may have to go a bit out of your way (e.g. research the company) to find out if your produce has been genetically modified or not. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Valentine's w/ the animals

This Valentine's Day had to absolutely be the best Valentine's Day I've experienced so far in my life...and it was a simple day. I whipped up some pretty good (though certainly not my best) pancakes for Val and then we were off to Green Acres Farm Sanctuary to spend the rest of the afternoon with the animals and some volunteers.  

We were the first to arrive at Green Acres and I was wondering if we'd be the only ones volunteering that morning due to Valentine's Day. Boy, were we wrong! There must have been at least 15 other volunteers who all had the same idea in mind for V-Day 2015. 

There were various tasks that needed to get done...clean the chicken coops, wash the fruit and veggies (feed) for the animals, remove tree debris from the turkey area, and much more. My favorite part? It wasn't the chore we were doing at the moment or the people we were talking to; it was the sounds. The constant crowing of the roosters was just beautiful, but the turkey gobbling was, by far, my favorite. The link will bring you to a YouTube clip. Don't mind the guys making the video, but the sound of the gobbles capture our experience pretty well. 

There were chickens hanging out with us while we were working; turkeys following me around because I had a carrot sticking out of my pocket; a goat that was pretty fond of Val; and a lone cow that was handily the most sociable and loving person in the field. The entire time I was there I couldn't help but think that I used to eat these animals. Not that I ever thought about reverting back to my pre-veg days, but taking care of these animals, witnessing how alive they truly are, and hearing several of their stories solidified the decision I made over three years ago. 

Below are some pictures from the day: 

I haven't discussed running in quite a while (even since before my hiatus), so I'll mention it briefly, but I'll keep it short. The weather out here in the Pacific NW is very conducive to being active outdoors even in the traditional winter months. I say "traditional" because the 40's, 50's, and even some 60's that we've been experiencing don't come close to comparing to the snow and the sub 30's that NJ and the rest of the northeast is and has been experiencing.

I've been able to run every day and while the hilly terrain was something I seriously needed to get used to, I'm convinced it has made me a stronger runner. I finally ran a 40 mile week last week which I haven't done since early October. This week is already off to a great start with a 19 mile run yesterday at an average of 7:11. I definitely would not have been able to hit the marks I was hitting if it wasn't for the running group I decided to try out: Red Lizard Running. Normally I would either have taken a rest day today or run at most 3 miles as a light recovery run, but as my nutrition is finally back on track, I feel that my muscle recovery is pretty quick. As evidence, I was able to run 5 1/2 miles with some inclines and declines and then hop on Val's bike trainer for a quick cool down. 

I don't say any of this to boast. I merely share it with you to keep showing you what a vegan lifestyle can help you to achieve in terms of your fitness and possibly even your inner feelings and emotions (I'm convinced that consuming something that has experienced death cannot possibly be good for your body; spiritually, physically, and otherwise).

That's all for tonight.

Happy Running!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Healthy Living should not be about Immediacy

Singles often use the term "new love interest" often right? At least that's often the case in TV shows and movies. Well I have found a new site interest: Peaceful Dumpling. Awesome name, right??

I came across this site yesterday and am already loving it. Straight from its mission: We believe that peace comes to those who do good to themselves and to others, and that’s why we were inspired to create the best vegan resources website. 

And the awesome part is that it's not exclusively for vegans. Of course if you're vegetarian or vegan then the topics and recipes will likely be of more interest to you than if you don't identify with either of these V lifestyles, but the articles posted are so bent on making the reader more knowledgeable, curious, and happier that anybody can enjoy them.

Here are a few headliners that corroborate what I'm saying:
- 7 Ways to Get the Best Sleep Ever
- How to Practice Manifestation to Get the Life You Desire
- Why Being Vegan Helps the World's Oceans (my words: I would be curious to read this even if I wasn't vegan)
- Benefits of Jicama- Plus Energizing Jicama Kiwi Smoothie

I just read one of their Op-Eds, "Why Some People Stop Being Vegan" and I found it so thought-provoking and stimulating that it actually inspired me to write this blog post during this teacher prep break at work. It was published on their site this past December and was written in response to a then recently published study of current and former vegetarians and vegans. I haven't read through all of the study yet, but I found it not at all surprising that so many "health" focused vegans and vegetarians were so quick to revert back to their former diets and lifestyles.

It's ironic that I'm not surprised because Val and I too took on a vegetarian, and then vegan, diet purely for health reasons. In fact, we used to openly tell people that we weren't doing it for the animals and that, through plenty of reading and research, we knew a vegan diet was best for optimal health (still very true!). It's painful to even admit this, but I (not Val) would actually confess that the animal I was refusing to eat was already dead so being vegan to fight animal cruelty didn't even resonate with me. Thank goodness we have both come so far. We have avoided being part of the group that reverted back to their former omnivore diets after just months of striving for healthy living, but more importantly, we have clearly grown so much in the past three and a half years.

I will say this: for those of you who have tried a vegetarian and/or vegan way of eating or are thinking of doing so, you can still do so while striving for a healthier lifestyle. The study creates these categories of either "health vegans" or "ethical vegans" and while I understand the difference, I want to encourage people to still give vegetarianism and veganism a shot even if they cannot yet jump on board with the entire vegan movement. Be open to realizing what a truly "healthier" lifestyle is all about. I have a nagging feeling that a majority of those in the study who reverted back to their prior diets were only vegetarian or vegan for immediate results: to lose weight; achieve better-looking skin; sleep better; to get their doctors or possible family members off their backs about their otherwise poor-eating habits; etc. But a healthier lifestyle is not about these things and should not be about immediacy. A healthier lifestyle, like most great things in life, takes a long time to be achieved or realized.

I once said that it wasn't about the animals and now it's about the animals and so much more. It's about the animals, our planet, the compassion I want to instill in my children one day, the joy I get knowing that I am not adding to the pain of something else (but as a member of a society that overwhelmingly does this, I am still responsible, hence why I write this blog), and, again, so much more. If you are truly open to what being vegan or possibly vegetarian truly means and embrace all of it (including the fact that healthy living is not about immediacy) then you can be successful in achieving your goals for a healthy/healthier lifestyle--one that is more beneficial for not only you, but those around you and even far, far away from you.

Open your minds and try something new. As I used to say back in 2nd grade: "I triple-dog, banana-split, cherry-pie dare you," (but let's replace "dare" with "encourage").


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Why I already love Portland

It was named the second most vegan-friendly city in 2013. I can't corroborate that statement, not having visited all of its competitors on the list, but I can say with absolute certainty that it is definitely vegan-friendly.

Below are some pictures I've taken so far that allow me to share my various thoughts thus far about Portland.

Let's start with the obvious... the food! I only wish I had pictures of all of my meals so far here in Portland (then again, maybe that'd be going a bit too far). This one here is of a faux turkey club sandwich which I had at my and Val's anniversary lunch just this past weekend. 

New Jersey is the diner state. There's a reason why the Garden State is sometimes called the diner capital of the world .The reason I bring this up is because, growing up, I generally had two meals whenever we ate out at a diner: pancakes for breakfast or a turkey club for lunch. When I saw that Vita Cafe had a veganized turkey club sandwich on the menu...well, it's obvious from the picture right? I should mention that this was the best turkey club sandwich I ever did have the pleasure of eating.

Not just food... but sweets: the Achilles heal of my beautiful soulmate and myself. This one here is our anniversary slice of Petunia's black and white cake. I can honestly say that this vegan and gluten-free cake was definitely the best cake I've had since vegan and may have been the best slice of chocolate cake I've ever had in my pre-vegan years. was that good.

And here is the love of my life...oh, and that's my beautiful girlfriend and life partner, Val, in the background. 

There are these grocery outlet stores all around here and in the town where I work (Beaverton: home of Nike!) where, among all other food and kitchen items, you can get quality foods at a wonderfully cheaper price. This includes one of my lovely indulgences: wine! I took a picture of this bottle for quite an obvious reason. I know excessive alcohol is not good for athletes as it impedes muscle recovery (academic explanation  & very general gist), but keep it to a glass or two every once in a while and you (meaning "I") should be juuust fine...

The Eastbank Esplanade! While this isn't a trail run, running along the Willammette River is such a breath of fresh air from running the streets back home in NJ. And there are so many runners and bikers out and about in this city (rain or shine) it is just amazing!

Mt. Hood...the view of this mountain on a day with clear skies is just stunning! Here is Val trying to capture the beauty of this mountain from her phone and I say "trying" with a purpose. As often is the case, a picture just doesn't do it justice.

Alright, that is all for tonight! Looking forward to some more posts in the near future. I am smelling some wafts of something delicious coming from the kitchen and I'm pretty sure their source has my name all over it...metaphorically, of course. 

Happy Running...and living!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Has food always been so good?

So I guess this is my return to the blogging scene...I definitely miss writing every night and having a virtual audience (of 1...2...5 people? Doesn't matter) with whom to share my brain thoughts.

None of you probably know this, but I am writing to you from Portland, Oregon: My and Val's new home for the next 6 years or so. Val was admitted into naturopathic medical school (NCNM) and we moved here so she can pursue her dream of becoming a Naturopathic Doctor. The hope for us is that I follow her path to NCNM for a Master's in Nutrition in 2 years which I will begin working toward come this summer (prerequisites stink!).

So anyway...I'm no longer teaching full time and am instead substituting out here which I'm loving. It allows me to continue running everyday without a whole load of stress which--not going to lie--has been very, very great. Couldn't wait to sign up for my first ultra out here..a memorial day 50K on the trails right here in Portland.

Tonight's title popped into recently and it wasn't the first time either. Val and I will be celebrating 4 years together, but we decided to go out for a nice big lunch earlier today instead. So we had to choose one of the many, many, (many) vegan eateries out here for which to experience. It's freakin' vegan heaven out here people. I mean's so hard to keep my wallet away with all of this incredible vegan food constantly surrounding me.

So tonight's question: Has food always been so good? I know for a fact I didn't appreciate food like I do now before I was vegan. Is it that vegan food is that much better (yes!!) or was I just not developmentally ready to appreciate good food? I really don't get it and am seriously wondering about this idea. But this is all a part of my passion for wanting to learn and teach awareness of proper nutrition. Food is amazing. It is a joy to eat and joyous art to create. And it is also an absolute necessity for human life which is a beautiful thing. So if we love ourselves and food, why not fill out bodies with the most colorful, beautiful and nutritious food out there? And to attain that "beauty" in our food, I discredit food that is tainted with animal products and thus involves animal cruelty to obtain. There is so much clean food out there nowadays. If you are reading this then you're all online right a search if you don't know what foods you can start exploring today to replace your animal-derived products. Have fun while doing it! Make it a project with friends or family members.

More blog posts and pictures to come in the future!

New Jersey: I miss you. But I'm loving it out here in Portland.

As always,

Happy Running!