Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Recipe from Krista

Krista over at Veggin Out put a recipe up on her blog for kind of a salad using beets and apples. I don't know why, but the idea of a beet/apple salady thing really appealed to me, so my girlfriend and I made it this weekend.
It is totally simple to make (basically you shred some vegetables and mix them together), but the only problem with it is that beets are prone to stain everything they touch.

Check Krista's page for the recipe. We followed her lead and used the optional Bulgar as well. And though I'm the kind of guy who does NOT consider a salady thing to be a meal (more something that you eat AFTER the meal) this salad totally filled me up.

And this below is just a random shot of me eating a strawberry / brown sugar sherbert thing that Annalise made for dessert. : )

Friday, July 20, 2007

Life with the soy bean

So most of you probably didn't know that in my professional life (i.e. when I'm not biking, reading, writing, blogging, or watching LOST and the OFFICE) I'm an academic librarian.

This means that I'm pretty happy doing research and scanning lists of journal articles and trying to see if they're any good or not for the research I'm doing. But - I really really hate science lingo. I mean for God's sake - what do these things mean?

23. Characterization of flax fiber reinforced soy protein resin based green composites modified with nano-clay particles in Composites Science and Technology (August 2007)

24. Protective Effect of Soy Isoflavones and Activity Levels of Plasma Paraoxonase and Arylesterase in the Experimental Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis Model in Digestive Diseases and Sciences 52.8 (August 2007)

25. Analysis of ethyl carbamate in Korean soy sauce using high-performance liquid chromatography with fluorescence detection or tandem mass spectrometry and gas chromatography with mass spectrometry. in Food Control (August 2007)

Stupid scienticians.

Anyway, I've seen some fairly weird stories about soy recently and have been trying to do what a good librarian does - i.e. find out what the experts are saying about soy (through academic journals) rather than what any idiot with a blog is saying about soy on the internet.

So far I can't find anything all that conclusive about soy being good or bad, though I think that the needle points a bit more to the good side than the bad side. There's no proof, for example, that soy estrogens negatively effect testosterone in men, and there is some proof that soy reduces prostate cancer in men.

Some more readable things I found in the news databases are the following:

The scoop on soy: Breathe easy. Tofu and other products made from the humble soybean are far from harmful 21 March 2007 The Calgary Herald

Soy has been touted as a miracle food. But it's also been dragged through the nutritional mud as an over-hyped product that does more harm than good.

"There's so much confusion about soy," says Mark Messina, who holds a PhD in nutrition and is president of Port Townsend, Wash.-based Nutrition Matters, a consulting company.

He has studied the health effects of soy for almost 20 years and says there is so much information floating around that it's no wonder confusion reigns. As far as he's concerned, soy is just fine.

"For the most part, the evidence shows that soy is totally safe."

"Soy foods are low in saturated fat, they contain a lot of dietary fibre and they're an excellent source of protein," says Carole Dobson, a registered dietitian with Calgary-based Health Stand Nutrition Consulting.

So what's the worry? The controversy stems from a bioactive compound found in soybeans, called isoflavones. Some people are concerned about isoflavones because they're a hormone-like compound.

"They have some estrogen-like effects," says Messina. "But they are much different than the hormone estrogen and probably are very selective on what tissues they affect."

"There's just absolutely no effect of soy on testosterone levels," he says. "The few studies that have looked at semen quality in men have not found any adverse effects, as well."
[Concerning soy causing] accelerated puberty in girls, reproductive problems and increased difficulty getting pregnant - there has been no conclusive scientific research to prove this.

"There's no actual study that links soy intake in men or women with specific negative health results," says Dobson.

If anything, eating soy may help slow the onset of puberty because it is low in saturated fat.

Are Canadians Jumping For Soy? 1 May 2007 Canada NewsWire
New Study Shows Most Canadians in the Dark on Soy Health Benefits

Experts have been buzzing about super-foods and the array of health benefits they offer, but are consumers listening? A recent survey showed 62 per cent of Canadians had never consumed a soy beverage. Of those respondents, over half (57 per cent) are in the dark when it comes to the health and nutritional benefits of soy - one of the most hotly touted super-foods. Additionally, 16 per cent of respondents indicated they think soy tastes bad.

Yet, of the one-third of Canadian households that have tried soy beverages and the 15 per cent that drink it on a regular basis, 27 per cent drink soy beverages because they enjoy the taste, while more than half (52 per cent) indicated they consume soy beverages for their health benefits.

"The latest edition of Canada's Food Guide recommends soy beverages as part of a healthy diet. Not only does soy help lower cholesterol, but it could also aid in the prevention of heart disease, osteoporosis and certain cancers," said Diana Steele, a registered dietitian who recommends soy beverages as a healthy and nutritious option. "But it's obvious from this survey many Canadians don't know exactly why soy is so good for them or why it would be on the list of super-foods."

Despite experts touting soy's health and nutrition benefits there are also a number of myths currently in circulation that might be adding to consumer confusion. "Once they can get accurate information on soy, such as from a registered dietitian, and myths are dispelled, Canadians will be able to make informed decisions about soy beverages," added Steele.

The Myths

1. Soy has no effect on cancer. Actually, several recent scientific
studies have shown regular intake of soy foods and beverages could
help prevent breast, prostate, and colon cancer(1). The cancer
protective effects from soy are due to the group of natural plant
elements known as isoflavones.

2. Soy is not an adequate source of protein. Only one per cent of non-soy
beverage drinkers surveyed know soy is a good source of protein. In
fact, compared to other legumes, soy offers the best quality of
protein. Soy protein contains enough of all the essential amino acids,
such as methionine, to meet a person's nutritional needs when consumed
at recommended levels.

3. Soy has no impact on heart health. Soy protein plays an important role
in a heart healthy diet. Rich in polyunsaturated fats and low in
saturated fats, some soy beverages also include dietary fibre and key
vitamins and minerals, such as calcium (if enriched) and potassium.
The consumption of 25 grams of soy protein a day, in conjunction with
an otherwise healthy diet, lowers plasma cholesterol, which has been
shown to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease(2).

4. Soy is high in Estrogen and can reduce fertility in men. Some people
have speculated that phytoestrogens - naturally found in soy foods -
can reduce fertility in men. However, there is no evidence that
fertility is affected when men eat or drink soy as part of their
regular diet.

Anyway - it looks like soy is fine, despite the weird stories your friends might email to you. And even if it turns out that we can't eat soy, at least we can wear soy underwear.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Just ask this scientician

"Don't you realize you've just been brainwashed by corporate propaganda!?"

Thursday, July 12, 2007

J.M. Coetzee (and a little on KFC)

I just finished The Lives of Animals by J.M. Coetzee - winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature and a two time winner of the Booker Prize.

Lives of Animals is interesting. Coetzee was asked in 1997 to give the Tanner Lectures at Princeton. He agreed, but instead of talking about literature, he wanted to talk about animal rights. But, he didn't want to get up at the podium and do the vegan "I accuse you of...!" shame on everyone else routine. So instead, he created a fictional character named Elizabeth Costello and wrote two short stories about how Elizabeth was invited to a certain university to give talks, and how she chose to talk about animal rights, and what sort of difficulties she had in sympathetically getting her points across while minimizing how many people she pissed off. Then Coetzee - for his Tanner Lectures - read his two stories about Elizabeth and because they're fiction you can't even really get a grasp on what Coetzee thinks, because it is actually his fictional character Elizabeth stating all the animal rights issues etc.

Anyway - here are three passages from the book that I like.

Pg 28
I just find this one funny. Costello is talking about experiments a psychologist named Wolfgang Kohler did around WWI with apes. Kohler does a few experiments with the smartest ape, named Sultan, to see if he can problem solve etc. For example, for the first while Kohler just puts Sultan's bananas on the floor of the pen. But then for the first test he strings them on a wire across the pen which is too high for Sultan to reach, but Kohler also gives him some crates that he can maybe use to climb on. But far more than just problem solving, Costello (or Coetzee) gives Sultan much more credit for what thoughts he's having regarding this test.
Sultan knows - the bananas are there to make me think. But what must one think? One thinks: Why is he starving me? One thinks: What have I done? Why has he stopped liking me? One thinks: Why does he not want these crates any more? But none of these is the right thought. Even a more complicated thought - for instance: What is wrong with him, what misconception does he have of me, that leads him to believe it is easier for me to reach a banana hanging from a wire than to pick up a banana from the floor? - is wrong. The right thought to think is: How does one use the crates to reach the bananas?

Pg. 38
At a dinner, Elizabeth Costello's son is dreading the moment when someone will ask "What made you become vegetarian, Ms. Costello?"
The son knows what his mother's response will be, for it comes from Plutarch.
His mother has [the response] by heart; he can reproduce it only imperfectly. "You ask me why I refuse to eat flesh. I, for my part, am astonished that you can put in your mouth the corpse of a dead animal, astonished that you do not find it nasty to chew hacked flesh and swallow the juices of death wounds." Plutarch is a real conversation-stopper: it is the word 'juices' that does it. Producing Plutarch is like throwing down a gauntlet; after that, there is no knowing what will happen.

Pg. 44
After another person has belittled the concept of animal rights, because animals don't have consciousness and can't even appreciate the fact that they are being spared (if they're being spared), Elizabeth responds this way:
That is a good point you raise. No consciousness that we would recognize as consciousness. No awareness, as far as we can make out, of a self with a history. What I mind is what tends to come next. They have no consciousness -therefore-. Therefore what? Therefore we are free to use them for our own ends? Therefore we are free to kill them? Why? What is so special about the form of consciousness we recognize that makes killing a bearer of it a crime while killing an animal goes unpunished?

Anyway, Lives of Animals is very philosophical and a lot of it went over my head, but it was still interesting to read. I'd still go with Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" though if you were looking for a book about your food.

On another topic - KFC, in California only, will soon have health warnings on their posters etc about carcinogens in their french fries.

It has something to do with a substance called acrylamide which I guess is in a lot of foods, but especially potatoes, and when it is cooked at certain temperatures it can become carcinogenic.

When I first saw this story my eyes lit up thinking it was going to be a warning about their god awful chicken practices, but instead it's potatoes. Oh well.

The warning, in part, says: "Cooked potatoes that have been browned, such as French fries, baked potatoes and potato chips, contain acrylamide, a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer…. It is created in fried and baked potatoes made by all restaurants, by other companies, and even when you bake or fry potatoes at home."

When asked whether the company would add similar warnings at restaurants around the country, Preston said that he was unaware of any other states requiring health warnings for acrylamide and that it naturally occurs in a wide variety of cooked foods.

Snack food and fast-food companies had contended that the suit, filed by former Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, would unnecessarily alarm the public and that it unfairly singled out their industry because many non-potato products also contain acrylamide, including coffee, toasted cereals and breads.

But the attorney general's office said a serving of French fries or potato chips has about 82 times more of the substance than is allowed under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards for drinking water.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

another pro-animal Singer

Here's a good quote from the No-Nonsense Guide to Animal Rights from the novelist Isaac Bashevis Singer:

To be a vegetarian is to disagree - to disagree with the course of things today. Starvation, world hunger, cruelty, waste, wars - we must make a statement against these things. Vegetarianism is my statement. And I think it's a strong one.

I also found this quote by Singer elsewhere:
People often say that humans have always eaten animals, as if this is a justification for continuing the practice. According to this logic, we should not try to prevent people from murdering other people, since this has also been done since the earliest of times.

So I finished the No-Nonsense Guide. I knew a lot of the issues they talk about, but lots of the examples were new to me. For example I knew that a big criticism of the fishing industry is that somewhere around 1/3 of all the fish caught in those big trawling nets are returned - dead - to the ocean because they weren't the type of fish that that trawler was going for. I didn't know however that roughly 100 000 dolphins are killed this way each year.

I also learned something about animal testing, which I'd never really read about before. Isn't the Draize Test a wonderful thing? Because rabbits' eyes have no tear ducts to wash away irritants, and their eyes are large enough for any inflammation to be clearly visible, researchers will drip various fluids that they're testing into the rabbits' eyes to see what effects they will have - i.e. ulcerating the rabbits' eyes or burning the eyes out completely.

This is especially wonderful when the scientific community doesn't even agree that the draize test works.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Sausages in Calgary

As I was puttering around the apartment this morning, the guy on the radio casually mentioned a few food facts about the upcoming Calgary Stampede.
A few of the things he mentioned are the following: During the traditional pancake breakfast, the Calgary Stampede uses over two tons of bacon and sausage, and 5,000 bottles of pancake syrup.

That makes me shudder - it's been so long since I've eaten meat that contemplating it at all makes me woozy, but wow, two tons of pig! Yikes - that really freaks a veggie out, especially when you've read stuff like this.

Coincidentally, I am currently reading the No Nonsense Guide to Animal Rights, and I read through the brief part on rodeos while on the Go Train this morning. According to this book...
In modern day rodeos, tame horses and bulls are sometimes given electric shocks to get them 'bucking' or have straps squeezed around their lower abdomens to put pressure on their groin areas. Apart from this kind of discomfort, animals are sometimes seriously injured and even killed at the rodeo. A USDA meat inspector said that the rodeo horses and cows that come to slaughterhouses are so terribly bruised that there are few places where the skin is actually attached to the muscle. Animals also commonly have broken ribs and punctured lungs.

Yep. I'm sure this calf is going to look back on today and go "Yeah - good times, he jumped off a horse onto my head, plowed me into the dirt and then wrapped a rope around my feet - beats a lazy day eating grass every time."

Here's something else that I read this morning which I wasn't aware of - the horse racing industry actually funnels thousands of horses to slaughter each year. A successful racehorse has a career of about 3 years, but a lifespan of about 30 years. To save money (why feed and house a retired racing horse?) several thousand former racing horses are slaughtered each year for human and petfood consumption.
As well, less than half the foals born in the racing industry actually do any racing, because they aren't fast enough. Once again, to care for them would be a waste of money, and so around 17000 foals, in the U.S. alone, are slaughtered for the petfood industry.

The more I read, the more astounded I am not only by the way we treat animals, but how all this crap is hidden in plain sight. The radio will tell you that the Calgary Stampede is on, and that several tons of pig will be served at the rodeo, but to find out how those pigs lived their lives, and what happens to the horses and calves at the rodeo, you have to seek the information out yourself.

My little brother was done in by Alberta actually. He went veggie years ago, way before I'd thought anything about it (I think because he'd been listening to Propagandhi). Then he moved to Alberta and got tired of explaining to everyone what a vegetarian was and having Alberta Beef waved in front of his face all the time. He started eating meat again out there, but lately he's been cutting back again, I think with the intention of giving up completely.