Can You Get Vitamin B12 from Vegan Sources?

Marjorie Simon-Meinefeld and Jasmine Simon, certified plant-based nutritionists and co-owners of Anything Vegan.
Marjorie Simon-Meinefeld and Jasmine Simon, certified plant-based nutritionists and co-owners of Anything Vegan.

This fall, Green America member Jack Ryan sent us a letter asking if one could get all the nutrients one needs through a vegan diet, particularly vitamin B12. He’d heard that diets without meat are often deficient in B12, and that the vitamin in pill form is actually obtained from animals rather than plant sources. 

We posed his questions to Anything Vegan owners Jasmine Simon and Marjorie Simon-Meinefeld, two sisters who are both certified plant-based nutritionists. While an abbreviated version of their informative response appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of our Green American magazine, we wanted to post the full version here for anyone else who might be wondering how to eat less meat and still get the nutrients you need. 

We’re going to plant some truths about vitamin B12 and pull out the weeds that have grown around it—namely the so-called Vegan B12 Deficiency myths.  People who adhere to a healthy plant-based lifestyle have reduced risks of heart attack or stroke, breast cancer, prostate cancer, obesity, and diabetes, and rarely suffer from osteoporosis, constipation, indigestion, and arthritis. But let’s take a look at some things that vegans and non-vegans alike need to be aware of when it comes to B12.

Our dear friend Dr. Greger (NutritionFacts.org) says “Vitamin B12 is made by neither animals nor plants, but by microbes. Thankfully, in our sanitized world, there are safe, cheap, convenient sources. It is imperative that those eating plant-based include B12 fortified foods in their diet or intake supplements, especially pregnant or nursing women. Eggs and dairy are not optimal sources of vitamin B12 because foods come as a package deal, and eggs and dairy may bring along as baggage saturated fat, cholesterol, and hormones. The easiest and cheapest way to get our B12 is to take at least 2,500 mcg (µg) cyanocobalamin once each week, ideally as a chewable, sublingual, or liquid supplement.” Let’s examine some truths and myths surrounding this important vitamin.

There is such thing as vitamin B12 deficiency. TRUTH. The symptoms include memory loss, confusion, upset stomach, weight loss, very pale skin, stomach issues, exhaustion, and diarrhea. Vitamin B12 Deficiency does exist, but it’s not caused by veganism. It’s not caused from a plant-based lifestyle but usually is a sign of non-related digestive problems where the body has a problem absorbing nutrients from food. Crohn’s disease, pernicious anemia, celiac disease, and other digestive disorders are the usual problems. There are over 5000 possible causes of digestive disorders—and enjoying a healthy, plant-based lifestyle isn’t one of them. Vitamin B12 is present naturally in humans, so those with digestive-related deficiencies usually can’t even be cured by simply in-taking additional vitamin B12 from any source.

People don’t have to eat meat or other animal products to survive and thrive with B12. TRUTH. Both humans and animals eat food from the soil that contain B12. However since most food animals today aren’t even fed their proper diets, farmers actually inject their livestock with B12 in order to say animal products contain B12.

Vegans need to start taking special supplements or eat nutritional yeast because the only source of vitamin B12 is through animal-based foods (meat, dairy products, etc.) MYTH … and TRUTH. Even if a person only eats plant foods, vitamin B12 actually comes from coenzymes, which are already present in bacteria found on the human body (in and around the mouth, for example). We all should take in Vitamin B12 daily, in small doses.

People need B12 supplements not because of lack of meat or animal products, but because of poor soil in much of the world today that our food is grown in. Even the animals aren’t naturally getting what is needed anymore. All people, not just vegans, should be concerned about proper vitamin B12 intake. And it does not have to come from animal sources injected with it.

There are vegan sources of vitamin B12. TRUTH. Outside of B12-injected animals, B12 fortified foods and supplements are available. According to the Vegan Society, the best thing to do is to look for plant milks, plant yoghurts, breakfast cereals, spreads, yeast extracts, and nutritional yeast products that are fortified with vitamin B12. Or try fortified yeast extract with fortified spread on whole-wheat toast, or macaroni with fortified nutritional yeast “cheezy sauce”. See www.AnythingVegan.com for O’So Cheesy, a delicious plant-based cheese alternative containing Vitamin B12 packed nutritional yeast as well as plant-based protein! You can also chew a reliable vitamin B12 supplement to enable you to absorb as much as possible.

Your doctor can check your blood homocysteine levels to see if you’re obtaining enough vitamin B12. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom. And don’t just accept the quick and easy answer from traditional schools of American medicine. Seek out the medical advisors that have gone above the medical school curriculum and learned the benefits of plant-based nutrition over pills, surgeries, and eating animals. This is not the primary focus in traditional medical schools, so you have to be as proactive with your health as you are with other areas of your life to seek the doctors that have this knowledge.

Vitamin B12 intake should be a small part of your daily decisions. Focus on being a healthy plant eater with lots of water, raw foods, whole plant-based foods, nuts, seeds, grains, fruits, and vegetables. And get outside and exercise in nature for at least 30 minutes a day to help your body operate in its most optimal state.

—Jasmine Simon and Marjorie Simon-Meinefeld

Sources for this article:

DON’T HAVE A COW: New Delicious Vegan Products Coming to a Store Near You

Editor’s Note: We’re extending the “Don’t Have a Cow” blog series to this Thursday, Oct. 2nd, to incorporate a brand new 10-Day Local Food Challenge from Your Money or Your Life co-author Vicki Robin. Meanwhile, our  Food Campaigns Director Nicole McCann blogs her experience at the Natural Products Expo East 2014 below! 

As a plant-based staff member at Green America, Natural Products Expo East 2014 in Baltimore, MD, was like all of the food-centric holidays in one enormous trade show: delicious and pleasantly overwhelming. I was there manning the GMO Inside booth and schmoozing with all of my favorite vegan food companies that I know and love, as well as discovering new ones. I found some exciting vegan and organic and/or Non-GMO Verified products for which you should be sure to keep an eye out. Some of these products are so new they are not even on their parent company’s websites!

Here is a list of my top ten favorites:

  1. Thai Coconut Curry Hummus by Hope Foods (organic, Non-GMO Verified)
    ThaiCoconut-Hummus-main
  2. Cheese Louise Broccoli Poppers by Brad’s Raw Foods (organic, raw, Non-GMO Verified)IMG_3023
  3. Black Pepper Vegan Toona by Sophie’s Kitchen (Non-GMO Verified)IMG_3025
  4. O’Coconut by Nutiva (organic, Non-GMO Verified)
    O-COCo
  5. Forbidden Rice Ramen by Lotus Foods (organic)Organic_Forbidden_Rice_Ramen
  6. Sea Salt Caramel Kandy Kale by Alive & Radiant (organic, raw)
    KandyKrunch
  7. Ranch Revival Salad Dressing by RawFoodz (organic, raw)
    ranch_revival-285x400
  8. Dandies Large Marshmallows by Chicago Vegan Foods (Non-GMO Verified)
    dandies-vegan-marshmallows
  9. Red Beet & Cabbage Sauerkraut Salad by Wildbrine (Non-GMO Verified)
    RedBeetCabbageSauerkraut
  10. Acai Berry Sorbet by Sambazon (organic, Non-GMO Verified)
    Sorbet_Orig_LO_Res
Nicole McCann, Green America's Food Campaigns Director
Nicole McCann, Green America’s Food Campaigns Director

Happy eating!

Nicole McCann

Food Campaigns Director

DON’T HAVE A COW: Can a Vegan Diet Improve Athletic Performance?

Susan Levin is a vegan nutritionist and an avid runner.
Susan Levin is a vegan nutritionist and an avid runner.

by Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D

A quick Google search of “vegan athletes” generates over 3.8 million hits, up 2 million since spring of this year. The New York Times alone has over 800 stories related to the phrase, a two-thirds increase since just a few months ago. My suspicions have been confirmed—more and more people are adopting vegan diets to support improved athletic performance, and the concept has intrigued others.

Professional vegan athletes are hardly a rarity—from triathletes, ultra-runners, tennis players, and even mixed martial arts fighters. Do they do it because they are animal rights activists? Proponents for what’s best for the environment? Well, maybe those are some side benefits. But these athletes are first and foremost professionals; they get paid to win. Not being the fastest or the strongest is out of the question. And they have tapped into gold when they can find a way of eating that gives them that extra edge beyond their competitors.

Why Vegan Diets Are Effective for Athletes

There are a few possible reasons why vegan diets and people who eat them benefit in athletic performance.

  1. 1. Higher in Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the primary fuel for activity. There’s no way around that fact. Carbohydrates that you consume are broken down into glucose for immediate use or stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles. Glycogen is that all-important material that the body uses during endurance sports. Much of the goal of training is to maximize the amount of glycogen you can store and then use for your event. And what does a well-rounded vegan diet look like? It’s loaded with high-carbohydrates foods—fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains. On average, a meat eater consumes less than 50 percent of his or her diet from carbs, a vegetarian about 50 to 55 percent, and a vegan around 50 to 65 percent.

  1. Heart Healthy

It probably seems pretty obvious that a healthy heart can benefit physical performance, especially for the athlete that intends to exercise throughout life. A vegan diet, naturally cholesterol-free, low in saturated fat, and high in fiber, helps support this most essential muscle. People who avoid animal products also have lower blood pressure and less heart disease!

  1. More Health Conscious

Research has shown that people who follow vegan diets also consume more fiber, antioxidants, less fat, and zero cholesterol. Statistically, vegans also tend to be more educated, consume less alcohol, and watch less television! All of this lends to ideal conditions for refining athletic performance.

  1. Better Digestion

Fiber, which is only found in plants, helps aid with digestion, thus making those who consume it literally feel, well, lighter! Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate. Once consumed, it passes through your long digestive track mimicking tiny scrub brushes and speeding up overall digestion. No one wants to run a race while carrying several meals and snacks in their gut! Fiber keeps food moving and your gut clean.

  1. Rapid Recovery

Some athletes have suggested that consuming a healthful vegan diet speeds recovery time. If you recover faster, you train more, thus getting an edge over your competitors. While different reasons for this have been proposed, it may be as simple as plants are extremely nutrient-dense, providing plenty of antioxidants and phytochemicals to support healing.

In Summary

Exercise and vegan eating have their own respective benefits. Being active boosts your psychological well-being, your immune system, bone mass, and strength and balance, while decreasing your risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and depression. Vegan diets reduce your risk for heart disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes. Together, these two powerful lifestyle choices can make a super fit being.

Most importantly, vegan diets are not just for professionals! Adopting a healthful, plant-based diet—full of fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains—may be the best tip you can get for finding the energy and motivation to get off the couch and see what you are capable of doing.

Try not to jump, pedal, swim, or run when you feel this good!

REFERENCES

Dunford M. Sports Nutrition: A Practice Manual for Professionals. 4th Edition. American Dietetic Association.

Mangels R, et al. The Dietitian’s Guide to Vegetarian Diets: Issues and Applications. Third Edition.

Jacobs KA, et al. Int J Sport Nutrition. 1999;9:92-115.

—Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., is director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting preventive medicine, especially better nutrition, and higher standards in research. She is also an avid runner and vegRUN.org coach. 

Are you an athlete who eats less meat or a vegetarian or vegan diet? What differences have you noticed in your performance since adopting a plant-based lifestyle? 

DON’T HAVE A COW: Eating Less Meat as a Family

Green America technology director Hans Bauman (left) with two of his three children.

by Hans Bauman

Don’t get me wrong: I used to love a juicy steak as much as the next guy. But when my wife and I realized the impact our diets were having on the environment, we decided to stay away from Costco meat counter with its bulk-size offerings of cheap beef.

Climate impact was a big initial motivator. The fact that it takes so much water and feed to produce beef, compounded with the high carbon impact of the cow’s waste, means that I couldn’t call myself an environmentalist unless we stopped buying beef.

So over the past decade, my wife and I shifted our family from being weekly omnivores to a diet that contains lots of local vegetables, sustainable fish, and regional poultry and eggs. As a special treat a couple times a year, we’ll splurge big and buy local, grass-fed beef or lamb at the farmer’s market. Our three kids are on board, and I’m amazed we don’t have to argue about it as a family.

The industrial nature of food production means that the lovely slabs of meat at the grocery store were shrink wrapped in an industrial warehouse that completely disconnects us from the animal.   I  think it’s important that you understand what you’re eating. Beef comes from a once-living animal called a cow! Once you really consider what goes into a hamburger—and share it with your kids!—that used-to-be-my-favorite McDonald’s Quarter Pounder becomes a LOT less appealing.

We talk about these food concerns with the kids, including why we try to eat local produce as well. They realize now that a steak is an extra-special treat and that at certain times of the year there are going to be lots of greens or no tomatoes. Sure, my wife and I get complaints from the kids sometimes, but we also find that, as the Rolling Stones say, “you can’t always get what you want” isn’t a bad message in life.

When making pasta sauce, ground turkey works as a great beef substitute. We often make burritos, and if you’ve got some good stuff to put in there (avocado, fried spinach, or maybe fried zucchini), you really don’t need to add meat. Veggie pizza is a crowd pleaser and, of course, pasta with cheese and a side or two of vegetables is a meal any kid will scarf down.

As a culture, we Americans eat too much high-impact meat. I know that entirely cutting out meat would be even better for the planet, but I feel good knowing that even our less-radical approach is lessening our impact on the world. And by instilling these values into my kids, we’re building these values into the next generation of eaters.

There are lots of resources to help either scare you into eaten less meat (the film “Food, Inc.” really opened my eyes) or to help you make more sustainable choices:

• Check out the upcoming issue of the Green American on why it’s important to eat less (or no) beef in particular, as well as less meat overall. Select articles are available here.

• Find out more about Food, Inc., and watch it free if you have a Netflix account.

• Forks Over Knives is another eye-opening film that’s also available on Netflix.

• The Moosewood restaurants offer plenty of delicious, family-friendly vegetarian recipes on their site, and they’ve published several excellent cookbooks as well.

• The Vegan Mom is a great blog for families who want to eat vegan sometimes or transition to a plant-based diet all of the time—in a way that won’t make your kids clamor for Burger King.

• Don’t forget the Anything Vegan sisters, who love to help families transition to a plant-based lifestyle. Even if you don’t opt for vegan nutritional consulting packages from this member of Green America’s Green Business Network, you can find plenty of terrific recipes on their site and social media. See their blog entry from last week, and look for an article featuring them in the upcoming Green American.

—Hans Bauman is technology director at Green America. 

What are your favorite resources for eating less (or no) meat with kids?

 

DON’T HAVE A COW: 4 Sneaky Ways to Veganize Your Family’s Plate

P24Jasmine Simon and Marjorie Simon-Meinefeld are two sisters who discovered through personal experience the joys and health and environmental benefits of eating vegan. As vegan chefs and certified plant-based nutritionists, the sisters know all sorts of tricks to get the most flavor out of your vegan dishes and get your family on board with plant-based eating. Through their business, Anything Vegan, they offer vegan nutrition consulting (remote and in-person), vegan personal chef home-delivery services, vegan cooking classes, vegan catering, and wellness planning. They are also popular speakers, including at the Green Festivals®

Marji and Jasmine graciously agreed to let Green America reproduce an excerpt from their free e-book, 10 Sneaky Ways to Veganize Your Family’s Plate, below. To get the full e-book, sign up for their newsletter at AnythingVegan.com.

And read more about Marji and Jasmine’s journey to embracing a plant-based lifestyle and tips for making the vegan transition simple and joyful in the upcoming Fall 2014 Green American.

Is trying to get your family to eat healthy like pulling teeth? Do your kids hate vegetables? Does your man think a vegetable is a garnish? Is your woman’s idea of eating healthy getting a beef burger without the fries?

You have now been recruited by the Anything Vegan Espionage Society. You now have 4 secret tips to make your undercover operation a success. Let’s get started.

1) Keep Your Secrets. As an AV Operative You Must Keep the Confidentiality of the Mission. Keep a low profile on your vegan changes. Don’t talk about how the food is healthy or how they have to eat healthy food. That can be a turnoff. Don’t force the subject or you will meet resistance and fail! So instead of dragging them kicking and screaming into the dining room, just do it.

There is a common rule of vegan infiltration that must be followed: Say Nothing! The best way to overcome stubborn objections is not to tell them that you are making healthy decisions for their plates. That’s right—keep your secrets. If you tell them ahead of time, their preconceived ideas of what tastes good and what tastes weird will override their taste buds. Did you ever think you were drinking orange juice but gagged when you discovered it was grape juice in the cup? There was nothing wrong with the grape juice, but your brain already decided what it “should” taste like. Any deviation from preconceived ideas may be perceived as “tasting bad”. So don’t let them know you’ve changed anything. If they notice something is different, simply say “Thank you, I think I’m becoming a better cook. Glad you noticed.”

2) Create an Illusion. Find foods that they already love and quietly substitute animal ingredients with vegan foods. In our full e-book (get it free by signing up for our newsletter),  we give you recipes that show you how to begin doing this. But use your imagination to figure out what you can use in place of meat, eggs, dairy, and bad sugars. You should become familiar with the many meat, dairy, and egg substitutes that are in most local supermarkets now in the frozen aisles or by the fresh fruits and vegetable aisles. They are even in Walmart and Target now! These are good transition foods. The truth is that for you to be a vegan, you don’t need a lot of money for great food. But until your knowledge and skills get you to the point of making your own vegan substitutes, there are plenty on the market to choose from. This is a great time to become a vegan. Most of the food substitutes presented may cost a little more per pound, but you will eat a lot less of these than you do of meat and dairy to feel satisfied and full. As you become more comfortable creating more grain-, fruit-, and vegetable-based meals, you will use less and less of these processed foods, and may eliminate them all together as well. But for now, relax, have fun and enjoy the process.

Use egg substitutes in your baking and cooking. There are plenty of egg substitutes available for baking or preparing a dish that calls for eggs. Ener-G Egg Replacer is a reliable egg substitute for use in baking. It is available at health food stores and most grocery stores.

Tofu is great for egg substitutions in recipes that call for a lot of eggs, like quiches or custards. To replace one egg in a recipe, purée 1/4 cup soft tofu. It is important to keep in mind that although tofu doesn’t fluff up like eggs, it does create a texture that is perfect for “eggy” dishes. Tofu is also a great substitute for eggs in eggless egg salad and breakfast scrambles.

In desserts and sweet, baked goods, try substituting one banana or 1/4 cup applesauce for each egg called for in a recipe for sweet, baked desserts. These will add some flavor to the recipe, so make sure bananas or apples are compatible with the other flavors in the dessert. (thanks to Peta.org for this concise egg-sub info).

Make pizzas with vegan pepperoni by Lightlife instead of pork.

Use vege-ground crumble instead of ground beef in your lasagna.

Replace the dairy cheese in your mac-n-cheese with Anything Vegan’s O’So Cheesy alternatives.

Use vegan chik’n patties instead of chicken. Season it with the seasonings you normally use for chicken, then fry or bake it. Dress it up the same way as you would do with a chicken patty. They even make chicken nuggets.

So, roll up those sleeves, and get going… What’re you waiting for!? Have fun!

Check out our upcoming cookbook for lots more specific guidance and transition recipes.

3) Outwit Their Taste Buds. Introduce new fruits, grains, or vegetables, but cook them with the same seasonings you’ve always used. Start small by substituting rice or soy milk for cow’s milk, vegan butter for dairy butter, delicious Anything Vegan cheese alternatives for dairy cheese, etc. as suggested in tip # 2. Start using more and more fresh grain, fruit, and vegetable ingredients.

People cannot break habits without replacing them with new habits. What you want to do is create new habits by purposely creating meals using lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and for drinking, lots of plain water. We believe that as people know better, they do better, but only within a community, with support, and understanding. This is where you come in. As you work on changing family habits, there are things you can do each day to make it easier.

Drink plenty of water daily. Replacing soda with water can help you drop up to 50 pounds. Think before you drink – what are we putting into our body? Water refreshes and replenishes your cells, brain, skin, hair, and everything else. This is an instant energy pick-me-up too. And you won’t crave as much junk.

Eat a nutritious breakfast to avoid feeling ravenous—you can then better control snacking and lunch choices.

Eat healthy snacks often throughout the day—nuts, fruits, raw vegetables. These things cut up and carried around in little baggies keeps our cravings down for the junk food.

Reduce your sweet tooth by eating less and less un-natural sugar. In a short time you will get the same “sugar-satisfaction” without the processed sugar.

Eat only until you are no longer hungry—not to Thanksgiving full. Train your family by preparing small portions of food at each sitting. You can always get seconds if you really want to but wait 15 minutes before taking that second plate to give your brain time to register what you just ate to see if you really want more. This is a good time to catch up on each other’s day.

Be guilt-free if you occasionally deviate from your new eating habits. Give yourself a break already! The world beats us up enough—don’t do it to yourself, too. If you eat the occasional cookie with egg ,don’t make a federal case out of it. And the same goes for how you treat your family. The key is for everyone to keep doing better in your goals each day without making yourself feel bad about what you don’t do at this time. Good feelings and congratulating yourself for what you do right will encourage you and them to continue and to want to do more. And this is the most important thing.

4) TAKE ACTION NOW! They’ll never know they are eating healthy vegan meals. Here a delicious, easy vegan recipe to get you started.

Family Dinner: Vege-Crumble Spinach Lasagna

VegeLasagna

The tofu “ricotta” has a wonderful creamy texture and boasts all the familiarity of the traditional lasagna that most of us grew up with. Paired with the veg-crumble instead of ground meat, this is a family favorite. For more cheesiness, add O’So Cheesy vegan cheese to each layer.

INGREDIENTS 1/2 to 1 pound (225 to 455 g) lasagna noodles 2 packages (10 ounces each) fresh chopped spinach 1 package (16 ounces) firm tofu (not silken) ½ cup nutritional yeast 1 tablespoon raw turbinado sugar, agave nectar or other natural sweetener (optional) 1/4 cup nondairy milk (such as rice, oat, soy, almond, or hazelnut), (add more if needed) 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or 2 peeled garlic cloves 2 tablespoons lemon juice 2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced 1 teaspoon vege-salt or sea salt (or to taste) 4 to 6 cups tomato or pasta sauce of your choice (be sure there is no meat added) 4 garlic cloves, minced “crumble seasoning mix” (½ teaspoon each of salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil or oregano) 1 package of vege-ground crumble or vege- saugage.

DIRECTIONS Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; (180 degrees C, or gas mark 4).

Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions or use “no-boil” lasagna noodles. Drain and set aside. Wash fresh spinach in cold water and drain. Place tofu, sweetener (if using), milk, garlic powder, lemon juice, basil, nutritional yeast, salt and half of the garlic into a blender or food processor and blend until like a cottage cheese consistency. The tofu “ricotta” should be creamy but still have body. Transfer to large-size bowl, and stir in spinach. Add salt little by little until it’s just right for your taste. In a medium sized skillet heat oil. Add vege ground crumble, onions, the rest of the garlic, and “crumble seasoning mix”. Sauté until browned. Cover bottom of 9 x 13-inch (23 x 33 cm) baking dish with a thin layer of tomato sauce, then a layer of noodles (use about one-third of noodles). Follow with half the tofu filling then a thin layer of ground crumble. Repeat in the same order, using half the remaining tomato sauce and noodles, and all remaining tofu filling, fresh spinach, and ground crumble. End with remaining noodles, covered by remaining tomato sauce. Drizzle O’So Cheesy cheese over the top or use a vege shredded cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 30 to 55 minutes, until hot and bubbling. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes more. Let set for at least 20 minutes before serving to be sure it sets nicely and holds its shape when cut.

—Marjorie Simon-Meinefeld and Jasmine Simon

What are your favorite tips for veganizing your family’s meals?

DON’T HAVE A COW: A Sneak Peek at the Fall “Green American”

FallGAMCover2Cows have a profound impact on our planet. In fact, if you want to reduce the environmental impact of your diet, the single-most important thing you can do is eat less beef—or none at all.

According to a 2013 report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), raising beef and dairy cattle contributes 9 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide (14.5 percent for all types of livestock).

However, researchers from the World Bank and International Finance Corporation say that figure underestimates the impact of livestock on the climate crisis. Add in the rainforest lands that are razed to make way for livestock grazing (primarily cattle), and you end up with a figure closer to 51 percent, they say in a 2012 report for Worldwatch.

And that’s just the climate crisis. Consider the tons of genetically modified soil and corn grown to feed cows. The pesticides applied to those fields that runs into the ocean, causing “dead zones” where no life can survive. The stunning amount of water cows need: It takes 840 gallons to produce one pound of conventional beef, according to Denis Hayes, co-author of Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America’s Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment. The unspeakable cruelty practiced in conventional slaughterhouses.

In our upcoming Fall issue of the Green American, we talk with Hayes—president and CEO of the Bullitt Foundation and founder of the first-ever Earth Day—about the considerable environmental and health impacts of raising and eating cows, and what to do about it.

As a first step, Hayes recommends zeroing in on your beef consumption and making what beef you may choose to eat local, grass-fed, and organic. (There’s evidence, Hayes says, that the best-managed grass-fed cattle farms can actually be a carbon sink.)  But even more importantly is the fact that everyone needs to cut their beef consumption in half, at least—grass-fed beef requires more land than conventional beef, so converting the world to grass-fed beef but maintaining current consumption levels would be an environmental nightmare.

Of course, the best option would be for people to go vegetarian or vegan. Our upcoming issue features two sisters—and co-owners of Anything Vegan—who are vegan chefs, caterers, and nutritionists, offering their best advice for going vegan simply and joyfully.

But, as Hayes notes, “according to a poll done for Vegetarian Times, just 3.2 percent of American adults are vegetarian.”

Those of us at Green America wish that number were much larger, but, as Denis says, “wishing won’t make it so.”

That’s where our “Don’t Have a Cow” blog series comes in. Every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the month of September, Green America staff and select outside experts will be blogging about our favorite ways to eat less meat and go vegetarian or vegan. Use the magazine to spread the word to the 97 percent who eat meat in your community about why everyone should eat less meat. And use the tips, recipes, and resources we’ll include in this blog series to challenge yourself and everyone you know to further in shrinking your dietary impact.

If you’re already vegetarian or vegan, we invite you to share your expertise with others in the comments sections.

In that spirit, here’s my favorite, simple recipe for (vegan) hummous, from the family recipes of a Lebanese friend. 

Hummous bi tahini

19 oz. chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans)

¼ cup sesame tahini

1 clove garlic

½ tsp. salt

¼ cup lemon juice

Drain liquid from the chickpeas and set liquid aside. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a food processor or blender, adding only enough liquid to achieve desired consistency. (More liquid = thinner dip.) If you like your hummous lemony, you can add lemon juice in addition or instead. Blend 2-3 minutes into a smooth paste. Place in a small platter. Sprinkle with olive oil and garnish with fresh parsley.

Please share your favorite vegan recipe in the comments section below!

 

 

Sustainable Fiber Arts (our Nov. 2011 green-biz interview)

“One company isn’t going to save the world,” says Stephanie Schiff, owner of Ecobutterfly Organics. “It has to take place in the consciousness of the people as individuals, over and over, one at a time until the ideas eventually just become part of the way we think as a society.”

Along with her online portal for purchasing super-sustainable fiber-arts supplies, Schiff provides information on the whys and hows of her business: WHY she won’t use GMO corn-based packaging, or HOW she finds suppliers that meet her green standards. She says that as people become educated to how a green and fair supply chain works, she sees them shift to support a greener economy.

Through our interview, Ecobutterfly educated us on everything from color-grown cotton to the life-cycle of the Monarch butterfly.

Continue reading “Sustainable Fiber Arts (our Nov. 2011 green-biz interview)”