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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Quackery

Did you know that you can make just about any claim about a supplement and get away with it? As long as you don't say it's medicine, you can say ANYTHING!

I see a table with juice samples at my local Whole Foods, and wander on up for a sample. It is a supplement mixed in juice, with vitamins and amino acids, which are intended to boost energy. As I am a huge fan of free samples, I try some.

"This will boost your energy, if you take it with our vitamin B complex," the woman tells me.

No one expects that a woman with long hair wearing a tie-dye shirt, blue jeans, and big sunglasses wandering her local Whole Foods at 4 pm on a weekday is a cardiologist (we were done for the day in the cath lab, and I was out early). So, I ask: "Do you have proof?"

Her: "It has amino acids."

Me: "Okay, but do you have any scientific data that shows that ingesting amino acids will increase energy?" I know that the answer is no, but I'd love to hear what they have to say.

Her: "They're amino acids. The building blocks to proteins."

I'm realizing, not surprisingly, that this woman has no idea what she's talking about. Me: "What I am asking is, do you know of any trials from the scientific literature that prove that taking this supplement will provide more energy?"

Her (looking uncomfortable): "Ummm... no, I'm sorry, I don't think we have any of that here."

Her boss or co-worker overhears the exchange and offers me a brochure entitled "Energy", written by a physician who has written and researched on chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. I'm offered brochures on chronic fatigue syndrome and on stress, but decline.

This brochure is interestingly done -- it talks about what various vitamins do, in a chart form that I've seen in a few medical textbooks, and the heading above the "what it does" column is changed to "effect on vitality and energy". Very fancy. The physician then claims that "most Americans are chronically dehydrated", which is completely untrue, and while he has over 100 references, not one to support that claim of chronic dehydration.

Another doozy: He talks about how stress will "...exhaust the adrenal reserve" and that "...it is important to supplement your adrenals with a glandular therapy regimen to ensure healthy cortisol levels and adrenal function." He has two references for his claim: one is his book, the other a study on sodium deficiency in guinea pigs!

The problem is, people actually believe this nonsense. A man with an "MD" after his name prints it. And even though most of his references are to books (as opposed to actual studies), including frequently his own "From Fatigued to Fantastic" book, it all looks quite scientific to the lay person.

All in all, this is a very expensive multivitamin. A multivitamin is okay to take, because we don't get everything every day in our diet in spite of our best efforts. This one is no better than any other one. Oh, and the amino acids? You get plenty of those in a balanced, varied diet. And if you want more energy, do more, exercise, push yourself.

Bottom line: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor before you spend lots of money on a seemingly magical cure to your ailments.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Animal-Friendly Accessories

The Today Show had a feature on eco-friendly accessories, featuring vegan accessories!

It's nice to see a mainstream media outlet talking about vegan products. If only they would discuss the cruelty involved in producing leather and fur, but this is a good start.

I was a little surprised at the mention of bboheme.com, which is a site based out of the UK, when there are plenty of companies here in the US that offer vegan accessories, such as Alternative Outfitters and MooShoes.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

What I've Learned Since Going Vegan

-- It took me 16 years in life to go vegetarian, and another 13 to go vegan. As passionate as I am about veganism, I'm not going to convince anyone overnight.

-- When people say, "I could never be a vegetarian", it means the gears in their brain are churning.

-- As years pass, you'll find that friends and coworkers become vegetarian, and you can be proud that you were an influence in their decision.

-- Just because that 450-calorie chocolate chip cookie is vegan, that doesn't mean I have to eat it.

-- So many foods are vegan, including Oreos, Laffy Taffy, Cracker Jacks, Twizzlers, potato chips, and soda pop.

-- Simply being a vegan doesn't mean that I am healthy.

-- It's best to just eat the bread that might have a trace of egg or whey, rather than annoy the waiter with endless vegan questions. That trace amount won't harm me, barely harms even one hundredth of an animal, and the waiter and other diners won't think of veganism as insanely complicated.

-- Make it look easy to follow a vegan diet, even the few times when it's not.

-- Over dinner, when asked "So why are you a vegan?", it's best to avoid details of cholesterol-laden arteries, tethered veal cows, and unanesthetized branding and castration. A simple answer like, "I learned what the animals go through, and I was very disturbed and don't want to be part of that. And, it's much healthier and better for the environment," will suffice. A reference to look at later, like meat.org, will help them understand.

-- It's best to just laugh at questions about whether plants have feelings too.

-- I still don't have the perfect answer to, "Do you mind if I eat this steak in front of you?" My best response: "It's an omnivore's world, I'm just living in it."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

How's the Training?

It's good. I'm swimming with a masters swim group 1-2 mornings per week, spinning 2 times per week, running when I can, and doing a little weight training and an occasional kickboxing class.

Running is a challenge right now, because every so often my iliotibial band gets inflamed -- that's the injury I've been dealing with since December. I'd love to do speed workouts, but our running coach says I should take it easy, and I think she's right.

Another bonus of getting back into training is that I'm finally taking off the 12 or so pounds I gained during the cold weather. I always gain weight in the fall and lose in the spring. It's not a good habit, I know.

My first triathlon is June 9, the Hyannis Sprint Triathlon. I think a couple of coworkers will be doing it too, which will be fun.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Spinach


This is my own version of the indian dish palak paneer, but without the cream or cheese. Sautee spinach in a little canola oil, with mustard seeds, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, paprika, and a little Earth Balance margarine. Toward the end of cooking, add cubes of firm tofu. I ate this with Stacy's Simply Naked Pita Chips.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Marathon City

The Boston Marathon is on Monday. As a result, Boston is full of tourists this weekend, carrying their orange marathon bags or wearing their blue marathon jackets. It's exciting, yet a little bittersweet -- I had a marathon number through a charity and had to give it up because of an iliotibial band injury, which still intermittently nags me.

I attended a conference for work this week at the Hynes Convention Center, which conveniently is also where the marathon Expo is taking place. During breaks, I sneaked down to the expo, had my running gait analyzed, saw Katherine Switzer (the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon), got free socks, and sampled many goodies.

It's all so exciting. If things are quiet at work on Monday, I might try to sneak out for a bit to watch the runners finish.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Tomato Matza Farfel with Veggies

Whole wheat matza farfel (crumbled up matzah into small pieces) cooked in tomato sauce, topped with fresh broccoli and mushrooms sauteed in olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Passover Pancakes

The pre-mix box of Passover pancakes has always been a big hit for my family. While the mix itself is vegan, the recipe on the box calls for a cup of milk and one egg to be added to one cup of mix.
I made these pancakes with one cup of mix, one cup of applesauce, one tablespoon of oil, and three tablespoons of water. Mmmm.... pancakes for breakfast....

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Passover Seder, Vegan Style!!

I visited my family this weekend for Passover and contributed a few vegan dishes for our seder, the festive dinner where we tell the story of Passover. The recipes are all from Roberta Kalechofsky's The Vegetarian Pesach Cookbook.

This is the Sweet Potato Orange Pudding, which was good but I found to be too sweet.


This is a Vegetable Nut Loaf. It's time-consuming, with lots of vegetable chopping and peeling, but quite filling. It's a bit dry, like most Passover foods, as real flour can't be used, but it goes well with an apricot marinade.

And now for the best of the three: Multi-National Potato Casserole. It's a dish with a layer of mashed potatoes on the bottom and top, and in the middle a layer of sauteed onions and portobello mushrooms. This came out quite good. The pictures are staggered to show you the different layers.




Finally, what's a meal without dessert? And, better yet, a Passover dessert that doesn't have twelve eggs in it? Can it be done? The answer is a resounding YES! This is the No Bake Chocolate Matzoh Roll. Kind of an interesting concept -- melted chocolate, a little bit of coffee, sugar, margarine, and moist matzah, rolled up with chocolate glaze and strawberries on top. My 92 year-old grandmother, the ultimate food critic, enjoyed it, and I thought it was pretty decent too.
So, that was seder. Proof that you can be vegan and eat well on Passover.

I'm Back...

....and some food posts are coming. I cooked some stuff for Passover. Some of it was good, some of it was so-so, but all of it was edible. That is an accomplishment for Passover.

In the meantime, here's a little humor.