Here are five big myths about our food choices, our health, and the environment.
Which are true and which are false?
Cows' milk is the best source of calcium.
It's true that cows' milk is rich in calcium. But animal protein actually impedes the absorption of calcium, and cows' milk is high in protein. Calcium is more readily absorbed from vegetable sources, such as soy milk, broccoli, kale, chard, spinach and other leafy greens, navy beans, calcium-fortified orange juice. These sources not only provide more accessible calcium, they have no saturated fat or cholesterol. See the Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine web site for more vegetable calcium sources. Vegetable sources are more likely to be environmentally friendly too, since one dairy cow drops 120 pounds of waste every single day. The waste winds up in waste "lagoons" that leak and spill into our surface waters and ground water.
Fish is essential for optimum health.
Studies that are cited to promote fish consumption compare fish eaters to people who are eating other kinds of meat instead. Sure someone who substitutes fish for burgers will have better health. The average American eats 185 lbs of meat per year, much of it loaded with saturated fat. But fish is not an improvement over a vegetable diet. Skipping the fish also protects the environment, as most commercial fisheries now use indiscriminate fishing methods that destroy unwanted marine wildlife as well as the targeted food fish.
Skipping breakfast helps shed pounds.
Eating breakfast actually kick starts your metabolism into high gear after slumber, so that your body begins burning calories at a faster rate. Skipping breakfast is counter-productive, if your goal is to lose weight. A breakfast of complex carbohydrates and vegetable protein, such as a bowl of oatmeal or other whole-grain cereal, topped with walnuts and banana slices, and a glass of soy milk or calcium fortified orange juice, is a great way to start the day. The complex carbohydrates are metabolized slowly, giving you a steady source of energy all the way until lunch time.
Fish is the only good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which may promote heart health.
Omega-3s may be good for your heart; some studies suggest it is. But fish is not the only source, and almost all fish has at least some mercury in it. Flax seeds and walnuts are two plant sources that are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and are also mercury free. Two tablespoons of ground flax seeds per day are a good source of omega-3s; ground flax seeds are also an excellent source of fiber and support digestive system health. The ground flax seeds can be stirred into a bowl of soup, into hot cereal before adding the boiling water, sprinkled over salads and vegetables. They are easily ground in a coffee grinder. See previous post for more info and links about omega-3s and flax.
We should worry about how much protein we're getting, and seek animal protein at every meal.
This is probably the biggest myth we hear when doing presentations about our book Veggie Revolution. Most Americans get much more protein than they need, and a vegan diet can easily provide plenty of protein. For breakfast, a cup of cooked oatmeal alone provides 5 grams of protein. Add walnuts, ground flax and fruit for more protein and lots of fiber. One cup of soy milk provides 7-10 grams, depending on the brand. For lunch and dinner: one veggie burger is 10-12 grams, 2 tbsps peanut butter has 8 grams, 2 ounces dry whole wheat pasta are 9 grams. One cup of cooked lentils, beans, or peas is 15 to 17 grams. Just one slice of whole wheat or multigrain bread has about 3 grams of protein. Protein is in a lot of different vegetable foods. For more protein ideas from an authoritative source, consult the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. As I've said before in many posts, one of the most important things we can do to leave our planet in functional condition for future generations is to give up the heavy reliance on animal products. Factory farming is trashing our water, converting wild lands to livestock support areas, and greatly adding to our use of fossil fuels - to grow and harvest and transport livestock food, to move their carcasses to market, etc.
Eat Green and Save the Planet - even if you do it just one day a week. Start small, start occasional, but consider health and environmental impact when you make some of your diet choices.
Keywords: food, diet, milk, medicine, health, fish, saturated, fat