My Plantcentric Journey

Archive for October, 2012

Dr. Weil’s Roasted Winter Squash and Apple Soup as Seen on Dr. Oz Show

I made this tonight (sans the Cilantro-Walnut Pesto, olive oil and salt)  Very good.  Very filling.

Take some time to cook with your family by coming together for this
comforting soup. Make extra and freeze for future dinners. For an
extra special touch, serve in warm bowls and garnish with dollops of
Cilantro-Walnut Pesto.
1 large winter squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), such as butternut,
buttercup or kabocha; peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tart, firm apples, peeled, cored and quartered
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Red chili powder to taste
4 to 5 cups vegetable broth

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large roasting pan, toss the squash,
onions, garlic and apples with the oil to coat. Season well with the
salt and chili.

Roast, stirring every 10 minutes, until the vegetables are fork tender
and lightly browned, about 40 minutes.

Put half of the vegetables and 2 cups of the broth in a food processor
and purée until smooth. Repeat with the remaining vegetables and
broth. Return puréed mixture to the pot. If the soup is too thick, add
more broth. Correct the seasoning and heat to a simmer.

What’s REALLY in the Chocolate You’re Eating?

Food Babe has looked into what’s in our chocolate.  From HFCS to GMOs to growth hormone to artificial colors and Trans Fat.

She names names and gives alternatives.

Check out her report here:

So You Don’t Like Tofu? What You Must Know

“TOFU, Just the word brings up images of crazy, crunchy hippies.  I bought the container and let it sit in my fridge until it expired.  Then I did it again.  I knew I wanted to try it, but I really didn’t know how.  Finally I read a description that changed my mind.  It said something along the lines of,

‘You can’t not like tofu.  It’s like saying you don’t like flour.  No one eats a handful of flour and no one eats a plain slice of tofu.  It’s an ingredient, and you find the recipes you like.  If you don’t like the outcome, you try it in something else, as you would most other ingredients.’

 Okay, so I had to find a recipe…”

Kathy Preston, The Lean

Benefits Of Pumpkin

Since it’s Halloween, I thought I’d post this.  For the recipe, I wouldn’t add the coconut milk due to the saturated fat.  I’d add almond milk, unsweetened.  Laura

Pumpkin is considerably rich in vital antioxidants and vitamins. It is a very low calorie fruit; it contains no saturated fats or Cholesterol, and very low in Sodium; it is rich in dietary fibre, anti-oxidants, minerals, and vitamins, such as vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Thiamine, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, Riboflavin, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.
The pumpkin is bright orange because of its high levels of carotenoids, this fights off free radicals which cause premature ageing, cardiovascular diseases and certain infections.As mentioned, pumpkin contains high levels of the anti-oxidant vitamin A. Research studies suggest that natural foods rich in vitamin A, helps protect against lung and oral cavity cancers; it is also an essential vitamin for good visual sight and skin.
The fibre helps with lowering LDL cholesterol levels in the blood and also regulates the blood sugar levels, which helps weight control and those with diabetes. Pumpkin is great for improving HDL, (the good cholesterol), it may also help lower your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Pumpkin seeds contain the essential mineral zinc, which plays a role in preventing Osteoporosis. The seeds also contain alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid. Eating a diet rich in ALA may help prevent cardiovascular disease and its risk factors including hypertension and high cholesterol. They contain phytosterols that lower cholesterol; phytosterols can also protect against many cancers. The L-tryptophan found in the seeds, is a compound naturally effective against depression. Tryptophan is converted into serotonin, a beneficial neuro-chemical often labelled as nature’s sleeping pill.

I could continually write about the benefits of pumpkin and its seeds, it is a fantastic healthy food that can be used in many different recipes. Here is a pumpkin soup recipe you could try-

Pumpkin, chilli and coconut soup


  • 1 medium pumpkin,
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2.5cm piece of root ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ½ chilli, seeds removed, chopped
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • sweet potato chunks, to taste (optional)

Preparation method

  1. Cut the pumpkin in half, then into wedges. Peel and deseed each wedge and cut the pumpkin flesh into 2.5cm Put the pumpkin in a large pan with the onion, ginger, garlic and chilli. Strip the leaves from the thyme and add to the pan.
  2. Pour in about 400ml of water, bring to the boil and cook until the pumpkin has turned to a pulp.
  3. Add the coconut milk and season to taste with salt, then reduce the heat and leave the soup to simmer for another 5–10 minutes.
  4. If you like, add chunks of sweet potato towards the end of the cooking.

Life in Limbo Land: Waiting to get booted from the cancer club

Jim Seida /

“You take a hit to your femininity,” says Diane Mapes, seen here wrapping her hands before working out at Axtion Club boxing gym in Seattle. “But your hair comes back, strength comes back, and my boobs will come back eventually.” Mapes had a double mastectomy in 2011.

By Diane Mapes

There’s nothing like having cancer to make you appreciate the little things in life — like buying shampoo, running a few miles or being able to forget the address of the hospital where you were treated.

After I was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2011, I felt like I lived at that hospital. Today — a year out from treatment — it’s in the rear view mirror, along with the double mastectomy and debilitating chemo and radiation I wrote about last October on

Not that there aren’t still plenty of daily reminders regarding my year of living cancerously: chemo brain, adhesion pain, hot flashes (courtesy of my new BFF tamoxifen) and, oh yes, my board-flat Olive Oyl chest.

But there have been good, uh, developments, too.

The biggest one — for me — is that I now have hair. For those of you who think baseball is slow and tedious, all I can say is try watching hair grow sometime.

I disguised my bald head with a wig from mid-June until New Year’s Eve then gratefully ditched it, along with the tape, the itchiness, and the constant fear that I’d accidentally spin the thing around backwards while swing dancing like some character on Gilligan’s Island.

Passing as … French
Come January, I let my freak flag fly and began rocking a dark gray micro pixie.

“With the wig, I was trying to pass as a healthy, normal woman,” I joked to my friends about my super short ‘do. “Now, I’m trying to pass as French.”

Today, I don’t worry so much about passing. I finally have my old color back and a somewhat normal-looking hairstyle. Although the word “style” may be pushing it. My new hair is a mass of unruly chemo curls, the type of curls I used to spend long hours (and big bucks) trying to achieve with body perms and hot rollers.

‘Chemo curls’ another kink in cancer recovery

That’s the good news.

Well, that, and the fact I’m no longer a chemo invalid, hobbling around my apartment hanging onto chairs and using pliers to open a bottle of water (although my new hobby, boxing, sometimes leaves me feeling this way). Nor am I getting zapped by radiation every day, then coming home to slather greasy ointment all over my lobster red chest in an attempt to keep the skin from peeling off.

I’ve been running for months; ditto for boxing and swing dancing. I have my strength, my appetite, my healthy skin and my hair back (well, most of it, anyway – RIP, dear eyebrows).

I’ve finally kicked treatment to the curb.

But being done with cancer treatment and being done with cancer are two very different things. That’s the bad news.

I remember feeling almost giddy as I waltzed into my oncologist’s office last November, finally done with five grueling months of chemo and radiation. Surely, there was a certificate waiting for me with a huge “CANCER-FREE!” stamp beside my name.

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly how things work in the cancer club.

“I’m sorry,” my oncologist told me when I asked her point blank if I was cured. “But we don’t really use the C-word.”

Instead, they do quarterly blood tests to look for tumor markers. They do physical exams to make sure I haven’t developed a persistent pain or nagging cough. They do a scan now and then to check up on weird anomalies like lung nodules and liver cysts and to make sure my uterus is still “unremarkable” (a backhanded pathological compliment I’ve come to appreciate).

Life in Limbo Land
In a nutshell, they wait and see if the cancer comes back.

And I wait with them, living my life with one foot firmly planted in the real world and one foot shakily set in what I call Limbo Land.

Am I cured? They don’t know. Am I going to have to go through the whole bloody mess again? They don’t know.

“It’s after treatment that some people have the hardest time coping,” Mindy Greenstein, psycho-oncologist, author and former breast cancer patient, told me when we chatted about this strange new terrain. “You’re dumped back into your regular life but it’s very different. You don’t feel like you’re actively fighting something. You just have to live with it.”

But living with a cancerous question mark hanging over your head isn’t easy. Your friends and family are sick of hearing about it. Sick of worrying about it. And even simple questions like “How … uh … are you?” are fraught with dark nuances.

“I’m fine — as far as I know,” I usually tell people, going into what I call myChuckles, the Cancer Clown routine. “I’ve forgotten how to spell, I’ve eaten so many cruciferous vegetables I’ve practically got cauliflower ear and my chest still looks like one of the talking trees from Wizard of Oz. But I’m not dead!”

Jim Seida /

Diane Mapes boxes three times a week for fitness and to strengthen her body for her upcoming reconstructive surgery. “Boxing is my way to hit back,” she says. “Literally.”

When I asked Greenstein how she copes with the fear of recurrence, of mets (not the baseball team but the metastatic spread of breast cancer), of someharsh new disease brought on by treatment, of her own mortality, she said she uses different approaches.

“Sometimes I think of all the worst things that can happen and how I would handle them,” she said. “Other times, I’m a positive thinker. Whatever works in the moment, that’s what you go for.”

I guess that’s where the boxing comes in.

For me, it’s a healthy way to work off the rage I still feel over my diagnosis and treatment, which is sometimes hard to distinguish from the tortures they used to inflict on suspected witches back in the day. Knowing how to throw a punch is also an effective way to keep people from telling me how “lucky” I am I had breast cancer because now I can get big new beautiful boobs.

Yes, distractions like running, boxing, blogging, swing dancing and even dating have worked well for me.

Not that there aren’t the occasional grating moments.

“So when are you going to get your new tits?” one guy asked a while back over drinks.

“Excuse me?” I said, laser beams shooting out of my eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he quickly apologized. “When are you going to get your new breasts?”

He’s hardly the first person — or the first date —  to ask about the girls. Lots of people do, probably because I was so adamant — and so public — about not wanting to lose them in the first place.

Now, at nearly a year post-radiation, it’s time for me to figure out what I want to do about reconstruction, a process far more complicated than your run-of-the-mill boob job. But more surgery? More recovery? More pain? More drains? Once again, my body’s due for a transformation my mind’s not quite ready to embrace.

“If you’ve been out having a normal life, the thought of making yourself a patient again is very difficult,” Greenstein told me when I confessed my hesitation about going back under the knife. “One way of coping is to look at this as the next thing on the way to getting your full life back.”

And I do want my full life back. Not to mention my full bra back.

I’m tired of wearing my V-necks backwards, of misplacing my gummi, department store boobs on top of the dresser, of experiencing yet another wardrobe malfunction at the gym (“Ricky” has a tendency to migrate over to “Lucy’s” place if you know what I mean).

I miss my old carefree self, my old carefree life, where a bad headache or weird leg pain didn’t routinely morph into metastatic breast cancer at 3 a.m. I’m just not sure if new girls are going to help me get it back. I’m not sure what, exactly, is going to help me get it back. To put those fears — irrational and otherwise — to bed for good.

And so I box. And run. And offer advice to newly diagnosed women. I fret about lymphedema and send out tweets about the latest research on this sleeping beast that inexplicably comes to life in our breasts.

I read. I write. I kick myself when I forget to put sun block on my irradiated chest. I laugh with my sisters until I nearly pee my pants and flirt with inappropriately young men. I listen to inspiring stories from survivors and try to spin a few myself.

I sing loudly but listen for dark whispers. Like the rest of us in this lousy club, I keep slogging ahead.

Diane Mapes is a frequent contributor at and She’s the author of “How to Date in a Post-Dating World” and blogs about breast cancer at

More from contributor Diane Mapes:

Cancer kiss-off: Getting dumped after diagnosis

Mastectomy and the single girl: A bucket list for boobs

Dating after diagnosis: Love in the time of chemotherapy


Five years after cancer, an emotional Hoda thanks her doctors

So, What is a Plant-Based Diet?

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon

Whenever I say we eat a plant-based diet, people often ask what that means. We say that we don’t eat animal products of any kind; no meat, no butter, no milk, no cheese, ect. They often respond with, ‘Like a vegan?” Yes, it is similar but not the same.

There is a difference between plant-based diet and vegan. While the difference may be subtle to some, it is great to others. It is also a topic of debate among many, with some saying those who solely eat a plant-based diet are not vegan.

The choice to be plant-based or vegan is a personal one, and the reasons can be many. For a long time I identified as vegan, but now I no longer do. Now I am plant-based.

A plant-based diet focuses on plants, eliminating all forms of animal products. There is no meat, butter, cheese, milk, eggs, whey, casein, ect. It can include beans and legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, spices, seeds and nuts. There are endless combinations of foods available on a plant-based diet. While my family and myself eat low-fat & oil free, this is not necessary to be plant-based.

The definitaion of vegan seems to have evolved to be more than just a diet, to also being a lifestyle or a philosophy. Wikipedia defines veganism as “the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products.” It includes not using products that are tested on or made from animals, such as leather or wool or some types of makeup. It is a belief against using or consuming anything that has exploited animals.

This can be beyond just animal-based products or porducts tested on animals, but also can include environmental impact as well. For example, there is debate over palm oil. While palm oil itself is a vegetable oil and not animal based, the increasing demand for it is blamed for the destruction of rain forests and natural animal habitat. This has several people claiming it is not vegan and products containing it are also not vegan. I’m not trying to debate the issue here if it is or is not vegan, I am just using it as an example of of veganism has become more than just food.

There is also food that is vegan and not healthy, like white bread or Oreos. Many different vegan junk foods are readily available – you can eat a vegan diet and not eat anything that resembles a plant.  This is why I make the distinction between plant-based and vegan.

U.S. Declares ‘Alert’ At Oyster Creek Nuclear Plant In N.J.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said that at “Alert” has been declared at the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in Forked River, New Jersey, an event related to Hurricane Sandy.

The NRC said that the plant, which is in a regularly scheduled outage, declared the Alert at 8:45 p.m. Eastern time “due to water exceeding certain high water level criteria in the plant’s water intake structure.”

The Commission notes that an Alert is the second lowest of four NRC action levels. Before reaching Alert status, the plant declared an “Unusual Event” when the water first reached a minimum high water level criteria, the NRC says.

“Water level is rising in the intake structure due to a combination of a rising tide, wind direction and storm surge.

Read the rest:

Should I Get the Flu Shot? Dr. Mark Hyman


While we are all trying to enjoy the change of seasons and soak up the beauty of fall, one question persists among the masses.  Should I get the flu shot?

My team and I are constantly asked this question and while we can’t give a blanket statement for the general public, I wanted to take the opportunity in today’s blog to provide you with more information about the flu vaccine so you can make the best decision for you and your family with the help of your local medical doctor.

As a Functional Medicine physician I approach the flu, like all imbalances in the body, which is to say I don’t assume the human body is subject to illness when the proper diet and lifestyle precautions are taken.  When a patient is sick, some detective work is necessary to find out what missing pieces are interfering with the efficacy of their immune system.

My goal is to help every single one of you strengthen the integrity of your immune system so there is less risk of a virus affecting you, leaving you vulnerable to its aftermath of feeling sick and miserable.

See, when the immune system is compromised it has less ability to fight off the flu, or really any of the myriad viruses, bacteria or toxins we are perpetually faced with every minute of every day.

That is why my #1 priority is to help you support your immune system! In a previous year’s discussion of the flu, I provided information about the steps I wanted you to take to balance your system and achieve a robust immunity.

You can review my suggestions for preventing the flu and enjoying excellent immunity here: Prevent the Flu. Personally, I always start with food because it is the best medicine.

Functional Medicine is not a one-size-fits-all approach- it is patient-centered and honors each of our individual medical needs.Why does the pharmaceutical industry proclaim that everyone 6 months of age and older should get vaccinated? For starters, Itake a look at how flu vaccines work.

The Vaccine:

Each year health officials inoculate this year’s virus into chickens.  Then, they take the created viral strains to use as the antigen-the agent which elicits an immune reaction in the human body so you create your own antibodies against the flu. Antibodies are the body’s way of fighting an illness.

It takes about two weeks after you are vaccinated for your body to create these antibodies. We assume scientists match the vaccine to the exact flu strain going around.  It’s an educated guess essentially and the efficacy of the vaccine lies in our ability to match the two correctly.

You can still get the flu if you have been vaccinated if the strain you caught doesn’t match that which was in your vaccine.  And you can still get the flu even if the strains were properly matched but your immune system was not intact!

This grey area is why a lot of controversy exists about whether or not the flu vaccine is effective.  To learn more about this, go to The CDC’s “Flu View” for weekly updated surveillances on the flu:

What’s In It?

  • Egg proteins: Including avian contaminant viruses
  • Formaldehyde: Known carcinogen
  • Thimerosal: Mercury-based preservative (only in multi-dose vials)
  • Other heavy metals such as aluminum: Known neurotoxin
  • Sugar: The essence of all inflammatory disease
  • Triton X100: A detergent
  • Other additives known to cause allergic reactions

The biggest controversy about the ingredients in the shot surrounds the use of the preservative thimerosal.  Thimerosal contains mercury.  Exposure to mercury leads to systemic health problems running the gamut from neurological dysfunction (memory loss, confusion, inability to concentrate) to depression, renal failure, skin troubles and gastrointestinal disturbances.

I have written extensively on how grave a matter mercury and heavy metal toxicity is and why it is so important to screen forproper detoxification from heavy metal toxicity.

Pregnant women and infants are often advised to opt for the single dose mercury-free vaccines as once mercury is in the body it can enter the fetus via the placenta.  Studies have also reported that children can become symptomatic from mercury toxicity from as little exposure as 10 mcg/kg/day.

Many vaccines contain up to 25 mcg of mercury per dose so this is one area where I will state how important it is to look for a mercury-free vaccines.  Here are some options to ask your doctor about:

Types of Vaccines Available:

  • Single-dose vaccines such as Fluzone: Contains a purified, inert virus that is incapable of causing infection and tends to be free of mercury.
  • Nasal spray such as FluMist: Contains a small amount of a weakened live virus which might make this form slightly more effective but also poses a higher risk for side effects and complications.  These are mercury-free.  Not for pregnant women or children 6-24 months.
  • Some pre-filled syringes such as Afluria are mercury-free.
  • Multi-dose vaccines tend to contain the most mercury.

If mercury is such a problem, then why are we even using it?  Mercury is part of the preservative necessary when using multi-dose vaccines. The single-dose vaccine doesn’t require the preservative which is why this vaccine is preferred. It is also the least cost-effective for manufacturers to produce so until this changes.  YOU, the consumer, need to advocate for yourself.

How Safe is the Flu Vaccine?

While the CDC reports that safety is always being monitored to ensure risk from the vaccine is negligible, certain serious complications have been reported:

  • Allergic reactions (anaphylactic)
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome (can be fatal)
  • Neurological disorders

Always contact your local physician if you suspect any serious complications post injection.

While not everyone necessarily needs to get vaccinated, especially if you are generally healthy and follow my advice about boosting your immune system with a whole foods diet and an anti-inflammatory lifestyle, there are still some people that might want to consider it.

The CDC recommends the following people for receiving the flu vaccine: Health-care workers with direct patient contact, pregnant women, caregivers of children younger than 6 months, and children and adults under age 24.

Ideal Candidates for the Vaccine:

  • Asthmatics
  • Immuno-compromised patients
  • Heart disease patients
  • Diabetics
  • Morbidly obese

Why Do We Get Sick?

Why do we get the flu in the first place?  Why is the integrity of our immune system compromised? What changes can we make in order to prevent illness from taking hold rather than suffer its nasty consequences?

Why confuse ourselves about the pros and cons of a vaccine’s worth, safety, and availability when we have so much in our medicinal arsenal to fight the flu’s onset?

Preventing the flu depends on improving the quality of our lifestyles to include more pleasure and relaxation, increasing access to fresh, nutrient-dense food, and limiting sugary and industrial junk food in our lives.

Taking care of the way we eat, keeping fit, getting enough sleep and taking a few nutritional supplements including a multivitamin, fish oil, and vitamin D can prevent most from ever getting sick in the first place. In fact I have never had the flu even though, as a doctor, I am in contact with it on a regular basis.

The influenza virus can be very uncomfortable and cause a major disruption in our busy lives.  It is important to remember that most healthy people will suffer a mere 3-5 days.

While the fever/chills, sore throat, headache, and fatigue are definitely not fun, they usually come and go without much major harm caused to the body.

In fact, most deaths are only associated with the flu via contraction of pneumonia and its influence on existing medical conditions. The flu’s mortality rate itself is much less common-in fact, more people die each year from malnutrition than from the flu!

So do yourself a favor and pay attention to your vitamin D status, optimize your diet by focusing on antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, eat lean and clean protein and healthy anti-inflammatory fats from fish, nuts, and seeds, and healthy olive, grape seed, and coconut oils.

Stay well hydrated, practice common sense hygiene, and create time to rest and restore your energy.  And of course get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer this season!

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and healthy flu-season.

Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below – but remember, we can’t offer personal medical advice online, so be sure to limit your comments to those about taking back our health!

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, MD

Avatar of Mark Hyman, MD

About Mark Hyman, MD

MARK HYMAN, MD is dedicated to identifying and addressing the root causes of chronic illnessthrough a groundbreaking whole-systems medicine approach called Functional Medicine. He is a family physician, a four-time New York Times bestselling author, and an international leader in his field. Through his private practice, education efforts, writing, research, and advocacy, he empowers others to stop managing symptoms and start treating the underlying causes of illness, thereby tackling our chronic-disease epidemic. More about Dr. Hyman or on Functional Medicine. Click here to view all Press and Media Releases

“Want to Share This Kale Slaw With Me?” – Eight Ways to Make New [Vegan] Friends

“Want to Share This Kale Slaw With Me?” – Eight Ways to Make New [Vegan] Friends

Making new friends can be intimidating. It can be especially daunting if you are somewhat of an introvert, and have just moved to an area where you don’t really know anyone.  Having just relocated across the country myself (and having moved around a lot as a child), I can relate.  Work and school can offer built-in—albeit not always ideal—social environments to fall back on, but to really reach out to like-minded, interesting people, one often has to actually put in some effort.  And what about making new vegan friends?

If the thought of seeking out any new friend is nerve-racking in and of itself, especially if you happen to be the new kid on the block, how might you ever go about figuring out where those cool kids hang out?  Not to fear!  First, take a deep breath.  Then, read the post below for eight ways to get involved in your home base, broaden your network, and meet plant-based buds, whether or not you’re new to town.

1.    Find out if your town or nearby cities have a vegetarian/vegan club or society, and sign up for its newsletter

Some veggie clubs are quite formal, with frequent meetings and planned events, and others less so.  Still, almost all of these clubs and societies host or post events of interest to vegans, so getting on the mailing list is a good way to get tuned in to your area’s vegetarian and vegan community.  I’ve found out about many neat talks, dinners, and festivals this way!  You can also drop by meetings and introduce yourself, offer to volunteer at an upcoming event, or even apply to be an officer.  Vegan friends, here you come!

2.    Search for meet-ups (vegan and non-vegan!)

I’ve found that is a great way to find groups and clubs in your area, and by selecting from a list of interests, you can get notified about related groups as they are created.  There are groups for people who love to run, knit, hike, play board games, code, read…and yes, live a vegan lifestyle!  Focus on those that sound genuinely interesting to you and whose events you can actually see yourself going to, as these groups are more likely to have members that you will click with.  Many groups make their events public so that outsiders can get a better sense of what they’re about.  If you are specifically trying to find vegan-ish groups, search for broader phrases and words such as “healthy eating,” “ethical,” “veg*an,” “plant strong,” etc. to expand your results.  And don’t forget that vegan groups aren’t the only places to let your veggie colors fly.  For example, you could nominate The China Study for your non-fiction book club’s next selection, or offer to host a vegan cooking class for your Foodies meet-up group…your new peers might really enjoy it!

3.    Start your own group

If you have a great idea for a group and are dedicated enough to see it through, go for it!  You can start from scratch, or look into creating a local chapter of an existing group or organization.  One of my good friends in Boston was frustrated that many of her peers were oblivious to veganism’s ties to other social causes, and created an online group called “Peaceful Choices” to, amongst other things, “encourage the spread of knowledge and connections between speciesism and prejudice, unfair treatment, and torture of human beings.”  Little did she realize that quite a few people in the area—vegan and non-vegan alike—related to her message and wanted to get involved.  It can be very empowering to bring a passion to fruition in a group or blog format, and chances are that your interests will resonate with others.  This could very well pave the way for new friendships and lasting partnerships.

4.    Make an effort to get to know your coworkers (and look for jobs that resonate with your values and ideals)

Many of us work one or more jobs in order to make a living, and therefore see the same people on a very frequent basis.  So why not befriend them?  Some people never show their true personalities at work, but sometimes it’s simply because no one has ever made the effort to be more than “just” coworkers.  If you’re already employed, make an effort to participate in social events that your employer hosts (or industry networking events, if you’re self-employed) to get to know your peers better.  You can also find creative ways to start conversations and bond with coworkers, such as keeping your favorite books at your desk or bringing in treats to share at work.  If you’re on the job hunt, a good indicator of whether or not you’ll get along with your coworkers lies with a company’s philosophy, culture, and core values.  If these are in line with your own values, chances are that their employees will share similar ones as well.  The result?  Fulfillment with the work you do and cool people to do it with; a win-win!

5.    Volunteer for an organization that you care about

Environmental, animal rights, humane, and vegan organizations are always looking for volunteers to staff events, raise awareness, and help their programs run smoothly.  Oftentimes, you can work remotely.  If you are able to volunteer your time, it can be a rewarding way to make a difference while connection with people who share similar viewpoints and passions.  Here is just a short list of some groups worth checking out:Compassion Over KillingAction for AnimalsA Well-Fed WorldIn Defense of AnimalsFood Empowerment ProjectFactory Farming Awareness CoalitionVegan OutreachVegetarian Resource GroupPetathe Humane Society, and Farm Sanctuary.  There are also many ways to get involved more locally.  Some ideas include volunteering to teach kid-friendly healthy eating lessons at local schools, participating in the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale, and helping out at a beach clean up.  Local animal shelters are also often in need of volunteers, and the best spot to make lots of new, furry friends.

6.    Meet and be nice to your neighbors

This one is simple: make an effort to smile and say hello to neighbors on your street, in your apartment building’s elevator, in your dorm’s common room, etc.  Be considerate of volume when listening to music or having guests over.  If your neighbor needs help, a cat-sitter, or to borrow baking soda, offer assistance when possible.  If you’re the event planner type, host a block party or neighborhood potluck.  Many friendships start as cordial neighborly kindness.  (If you live in a very rural area, the main difference is that your definition of “neighbor” is slightly expanded!)

7.    Visit local businesses

There’s nothing wrong with being a homebody, but it’s much harder to meet people if you’re constantly cooped up!  Get to know the local hot spots by walking, biking, running, taking public transportation, or (if you must) driving around the neighborhood.  Try some new grocery stores or farmer’s markets, if they are available to you.  Pop into some bookstores (see if they have any good author talks coming up), coffee shops (if you don’t drink coffee/tea, you can always check out the artwork on the walls!), and gyms (see if they offer a free pass for first-timers).  Get a feel for who hangs out where, and even say hello if you’re feeling bold.  I was amazed at how many people I got to know well just from taking group fitness classes at my old gym and shopping at the small produce supplier down the street.

 8.    Expand your digital network

There are a ton of social networking sites and forums that cater to the plant-based!  They are a fun alternative to aimlessly refreshing your Facebook news feed, and a cool way to potentially meet vegans from all over the world.  Sometimes, a supportive online community can be the best platform for receiving valuable advice, gaining inspiration, and discussing issues in depth.  Some free veg communities that come to mind include VolentiaVeggieBoardsVegan Bodybuilding30 Bananas a Day, and Vegppl, but there are many more out there!


The bottom line is that with a little effort, it’s easy to meet new people and get more involved with the vegan community.   You might have to go a little out of your comfort zone, but don’t forget that many people are in the same shoes and want to get to know you.  Whether you have lived somewhere for a while or have just relocated to a new area, being open, genuine, and a little proactive can result in unexpected and meaningful friendships (and meeting both vegan and non-vegan friends who will gladly share your kale slaw).


About the author: YifanView all posts by 
Yifan is a vegan illustrator and athlete who recently relocated from Boston to the San Francisco Bay Area. She has worked in broadcasting, music promotions, higher education, and social marketing, all while keeping up her art endeavors and spreading good vegan vibes via dinner parties and her fitness/food blog. Furthermore, her recipes and flavor pairings have been featured on several vegan food blogs and in Boston-area vegan restaurants. She is passionate about wellness and holistic health, and wants to help others lead more active, fulfilling lives, all while making more compassionate choices for themselves, the planet, and all of its inhabitants. In her spare time, Yifan competes in triathlons and road races, and spends an inordinate amount of time getting excited about her next Halloween costume. To see some of Yifan’s artwork, please visit her illustration site.

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