My Plantcentric Journey

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Why the Word “Vegan” is More Powerful Than Ever

By Colleen Holland

VegNews’ Colleen Holland explores why companies are clamoring to position themselves as “vegan.”

It wasn’t long ago that the word “vegan” evoked images of emaciated hippies, angry activists, and starving dumpster divers in the mainstream lexicon. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a lean physique, being passionate about a cause, and saving perfectly good food from going to waste, but in the past five years, something has changed. Perhaps the shift occurred when Ellen DeGeneres announced to the world that she was thriving on a vegan diet, or when the pro-veg film Forks Over Knives swept the nation with its sound science and promise that diseases like diabetes and obesity could be cured with a plant-based diet. Or was it the CNN interview with Bill Clinton where he extols the virtues of living without meat and dairy, the exposure to delectable vegan food through the hundreds of meat-free cookbooks now published every year, or the constant barrage of undercover factory-farm footage on major television networks? However the change took place, the perception of veganism is more positive than ever before, and everyone from Anderson Cooper to Arian Foster are talking about it. It is nearly impossible to deny that veganism’s moment has arrived.

According to the latest “how many vegetarians are there?” poll by the Vegetarian Resource Group, roughly 7.5 percent of the population identifies as either vegan or vegetarian, and an astonishing 33 percent eat “mostly veg.” Combine that with the millions more allured by the health benefits of ditching dairy and beef for almond milk and veggie burgers—not to mention the unprecendented 12-percent nose dive in meat consumption over the past five years—and we’ve got ourselves a little vegetarian revolution.

The Power of Vegan
Remember that scary word, vegan? For years, marketers were told to stay clear of using it on product packaging and promotion. It was seen as a turn-off to consumers, and a surefire way to get buyers not to buy a product. But now that it’s 2012, and veganeverything practically grows on trees, I wanted to find out just how far we’ve come. Are companies finally embracing the once-forbidden label? For Seth Tibbott, founder of Turtle Island Foods (a 32-year-old vegan company that makes veggie dogs, sausages, deli slices, and the famous Tofurky), the answer is an emphatic “yes.” He says, “We showcase the term ‘vegan’ as a major point of differentiation from our main competitors. This makes it easier on current vegans, interesting to meat reducers, and intriguing for others.” Earth Balance, an all-vegan food company that produces everything from butter spreads and soymilk to nut butters and mayonnaise, has prominently marketed its products as vegan since the company’s inception in 1998. Marketing Manager Adriane Little emphasizes the importance of communicating this message to consumers as “a way to show that a vegan diet should not be restrictive, but the opposite—a lifestyle filled with good-tasting, good-for-you options.”

But what about non-vegetarian companies? Have they recognized the benefits of marketing their brands as vegan? In my own analysis (spending a day at a natural-food store photographing any product that used the word vegan on its packaging), never before have I seen such a broad use of the once-taboo term. The word is splashed across boxes of Boca burgers (now owned by Kraft); popular pasta-sauce purveyor Victoria Fine Foods has launched an all-vegan line called Victoria Vegan; and Dr. Praeger’s—whose product line also includes seafood—doesn’t hold back when touting vegan on the front of its packaging. Combine this trend with such recent news as Subway testing vegan sandwiches in Washington, DC stores and McDonald’s opening its first all-vegetarian restaurant in India, and it’s just a matter of time, I believe, before major food brands embrace the word vegan to represent health, sustainability, and authenticity. For vegans, these values are nothing new, and according to Tibbott, we’re just ahead of the curve. “Vegans are ahead of their time in terms of eating a diet that we feel will be adopted by more and more people in the coming years. By living their values, they inspire others to consider dietary changes.” I couldn’t agree more.

To see an array of products currently marketed as vegan, check out Colleen Holland’s Vegan Food Slide Show.

Thank you to Staff of Life in Santa Cruz, CA for allowing VegNews to shoot the photography for this piece.

http://vegnews.com/articles/page.do?pageId=4950&catId=1

Me, Give Up Meat? Vegan Diets Surging in Popularity US News

While I don’t agree with the cons, I do agree that you must plan to be sure you are getting all the nutrients needed. Laura

The Pros (and a Few Cons) of Choosing a Vegan Diet

by Angela Haupt

Former President Bill Clinton had a legendary appetite: Hamburgers and steaks. Barbeque. Chicken enchiladas. But after having two stents inserted in 2010—on top of quadruple bypass surgery six years earlier—he radically changed his diet in the name of saving his health. Now a vegan, the strictest type of vegetarian, he has cut out meat, dairy, eggs, and most oils in favor of a super-low-fat diet that revolves around whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts. It appears to be working: He has said he’s dropped more than 20 pounds and has never been healthier. In a televised interview with film producer Harvey Weinstein in June, Clinton explained that he’d decided he wanted to live to be a grandfather. “So I just went all the way. Getting rid of the dairy was great, getting rid of the meat was—I just don’t miss it.”

Vegan diets have lately been surging in popularity, thanks in part to the example of celebrities who are publicly forswearing all animal products (Michelle Pfeiffer, Carrie Underwood, Russell Brand, and Ozzy Osbourne, to name a few others). Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi have announced plans to open a vegan restaurant in Los Angeles. Vegan-centric books have been flying off the shelf, including Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet and The Engine 2 Diet by Texas firefighter and triathlete Rip Esselstyn, son of retired Cleveland Clinic physician Caldwell Esselstyn, whose research on the merits of plant-based eating inspired Bill Clinton. Vegan food trucks are making the rounds, schools are instituting meat-free days, and colleges are opening vegan dining halls.

While many vegans still take the stand because they believe in animal rights, a growing number are swayed by mounting research showing a profound impact on health. “It’s dramatic,” says Neal Barnard, a nutrition researcher and adjunct professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit group that promotes preventive medicine. “We’ve seen people whose chest pain has gone away within weeks, while their weight melts off, blood pressure goes down, and cholesterol plummets.” Barnard’s 2011 book 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart is a three-week introduction to the case for and how-tos of the vegan life. The panel of 22 experts who analyzed 25 diets forU.S. News’s ratings of the best eating plans overall—as well as the best for weight loss, heart health, and diabetes management and prevention—are not universally sold on absolute meatlessness. But without a doubt, the heavily plant-based plans tend to rise to the top of the U.S. News lists.

Exactly how you shape a vegan meal plan is up to you, but you’ll typically aim for six servings of grains from bread and calcium-fortified cereal, for example; five servings of protein-rich foods such as legumes, nuts, peanut butter, chickpeas, tofu, potatoes, and soy milk; and four servings of veggies, two of fruit, and two of healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, and olive oil. (Both of the Esselstyns advocate avoiding all oils, too.) There’s no need to give up dessert, although you’ll be baking without butter or eggs.

It should come as no surprise that becoming a serious vegan is apt to help you lose weight. By loading up on fruits, veggies, and whole grains, vegans tend to feel full on fewer calories, and indeed they tend to weigh less and have a lower body mass index than their meat-eating peers. In a 2006 study coauthored by Barnard, 99 people with type 2 diabetes followed either a vegan diet or a standard diet based on American Diabetes Association guidelines. After 22 weeks, the vegans lost an average of 13 pounds, compared to 9 in the ADA group. Both groups’ control of their blood sugar levels also improved.

The cardiac case. A meatless diet’s power against heart disease also is well documented. “It’s an exceptionally healthy diet, especially when it comes to cardiac health,” says Michael Davidson, director of preventive cardiology at the University of Chicago Medical Center. He notes that cutting way back on saturated fat and eliminating cholesterol is just part of the equation; also key is piling on “cardiac protective” fruits, vegetables, and grains, packed with antioxidants and other phytochemicals that protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. The soluble fiber found in plant protein also helps to lower cholesterol. In the 2006 Diabetes Care report, LDL cholesterol dropped 21.2 percent in the vegan group after 22 weeks, compared with 10.7 percent in the group following the meat-allowing guidelines. Triglycerides fell from 140.3 mg/dL to 118.2. In an earlier 12-year study that compared 6,000 vegetarians and vegans with 5,000 meat-eaters, researchers found that vegans had a 57 percent lower risk of ischemic heart disease—reduced heart pumping due to coronary artery disease, which often leads to heart failure—than the meat-eaters. Vegetarians had a 24 percent lower risk.

Read the rest at:  http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2012/07/24/me-give-up-meat-vegan-diets-surging-in-popularity?page=2

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