Tag Archives: plant-based diet

Plant-Based Vs Animal-Based diets – What Does Science Say?

Plant-Based  Vs Animal-Based diets - What Does Science Say?

(References in brackets follow)

  •  – US National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health [1].

The number of studies using dietary quality indices to compare restrictive diets with omnivorous diets is limited. One study reports the use of an Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI) to examine the nutritional adequacy and quality of a low-fat vegan diet compared to a more conventional diet in type 2 diabetes patients. Patients switching to the low fat vegan diet significantly improved their AHEI score in every food category with a substantial increase for the fruit and vegetable components. Patients switching to the conventional diabetes diets did not improve their AHEI score. The increase for the AHEI score was accompanied with a significant improvement of intake of several nutrients. Moreover, this study reported that the mean vitamin B-12 intake of the low fat vegan diet remained within the recommended range even without supplement use. This was likely due to the inclusion of several vitamin B-12 fortified foods in the diet.

The aim of the present study was to analyze and compare the nutrient intake and the diet quality of vegans, vegetarians, semi-vegetarians, pesco-vegetarians and omnivorous subjects at least 20 years old.

In conclusion, results concerning body weight, nutritional intake, nutritional quality and quantity are in line with the literature on restricted and prudent diets versus unrestricted omnivorous diets. The use of indexing systems, estimating the overall diet quality based on different aspects of healthful dietary models (be it the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans or the compliance to the Mediterranean Diet) indicated consistently the vegan diet as the most healthy one. Adaptation with specific components (e.g., soy drinks instead of milk; inclusion of other polyunsaturated fat sources instead of fish) may increase the relation with different types of healthful diets, and this especially for the MDS (Mediterranean Diet Score) system.

  •  – Health effects of vegan diets. Craig WJ [2)

Compared with other vegetarian diets, vegan diets tend to contain less saturated fat and cholesterol and more dietary fiber. Vegans tend to be thinner, have lower serum cholesterol, and lower blood pressure, reducing their risk of heart disease. However, eliminating all animal products from the diet may increase the risk of certain nutritional deficiencies. Micronutrients of special concern for the vegan include vitamins B-12 and D, calcium, and long-chain n-3 (omega-3) fatty acids. Unless vegans regularly consume foods that are fortified with these nutrients, appropriate supplements should be consumed. In some cases, iron and zinc status of vegans may also be of concern because of the limited bioavailability of these minerals.

  •  – Diet and body mass index (BMI) in meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans [3].

Age-adjusted mean BMI was significantly different between the four diet groups, being highest in the meat-eaters (24.41 in men, 23.52 in women) and lowest in the vegans (22.49 in men, 21.98 in women). Fish-eaters and vegetarians had similar, intermediate mean BMI. Differences in lifestyle factors including smoking, physical activity and education level accounted for less than 5% of the difference in mean age-adjusted BMI between meat-eaters and vegans, whereas differences in macronutrient intake accounted for about half of the difference.

Conclusions: Fish-eaters, vegetarians and especially vegans had lower BMI than meat-eaters. High protein and low fiber intakes were the factors most strongly associated with increasing BMI.

  •  – Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets [4].

Physicians looking for cost-effective interventions to improve health outcomes are becoming more involved in helping their patients adopt healthier lifestyles. Healthy eating may be best achieved with a plant-based diet, which we define as a regimen that encourages whole, plant-based foods and discourages meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods. We present a case study as an example of the potential health benefits of such a diet. Research shows that plant-based diets are cost-effective, low-risk interventions that may lower body mass index, blood pressure, HbA1C, and cholesterol levels.

Conclusion: A healthy, plant-based diet requires planning, reading labels, and discipline. The recommendations for patients who want to follow a plant-based diet may include eating a variety of fruits and vegetables that may include beans, legumes, seeds, nuts, and whole grains and avoiding or limiting animal products, added fats, oils, and refined, processed carbohydrates. Among the major benefits for patients who decide to start a plant-based diet are the possibilities of reducing the number of medications they take to treat a variety of chronic conditions, lower body weight, decreased risk of cancer, and a reduction in their risk of death from ischemic heart disease.

  •  – The Health Advantage of a Vegan Diet: Exploring the Gut Microbiota Connection [5].

Few studies include vegan subjects as a distinct experimental group, yet when vegan diets are directly compared to vegetarian and omnivorous diets, a pattern of protective health benefits emerges. The relationship between diet and the intestinal microbial profile appears to follow a continuum, with vegans displaying a gut microbiota most distinct from that of omnivores, but not always significantly different from that of vegetarians. The vegan gut profile appears to be unique in several characteristics, including a reduced abundance of pathobionts and a greater abundance of protective species. Reduced levels of inflammation may be the key feature linking the vegan gut microbiota with protective health effects.

  • – A vegan regimen with reduced medication in the treatment of hypertension [6].

Twenty-nine patients who had suffered from essential hypertension for an average of 8 years, all receiving long-term medication for hypertension, were subject to therapy with vegan food for 1 year. In almost all cases medication was withdrawn or drastically reduced. There was a significant decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. A number of reported symptoms disappeared. There was a significant improvement in a number of clinical variables as well as a significant change in various biochemical indices such as urea, haptoglobin, cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations in blood. Subjectively all patients reported improvement. Selected patients, with a fear of side-effects of medication, who are interested in alternative healthcare might replace conventional medication with this dietary regimen.

  • – Vegan regimen with reduced medication in the treatment of bronchial asthma [7].

Thirty-five patients who had suffered from bronchial asthma for an average of 12 yr, all receiving long-term medication, 20 including cortisone, were subject to therapy with vegan food for 1 yr. In almost all cases, medication was withdrawn or drastically reduced. There was a significant decrease in asthma symptoms. Twenty-four patients (69%) fulfilled the treatment. Of these, 71% reported improvement at 4 months and 92% at 1 yr. There was a significant improvement in a number of clinical variables; for example, vital capacity, forced expiratory volume at one sec and physical working capacity, as well as a significant change in various biochemical indices as haptoglobin, IgM, IgE, cholesterol, and triglycerides in blood. Selected patients, with a fear of side-effects of medication, who are interested in alternative health care, might get well and replace conventional medication with this regimen.

  • – A Worksite Vegan Nutrition Program Is Well-Accepted and Improves Health-Related Quality of Life and Work Productivity [8].

The aim of this study was to determine the acceptability of a worksite vegan nutrition program and its effects on health-related quality of life and work productivity. The vegan group reported improvements in general health, physical functioning, mental health, vitality, and overall diet satisfaction compared with the control group. The vegan group reported a 40-46% decrease in health-related productivity impairments at work and in regular daily activities.ConclusionsA worksite vegan nutrition program is well-accepted and can be implemented by employers to improve the health, quality of life, and work productivity of employees.

  • – Dr. T. Colin Campbell (professor emeritus of nutritional sciences at Cornell University and co-author of "The China Study").

T. Colin Campbell, who argues that a vegan diet is healthier than diets that include meat and dairy products, is professor emeritus of nutritional sciences at Cornell University and co-author of "The China Study."

“Yes: Cut Animal-Based Protein” says Dr. Campbell: “Our findings, published in top peer-reviewed journals, pointed away from meat and milk as the building blocks of a healthy diet, and toward whole, plant-based foods with little or no added oil, sugar or salt.

“Historically, the primary health value of meat and dairy has been attributed to their generous supply of protein. But therein lay a Trojan horse.

“More than 70 years ago, for example, casein (the main protein of cow's milk) was shown in experimental animal studies to substantially increase cholesterol and early heart disease. Later human studies concurred. Casein, whose properties, it's important to note, are associated with other animal proteins in general, also was shown during the 1940s and 1950s to enhance cancer growth in experimental animal studies.

“In my lab, from the 1960s to the 1990s, we conducted a series of studies and published dozens of peer-reviewed papers demonstrating casein's remarkable ability to promote cancer growth in test animals when consumed in excess of protein needs, which is about 10% of total calories, as recommended by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences more than 70 years ago.

“Some of the most compelling evidence of the effects of meat and dairy foods arises when we stop eating them. Increasing numbers of individuals resolve their pain (arthritic, migraine, cardiac) when they avoid dairy food. And switching to a whole-food, plant-based diet with little or no added salt, sugar and fat, produces astounding health benefits. This dietary lifestyle can prevent and even reverse 70% to 80% of existing, symptomatic disease, with an equivalent savings in health-care costs for those who comply.

“Based on the scientific evidence, and on the way I feel, I know beyond any doubt that I am better off for having changed my diet to whole and plant-based foods.”

References:

[1] – Turner-McGrievy G.M., Barnard N.D., Cohen J., Jenkins D.J., Gloede L., Green A.A. Changes in nutrient intake and dietary quality among participants following a low-fat vegan diet or a conventional diet for 22 weeks.

[2] – American Journal of clinical nutrition – May, 2009

[3] – International journal of obesity and related metabolic disorders: journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity – June 2003

[4] – The Permanente Journal – Spring 2013

[5] – Nutrients Journal – 2014

[6] – British Journal of Nutrition – 1984

[7] – The Journal of Asthma – 1985

[8] – Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism – 2010

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Yogis, Gurus & Spiritual Teachers – Spot the False Ones…

Because of the outrageous abuses and exploitation by some yogis, gurus, and self-proclaimed masters, many students (especially here in the west) don’t know who to trust.

If more than a few of the following descriptions describe your spiritual teacher, then unfortunately they may not be as enlightened or good for your progress as you would like to believe:

  • They proclaim their own enlightenment: The wisest masters tend to be reluctant to state their own enlightenment because they know that it is both unhelpful to their own spiritual evolution as well as their students’.
  • They’re unable to take criticism: False teachers have a strong resistance and dislike for either personal criticism or any criticism of their teaching. On the other hand a true teacher will continue to learn and oftentimes from their own students.
  • They often act as if they’re omnipotent with unlimited powers but show little to no accountability. Some may go so far as to use Gestapo like tactics.
  • They may focus on their own self-proclaimed enlightenment itself rather than teaching or demonstrating the path leading to it. The true teacher focuses mainly on the path and generally avoids any talk about enlightenment.
  • They don’t practice what they preach. For instance, if they demand their devotees adapt a plant-based diet, they should provide them with a living example.
  • They take credit for a certain asana or a particular meditative or healing technique, trying to “own” any major benefits from the practice. They often do this solely to attract new followers.
  • They choose to live in total opulence. Money is collected from followers most commonly in the form of donations, and those donations should be used to lessen the suffering in this world, not to provide a luxurious lifestyle.
  • They encourage (or even permit) adoration from their followers. Worshipping the teacher will draw the student outside of themselves and will be a hindrance to their own self-realization.
  • They demand love and absolute devotion from their students. Real love and devotion is earned by recognizing their ability to teach and relate spiritual truths, not their public image.
  • They run expensive workshops and courses promising spiritual development. Authentic teachers are rarely interested in selling anything or proselytizing people.
  • They take sexual advantage of their followers. This happens much more often than many students realize. This can be, and often is, psychological scarring to the victim.
  • They try to get you to feel special to “hook” you; and although each student is unique, making people feel exclusively special and part of a particular teacher’s “important,” “universal” mission is one of the best sales pitches ever. Once they get people on board, they can quite literally, sell them anything. A real master will allow the student to make their own decision whether to accept his or her teachings by simply presenting them without trying to influence the process.
  • They may give themselves an outrageous title. Some going as far as to claim they are literally God-Incarnate, or the “chosen one.” Others may continuously change their names in order to keep pace with their burgeoning egos.
  • They are not interested in you personally. If a teacher, yogi or guru does not have time to interact with you personally, then you may as well read about their teaching in a book; you may model some of their outward spiritual characteristics, but oftentimes that only places you deeper in illusion.
  • They allow “special” followers to set up a hierarchy of access. A true teacher must be accessible, if they are not, then they are playing the role of a king and not a true spiritual guide. With a false guide, more often than not, the more you donate the greater your access to them will be.
  • They make false claims of a lineage, or the latest in a line of self-realized masters. Another pseudo form of "lineage" is to recount a miracle that may have once happened to them, which infers that they are "the chosen one" and therefore have the authority to set themselves up as a master.
  • They generate a large number of angry ex-followers. This is an indication that something is seriously wrong. If they have used kindness and love in their interactions with students, then it is possible that some might drift away and feel they have wasted their time, but it is highly unlikely that they would exhibit great anger.

In closing: The above descriptions are a good overview of what makes up the difference between self-important narcissists in love with (and trying to boost) their self image, and those who simply see the truth and want to share it or teach it to others without any dire need for superstar status. A good reputation and nobleness of character are much more important than fame and celebrity.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Choosing a Qualified Yoga Teacher…

Not at this time and likely not in the near future, will any type of national or international certification program for yoga teachers exist (*see note below for clarification). This is due to the traditional nature of Yoga instruction. Since antiquity, Yoga has been transmitted from teacher to student on a one-to-one basis.  Comparatively recently, and mainly in the West, Yoga has begun to be offered to groups of students in a class format. The more advanced practices of Yoga are still the best when undertaken on a one-to-one basis, and only if you are fortunate enough to find a competent teacher who is willing to instruct you.

Any serious student seeking qualified instruction should avoid any Yoga teacher who views this science as a hobby or someone who reads a few books, takes a couple introductory Yoga courses and then decides to become a Yoga teacher. This can only work if they have spent sufficient time under the constant supervision of their own personal Yoga teacher. This relationship between teacher and student needs to be taken very seriously by both parties and can never be entered into lightly.

There are competent teachers available, but you may just have to search them out. When seeking a competent, qualified Yoga teacher there are certain minimum requirements to look for that they should demand of you as their student. Seven of the most basic ones follow:

1. Daily practice of Yoga asana (postures), breathing, and meditation. To make progress in Yoga a serious commitment to daily practice is necessary. Only when a teacher has this support will they be able to build the solid foundation of experience that is required before they can show others how to achieve that experience. This daily practice is also needed in order to maintain the strength and health necessary for the extraordinary demands of both teaching and learning.

2. Regular and frequent contact with a teacher is necessary simply because it’s impossible for a teacher to work effectively in a vacuum, and no one becomes so advanced in their practice that they do not need the guidance and support of their own teacher.

3. Study of the important Yoga texts; this is one of the five observances that are part of the essential eight "limbs" of Yoga practice (see #4, below). A teacher needs to have an intensive background of study that includes Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Bhagavad Gita, and other world philosophies that the student must be willing to learn.

4. The practice of ethical behavior which includes the five yamas (meaning "restraints"):

  • Nonviolence
  • Truthfulness
  • Nonstealing
  • Periods of celibacy
  • Nonhoarding

…and the five niyamas (meaning "observances"):

  • Purity
  • Contentment
  • Tolerance
  • Study
  • Remembrance

The yamas and the niyamas are the first two limbs in Patanjali’s system of classical Yoga (called "Ashtanga Yoga"). The remaining six limbs are:

  • Physical exercises (asana)
  • Breathing techniques (pranayama)
  • Withdrawal of the mind from the senses (pratyahara)
  • Concentration (dharana)
  • Meditation (dhyana)
  • Absorption, or ultimate union with the self (samadhi)

*Note: These eight limbs must be developed simultaneously. The ethical guidelines of the yamas and niyamas are a part of Yoga practice not simply for moralistic reasons but because they support and protect the student during the unfolding of personal experience in meditation. A teacher needs this support and protection for the same reasons as well as to help reduce the interference of personal ego in the teaching process. An ethical Yoga teacher conducts classes in a responsible, safe, and aware manner. They will never organize classes that are too large for each student to receive individual attention. They will never push students beyond their limitations. And of grave importance, sexual involvement with students is absolutely prohibited.

5. A healthy vegetarian or vegan (plant-based) diet. Although you do not need to be a vegetarian/vegan to practice Yoga, a Yoga teacher must conform to different and stricter standards. Someone who is taking responsibility for teaching others how to use Yoga meditation techniques must have developed the steadiness and nonviolent attitude that can only be attained through a vegetarian or vegan diet. It goes without saying that a teacher should not smoke or use drugs (other than prescription medication) or misuse alcohol.

6. Training in basic anatomy and the effects of Yoga techniques is very important. A teacher must be able to vary certain techniques according to each student’s ability and know how to coach and advise students with common medical conditions such as hypertension, arthritis, back problems and other disorders. A teacher should also be able to recognize when a student needs professional psychological counseling plus be familiar with community services that are available to help the student.

7. The teacher must have the ability to separate Yoga from religion and to teach their students the same. Yoga is not a religion; it predates Hinduism, as well as all known religious practices, and its techniques have been used throughout the world since before recorded history. Yoga is a systematic science of nonreligious, transcultural techniques which can help the practitioner to develop greater self-knowledge and awareness. The texts of Yoga are not scriptures but rather handbooks (or guidelines) of how to use the techniques safely and what kinds of experiences may possibly be expected.

Hopefully, this article will give you some idea of the qualifications that are generally accepted as important. Get a good solid base in your own practices while under the direction of a qualified teacher, read and study about Yoga practice and philosophy, and build strength, awareness, and health, including the adaption of a vegetarian or vegan diet. If you then would like to advance and become a teacher, remember, teaching is hard work, and if you try to do it without being in top condition physically and mentally, you will do a disservice both to yourself and your students.

*Note on certification: There's a difference between credentialing and certification and although certification has not yet achieved national/international recognition, Rae Indigo runs a highly credited certification school, recognized by the Yoga Alliance among others. Rae teaches 200 & 300 hour Yoga Certification. The focus of her trainings is teaching students to heal using yoga, and to create sequences that are effective for the group or individual being guided.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500 

Problems Athletes May Have on a Vegan Diet and Solutions…

More and more competitive athletes are beginning to try a vegan diet, but for many it’s hard for them stick with it. They start with sincere intentions to improve their health naturally along with benefiting their performance by changing to a plant-based, cruelty-free diet. Why then do so many revert back to consuming animal products? The answer is simple, there’s just not enough information out there.

This article is meant to help. Here are three common problems athletes report after switching to a vegan diet along with their solutions:

#1: Constant hunger:

Active people naturally need more protein than the average person does. Often when animal products are eliminated from the diet, so is a large portion of the dietary protein. Without adequate protein in the diet, carbohydrates consumed will enter the bloodstream faster, causing insulin levels to rise rapidly (spike), and then a short time later decline (crash). With protein and/or a snack added to each meal this “crash” is not likely to occur. Protein complements the carbohydrate, allowing it to enter the bloodstream at a steady rate, thereby delaying the onset of hunger and sustaining necessary energy levels.

Another thing that sometimes happens when animal products are eliminated, is a large portion of the dietary fat is also eliminated. Cutting all fat out of the diet is not the goal, although saturated fat should be discouraged for optimum performance. A very low fat diet is okay for a low to moderately active person. On the other hand, a highly active person, especially an endurance athlete who has adopted a plant-based diet, will need to assure they’re getting enough good quality fats in their meals.

Similar to protein, fat helps to slow the rate at which the carbohydrates enters the bloodstream, thus providing sustained, consistent energy. Dietary fat also helps the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin E. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that will help quicken the recovery process. Cold pressed oils such as flax and hemp are extremely valuable to the vegan athlete. Both flax and hemp oils contain omega-3 fatty acids, and, most importantly, have anti-inflammatory properties. These oils vastly speed the recovery and repair of soft tissue damage, which commonly occurs with a regime of daily training.

Suggested solution:

Make sure protein and a good quality fat is consumed with each meal and/or snack. *Helpful tips…when making bread, muffins, or any baked goods, leave out some of the flour and replace it with soy protein powder, hemp flour, or bean flour. Use hemp seed oil as a base for salad dressing or to mix with a soy drink to make it creamier. Use hemp seed oil on cereal and in baking.

A short list of quality vegan protein sources:

  • Hemp seed nut and flour
  • Tofu
  • Beans (kidney, black, garbanzo, soy, adzuki)
  • Legumes
  • Soy protein powder
  • Unsweetened soy drink

Short list of quality vegan fat sources:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Flax seed oil
  • Hemp seed oil
  • Avocado
  • Non-roasted nuts and seeds

#2: Muscle cramps and/or stiffness:

A low sodium level or a lack of dietary sodium, especially when combined with regular sweating may quickly deplete sodium stores, often resulting in muscle cramping and stiffness. Most plant sources have little sodium with the exception of some seaweed. Sedentary people, vegan or not, do not need to be concerned with a lack of dietary sodium; however, vegan athletes do. As with many nutrients, sodium requirements become elevated proportionately as activity levels increase.

Low calcium levels in vegan athletes usually occur due to a combination of a lack of dietary calcium and hard training. Calcium is used during muscle contractions, causing many endurance athletes, vegan or otherwise, to have reduced stores.

Suggested solution:

During heavy training a plant-based athlete would benefit by adding sea salt to at least one meal or snack per day. One week prior to a long race in a warm climate, the athlete would benefit by consuming sea salt with every meal.

Athletes who consume calcium-rich foods at each meal will greatly benefit by developing supple, limber muscles. *A helpful tip…add raw (non-roasted) sesame seeds to cereal, salads, and anything else you can think of. Sesame seeds are very high in calcium. To maximize the absorption of calcium from sesame seeds, grind them in a coffee grinder. Try grinding a mixture of sesame seeds and flax seeds and keeping them in the fridge for convenient, daily use.

Calcium-rich foods include:

  • Almonds
  • Beans (all)
  • Dark, leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale, Swiss chard, collard greens)
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds

Problems Athletes May Have on a Vegan Diet and Solutions…

#3: Low energy level:

When red meat is eliminated from a physically active person’s diet, the long-term effect is commonly a reduction in red blood cells often leading to anemia. Whether vegan, vegetarian or meat eater, athletes have traditionally had trouble maintaining satisfactory iron levels for optimal performance. Maintenance of iron stores becomes increasingly difficult during times of heavy training. Much like sodium and calcium, iron is lost in sweat, making warm weather training more of a drain on iron stores. Unlike sodium though, iron levels may take up to six months to become dangerously depleted. Often not realizing this, the athlete will wonder how performance has slowly and gradually declined without any change in diet or activity level. And, because iron levels take considerable time to become diminished, rebuilding takes equal time. Additionally, iron is also lost as a result of compression hemolysis (crushed blood cells due to intense muscle contractions).

Suggested solution:

A semi-annual blood test is recommended. When Iron levels are revealed there’s no need for them to ever become depleted. Iron rich foods are best consumed on a daily basis along with vitamin C to help with absorption. Also, if training occurs in a warm climate (excessive sweating) year round, or training consistently exceeds 15 hours per week, an iron supplement is recommended.

Iron-rich foods:

  • Fortified cereal
  • Split pea soup
  • Cookies or other baked foods made with molasses (also high in calcium)
  • Dried peas and beans (kidney, lima, lentils)
  • Bran
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Soybean nuts
  • Prune juice, raisins
  • Enriched rice
  • Peanut butter
  • Apricots
  • Green beans
  • Walnuts, cashews, pecans, almonds

If you’re an athlete and a vegan diet is something you would like to try, make sure you go about it the right way the first time. If you have tried veganism in the past and failed, it’s not entirely your fault because there’s been very little support available. However, with proper knowledge and precautions, the rewards are well worth the perseverance.

Almost all athletes who have properly adopted a vegan diet have noticed an improved recovery rate. Obviously, if the athlete can recover faster he/she can train more, facilitating quicker improvement. This is not to say that more training is necessarily required, but just that speedy recovery in that training is important.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500 

Yoga and Veganism…

Adopting a plant-based (vegan) diet not only makes sense for both our health and the environment, many yogis interpret Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (one of yoga’s primary texts), as indicating veganism as a practice that leads to self-realization. These yogis believe that diet is one of the primary keys to the practice of Ahimsa, one of the principles outlined in the Yoga Sutras. Ahimsa, or non-harming is the first of five yamas, or guidelines for self-restraint. To these practitioners, veganism is looked upon as Ahimsa in practice. Ahimsa is all about being kind to others (including animals and other sentient beings), to the planet, and to oneself. Veganism is not simply about restriction, it’s a way of eating and living that can generate happiness and joy.

From a yogic perspective, the purpose of foods is to assist your body to cleanse, revitalize, repair and strengthen your immune system. A traditional yoga diet consists of mainly plant-based foods which are eaten in as close to their natural state as possible and which cause the least amount of harm to the environment.

Yoga Journal’s latest “Yoga in America” survey, conducted by Sports Marketing Surveys, shows that 8.7 percent of Americans are practicing yoga (that’s 20.4 million Americans). Sadly, in spite of these impressive numbers, it is estimated that only about 1.3% of the United States population follows a vegan diet. The average American consumes a minimum of 31 animals per year, contributing to and supporting the financial success of the cruel and violent meat and dairy industries. This contrast between the percentage of yoga practitioners and vegans in America clearly reveals how many people attempt to reap the physical benefits of asana while hypocritically ignoring yoga's peaceful philosophy. Hopefully, by reviewing the important connection between yoga and veganism throughout history, meat-eating yogis will be encouraged to reflect on their ethics and give a plant-based diet a try.

Yoga is not just about losing weight and toning up. The practice of yoga is thousands of years old, originating in India. Furthermore, Patanjali is believed to have compiled the Yoga Sutras around 200 B.C. to serve as a framework for integrating Yoga into the practitioner’s daily routine while living an ethical lifestyle. Realizing the true value and benefits of Yoga practice serves as a means of attaining enlightenment.

So, the question arises, why is it that so many yoga practitioners tend to turn a blind eye to Patanjali's peaceful philosophy? Well it seems that most people dismiss veganism as a lifestyle/dietary option because they believe it will be too much of a hassle and/or because they lack the discipline to alter deep-seated eating habits. The unwillingness to adopt a vegan diet/lifestyle is a mistake that results in people missing out on the awesome philosophical and spiritual benefits of practicing yoga. When people only observe the practice of asana (physical postures); then they are not truly experiencing yoga and their practice will remain partial and incomplete.

Yoga and Veganism…

In summary: Our yoga practice will be enhanced by selecting and eating food that promotes health, happiness and overall wellbeing for both ourselves and our environment, plus we’ll discover a better quality of life and insure the sustainability of the planet. Whenever we see that our food choices are causing suffering and disease (to ourselves and/or others), we ultimately contribute to our own demise. If this is the case, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate what we are eating.

Stay tuned…Coming soon, “Athletes and Veganism”

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Transitioning from Vegetarian to Vegan…

Most vegans agree, it's more important (and easier) to change your diet one step at a time; if you are currently a vegetarian you probably have already realized that. First you went vegetarian and stayed with that for a while. Plus you learned how to make it work for you, including smart shopping, cooking, eating out, dealing with awkward social situations, etc.

Now, you can do almost exactly the same thing, it’s still a gradual transition, but it just takes it another step further. Going vegan from vegetarian is actually quite easy.

But let’s make sure we're on the same page. "Vegetarian" means you had to say goodbye to any foods for which an animal had to actually give up its life, which meant meats of all kinds (yes, including chicken and fish) and any foods which contain products or byproducts of these animals (a few examples include some soup broths, pasta sauces, lard and fish oil).

As a "vegan" you will necessarily need to give up all the other animal products, even those which the animals did NOT have to lose their life for, including eggs, dairy products (milk and cheese), and honey. So the real challenge mission, if and when you chose to accept it, is to go vegan which means saying farewell to these things also.

You have probably already taken the biggest step, and that is the proper attitude and mindset necessary to make these positive dietary changes. Keep in mind; you have already accomplished this on the road to becoming a vegetarian.

Transitioning from Vegetarian to Vegan…

Now to go Vegan, here is a recommended “step by step” way to proceed:

1.Remove the eggs in the diet first. Eggs are easy to remove from your diet. Tofu is a great replacement for eggs such as in scrambled tofu and faux egg salad. And foods like pancakes and French toast are delicious and nutritious with the simple substitution of flax eggs. You can always resort to a vegan egg substitute like EnerG Egg Replacer

2.Next, remove the dairy milk and replace with non-dairy milks. There are so many out there to try, including almond milk, oat milk, rice milk, cashew milk, and the list goes on. I recommend you buy a few different brands and types of non-dairy milk and do some taste testing to find one you like.

3.Learn to live without butter (and without margarine). There’s a great dairy-free vegan butter substitute called Earth Balance (organic/whipped). It tastes quite rich and buttery, has a smooth consistency and is reasonably priced. As an added bonus, it is also gluten-free, non-GMO, and, unlike most margarine, it has no hydrogenated oils. It is also possible to make your own vegan butter, just go to this site.

4.Now a tough one perhaps? Cheese! Many people claim they could never give up cheese, some insisting they’re addicted to it. Could this be true? Yes, bovine lactation fluids are addicting. Believe it or not, when samples of cow's milk have been analyzed, it is found to contain traces of morphine. Cows actually produce this chemical (along with codeine and other opiates) in their livers and it can (and usually does) end up in the milk. Anyone can discover how to live life without cheese! As a cheese substitute in cooking try nutritional (good tasting) yeast (aka “nooch”) it’s packed with nutrition, particularly B-vitamins, folic acid, selenium, zinc, and protein) or miso (use instead of salt and in place of cheese in pestos and soups. You can add it to quiches, sauces, etc. Always add miso toward the end of cooking, since heating miso can kill its wonderful enzymes). Additionally, every day more and more vegan cheese substitutes are available on the market.

3 additional tips:

1.Read this blog article on Vegan Nutrition – http://www.raeindigo.com/vegan-nutrition-addressing-your-concerns/

2.Give up honey, many don’t realize it’s an animal product (the fact is that honey is made from nectar the worker bees regurgitate, which is a polite way of saying bee vomit) – replace it with a plant-based sweetener.

3.One last subject of concern: “The protein myth…” Should you believe the hype about vegans being deficient in protein intake? This is almost a joke! Why, because it’s ridiculously easy for a vegan diet to meet all the recommendations for protein by simply maintaining adequate calorie intake. Strict planning or food combining is not necessary to insure ample protein intake. The key for vegans is to eat a varied diet. Almost all plant-based foods except for alcohol, sugar, and fats provide some protein. Vegan sources include: Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas), tofu, tempeh, seitan, peanut butter, non-dairy milks, almonds, mushrooms, rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread, potatoes, broccoli, dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, etc.) and the list goes on. Additionally, store-bought meat substitute products and veggie burgers are also quite high in protein!

Stay tuned…Coming soon, “Yoga and Veganism”

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Are Plants Sentient Beings?

How many times have we vegans heard those who eat animal flesh ask us the following? “You talk about having a diet and lifestyle where you avoid killing any living thing, but what about plants?  Plants are living things and you kill them.” It seems like they would like to make a case about the futility of being a vegan, since we vegans are committed to eating only plant-based foods and plants want to live as much as any animal does. In other words, they wish to imply that if we’re all destined to be murderers anyway, what difference does it make who or what we’re murdering, or whether it’s a plant or an animal?

Are Plants Sentient Beings?

But what they fail to realize is that plants are qualitatively different from humans and sentient non-humans. And although plants are certainly alive, they are not sentient. Plants do not have interests. There is nothing that a plant desires, or wants, or prefers because there is no mind there to engage in these cognitive activities. When we say that a plant “needs” or “wants” water (or sunlight), we are no more making a statement about the mental status of the plant than we are when we say that a car engine “needs” or “wants” oil. It may be in my interest to put oil in my car. But it is not in my car’s interest; my car has no interests.

A plant may respond to sunlight and other stimuli but that does not mean the plant is sentient. If I run an electrical current through a wire attached to a bell, the bell rings. But that does not mean that the bell is sentient. Plants do not have nervous systems, benzodiazepine receptors, or any of the characteristics that we identify with sentience. And this all makes scientific sense. It would indeed be a cruel creator that would evolve plants to have developed sentience (to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively) when they cannot do anything in response to an act that damages them? If you touch a flame to a plant, the plant cannot run away; it stays right where it is and burns. If you touch a flame to a dog, the dog does exactly what you would do – cries in pain and tries to get away from the flame. Sentience is a characteristic that has evolved in certain beings to enable them to survive by escaping from a noxious stimulus. Sentience would serve no purpose for a plant; plants cannot “escape.”

This is not to suggest that we humans cannot have moral obligations concerning plants, but we certainly do not have moral obligations that we owe to plants. That is, we may have a moral obligation not to cut down a tree, but that is not an obligation that we owe to the tree. The tree is not the sort of entity to which we can have moral obligations. We can have an obligation that we owe to all of the sentient creatures who live in the tree or who depend on it for their survival. We can have moral obligations to other humans and non-human animals that inhabit the planet not to destroy trees wantonly. But we cannot have any moral obligations to the tree; we can only have moral obligations to sentient beings and the tree is not sentient and has no interests of its own. There is nothing that the tree prefers, wants, or desires. The tree is not the sort of entity that cares about what we do to it. The tree is an “it.” The squirrel and the birds that live in the tree certainly have an interest in our not chopping down the tree, but the tree does not. It may be wrong morally to chop down a tree wantonly but that is a qualitatively different act from shooting a deer. Try this; at your next dinner gathering, chop a head of lettuce in front of your guests. It’s pretty much guaranteed that you will get a different reaction than if you were to chop the head off a live chicken while it was trying to escape.

Stay tuned, coming up next, “Transitioning from Vegetarian to Vegan”

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Violence and Compassion in Veganism…

Compassion is generally defined as the awareness of suffering, and is most often accompanied by a desire to alleviate that suffering. The indisputable fact of biology that non-human animals possess the capacity to suffer is also a matter of pure common sense. Non-human animals strive to avoid pain and their reactions to it, just like we humans do, and even though they do not have the ability to express it in spoken language it still remains immediately recognizable as suffering. We human beings do not have a monopoly on suffering, and it is compassion that enables us to realize that the capacity of non-human animals to suffer is analogous to our own.

In order to be truly compassionate, consideration for, plus a desire to alleviate the suffering of all animals, both human and non-human, is imperative. Then it will naturally follow that we must not abuse or mistreat any animal (human or non-human). If we accept this as true, then we must also embrace the notion that abusing animals by proxy is also completely incompatible with a compassionate existence. It will not suffice to merely refrain from direct acts of abuse or violence toward animals; we must also withdraw any of our support, morally, ethically and practically, from those activities. There really isn’t any appreciable difference between committing an act of violence ourselves and paying someone else to do it on our behalf? After all, commissioning an act of violence is the moral equivalent of committing that act.

“No matter how much a person distances themselves from the act of violence that they have paid for or persuaded someone else to perform on their behalf, will that distancing extricate them from the moral implications of the deed itself.”

The truth that the production of meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy involves tremendous suffering on the part of tens of billions of animals each and every year is both inescapable and incontestable. In just the USA alone, eight-billion chickens are slaughtered for human consumption every year. Consider this: by the time you finish reading this sentence; over two-thousand chickens in the United States alone will have had their throats slit in order to satiate the gastronomic preferences and appetites of humans. It is directly opposed to the principles of compassion to condone or in any way support violence and cruelty, especially on such an enormous scale. Simply stated, any diet that includes meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy is altogether incompatible with the desire to lead a compassionate life. There is no avoiding the fact that such a diet must rely on (actually it is inseparable from) the abuse and slaughter of those creatures who are at our mercy. The abuse and slaughter of non-human animals for the sensory pleasure of humans who consume meat and dairy is completely and undoubtedly irreconcilable with the basic premises of compassion.

Those of us who are concerned with cultivating compassion in ourselves and in others must not allow our notion of “mercy” to be restricted to our own species, but instead we should extend our sphere of compassion to all sentient beings by living a cruelty-free, vegan life-style while relying entirely on nutritionally dense plant-based foods for our dietary requirements.

In order to cultivate compassion it is required that we be mindful of our intentions and that our intentions be consistent with the basic precepts of compassion. Mindfulness of this kind requires constant and continuous effort and although lapses of attention are unavoidable, the devotee of mindfulness and compassion must avoid consciously exempting or excluding any part of their lives or their behavior from the practice. And there is no logic whatsoever in the idea that mealtime should or would provide us with three opportunities a day to disengage our mindfulness and insulate ourselves from the suffering of others. Actually it is just the opposite; whenever we sit down to eat, we are making a conscious choice: either to alleviate suffering or to perpetuate it. Whenever we are motivated by compassion, that choice is perfectly clear.

Stay tuned, coming up next, the question, “Are Plants Sentient Beings” will be considered in respect to the common assumption that plants have feelings too.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

The Spiritual Aspects of Veganism (Part 2)…

At the onset, let it be known that no one can tell you what is right (or wrong) for you to do  in absolute terms. When it comes to your diet you must follow your own discernment when determining what you need to consume, and under what terms. That will be your spirituality. But let’s keep an open mind and be honest with ourselves.

One good reason to be a proponent of veganism is the lack of interest in paying other people to do things for you that you wouldn’t readily do for yourself. This means that veganism is a lot about facing up to the truth. A lot of people prefer to turn their heads in regards to what goes on throughout the meat industry. And; quite apart from the insane cruelty that goes on in modern factory farms (slaughter aside), how many among us would actually have the wherewithal to slit an animal’s throat, gut it, skin it and butcher what was left?

There are plenty of people who’d prefer not to think about the fact that what they are eating is a dead animal or parts of a dead animal’s corpse. They find to put it like that is distasteful (even though it’s the truth). These people only eat cuts of meat which don’t look like any creature they know or recognize.

In our society we rename the flesh of animals to further disassociate ourselves from living beings. We call dead pig meat “pork,” dead deer meat “venison,” dead cow meat “beef” and meat from dead sheep “mutton.” It’s like we are using a different names to make us think that what we are eating is something different from the animal it comes from. In the supermarkets, packaging has tried its best to make meat look desirable and delicious and only by making the parts appear quite unrecognizable from the whole animal, as they did when alive.

Veganism is all about sensitivity. There are still a few people who choose to go out and kill animals for food. That way, they know that they are eating meat out of choice and not by default. There’s not much to say to these people except to honor and respect their choice. However, it is hard for some of us to imagine killing animals for food if you have reached a certain level of sensitivity. How is it possible to maintain sensitivity and still succumb to the needless violence which a true omnivore’s diet entails? Reason dictates that you’ll either change what you do, or you need to suppress your sensitivity to be able to continue.

As we evolve spiritually, it just seems right to actively aim to develop sensitivity and compassion towards all sentient beings. Sensitivity literally is having your attention focused in your senses rather than your thoughts. When we get too stuck in our thoughts, we tend to become what we “think” we are, rather than what we really are, and we “think” about what we experience rather than directly experiencing it in the here and now. Thoughts are all too often reflecting on the past or anticipating the future. This can bring a lot of suffering, although sometimes that can be a subtle thing to realize.

Don’t just aim to become sensitive because someone (me or anyone else) told you that you “should.” Let your heart show you your true path, allow inspiration to be the stimulus to prompt the nurturing of sensitivity and watch as that leads to real joy and happiness and truth.

Explore for yourself – Veganism as a spiritual practice 

Stay tuned, coming soon: “Violence and Compassion in Veganism”

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

The Spiritual Aspects of Veganism (Part 1)…

Attracting Negative Energy:

So the question arises, why would anyone consciously attract negative energy? Well from a metaphysical standpoint, it’s generally because there is a sort of withdrawal (or contraction) from the delicate world of sensitivity, and that contraction most often is generated by either addiction or fear.

Negative energy in the world is elusive, and is mostly unknown to the majority of people and this is because one of the more common modes of negativity is deception. Basically some “vampiristic” astral spirits (and even some people here on Earth) need negative energy in the form of anger, conflict, fear, etc. And, they need to create it in others to be able to feed.

Negative energy is known to have the quality of addiction. Its deception is meant to make you believe in that you’re dependent on it, offering “poisoned” treasures which make it hard to break free. Negative energy numbs positive emotions, keeping you in a state of dullness and apathy. This apathy enables  you to ignore pain and suffering, but in the long run it is actually what is causing the majority of your pain and suffering.

With proper awareness, we can intuitively sense that it is the world of negative energy which has created a powerful lobby out of the meat industry; by getting government subsidies to make meat and animal products seem cheaper than they really are, by brainwashing people into believing they need animal protein (when they don't), and by stirring up hysteria and dread about veganism being unnatural by conjuring up a long list of nutrients which animals are supposedly better sources of than plant-based foods.

Mindfulness enables us to sense emotions in meat. When you eat animal flesh, you’re also eating the negative energies it contains, including those produced by the animal’s screams as it’s on its way to slaughter. (And from a physical perspective, consider that negative emotions spawn toxic chemicals, too).

The Spiritual Aspects of Veganism

In closing, let’s look at how veganism can really make a difference.

Die hard meat eaters will argue that “veganism won’t make any difference.” And this rational helps them because they don’t want to give up meat anyway, and they also refuse to believe that there is any environmental damage caused by raising animals for food.

It’s hard to imagine all of the suffering animals in the world? Even if you really care about them it will continue to remain hard as long as they remain in your head, because the only place you can express love and caring is here and now, in your senses and feelings and not through your thought-stream. Use your head to remain aware and mindful, then follow your sensitivity, and rest assured that the outcome will be good. In fact, the purpose of following your sensitivity is not entirely about the outcome, in and of itself, but to promote sensitivity simply for its own sake.

Keep in mind that you are not separate from those around you, and whatever you do, including the lead which you take, and the energies which you transmit (both consciously and subconsciously) will only help to bring about change. Whether it’s for the good, or for the bad, it’s your choice. Furthermore it’s your responsibility whether you take it up the challenge or not, because our constant influence on the world that surrounds us is not something that we can renounce.

Stay tuned for The Spiritual Aspects of Veganism (Part 2).

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500