This post is part of my vegan special. If you have ideas or wishes for another special please let me know. You can contact me via e-mail at histaminarm(at)vollbio.de or just leave a comment below. And now, I’m also on Pinterest.
Vegan = healthy?
Maybe you’ve already heard of the “China Study”? T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell have published this study. Father and son are no Chinese though, but Americans. Yet, the study was conducted in rural China, therefore the title. In cooperation with the Institute of Nutrition and Food Hygiene at the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine the idea for a large study emerged in the early 1980s. Disease-induced deaths between 1973 and 1975 were measured in randomly chosen villages of 65 rural counties. The dietary habits of one family member in 50 families, half male, half female, were examined.
The study was first published in English 2005 and concludes that a vegan diet can prevent many chronic illnesses, for instance diabetes, several cancer forms, obesity, several cardiovascular issues and other so-called “diseases of civilisation” – or at least, that small amounts of animal protein consumption can facilitate such illnesses.
The study is controversial for mainly methodical reasons. The study explicitly states that cholesterol and refined carbohydrates (like sugar) should be avoided. Critics claim this not be news and moreover, that these findings have not much to do with eating vegan or not. The German publication was criticised for the addition to the title “The scientific explanation for a vegan diet”, to which the study could not live up to. That wholefood is healthy is not a secret anymore. The study does not only focus on “no meat”, but also takes other aspects into account, like processed foods, cholesterol, refined carbohydrates like regular sugar, white rice or white wheat flour (instead of whole grain), etc.
Many scientists claim the study to be just a statement of believes. The former American president Bill Clinton seems to be in favour of the study though. In reaction to it he changed his eating habits, omitted milk (casein is mentioned as problematic in the study), and Clinton claims this has helped with heart issues he has had.
Recently I got to review the official cookbook to the China Study (in German). This book, too, is a product made by the family Campbell. This time the China Study author’s daughter authored the cookbook.
The cover makes you feel hungry.
Yet, when opening the actual book I was rather disappointed. The least of the pictures throughout the book are as deliciously looking like the ones put on the cover – and that’s me saying this. I’m no food designer either (yeah, that’s a profession) or a photographer, yet, the pictures, taken by the author’s son by the way, don’t make you feel hungry. The chosen image section is unfortunate (extreme close-ups), many pictures are too dark and so it’s hard to get an idea of the food described in the recipe. Then I actually opt for no pictures at all.
The cookbook does not go on about the study in detail which is completely fair. Just the core arguments are listed. The recipes do without added refined sugar, no additional oil is added – and the recipes are all vegan of course. Yet, for being so against processed foods and all, I found it rather disappointing again to see canned foods in the recipes. Chickpeas and others usually come out of a can. Although claimed to be all about wholefood the cookbook contains recipes with wheat flour, alright, whole grain, but still, wheat flour…
To omit oils in general is quite a controversial thing to advise. When it comes to cholesterol refined sugar and wheat flour are more the “bad guys” than oil could be. The myth still going around that margarine supposedly lowers cholesterol levels seems to a myth as well. Fats and oils though are not all bad per se. Two things are important when talking about fat and oil. Firstly, trans fats which develop at high temperatures (e.g. when frying food). Secondly, the balance between omega-3- and omega-6 fatty acids has to be right. If not used for frying, e.g hemp seed oil, linseed oil, blackseed oil and others are healthy. Olive oil and coconut oil can be used for frying, yet the former is not as temperature-resistant as the latter.
When you are following me already for quite a bit, then chances are, you know about Shaolin, one of our cats, who suffers from a kidney tumor that also affects the pancreas. After trial-and-error for quite some time, involving meds, time and again infusions (also with vitamin c) and even pain killers at times, Shaolin is now meds-free. Well, not completely, because Shaolin gets oil. Every day I mix about 2 ml of oil, hemp seed oil and salmon oil that is. This mix has proven to be perfect for her, so that nothing else is needed – except for good food of course. “Good food” for cats means no grains (also no rice) and no sugar and lots of meat. Yep, they are carnivores, we are not.
My point is, oil is not bad per se and also, the healthy diet does not exist. It comes down to individual needs. It might be a good thing for one to eat meat, for the other it is like poison. Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda have understood this thousands of years ago. You have to look at a patient holistically, meaning, individually and looking at the whole of the person (Greek ὅλος = whole) and not just one or two symptoms. But that does not mean that there are no generally unhealthy foods out there, because there are, e.g. wheat or refined wheat, trans fats, refined sugar and more.
Am I a bad person when eating meat? Or am I automatically a good person when omitting meat?
When it comes to meat, you know we are eating mainly vegetarian (except for fish once in a while). The reason for that mainly lies with how meat is produced, not generally with that I cannot kill an animal (hold on before you want to crucify me and read on, please). What I find so barbaric about this whole meat industry is that we artificially fertilise animals over and over again only to get more animals “produced”. These animals live a life completely inappropriate for their species, in too little space, often without sunlight, with food that does not suit their needs until at some point they are loaded onto to a truck to be delivered to some far away slaughterhouse. There they wait in line until they are not just brutally murdered, but often just fatally wounded to perish…
If we would, like many native American peoples did, eat mainly a vegetarian diet and only hunt once in a while a bison which will not only feed the whole community, but will also clothe it and more, I would have far less problems with occasional meat consumption. Yet, it was the white man who slaughtered after his arrival in the New World almost the whole of the buffalo respectively bison population – and not to eat it, no, for sport and to create space for fixed settlements.
The invention of agriculture, meaning, since we are no longer living as nomads, as hunters and gatherers, actually makes it obsolete to farm animals, since there is so much other food around.
As a compromise I pay attention to only buy fish that is caught – not farmed. But if that is really healthy is another question when I think of a until today leaking nuclear plant in Fukushima… Yet, that way, you cannot eat anything at all anymore, because radioactive material does not only go into the water. We all know, there is a water circulation, sooner or later the stuff will evaporate or transpire into the air and will come down as rain later again…
But yes, I admit, I am somewhat of a hypocrite, a little vegan, yet, not even really vegetarian. But I know it. I’m conscious about the food I eat. I omitted meat and my fish consumption is about 1 to 2 fish meals per month. What I actually still want to work on is my dairy consumption. For quite some time I lived the illusion like many others maybe do that milk does not kill anyone and does no harm either. One thinks of green meadows, a farmer gets up early in the morning and walks up on the meadow to milk a cow that just had a calf. The farmer is sharing with the two and oh, it would be heaven of earth… Yet, the reality is grim. We don’t share (not even when it comes to organic milk) with the calf and cow, no the calf is taken and never gets to tastes his or her mom’s milk. And then it is not funny anymore.
So I’m asking myself am I a bad human for still drinking milk or eating cheese? The industry being the way it is makes me as the consumer a companion in crime. Even if I have an idea about how it could or should be it is not like that. So, yes, somehow I am bad. I took the first step, away with the meat, I reduced my caught (!) fish consumption by quite a bit. I hope to be able to omit dairy altogether at some point. When it comes to people with histamine intolerance this change for the better is not easy. Many plant-based milk alternatives contain gluten or are made from nuts and not everyone can cope with that. A already damaged gut (leaky gut) might not be able to absorb vitamin b 12 the way it should be. When omitting meat and everything altogether one might actually want to do the right thing, but do more harm than good. First help yourself then help others – is the credo to bear in mind.
Yet, the opposite is not true in general. Alright, I’m not perfect, but I’m conscious about my consumption (not only when it comes to animals). To be vegan can take strange forms. One might condemn others who are no(t yet) vegans. One might domineer over meat-eating animals and make them vegans by coercion. I have got quite a problem with vegans making their cats vegans. A cat has a hunting instinct for a reason, like it or not, and did it opt for vegan food? Am I not acting against the animal when I force a carnivore to do so and is that not the complete opposite of what veganism should be? Veganism should not be an excuse for the unnatural.
For me being vegan and caring for the environment and a love for nature go hand in hand. To live and to let live. I don’t want to missionise anybody, nor my cat. Only who chooses this deliberately, consciously themselves will stay a vegan.
To omit meat should also mean to reduce the consumption of plastic. To not buy “big corporate”, especially when brands still go on with the practice of animal testing. Fast food is no option because of the packaging to begin with and therefore a salad or a vegan burger from McDonald’s has nothing to do with veganism. So it is possible to be a hypocritical vegan…
China Study cookbook
I got a bit off subject. Back to the cookbook. The recipes often contain tomatoes, canned foods and yeast. For “just vegans” the book may offer delicious recipes, yet, when suffering from histamine intolerance one has to become creative.
I chose one recipe to show what I mean. I changed this recipe to be low histamine. Here the original:
Baked tomatoes with couscous filling
ca. 30 minutes + ca. 15-20 minutes in the oven
ingredients for 6-8 people:
- 8 large, rather firm tomatoes
- 3 cups whole grain couscous, already cooked
- 4 tbsp. vegetable broth powder
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, diced
- 1/2 cup of fresh basil, chopped
- 1/2 cup of pine nuts
- 2 tbsp. yeast flakes
- 1 tsp. paprika powder
- 1 1/2 cups frozen leaf spinach
- sea salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar per person, optional
I changed now quite a bit, some things I omitted. Yet, when only eliminating foods one will end up starving. Because we are two people here, I adjusted the amounts. Here is my shopping list:
Baked bell pepper with millet filling
ingredients for about 2 people:
- 2 red bell pepper
- 1 small cup millet (still to be cooked)
- 1 tsbp. vegetable broth powder (homemade)
- 1-2 cloves of garlic, diced
- some leaves basil, chopped
- 1-2 tbsp. hemp seeds
- 3-4 large leaves of mangold, sliced
- 1-2 carrots, sliced
- salt and pepper (I freshly grind pepper and I use Himalayan salt)
- additional herbs or spices, e.g. curcuma
- 1 tsp. coconut oil
Rinse the millet before cooking. Cook the millet with triple the amount of water. Add carrots and broth powder to the millet. Leave to simmer for about 15 minutes. Then add garlic and mangold and leave to simmer for about another 5 minutes.
If the water is gone too quickly, add some more if needed.
Meanwhile clean the bell pepper, remove the “lid” with the core.
Finally add coconut oil, spices/herbs, hemp seeds and basil to the mix, stir.
Fill the millet mix into the bell pepper.
Preheat the oven to 180 °C. Set the bell pepper into a casserole form and bake for 15 to 20 minutes without cover. If you still have some millet mix left over, scatter it around in the casserole around the bell pepper.
Serve still warm.
I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Mangold is my new spinach substitute.