Guest Blogger: Dr. Joel Kahn
My life took an important turn 25 years ago when a friend lent me the book Diet for a New America by John Robbins as I was leaving for a few days in Colorado. I was already a cardiologist and health oriented, exercising regularly, and eating a "healthy" diet. After reading Robbins book detailing the cruel practices of corporate animal farming, the environmental damage from animal farming, and the health effects of hormones and antibiotics fed to animals, my wife and I decided to move our diet further "left" to vegetarian.
So what is a vegetarian? Different people have different views. We gave up animals like cow, turkey and chicken. We continued to eat fish, eggs and dairy on occasion. Eating this way for most is a voluntary decision, not one necessarily mandated by religious or allergy issues. Therefore, some call this a "flexeterian" diet because it is a flexible choice including some animal items when offered. The term pescetarian is used by some because it included fish, or lacto-ovo vegetarian because of the milk and egg at times. Wow, too many terms, too confusing.
Ten years ago or so we made the decision to move another step further in our dietary growth and eliminate all dairy, eggs and fish from our diet, becoming vegans. That is nothing with a face (animals) or a mother (milk and eggs). Vegan is a word going back maybe 50 years. It always provokes one question: where do you get your protein. Answer: beans, grains, vegetables. A newer term I like is "plant based diet" or even "whole food plant based diet". I personally prefer the Italian work "naturalista" or the Hebrew "tivonit" meaning one with nature over vegan. But I think we are stuck with it for a while longer.
Around this time I first wandered into Avalon and found an oasis of whole grains, fresh goods, local suppliers, and "vegan" baked goods. It takes a special effort and business plan to bake daily items without eggs, butter and milk. It takes a creative spirit and experimentation. Fortunately, Jackie and Ann made that effort and now offer to a growing community who care about their health, animal rights, and enviromental issues baked goods that are tasty, nutritious and vegan. I return regularly and now that I am assuming the role of Director of Preventive Cardiology at Harper University Hospital, I will be able to frequent Avalon even more for breakfast and lunch.
Do we know that the effort to be vegan is "worth" it when friends and relatives aren't always as supportive as you hope for? When office meetings and social events leave choices limited while the chicken wings overflow? I spend hours and hours reading and studying medical data on diets, supplements, nutrition and health. I believe a vegan lifestyle is supported by good nutrition data and also medical science suggesting less heart disease, possibly less cancer, and a longer lifespan. Proven without a doubt? Not yet. But what can be said firmly is whether you read heart doctor journals, cancer doctor journals, high blood pressure doctor journals, and anti-aging doctor journals, the message is loud and clear: eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains while restricting or eliminating sugar intake and red meat.
Avalon is a wonderful spot to try whole grain foods, soy milk, and vegan baked goods that do not sacrifice taste. For more information on diet choices, I suggest the 21 day vegan challenge organized by www.pcrm.org and www.peta.org. Leaving a smaller environmental footprint while improving your health and lessening cruelty to animals as practiced in big industry animal farms is a compelling reason to move to the green side.