Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hemp, Vegans, and E-Magazine

Argh! I am totally frustrated with the little snippets of incorrect information being fed to the mass public about vegans and vegetarians! Take, for instance, this recent article in E-magazine. ( (It is funny that I subscribe to this magazine, as the most environmentally-friendly magazine would not use trees, but I thought I would try it just for a year, after reading some good articles in an issue I picked up. Also, they have just online subscriptions, too).

At any rate, the article states crazy things like, "to get omega 3 from a protein plant source is far less efficient than eating a piece of fish or fish oils," and that hemp, "can be part of a diet that contains fish and lean proteins. I don't rely on plant proteins as a full energy source because they are not complete." I was baffled, annoyed, and angry. Hence, the following letter to the editor. Hopefully, this will inspire people to check their facts, and if you already know them, to write in and correct the facts, even in random magazines like Better Homes and Gardens because...people believe what they read!

Dear E-Magazine Editor,

At first, I was excited and encouraged to see your article, “The New Super Foods,” in your March/April 2008 issue. As a longtime vegetarian and vegan, I know a lot about foods like the Goji berry and hemp seeds/oil, and other seemingly, “exotic” foods. I was glad to find that other magazines are seeing the connection between healthy eating and the health of our planet. Going vegan is actually better for the environment than switching from a standard American car to a Prius! (UN Report- Livestock’s Long Shadow). However, I was quickly dismayed and angered by the incorrect information given by Esther Blum, an apparent registered dietitian, and by the author of the article, a student at Vassar.

Blum stated that hemp, “can be part of a diet that contains fish and lean proteins. I don’t rely on plant proteins as a full energy source because they are not complete.” This is complete and utter nonsense. Search any health site, speak to any knowledgeable doctor or nutritionist, and they can tell you that hemp is in fact a complete protein, containing not only the perfect combination of essential fatty acids omegas 3 & 6, but also all 20 essential amino acids, including the nine that the body cannot produce. In fact, it has higher amounts of these amino acids than egg whites, tofu and whole cow’s milk. A small amount of hemp seeds provides all these things in a form that is extremely digestible, especially compared to soy and dairy, which many people have difficulties with. In addition, all hemp products do not contain THC (your article stated that they do). Manitoba Harvest, one company recommended at the end of your article, is one such company that produces non-THC hemp. Other non-meat complete proteins (for vegans) include: amaranth, quinoa, soy, Spirulina, Red Star nutritional yeast and buckwheat. Of course, vegetarians who eat dairy and eggs can obtain non-meat proteins through these products. Fish and seafood are not vegetarian.

I also found it disturbing that Blum stated, “to get omega-3 from a protein plant source is far less efficient than eating a piece of fish or fish oils.” This is a vague and incorrect statement, according to a doctor I contacted and several other sources, as there are too many factors which affect the efficiency of omega fat absorption. In fact, fish obtain their omegas through algae! Thus, the most direct, “efficient,” route would be to eat the seaweed or algae yourself, as many people in the world do. In addition, fish products and fish oil can contain contaminants such a mercury, heavy metals, and PCBs, while plant products do not.

For years now, even the FDA and USDA acknowledge that vegan and vegetarian diets are completely healthful and provide all the necessary nutrients, including protein. Contrary to past belief, it is not necessary to eat plant foods in certain combinations in single meals, to acquire the complete protein benefits, though it is easy to do so. For example, vegetarians and vegans should combine legumes with seeds, nuts, or whole grains. This is as easy as eating hummus with whole wheat pita bread, a veggie burger on a bun, or tortillas and refried beans. In fact, you don’t even have to eat these foods at the same meal, to acquire the full nutritional and protein benefits, just in the same day.

In the future, please get your nutritional facts straight and double check such information, especially when authors are not experienced in the field.

Thank you.

Now I leave you, dear blogger, with something to brighten your day: vegan food pics!

Banana Date Scones from Veganomicon (a little dry, but good when fresh or reheated!)

Slow-Cooker Vindaloo from Vegetarian Times (spicy, quick and good!)

And easy, oh-my-god delicious and moist, Swirly Berry Brownies from Sinfully Vegan (raspberry flavor).


SC said...

Do you have a reference for the "just in the same day" comment? I had a discussion about that point with my PhD in Biology wife, and was under the impression it was more likely days. The nutrients would basically accumulate in the cells of the body and be used as needed, unless they broke down.

Peace, Love and Veganism said...

I think you are correct. The Veggie Table site states, "several hours after each other," another site stated, "within 24 hours," but I read just today in Veg Times that, according to the ADA, you don't have to combine proteins and grains so carefully on a veg diet, just make sure you are eating a varied diet every day and you'll be fine. Thanks!

Wheeler said...

Way to go! I bet that well-written letter embarrassed the editor a bit. I feel like I have to explain this kind of thing everyday to people who don't know any better. Doesn't help that articles like this get published!

(nice pics, too!)

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